Need to Know: August 24, 2018

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


You might have heard: Traffic from Google Search to publisher sites globally has risen by more than 25% (Chartbeat)

But did you know: New study shows that only a third of publishers are seeing an increase in traffic from Google AMP (Digiday)

In 2016 Google unveiled its Accelerated Mobile Pages format, which promised to improve the mobile web by helping pages load faster, and make Google a better source of web traffic referrals for publishers. But a new study by Chartbeat shows that only a third of publishers actually see clear evidence of a traffic increase from AMP. “If AMP was delivering a lot more traffic, that could make up for the revenue shortfall publishers often complain about,” writes Lucia Moses. “Publishers have long griped that the ad revenue they make on AMP pages has been slow to build because AMP limits the types of ad formats that are supported.” The study points to the need for publishers to maximize the way they implement AMP to take advantage of all the improvements in monetization that have been added over the past three years.

+ Noted: Lenfest Institute launches Lenfest Local Lab, which will test new products for local news (Nieman Lab); AP: National Enquirer hid damaging Trump stories in a safe, alongside similar documents pertaining to other celebrities’ catch-and-kill deals (AP); NSA leaker Reality Winner sentenced to more than 5 years in prison (CNN); Google finds evidence of attack linked to Iran state media (Axios)   


The week in fact-checking

As part of a fact-checking journalism partnership, API and the Poynter Institute highlight stories worth noting related to truth in politics and on the Internet. In the latest edition of “The Week in Fact-Checking” newsletter, dissecting a viral xenophobic hoax; examining fact-checking efforts in the run-up to Brazil’s presidential elections; and meeting with the woman who “makes myths for modern times.”

+ API is hiring a Director of Accountability Journalism to help newsrooms report on people and institutions in power


So your news organization has real, paying digital subscribers. Now how do you keep them? (Nieman Lab)

Here are some takeaways from (mostly European) news outlets that have found some success in retaining their paying subscribers. The German daily Welt implemented an internal “loyalty score,” which makes it easier for all parts of the organization to understand where the organization is losing subscribers, and develop proactive strategies to retain them. The French daily Le Figaro found that the easier it was for people to subscribe and unsubscribe, the more likely it was that they’d finally stay subscribed. “There’s a structural change in how the younger generation behave, and it makes how we used to measure churn irrelevant in many cases,” said Gilles Corbineau, director of eBusiness and digital subscriptions. Norwegian local media group Amedia says it’s found that “What converts and what retains is pretty much the same thing.”

+ At a journalism conference, The Seattle Times’ Sharon Chan approached someone from a national foundation and said, “‘Hey I want to talk to you about funding journalism at The Seattle Times.’ That person quickly exited the conversation.” Since then, Chan has learned that getting community funding takes time, relationships and a very different approach than building sources. (Poynter); See our full collection of resources for seeking foundation and donor support (Better News)


Google tried to change China. China may end up changing Google. (The New York Times)

In 2010, after four years of attempting to operate a censored search engine in China under a regime increasingly hostile to online freedoms, Google said that it had enough and pulled out of the massive market. Now, Google appears to be changing its mind. Under a plan called Dragonfly, the company has been testing a censored version of its search engine for the Chinese market. “It is hard to see how going back to China would be anything other than a terrific comedown — the most telling act of a company that, day by day, has come to resemble the utterly conventional corporation it once vowed never to become,” writes Farhad Manjoo.


How the U.S. has failed to protect the 2018 election (Lawfare)

Facebook’s former chief security officer Alex Stamos offers an inside look at how U.S. lawmakers and tech companies dragged their feet in the months leading up to the midterms, and makes four suggestions for the 2020 elections: First, Congress needs to set legal standards that address online disinformation. Second, the United States must carefully reassess who in government is responsible for cybersecurity defense. Third, each of the 50 states must build capabilities on election protection. The fourth step can be driven only by the public: Americans must demand that future attacks be rapidly investigated, that the relevant facts be disclosed publicly well before an election, and that the mighty financial and cyber weapons available to the president be utilized immediately to punish those responsible.

+ Related: Leaked documents and interviews show Facebook’s struggle to moderate 2 billion people (Motherboard)


What Nieman Lab’s Predictions for Journalism 2018 tell us about where we’re headed (Nieman Lab)

A PhD student at the Finland Futures Research Centre applied an analytical framework to Nieman Lab’s predictions for journalism, published in December 2017 as a set of responses from smart people in the news industry. It is “hardly a scientific sample … [but] a rough representation of what our field is thinking about at that snapshot in time,” writes Josh Benton. Here were the most common predictions made, which hold up well in the light of August 2018: Traditional journalism formats will be deconstructed to better fit mobile consumption; building trust will continue to be a core challenge for journalists; collaboration and blurred boundaries in and between newsrooms will replace clearly-defined roles; and subscriptions, memberships and new business models will increasingly replace advertising.

+ NYT reporter Sheera Frankel on what it took for her to appear on MSNBC to discuss her reporting; “Or: Why it is so hard for working moms to have it all.” (Twitter, @sheeraf)


This browser extension is like an antivirus for fake photos (Wired)

As memes have become the language of the internet, they’ve also become a key vehicle for misinformation, writes Issie Lapowsky. “Determining whether a photo that’s been meme-ified and screenshotted a thousand times over depicts something real requires a different level of forensic analysis. Researchers are beginning to develop software that can detect altered images, but they’re locked in an arms race with increasingly skillful creators of fake images.” A new browser extension called SurfSafe is the latest weapon to be deployed in the fight against fake news. When users hover over any image in their browser, SurfSafe checks that photo against more than 100 trusted news sites and fact-checking sites like Snopes to see whether it’s appeared there before. “We want SurfSafe to become a solution that’s analogous to antivirus software,” creator Ash Bhat says. “We want to scan your news feed for fake news as you browse.”

+ Related: The ways in which the fake news war is getting more sophisticated (Axios)


+ In Texas, a local public radio show defies the “Google it” age: Anything You Ever Wanted to Know is both cutting edge and anachronistic. Listeners supply their questions as well as answers to other inquiries — a sort of analog version of social media. At a time when countless queries prompt the same immediate answer — “Google it” — it surprises that Anything listeners wait until Fridays at noon to pose their questions and hope for replies. (Columbia Journalism Review)

+ Pop-Up Magazine, which brings journalism to the stage, has become an unlikely success in San Francisco, expanding its audience tenfold since its launch in 2014 (San Francisco Business Times)