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Need to Know: May 18, 2017

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


You might have heard: Facebook announced earlier this month that it would change the news feed algorithm to de-emphasize “low-quality web experiences” (Wall Street Journal)

But did you know: Facebook is tweaking the algorithm again to fight clickbait and getting more precise about what links it downgrades in the news feed (TechCrunch)
In its latest change to the news feed algorithm, Facebook is getting more specific about what links are downgraded in the news feed. Instead of demoting particular web domains and Facebook pages, the algorithm will now downgrade individual posts. “The changes could reduce News Feed reach and referral traffic to clickbait publishers, ranging from ‘You’ll never believe…’ viral crap blogs to purposeful scammers and spammers. It could also help Facebook decrease the prevalence of ‘false news’ that has become a major concern since Trump’s election,” explains Josh Constine. Plus, Facebook can now identify and downgrade “clickbait” headlines in nine languages: English, German, Arabic, Spanish, French, Portuguese, Italian, Thai, Vietnamese, and Chinese.

+ In a blog post, Facebook engineers explain what they mean by “clickbait”: “Headlines that withhold information intentionally leave out crucial details or mislead people, forcing them to click to find out the answer … [and] headlines that exaggerate the details of a story with sensational language tend to make the story seem like a bigger deal than it really is” (Facebook Newsroom); “Most pages (read: most publishers) won’t see their reach penalized as a result of the change, but those who frequently publish clickbait-y stories will” (Poynter)

+ Noted: Some of the information President Trump gave to Russian officials is so secret that American news organizations are being asked not to report it, NBC News reports (NBC News); Newt Gingrich says Trump should “close down the White House press briefing room” (Politico); Craig Newmark and the News Integrity Initiative are matching donations to WikiTribune up to $100,000 (WikiTribune, Medium); JSON Feed is a new publisher-feed format for websites, similar to RSS but simpler to read and less prone to bugs (JSON Feed); “ESPN is betting on big personalities to restore its fortunes” (New York Times); Instagram is testing location-based stories (TechCrunch)


How news partnerships work: Commercial and nonprofit newsrooms can work together to benefit and change journalism
While nonprofit newsrooms have emerged in the last decade with a model that depends on creative partnerships, commercial newsrooms have seen deep cuts to staffing and resources and find themselves searching for ways to sustain the quality and depth of their journalism. Partnerships between nonprofit and commercial newsrooms offer an opportunity to do great journalism that would be difficult, if not impossible, otherwise. The latest in our series of Strategy Studies, Jason Alcorn shares common features of successful partnerships and offers practical advice and best practices on how to get started.


How HuffPost unites its far-flung newsrooms: Each newsroom is encouraged to have its own personality, while working together on stories that are relevant on an international level (Digiday)
With 17 international editions, HuffPost faces a challenge of how it can knit together its far-flung newsrooms — in particular, HuffPost is trying to get its international newsrooms to collaborate on stories that are of global interest. Editor in chief Lydia Polgreen talks to Digiday about how they’re bringing those newsrooms together, while letting each one retain its local flair and innovation. The lessons are relevant even for organizations without a roster of international editions.

+ A method for breaking journalists out of their filter bubbles: Ask them to guess what the top issues are for people in their country, then compare to the latest Ipsos MORI/Economist Issues Index (Online Journalism Blog)


More European publishers are charging for news, moving away from offering all their content for free (Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism)
The Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism released a fact sheet on Wednesday detailing the different kinds of paid content across 171 news organizations in the U.K., France, Germany, Italy, Finland, and Poland. The Institute finds that more European publishers are charging for their content — 66 percent of the newspapers and 71 percent of weekly newspapers and news magazines had some kind of paid subscription model in place. Across all types of publications, freemium was the most common model, followed by metered paywalls.

+ Earlier: API’s research from 2016 on how digital subscriptions work at newspapers in the U.S. today

+ Malta’s prime minister is suing ICIJ journalist Matthew Caruana Galizia for defamation over a Facebook post linking to Panama Papers documents: The documents Caruana Galizia shared proved that the prime minister was receiving kickbacks on the sale on Maltese passports (European Federation of Journalists); After complaints about the posts, Facebook locked Galizia out of his account and removed the posts related to the Panama Papers (Times of Malta)


‘To change your strategy, first change how you think’ (Harvard Business Review)
“It seems that everyone these days is looking for a disruptive business model. But a business model is only one part of the equation,” write Mark Bonchek and Barry Libert. “Equally important is the mental model behind the business model, as well as a measurement model for both. It’s the combination of mental, business, and measurement models that allows real transformation to occur. … You have to change how you think before you can change what you do, and then change what you measure to close the loop.”


Local news outlets are finding an unlikely ally in Facebook and Google (Digiday)
“Talk to a big publisher about Google and Facebook, and you’ll hear the strains of a dysfunctional relationship. But there’s one publishing sector that’s surprisingly having a bit of a honeymoon period: local news,” writes Lucia Moses. Local news publishers are finding that Facebook and Google are trying to improve their relationship with local news outlets, offering training and tools for these newsrooms. “They just seem open to getting more involved in helping the mission of local journalism. … I could use all the help I can get,” says Neil Chase, executive editor of the Bay Area News Group, which recently visited Facebook’s headquarters for info on understanding analytics and using Facebook Live.

+ On the other hand: Emily Bell argued earlier this month that platforms are part of the problem for local news publishers: “The publishing tools and hosting services Facebook offers for free are compelling. But in sparse or poorer areas, they do not allow for the traditional civic bargain of the local press, wherein the businesses and individuals who can afford to advertise, in effect pay for the journalism that covers a community” (CJR)


In its annual newsroom survey, ASNE will focus on newsroom diversity instead of jobs lost (Nieman Lab)
The American Society of News Editors’ annual newsroom diversity survey has become notable for detailing jobs lost in newsrooms, leading to headlines like “The halving of America’s daily newsrooms” and “U.S. newspapers see more bad news, as jobs decline.” But when the survey was created two decades ago, its purpose wasn’t to track job losses — it was to provide a snapshot of the health of American newsrooms. Now, ASNE is going to try to get back to that mission by focusing on the diversity of newsrooms instead of job losses. “We don’t want this to be a headline about ‘X number of jobs were lost this year in journalism.’ We kinda know that, unfortunately. We want to focus on the diversity in the news organizations, and hopefully offer some good ideas or best practices,” explains ASNE executive director Teri Hayt.

+ “In many legacy news organizations, moving the needle on staff diversity took a back seat to the survival of the enterprise. Instead of a tool to keep issues of diversity on the front burner, the ASNE survey was used as an annual barometer of the changing fortunes of local newsrooms,” ASNE president Mizell Stewart wrote earlier this month. “In my more pessimistic moments, I believe our industry has made little progress since 1968. That is not because of a willful disregard for diversity; on the contrary, countless programs and initiatives are in place with the goal of bringing persons of color and women into the industry, and women and persons of color occupy top leadership positions in media organizations of all stripes. The lack of progress is palpable because the continuing transformation of media business models has led to dramatic reductions in newsroom employment, particularly at local newspapers.” (ASNE)

+ Gizmodo Media Group released a detailed breakdown of racial and gender diversity across the company: 50 percent of employees identified themselves as white and 51 percent of the company is female (Poynter)


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