Need to Know: Sept. 22, 2017
Fresh useful insights for people advancing quality, innovative and sustainable journalism
You might have heard: Facebook’s advertising policies have come under scrutiny after the company revealed earlier this month that a Russian firm linked to the Kremlin bought $100,000 worth of political ads during the U.S. presidential campaign (NPR) and an investigation by ProPublica found that Facebook was allowing advertisers to target users who had expressed interest in offensive terms (ProPublica)
But did you know: Mark Zuckerberg says Facebook will require Pages to disclose who paid for political ads (The Verge)
In an announcement on Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg says the platform is about to get a lot more transparent about political advertising. Zuckerberg says that Pages will be required to disclose who paid for political ads, and users will be able to see all current ads paid for by that advertiser. Zuckerberg says the changes will roll out over the coming months, and says he’ll be working with others to set a “new standard” for political advertising online.
+ Facebook also said on Thursday that it’s agreed to give Congressional investigators 3,000 political ads it found linked to Russia during the 2016 election (Facebook Newsroom); Two Democratic Senators are preparing a bill that would require digital platforms with more than 1 million users to keep public files for all political ad purchases over $10,000 (CNN Media)
+ “This unexpected announcement from Facebook suggests the company has finally started listening to its many critics in Congress, the media, and at large. Less than a year ago, in the immediate aftermath of the election, Zuckerberg dismissed the idea that Facebook’s fake news problem had anything to do with the results. Today’s address suggests that the billionaire founder, who built a platform that two billion people rely on for news and political interactions, is finally starting to appreciate that his creation can do as much harm as good in this world.” (Wired); “Facebook’s systems didn’t fail when they allowed shadowy actors connected to the Russian government to purchase ads targeting American voters with messages about divisive social and political issues. They worked,” Julia Carrie Wong argues (Guardian)
+ Noted: Facebook and Google’s control over digital advertising grows: The duopoly will control about 63 percent of digital ad spending in 2017 (eMarketer); The Lenfest Institute announces $2 million in grants for local news projects, with $1 million going to Philadelphia Media Network (Lenfest Institute); Knight Foundation grants $600,000 to StoryCorps to focus on “improving the app by expanding access and creating greater interconnectivity” (Knight Foundation); A “significant” number of employees were laid off at the Alaska Dispatch News as the paper’s new owners restructure: “It’s a significant change in the size of the newspaper,” new owner Ryan Binkley said, though he wouldn’t say how many people were let go (Alaska Dispatch News); PBS names former NPR executive editor Madhulika Sikka as its next public editor and ombudsman (iMediaEthics)
The week in fact-checking
As part of our fact-checking journalism project, Jane Elizabeth and Poynter’s Alexios Mantzarlis highlight stories worth noting related to truth in politics and on the Internet. This week’s round-up includes why fake news isn’t a concern in Germany, whether it’s just too hard to know what’s true anymore, and how misinformation may have led to a riot in Indonesia.
‘Want to build trust? Start with a good corrections policy’ (Editor & Publisher)
“In the still-insular culture of today’s newsrooms, the number of corrections doesn’t necessarily correlate to the number of mistakes made. But those that regularly run corrections, and in a manner that’s prominent and transparent to readers, show a commitment to addressing mistakes and accountability,” LION Publishers executive director Matt DeRienzo writes. DeRienzo argues that the corrections policy is a natural starting point for newsrooms trying to build trust with readers: Transparency should guide that policy, and the correction should note what you got wrong and how you fixed it — plus, make it easy for readers to find corrections on your website, and share corrections on social media if the mistake was shared as well.
What do newsroom executives worldwide think the next big area of focus should be for their companies? (WAN-IFRA)
A new report from WAN-IFRA explores that question, finding the top answer was a “reluctance to innovate” followed by concerns over finding new revenue streams and a sustainable business model. WAN-IFRA surveyed 235 news executives and managers in 68 countries, asking “what is the single most important risk to a news organization’s future success?” And when asked what the single most important change that has to be implemented over the next year will be, the most popular answer at 21 percent was organizational culture.
+ “The executives surveyed fell into three distinct buckets: Some were staunch defenders of a traditional, mostly advertising-driven revenue model (only eight percent of those surveyed fell into this category). Others wanted their organizations to protect existing revenue streams but also aim to earn about half their income from new sources in the next five years (56 percent of those surveyed). A third group said they wanted their companies to earn more than half their revenue from sources other than advertising and content sales (36 percent).” (Nieman Lab)
How one company plans to get 1 trillion devices online: Security is the biggest obstacle to the ‘internet of things’ (MIT Technology Review)
ARM Holdings designed the chip that’s in almost every smartphone on the planet, and has plans to get 1 trillion devices online by 2035 — or 130 devices per person. ARM’s director of research collaborations Chris Doran talks to MIT Technology Review about how ARM is thinking about the “internet of things,” and what it sees as the biggest obstacles to overcome. Doran emphasizes the importance of security: “You’ve seen cars being hacked and toys that send data, unencrypted, up to the cloud. [Internet of things] is getting a reputation for not being safe, and we need to get rid of that problem.”
‘The media’s demand for certainty — and its lack of statistical rigor — is a bad match for our complex world’ (FiveThirtyEight)
From hurricanes to presidential elections, Nate Silver argues that the media has a probability problem. “In recent elections, the media has often overestimated the precision of polling, cherry-picked data and portrayed elections as sure things when that conclusion very much wasn’t supported by polls or other empirical evidence,” Silver writes. In reality, data is complicated, and news coverage doesn’t always reflect that. “The world is a complicated place, and journalists are expected to write authoritatively about it under deadline pressure,” Silver writes. “News organizations reporting under deadline pressure need to be more comfortable with a world in which our understanding of developing stories is provisional and probabilistic — and will frequently turn out to be wrong.”
A side effect of pivoting to video is declining pageviews (Digiday)
“Media companies chasing video ad dollars are pivoting to declining pageviews,” Ross Benes writes. Benes reports that publishers that have laid off staffers in a “pivot to video” have seen traffic to their website drop significantly: Fox Sports, for example, has reportedly seen its traffic drop by 88 percent since June. “The pivots to video aren’t necessarily causing the traffic declines; the two are correlated. Most of these publishers were already struggling before they fired writers to trim costs,” Benes explains. “But publishers are making a risky bet when they cast off their own websites and rely on platforms.”
+ “We should call the ‘pivot to video’ what it is, which is a pivot to Facebook,” Nieman Lab’s Joshua Benton says (@jbenton, Twitter)
+ “AI is going to be helpful for personalizing news — but watch out for journalism turning into marketing,” a new report from the Tow Center suggests (Nieman Lab)
FOR THE WEEKEND
+ “I’ve often wondered is journalism going to become majority-female. But that doesn’t seem to be happening and I don’t know why that is”: Journalism schools are dominated by women, but newsrooms and particularly newsroom leadership are still largely male (Poynter)
+ “Snopes and the search for facts in a post-fact world”: An in-depth profile of Snopes and its co-founder David Mikkelson (Wired)
+ Takeaways for investigative reporters from Fox News’ handling of the Seth Rich story: Investigative reports should be ironclad, make sure your sources are saying what you think they’re saying, and make sure each of your sources can stand on their own (NPR)