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Need to Know: Apr. 19, 2017

Fresh useful insights for people advancing quality, innovative and sustainable journalism


You might have heard: Last summer, Facebook introduced changes to its algorithm to emphasize posts from “friends and family” over publishers (Facebook Newsroom), but later analysis found that the algorithm change had “no measurable traffic impact” to news sites (Nieman Lab)

But did you know: ‘Facebook’s algorithm isn’t surfacing one-third of our posts. And it’s getting worse,’ Chicago Tribune’s Kurt Gessler says (Kurt Gessler, Medium)
In January, The Chicago Tribune started to see some changes in its reach on Facebook: There wasn’t a huge difference in post consumption or daily average reach, “but we were just seeing more misses than hits,” deputy editor for digital Kurt Gessler says. Trying to understand the issue, Gessler downloaded 15 months of data from Facebook — and found that the number of posts seen by less than 10,000 people increased dramatically between the last months of 2016 and the first few months of 2017. Some possible factors for the changes, Gessler suggests, is that the Tribune is posting more frequently on Facebook, its mix of content hasn’t changed substantially in the last year, and it adopted Instant Articles. But Gessler writes that he keeps coming back to Facebook’s algorithm when thinking about this: “The data show that we are having the fewest number of our most successful posts and the most of our least successful at a time when our strategy hasn’t significantly changed and our fans have grown. … If 1 of 3 Facebook posts isn’t going to be surfaced by the algorithm to a significant degree, that would change how we play the game.”

+ Noted: Fox News is preparing to cut ties with Bill O’Reilly (Wall Street Journal); University of Michigan is offering a free online course on how to spot fake news (Michigan Radio); The Washington Post is ending its relationship with ad tech vendors that slow down its site (Digiday); YouTube’s changes to prevent ads from appearing next to extremist videos are also hurting independent media producers (New York Times); Digiday talks to Bustle’s CEO Bryan Goldberg about why the company acquired Elite Daily: “Elite Daily has huge viewership. They’re doing tens of millions of views across platforms” (Digiday); Instant Articles may be starting to fall out of favor with some publishers, but Apple News is emerging as viable source of ad and subscription revenue (Digiday)


The future of digital advertising: Designs for mobile screens may be more effective
As the news industry searches for new revenue models to finance journalism online, new research from API and the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research suggests that some sorts of digital advertising are demonstrably more effective with users than others. The research finds that scroll ads designed for mobile screens tend to be more effective across a range of metrics than older types of ads, such as pop-ups and banner ads. The research suggests that recently developed mobile ad formats are less intrusive for users — and can improve recall of the product advertised, as well as enhance trust in the article where the ad appears.


Insights from Vox and Mic’s redesigns: There’s going to be more growth in audio and video, and distributed content is increasingly an entry point to building a relationship (TheMediaBriefing)
While Vox recently refreshed their homepage, Mic took on a full relaunch with a series of new verticals. Kevin Anderson analyzes the two redesigns, thinking about what the companies are trying to achieve and what informed their strategies. Anderson argues that the changes at Mic and Vox indicate several major areas of growth, including: audio and video, data-driven product development, and distributed content as a way to build a relationship.


Financial Times is increasing its marketing spending by one-third, trying to capitalize on the post-Trump and post-Brexit subscription bumps (Digiday)
As Ken Doctor wrote earlier this week for The Street, the post-Trump subscriber surge may be slowing, but it’s also helping some media organizations shift to reader-supported business models. Financial Times is looking to capitalize upon that, and it’s increasing its marketing spending by one-third to do so. In the last month, FT has launched two separate marketing campaigns: One is focused on FT’s new weekend product and offers digital access plus a print copy of FT’s Saturday edition, and the other, called “Black and White,” is produced in partnership with Essence Digital. Those campaigns join another called “Facts, Truth” and “a fourth reader-focused campaign that it launched with several broadcast partners in the U.K.” The thinking behind these campaigns, Max Willens writes, is that FT has realized its journalism is ultimately what drives subscriptions and its journalism should be at the forefront of its marketing campaigns.


Creating a better interview process: Why you should be asking all your candidates the same questions (Source)
Journalists sometimes think, “I ask questions for a living, so that must mean I’m good at interviewing people for jobs” — but Stacy-Marie Ishmael writes that most of us are actually bad at interviewing, in part because the way we interview isn’t effective at determining how a candidate would perform in a role. One important way to improve your interviewing processes is to ask all your candidates the same questions. That means preparing questions in advance and keeping records about the interviews you conduct, or potentially asking your HR department for software that can help structure and schedule interviews or creating a template that teams in your newsrooms can adapt for their next round of hiring.


‘In many communities, best local journalism is not coming from print’ (Matt DeRienzo, Medium)
Margaret Sullivan’s column from earlier this week on the importance of local journalism quoted Northeastern professor Dan Kennedy, who highlighted a statistic that “85 percent of accountability journalism is produced by newspapers.” But as LION executive director Matt DeRienzo points out, that data is nearly a decade old — and it leaves out some significant changes in the local news landscape in the last decade: “It may have been true 10 years ago, but hundreds of local online news sites have been founded since then to fill the gaps left by declining print newsrooms. They are operating in communities that, in some cases, no longer have a local newspaper, or are left with a chain-owned paper that has cut back to literally one or two reporters covering press conferences. The figure also ignores the launch of significant national news sites. ProPublica, for example, was founded in 2007, and sites such as BuzzFeed, which was a Pulitzer finalist for the first time this year, have put significant resources into investigative journalism,” DeRienzo writes.

+ In the opening keynote at Facebook’s F8 conference, Mark Zuckerberg says the company has “a lot more to do here” in terms of filtering violent videos and preventing violence altogether in reference to the Cleveland shooting (Variety); Emily Bell on the dilemma Facebook is in: “The crux of this is what is Facebook’s true nature: a technology that enables anyone to publish anything? Or a self-regulating media company with enforced standards?” (Washington Post)


There’s been a wave of deals in city magazines, but the publications are dependent on print and their futures are unclear (CJR)
In the last few months, there’s been a number of deals in the world of city magazines: Four magazines (Atlanta, Cincinnati, Orange Coast and Los Angeles) were sold for a combined $6.5 million to Detroit-based Hour Media Group LLC. Though the business of city magazines has remained relatively steady, Tony Rehagen writes that these magazines are starting to more acutely feel the shifts that have hit the print newspaper industry: Rehagen finds that ads on print pages comprise between 75 to 90 percent of the revenue at these magazines, and they have few digital advertising prospects. “More niche pubs, upstart blogs, and websites try to squeeze into a fragmented advertising picture,” Rehagen writes on the landscape for city magazines. “Besides local rivals, national competitors such as Facebook and Google offer sophisticated local targeting.”


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