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Need to Know: Oct. 12, 2017

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


You might have heard: ESPN suspended Jemele Hill on Monday for what it says was a second violation of its social media guidelines (The Hill) after Hill suggested on Twitter that her followers should boycott Dallas Cowboys advertisers after owner Jerry Jones threatened to bench players who kneel during the national anthem (New York Times)

But did you know: ESPN’s suspension of Jemele Hill suggests that ESPN’s wants its journalists to consider business relationships before speaking out — which undermines their independence, Jim Brady says (ESPN)
Though ESPN’s statement on Jemele Hill’s suspension is unclear, Jim Brady writes that it’s clear that her tweets about financially pressuring an NFL team owner were the trigger. “I understand exactly what it is that upset ESPN about Hill’s actions: One of its highest-profile personalities suggested an advertiser boycott that would impact an important network partner, and she did so on Twitter, the same platform she used to call out Trump,” Brady writes. “But it’s not the job of Hill — or any other ESPN journalist, for that matter — to concern herself with the network’s business relationships. In fact, the separation of ‘church and state’ is a longstanding core concept in any news organization worth its salt. So it shouldn’t matter whether Hill’s comments put ESPN in a bad position with the NFL, any more than with the network’s excellent reporting on concussions that has done the same. … Defending ESPN’s journalistic integrity and promising not to tell people what views to express are both completely logical and appropriate positions. But Hill’s suspension seems to suggest that journalists should consider ESPN’s business relationships before speaking out, and that, in turn, does undermine the independence of journalists.”

+ Noted: CrowdTangle is releasing a version of the tool specifically for local news: Features include following conversations in public Facebook groups, dedicated resources for local newsrooms, and the ability to create teams within your organization (CrowdTangle); BuzzFeed drops the slogan “all the news too lit for print” for its morning Twitter show AM to DM after The New York Times’ lawyers reached out with legal concerns (Mashable); Trump threatened to cancel NBC’s broadcasting license over critical reporting — but his threat isn’t credible, given that “Trump’s appointees to key regulatory agencies — including Ajit Pai at the FCC — are very conventional pro-business deregulators” (Vox); Twitter will release a bookmarking tool, allowing users to save tweets and return to them in a dedicated section of the product (BuzzFeed News); Though many publishers have been disappointed with Facebook Live, they’re optimistic as Twitter adopts the live streaming format (Digiday)


How NYT gets people to pay for its products: ‘We have to convince people of the relevance of that brand and its worthiness to be paid for’ (Digiday)
“The New York Times’ future depends on being a very large paid consumer business. Because we don’t have to chase scale and our model does not require a billion-dollar ad business, we make a better product,” NYT COO Meredith Kopit Levien says on this week’s Digiday podcast. “Our reporters don’t have to choose between quality and how to direct your attention. … The work is, how do we create gravity in our conversion funnel so people move through their relationship with the Times so that they want to pay and stay? Our international audience is growing at a slightly faster rate than the domestic audience — 300 million college-educated, English-speaking people outside the U.S. We have a global brand. We have to convince people of the relevance of that brand and its worthiness to be paid for.”


To expand its reach in India, online marketplace Houzz is partnering with Times Bridge (Medianama)
Trying to expand its presence in India, online marketplace Houzz is partnering with India’s Times Bridge. Houzz’s content will be integrated with Times Bridge’s properties, including its flagship, Times of London. Houzz launched in India in January 2017, and says it has grown its local community (which includes architects, interior designers, etc.) by 50 percent since then. Times Bridge has also partnered with Airbnb, Coursera, Uber, Vice and Thrive Global in the past.


Women are ‘underrepresented at every level in corporate America’ (McKinsey & Company)
On Tuesday, ASNE released the results of its annual newsroom survey, which found that the share of women in newsrooms has barely increased by 1 percent since 2001. This week, McKinsey also released a report on the state of gender diversity across a wide range of industries. McKinsey found that women are “underrepresented at every level in corporate America, despite earning more college degrees than men for 30 years and counting.” The report’s authors write: “One of the most powerful reasons for the lack of progress is a simple one: We have blind spots when it comes to diversity, and we can’t solve problems that we don’t see or understand clearly.”


Franklin Foer: Journalism needs to liberate itself from the platform companies (Nieman Lab)
“There’s a certainly a collective-action problem, where no media company wants to be the first one to bust free from the platforms, but the dependence on the platform is hugely problematic. It’s problematic from a business standpoint because the platforms are so capricious — Facebook changes what it wants all the time,” Franklin Foer says in a Q&A with Nieman Lab. “Media slavishly trails after it, making all these editorial adjustments that require resources shifting around. There’s no way that media outlets can be nimble enough to keep up. … The future of journalism — not just as a business, but as an enterprise — demands that we find some way to break free from the platforms. Newspaper publishers are doing interesting things in this regard in that they’ve decided to take on the platforms as an antitrust issue.”

+ Earlier: Foer’s piece from September on how the pursuit of digital readership broke the New Republic and the industry as a whole (The Atlantic)


‘Ev Williams wants to save media — again. But some writers and publishers are skeptical.’ (BuzzFeed News)
Five years after launching Medium and many pivots later, Ev Williams says he has a new plan to revitalize the site and save journalism in the process — but Davey Alba asks, will anyone trust him? Medium has tried (and discarded) at least five different business models in its five years of existence, giving the publishers that have worked with Medium a bit of whiplash. Alba reports: “For many tech startups, continued refinement of a business model is all part of the process. But writers and publishers who’ve dealt with Medium and its unpredictable strategic shifts say they’ve begun to realize that Bay Area techno-utopian startup culture may be an inherent mismatch with the business of publishing — or, at the very least, that Medium’s culture is.”

+ “BuzzFeed thinks it has figured out a way to make web ads people might actually like”: The company is releasing two new ad formats that are “aimed at helping marketers produce ads that fit the look and feel of BuzzFeed without all the heavy lifting of having to create original content” (Business Insider)

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