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Need to Know: Feb. 9, 2018

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


You might have heard: In its fourth-quarter earnings report, The New York Times reported that its overall subscription revenue now accounts for 60 percent of its total revenue (New York Times), and “executives said that new subscribers — the “Trump bump” cohort from 2016 elections — are actually renewing at higher rates than are typical and that the progression from discounted trial offers to full pay is also holding up well” (Poynter)

But did you know: The New York Times’ digital subscription business is growing faster than Google (Recode)
The New York Times has built an impressive digital subscription business. But what’s most impressive, Edmund Lee and Rani Molla write, is how fast it’s growing: NYT made $340 million in online subscriptions last year, and its average annual growth rate since launching the paywall in 2011 is 46 percent. “That equals Facebook, which grew its business 47 percent last year, and it’s much faster than Google, which grew at a 23 percent clip,” Lee and Molla explain. “Of course, those comparisons are a bit of a feint. Both businesses dwarf the Times. But it’s still apt since A) it is Facebook and Google that have been eating away the news business, and B) the Times, a 166-year-old establishment known for being stubbornly and decorously staid, often to the point of self-defeat, is now growing like a Silicon Valley behemoth.”

+ Noted: Meredith will cut more than 700 jobs at Time Inc. from its customer service center in Tampa, Fla. (New York Post); Twitter turned a quarterly profit for the first time ever in the last quarter of 2017 (Quartz); Newsletter platform Substack is making its tools available to everyone for free: For newsletters with monetization in the form of subscriptions, Substack will take a 10 percent cut (Nieman Lab); Report for America adds nine new host news organizations: Dallas Morning News, New Mexico’s KRWG, The Macon (Georgia) Telegraph, Chicago Sun-Times, The Victoria (Texas) Advocate, The Incline in Pittsburgh, Billy Penn in Philadelphia, Mississippi Today, and Mississippi Public Broadcasting (The Groundtruth Project); The Knight Foundation is giving $2.6 million across five organizations to “help strengthen quality journalism and innovation in local television newsrooms” (Knight Foundation)


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 happening in Facebook’s closed-door meetings with fact-checkers, the biggest fake news of 2018 thus far, and why that “Lady Doritos” story doesn’t hold up.


Thinking about starting a membership program or digital subscriptions? Here’s a primer on how to get started (CJR)
Based on dozens of interviews with organizations that pursue direct revenue from their audiences, CJR, along with the Tow Center, Membership Puzzle Project, and Institute for Nonprofit News, has developed a primer for news organizations thinking about how to get started with reader revenue. Here’s their advice for getting started: Understand the difference between different kinds of revenue models, understand that reader revenue is unlikely to be your sole business strategy, and build a story around your publication’s mission.

+ Read more on Better News about how to build consumer revenue


Brazil’s largest newspaper is taking a break from Facebook, thanks to Facebook’s news feed changes (Bloomberg)
Folha de S. Paulo, Brazil’s largest newspaper, is no longer publishing stories to Facebook, arguing that Facebook’s news feed tweaks will lead to an increase in “fake news.” This makes the newspaper the first major publisher to completely withhold its content from Facebook is response to its news feed changes, Bloomberg reports. Folha also suggests that it’s been benefitting less from its relationship with Facebook lately: “In December, 24 percent of its readers came through the social network, compared with 39 percent in January of last year,” Bloomberg reports.


‘When you’re a “digital nomad,” the world is your office’ (New York Times)
Technology has ushered in the possibility of a “digital nomad” — a person whose work can be done from anywhere and whose lifestyle allows for frequent travel. These “digital nomads” work remotely and travel the world, while building careers ranging from marketing consulting to freelance writing to programming. And there’s a market cropping up that caters to these nomads: Roam, for example, is an “international housing network” that operates furnished, single-occupancy residences around the world.


Internet Association, a trade group representing the Internet giants, is backing a bill to reinstate Obama-era net neutrality rules (The Hill)
The Internet Association, a trade group that represents major Internet companies from Facebook to Uber to Netflix, is backing a Senate bill that would reverse the repeal of the FCC’s net neutrality rules. The association said that while it supports the bill, it’s also calling on lawmakers to “codify the net neutrality rules into law with a bipartisan bill.” Internet Association CEO Michael Beckerman writes: “The time has come for a bipartisan effort to establish permanent net neutrality rules for consumers, startups, established internet businesses, and internet service providers.”


Google and Facebook only make up 5 percent of publishers’ digital revenue (Digiday)
Google and Facebook may make up a large percentage of digital publishers’ referral traffic, but a new report from Digital Content Next shows that Google and Facebook only make up 5 percent of publishers’ digital revenue. This report is “notable because there isn’t a lot of industry data about how much revenue publishers are getting back from the platforms they heavily lean on to distribute their content,” Digiday’s Lucia Moses explains. “This is the second year DCN has done the report, and what’s significant is that the revenue publishers are taking in from third-party platforms has barely budged in a year — despite platforms’ gestures to help publishers to help them better monetize their content as the platforms, particularly Google and Facebook, tighten their grip on digital ad spending.”

+ In his first letter to the newsroom, new L.A. Times owner Patrick Soon-Shiong says he will “ensure that you have the tools and resources to produce the high-quality journalism that our readers need and rely on” (@mattdpearce, Twitter)


+ “I had enough of the trolling and toxic taunts on Twitter. So I reset my location and ‘moved’ to Germany, the safest social media state in the world.” (Wired)

+ “The joy of media is it’s not like you have a list of qualifications on a resume and you think, ‘Aha, we have found the person for this job!’ It’s like, ‘Well, we’ve got to try new things; this is an industry in change. Let’s find somebody who wants to work really hard and can communicate with other human beings and is willing to try some stuff,’” Choire Sicha says on how he went from amateur blogger to NYT Styles editor (Fashionista); A Q&A with Monica Drake, the first woman of color on NYT’s print masthead (New York Times)

+ Politico takes an in-depth look at how technology divides America, from the tribal lands without Internet connectivity to the tech industry’s diversity problems (Politico)

+ “The [New York] Times has flourished under Trump, witnessing a surge in digital subscriptions and regularly breaking major news about the administration and the Russia inquiry (not to mention #MeToo). Yet liberal criticism of the Times has also intensified, especially on social media. Not a day passes, it seems, without a prominent Twitter user complaining that the Times is biased against the left, too friendly to Trump and his supporters, or engaging in false equivalences between Democrats and Republicans.” (New Republic)

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