Insights, tools and research to advance journalism

Need to Know: Sept. 13, 2017

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

OFF THE TOP

You might have heard: Facebook is working on a tool that would allow publishers to sell subscriptions through its Instant Articles program (Recode)

But did you know: Facebook has removed Instant Articles from Messenger, just one year after the format was expanded to Facebook’s messaging app (TechCrunch)
As Facebook prepares to offer a way for readers to subscribe and pay for news directly through its app, the company has removed Instant Articles from its Messenger app. Instant Articles were originally designed to exist within Facebook’s News Feed and were expanded to Messenger just a year ago, part of a larger strategy to emphasize content on its messaging app. “When Facebook first launched Instant Articles in Messenger, some believed that the expansion would help boost the format at a time when the company was de-emphasizing publishers in the News Feed algorithm, putting them behind friends,” Ingrid Lunden writes. “It’s fair to wonder how and if that boost ever played out. One thing … appears more clear: Instant Articles — whether on Messenger or not — remain an anchor in how Facebook wants to work with publishers.”

+ Noted: Nancy Gibbs, Time’s first female managing editor, will step down at the end of the year (Vanity Fair); Bleacher Report says Facebook is paying “millions of dollars” for a reality show on NFL player Marshawn Lynch, “a sign that the social media firm is willing to pay top dollar to lure viewers and ads to its Watch video service” (Reuters); A federal bankruptcy judge approved the sale of the Alaska Dispatch News to Binkley Co., a family-owned firm in Fairbanks (Fox Business); NYT White House correspondents Maggie Haberman and Glenn Thrush sign a deal with Random House for a book on Trump (Vanity Fair)

TRY THIS AT HOME

Avoiding unintentional harm in journalism: How to report on sensitive issues without unintentional consequences (Baekdal)
Media analyst Thomas Baekdal says he’s noticed five key problems emerging in journalism that are “increasingly damaging [to] not just the media’s role in society, but society itself.” Those problems, Baekdal says, are: Revealing victims of harassment, which in turn leads to more harassment; media doxxing; covering the wrong focus in a story; “he said, she said” perspective on things that aren’t equal; and giving a voice to people who already dominate a conversation. Baekdal breaks down each problem, why the typical way these problems are being covered is causing unintentional consequences in society, and how journalists can correct course.

OFFSHORE

Chinese aggregator Toutiao is cutting ties with Weibo over a disagreement about content ownership, suggesting Toutiao is ‘confident it can take on internet veterans’ (Financial Times)
Chinese news aggregator Toutiao is removing Sina Weibo after Sina raised concerns about content control and ownership back in August. Sina Weibo is a microblogging platform popular in China. The company argued that it owns the content users create on Sina Weibo and says Toutiao failed to obtain the company’s permission to repost its content. Toutiao disagreed and notified users this week that it would block Sina Weibo services from its platform. “This week’s decision to sever ties with Sina Weibo suggests Toutiao is now confident it can take on internet veterans such as Sina, Weibo’s parent company,” Emily Feng writes. “Sina once saw the platform as a way to promote its content, even sinking $100m into the news aggregator as an early investor in 2014. It has since sold its stake, while Toutiao has eclipsed Weibo in both users and valuation.”

OFFBEAT

The way we think about hard work and achieving our goals is wrong: You’ll be more successful if you’re working on something you enjoy (Business Insider)
We often think about hard work with the mindset of “no pain, no gain.” That’s often true, but as Jon Acuff explains in his book “Finish,” it doesn’t mean that the inverse is untrue. “Perfectionism believes that the harder something is, the more miserable something is, the better,” Acuff writes in the book. In other words, we often only think something “counts” if we’re miserable while doing it. But Acuff explains that that belief is fundamentally wrong: You’ll be more successful and more likely to achieve your goals if you’re working on something you enjoy, Acuff says.

UP FOR DEBATE

Facebook, Google and Amazon are set to collide with political power in the US (BuzzFeed News)
“The blinding rise of Donald Trump over the past year has masked another major trend in American politics,” BuzzFeed’s Ben Smith writes, “the palpable, and perhaps permanent, turn against the tech industry.” Smith argues that major players in the tech industry — Facebook, Google, Amazon — are on a collision course with political power in the United States. Smith explains: “Nationalists, accurately, see a consolidation of power over speech and ideas by social liberals and globalists; the left, accurately, sees consolidated corporate power. Those are the ascendant wings of the Republican and Democratic parties, even before Donald Trump sends the occasional spray of bile Jeff Bezos’s way — and his spokeswoman declines, as she did in June, to defend Google against European regulators. This has led to a kind of Murder on the Orient Express alliance against big tech: Everyone wants to kill them.”

+ “Zuckerberg should publicly testify under oath before Congress on his company’s capabilities to influence the political process, be it Russian meddling or anything else,” Sam Biddle argues. “If the company is as powerful as it promises advertisers, it should be held accountable. And if it’s not, then we need to stop fretting so much about it.” (The Intercept)

+ Donald Trump, Steve Bannon and their allies constantly condemn the “mainstream media” as enemies of democracy — except when they need to credibly spread a message, as Bannon tried to do in his 60 Minutes interview (Washington Post)

SHAREABLE

Here’s what Apple’s latest iPhone updates mean for publishers (Nieman Lab)
Yesterday, Apple announced two new iPhones: The iterative iPhone 8 and the more future-facing iPhone X. Nieman Lab’s Joshua Benton takes a look at what Apple’s latest updates will mean for publishers. Some highlights: The Apple Watch is moving closer to a “paradigm shift that [publishers] don’t seem prepared for” where the phone is not a user’s primary focus, live news will be added to Apple TV’s main TV app, and the iPhone’s new lighting modes could make on-the-scene photos better for journalists.

+ Apple News is experimenting with “featured video” section, featuring editor-picked content that runs several times per week (Digiday)

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