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Need to Know: March 5, 2018

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


You might have heard: Earlier this year, Facebook made changes to its news feed algorithm to favor “meaningful social interactions” and prioritize posts from a user’s friends and family (Recode)

But did you know: Social sharing of web content has dropped by as much as 50 percent since 2015, new data from BuzzSumo suggests (BuzzSumo)
According to a new analysis of 100 million posts by analytics company BuzzSumo, sharing on social media has decreased dramatically over the last few years. BuzzSumo’s data suggests that social sharing has declined by as much as 50 percent since 2015, and publishers are seeing declining referral traffic as a result. Their analysis points to Facebook’s algorithm changes as one reason for the decline — but increased competition among publishers’ content and an increase in private sharing (such as via email or text message) are reasons for the decline as well.

+ “In 2015, articles saw an average of 8 shares; today that number has dropped to 4. Only 5 percent of content gets more than 343 shares” (Nieman Lab)

+ Some people are choosing to leave Facebook altogether, citing feeling overwhelmed by notifications and negativity around Facebook’s power in politics among their reasons (Ad Age)

+ Since Facebook’s algorithm change, viral publishers have reported sharp drops in engagement (Digiday), but in a more promising sign, fact-checkers say they haven’t seen any major changes in their engagement since the changes (Poynter)

+ Noted: Grant Moise is promoted to publisher of the Dallas Morning News (Dallas Morning News); Outlier Media is connecting low-income news consumers to personalized, useful information via text message (Nieman Lab); Though little is happening on a national scale, states including Maryland, New York and Washington are introducing bills that would put more regulations on Facebook, Google and Twitter, requiring more info to be available about political advertising (Washington Post)


Jarrod Dicker explains what blockchain can do for journalism (CJR)
Last month, Jarrod Dicker announced he was leaving his role as VP of innovation and commercial strategy at The Washington Post to lead a blockchain startup called In a Q&A with Mathew Ingram, Dicker explains what “blockchain” means and what it can do for journalism’s business models. “With something like, you can own and archive your own content that’s recorded on the blockchain, and then license or syndicate it to whoever you want,” Dicker explains, with serving as a marketplace for media, “like a Getty Images or a Wikipedia.”

+ How Hearst Newspapers adjusts its paywall to each user: First-time readers can consume as much as they want, and how much they read determines whether they’ll hit a paywall later or be shown a subscription offer (Digiday)


The world’s longest-imprisoned journalist was freed after almost 2 decades (New York Times)
Journalist Yusuf Ruzimuradov spent 19 years in prison in Uzbekistan under sedition charges — the longest-known prison sentence ever served by a journalist. Ruzimuradov worked for a newspaper banned by the Uzbek government, and had been held by the government since 1999. “The Central Asian nation of Uzbekistan has long been known as one of the most cloistered and authoritarian states to have emerged from the collapse of the Soviet Union, although the severity of repression has eased slightly in the past few years,” Rick Gladstone explains. “Ruzimuradov was incarcerated during the rule of President Islam Karimov, a ruthless autocrat who tolerated no dissent and silenced the news media during his nearly three decades in power.”


Here’s what Frances McDormand meant by ‘inclusion rider’ in her Oscars acceptance speech (Business Insider)
Accepting the Oscar for best actress on Sunday night, Frances McDormand said: “I have two words to leave with you tonight, ladies and gentleman: inclusion rider.” Inclusion riders are a way to push for race and gender diversity in Hollywood, with specific contract clauses that require it. A typical inclusion rider might set benchmarks for diversity in casting, such as requiring that a cast be 50 percent female, 40 percent underrepresented ethnic groups, 20 percent people with disabilities, and 5 percent LGBT people and “a good-faith effort to ensure representation in key areas behind the camera.”

+ In 2014, Stacy Smith, director of USC Annenberg’s Media, Diversity & Social Change Initiative, wrote: “If notable actors working across 25 top films in 2013 had made this change to their contracts, the proportion of balanced films (about half-female) would have jumped from 16 percent to 41 percent. Imagine the possibilities if a few actors exercised their power contractually on behalf of women and girls.” (Hollywood Reporter)


‘Digital harassment of female journalists threatens freedom of expression’ (MediaShift)
“In some regions, digital and online spaces are the only platforms where journalists may exercise freedom of expression. One result is that online harassment is a growing problem for all journalists, and especially women journalists, across the globe,” International Women’s Media Foundation executive director Elisa Lees Munoz writes. While some news organizations have policies on digital security, many do not have training or procedures in place for dealing with harassment online, and there’s little legislation that addresses digital harassment. And in some cases, Munoz says “digital harassment against women journalists in particular has kept some journalists from pursuing a story.”

+ The International Women’s Media Foundation is conducting a survey with TrollBusters to measure the the scope and impact of online attacks on individual journalists (International Women’s Media Foundation)


Job seekers say the edit tests they’re given are amounting to too much unpaid work with no feedback (CJR)
In 1983, The New York Times flew an applicant for a copy editor position to NYC for a week to work alongside copy editors, offering a salary for the duration of the stay; in 2018, Bustle asked a job applicant to pitch 30 to 35 story ideas, writing pieces for two of those ideas and editing 2,600 words of copy across three stories. While edit tests can be a good way to get a sense of an applicant’s work, the people who are taking these tests say they’re too much unpaid labor, which they often receive no feedback on — and with little protection for the work. “If [the test] comes after the first informational phone call, I have no idea where in the standing I am, and I’m less comfortable putting in all this work,” freelance journalist Jaya Saxena says. “[And] when you don’t hear back after submitting those ideas, those are the points where the paranoia sets in. I just sent you three pitches and signed no contract about what you’re allowed to do with those, and I feel like I have to wait until I hear about the job to shop those elsewhere.”

+ Editor & Publisher recognizes 10 newspapers that “do it right” in 2018 when it comes to “successful digital innovations, strategies that helped cut costs, and revenue ideas that increased the bottom line” (Editor & Publisher)

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