Need to Know: April 25, 2019

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


You might have heard: One study found that Twitter can negatively impact journalists’ judgment of newsworthiness (Columbia Journalism Review)

But did you know: U.S. adult Twitter users are not representative of the larger population (Pew Research Center)

A Pew analysis found that while 22 percent of the American adults who use Twitter are representative of the larger population, the majority are younger, more likely to be Democrats, more highly educated and have higher incomes than U.S. adults overall. Twitter users also differ from the broader population on some key social issues; for example, being more likely to say that immigrants strengthen the U.S. rather than weaken it, and more likely to say they see evidence of gender and racial inequalities in society. In another key finding, much of the content posted on Twitter by Americans is authored by a very small group: The 10 percent of users who are most active in terms of tweeting are responsible for 80 percent of all tweets created by U.S. users. Compared with other U.S. adults on Twitter, those highly active users are much more likely to be women and more likely to say they regularly tweet about politics.  

+ Here’s what newsrooms can do with this information: Use the “Audiences” tab on Twitter’s native analytics tool to examine how your audience compares with Pew’s findings. Keep any differences in mind when deciding which of your content to share on which platforms. If your average holds to the study, content about social justice may perform better on Twitter. But remember that the majority of your audience are “lurkers” whose views may not align with your more engaged followers. (Poynter)

+ Noted: Days after ousting, Julia Angwin says she wants to remake The Markup (CNN); Luminary’s rough launch continues as another high-profile podcast asks to be removed from its app (Nieman Lab); Facebook expects to be fined up to $5 billion by FTC over privacy issues (New York Times)


How publishers are using TikTok, the latest hot app (Digiday)

TikTok, like Snapchat in its early days, is a new way for publishers to reach young consumers, who spend an average of 46 minutes per day on the app. While there is no way for publishers to directly monetize on the app, some publishers are choosing to experiment with strategies that don’t require much time or effort. NBC News’ “Stay Tuned,” for example, adapts its videos into 15-second clips of the shows’ hosts commenting on news like the season premiere of “Game of Thrones” or (keeping its young audience in mind) participating in viral challenges like pineapple pulling. ESPN has also placed a toe in the water, with a spokesperson explaining that while it doesn’t yet have a formal strategy for TikTok, it’s willing to experiment with “fun” content.


Changes at Der Spiegel, soul-searching in German media (Columbia Journalism Review)

After the devastating discovery that one of Der Spiegel’s star reporters, Claas Relotius, had fabricated much of his award-winning reporting, the magazine embarked on a deep and ongoing investigation into what allowed the fraud to go on for so long. At its heart is a dilemma that is felt across German media: Was Relotius merely a bad actor who abused a viable system, or is there something wrong with the system — be it poor fact-checking practices, placing too much implicit trust in colleagues, or a penchant for a certain kind of storytelling? “If any consensus has been reached so far, it’s that many things needed to change,” writes Anna Altman. “There needs to be less reporting written in an omniscient tone; uncertainties should be wrestled with. More sources need to be identified and hyperlinked. And more forms of reporting should be permitted and encouraged — not just the prized ideal of narrative journalism, with its emphasis on story arc and character, at which Relotius seemed to excel.”

+ India’s The Ken allows its “Patron subscribers” to directly fund annual subscriptions in bulk for readers who may not yet be able to afford them (The Ken)


The job of the future is editor in chief (Axios)

But not an editor in chief for a journalistic publication — research shows that companies from a wide range of industries are hiring editors and content creators “who can steer teams to tell stories and deliver information in a way that gets potential customers to take heed.” According to LinkedIn data, the proportion of LinkedIn users who report they work in content/editor roles at non-media companies has grown by 32 percent in the past decade. The biggest increases were at “consumer,” “high tech” and “corporate” firms, like marketers and consultancies, which are placing higher and higher premiums on customer attention. “You know how every company is a technology company? Well maybe on some level every company is a media company, too,” commented Axios Chief Financial Correspondent Felix Salmon. “There’s no point felling trees in forests if nobody hears them.”


Hackers could target the 2020 election. How will newsrooms respond if they release stolen data? (CNN)

Will news outlets decline to publish hacked material, for fear they could be aiding a foreign intelligence operation aimed at destabilizing the Democratic process? Or will they blanket the airwaves and newspapers with coverage because the hack reveals important information relevant to voters? While several news organizations have acknowledged overkill in their reporting in the 2016 election, when WikiLeaks published a trove of emails stolen from the Democratic campaign, many have said they would make the same decision again, albeit taking greater care to include more context around the hackers’ motivations. “If newsworthy, verify authenticity,” said Erik Wemple, a media columnist for The Washington Post. “If authentic, publish! The formula that has long applied to leaked material shouldn’t be amended even in the aftermath of the 2016 election … A world in which media organizations demand pure motives from the folks who leak, steal and furnish information will be a much less informed world.”


Newsrooms are focused on innovating the distribution of news. The process, not so much. (Medium, We Are Hearken)

The news industry has had many tech and distribution advancements, but hardly anything in the way of process innovation, writes Jennifer Brandel. The newsroom process was built for the machine age, optimized for speed, efficiency and distribution — but now that we’re in the information age, the old ways of doing journalism needs to change, she argues. Newsrooms need a process “optimized for listening, for relevance and for trust. Instead of saying to the public, ‘here’s what we think you need to know,’ it starts with the question, ‘what can we help the public understand or do?’”

+ Earlier: A newsroom “culture of listening” strengthens reporting and relationships. We wrote about how to weave listening techniques into your daily journalism.