Insights, tools and research to advance journalism

Need to Know: July 17, 2017

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

OFF THE TOP

You might have heard: A number of new online publishers have cropped up recently (Digiday) that have chosen to target subscribers who can pay high subscription prices over traditional advertising models (CJR)

But did you know: Online publishers are running fewer ads as a tactic to increase revenue (Wall Street Journal)
More advertising typically means more revenue — but some publishers are taking the opposite approach, seeking more revenue from running fewer ads. The idea is that by eliminating annoying ad formats and limiting the number of ads a user sees will lead to more engaged users, which will command higher prices from advertisers. An example of this is Little Things, Jack Marshall reports: The website challenged itself to remove at least one form of advertising from its site every quarter, without sacrificing revenue. Over the course of a year, it removed content recommendation ads, interstitial ads and autoplay ads. Now it mostly runs display ads, user-initiated video ads and sponsored content, running fewer ads overall while increasing its overall ad revenue.

+ Noted: The new owner of the Chicago Sun-Times pledges no layoffs will happen during its financial restructuring (New York Post) and promises a “firewall” between the Sun-Times newsroom and the ownership group’s union leaders (Poynter); Seattle’s alt-weekly says it will begin to print every two weeks this fall, but says it’s profitable and will not be cutting staff (The Stranger); SAG-AFTRA and NPR management reach a tentative three-year deal, avoiding a possible strike by NPR’s news and programming staff (Variety); President Trump was good-humored with reporters on Air Force One last week, a stark contrast to the “the one who publicly pillories the news media” (New York Times) and “Trump’s off-the-record on-the-record toggle vexes reporters” (Politico)

TRY THIS AT HOME

Tips for better interviews from a documentary filmmaker: Don’t go in with a list of questions, and give your subjects the space to talk (CJR)
“If you shut up, let people talk, within three minutes they will show you how crazy they really are,” says documentary filmmaker Errol Morris on his tips for better interviews, which also include not creating a list of questions beforehand. “If you have a list of questions, it means you’re not engaged in listening to what the person says. Say they say something that inspires a question that’s not on your list. Then what do you do? You know? Pull the pin and jump on your hand grenade? … It’s allowing people the scope to say the unexpected. And by the unexpected, [I mean] unexpected by me.”

OFFSHORE

Facebook’s experiment with investigative journalists in Germany is seeing mixed results (Politico Europe)
In April, Facebook started to partner with investigative journalists in Germany to fact-check content shared on the social network. One of the first organizations to join on was Correctiv, which launched a website called Echtjetzt (“Really Now?”) to debunk information around the upcoming German elections. But Correctiv says that so far, its experiment with Facebook has had mixed results. Jacques Pezet, who recently joined Correctiv’s fact-checking team, says Facebook’s fact-checking tools are “very often not relevant” and don’t show how a story is gaining traction. The fact-checkers also say they’re “still in the dark” about how Facebook determines which posts need to be reviewed, Laurens Cerulus reports.

+ Earlier: Germany’s government has threatened to fine social networks as much as €50 million for failing to remove hate speech and “fake news” (Bloomberg)

OFFBEAT

The diversity problem in data journalism starts with a hiring problem (MediaShift)
There isn’t a “pipeline” problem in data journalism, Robert Hernandez writes: Journalism schools are producing diverse candidates every year who go out looking for jobs in data journalism, and many of those candidates are unable to find one. Seeking help for one of his students, Hernandez reached out to the NICAR listserv, hearing from people who shared frustrating experience and who were also having trouble breaking in. Francisco Vara-Orta, who replied to Hernandez’s thread, emphasized that a strong portfolio can only go so far without a willing and supportive hiring manager: “I needed to develop the skills on my own and take that initiative as anyone would, but as Nikole Hannah-Jones said during her brilliant IRE conference keynote, that we still needed for someone in hiring power to recognize our potential and give us that chance to utilize it,” says Varta-Orta, who was recently hired by Education Week as a data specialist/staff writer after graduating with a master’s from the University of Missouri.

UP FOR DEBATE

The political dynamics that make attacking the press part of Donald Trump’s strategy (PressThink)
President Trump’s campaign to discredit the press is part of his permanent strategy, Jay Rosen writes. Rosen explains some of the dynamics behind why that strategy is one Trump will stick with: It appeals to his core supporters, media is what Trump and the people he works with are familiar with, and it’s one campaign promise Trump can easily deliver on. “Trump doesn’t know he lives in a fact-free fantasyland; that’s one of the facts he is blissfully free from. No matter how much he enjoys bantering with reporters, no matter how desperate he is for positive coverage from ‘the fake news,’ as he calls it, the irreality at the heart of his presidency guarantees that this conflict with journalists will go on and on,” Rosen writes.

SHAREABLE

Politico’s 20,000 paying Pro subscribers account for half of its revenue (Digiday)
With an audience of 30 million monthly unique visitors, Politico’s paid subscription program Pro might seem small with 20,000 paying subscribers. But those subscribers account for half of Politico’s revenue, Max Willens reports. A five-person subscription to Politico Pro costs $8,000, while institutional subscriptions run higher. And, Politico Pro isn’t trying to turn every one of its readers into a paying subscriber, VP and GM Bobby Moran explains: “There’s probably 5,000 hedge funds that might buy a Pro subscription, maybe another 2,000 higher ed institutions. There’s so much growth at the higher end that it makes more sense for us to target those customers. That’s not to say there isn’t a long tail. But we’re more focused on the narrow, niche audience.”

+ “10 overlooked press freedom groups that deserve support,” including the Media Law Resource Center, National Freedom of Information Coalition and Tully Center for Free Speech at Syracuse University (CJR)

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