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Need to Know: Nov. 1, 2017

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


You might have heard: Cox Media Group put the Austin American-Statesman up for sale in 2008 (MediaPost), but took the newspaper off the market in 2009 and said it would remain part of the converged newspaper, TV and radio company Cox was building (Poynter)

But did you know: Cox is putting the Austin American-Statesman and Palm Beach Post up for sale (Palm Beach Post)
On Tuesday, Cox Media Group announced its plans to sell the Austin American-Statesman and Palm Beach Post, as well as its related community newspapers in Texas and the Palm Beach Daily News. Meeting with Palm Beach Post employees on Tuesday, Cox president Kim Guthrie said the company plans to converge the company’s newspaper, TV and radio outlets in Atlanta, mirroring an operation it already has in place in Dayton, Ohio. “As the media business continues to change, we must adapt our business strategy to navigate these disruptive times for the benefit of our entire media portfolio,” Guthrie said. “We have made the decision that we will be better equipped to operate our newspapers in Atlanta and Ohio, where we have the integrated opportunity with our TV and radio operations.”

+ Rick Edmonds suggests some potential buyers for the Austin American-Statesman: “Gannett and New Media Investment (GateHouse Media) are sure to take a look. … The American-Statesman would be a great fit for Hearst, which already owns the Houston Chronicle and San Antonio Express-News, and there is always the chance that a wealthy local individual might find ownership attractive — as happened with the Boston Globe or Minneapolis Star Tribune. But even in an attractive market like Austin, going on the block introduces uncertainty at a difficult time of transition in the industry. There is the chance that a new owner would make substantial reductions in news staff and that the community will be less well-served” (Austin American-Statesman)

+ Noted: NPR editorial director Michael Oreskes is placed on indefinite leave after two women said he made “unwanted physical contact” when he was at The New York Times nearly 20 years ago (Washington Post); “Meanwhile, a current NPR employee is going public with her account of filing a formal complaint [against Oreskes] with the network’s human resources division in October 2015” (NPR); PBS orders a food video series from Vox Media: In “No Passport Required,” chef Marcus Samuelsson travels across the U.S., highlighting food from immigrant communities (Hollywood Reporter); Axios launches a reader referral program, offering prizes for referring specific numbers of people (Axios); “The Credibility Coalition is working to establish the common elements of trustworthy articles” (


A better way to think about bounce rates: Combine them with engagement metrics to determine what’s a ‘good’ and ‘bad’ visit (
Not all bounce rates are created equal,’s Andrew Montalenti writes: “Imagine a site visitor spends 15 seconds interacting with a piece of content, while another spends two minutes with the same article before leaving the site. Even though each visitor ostensibly had a different experience with the content, traditional web analytics qualify both these sessions as a ‘bounce.’” A better way to think about bounce rates, Montalenti says, is to combine it with engagement metrics. Montalenti explains: “Bounce rate lumps together the good with the bad. Engaged time emphasizes what really matters: the good visits that indicate a satisfactory user experience. … Understanding how engaged time for your content compares to the reasonable minimum and reasonable maximum engagement rates can give you a sense of the quality of visits on your site. As one of our analysts points out, benchmarking engaged time renews the focus on experience, not just traffic.”

+ Two new studies suggest that longer content doesn’t wear audiences out — and there’s even a demand for more longer-form content (Nieman Lab)


Committee to Protect Journalists: ‘Impunity in the murders of journalists creates intractable cycle’ (Committee to Protect Journalists)
With the release of its’ 2017 Global Impunity Index, the Committee to Protect Journalists argues that “a lack of justice in the murders of journalists can perpetuate a cycle of violence and impunity lasting a decade or more.” The index shows countries where journalists are killed and no one is charged for the crime. “Impunity is a chokehold on society’s free flow of information. When a single journalist is killed without justice, the message to all journalists is either watch what you say or watch your back,” says the report’s author Elisabeth Witchel. “States on this list must not tolerate impunity year after year but actively take measures to address their failures of justice.”

+ BuzzFeed is launching its first video series in the U.K.: In “Worth It,” the show’s hosts compare popular food items at high and low price points (Digiday)


How the web began dying in 2014: Google and Facebook have increased their control over Internet traffic, and with the continued growth of Amazon, we’ll soon have a ‘Trinet’ (André Staltz)
Since 2014, there’s been some dramatic changes in “underlying dynamics of power” on the Internet, André Staltz says: Internet activity itself hasn’t slowed down, but Google and Facebook’s market share of Internet traffic has grown significantly. The two companies now have “direct influence” over more than 70 percent of all Internet traffic. “These are no longer the same companies as 4 years ago. GOOG is not anymore an internet company, it’s the knowledge internet company. FB is not an internet company, it’s the social internet company. They used to attempt to compete, and this competition kept the internet market diverse. Today, however, they seem mostly satisfied with their orthogonal dominance of parts of the Web, and we are losing diversity of choices,” Staltz writes.

+ For the iPhone X, Apple changed its usual PR strategy: Instead of reaching out to established tech journalists, Apple prioritized getting reviews from YouTubers and celebrities (Wall Street Journal)


One year after the 2016 election, we’re still failing to recognize the complexity of information disorder online (First Draft News)
“In the nine months since February, the debate about mis- and dis-information has intensified,” First Draft News’ Claire Wardle writes, “[but] we’re still failing to appreciate the complexity of the phenomenon at hand—in terms of its global scale, the nuances between behavior on different communication platforms (both closed and open) and the fact that information consumption is not rational, but driven by powerful emotional forces.” A new report from First Draft News and and the Council of Europe suggests a new definitional framework for information disorder, introducing three types, elements and phases of information disorder.

+ Senators questioned Facebook, Twitter and Google on Tuesday about shell companies obscuring the identity of advertisers, a fundamental challenge in the tech companies’ attempts to increase ad transparency (TechCrunch); Facebook says in the hearing that as many as 126 million people in the United States may have seen posts promoted by Russian agents (Recode)

+ An update on Facebook’s fact-checking efforts: The “slow, cumbersome process” is only eliminating a small number of hoaxes, and the company is outsourcing decisions to avoid claims of bias (Bloomberg)


What did journalists dress up as for Halloween this year? Fake news, apps and the death of print (Poynter)
“Fake news” is the costume of the year for journalists, Poynter’s Ren LaForme says. Asking their Twitter followers what they were dressing up as for Halloween this year, “fake news” turned out to be a popular choice. Some other creative costumes from newsrooms this year: “Enemy of the people,” The Athletic founder Alex Mather, and a scary rezoning application.

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