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Need to Know: Oct. 18, 2017

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


You might have heard: Three years ago, the three newsrooms in Philadelphia merged to become the Philadelphia Media Network (Poynter); In 2016, Gerry Lenfest donated the newspapers and websites to a nonprofit that would become the Lenfest Institute (

But did you know: Philadelphia Media Network is overhauling its digital subscriptions, ‘as part of an effort to win over a critical mass of digital subscribers’ (CJR)
“Long term, the company hopes to rival the Boston Globe for digital subscriptions,” Jared Brey writes. To get there, Philadelphia Media Network is moving to improve its digital products. That means launching a series of new email newsletters, expanding its opinion section online, and experimenting with events. “One of the things we’ve tried to do is ‘quality over quantity’ all across the board,” says Kim Fox, managing editor for audience. “Our job is to make sure that the best journalism gets as many eyes as possible … It’s really easy to throw up links all day long, but we’re starting to think about making sure that we’re sharing our best journalism at the best times with the best people in a more focused way.”

+ Noted: Content recommendation engine Outbrain is investigating whether Russian actors used its platform for propaganda during the election (BuzzFeed News); Time-based ad sales have hit a wall as viewability concerns have lessened and concerns over trust have increased (Digiday); Google is serving false headlines as ads on fact-checking sites, with the headlines trying to draw readers to fraudulent sites masquerading as real sites, such as People or Vogue (New York Times); Facebook acquires anonymous compliment app for teenagers, tbh, and says it will allow the company to operate “somewhat independently” (TechCrunch)


A Matter of Space: Designing newsrooms for new digital practice
In too many newsrooms, the physical spaces are stuck in the late 20th century. Now some newsroom​ ​leaders​ ​are​ ​redesigning​ ​their​ ​workplaces ​to​ better support the behaviors, workflows and attitudes required in an adaptive, modern media company. In our latest Strategy Study, we described how a workplace redesign can express the unique culture and personality of a news organization, telling the story of how news organizations large and small have taken on redesigns.


The blueprint for a successful membership model from De Correspondent (Monday Note)
After launching in the Netherlands in 2013, De Correspondent is now looking to expand its membership model to the United States. What can publishers in the U.S. learn from De Correspondent? De Correspondent has 12 principles backing up its philosophy. Those principles include redefining the concept of “news,” involving members in the journalism process, and thinking of readers as individuals, not “target groups” or components of marketing strategies.

+ “When should newsrooms not use Facebook for audience engagement? When they actually want to make money,” Hearken’s Jennifer Brandel writes (Hearken, Medium)


China feels vindicated in its tight control of the Internet as the United States investigates foreign influence in elections (New York Times)
As the United States investigates Russian influence on the 2016 presidential election, NYT’s Steven Lee Myers and Sui-Lee Wee report that some people in China are feeling vindicated in their tight control over the Internet. “Few would argue that China’s internet control serves as a model for democratic societies,” Myers and Wee write. “At the same time, China anticipated many of the questions now flummoxing governments from the United States to Germany to Indonesia. Where the Russians have turned the internet into a political weapon, China has used it as a shield.”


‘Lots of men are gender-equality allies in private. Why not in public?’ (Harvard Business Review)
“How does something like [the allegations against Harvey Weinstein] happen? It happens for some of the same reasons that equal pay, parental leave, and equitable hiring and promotion have stalled in many companies: Women lack genuine male allies in the workplace,” David G. Smith and W. Brad Johnson write. “Real male allies tend to have three things in common as agents of organizational change. … First, as majority stakeholders, they have insider knowledge of the organization. Second, they show genuine understanding of the cost of inequality for everyone (not to mention the organizational bottom line). Finally, they demonstrate an honest commitment to what is right and just.”

+ Ben Thompson on how gatekeepers, such as Weinstein or the NYT, are increasingly less powerful, thanks to online entertainment and news sources: “I can imagine there are many that long for the days when the media — and by extension the parties — could effectively determine presidential nominees. The Weinstein case, though, is a reminder of just how rotten gatekeepers can be. Their very structure is ripe for abuse by those in power, and suppression of those wishing to break through; consumers, meanwhile, are taken for granted.” (Stratechery)


The news media is struggling to find effective strategies for covering hate incidents (Poynter)
“Even as hate crimes occur with more frequency, newsrooms for the most part tend to treat them as individual problems, not as systemic problems that require better follow-through and focus,” Yang Sun writes for Poynter. That’s a major problem, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign African-American studies and journalism professor Christopher Benson says. Benson argues that hate crimes are “treated as a single event by a perpetrator or a group of perpetrators, instead of looking at it in the context of a lot of systemic problems” because many people in the media “a belief that the system is fundamentally sound.”


NYT podcast The Daily now has more than 100 million downloads (The Street)
The New York Times’ daily news podcast hit major milestone, surpassing 100 million downloads. But Ken Doctor writes that The Daily is more than just a podcast: “It’s a franchise in the making, paving the way for a new text-and-audio digital business future.” Doctor explains: “The Daily is becoming a phenomenon, an out-of-the-blue hit that is forcing print-based business leaders to think anew about the revolutionary power of digital audio. Further, as the leading edge of The New York Times’ now dozen-strong audio unit, it may provide a growing line of revenue still badly required to overcome print ad loss.”

+ Learn about how your organization can do podcasting (Better News)

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