Need to Know: August 12, 2021


You might have heard: The climate crisis is a story for every beat (Columbia Journalism Review)

But did you know: Coverage of the ‘code red’ climate report was good. Here’s how to sustain it. (Columbia Journalism Review)

In 2018, when the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change issued a landmark report warning of the catastrophic consequences of global warming, less than half of major American newspapers covered it. That was not the case this time, when a new report from the IPCC again warned of imminent, dire consequences if countries cannot accomplish “strong, rapid, and sustained reductions” of greenhouse gas emissions. News outlets captured the urgency and gravity of the report’s findings, and many ran helpful explainers and op-eds unpacking the report. But now “with the hard news peg of the IPCC behind us,” writes Andrew McCormick, news outlets need to sustain their coverage. One way to do so is to focus on the upcoming UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties, known as COP26, which may be “the world’s last chance to smash the brakes on emissions.”


+ Earlier: The Uproot Project wants race and class at the forefront of environmental reporting (Reynolds Journalism Institute)

+ Noted: Medium will begin offering writers a 50% share of the subscriber revenue their content generates (Digiday); The Financial Times reopens its Los Angeles bureau after nearly a decade (Financial Times)


How to stop doing work that underperforms: Advice from 4 newsrooms

Over the course of an 8-week program, 10 newsrooms that use API’s analytics platform Metrics for News experimented with changing or abandoning certain types of stories that audiences weren’t engaging with, or otherwise streamlining their workloads. Four of the newsrooms describe their efforts and how their audience data gave them the confidence to make decisions that, in some cases, were a long time coming.


Quartz refocuses subscription program on email newsletters for paying readers (Digiday)

After finding that most of its paying subscribers were driven to Quartz’ content via their inboxes, Quartz has decided to center its subscription program on four weekly emails, all exclusive to subscribers. “Members were telling us: ‘there’s a lot here to read [on the website and app], we can’t take advantage of all of it, we don’t know where to look,’” said editor-in-chief Katherine Bell. While most publishers use email newsletters to convert habitual readers into paying subscribers, Quartz is one of the few that is also starting to use them as a subscription product.

+ Related: The New York Times is rolling out a slew of new, subscriber-only newsletters from news and opinion writers (Axios)


How a Mexican news outlet uses YouTube to engage audiences with data journalism (LatAm Journalism Review)

“Join the nearly 100,000 people who know more about government programs, become familiar with open data, and learn to make requests for information.” That’s the call to action that Serendipia, an independent news outlet in Mexico, gave readers to encourage them to follow its YouTube channel, where journalists explain new laws, how to access government assistance programs, and how to file information requests. They also publish videos that break down some of Serendipia’s more complex investigations, such as how much events and initiatives of the federal government and local administrations cost in Mexico. And lately Serendipia has forayed into TikTok, where it’s experimenting with making data stories more light-hearted and accessible to younger audiences.


Facebook is rebuilding its ads to know a lot less about you (The Verge)

Despite last week’s dust-up in which Facebook booted some researchers off its platform who were examining its ad-targeting practices, the company has recently been undertaking a massive effort to respect users’ privacy while delivering ads. “The moves by Facebook, which are still in their infancy, illustrate how the ad-supported internet economy is in the process of being fundamentally reshaped,” writes Alex Heath. Google has also been working on ways to deliver personalized ads without gathering intrusive data on users, marking an “about-face from how ad targeting has worked online to date.”


Why news for the liberal elite is hurting us all (GBH)

News has been traditionally aimed at — and produced by — people who are white, affluent, well-educated and liberal. The loss of local news in many cities and smaller towns has exacerbated the problem, with the result that wide swaths of Americans — from urban communities of color to the white rural working class — do not see themselves “authentically reflected in the news,” said media scholar Nikki Usher in an interview for GBH with journalism professor and med. That in turn has worsened polarization in the U.S. Asked for potential solutions, Usher said an “unlikely” one would be “having the Democratic Party or party donors start funding local news media directly, as the Republicans are already doing.”


The misinformation industry is booming (NewsGuard)

An analysis by NewsGuard and Comscore found that misinformation websites reap about $2.6 billion each year in advertising revenue, “including hundreds of millions in revenue supporting false health claims, anti-vaccine myths, election misinformation, partisan propaganda, and other forms of false news.” In the U.S., which is the largest programmatic advertising market, advertisers spend an estimated $1.62 billion placing ads on misinformation websites. By comparison, total digital advertising on all U.S. newspapers was about $3.5 billion in 2020 — suggesting that for every $2.16 in digital ad revenue sent to legitimate newspapers, U.S. advertisers are sending $1 to misinformation websites. Brands placing ads using programmatic advertising have little knowledge or control over where they end up and what messages they’re financing, although NewsGuard offers “exclusion lists” of untrustworthy sites that companies and ad agencies can avoid.