Insights, tools and research to advance journalism

Need to Know: Jan. 12, 2018

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


You might have heard: Mark Zuckerberg says Facebook’s News Feed will focus on what friends share and will de-emphasize content from publishers and brands, as it moves to favor interactions over passive posts (The New York Times)

But did you know: This change will encourage publishers to think about social differently from how we’ve been programmed (Social Media Portal)

Social can no longer only be thought of as a broadcasting mechanism (“What is the maximum audience that we can reach via social?”) but also a way to build engaged, invested, loyal audiences, according to WGBH. “Yes, these audiences will be smaller, but the potential for turning these audiences into email subscribers, donors, or even loyal members of your station, will be higher with this focus.” The best strategy in the short term is to diversify – double down on getting your content out in as many different channels as possible where there are invested audiences.

+ As Facebook cuts back on publisher page reach, a couple initial ideas on how news orgs can salvage some of their follower relationships: Encourage followers to 1) click the “see posts first in News Feed” open on your page to ensure they see everything from you, and 2) sign up for your email newsletters so you have a direct line to them that doesn’t depend on Facebook (@jeffsonderman, Twitter)

+ Noted: Vox Media has voted to unionize with the Writers Guild of America, East (The Wrap); Teen Vogue EIC Elaine Welteroth is leaving the magazine and has signed with a talent agency (Hollywood Reporter); Breitbart CEO and EIC say they won’t immediately name a Bannon replacement or make other staff changes (CNNMoney); Peter Thiel joins other bidders in making an offer in bankruptcy court for Gawker’s remaining assets (Reuters); Recode is launching a TV series with MSNBC about tech, jobs and the future (Recode); A new Pew study of 38 countries shows the U.S. has the largest partisan gap on whether people see news media as covering political issues fairly, at 34 percentage points (Pew Research Center)

API Update

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 how a fake news site works during a breaking news story, Swedish officials worry about how fake news will impact the country’s 2018 elections, and why news literacy electives aren’t going to be enough.

+ How a Seattle Times Slack channel lets staff speak up about insensitive coverage (Better News)


What should you do with your old Storify stories? (Poynter)

When Storify launched to the public in 2011, our articles became inundated with even more social media posts, writes Kristen Hare. But now, with Storify’s impending closure, we’re facing major questions about what to do when a popular tool shuts down as well as our relationship with social media embeds in 2018.

+ How to use the Financial Times’s IKEA-inspired toolkit to develop editorial projects (


WeChat reaches audiences conventional media in China cannot (Columbia Journalism Review)

The body of a recent college graduate in Shenyang, China, was found last July in a ditch, in a district where many “direct sales” gangs operate. For the local news desk, this was just another victim of gang violence. But in the eyes of savvy influencers on China’s WeChat platform this was sensational, national news, writes Mia Shuang Li. Often referred to as Key Opinion Leaders (or KOLs), the influencers recognized the tragedy as more than local gang violence. KOLs have changed the dynamics of Chinese media. Heavy on emotion and light on accuracy, the most-read and shared stories on the WeChat platform are often selective with details, Shuang Li continues. To them, the story encapsulated many hot-button issues that would get strong reactions from their readers.

+ A group of Dutch journalists collectively pressed the new US ambassador about a false claim he made, in contrast to how US outlets handle Trump’s false claims (The Intercept); In Argentina, fact-checkers’ latest hire is a bot (Poynter)


2018 mobile marketing predictions from 18 industry veterans (Marketing Land)

What mobile and location-based trends will take shape in 2018? Columnist Aaron Strout writes, as much as we all love data, it’s even more powerful when industry experts look into their crystal balls and tell us what they see coming. Strout asked 18 business people across numerous industries to give a mobile or location-based prediction, and they say 2018 will be the year that “mobile first” actually takes root at the UI level, location-based targeted marketing toward passengers in vehicles will soon become a reality, convergence will happen in the industry — with more ISPs and wireless providers nabbing up content creators, and more.

+ Google plans to vet videos in the Google Preferred ad program with human moderators and AI, after concerns from marketers over videos including Logan Paul’s (Bloomberg)


How news outlets handled the decision to repeat President Trump’s “shithole” comment, and why some editors decided readers needed to see the word (The New York Times)

Media outlets took the unusual step of allowing the word “shithole” to be used in print and on air, after a report that Mr. Trump had used the term to describe African nations and Haiti during a White House meeting with lawmakers on immigration. The unexpurgated expletive appeared, in capital letters, on the the lower portion of the screen on CNN and MSNBC. (Fox News spelled the word with asterisks.) It showed up on smartphone push alerts sent by The Washington Post, which broke the story, and The Associated Press.

+ Here’s why most newspapers and TV stations aren’t censoring Trump’s vulgar language (The Washington Post)


How many people did that story reach? It depends who’s counting. (The Wall Street Journal)

As digital publishers bet big on video in search of advertising riches, many believe that a traditional method of media measurement isn’t keeping up, writes Benjamin Mullin. Publishers have long used “unique visitors” as a benchmark to compare the size of their website audiences and lure advertisers. But some media companies say the metric has become somewhat outmoded in an era when content is being disseminated widely on social media and other platforms.

+ The Washington Post extends a heartwarming “open invite” to 11-year-old fan who secretly downloaded the Post app at age 9, has been a loyal reader for two years, and wants to “study journalism and work for The Washington Post” (Twitter)


+ The year of listening: With the smoke bomb of 2017 now clearing, newsrooms can see that better listening and engagement are no longer “nice to have,” but are absolutely critical priorities for making good on their democratic obligations, as well as for their financial well-being. (Medium)

+ It’s not “citizen journalism,” but it is “citizens taking notes at public meetings with no reporters around”: Chicago’s City Bureau is betting on local residents doing this sort of low-key not-quite-journalism at meetings, and now it’s expanding the model to Detroit. (Nieman Lab)

+ Minnesota-based nonprofit news site MinnPost has come up with a way to help out local nonprofit organizations and also generate additional revenue at the same time: MinnPost sells ad slots at set rates on a weekly basis, so if you decide to advertise with the site your ad will run Monday through Sunday, and you’re guaranteed at least 35,000 impressions. Often times, however, MinnPost will have excess ad inventory. When it does, MinnPost will sell it at a steep discount to small local nonprofits with less than $1 million in annual revenue. (Solution Set)

+ “I’ve studied the Trump-Fox feedback loop for months. It’s crazier than you think.” (Politico Magazine)

+ Why Quartz is churning out short-run newsletters for big events (Digiday)

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 »