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Need to Know: Sept. 29, 2017

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


You might have heard: Facebook is creating a subscription service, which is expected to allow publishers to sell subscriptions through Instant Articles (Engadget)

But did you know: Facebook is expected to formally announce its subscription initiative this week — but some major publishers won’t be participating (The Street)
When Facebook announces its subscription initiative, some major publishers will be missing from the list of partners, Ken Doctor reports. The New York Times, Wall Street Journal and Financial Times will not participate in the first phase of the program, Doctor reports. The Washington Post is expected to be the biggest publisher participating in the first phase of the program. The Economist, Hearst newspapers and Tronc have also signed on to the program. As for the publishers that won’t be participating, Doctor explains that they’re looking for more flexibility in Facebook’s approach and may even take their wishlist to Google, asking for the use of artificial intelligence for better targeting and converting potential subscribers.

+ Noted: “Domain spoofing” remains a major problem for publishers and marketers alike (Wall Street Journal); Twitter finds that Russia Today bought $274,100 in ads and promoted tweets in the U.S. in 2016 and says it will work with the FEC and Congress on increasing political ad disclosure (Twitter); The Onion’s editor in chief and and executive editor resign, which Mic reports is partially over disagreements about the direction the site was taking under Univision’s ownership (Mic); NowThis is launching “Newsroom,” its way of explaining its reporting in real-time: Newsroom will be led by former editors Andy Carvin and P. Kim Bui (Nieman Lab); YouTube is no longer allowing video creators to add external links in cards at the end of their videos, unless their channel is enabled for monetization through YouTube’s Partner Program (The Next Web)


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 whether more fractious politics leads to more fact-checking, fact-checking the online conversation about the NFL’s kneeling controversy, and why attention is rewarded over quality of information.


‘The internet isn’t forever. Is there an effective way to preserve great online interactives and news apps?’ (Nieman Lab)
Many of the early, pioneering works of journalism can no longer be found online: Much of The Guardian’s 2009 coverage of the MP expenses scandal can no longer be found on its website, for example. Though we’re often told the Internet is forever, many things disappear from the Internet when no one is maintaining the site or paying server bills. NYU professor Meredith Broussard and librarian Katherine Boss are taking on this issue, creating a workflow for news organizations to preserve their big data journalism projects. “News apps can’t be preserved the same way you preserve the static webpage,” Broussard explainers. “The way to capture these is from the backend. You can grab the whole database — all of the images from the server side, and so forth. We’re looking to build server-side tools that will allow for automated, large-scale, long-term archiving of data journalism projects.”


‘The future of news is not just an article’ (Digiday)
“Video will be increasingly part of the journalism, not as a separate element,” says Helje Solberg, CEO of Schibsted’s web TV channel VGTV, on how the company is approaching video. VGTV is the video counterpart of the daily tabloid, VG. “The future of news is not just an article but likely a combination video, text, still images, live video, graphics and social media.” In a Q&A with Digiday, Solberg explains what companies should be prepared for when they start investing more heavily in video, how VGTV makes money, and its relationship with VG’s website.

+ European regulators say they are giving tech platforms six months to get more aggressive about blocking and removing hate speech and terrorism-related content: If the platforms fail to do so, regulators say they could put regulations into place next year, in place of the model of voluntary cooperation they have now (VentureBeat)

+ The Wall Street Journal will stop publishing its European and Asian print editions (Wall Street Journal)


Do 2-second video ads on Facebook work? A study by Oracle Cloud Sales and Facebook suggests they might (Ad Age)
“Why should a marketer pay for video ads that aren’t even viewed for 2 seconds? It’s perhaps the most important question going in mobile marketing, with brands pushing back against the very notion that many ads on platforms including Facebook, Snapchat and Twitter have the chance to make much of an impact,” Garett Sloane writes. But it’s also up for debate whether an ad that’s viewed for 2 seconds really works. A study by Oracle Cloud Sales and Facebook found that ads that are seen for less than 2 seconds do drive sales. “They do drive sales outcomes. Albeit less so than longer length videos,” explains Eric Roza, general manager of Oracle Data Cloud, on the study. “What we found is that the ads that are below 2 seconds had about two-thirds of the value of video ads above 2 seconds in specifically driving in-store sales lift for consumer products.”


