Insights, tools and research to advance journalism

Need to Know: Feb. 23, 2018

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


You might have heard: As print revenue has declined at newspaper companies, digital revenue has struggled to make up for the losses (Wall Street Journal)

But did you know: At traditional newspaper companies, digital revenue is getting to the point where it makes up for print losses (MarketWatch)
Digital has long been heralded as the journalism industry’s savior, promising to make up for print declines. And at some traditional newspaper companies, that’s finally starting to become true. “Recently, traditional newspaper companies … have been able to lean on the growth of digital revenues, approaching a point at which they can make up for some of the losses leaking from print,” Trey Williams reports. Gannett recently reported that its digital revenue has now reached $1 billion, representing 32 percent of its overall revenue; McClatchy CEO Greg Forman said last week that he expects the company to reach a point this year where digital ad revenue exceeds revenue from print advertising. “The really big change over the last year or so has been a recognition by the digital platforms, by consumers who are subscribing in greater numbers than ever before, and I think by the market,” NYT CEO Mark Thompson said on the company’s quarterly conference call.

+ Noted: The FCC’s order that repeals the Obama-era net neutrality rules officially took effect on Thursday, but opponents are preparing legal challenges (TechCrunch); Newsweek retracts a story that claimed alt-right bots forced Al Franken’s resignation (The Stranger); A new startup Scroll is selling publishers a subscription service that charges readers $5/month to get rid of ads on a publisher’s site (Wall Street Journal); As Twitter appears to be purging bot accounts, conservative Twitter users are losing thousands of followers and “believe that they’re being targeted” (Gizmodo); Analysis finds that algorithms designed by Facebook and Google struggle to detect doctored images and videos (Wall Street Journal); The Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University will receive a total of $6.5 million in grants from Democracy Fund, First Look Media, and the Charles Koch Foundation to “support the institute’s work defending the freedoms of speech and the press” (Knight First Amendment Institute)


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 what’s wrong with media literacy programs in schools, why fake news is an existential crisis for social media, and ESPN “fact-checks” Lonzo Ball’s rap lyrics.


Tips for reporting on climate change: Understand the science, use research to challenge leaders, and focus on how climate change can be managed (Journalist’s Resource)
Harvard University environmental studies professor Daniel Schrag offers his tips for how journalists can cover climate change better. Scharg, who also served on President Obama’s Council of Advisors for Science and Technology, says journalists need to understand the science behind the stories they’re reporting, and include the correct context. Acknowledge the partisan divides, Schrag says, but also use research and reporting as a way to hold politicians accountable. Plus, Schrag suggests focusing on “how humans can manage climate change — not stop it.”


Fairfax Media reports a 54 percent drop in profits, and says the company will pursue ‘strategic opportunities’ with News Corp (Mumbrella)
Fairfax Media, based in Australia and New Zealand, says it brought in a net profit of $38.5 million in the first half of the 2018 financial year — a 54 percent drop from the net profit it brought in during the last half of the 2017 financial year. Chief executive and managing director Greg Hywood says that the company will pursue more “strategic opportunities” with its rival News Corp. “We will take advantage of opportunities arising from media consolidation as and when it occurs. Any decisions we take will be in the best interests of our shareholders,” he said, indicating that Fairfax is open to mergers and acquisitions.


Why do men need to care about the wage gap? Women will leave companies with persistent pay inequity (CNN Money)
“For many women, the wage gap needs no explaining: Female workers, on average, earn around 80 cents for every dollar a man makes,” Julia Carpenter writes. “And yet a significant number of men still don’t believe it exists.” One explanation may be that men don’t want to believe that they’re benefiting from an unequal system, “which would imply that they’ve been rewarded for more than just their own merits.” But, men need to believe that the wage gap is real and take steps in their own companies to correct it: Former Citi CFO Sallie Krawcheck predicts that more women will leave companies with persistent wage gaps, either to start their own companies or to work with a manager who’s actively trying to correct the problem.

+ Earlier: Last month, a report found that only 61 percent of men believe that men make more than women for performing the same jobs (CNBC)


‘If publishers can deliver on the promise of quality content, reader revenues will outstrip advertiser revenues’ (Publishing Executive)
“Before we all retreat behind paywalls, let’s take a moment to think about what’s going on and how publishers should react,” Peter Houston writes. Paywalls are being driven by reader’s desire for “quality” content and trustworthy information. Plus, subscriptions and memberships often come with benefits for members. “The return to reader revenue is long overdue, and has been sparked, ironically by the insane amount of bad digital content available for free,” Houston explains. “If publishers can deliver on the promise of quality content, reader revenues will outstrip advertiser revenues at more than just global news brands like The New York Times and The Guardian.”

+ “Subscribers can collide with editorial independence just as easily as corporate advertisers can. If their willingness to pay for news (and by implied threat, stop paying) becomes central to news economics, the Resistance can take a newspaper hostage much more effectively than advertisers ever did,” Andrew Potter argues (BuzzFeed News)

+ “After years of testing, The Wall Street Journal has built a paywall that bends to the individual reader”: Non-subscribers are given a “score” that indicates how likely they are to subscribe, and the paywall tightens or loosens accordingly (Nieman Lab)


‘In Parkland, journalism students take on role of reporter and survivor’ (CJR)
Just a little more than a week after a shooting at their school in Florida, student journalists at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School’s The Eagle Eye and WMSD-TV are sharing their experiences in both their own outlets and on a national scale, “treading the increasingly murky line between journalism and activism.” Newspaper adviser Melissa Falkowski says she told her students that “nobody could tell this story the way that we could tell it. … The kids really embraced that.”


+ With one tweet, Kylie Jenner wiped out $1.3 billion of Snap’s market value: “sooo does anyone else not open Snapchat anymore? Or is it just me… ugh this is so sad,” she tweeted (Bloomberg)

+ “The reality is that college media isn’t immune to all the economic factors that are buffeting the professional world, and it’s really hard to make a go of it independently,” Frank LoMonte says. “Your eggs are really in the basket of advertising. When that dries up, so does your business model” (News & Observer)

+ Inside the downfall of Missouri’s Columbia Daily Tribune: Eighteen months after it was acquired by GateHouse, there’s just one full-time reporter left at the paper today (Gateway Journalism Review)

+ “Technology feels disempowering because we haven’t built it around an honest view of human nature,” tech critic Tristan Harris says. “Silicon Valley is reckoning with having had a bad philosophical operating system. People in tech will say, ‘You told me, when I asked you what you wanted, that you wanted to go to the gym. That’s what you said. But then I handed you a box of doughnuts and you went for the doughnuts, so that must be what you really wanted.’ … [But] if you ask someone, “What’s your dream?” that’s not a meaningless signal. A psychotherapist going through an interview process with someone is accessing parts of them that screens never do. I think the [traffic] metrics have created this whole illusion that what people are doing is what people want, when it’s really just what works in the moment, in that situation.” (Vox)

Need to Know newsletter

The smart way to start your day

Each morning we scour the web for fresh useful insights in our Need to Know newsletter. Sign up below.

The American Press Institute

Our mission

We help transform news organizations for an audience-centered future.

Our programs for publishers focus on four things:

  • 1. Understand your audience
  • 2. Get your audience to pay
  • 3. Transform your culture
  • 4. Do your best journalism
  • Find out more about API »

API solutions for publishers

What we can do for you

API offers a suite of original tools and services for solving the biggest challenges in news:

  • Decide what beats to cover and how
  • Identify and develop the skills you need
  • Assess and improve your culture
  • Drive more reader revenue
  • Drive loyalty through accountability journalism
  • Make analytics work for you
  • Contact us to find out how »