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Need to Know: March 2, 2018

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


You might have heard: ESPN announced in January that it was “exploring multiple options” for FiveThirtyEight, including a possible sale (Variety)

But did you know: The finalists to acquire FiveThirtyEight are ABC News, The Atlantic and The Athletic (Wall Street Journal)
The list of final contenders for FiveThirtyEight include ABC News, The Athletic, and The Atlantic. All of the potential buyers could benefit in different ways: ABC News could use FiveThirtyEight’s expertise in polling and political analysis during the midterm elections, while Nate Silver’s election forecasting would be a new element to The Atlantic’s political reporting, for example. The deadline for submitting bids was last week, and the sale is expected to close within the next few weeks.

+ ESPN’s decision to sell FiveThirtyEight was in part because of the site’s financial losses — as much as $6 million per year: “Those losses … were driven in part by ESPN’s decision to fold the website into the sports network’s existing infrastructure, rather than developing it as a separate company” (The Hill)

+ Noted: Facebook confirms that it is ending its test of the “Explore” feed in six countries, and will shut down the “Explore” tab (Recode); Twitter is seeking proposals from experts to assess its “health” and how it can foster “healthy debate, conversations, and critical thinking” versus “abuse, spam, and manipulation” (The Verge); Florida Sen. Bill Nelson says representatives from Twitter will provide a briefing on Monday on how Twitter was used to share hoaxes in the wake of the Parkland shooting (McClatchy DC); 13 news organizations are joining the Reporters Committee for Press Freedom’s attempt to intervene in a case where a New York police union is attempting to keep body camera footage a secret (Splinter); Former New York Observer editor Ken Kurson is working with blogger David Wildstein, who was the “mastermind of the Bridgegate scandal,” to launch a site on New Jersey politics (Politico)


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 to prepare for automated fact-checking tools, why YouTube’s conspiracy theory problem might be bigger than anyone thought, and why everyone but the platforms can spot “fake news.”


‘Your interactive makes me sick’: How to address accessibility issues when creating interactives (Source)
For people prone to migraines and headaches, browsing the Internet can be “hairy business,” Elaine Webb writes: Bright colors, moving parts and repetitive motions can be overwhelming, make people feel motion sick, and induce headaches. And that means that much of the interactive journalism on the Internet can make some people feel sick, Webb says. Here’s how Webb suggests addressing it: Ask yourself, “If this effect was stronger (much faster, or bouncier, or swoopier), would it be disorienting, or make me feel motion-sick?”; treat interactive elements as enhancements, rather than something that gets in the way of reading; and provide controls on different elements of the story, such as pausing animation or a  “skip to the end-state” option.

+ “In order to facilitate and encourage safer, more productive communication, we have to take back the gatekeeper role from the social networks, and focus on the conversations,” Annemarie Dooling writes, which means returning to the fundamentals of community management: Listening, responding, curating information and making decisions based on behavioral evidence (Coral Project)


The Canadian government is pledging $50 million to local journalism — but will it make a difference? (CJR)
Canada’s government is creating a $50 million fund for local journalism over the next five years, but media leaders in Canada worry that the money is coming too late to make a difference and question whether it will go to outlets where it will make a difference. “If you gave $5 million to Postmedia or the Star, that would be gone by lunch,” says Erin Millar, co-founder of Discourse Media. “But then the next question you have to ask is whether this money is going to actually have any impact or not. And is this all going to newspapers, or is there going to be some going towards new digital startups? We just don’t know.” The government has provided little details so far on where the money will go, but some believe it may go to  The Canadian Press, a wire service owned by several publishers including Torstar and The Globe and Mail, to hire reporters in local markets.