By doubling its character count, Twitter proves that its priorities are out of line (Engadget)
Not long after Twitter began testing 280-character tweets, many people on the platform started to criticize the change, “saying it’s further evidence of Twitter’s reluctance to confront larger issues. Instead of focusing on creating better tools for reporting harassment or acting faster to remove abusive content, the company is rolling out a feature that the majority of its users simply didn’t ask for.” Edgar Alvarez examines some of Twitter’s problems and considers whether the new character limit will help those problems. “More than a million users quit Twitter in just three months this year, though there’s no reason to believe character count had anything to do with that. If anything, people are probably ditching the platform because of how toxic it has become,” Alvarez writes.

+ “It’s hard to understate what a crossroads this is for Twitter, since monkeying with its character limit changes the nature of the service. Short news updates, bursts of wit and insight, the perfect emoji response — that’s what Twitter’s known for. Pushing the character count to 280 won’t negate those things, of course, but it pushes them out of the way to make room for some new things.” (Mashable); “In all markets, when people don’t have to cram their thoughts into 140 characters and actually have some to spare, we see more people tweeting,” Twitter product manager Aliza Rosen said on the change (Twitter)

+ Roy Peter Clark on why 140 characters is the perfect measure (Poynter) and Alexis Madrigal on why 280-characters tweets aren’t a big deal (The Atlantic)


Trump isn’t in a war with the media, because you need two sites for a war (The Atlantic)
“We’re not at war; we’re at work,” The Washington Post’s Marty Baron said at the Washington Ideas Forum this week. Baron reminded the audience that news organizations aren’t in a war with Trump, because they’re simply doing their jobs. “What the president has construed as a war is, in fact, business as usual. The presidency and the press are oppositional by nature, the one with its interest in opacity, the other with its interest in the opposite. Reporting on a leader’s doings is not fighting; it is reporting on a leader’s doings,” Megan Garber writes. “The difference now, with this particular presidency, is that, through Trump’s rhetoric, the workings of the press — keep asking, keep searching, keep finding — are interpreted as disloyalty. Not merely to the president, but to the country. … This is a time of faction: hyper-partisanship, politics defined by opposition, ‘some very fine people on both sides.’ The rhetoric of war reflects that, when it comes to the American psyche as well as the president’s.”


+ Is the First Amendment becoming obsolete? “We live in a golden age of efforts by governments and other actors to control speech, discredit and harass the press, and manipulate public debate. Yet as these efforts mount, and the expressive environment deteriorates, the First Amendment has been confined to a narrow and frequently irrelevant role,” Tim Wu argues (Knight First Amendment Institute); “Journalists must speak up and push back, and the executives running media companies need to put some energy and money into promoting journalism. They have a great story to tell. They simply need to tell it,” Bill Adair said in his First Amendment Day speech at UNC-Chapel Hill (Bill Adair, Medium)

+ “Who do you believe when a famous Internet hoaxer is said to be dead?” (Washington Post); “At the height of the 2016 election, exaggerated reports of a juvenile sex crime brought a media maelstrom to Twin Falls — one the Idaho city still hasn’t recovered from” (New York Times)

+ Editorial products from tech startups such as Casper and its site Van Winkle “could be the future of publishing — or they could be the next phase of Silicon Valley’s media takeover” (The Ringer)

+ Late night comedy shows are leaning into politics, taking stances against Trump: “There’s no example of any kind of sustained attack like this on a politician. There’s a horde of writers writing jokes about Donald Trump every single night,” former NYT writer Bill Carter says (New York Times)

+ “I can’t pretend as if this isn’t a challenging time in our country’s history. As a career journalist, I can’t pretend that I don’t see what’s happening in our world,” Jemele Hill writes. “Yes, my job is to deliver sports commentary and news. But when do my duties to the job end and my rights as a person begin?” (The Undefeated)

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