Need to Know: August 28, 2020


You might have heard: The Wall Street Journal launches personal finance “course” to cultivate reader habits (Deez Links) 

But did you know: More publishers see the value of providing education through newsletter courses (Digiday)

Limited-run educational newsletters are becoming a favorite way for publishers to build audience engagement. Buzzfeed was one of the first brands to use newsletters this way — with a seven-day skin improvement plan — and it now has 13 active educational newsletters. CNN’s shopping-focused vertical Underscored launched a seven-part newsletter series called Sleep But Better, which offers suggestions on better snoozing. Wirecutter, The New York Times’ popular product recommendation site, has also experimented with a newsletter course on sleep, as well as ones focused on credit cards and working from home. Some publications use the newsletters to build their reader base, while others are focused on funneling subscribers to their permanent newsletters.

+ Noted: Stanford Cable TV News Analyzer allows anyone to search transcripts, screen time of public figures on cable news (Brown Institute for Media Innovation); Wired plans launch of dedicated gaming coverage (Ad Exchanger); White House says it is creating “very large” dossier on Washington Post reporter David Fahrenthold (CNN); New Denver online “interactive” newspaper will resemble traditional paper in digital form (Colorado Politics)


People pay for news that reinforces their social identities

A 2019 study found that one of the biggest motivations for subscribing to news is the desire to “fit in socially.” Researchers found a strong, statistically significant relationship between survey respondents’ agreement with the statements that the news they consume “defines” and “promotes” their membership in the groups to which they belong, and their subscribing to both local and national newspapers. This article is part of API’s Research Review series, which highlights academic research that could be relevant and useful to the news industry. 


How to design local news for Instagram (Listening Post Collective)

Young people increasingly turn to Instagram for news, and local news outlets can take this opportunity to design and edit news for the platform. Sergio Cortez at uSpark says that one key is to plan your Instagram assets — photos, video clips, graphic designs — before you begin posting, so that your stories feel cohesive in terms of design. El Tímpano in Oakland designs visuals using quotes from audience members, in both Spanish and English, to give a sense of how the community is processing current events. Dawaune Lamont Hayes at Noise Omaha says determining your publication’s voice — formal, traditional, conversational — is also important to establish before regularly using the platform.

+ Local restaurant critics now review “Covid comfort” levels (Poynter)


Beyond the boom and bust cycle: How The Sun grew and stabilized its e-commerce revenue haul (Digiday)

British tabloid The Sun created Sun Selects, a collection of buying guides and product recommendations, in order to grow its e-commerce revenue stream. In one year, e-commerce and affiliate revenue were in the seven figures, and conversion rates have increased as people become more familiar with the brand. Initially, the site’s affiliate and e-commerce offerings fell into a “boom and bust” cycle, but now Sun Selects’ editor says it brings in a steady stream of revenue. The paper has five people dedicated to the section, and 10 to 15 freelancers who contribute on specialist recommendations.


How ‘fuel-efficient’ mentorship can making mentoring more productive (Harvard Business Review)

Mentoring can often fall to the bottom of a long to-do list, but when done well, it can be motivating and satisfying. Fuel-efficient mentoring starts by setting clear boundaries and expectations for the mentee, which gives them an opportunity to organize and lead some of the relationship. Mentors should be up front about how much time they intend to spend with their mentee, so that the mentee can understand what to expect. If mentoring multiple people, mentors can sometimes meet with all of them at once, so that they can discuss shared or similar problems with each other and gain useful insight from their mentor at once.

+ Joe Budden is taking his podcast off Spotify because the company “is pillaging” his audience (The Verge)


Reporters are doing Trump a big favor by deciding voters don’t care about his ethical violations (Media Matters)

The decision to record segments of this week’s Republican National Convention at the White House, as well as the appearance of several federal appointees at a political convention, were in violation of the Hatch Act, which prevents the federal workforce from participating in political canvassing. These violations have been covered in the media but have not risen to the level of scandal because, Matt Gertz says, reporters tend to think ethical issues don’t matter to voters. But Gertz argues, the time and attention that the media spends on an issue is directly linked to how the public — and voters — think about an issue, and a potential scandal.


Courier Journal editor says remote work caused screwup on Breonna Taylor story (The Washington Post) 

Earlier this week, the Louisville Courier Journal ran an article that said Breonna Taylor, who was killed by police after they entered her apartment using a “no knock” warrant, had connections with drug dealers. In the original draft, a law enforcement official was quoted as saying that “criminal activity always has consequences,” but it was cut from future versions of the story, which made clear that Taylor was not suspected of criminal activity. However, the statement appeared again in the version that was accidentally published prematurely, said Editor Richard A. Green. He said the problem was partly due to a misinterpretation of notes left in the site’s CMS, a primary method of communication while so many people are working remotely. Erik Wemple says this is a warning sign for newsrooms that are considering moving to permanent remote work.


+ Community-engaged journalism is both an end and a means to survival (Columbia Journalism Review)

+ “It’s worth testing”: GQ is moving from recommending products to selling its own (Digiday)

+ Two new words for how we invest in media: Reconstruction and reparations (Borealis Philanthropy)

+ The power of a pronoun: A few thoughts on advances in women’s rights as seen through language (Nieman Storyboard)