+ “We’ve worked hard at the offense and are good at driving sales. Now it’s time to build our defense — shifting focus to UX, product stickiness, engagement and lifetime value,” Schibsted’s SVP for consumer business Tor Jacobsen says on where its reader revenue strategy is headed next (WAN-IFRA)


To reduce burnout on your team, give people a sense of control (Harvard Business Review)
“Being part of a team can be a quick road to disappointment, frustration, and burnout, especially when some team members work harder than others, when some are on time and others are consistently late, when there’s drama and tension resulting from gossip, and when team leaders play favorites,” Andrew D. Wittman writes. Team leaders need to be aware of the “subtleties and undercurrents that dominate the human psyche,” Wittman writes, and account for people’s stress and frustrations when managing the team. Wittman proposes one way to do that: Create a “team charter” with a set of agreements on work-life balance, interacting with fellow team members, and how to handle problems. A key part of creating this charter is getting people’s input, which creates “team buy-in, proprietorship, and the feeling of responsibility for team performance and well-being.”


Facebook and Google are trying to help publishers drive digital subscriptions. Will they be committed in the long term? (Digital Content Next)
“Ultimately … whether Google or Facebook will do better in driving subscriptions is not as important for publishers as whether the two will really commit to the process,” Mark Glaser argues. “Because Facebook and Google together account for such a huge chunk of the attention for internet users, publishers must stay focused on working with both of them, along with other players like Twitter, Snapchat and LinkedIn. … And while they surely dominate in online advertising, it’s incumbent upon them to make sure the news ecosystem is healthy and thriving. If digital ads are getting sucked up by the duopoly and subscriptions are becoming an important source of revenues for publishers (both for-profit and non-profit), then publishers will need to insist on better data, better leads, and a transparent funnel that helps them survive and thrive.”


One way publishers are staying ahead of Facebook’s traffic declines: Changing their domain names (BuzzFeed News)
Publishers who have found themselves on Facebook’s advertising blacklists or seen their Facebook referral traffic drop have found a way around Facebook’s algorithm changes: Domain hopping. “Once any site is found on a blacklist due to fraud, hate, fake news, or a variety of reasons and see monetization impacted, they drop the domain, acquire a new [one] and start over using a lot of the same content,” TrustMetrics CEO Marc Goldberg explains. “This is a common practice among all sites, not just limited to news. Sometimes they keep the domain dormant for a period of time and then use it to try and get back into the ad ecosystem with another trick.”


+ “The way [Peter] Thiel took down Gawker is obviously a playbook to take down somebody like Donald Trump — a well-funded group of individuals probing for underlying weaknesses, doing the unpleasant and boring business of looking through the muck of old business dealings” (The Atlantic); Thiel has been very open about the “extreme avenues” he considered against Gawker, which could come back to haunt him if he faces a “tortious interference” lawsuit (Daily Beast)

+ A group of Instagram-famous sisters went to great lengths to hide that their mother was “the anti-Islam activist, hate-monger, and diehard Trump supporter” Pamela Geller (Daily Beast); After The Daily Beast’s story was published and their past comments on Twitter began to resurface, the Oshry sisters’ show “The Morning Breath” was cancelled by Oath (Variety)

+ “The reason it is so easy for women to believe the avalanche of accusations about harassment and sexual abuse is that most of us are members of a reluctant sorority. We don’t need to have suffered the worst to have seen that men can abuse with impunity,” Ann Marie Lipinski writes. “And it is not coincidental that our industry — where harassers recently have been toppled at National Public Radio, CBS, Fox, NBC, The New Republic, and elsewhere — employs so few women in the most senior roles. The fix is not sexual harassment training, but more people in leadership who already know better.” (Nieman Reports)

+ Quinn Norton, who was quickly hired and fired by NYT’s editorial board, says that the Internet created and destroyed a “bizarro version of myself,” in effect building and burning a digital effigy of Norton (The Atlantic)

+ Russia’s Facebook ads were less important to Trump’s win than his own Facebook ads: “Because Trump used provocative content to stoke social media buzz, and he was better able to drive likes, comments, and shares than Clinton, his bids received a boost from Facebook’s click model, effectively winning him more media for less money. In essence, Clinton was paying Manhattan prices for the square footage on your smartphone’s screen, while Trump was paying Detroit prices” (Wired)

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