Need to Know: April 3, 2019

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


You might have heardOnly 16 percent of Americans say they are willing to pay for any online news (Nieman Lab)

But did you know: Those who do subscribe to news could be liable to ‘subscription fatigue,’ presenting a potential bump in the road for publishers betting on digital subscriptions (Poynter)

Growing paid digital subscriptions has become an essential part of the business model for newspaper and magazine publishers as they increasingly wean themselves off ad revenue. But Poynter’s Rick Edmonds warns that consumers are beginning to take a hard look at how much they are paying monthly for a wide range of subscriptions and whether that adds up to household budget-buster. Some credit card companies and apps have started offering to help consumers cut back on automatic monthly charges, dealing a potential blow to newspapers and magazines, which often rely on “auto pay” features to help keep subscribers in the fold. And the new Apple News+ service, which allows users access to hundreds of magazines and some newspapers for a $10 monthly fee, could stand to capitalize on subscription fatigue, if it continues to take hold. However, Matt Lindsay, a consultant on pricing and audience strategy, told Edmonds that no hard data exists that shows there is a cap on the number of subscriptions someone will take on. “I believe there is a budget constraint and an attention constraint, and these two limiting factors affect customer segments differently.”

+ Related: We looked at why recent subscribers chose to pay for news and found that a majority of subscribers pay for another newspaper or news source

+ Noted: Facebook could launch new section of “high quality” news by end of 2019 (CNN); YouTube executives ignored warnings, letting toxic videos run rampant (Bloomberg); PolitiFact announces an exclusive health news fact-checking partnership with Kaiser Health News (Poynter)


Trust Tip: Talk about your ownership (Trusting News)

Whether it’s the TV affiliation your station has or your corporate owner based on the other side of the country, talking about and being transparent about who owns your news organization can be an important part of earning the trust of your audience. Through in-depth interviews, Trusting News partners have heard repeatedly that many consumers assume corporate owners and their financial interests dictate news coverage. This week’s Trust Tip newsletter offers advice for dislodging that assumption and communicating openly with your audience about your ownership and how it impacts 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.


‘Why we’re making the age of our journalism clearer’ (The Guardian)

Almost every February, the Guardian would see a spike in traffic from Facebook to a six-year-old story (originally published in February) about horsemeat being sold in supermarkets. Facebook users would notice the month of publication but not the year, and would predictably kick off an annual, minor viral moment. And this wasn’t the only case of readers mistaking older news stories for current news. It often happens on social media, where users see posts but frequently neglect to click through to actual articles — and in doing so, miss the date stamps. So, in addition to posting warnings like “This article is more than three years old” on articles themselves, the Guardian has begun clearly featuring the year of publication on any article more than 12 months old on the images used by social and search platforms. Doing so will also help stymie the efforts of bad actors who purposely share older content as if it were recently published to support their specific aims, writes Chris Moran.

+ Related: You may hate metrics. But they’re making journalism better. (Columbia Journalism Review)

+ Yesterday was International Fact-Checking Day. In case you missed it, here’s a roundup of great fact-checking resources and advice, including tips for running a verification project when it matters most and how to spot fake images anywhere on the internet. (International Fact-Checking Network)


In India election, false posts and hate speech flummox Facebook (New York Times)

After a suicide bombing in the disputed region of Kashmir led to a flurry of airstrikes between India and Pakistan, another battle quickly heated up on the internet — between fact checkers and those spreading false information about the attacks. Facebook executives said the deluge of fake news was extraordinary. “I’ve never seen anything like this before — the scale of fake content circulating on one story,” tweeted Trushar Barot, a former BBC journalist who leads the social network’s anti-disinformation efforts in India. But the flood of fake posts are just a taste of what’s to come as India prepares for the world’s biggest election, write Vindu Goel and Sheera Frenkel. Starting April 11, 879 million people are expected to cast their votes for prime minister — and Facebook is already struggling to cope with campaign-related disinformation and hate speech circulating on its core social platform and WhatsApp, its messaging service.  

+ In Gambia, young journalists prepare to graduate into a country free from dictatorship (Columbia Journalism Review)


How to take criticism well (Harvard Business Review)

Criticism in an inevitable part of any career lifecycle. Handling it poorly can hold you back; handling it gracefully and constructively (even when it wasn’t constructive) can set you up for success, writes Sabina Nawaz. Harsh or unexpected criticism can trigger the fight-or-flight response in the amygdala, which means it’s useful to always have a basic plan for responding to such feedback. And because “don’t take it personally” isn’t the most helpful advice, think about it this way: Try applying the criticism to your role, not yourself. “We take things personally that are not personal at all; they are a condition of the job we’re in,” writes Nawaz. “Instead of conflating yourself and your role, determine whether the criticism is about you or the issues and tensions your role naturally evokes.”


What should publishers make of Zuckerberg’s newest plan to pay them? (Columbia Journalism Review)

Facebook appears to be mounting something of a charm offensive toward publishers lately, writes Mathew Ingram. In its most recent maneuver, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said he is considering paying news publishers for their content, and placing it in a dedicated “quality news” section. It’s worth noting that Facebook has tried this sort of feature in the past, and not very successfully. “Given this background, it’s hard to see Zuckerberg’s latest musings about a standalone news feature as anything more than an attempt to repackage some of the things that have already either failed badly or continue to limp along without making much of an impact either on the industry or on Facebook’s bottom line,” writes Ingram. But while publishers may be loathe to participate in this latest experiment, he continues, Facebook’s power is such that, “even if you don’t think it’s a great deal, you probably have to go along with it anyway.”


Local news is all around us: how to turn city streets into a true homepage (Medium, Lenfest Local Lab)

We often miss local news stories about the places we live, work or pass by — because, after all, there is no front page in the physical world. But what if an app could send you local news stories about the places you visit throughout your day? That’s the premise of an experiment by the Lenfest Local Lab, which now has some user insights to share. “We saw early signs that location-aware story notifications about topics people are interested in may be up to 4x more engaging than regular news alerts (the sample size is small, and the insights are directional), but we also learned that people may not want to stop to read an entire article while out walking,” writes Sarah Schmalbach. “We learned that new newsroom roles and tools would be needed to support these products at scale, including better location databases, editors for ‘places’ and a revamped CMS — but that the opportunity to connect with local readers at important moments could be big. Last, location-aware products have the opportunity to leverage or maintain trust with readers and can create more value from lots of local evergreen content.”

+ Meet Editor & Publisher’s “25 Under 35” — the next generation of newspaper leaders who are moving the industry forward (Editor & Publisher)