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Need to Know: June 16, 2017

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


You might have heard: On Thursday, Facebook published a list of questions it’s grappling with around censorship and terrorism, asking users to send in their thoughts on these questions via email; questions include: How aggressively should social media companies monitor and remove controversial posts and images from their platforms? Who gets to decide what’s controversial, especially in a global community with a multitude of cultural norms? (Facebook Newsroom)

But did you know: Facebook must enact solutions to these censorship problems, even if they hamper its business (TechCrunch)
The subtext behind Facebook’s post inviting its users feedback, Josh Constine writes, is that Facebook doesn’t see itself as a “traditional media company,” but as an open platform defined by what users volunteer, while simultaneously making value judgments on content. “Perhaps the transparency will give people the peace of mind that Facebook is at least thinking hard about these issues. The question is whether this transparency gives Facebook leeway to act cautiously when the problems are urgent yet it’s earning billions in profit per quarter,” Constine writes. “It’s not enough just to crowdsource feedback and solutions. Facebook must enact them even if they hamper its business.”

+ Facebook says it plans to use artificial intelligence in conjunction with human moderators to find and remove extremist posts (New York Times)

+ Noted: A federal appeals court removed a temporary hurdle in Sinclair’s acquisition of Tribune Media (Variety); CNN files a lawsuit asking the FBI to turn over James Comey’s memos documenting his conversations with President Trump (CNN); CrowdTangle adds Facebook and Instagram video view metrics (CrowdTangle); Village Voice proposes updated union rules to cut child care and other benefits to parents, eliminate severance pay and eliminating “first consideration” of internal applicants for promotions and transfers (Fusion)


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 journalists assume fact-checking has more power than it does, whether Facebook’s fake news efforts do anything about filter bubbles, and the weaknesses of communities spreading false information.


Questions to ask yourself before starting to use drones in your newsroom: What purpose will the drone serve in the story? (MediaShift)
Starting to use drones for journalism should be a deliberate, carefully thought-out decision, University of Nebraska professor and Drone Journalism Lab founder Matt Waite says: “The question is, ‘What purpose is the drone serving in the story?’” There’s a few questions local TV news outlets should ask themselves before starting to use drones in its journalism. Those questions include: Do you have the budget? What will the drone give you in this story that you couldn’t get otherwise? Are you prepared for the planning that using a drone requires?


Europe’s Gruner + Jahr finds that micropayments aren’t a good solution for ad blocking (Digiday)
After finding that about one-fifth of its desktop users were blocking ads, Gruner + Jahr has run anti-ad blocking campaigns on its sites for the past year, offering users the option to whitelist the site or pay a few Euros for a day or week of access. In the past year, the micropayments have brought in just €2,000 (about $2,250). “This option didn’t work at all, but it makes sense to have two options to make the other one seem more convincing,” says Oliver von Wersch, Gruner + Jahr Digital’s former managing director of growth projects and strategic partnerships. “Thanks to these two options, 99 percent of readers whitelisted; this is pure monetizable inventory, rather than a technical circumvention.”

+ One month after Javier Valdez Cárdenas was killed in Mexico (NBC News), journalism groups and publications are backing a campaign that pushes for protection of journalists, as well as encouraging journalists in Mexico and other countries to write and share articles, videos, editorials and other work that discusses Cárdenas’ death (Nieman Lab)


Instagram is introducing ‘paid partnership’ tags to provide more transparency around sponsored content (Social Media Today)
This week, Instagram officially launched its partnership tools, intended to provide a new level of clarity and transparency around sponsored posts on Instagram. When a brand is working with an influencer or other partner, that person can be added to the post. What Instagram users will see is a note on the post indicating that it’s a paid partnership with a brand. The result, Andrew Hutchinson writes, will be less sponsored posts on Instagram that fail to be labeled as such — something that’s become increasingly common as influencer marketing grows. A recent report by MediaKix suggests that more than 90 percent of celebrity endorsements on Instagram are in violation of FTC rules around influencer marketing.


David Leonhardt: By focusing on the Russia story over health care, media is missing the story (New York Times)
News coverage over the last few weeks has tended to focus on the Russia scandal, with Republicans’ health care bill taking a back seat, David Leonhardt writes. Leonhardt argues that while there are legitimate reasons this is happening, “the media is still making a mistake. It’s our job, after all, to distinguish between the obvious and the important. Russia is both obvious and important. The health care bill is hidden and important.”


Bloomberg Businessweek introduce a two-tiered membership program, cutting down on free access to its content (Bloomberg Media)
On Thursday, Bloomberg Businessweek joined a host of publishers trying to offset print ad revenue declines through reader revenue. Businessweek is launching a two-tiered membership program: Starting June 15, readers will be able to read four articles for free each month, and then will be given the option between a digital-only or all-access membership. The digital-only option will cost between $50 and $60 per year and include access to digital stories, Businessweek’s app, a daily email briefing and six to eight special print issues; the all-access option will cost $87 per year in the U.S. and will include the digital benefits plus the weekly print magazine, Businessweek’s twice-yearly QuickTake digital magazine, quarterly member conference calls with Bloomberg journalists and business leaders, and livestreams of Businessweek Debrief interviews with executives.

+ “This is the beginning of moving up the price curve. What we do believe is we’ve undervalued the product in the past. If we’re successful and don’t see a drop-off in new subscribers, I wouldn’t be surprised if we started testing 70 and 80 dollars. You get a lot of content between the weekly and daily that, if we do it right, is more differentiated than most news out there,” Bloomberg’s head of digital Scott Havens says (Digiday)


+ BuzzFeed News’ Craig Silverman and Tarini Parti examine how hyperpartisan websites can use vitriol to drive donations, sign-ups and publicity to political PACs: A D.C. lawyer has pioneered this model and has connections to both the hyperpartisan sites and the political PACs (BuzzFeed News); A report from cybersecurity firm Trend Micro shows that political campaigns can manipulate elections by spending as little as $400,000 on fake news and propaganda: The report also shows it costs just $55,000 to discredit a journalist and $200,000 to instigate a street protest based on false information (The Guardian)

+ “If you can’t explain something in simple terms, you don’t understand it” (

+ Is Twitter losing its value as a news source? “What Twitter most resembles now is a cable news channel. The hundreds of pundits talking at cross-purposes, breaking little but wind. The race-to-be-first mentality that precludes due diligence and fact-checking in favour of the win. The thousands of viewers — or in this case followers — who take what they’re told and run with it, even after the truth has been reported by professionals,” Matthew Clayfield argues (The Guardian)

+ Freedom of the Press Foundation director of digital security Harlo Holmes on the biggest security problems newsrooms face today: Security when journalists cross borders, making sure encrypted data is still accessible, and the changing nature of phishing attacks (Source)

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