Need to Know: December 19, 2018

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


You might have heardNearly one-third of female journalists worldwide consider leaving the profession due to online attacks and threats (International Women’s Media Foundation)

But did you know: Female black journalists and politicians get sent an abusive tweet every 30 seconds (MIT Technology Review)

A new study has used cutting-edge machine learning to get a more accurate snapshot of the scale of harassment on Twitter. Its analysis confirms what many people will already suspect: female and minority journalists and politicians face a shocking amount of abuse on the platform. The study carried out by Amnesty International in collaboration with Canadian firm ElementAI, shows that black women politicians and journalists are 84 percent more likely to be mentioned in abusive or “problematic” tweets than white women in the same profession. It found that 1.1 million abusive tweets were sent over 2017 to the 778 women whose Twitter accounts were reviewed for the study — that’s the equivalent of one every 30 seconds.

+ Noted: 2018 was worst year for violence and abuse against journalists, report says (The Telegraph); Google will support 87 news organizations in 23 countries to build video capabilities and innovate with new formats as part of its GNI YouTube innovation funding (YouTube); Committee to Protect Journalists and First Look Media’s Press Freedom Defense Fund announce legal support for news organizations unfairly targeted by governments or powerful figures (Committee to Protect Journalists); Times Publishing Co. faces lawsuit from Nelson Poynter’s widow (Tampa Bay Times)


How to sell solutions journalism (The Whole Story)

There is a growing class of funders that see great appeal in solutions-oriented reporting. Newsrooms across the U.S. have secured funding for special projects, solutions-focused beats and even general reporting. The Arizona Daily Star successfully secured funding for its series on the state’s foster care crisis through a well-crafted pitch that showcased the reporters’ passion for and knowledge of the subject, while also establishing clear boundaries for funders. The Seattle Times attracted funders for a solutions-focused beat by measuring the reporting’s impact on the local community, which helped funders see how it translated to policy change. And Ohio’s Richland Source sold “newsroom partnerships”  —  not advertising, and not sponsored content, but visible support for high-impact journalism. “While it is not traditional advertising, your brand will be associated with something incredibly constructive for an entire year,” read the publisher’s email to potential funders.

+ How the Shorenstein Center is building an email newsletter benchmarking tool (Medium, Shorenstein Center)


What we learned about GDPR in 2018 (Digiday)

Love it or hate it, the arrival of the General Data Protection Regulation became the biggest topic — and cause of hand-wringing — for advertising companies across Europe in 2018. One of the biggest challenges facing publishers, agencies, advertisers and ad tech vendors has been the breadth of the law’s interpretation, which has, in turn, resulted in a chaotic and confusing online experience for European users. “Procrastination was the only common pattern of behavior in the media industry when it came to preparation for GDPR,” writes Jessica Davies. Many media companies tried to pass the burden of liability to partners in their digital ad supply chain, resulting in a giant game of hot potato. Now, as publishers repair their relationships with ad tech vendors, they’re bracing against increased attention from regulators, who have begun to issue a flurry of fines and warnings to non-compliant companies (which is still the very large majority).  


A look under the hood at USA Today’s approach to augmented reality (Digital Content Next)

USA Today has harnessed talent from a variety of disciplines, including video games development, to build immersive storytelling environments using AR and VR technology. One of its first projects is its 321 Launch app, which gives users a close-up live view of real launches and landings, and allows them to build and launch their own Falcon 9 rocket within the app. “We learned a lot from the app about how to reach and engage audiences,” said Ray Soto, director of emerging technology for USA Today. “The experience of creating the app — and seeing how users wanted to be in control of their experience — helped us to focus on building the foundation that would support all our augmented reality experiences moving forward. We saw that there was deep engagement with AR through interactivity, and what we didn’t want to do was leverage existing APIs that would limit us in the types of stories we could tell.”


NPR’s move into podcasting analytics raises privacy concerns (Columbia Journalism Review)

This month NPR introduced its own open-source podcasting measurement standard. The software shares listening metrics directly to publishers by inserting an audio “tag” into the podcast stream at various points and keeping track of how many listeners made it past a specific tag. NPR said in a news release that the new standard is being incorporated by podcasting distribution services such as Panoply, Radio Public, and Podtrac, and that creators and publishers including The New York Times, iHeartRadio, Google, and ESPN have supported the development of the technology. But not everyone in the podcasting business is happy about the new standard. Skeptics say it will make it easier for creators and advertisers to track and identify individual listeners. “There are zero advantages for listeners or app-makers,” tweeted Marco Arment, creator of the podcast distribution service Overcast. “There’s no clear benefit to the app makers (in fact, it requires more work) and it’s a privacy violation and a GDPR liability that users would likely object to if they understood it.”


How Wall Street Journal uses a data-led, member-first metric to reduce churn (INMA)

With its digital subscriptions more than doubling in volume in the last three years, the Wall Street Journal’s audience engagement team is now turning more of its attention from acquisition to retention. It found a direct correlation between engagement and churn, leading it to focus on a single “north star” metric: average active days. The team has found that more than 50 on-site actions increase a member’s retention rate, allowing it to develop tactics to encourage those actions and nudge members to interact with the Journal’s digital platforms on a daily basis. The ultimate goal, says Anne Powell, is to build readers’ habit of engaging daily with the Journal, as if it were a physical newspaper being dropped on their doorstep.

+ Related: A new report from INMA finds that retention, not acquisition, is the key to extending the digital subscription growth runway, as acquiring a new customer is up to 25 percent more expensive than retaining an existing one (INMA)

+ The best read digital story of 2018 was CNN’s obituary for Anthony Bourdain (Poynter)