Need to Know: April 11, 2019


You might have heard: After spending two years launching third-party fact-checking programs, rolling out News Feed updates, and investing in other anti-misinformation initiatives, Facebook is still the home of viral fake news (BuzzFeed News)

But did you know: Facebook is changing News Feed (again) to stop fake news (Wired)

On Wednesday Facebook announced a slew of changes it will be making to promote more trustworthy news sources on the platform, crack down on Groups spreading more information, and increase overall transparency around its content policies. The most significant change is a new metric called Click-Gap, which will limit the spread of websites that are disproportionately popular on Facebook compared with the rest of the web. If Facebook finds that a ton of links to a certain website are appearing on Facebook, but few websites on the broader web are linking to that site, Facebook will use that signal, among others, to limit the website’s reach. Click-Gap spells bad news for websites carrying content that is specifically designed to go viral on Facebook — some of which were significant players in the spread of fake news during the 2016 U.S. presidential election. Experts like Jonathan Albright, director of the Digital Forensics Initiative at Columbia University’s Tow Center for Digital Journalism, have mapped out how social networks, including Facebook and YouTube, acted as amplification services for websites that would otherwise receive little attention online.

+ Noted: Johnson Publishing Co., the ex-publisher of Ebony and Jet, files for bankruptcy (Chicago Sun-Times); Poynter and the Koch Institute join forces on media and journalism fellowship (Poynter); National Enquirer expected to be sold imminently as parent company faces pressure (Washington Post)


Trust Tip: If you strive for fairness, tell your audience (Trusting News)

While most journalists would say that their reporting is fair and balanced, many (most?) news consumers don’t agree, and they’re certainly not giving credit to news organizations for striving for fairness and balance. “In fact, they often assume the opposite — that we’re actively suppressing some perspectives and highlighting others based on our personal and organizational beliefs and priorities,” writes Joy Mayer, director of Trusting News. This week’s edition of Trust Tips offers suggestions for showing your audience how you strive for fairness and balance — in a single story, on a certain issue, or across your news coverage. Sign up for weekly Trust Tips here, and learn more about the Trusting News project — including how your newsroom can get free coaching — here.


Lessons from the Olive Oil Times on covering climate change (and other controversial topics) (Columbia Journalism Review)

The Olive Oil Times, launched a decade ago as a personal blog, has increasingly reported on the extreme and challenging conditions faced by olive producers. Like other agricultural industry publications, the Times’ coverage of climate change comes directly from on-the-ground experience, offering practical advice for farmers but staying away from political debate. “It’s an uncomfortable issue for a lot of people in the agricultural sector,” says Kate Prengaman, editor of Good Fruit Grower, a Washington state-based magazine geared toward tree fruit and grape growers. Producers are sometimes reluctant to term the effects they’re seeing “climate change,” though Prengaman says they are eager to talk about issues like flooding and irrigation supply. Environmental journalist Mark Schapiro, author of Seeds of Resistance, says trade publications are “invaluable” source material because they present the point of view of farmers. Farmers, who have first-hand expertise in weather patterns, don’t talk about climate change in the same ways scientists do. Rather, says Schapiro, they can provide day-by-day accounts that journalists can place into a larger context. “These sources are sitting there,” he says of agriculture publications. “They’re ripe. They’re waiting for journalists to have a look at them because they’re loaded with insight into the experiences farmers are having.”


How Norway’s leading business paper makes audience research count (Medium, European Journalism Centre)

Over the last year Norwegian business paper Dagens Naringsliv carried out extensive audience research to get a better understanding of its readers and how they interact with DN content. A key to eliciting better insights was approaching readers differently, says Ingeborg Volan, director of audience engagement. “Rather than asking people how they feel about the newspaper, our conversations focused on the people themselves … to find out what their lives are like,” Volan said. “What kind of person are you? What’s your day like? Do you prefer using your mobile device, desktop or print?” DN combined that qualitative feedback with the results of a data analysis that looked at the consumption habits of their most active readers. Understanding when, how and why readers accessed various types of content led to a new policy for front page editors, indicating what stories should go out in the morning, night, and weekend. “On a weekday evening, they’ll have one or two good stories to relax or learn something, aiming to respond to the emotional background around news consumption,” said Volan.

+ Related: See how your content engages readers, keeps them coming back, and ultimately leads them to subscribe with API’s Metrics for News


The New York Times sells premium ads based on how an article makes you feel (Poynter)

The New York Times’ “Project Feels,” launched a year ago, has generated 50 campaigns, more than 30 million impressions and strong revenue results (although they decline to say how much). To pilot the project, the Times worked with an audience focus group to identify 18 emotions that could be evoked by its content. Articles are tagged by emotional category, and ads are placed according to which articles they have an emotional match with. Allison Murphy, the Times’ senior vice president of advertising innovation, says Project Feels ads are less intrusive than traditional ads since they do not depend on the sort of information about users and their preferences that cookies harvest. They also provide “an original type of brand safety” at a time when advertisers need to worry about landing next to objectionable content on platforms like YouTube or Facebook, she said.


Fox News isn’t the problem, it’s the media’s obsession with Fox News (The Conversation)

The American press seems fixated on Fox News and its owners, the Murdoch family, writes Michael J. Socolow. Socolow points to two recent well-read articles that claim to reveal the true political impact of Fox News and patriarch Rupert Murdoch. But evidence suggests that Fox News is not so much leading Americans’ views as chasing them. “Journalists and scholars underplay the reality of Fox News’ small audience,” writes Socolow. Yes, Fox News was the most-watched cable television programming in 2018, attracting an average 2.4 million prime-time viewers each night. But the U.S. population in 2018 was approximately 327 million, which means that 99.3 percent of Americans weren’t watching Fox News on any given night — and 94.2 percent of Republicans weren’t tuning in on a given night. “The reality is that most of us don’t live on ‘Planet Fox,’ nor are we subjects of the Murdoch Empire,” writes Socolow. “Journalists and scholars purporting to reveal the immense influence of Rupert Murdoch and Roger Ailes might be unwittingly perpetuating that power.”

+ AI isn’t taking journalists’ jobs. It’s making them smarter and more efficient. (Reynolds Journalism Institute)


The urgent quest for slower, better news (New Yorker)

The “slow journalism” movement, a mostly European phenomenon that is beginning to turn some heads in the U.S., is fueled by growing discontent with the experience of news on the internet, writes Michael Luo. Unlike sitting down to read a print newspaper or watching the news on TV, the consumption of news online is less intentional — we’re constantly “being touched, rubbed by the news.” And those encounters are increasingly fragmented — one study found that on average people switch between tasks on their computers every 11 seconds, and other data shows people often spend less time than that reading a news article. The increasingly scattered, shallow nature of our news consumption leaves us feeling less informed, despite the torrent of information we all have at our fingertips all the time. Slow journalism startups and legacy news organizations alike are responding to this need; attempting to reclaim a more thoughtful, intentional news experience for their audiences — many through “long live print” initiatives, others through long-form journalism delivered at carefully paced intervals, and still others through an increased focus on better UX.

+ Related: There’s no substitute for print (The Atlantic); Print is not dead. Not when we still have a lot to learn from it. (Medium, Damon Kiesow); On the conversation around print: “It’s interesting that it’s really about ‘UX’ as opposed to the actual content. The ‘experience’ of reading a newspaper is better than a digital one. It’s not talked enough about and most online news UX isn’t great.” (Twitter, @ryanloconnor)