Need to Know: August 1, 2018

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


You might have heard: Facebook says it has uncovered a coordinated disinformation operation ahead of the 2018 midterm elections (The Washington Post)

But did you know: Leaked white paper proposes Congressional regulation of social media (Columbia Journalism Review)

The policy discussion paper circulated by Democratic Sen. Mark Warner, a copy of which was obtained by Axios, contains wide-ranging proposals that would seek to limit the spread of misinformation on platforms like Facebook, Google and Twitter. Among the proposals: sanctions for failing to remove harassing material; sweeping privacy-protection legislation similar to Europe’s GDPR; and sanctions for failing to label bot accounts or unmask anonymous accounts — a suggestion which, the paper admits, could backfire if it invades the privacy of journalists, dissidents and whistleblowers who have real reasons for wanting to remain anonymous. The proposals are “in some cases even politically impossible, and raise almost as many questions as they try to answer,” writes Mathew Ingram.

+ Noted: Google partners with news orgs to surface data journalism in its search results (TechCrunch); Bob Woodward is working on an insider book about the Trump administration (The Washington Post); Conspiracy theorist Alex Jones faces five defamation lawsuits that could have far-reaching implications for free speech and libel (Austin American-Statesman); Wall Street Journal, CQ Roll Call, Reuters and KDVR win top National Press Club prizes (National Press Club)


Reuters takes a less-is-more approach to its new business-oriented app (Digiday)

Users of Reuters’ new mobile app can customize their feed by up to 5,000 different topics, including countries, markets and people. Each article is displayed in a card-based feed with short written summaries so users can get the gist without having the read the whole post, and the app will adapt to users over time, sending push alerts at the time of the day they’ve show a willingness to read them, for example. The success of the app will now be measured on total time spent in the app per month rather than pageviews — which means that if people read fewer articles but spend more time, it’ll be considered a success. “If we’re doing our job well — which is to inform people to make better business decisions — then they don’t need to read five pieces of content to do that,” said Isaac Showman, managing director of Reuters Consumer.

+ Access to counseling and personalized support after reporters witness traumatic events can have a positive impact on newsrooms, including higher productivity, less turnover and lower absenteeism (RTDNA)


Splice and Civil Media launch fund to create 100 media startups in Asia (Splice)

This week digital media startup Splice announced a partnership with Civil Media, a blockchain and cryptocurrency company, to launch a $1 million fund to catalyze the growth of media startups in Asia. The initiative, which aims to create 100 startups in three years, is a response to what Splice CEO Alan Soon calls the lack of entrepreneurship and innovation in the Asian media landscape. The $1 million fund is designed to “get ideas to prototype,” he writes. On Splice’s partnership with Civil, which promises to power sustainable journalism with blockchain technology, Soon adds that they’re not “making a bet” on blockchain. “We do however see an incredible opportunity to reconsider the structural problems with media and inject it with a newfound fervor that blockchain is helping to drive. You don’t often come across a new technology that could fundamentally change the way transactions are done.”

+ Trump’s “fake news” rhetoric is increasingly adopted by dictators around the globe (Politico); Guardian Australia reports its first profit, five years after launch and two years after launching reader contributions (The Guardian)


How to drive growth by putting personalization at the center of your marketing (McKinsey)

“While many companies have scored a few modest successes with their personalization experiments and initiatives, few know how to do it on a large and consistent scale across all channels,” write Julien Boudet, Brian Gregg, Kathryn Rathje and Kai Vollhardt. A personalization operating model can help embed this approach organization-wide, but it should be built on five foundational elements: processes, tools and tech, governance, KPIs, and talent. These elements emphasize the importance of committing fully; being clear about internal boundaries and decision rights; using off-the-shelf tools to help; focusing on both short- and long-term outcomes; and hiring people with the skill set to move the effort forward.


Doubts, conflicting views as New Jersey embarks on novel experiment to save local news (The New York Times)

In July, lawmakers in New Jersey announced a novel experiment to address the state’s local news crisis: putting up millions of dollars in the state budget to pay for community journalism. “Journalists and public officials described New Jersey’s undertaking as once unthinkable, raising ethical concerns and stirring fears of government intrusion,” writes Rick Rojas. “Yet there has been little outcry, underscoring for many local journalism’s precarious position and a growing willingness to experiment.” However, hopes are slim that the solution, if effective, could be replicated elsewhere; as the initiative has been described as a “political feat” that grew out of the unique challenges of New Jersey’s media landscape.


Digital startup Colorado Sun plans to cover the whole state in greater depth (Poynter)

New publications across Colorado are experimenting with funding and content to fill coverage gaps left by shrinking legacy newspapers, writes Taylor Blatchford. A staff of departed Denver Post employees, who resigned in the spring after layoffs pared down the Post’s already-thin staff, are getting ready to launch the next new outlet: The Colorado Sun. Civil Media, a group that aims to fund journalism startups through cryptocurrency, will fund the Sun’s first two years of operation. Meanwhile, a Kickstarter campaign has already raised $161,493 from more than 2,600 individual donors, and Sun reporters say that Colorado readers have been excited and supportive, matching the enthusiasm of the growing staff. “It’s exciting to get to build something from scratch,” said reporter Jennifer Brown, who spent 13 years at the Post. “It’s like being my own boss for the first time in my life. We’re only going to do stories we think are legitimate, important, meaningful stories for Colorado.”

+ ASNE’s newsroom diversity survey is a critical source of information, but only if leaders participate (Poynter); News With Friends app, which has jumped into the gap left by Facebook’s deprioritization of news in users’ feeds, encourages readers to share stories from outside their filter bubbles (