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Need to Know: Aug. 31, 2017

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


You might have heard: Organic reach on Facebook has been in decline since 2013 (Social@Ogilvy) as Facebook makes continual changes to its algorithm, affecting what stories users see and publishers’ reach (Digiday)

But did you know: Facebook page engagement has declined by 20 percent in 2017, a new analysis finds (Social Media Today)
If you thought your Facebook page reach seemed to be declining this year, you’re not alone. A new analysis by content marketing company BuzzSumo found that the average number of engagements with Facebook posts created by brands and publishers has declined by more than 20 percent since the beginning of 2017. What’s not clear is what’s causing that decline in engagement and reach — but Andrew Hutchinson writes that it doesn’t appear to be Facebook’s “authentic content” algorithm change in January. If you’ve seen your traffic decline, here’s what Hutchinson recommends doing: Focus on diversifying your traffic sources beyond Facebook, try posting less often with more engagement on each post, or more frequent posts with less engagement that averages out in the end.

+ Noted: Facebook-funded Watch shows are expected to start streaming this week, with shows coming from publishers including Business Insider, Refinery29 and Attn (Digiday); Al Jazeera is disabling comments on its website, saying its mission is to “give a voice to the voiceless” and the possibility of having healthy discussions in its comment section was “virtually non-existent” (Al Jazeera English, Medium); is implementing a paywall: Starting next week, readers will be limited to 10 articles a month before being prompted to buy a digital subscription (CBS Philly); With a mobile site with a design similar to Facebook, USA Today increased its time spent per article by 75 percent (Digiday)


‘When Hurricane Katrina hit, reporters made serious mistakes. Here’s what to avoid this time around’ (Poynter)
Hurricane Katrina was later seen as a “a real black mark on journalism,” University of Wisconsin-Madison professor Kathleen Bartzen Culver. One major problem, Culver says, was that journalists reported unsubstantiated rumors (such as inflated death numbers or exaggerated reports of crime) as facts. In a Q&A with Melody Kramer, Culver explains what went wrong with Katrina coverage — and what news organizations can do better with Harvey coverage.

+ “In the aftermath of Harvey’s deluge, the media focus has rightly been on the response to the catastrophe, the danger to those on the ground, and the heroism of rescuers. But there’s another aspect to the story that deserves attention. In a time of crisis, conversations about climate change can come across as insensitive. That doesn’t mean they should be avoided.” (CJR)


Here’s what German publishers’ alliance against the duopoly looks like: They’re building a universal login system that will comply with new data privacy regulations (Digiday)
By working together to build a single login system, German publishers are looking to compete with Facebook and Google, as well as protect users’ data. With a total of nine members on board ranging from Axel Springer to Lufthansa, the partners are working to create a universal login system that will comply with the General Data Protection Regulation, which will start being enforced in May. The benefit for users is that once they’ve created a login, they’ll be able to use the same account across all partner sites and set their preferences for what data they’re OK with sharing. And for the partners, they’ll have ad targeting data that’s ensured to be GDPR compliant.


‘Don’t fear super-intelligent robots. fear dumb, unpredictable ones’ (Fast Company)
In an open letter to the UN, artificial intelligence business leaders including Tesla’s Elon Musk warned that technology could be misused by terrorists or others to create “killer robots.” But Taha Yesseri, a research fellow at the University of Oxford who studies complex systems and robots, says it’s actually systems of “dumb, unpredictable” robots that we should fear. Yesseri explains: “The real threat is much bigger—and not just from human misconduct, but from the machines themselves. The research into complex systems shows how behavior can emerge that is much more unpredictable than the sum of individual actions. … Humans can adapt to new rules and conventions relatively quickly but can still have trouble switching between systems. This can be way more difficult for artificial agents.”


‘The Newseum opened as the journalism industry tanked. No wonder it’s in deep trouble’ (Washington Post)
When the Newseum relocated into Washington, D.C., in 2008, it wasn’t a great time for the business of journalism, Margaret Sullivan writes: “2008 was a year of precipitous advertising decline, and round after round of layoffs at newspapers and the other news organizations that had pledged to support it.” Given that timing, the problems that the Newseum is now facing seem precipitous of challenges within the industry itself. “With a sense of timing that is either brilliant or comically disastrous, a cathedral to journalism is about to open its doors in Washington,” former Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger wrote at the time, predicting that “the Newseum could soon be a shrine for anthropological study of a bygone craft of journalism.”

+ Earlier: The Newseum’s president and chief executive Jeffrey Herbst resigned on Monday as its board announced a full review of its finances (New York Times)

+ In the coverage of protests last week in the Bay Area focused on violence, Shane Bauer argues that many news organizations missed the obvious story: “The Bay Area has become the latest target of fascist and other far-right groups promoting disruptive rallies across America, often in cities where they know they are not welcome” (Mother Jones)


Here’s why the pivot to video is so alluring to publishers: Vice is said to be valued at two times what NYT is (Bloomberg)
No site is ‘pivoting to video’ because of audience demand,” Talking Points Memo publisher Josh Marshall tweeted earlier this month. “They are pivoting to video because the industry is in the midst of a monetization crisis.” With monetization in mind, some publishers are looking to replicate the success of Vice Media. After receiving a new $450 million investment earlier this summer, Vice is now said be valued at $5.7 billion — or two times what The New York Times is worth.

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