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Need to Know: Feb. 13, 2018

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


You might have heard: Unilever is threatening to pull advertising from Facebook and Google if the platforms don’t clean up their content: “We cannot continue to prop up a digital supply chain … which at times is little better than a swamp in terms of its transparency,” Unilever’s marketing head Keith Weed says. “This is not something that can brushed aside or ignored.” (CNN Media)

But did you know: A former IAB board member questions whether major advertisers have any influence over the platforms’ actions (NewCo Shift)
“We will prioritize investing only in responsible platforms that are committed to creating a positive impact in society,” Weed said, threatening to pull millions of dollars from Facebook and Google over misinformation, manipulation and offensive content. But former IAB board member John Battelle questions whether advertisers — even major ones such as Unilever — have any sway over the platform’s decisions: P&G made similar threats last year over ad fraud, and ultimately pulled all of its ad spending off YouTube. But, since then, Google’s revenue has increased by 20 percent, bringing in $100 billion each year. The $1.4 million P&G pulled from YouTube represents just .0014 percent of Google’s revenue base.

+ Noted: CNN is expected to eliminate more than 50 jobs this week, largely from its “premium businesses” and digital initiatives (Vanity Fair); PolitiFact moves from the Tampa Bay Times to Poynter, gaining nonprofit status (Poynter); Facebook says it’s still trying to figure out what “meaningful interactions” means (Recode) and Facebook will allow publishers to start testing paywalls within its iOS app starting March 1 (TechCrunch); Google launches a developer preview of new AMP features that include Snapchat-like swipeable slides of text, photos, graphics and videos (Wall Street Journal); A former senior FBI official is leading BuzzFeed’s effort to verify the Trump dossier (Foreign Policy)


Lessons for funding news from the now defunct International Reporting Project (CJR)
Last week, the International Reporting Project announced that it would close; IRP’s founder and director John Schidlovsky said, “The year-to-year battle to raise sufficient operating funds finally caught up with us.” IRP deputy director Glendora Meikle explains what other organizations can learn from IRP’s approach to funding: Sometimes you have to spend money on marketing, attending conferences and hosting events to make money; consider the influence of the major philanthropic funders and how you manage your relationship with them; and we need to focus on ways to pay for in-depth, local journalism from outlets similar to IJR.

+ Earlier: Our guidelines on the ethics of funding nonprofit news suggest some ways news outlets and funders can navigate those relationships


‘Not all news site visitors are created equal. Schibsted is trying to predict the ones who will pay up’ (Nieman Lab)
Out of all the visitors to a news site, only a few will register an account. And out of those who register an account, even fewer go on to buy a subscription. With that in mind, Scandinavian publisher Schibsted is reserving its marketing and subscription deals for those users it predicts are the most likely to turn into paying subscribers. The model, developed by the company’s data science team, analyzes readers’ behavior, and gives the marketing and sales teams more info on targeting groups of potential subscribers. Across the sites where this model is in use, “the model has identified groups of readers 3x to 5x times more likely than average to buy a subscription. Sales staff at these news sites are then able to, for instance, target these specific registered users on Facebook with special subscription deals.”

+ “European publishers look to digital subscriptions to reduce platform dependency,” a new report from Axel Springer says (Digiday)


Facebook lost 2.8 million users under the age of 25 last year, eMarketer says (Recode)
According to new estimates by eMarketer, Facebook is losing younger users more quickly than expected. eMarketer estimates that Facebook lost 2.8 million users under the age of 25 during 2017, a decline of about 9.9 percent; eMarketer predicted a decline of about 3.4 percent. Plus, eMarketer is predicting that Facebook will lose another 2.1 million users under 25 this year. “Facebook has been losing its ‘cool’ factor for years, and young people have more options than ever for staying in touch with friends and family,” Kurt Wagner and Rani Molla explain. “Facebook also serves as a digital record keeper — but many young people don’t seem to care about saving their life online, at least not publicly. That explains why Snapchat and Instagram, which offer features for sharing photos and videos that disappear, are growing in popularity among this demographic.”

+ Smartphone notifications have essentially turned us into Pavlov’s dogs, psychologist David Greenfield argues: One way to unplug could include doing a “digital detox” one day per week (NPR)


Should the ‘mainstream media’ embrace the right’s accusations of liberal bias? (Crooked Media)
For years, conservatives have tended to treat liberal bias in the mainstream media as a fact, and as a conspiracy. “For just as long, mainstream media institutions have gone to great lengths to refute the right’s liberal-bias accusations, and make good faith efforts to appease their critics,” Brian Beutler writes. But instead of trying to fight off that perception, Beutler argues news organizations should embrace it: While news organizations may not be “liberal,” Beutler says they are “‘liberal’ in a more profound and important sense, which is why the right wants to crush it.” He argues: “The job of the mainstream media isn’t to cast judgment on people with different value systems, but journalists can’t do their jobs well if they aren’t aware that the value systems of mainstream journalism and American conservatism are different and in conflict. … Journalists have spent decades responding to this kind of manipulation with varying levels of appeasement, hoping to escape the curse of the liberal epithet. They should try embracing their own particular kind of liberalism instead, and letting their bad faith critics scream into the void.”

+ What Rob Porter’s departure from the White House says about effective journalism under the Trump administration: Margaret Sullivan says it shows we need “more bulletproof, evidence-based journalism,” along with “a greater willingness to forcefully call out the way political and civic norms are being turned upside down” and “consistently explaining to audiences how disinformation is spreading via technology” (Washington Post)


A little more than a week after its sale to Meredith was finalized, some are starting to speculate about which Time Inc. titles will be sold (Vanity Fair)
It’s been about a week and a half since Meredith’s takeover of Time Inc. was finalized, gaining control over Time Inc.’s more than 100 print and digital titles. Joe Pompeo reports that some are already starting to speculate about which Time Inc. titles will be sold off, and to whom. Some titles of particular interest include Sports Illustrated, Time, Fortune and Entertainment Weekly. Pompeo reports that Sports Illustrated may be the first to be sold, given that it’s “the sorest thumb in a stable that serves a predominantly female audience.” Potential buyers for some of Time Inc.’s titles include The Hill owner Jimmy Finkelstein, as well as National Enquirer owner American Media and Penske Media Corp., which just acquired a controlling stake in Rolling Stone in December.

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