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Need to Know: Jan. 23, 2018

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


You might have heard: Google announced last week that it will make mobile page speed a factor in mobile search rankings starting in July (TechCrunch), a factor Google has used in desktop search rankings since 2010 (Google Webmaster Central Blog)

But did you know: Google’s shift to using page speed as a factor in mobile search rankings could negatively affect news sites from The Wall Street Journal to CNN to Reuters (Digiday)
When Google starts using page speed as a factor in its mobile search rankings this summer, some news publishers might take a hit, Lucia Moses reports. While Google has said that the change will “only affect pages that deliver the slowest experience to users,” Google’s own speed test shows that some popular news sites are ranked as “slow” by Google. The slowest sites in Digiday’s test included WSJ, MailOnline, CNN, Reuters and and NBC News.

+ Noted: Tronc confirms that New York Daily News managing editor Robert Moore is under investigation after being accused of creating a “a sexualized atmosphere, pressuring women for attention and punishing those who objected” (NPR); In response to Facebook’s plan to rank news organizations’ “trustworthiness,” Rupert Murdoch suggests Facebook should pay trusted publishers “a carriage fee similar to the model adopted by cable companies” (News Corp); The Marshall Project’s first annual diversity report finds that women make up 55 percent of its full staff and 12 of its 29 employees identify as black, Asian, Latino, or two or more races (CJR); Financial Times will offer free access to its website for people between the ages of 16 and 19 outside of the U.K. (Financial Times); The Lenfest Institute, Democracy Fund, News Integrity Initiative and Knight Foundation announce the Community Listening and Engagement Fund: With $650,000, the fund will make grants to 50 to 75 newsrooms to use tools that assist in better listening and engagement with communities, initially using Hearken and GroundSource (Lenfest Institute)


What is ‘engagement reporting,’ and why does it matter? (MediaShift)
Engagement reporters are “journalists who combine the power of community engagement with traditional news reporting to do journalism that aims to authentically serve the community and reflect their interests and needs.” While this looks different across newsrooms, engagement reporters are not audience engagement editors or news editors — they occupy both worlds. “The combination of engagement and reporting helps news organizations be part of their communities more organically,” Taylor Blatchfield writes.

+ Kyle Pope on how news organizations should change the approach to covering Trump: “The answer clearly is not in spending our time responding to Trump, or emoting en masse in response to whatever he has spout off. … I think the answer likely lays in the seams between more conventional approaches to reporting: I want to see more first-person pieces by reporters on the trail, some oral histories, some theoretical what-ifs.” (CJR)


Democracy in Cambodia is falling apart, and it’s playing out on Facebook (BuzzFeed News)
In Cambodia, Facebook has become so popular that it’s the country’s main news source and it’s “virtually synonymous with the internet.” But for Facebook’s promise of opening up free speech in societies such as Cambodia’s, the opposite is happening, Megha Rajagopalan reports. “Prime Minister Hun Sen is now using the platform to promote his message while jailing his critics, and his staff is doing its best to exploit Facebook’s own rules to shut down criticism — all through a direct relationship with the company’s staff,” Rajagopalan explains. “Facebook has also dramatically reduced the reach of independent media in Cambodia after it decided last year to silo off their content as part of a controversial experiment,” similar to the changes Facebook will be making in its news feed worldwide.

+ Facebook says that social media has a mixed effect on democracies, giving many people a voice but also opening up opportunities for misinformation, foreign interference and echo chambers (Facebook Newsroom)

+ HuffPost UK is creating a series of topic-specific email newsletters, expanding a newsletter strategy that “targets engaged groups of people on specific topics” (Digiday)


Tips for work-life balance from people who work online (Smashing Magazine)
Work-life balance looks different for everyone. With that in mind, Smashing Magazine turned to its community to ask for their best tips for work-life balance, trying not to find a one-size-fits-all solution but an array of suggestions. Those tips are categorized into a few sections, from how to control your devices to committing to activities outside of work to changing the way you think. Some highlights: Don’t put work apps on your personal phone, schedule breaks and time to exercise into your day, don’t take your work outside of the office, maintain regular working hours, and remind yourself that there’s more to your life than your job.


Facebook’s news feed changes could make its misinformation problems even worse (CJR)
Most of the attention around Facebook’s news feed changes so far has been on the impact to publishers’ traffic. But Mathew Ingram argues there’s a more important question we should be asking: Will these changes actually help solve the problems around misinformation on Facebook? Ingram argues that they probably won’t: “The problem is that if the new system is designed primarily to encourage conversation and spark reactions, the sites which could get the biggest boost from these changes are the least credible ones — publishers who specialize in either completely fake stories, or stories that have a grain of truth but are wildly exaggerated.”

+ The news feed changes are also likely to cut into publishers’ branded content revenue, Sahil Patel reports (Digiday)


Vox Media explains to its readers why some of its mobile ads are redirecting to scammy sites and what it’s doing about it (Vox Product)
You might have noticed recently that some mobile website ads have been redirecting to scammy sites, offering free gift cards or the chance to enter fake contests. Vox Media, whose sites the ads have been appearing on, explains why that’s happening and what they’re doing on their end to fix it. The ads are being served through Google’s DoubleClick for Publishers (though they also appear on other networks), and unbeknownst to the ad server or publisher, the ads contain malicious code. After noticing the issue, Vox Media’s Ad Operations pinpointed the source, and alerted the vendor whose network was being used to serve the ads. “In the absence of Google being a lot more strict with ads they serve to publishers, we’re working to investigate ways we can force ads to obey these rules on our sites,” Winston Hearn explains.

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