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Need to Know: Feb. 2, 2018

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


You might have heard: In January, the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office raided the Newsweek headquarters, taking photos of computers and servers (New York Post)

But did you know: The publisher of Newsweek and International Business Times is accused of buying traffic and engaging in ad fraud (BuzzFeed News)
A new report from ad fraud researchers Social Puncher says the publisher of Newsweek and International Business Times bought traffic and engaged in fraudulent ad practices to secure a major ad buy from federal agency Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Responding to questions from BuzzFeed News, Newsweek Media Group said it did purchase audiences from ad networks that sell pop-up and pop-under traffic, but said that represents “small percentage of traffic on our sites” and denied any fraudulent activity.

+ Newsweek Media Group’s co-owner and chairman Etienne Uzac and finance director Marion Kim stepped down from their posts on Thursday (CNN Media)

+ Earlier: Last summer, BuzzFeed News found that local content on IBT Australia was produced by writers in the Philippines and its offices in Sydney were occupied by people who said they did not work for the company (BuzzFeed News)

+ Noted: Tronc confirms that two of New York Daily News’ top editors are no longer with the company following investigations into sexual harassment allegations (HuffPost); Wired is launching a paywall: Readers receive four free stories each month before being prompted to purchase a $20/year subscription (Recode); Spirited Media is launching a membership program (Spirited Media, Medium); BuzzFeed News approached Laurene Powell Jobs about investing in its news division (Financial Times); The Virginian-Pilot will outsource most of its newsroom page design to an outside vendor (Virginian-Pilot); CNN is cutting its financial news app CNN MoneyStream, “a move that marks the cable news company’s latest retrenchment in its digital business” (BuzzFeed News)


The week in fact-checking
As part of our fact-checking journalism project, Jane Elizabeth and Poynter’s Alexios Mantzarlis and Daniel Funke highlight stories worth noting related to truth in politics and on the Internet. This week’s round-up includes whether Europe’s attempts to control fake news with legislation are futile, how fact-checkers handled the State of the Union, and a step-by-step guide for fact-checking photos.


How the Christian Science Monitor revamped its workflows with its readers in mind (Lenfest Institute)
Last year, the Christian Science Monitor overhauled its digital operations, taking its daily reporting into a daily news digest that promises readers coverage that they won’t be able to get elsewhere. But to deliver on that promise, the Monitor also had to rethink its culture and workflows, with the value to readers as top priority. The Lenfest Institute’s Joseph Lichterman explains how the Monitor put its readers at the core of its decisions — and ultimately brought in thousands of paying subscribers as a result.


A German newspaper is a consumer cooperative, meaning its readers essentially own the newspaper (International Journalists’ Network)
As more people start thinking about how to make membership programs work, one German newspaper can serve as a case study. Berlin-based daily newspaper Tageszeitung (called Taz for short) was founded in 1992 as a consumer cooperative, meaning that the newspaper is essentially owned by its members. Taz has 10,000 members who make recurring donations, 50,000 print and digital subscribers, and 17,000 reader-owners who pay a minimum of €500 (about $625 USD) to join the cooperative. That reader ownership means that Taz has chosen to do some things differently than most news organizations: It does not have a paywall, but all readers are encouraged to make a donation when reading online. And, when its members were wary of third party payment systems, Taz started building its own online payment system.

+ Financial Times acquired London-based research agency Longitude, and plans to use its “research and thought leadership to complement its media distribution of advertising and branded content” (Digiday)


Amazon’s ‘other’ revenue, which is mostly advertising, grew by 60 percent in the last quarter of 2017 (Digiday)
In its fourth-quarter earnings report, Amazon revealed that its “other” revenue grew by 60 percent year-over-year to $1.7 billion. Amazon’s “other” revenue is mostly comprised of advertising — and that growth could signal some major competition for the Facebook/Google duopoly. A major factor behind that growth is an expansion in its search marketing product, Amazon Marketing Services. Plus, Amazon’s pitch to advertisers and agencies is that it has a “total wallet” perspective: It can pair what people are searching for with what they’re actually buying.


What went wrong at the Los Angeles Times? (CNN Media)
“After years of painful, protracted decline, the Los Angeles Times has recently descended into chaos,” Dylan Byers writes. The paper has had three editors in chief in six months, its publisher is on leave for sexual harassment allegations, and the recently unionized staff believes Tronc is trying to break up the union. But how did the L.A. Times get to this point? Michael Ferro’s leadership of Tronc is key to that answer, Byers argues. “Some sources expect that the Times will continue to implode, allowing a white knight … to come in and buy the paper for next to nothing,” Byers writes. “But other sources close to the paper say those saviors don’t exist. Ferro does not appear to be interested in selling, they say, and they fear that if he ever decides he is, there will no longer be much worth buying.”

+ With Jim Kirk as editor, the staff of the L.A. Times is more optimistic — but “the newsroom [still] needs some transparency and answers about what is happening with the company” (CJR); NYT reports that the paper’s dispute with Disney “ignited a battle” between its staff and top management (New York Times)


The Freedom of the Press Foundation is creating an online archive to preserve news sites threatened by wealthy buyers — and will be the first site to be archived (Freedom of the Press Foundation)
In partnership with Archive-It, the Freedom of the Press Foundation is launching an online archive to help news organizations threatened by wealthy buyers preserve their archives. The idea is that sites will be preserved in their entirety before archives can be taken down or manipulated. The first site to be put into the archive will be, whose potential buyers include Peter Thiel and Mike Cernovich.


+ Last weekend, The New York Times published an investigation on the practice of buying Twitter followers, finding that thousands of celebrities, athletes, pundits and other popular accounts have millions of fake followers (New York Times); After the story was published, film critic Richard Roeper was suspended from the Chicago Sun-Times — but was that an overreaction? “Purchasing social-media followers is sad, but I don’t think it’s a clear ethical violation,” SPJ ethics chairman Andrew Seaman says. “General dishonesty and misrepresentation is a cause for concern, however. I think anything like this is justification for a news organization to ask: What else is this person misrepresenting?” (Washington Post); Here’s how you can tell if you have fake followers, and how to remove them (Poynter)

+ CJR compiled an oral history of sexual harassment in newsrooms: “An immediate editor hit on me several times a week for a year. I had to work twice as hard to capture the attention of senior editors to get promoted out from under this guy. He continued to hit on me until I was married, and actually had the audacity to get angry when I rebuffed him flatly the last time. I will never forget the fear, and the tightrope I walked. In these days, there was no HR department or venue in which to report. We just kept quiet and suffered,” one woman said (CJR)

+ “Microsoft learned to take government seriously in Washington in the late 1990s, Google in Brussels in the 2000s. Facebook still hasn’t learned from its elders’ mistakes” (BuzzFeed News)

+ Advertising is funding nearly everything online, but it’s also simultaneously “the driving force behind much of the chaos and disrepute online” (New York Times)
+ “While Sean Hannity and Breitbart News carry water for Trump, and many liberal publications dodge introspection in favor of anti-Trump primal screams, right-of-center magazines have been debating and reassessing the soul of their political philosophy. Trumpism has torn down the conservative house and broken it up for parts. Conservative magazines are working to bring a plausible intellectual order to this new reality — and figure out what comes next” (Washington Post)

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