Need to Know: August 12, 2020


You might have heard: As election looms, a network of mysterious ‘pink slime’ local news outlets nearly triples in size (Columbia Journalism Review)

But did you know: How a Florida ‘dealmaker’ turns conservative outrage into cash with data-collecting news sites (The Washington Post)

A network of websites owned by Mark S. Evans Jr., a self-described multimillionaire and dealmaker, use conservative news stories to collect emails from readers. These emails are then sold, for as much as $2,500 per list, to advertisers who then fill these readers’ email boxes with narrowly targeted ads. Of the 178 sites owned by Evans, more than half are politically themed, according to Alethea Group, an organization combating disinformation. The sites, including The American Pundit, Bearded Patriot and Wolf of Washington, consist mostly of recycled content and stock images, and all share the same templates and registration data.

+ Noted: New York Times is exploring a Wirecutter subscription (Axios); Meredith introduces its Data Studio Monday, a platform built to help brands better understand their consumers (Ad Exchanger); Journalists at The Arizona Republic demand improvements to diversity, equity and inclusion in their newsroom (The Action Network); KQED in California announces layoffs, blames coronavirus pandemic for budget shortfall (KQED)


Trust Tip: In negative feedback, look for opportunities

When looking at what gets in between a newsroom and an audience’s trust, it can be helpful to look at your audience’s complaints. Often, the complaint reflects a lack of understanding of the role or goals of journalism, and so publicly responding addresses not just that single person’s issue, but informs the broader community as well. This can be especially valuable in explaining how editorial decisions are made. Sign up for weekly Trust Tips here, and learn more about the Trusting News project — including how your newsroom can get free coaching — here.


4 ways publishers are engaging audiences during COVID-19 (What’s New in Publishing)

Since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, publishers have been working to generate audience loyalty in both new and old ways. Many focused on eCommerce revenue streams as more shopping went online, while others have ensured that non-COVID content remained a part of the regular rotation as readers become weary of pandemic news. Answering direct questions from readers has become a popular way to disseminate information about the virus, while news outlets have become more open and transparent in an effort to build trust and bring in audience revenue.

+ Maximum Fun knows how to run a fun membership drive in sad pandemic times (Nieman Lab)


Digitization without monetization: African news media stuck between a rock and a hard place (Deutsche Welle)

Ntibinyane Ntibinyane, founder of the Botswana-based INK Centre for Investigative Journalism, says that African newspapers were struggling to deal with the switch of digital media when the coronavirus pandemic hit like “a sweeping tsunami.” In an interview with Deutsche Welle, Ntibinyane argues that nonprofit and crowdfunded newsrooms are the way forward for investigative journalism on the continent, and that news organizations should be lobbying for protections for journalists and to fight draconian laws that limit free speech and free press.

+ Iran shutters newspaper after expert questions virus numbers (AP News)


Facebook cracks down on political content disguised as local news (Axios)

Facebook is rolling out a new policy that bans news publishers with “direct, meaningful ties” to political organizations from claiming a news exemption within the ad process. Currently, news articles related to political issues are not labeled as political within the Facebook algorithm and are eligible to appear within Facebook News. Since the 2016 election, hundreds of political groups have used websites disguised as local news outlets to push political agendas. Under this policy, a site will not receive the news exemption if it is owned, led by, or partnered with a political entity or person, including elected officials, PACs, and campaigns.


Outgoing New York Times CEO Mark Thompson thinks there won’t be a print edition in 20 years (Nieman Lab)

Mark Thompson is stepping down from his role as The New York Times’s CEO, and in a recent interview with CNBC, he said he doubts that the paper will be printed every day in two decades. He also said that right now the paper is profitable every day, with more than 900,000 print subscribers. Thompson noted that the Times has devoted itself to keeping up with digital media, despite having very few true competitors. And when it comes to a Trump bump, Thompson said that he thinks the news will continue to be lively and therefore relevant.


The historically competitive media culture is becoming more collaborative (Nieman Reports)

The Granite State News Collaborative, a collection of 17 newsrooms across New Hampshire, spent the spring focusing on sharing and pooling resources to cover coronavirus. But when a Black man in a small town videotaped the police dragging him out of his car, the story spread through the collective, eventually leading to the local public radio station asking the governor about the incident in a press conference. This type of collaboration — a modern-day take on the 19th century newswires — is allowing news outlets to better cover their communities by pooling talent, resources and stories.