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Need to Know: Oct. 31, 2017

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


You might have heard: Facebook, Google and Twitter are expected to tell Congress this week that Russia’s involvement in the 2016 election through misinformation on their platforms may be more widespread than originally reported (Recode)

But did you know: Silicon Valley’s problem with Russian involvement in the election is connected to the rise of native advertising in journalism, Emily Bell argues (Guardian)
“In getting to grips with this problem, politicians and the media are realizing that the way we think and talk about different types of messages has been well and truly broken. Social media has made a practice — and a fortune — out of erasing traditional boundaries between different types of material,” Emily Bell writes. “Where once we had propaganda, press releases, journalism and advertising, we now have ‘content.’ Where once we had direct marketing, display advertising and promotions, now we have ‘monetization.’ … The inability to know what an ad is when you see one is more convenient for media companies than they would like to admit. The dwindling display advertising model propping up many publishers is giving way to a model of ‘native advertising.’ … Most publishers would reject the idea that their partnerships with companies and advertisers were part of the same problem as the democratic threat from overseas authoritarians. But the tools and techniques of political messaging and manipulation are exactly the same as those used by commercial publishers to create new types of advertising revenue.”

+ “[The platforms] built a system where they’re making billions and billions of dollars at internet scale, but they didn’t build in systems for transparency and accountability from the beginning,” says the Sunlight Foundation’s Alex Howard. “They assumed great power without taking great responsibility.” (CJR)

+ Noted: Former Hollywood Reporter editor Janice Min, entrepreneur and magazine publisher Tyler Brule and Ronan Farrow are all being considered for the role of Vanity Fair editor, The Guardian reports (Guardian); Medium is attracting premium publishers to its partner program by offering a flat fee per article “to guarantee that this is worth their time from day one” (Nieman Lab); CrowdTangle data shows that interactions with BuzzFeed’s social media brand Tasty dropped from 74 million in May 2016 to 20 million in September 2017 (@Max_Benwell, Twitter); Jimmy Wales announces that WikiTribune is open and will start accepting people who have requested an invite over the next few weeks (WikiTribune)


Here’s why publishers are giving micropayments another look in the attempt to expand reader revenue (Digiday)
As a whole, micropayments haven’t delivered on the promise to save the news industry — but publishers are giving them another look as they try to expand their revenue coming directly from readers. Max Willens explains, “Micropayments are a middle ground for someone who reads enough content to hit the paywall but isn’t necessarily a candidate for a subscription.” Some ways publishers are adopting the micropayment model is allowing readers to build up a tab ($5.80 for Germany’s Der Spiegel, for example) before requiring a payment and using micropayments as an addendum to other subscription strategies.

+ A Dutch startup is giving readers the option to pay for content either by paying for it or by answering a set of five questions: “We wanted to solve the problem of how people, especially young people here in The Netherlands, don’t want to pay for journalism,” explains Annefleur Schipper, founder of The Playwall. “We also know that media companies want to know and collect data about their audience but the way they are doing it now is very secretive and users don’t really know what is being taken away … We are trying to tell people that their information and opinion is really worth something.” (


A snap election is spurring fact-checking collaborations in Japan (Nieman Lab)
A snap election combined with global fears of fake news is leading to news organizations in Japan collaborating on fact-checking initiatives. “We looked at First Draft News’ guide and realized in Japan, we have very little understanding of where false information originates or how it spreads,” says Kayo Mimizuka, a member of the Japan Center of Education for Journalists. Ahead of the October election, four-month old FactCheck Initiative Japan launched a project to monitor information around the election, such as politicians’ statements and false information that might be circulating. Meanwhile, the Japan Center of Education for Journalists launched its own initiative to debunk misinformation social media during the election, modeled off of similar initiatives around the world, like CrossCheck in France.

+ HuffPost’s partnership with the Times of India Group is no more: “Sources said that HuffPost decided not to renew the 3-year partnership for business reasons, and also cited editorial strategy interference from Times Bridge’s head of content strategy Thane Richard,” MediaNama’s Shashidhar KJ reports (MediaNama)


A new review site is letting nonprofits anonymously give feedback to foundations (Fast Company)
A new review site is trying to bring the Yelp model to philanthropic funding: GrantAdvisor lets nonprofit organizations anonymously review foundations, turning the table “on the usual relationship between who has the money and who is asking for it.” Ben Paynter writes: “For nonprofits, the benefit is obvious: Finally, a way to give real feedback, and warn others if a funder whose promises look enticing might be more trouble than it’s worth. And for foundations, there’s a real opportunity to realistically gut check their own procedures and to figure out how to improve.”


Nick Denton on what we’re missing without Gawker: The allegations against public figures such as Harvey Weinstein and Terry Richardson are shocking — ‘ unless you read Gawker before it was shut down’ (
“The recent torrent of public allegations against celebrities such as Harvey Weinstein, Terry Richardson and James Toback is unprecedented. … The headlines are shocking  —  unless you read Gawker before it was shut down, in which case this may feel like a throwback,” Nick Denton writes. “Gossip can be gratuitous, without any purpose beyond entertainment. … But those first accounts of sexual harassment  —  even if anonymous or thinly sourced  —  give confidence to victims that they are not alone. Gossip, though it draws those motivated by envy and resentment, is also a tool of the powerless. It’s a mechanism for coordination.”

+ NBC News confirms that it has terminated Mark Halperin’s contract after Halperin was accused of sexual harassment by multiple women (Deadline)


Couldn’t make it to this weekend’s LION local news conference? Here’s what you missed (Nieman Lab)
LION (Local Independent Online News) Publishers held its annual summit in Chicago this weekend, exploring ideas around revenue, community engagement and sustainability. If you couldn’t make it, Nieman Lab’s Laura Hazard Owen has a roundup of what you missed: LION is receiving an 18-month, $250,000 grant from the Democracy Fund to “assist … modeling business plans for advertising, native advertising and sponsored content, and email newsletters in support of local journalism at 10 independent online news organizations”; Heather Bryant gave a lightning talk on class problems within journalism; and Bryant, the Center for Cooperative Media’s Stefanie Murray and 2018 JSK fellow Andre Natta presented their research on collaborative journalism between local and national outlets.

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