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Need to Know: Oct. 9, 2017

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


You might have heard: GateHouse, Digital First Media and Gannett own a quarter of the United States’ daily newspapers: “In centralizing and regionalizing every operation they can, consolidators manage to cut costs aggressively and make consistent profits. Bigger chains now embrace that strategy with more fervor as the pace of newspaper property sales has quickened,” Ken Doctor wrote earlier this year on the consolidation (Newsonomics)

But did you know: Pioneer News Group is selling its 21 daily and weekly newspapers to Adams Publishing Group (Bozeman Daily Chronicle)
Pioneer News Group announced late last week that it’s selling its 21 daily and weekly newspapers in Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Utah to family-owned Adams Publishing Group, along with a commercial printing facility and various websites. The terms of the sale, which is expected to be finalized Nov. 1, were not disclosed. Adams Publishing Group owns more than 100 community newspapers in 11 states. “I can’t think of a better fit for the Chronicle than with Adams,” said Stephanie Pressly, publisher of Pioneer’s Bozeman Daily Chronicle. “Adams is another independent, family-owned group, committed to their local communities and employees. This means a bright and secure future for local journalism and our hometown papers.”

+ Noted: Facebook tells advertisers that ads targeted to people based on “politics, religion, ethnicity or social issues” will now have to be manually reviewed before going live (Axios); Facebook is reportedly considering bringing on conservative U.S. magazine the Weekly Standard as a fact-checking partner (Quartz); One month since beta testing began and just a week since its formal launch, The Atlantic says its membership program The Masthead has membership numbers in the “the thousands” (Digiday); The Atlantic says individuals are posing as Atlantic writers and editors and sending fraudulent job offers to freelancers and others seeking employment as a way to gain personal and financial information (The Atlantic); The Guardian will give away 100,000 Google Cardboard headsets as it launches a new Guardian VR app for Cardboard (The Guardian)


How The Verge used Facebook video to grow gadget blog Circuit Breaker (Digiday)
Gadget blog Circuit Breaker is a vertical of The Verge, launched in 2016. Though Circuit Breaker is a small operation (it has a full-time staff of five), the blog accounts for 12 percent of The Verge’s monthly pageviews and 30 percent of its monthly video views. Nilay Patel, The Verge’s editor in chief, explains how they’ve “learned a playbook” for growing Circuit Breaker’s audience through Facebook video: Circuit Breaker started out by creating “slideshow videos” that highlighted a product’s features, which were posted first on Facebook; now, The Verge is adopting that “Facebook-first” strategy in its other verticals. “The goal was not, ‘How do we use Facebook to drive traffic to our site?’ We’re not trying to build websites. We’re trying to build brands,” Patel explains.


Newsrooms worldwide are lagging when it comes to adopting new tech and taking on a digital-first mindset, a new report from ICFJ finds (Nieman Lab)
A new report from ICFJ, released Thursday night at the Online News Association conference, finds that “there’s still some disconnect between the training opportunities organizations offer versus what journalists say they want.” For example: 52 percent of journalists surveyed wanted data journalism training, compared to the 40 percent of newsrooms that offered it. The survey was conducted with Georgetown University in more than 12 languages with more than 2,700 responses from journalists and newsroom managers in 130 countries.

+ Filings shows BuzzFeed UK doubled its revenue in 2016: BuzzFeed UK had £20.5 million in revenue in 2016, compared to £9.8 million in 2015 (Business Insider)


Are offices getting less open? Companies such as Microsoft and IBM are adding ‘isolation rooms’ and tech-free spaces (New York Times)
“New office designs are coming to a workplace near you, with layouts meant to cater to the variety of tasks required of modern white-collar workers,” Steve Lohr writes. “Put another way, it means people don’t sit in just one place.” In part, these new office spaces are a rebuttal to open office plans, which were intended to encourage collaboration but have been found by experts to be less efficient. Here’s what some companies are doing instead: Microsoft is renovating its Seattle-based offices to include more private spaces and making open areas smaller, fitting 8 to 12 people instead of 16 to 24. Meanwhile, IBM is getting rid of closed offices in its floor plans, but taking on a hybrid approach by adding more phone booths and quiet rooms.


Here’s why you should read the comments: An engaged comments section has major benefits in terms of ‘engaging readers and renewing subscriptions’ (Wired)
“Right now, many publishers are placing an empty box at the bottom of their stories and walking away. And then they’re frustrated, maybe even disgusted, at the trash that collects there,” The Coral Project’s Andrew Losowsky writes on how news organizations tend to approach comments. “The comments then get worse due to lack of engagement and strategy, leaving the space to a small number of argumentative types corralled by a tiny battle-hardened community team. … Every site needs to be thinking about more than just improving comments, Publishers should also be more clear about what the goals of the space are, and should try to build strong digital communities that members are actively involved in managing. If more comments sections become places where people actually talk to each other — and to the person who wrote the story — they will encourage ideas and empathy, not insults. Potential sources and new story ideas will emerge.”


Maggie Haberman is changing The New York Times, attracting new subscribers with ‘that tabloid, Twitter-fied sensibility’ (Vanity Fair)
“The larger story is the increasingly tabloid-y evolution of the mainstream political press. These stories are fun to read, they’re very of-the-moment, they’re made for Twitter. So I think Maggie’s success is very much part of that tabloid, Twitter-fied sensibility bleeding into the Times, entering the Times’s metabolism,” one of Haberman’s colleagues tells Joe Pompeo. Pompeo goes on to explain: “With her massive social-media footprint and fire hose of scoops, Haberman is an important driver of the Times’s current business strategy, which is ever more focused on attracting new subscribers who’ll fork over to get past the paywall, and less so on advertising, especially print advertising. Haberman’s Twitter followers get hooked, making the Times, partly, a trap house for West Wing gossip addicts.”

+ The winners of the 2017 Online Journalism Awards were announced this weekend at ONA: The Guardian US Mobile Innovation Lab won an award for its live notifications, Electionland, ProPublica and the Electionland Coalition won for planned news/events in a large newsroom, and Le Temps won for general excellence in online journalism in a medium newsroom (Online Journalism Awards)

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