Need to Know: May 2, 2022


You might have heard: The power of personalization (Nieman Reports)

But did you know: How publishers are experimenting with more homepage personalization sections (Digiday) 

Legacy publishers like The New York Times and The Washington Post are experimenting with algorithms that personalize their homepages to offer readers content based on their interests and behaviors, writes Sara Guaglione. “What’s most critical is that we serve the right thing at the right time. That’s really about balancing impactful curation with smart personalization,” said Coleen O’Lear, The Post’s head of curation and platforms. In March, The Post, which saw success with tailoring articles for readers on its mobile app, launched “For You,” an individually personalized section on its homepage that combines a reader’s topic preferences and reading history. Personalization has also given The New York Times, which publishes about 200 stories a day, an opportunity to “put the right things in front of the right readers at the right times,” said Karron Skog, associate managing editor at The Times.

+ Noted: The Cardinal News: The new (non-profit) voice for rural Virginia (Editor and Publisher)


Deadline today: Join Trusting News’ pluralism research (Trusting News)

Today is the priority deadline for newsrooms to apply to participate in the latest projects of Trusting News’ Pluralism Network, where journalists can learn and test new strategies for covering their communities in ways that reach complex, diverse audiences. Trusting News’ pluralism work is aimed at helping journalists tell stories with accuracy and nuance, fueling curiosity rather than polarization. This year, three of the five new projects come with stipends (some for journalists, some for newsrooms). Work will begin in early May and run through July, time enough to publish actionable insights before this year’s midterms.


How The Philadelphia Inquirer’s marketing team revamped its subscriber acquisition strategy (The Lenfest Institute) 

In an effort to grow its subscription base, The Philadelphia Inquirer’s marketing team has focused on developing new audiences rather than primarily targeting existing readers, writes Hayley Slusser. Darya Ushakova, the company’s vice president of marketing, who laid out the strategy at the International News Media Association’s recent Media Subscription Summit, explained that it involved getting buy-in from throughout the organization and restructuring the marketing team by bringing in experts in audience development and designating a team member to lead every stage of the funnel. “You’re expanding the people who come to your site, you’re expanding the people who engage with your site, the people who are going to convert, and your loyal readers,” she said. 


Free the Freela ensures work benefits for freelancers in Latin America (International Journalists’ Network) 

Over the past few years, working professionals in Latin America have increasingly taken up freelance work, writes Laís Martins. But often the autonomy associated with working independently means working without traditional employee benefits like paid maternity leave and vacation. Now, with every three in 10 Brazilians self-employed, Sarah Lucena, an entrepreneur from Brazil, launched Free the Freela, a startup that aims to provide “safer, fairer, more sustainable” work conditions for freelancers in the region. Founded in 2020, the platform provides a marketplace where freelancers can connect with prospective clients, who pay an extra 10% toward funding freelancer benefits. Freelancers who complete a minimum of 12 contracts through the platform within six months are eligible for benefits.


A new podcast opens portals into queer history (In These Times) 

The creators of the podcast “Unboxing Queer History” take listeners “portal diving” as they uncover personal stories about Chicago’s LGBTQ history and culture from the Gerber/Hart Library and Archives, which houses the largest collection of life in the queer community in the Midwest. “We can read and watch movies about Stonewall all we want — but that is not the center of our history. It is our daily lives. Archives illustrate that,” podcast producer Ariel Mejia told Isabel Carter. Many of the episodes highlight a particular collection from the archive, including stories about a beloved drag performer and a now-closed bookstore that was “one of the only places where LGBTQ Chicagoans could find themselves reflected in media.”


How media coverage whitewashes Israeli state violence against Palestinians (The Washington Post) 

Western media do not write about Israeli state violence against Palestinians “in the same way that abuses in Ukraine and other countries are covered,” argue Laura Albast and Cat Knarr. “Newsrooms cannot pick and choose which state-sanctioned violence is legitimate,” Albast and Knarr write in an op-ed for The Washington Post. Western media describe the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as “complicated,” portraying the state violence as “clashes” and “tensions,” they write, while coverage of the war in Ukraine makes clear that Russia is the aggressor. For example, they say, Ukrainian civilians throwing Molotov cocktails at Russian tanks are depicted as “brave,” whereas a 14-year-old Palestinian boy who allegedly threw a Molotov cocktail at Israeli soldiers was portrayed as a threat. “This marks a stark, racist difference in coverage, which glazed over eyewitness accounts that the boy was running to hide from Israeli bullets aimed at another Palestinian,” they write. Albast and Knarr argue that to reduce further harm and erasure of communities, newsrooms should hire Palestinian journalists and center Palestinian voices in their coverage.


Why this family foundation gives out $100,000 of unrestricted money to select freelance journalists (Poynter) 

In 2017, the Heising-Simons Foundation in California, created a portfolio to support journalism that is “critical to a healthy democracy” and in service of marginalized communities. In that spirit, writes Amaris Castillo, the foundation also decided to recognize the work of freelance journalists with The American Mosaic Journalism Prize, an unrestricted cash award of $100,000 for “excellence in long-form, narrative or deep reporting about underrepresented and/or misrepresented groups in the American landscape.” There are no restrictions on how recipients can use the money, said Brian Eule, the foundation’s communications director, who explained that the money recognizes a recipient’s work and talent, and isn’t intended for them to use it for specific work. Ryan Christopher Jones, a photojournalist who is this year’s award winner, called the prize “validating” for freelance journalists. “I think it’s really noble because we’re on the bottom of the food chain, in a lot of respects, because we don’t have newsroom political power. We’re stringers, and so it puts us in a position to take what we can get,” he said.