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Need to Know: Sept. 7, 2017

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


You might have heard: 80 percent of The Atlantic’s revenue comes from digital sources, live events and its consulting business: A decade ago, 85 percent of its revenue was coming from print advertising and circulation (Washington Post)

But did you know: The Atlantic is creating a paid membership program for its ‘diehards’ called The Masthead (Nieman Lab)
“There are two different sets of readers we’re interested in using Masthead to connect with: longtime core audiences who come to us through print or digital, and the new readers who’ve come to us through this explosive growth on the web we’ve had,” explains Atlantic president Bob Cohn. The Masthead is a separate subscription level from the Atlantic’s existing digital subscription; The Masthead will offer a digital subscription to the Atlantic, Masthead-specific stories and updates, behind-the-scenes dispatches, discounts to Atlantic events, and a members-only Facebook group. As for how that Masthead-specific content will be different than the Atlantic’s typical content, Cohn says: “We’re doing thematic, deeper dives in Masthead. It’s not a matter of, ‘Should that story go on the site or in the magazine, or should that story go to members?’ Our membership editors are only doing stories for members. … We’re trying to create a product that’s a supplement, not a replacement.”

+ Noted: Facebook says it sold $100,000 worth of ads during the 2016 campaign to a Russian “troll farm” with a history of pushing pro-Kremlin propaganda (Washington Post); Gannett says it will cut less than 1 percent of its workforce in a reorganization, resulting in about 210 jobs lost (Poynter); The Miami Herald is dropping its paywall for coverage of Hurricane Irma (@cforman, Twitter), as well as sending readers updates via text message (@lenfestinst, Twitter); Scribd is bundling its subscriptions with news organizations, starting with NYT: Scribd is offering students access to its library and a NYT digital subscription for $1.87/ week (Poynter); E.W Scripps is planning to turn its online news network Newsy into a cable TV channel (Variety); Business Insider’s Henry Blodget explains why the company isn’t shooting for reach growth anymore: “We don’t want to expand that into a mass consumer market people don’t care about. So Business Insider can now consider deepening its engagement within the reach” (Digiday)


Don’t give up on the fact-resistant: Tips to break the grip of misinformation
In a Vox video this week, Carlos Maza asks, “Why do Trump’s supporters continue to believe misinformation, even in the face of fact-checking?” API’s Jane Elizabeth breaks down why facts aren’t reaching people in the ways they should, and how journalists can reconsider the ways they’re presenting those facts.


Changing how news sites interact with their supporters: ‘Talk to me like I matter’ (Membership Puzzle Project)
“Radical openness serves media organizations that are looking to grow the reach and depth of their audiences,” Membership Puzzle Project’s Emily Goligoski writes. “A good way for publishers to start demonstrating this model of integrity, I think, is in crafting their communications as if they were talking to a friend.” What would it take to cultivate a relationship with your readers that looks more like a friendship? Some ideas: Show your vulnerability and humanity by explaining your decision-making processes and asking for help from readers when you need it, explain more about what goes into your reporting in a concise way, and adopt a tone when communicating with your readers that treats people like they’re smart.

+ When should a reporter get involved in a story they’re covering? “The most ethical thing journalists can do is stay on this story long after the can’t-look-away rescues are over. Who will be the heroes who tell stories about flood insurance, unpaid mortgages, uninhabitable homes, FEMA processes, scam artists, physical and mental health problems, health insurance, the newly-poor, the always-poor, and the systems that may or may not serve them tomorrow?” Jill Geisler says (CJR)


The BBC is commissioning a report into its gender pay gap after it revealed the salaries of its top earners earlier this year (PressGazette)
After the salaries of BBC employees earning more than £150,000 were disclosed earlier this summer, the BBC says it’s commissioning a report to examine its gender pay gap. Of the 40 employees on that list, the highest-earning male BBC Radio Two presenter Jeremy Vine earned £749,999, while the highest-earning female news presenter Fiona Bruce made £399,999. “Our gap is primarily about the different balance of men and women at different levels. It’s based on the whole picture across the organisation, and the causes tend to be structural, and societal,” BBC director general Tony Hall said. “That doesn’t mean we should be complacent about it, and I’m determined to close the gap.” Hall says the BBC is “reviewing its approach” to on-air presenters, editors and correspondents and it’s setting “ambitious targets” to increase its diversity.

+ Earlier: After the salaries were disclosed, some of the BBC’s highest-profile news personalities called on the BBC to “to sort gender pay gap now” (BBC)


‘How leading companies build the workforces they need to stay ahead’ (Harvard Business Review)
Rather than react to changes in their industries, the most successful companies are building workforces with the skills they’ll need tomorrow, Michael Mankins writes. Mankins outlines three lessons you can learn from companies that are doing this successfully: Think about your company’s strategy and figure out what skills and capabilities you’ll need to succeed in the future, objectively assess where you stand on those skills now, and start developing (and, if needed, hiring) those skills in your employees.


‘Are nonprofit news sites just creating more content for elites who already read a lot of news?’ (Nieman Lab)
When studying the different types of media ownership, NYU professor Rodney Benson says as he started to look at nonprofit news outlets in the U.S., “I was struck by how market-oriented they were.” In a Q&A with Nieman Lab, Benson argues that “market-oriented” mindset is causing nonprofit news outlets to create more content for people who are already reading a lot of news. “what a lot of foundation-supported media are doing is providing quality news to audiences that are already getting a lot of quality news. That’s not a bad thing, but I don’t think they’re addressing the problem of the broader lack of public knowledge in the larger citizenry,” Benson says. “It’s a Catch-22. The foundations are asking nonprofit media to be [financially] sustainable and to have impact. Those two things don’t go together easily.”

+ Earlier: The New York Times announced last week that it’s creating a philanthropic arm to get nonprofit support for its journalism (New York Times) and The Guardian is creating a U.S.-based nonprofit to raise money from individuals and foundations (Guardian); API’s research on the ethical terrain of funding nonprofit journalism and our guidelines for nonprofit news outlets and funders of nonprofit news


Ads.txt was created to help publishers fight ad fraud, but publishers aren’t adopting it (Digiday)
Created by the Interactive Advertising Bureau Tech Lab, ads.txt launched in May as a way to help publishers fight ad fraud by dropping a text file on publishers’ websites that lists the companies authorized to sell their ad inventory, which allows buyers to check the validity of their ad inventory. But publishers are being slow to adopt ads.txt, Ross Benes reports: Of the 500 most-trafficked sites in the U.S., just 34 are using ads.txt. Part of the problem, Benes explains, is that publishers aren’t sure how ads.txt will benefit them, plus “some publishers want to avoid notifying ad buyers that they rely on unauthorized resellers.” Ari Paparo, CEO of ad tech company Beeswax, explains that using ads.txt could inadvertently cut off ad demand for some publishers: “Some publishers are probably getting demand from unauthorized resellers. So if you cut off demand through these resellers, this demand goes away.”

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