Insights, tools and research to advance journalism

Need to Know: April 17, 2018

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


You might have heard: The Denver Post is taking a stand against its hedge fund ownership, and published a series of editorials that make the case for its own survival (New York Times)

But did you know: While most newspaper owners are investing and diversifying to keep their papers alive, Alden ‘gorges itself and then leaves its papers to die’ (The Nation)
“Alden’s executives have become known as ‘vulture’ capitalists, but a closer look at their record suggests they’re really more like wolves. To continue the metaphor, Alden doesn’t just feed off the carcasses of dying or dead businesses, it chases down weak members of the herd and kills them,” writes Julie Reynolds, a freelance journalist who has aggressively critiqued the hedge fund owners of Digital First Media. “While some newspaper owners invest and diversify to keep their papers (and their civic obligations) alive, Alden gorges itself and then leaves its papers to die.” Alden’s plan, Ken Doctor told Colorado Public Radio last month, is to continue to cut Digital First’s papers for the next two to three years until all of the papers are shut down or sold off. As a group of Colorado investors announced on Thursday their intention to buy the Denver Post from Alden, Reynolds writes: “Those who support a vibrant local press can only hope Alden will do what it does best: Take the money and run.”

+ Boulder Daily Camera’s editorial page editor asks for a buyer to rescue the weekly newspaper from Alden Global Capital — but is blocked from publishing the editorial at his own paper (Boulder Free Press)

+ “Local news outlets are the roots of the news ecosystem. If they continue to wither, the entire system will crumble,” former Charleston Gazette-Mail editor Rob Myers writes in support of the Denver Post. “This journalism stuff really matters. From coverage of your local school board to fact-checking the President, it’s a public service. Local news can thrive only if you want it to. Only if you demand it.” (Time)

+ Noted: Analysis of hiring activity, LinkedIn and Glassdoor data suggests that Vox and BuzzFeed are hiring fewer people and employing fewer people overall than they were two years ago (Thinknum); The 2018 Pulitzer Prize winners were announced on Monday, with The New York Times and New Yorker winning in public service for their coverage of sexual abuse of women in Hollywood, the Press Democrat in Santa Rosa, Calif., winning in breaking news reporting for its wildfire coverage, and The Washington Post winning in investigative reporting for its Roy Moore coverage (Poynter); Google is expanding its tool for publishers to combat ad blocking: After initially launching in the U.S. last year, Google is expanding it to 31 more countries in Europe and Canada (Digiday)


Lessons for successful email newsletters from ISOJ: Find ‘hidden gems’ and build a good signup process (Nieman Lab)
At ISOJ in Perugia last week, a panel of newsletter editors shared their advice for launching a successful newsletter, from how to launch a paywall to how to build a community through a newsletter to how to measure success. Some highlights from the panel: NYT’s Elisabeth Goodridge shared the checklist it used when launching its Game of Thrones newsletter; The Evergrey’s Monica Guzman explained why local newsletters should focus on “hidden gems”; and theSkimm’s head of product Dheerja Kaur explained why a good signup page has been essential to its success.

+ The best resources to help you build your email newsletters strategy (Better News)


The European Journalism Centre, Civil and News Integrity Initiative are launching a €1.7 million accelerator for European newsrooms (European Journalism Centre)
With support from the News Integrity Initiative and Civil, the European Journalism Centre is launching an accelerator for 10 to 15 European newsrooms,  with €1.7 million supporting the accelerator. Newsrooms in the accelerator will also receive coaching and access to a peer mentorship network; EJC will also host a series of events and meetups across Europe for the newsrooms. EJC says that funding will be awarded to “emerging media organizations with proven user loyalty,” and the newsrooms will be granted a total of €600,000.


‘To serve a free society, social media must evolve beyond data mining’ (The Conversation)
While experts have been warning for years about sharing info with data-collecting companies, the public is now beginning to see the risk data collection poses to civil institutions, public discourse and individual privacy, American University’s Aram Sinnreich and Barbara Romzek write. They argue that in order for social media to serve society, it must find a business model that is not based on collecting user’s data: “We believe the chief business model of the internet needs to shift to building trust and verifying information,” they write. “Data, and particularly individuals’ personal data, are the precious metals of the internet age. Protecting individual data while expanding access to the internet and its many social benefits is a fundamental challenge for free societies. Creating, using and protecting data properly will be crucial to preserving and improving human rights and civil liberties in this still young century.”


HuffPost CEO Jared Grusd: Subscriptions won’t work for all news publishers (Digiday)
“A lot of people look at the New York Times as a gold standard,” HuffPost CEO Jared Grusd said on the Digiday Podcast. Grusd says that he believes subscriptions will not work for all news publishers, particularly digital-first publishers. He explains: “[You have to] establish a brand that over a long period of time stands for something so great, and there’s a strong enough connection with your audience that a meaningful number of people would reach into their pocket. Most digital-first news and media organizations are not there yet in terms of their relationship.”


Why the news world will miss Michael Ferro: ‘To whom will we now turn to enliven the continuing conflagration that is the American newspaper industry?’ (Nieman Lab)
By selling his stake in Tronc, Ken Doctor writes that Michael Ferro “returned his beloved Chicago Tribune to the back-to-the-future ownership of the local McCormick family — an act of civic conscience that will be hard to equal. … In the end, Mr. Ferro’s leaves a company a little worse than he found it, save for a couple more years of digital disruption wear and tear. In his wake, he has opened anew adventures of transition and restructuring for the grateful buyers of his holdings. We may not hear it publicly, but behind the scenes, they will be thanking him for a long time.”

+ Doctor also outlines eight questions about the future of Tronc and the Chicago Tribune: What will happen to the Tribune name? Will Chicago have two locally owned newspapers? What problems will the new ownership face? (Nieman Lab)

Need to Know newsletter

The smart way to start your day

Each morning we scour the web for fresh useful insights in our Need to Know newsletter. Sign up below.

The American Press Institute

Our mission

We help transform news organizations for an audience-centered future.

Our programs for publishers focus on four things:

  • 1. Understand your audience
  • 2. Get your audience to pay
  • 3. Transform your culture
  • 4. Do your best journalism
  • Find out more about API »

API solutions for publishers

What we can do for you

API offers a suite of original tools and services for solving the biggest challenges in news:

  • Decide what beats to cover and how
  • Identify and develop the skills you need
  • Assess and improve your culture
  • Drive more reader revenue
  • Drive loyalty through accountability journalism
  • Make analytics work for you
  • Contact us to find out how »