Need to Know: Feb. 3, 2017

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


You might have heard: In its Q4 earnings report, The New York Times reported that its print advertising revenue declined by 20 percent, while growth in digital ad revenue kept total revenue declines to 1 percent (New York Times)

But did you know: A bright spot in NYT’s earnings report was subscription growth post-election (Poynter)
While CEO Mark Thompson “stopped short today of saying Trump was the cause” of NYT’s record-breaking subscription growth, President Trump’s mocking tweets and criticisms of the paper is driving business. NYT added a net of 276,000 subscribers in the last quarter of 2016, bringing the paper’s total print and digital subscriptions to more than 3 million. On the growth, Thompson said: “We restrict ourselves to empirical evidence, but there has been an uptick in people’s willingness to pay. [While some would expect a lull post-election], this hasn’t been a quiet period. How long will the new administration be creating controversy? Months more, maybe years.”

+ NYT is launching a Snapchat Discover channel today based on its Morning Briefing (VentureBeat)

+ Noted: The Wall Street Journal is exploring an ad-free digital subscription option (Digiday); Buffalo News publisher Warren T. Colville says the newspaper has remained profitable (Buffalo Newspaper Guild); A new report from Digiday finds that 36 percent of publishers are experimenting with virtual and augmented reality videos, but audiences are still scarce (Digiday); 22 digital watchdog projects in Africa receive $1 million in funding from to tackle issues such as fake news and frontline war reporting (Code for Africa)


The week in fact-checking
As part of our fact-checking journalism project, Jane Elizabeth and Poynter’s Alexios Mantzarlis highlight stories worth noting related to truth in politics and on the Internet. This week’s round-up includes whether fake news is a fake problem, what fact-checkers are doing on Facebook, and fact-checking those weather-predicting groundhogs.

+ Humanity United’s managing director Tim Isgitt shares what his organization is doing in relation to the guiding principles that API released in January for nonprofit news organizations and funders (Media Impact Funders)


Think of your email strategies and social strategies as complementary (Social Media Week)
“If you want to succeed in the realm of digital marketing, it’s best to stop thinking about each strategy or area of development as separate,” writes Anna Johansson. “Instead, try to see them as shades of the same campaign.” Though email and social media may seem different, Johansson argues that these are two areas that work well together. Some tips for integrating those strategies: Use integrations in tools you already use (such as social sharing in Mailchimp), build up your mailing lists and social media lists simultaneously, and cross-promote your email and social media strategies (for example, promote your email newsletters on social, and promote what you’re doing on social through your newsletters).

+ Steps news organizations can take to start collaborating with ethnic media organizations: Identify the major groups in your community and find the media organizations that are representing these communities, then study what these media organizations are doing differently and reach out to these organizations to co-report a story or even have them serve as a “fixer” for you in the community (MediaShift)


The BBC will invest £8 million a year in ‘local democracy reporters’ at other news organizations (PressGazette)
The BBC will spend £8 million (about $8.6 million USD) a year to fund what it’s calling “local democracy reporters” in news organizations around the U.K. The BBC will fund 150 of these reporters, whose stories will be available for use by the BBC and other local news organizations. Expect to see these reporters start to be embedded in newsrooms by 2018. BBC’s director of news James Harding explains the thinking behind the program: “The BBC has worked hard with local news organizations to develop a scheme that gives an opportunity to a new generation of reporters and strengthens the local news coverage for all our audiences.“

+ The Canadian government has pulled its ads from after “the Government of Canada determined that the content of did not align with the Government’s Code of Value and Ethics” (Globe and Mail); Breitbart had plans to launch a French-language edition ahead of this year’s elections in France, but it still hasn’t launched and a 22-year-old student is squatting on their domain in France (The Verge)


The effect of immigration uncertainty on the US tech industry: Tech leaders say it’s going to get harder to hire skilled immigrants (Wall Street Journal)
A week after President Trump’s executive order on immigration was issued, those in the U.S. tech industry say the policy (and other policies that could follow) will make it harder for their companies to hire skilled immigrants. WSJ’s Christopher Mims reports that those in the industry that he spoke to made similar arguments: “In 2017, politicians who try to unduly impede the free movement of tech workers stand to deprive their home country of revenue and employment, as well as all the additional support, service and administrative jobs each of those highly paid workers creates in a community.”


‘If small newspapers are going to survive, they’ll have to be more than passive observers to the news’ (Nieman Lab)
In order to survive, small, local newspapers need to adapt the role of “good neighbor” in their relationships with their communities, Damian Radcliffe and Christopher Ali write. “Adopting the role of a good neighbor does not mean abandoning critical perspective. It’s an opportunity to ensure that local newspapers are at the heart of the conversations taking place in their communities. Papers may start those conversations, or they may facilitate and reflect them. Either way, supporting an informed citizenry sits side by side with holding authority to account. They are not mutually exclusive,” Radcliffe and Ali argue.

+ More on the meaning of objectivity in a shifting media environment: “If a reporter is personally affected by the news, that doesn’t make her any less of a journalist. It also doesn’t make her any less effective at her job, as long as that reporter works in an environment where she can voice her concerns at the appropriate time and place,” Katie Hawkins-Gaar writes (Poynter); “It’s really challenging right now to figure out how … to be as factual and neutral as possible when the whole playbook has changed and the landscape is different,” says Marketplace’s Kai Ryssdal (Nieman Lab)


A Reddit community encouraged its community members to fact-check suspicious news, tapping into a strategy that other communities could adopt (Nieman Lab)
With some help from researchers at MIT, Reddit’s /r/worldnews is encouraging its users to fact-check potentially misleading or sensationalist stories. The subreddit and researchers found that encouraging users to fact-check stories doubled the number of comments with links that those posts got and halved their Reddit scores (pushing them farther down the page), which researchers say is “a statistically significant effect that likely influenced rankings in the subreddit.” The study’s lead researcher J. Nathan Matias explains the implications of the study outside Reddit: “Our results here showed that many of the issues we care about, such as the spread of fake news, are shaped by a combination of human and algorithmic factors, and that we can influence algorithms by persuading people to shift their behavior, even if we don’t control those algorithmic systems.”


+ Fake news is a problem for satirical journalists, too: “It made more sense when people from another country would read one of my stories and not get the joke — that was kind of predictable. But the fact that so many Americans have to go to to find out that Trump didn’t really hire El Chapo to be head of the DEA or something like that, that’s a reading comprehension problem,” says The New Yorker’s Andy Borowitz (Associated Press)

+ Thinking about the future of the comment section: “In the past few years, how newsrooms think about comments — which had remained largely unchanged since outlets began introducing them in the mid-2000s — has changed as well. While many have elected to kill comments sections, ceding that community to third parties such as social media, others are looking at them as a key part of their audience engagement strategies — and seeing their audience engagement strategies as a key part of their business model.” (Nieman Reports)

+ Freelance journalists share the best places to write: Pacific Standard, Mel Magazine, Los Angeles Times, Quartz, The Guardian and New Yorker all received endorsements from multiple freelancers (CJR)

+ Luke Burns proposes some additions to the “Five ‘W’s” of journalism, including: “Seriously?,” “How did this happen?,” and “Am I dreaming?” (New Yorker)