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Need to Know: Feb. 1, 2018

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


You might have heard: When BuzzFeed missed its 2017 revenue targets, some said it was the latest sign of “turbulence in digital media” (Wall Street Journal)

But did you know: Quality, scale and sustainability are paramount in digital media today, Vox Media CEO Jim Bankoff says (Vox Media)
In a memo to staff about the state of digital media, Vox Media CEO Jim Bankoff emphasized the importance of pursuing scale alongside quality. “Many companies in our space have pursued scale without quality. Their growth tactics have evolved from content farms and SEO or social feed gaming, to slideshows and three-second captioned Facebook views,” Bankoff writes. “Quality without scale often yields some amazing work, but generally doesn’t support the sustained breadth and depth of rich programming, strong journalism and product innovation that we seek to achieve.” In 2018, Bankoff says Vox Media will be making strategic decisions about what platforms to pursue and what projects to invest in. “This means there will be places that we’ll invest more and places where we’ll need to scale back. We will grow our organization, but not at the same pace as we have over the last few years. We’ll need to make smart choices on an ongoing basis about how to apply our resources,” which Bankoff says will include growing its podcasting and TV projects.

+ Noted: The Oregonian laid off 11 people this week, cutting its city hall reporter, a business/retail reporter, and a health reporter (Portland Mercury); Alt-right social media personality Mike Cernovich is bidding $500,000 to buy (Vanity Fair); To cover the devastation of Hurricane Harvey, the Texas Tribune has assigned a team to covering its aftermath, including rebuilding efforts, the government’s response, and what Texas is doing to prepare for future storms (Texas Tribune); Facebook’s daily active users declined for the first time ever in the U.S. in the last quarter of 2017 (Recode)


After Facebook’s news feed changes, publishers are looking to push notifications as a way to create direct connections with readers (Digiday)
“Now that Facebook is deprioritizing publishers’ posts in the news feed, there’s more urgency for publishers to make direct connections with readers,” Max Willens writes. “That means they’re taking push notifications more seriously.” For example: WSJ has expanded the number of topics readers can get notifications on, while CNN is planning to add rich media into its notifications later this year. Plus, push notifications are “optimal for getting an early indication for how a story is playing with your audience,” CNN VP of digital programming S. Mitra Kalita explains. “I used to use Facebook metrics like this over five years ago. You’d look at shares over the course of 20 minutes.”


New research from the Reuters Institute attempts to quantify Europe’s fake news problem (Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism)
There isn’t a lot of data available yet on how misinformation is spreading in the European Union, but a new report from the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism attempts to quantify the problem. Some of their findings: Publishers of misinformation tend to have much smaller reaches than legitimate news sites, and audiences are spending significantly more time with legitimate news sites than the publishers of false information. But, some questions still remain: “We have not considered the potentially ‘long tail’ of false news access. If there are many other sites that publish false news, and the degree of overlap between their audiences is low, it may be that their combined reach is greater than that implied by the low individual reach figures. This matters even more if false news sites are reaching people that news sites do not,” the authors write.


The iPad didn’t turn out to be the game changer Steve Jobs promised, costing its media partners years of work (Bloomberg)
When Steve Jobs presented the iPad in 2010, it was promised to be a world-changing device, revolutionizing the newspaper, magazine and book publishing industries. But eight years later, that promise hasn’t materialized, costing Apple’s media partners years of work on content for the device. “In hindsight, it was a waste, and Jobs led them all on a costly detour” when they should have been focusing on smartphones, Shira Ovide writes. “About 300 million smartphones were sold worldwide in 2010, according to research firm IDC, and Apple sold 7.5 million iPads in the first few months the device was for sale. Last year, Apple sold 44 million iPads, and people bought about 1.5 billion smartphones. The iPad is important, but it never became the ubiquitous, world-changing computer that Jobs pitched in 2010.”


Newspaper’s executive editor says he was fired for advocating for equal pay for women (Poynter)
Jeffrey Good, executive editor of Newspapers of New England’s Pioneer Valley Newspaper group, said in an email to staff that he was fired for advocating for “transparency and fair pay for our female colleagues at the Daily Hampshire Gazette and its sister publications”— but the publisher and some of his former colleagues are pushing back against that portrayal. In a statement, publisher Mike Rifanburg said: “Mr. Good’s transition is in no way due to his participation in the Gazette’s ongoing efforts to address pay equity issues.”

+ How political pundits talked about Trump’s State of the Union: “A strong whiff of won’t-get-fooled again permeated much of the post-speech analysis. Last year, Trump’s first joint address to Congress was greeted by rapturous reviews,” Dan Kennedy writes (WGBH)


Inside the final days of Time Inc.: 100 years of media history comes to an end with staffers worrying about layoffs, hoping its future with Meredith could be brighter (Vanity Fair)
By the end of this week, Time Inc. will become part of Meredith, and the iconic Time Inc. brand will no longer exist. “Once an embodiment of Manhattan media power and influence, with afternoon cocktail carts and bottomless expense accounts, Time Inc. is now being absorbed by a smaller, decidedly less glamorous rival,” Joe Pompeo writes. “Come Thursday, Time Inc. will no longer exist … After years of downsizing, declining revenues, a flagging stock price, leadership churn and, not least of all, the many challenges associated with a digitally focused turnaround that had yet to come to fruition, there’s a sense that forging ahead as an independent public company wasn’t exactly a rock-solid option, that the grass in Des Moines may indeed be greener.”

+ Meredith CEO Tom Harty says there will be “no changes in the editorial structure” of Time Inc. right now: Harty will move into Time Inc.’s New York offices, leading the combined companies, as Time Inc.’s executives depart (New York Post)

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