Need to Know: Oct. 20, 2017

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


You might have heard:  After the election, the “Trump bump” turned into a digital subscription surge for newspapers, magazines, digital-only publishers and public radio companies (The Street)

But did you know: Publishers are struggling to monetize the ‘Trump bump’ as advertisers avoid controversial content (Digiday)

Some publishers have seen positive digital subscription growth in the form of the “Trump bump,” but Digiday’s Ross Benes reports that it’s hard to monetize in the form of advertising. “Ad buyers are also increasingly using keywords and sentiment analysis to create custom categories of content to avoid, with a focus on reducing their exposure to Trump,” Benes writes. “Political tensions have reached a point where some media buyers are blacklisting even mainstream news outlets like Fox News.”

+ “News personalization could help publishers attract and retain audiences — in the process making political polarization even worse” (Nieman Lab)

+ Noted: Vogue and Vice are partnering on “Project Vs,” an editorial collaboration that will “showcase figures, movements and issues affecting society” (Variety); Reuters is launching a live video service with coverage of up to six concurrent events, which will be available to broadcasters and professional video publishers (Talking Biz News); Facebook says it will start testing its news subscription models in Instant Articles in the coming weeks (Facebook Newsroom), but the test will initially only be on Android due to disagreements between Apple and Facebook on the cut Apple will get from revenue (Recode); Tribune Media shareholders approve the Sinclair merger “even as federal regulators slow down the TV station megamerger to allow for more public input” (Chicago Tribune); CNN is awarded the first FAA waiver to allow flying a drone over crowds (Bloomberg)


The week in fact-checking

As part of our fact-checking journalism project, Jane Elizabeth and Poynter’s Alexios Mantzarlis and Daniel Funke highlight stories worth noting related to truth in politics and on the Internet. This week’s round-up includes whether we can win the fact-checking arms race, a museum exhibit on fake news, and how PolitiFact’s community outreach efforts are going.


Here’s how the USA Today Network measures impact in its newsrooms (Media Impact Project)

“Measuring the audience response to a journalistic story usually means counting page views and unique visitors, yet that assessment falls short,” Gannett audience analyst Anjanette Delgado writes. “At my Gannett newspaper in the suburbs north of New York City, we wanted to know more: What happened when we started asking questions (about a story)? After we published a story? When a key decision-maker or a crowd of people saw that story?” Delgado explains how Gannett’s The Journal News and built an “impact tracker,” that counts not only pageviews but the real-world change from their journalism.


The Italian government is partnering with digital companies for a pilot program that trains students in how to recognize fake news online (New York Times)

The Italian government is working with digital companies including Facebook to train high school students in how to spot fake news online. If the program is successful, Facebook has said that it could become a  “pilot program” for Facebook throughout Europe. “While some tips are useful, such as keeping an eye out for parody URLs, students are also called upon to reach out to experts to verify news stories, essentially asking the students to re-report articles,” NYT’s Jason Horowitz writes on what the program teaches students. “The program seeks to deputize students as fake-news hunters, showing them how to create their own blogs or social accounts to expose false stories and ‘showing how you uncovered it.’”


A New Yorker cartoon reveals the sad truth about women at work (Business Insider)

A New Yorker cartoon highlights key struggles many women face at work. Often, women must choose between seeming confident and likable, writes Business Insider’s Rachel Gillett. She says, to say women walk a tightrope in the workplace would be an understatement. Gillett also cites research conducted by NYU psychology professor Madeline Heilman, which shows women’s career advancements are often impeded by prescriptive stereotypes, where women are punished socially when they directly or seemingly violate how people think they should act.


‘There is nothing resembling consensus’ about whether the problem of online misinformation can actually be solved (Nieman Lab)

“Both camps of experts share the view that the current environment allows ‘fake news’ and weaponized narratives to flourish, but there is nothing resembling consensus about whether this problem can be successfully addressed in the coming decade,” Lee Raine, director of internet and technology for the Pew Research Center, tells Nieman Lab. A new report from Pew on the problem suggests that where you fall on this issue depends on two questions: How much do you believe in the goodness of nature? And, do you think technology is a force for good or evil?

+ For the research, Pew talked to experts about the problem, finding a wide array of opinions: “Misinformation is not like a plumbing problem you fix. It is a social condition, like crime, that you must constantly monitor and adjust to,” API’s executive director Tom Rosenstiel said (Pew Research Center)


‘Journalism in and of itself is not valuable. The service journalism provides is’ (Poynter)

“Journalism in and of itself is not valuable,” says Matt Kiser, creator of daily newsletter What The Fuck Just Happened Today? “The service journalism provides is.” Kiser explains two common startup mantras he kept in mind while creating WTFJHT: Make something people want, and create more value than you capture. “The only way of ever getting to making something people want is to talk to your readers and understand what they want/need. Once you’re sufficiently creating something valuable, you can capture some percent of that as revenue.”


+ Why did startup Casper sue a mattress blogger? A look into how niche bloggers profit from affiliate links and how a lawsuit from a mattress company influenced bloggers’ reviews (Fast Company)

+ An investigation by BuzzFeed News reveals how seemingly credible actors in the ad industry play an active role in fraud, and even profit from it (BuzzFeed News)

+ “Lumping the methods of Trump apologists into the same critical framework as ‘classic politics’ creates a parity between agitprop and honest discourse that propagandists will exploit until most people can’t tell the difference. It will allow insidious disinformation to chew away at the institutions of journalism and academic expertise, until the enlightened foundations of an informed citizenry collapse,” Brian Beutler argues (Crooked Media)

+ Twitter tested — and scrapped — a timeline that was filled with old tweets, a change that would have harmed its “its live, vibrant feel” (BuzzFeed News)