Need to Know: August 27, 2019

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


You might have heard: Axios joins media push into software with newsletter product (The Information)

But did you know: Media’s new revenue play is to sell software to other media companies (Digiday)

Publishers are beginning to act more like digital product companies that sell services to clients rather than advertising to brands, writes Max Willens. But selling software, particularly to competitors, can be a tricky process, as publishers must balance customers’ needs for customization with their own internal uses of the product. Some publishers have gotten around this by building things that serve the broader needs of the market, rather than their own. “We’re trying to develop products that are broadly applicable,” said Mike Donoghue, the founder of The Alpha Group, an incubator that develops digital products inside Advance Local. “We’re trying to explore open opportunities in the marketplace, but when we do see something that seems like it would be a good fit [for the industry] and the rest of the organization, that’s great.”

+ Noted: Bernie Sanders lays out his plan for reforming journalism in an op-ed (Columbia Journalism Review); The Atlantic, propped up by Laurene Powell Jobs, charts new course (Wall Street Journal)


Cutting print: Making it work when publishing days must go

API’s latest strategy study looks at how publishers across the country have scaled back print publishing days or are planning to. It also charts an ideal course for cutting print: making it one step in a long, carefully plan


Can push notifications help small publishers rely less on Facebook? (Reynolds Journalism Institute)

Planet Princeton publisher and editor Krystal Knapp uses One Signal, a low-cost push technology, to disseminate news to her audience in Princeton, N.J. She says push notifications have allowed her to bypass Facebook and reach her readers directly, but the technology is underused by hyperlocal publishers. As an RJI Fellow, Knapp is working on a guide for implementing push notifications as part of an overall strategy for audience development that complements other distribution methods such as email newsletters, social media, instant messaging and voice search tools.


BBC to launch Alexa rival that will grasp regional accents (The Guardian)

The BBC is preparing to launch a rival to Amazon’s Alexa called Beeb, which it says will recognize regional British accents. The broadcaster has no plans to create a standalone speaker like the Amazon Echo or Google Home device; instead the Beeb software will be built into the BBC’s website, its iPlayer app on smart TVs, and made available to manufacturers who want to incorporate it. The main advantage of Beeb is that it allows the BBC to collect and respond to listener data, said a spokesperson. “With an assistant of its own, the BBC will have the freedom to experiment with new programmes, features and experiences without someone else’s permission to build it in a certain way.” 

+ In Sicily, a summer camp for anti-mafia journalism (Columbia Journalism Review)


Improve customer experience with scenario analysis (Marketing Land)

Customer experience is increasingly a competitive differentiator for every company. According to one study, 81% of marketers say they expect to be competing mostly or completely on the basis of CX in two years’ time; another shows that by 2020, the customer experience will overtake price and product quality as the key brand differentiator. The key to good CX is scenario analysis, writes Laura Patterson; thinking through all the ways customers interact with your business, and developing a set of strategies based on each of those interactions. “Imagination is all you really need to use scenario analysis,” writes Patterson. “The goal is to create as many different combinations of potential events as you can conceive.” 


‘Journalists should not claim it’s unfair to publish their tweets’ (Splinter) 

Journalists’ outrage at the news that Trump allies are digging up damning social media posts to discredit some journalists is missing the point, writes Hamilton Nolan. “There is little meaningful difference between what this shadowy group of ‘conservative operatives’ is doing and what media reporters at Gawker or the New York Observer did for many years, save for the motivation.” What really bothers them, says Nolan, is that it challenges the notion that journalists are “objectivity-producing automatons, insulated from the world and concerned only with Capital T Truth That Does Not Favor One Side Or The Other.” News outlets have perpetuated this notion because it benefits them; but inflating their reputation this way means it’s more vulnerable to, as in this case, having the air let out of it.


USC data journalism project harnesses data to scale local news (Nieman Lab)

Crosstown LA, a nonprofit news project based at the University of Southern California, uses publicly available data on LA’s traffic, air quality, and crime to analyze trends and report hyperlocal stories. The project started as a collaboration between USC’s computer science and journalism departments; now, with the help of a grant, it has expanded to comprise a dedicated team of data scientists, designers and journalists, with the goal of becoming a member-driven organization that sends hyperlocal news into each corner of LA. “If we can take regularly occurring data about crime, real estate, and public education and package it into a weekly newsletter, that would be 110 different newsletters” across the city, said Gabriel Kahn, the USC professor who is spearheading the project.