Need to Know: Feb. 14, 2020


You might have heard: Building habit — not page views — matters most for keeping subscribers (Medill Local News Initiative)

But did you know: Habit formation is a strategic priority for publishers (Twipe)

Historically, newspapers have been a part of people’s daily routines: for decades, many Americans started their day with the paper and a cup of coffee. Then the internet changed that. But now, according to research by Twipe Digital Publishing, leading publishers at news outlets around the world are focusing on ways to encourage a digital news habit in their readers. The Wall Street Journal, for example, identified several ways new subscribers could habitually interact with its app and newsletters, and designed gentle nudges to get them to do so. The Telegraph delivers a daily two-minute audio briefing via WhatsApp, designed to reach listeners on their workday commutes.

+ A tool to design habit-forming news products (Twipe); To drive daily habits and customer retention, publishers turn to puzzles (Digiday)

+ Noted: Facebook offers more data for research on impacts of social media (Reuters)


In this week’s edition of ‘Factually’

Why people fall for fake screenshots, politicians fight with platforms over content they want taken down, and QAnon in the physical world. Factually is a weekly newsletter produced by API and the Poynter Institute that covers fact-checking and misinformation.


On Valentine’s Day, some ways to show your love for local news (Poynter)

Reach out to that reporter or photographer you admire to let them know how much you value their work. Spread the word about the local news outlets you follow and what they’re worth to your community. And check out Kristen Hare’s list of newsletters covering the local news landscape — are there any you could add to your reading list?


In El Salvador, a Twitter-loving president has the press turning to shoe-leather reporting (Nieman Reports)

Since Nayib Bukele became president of El Salvador last June, the country’s media outlets have been racing to keep up with his tweets — in the literal sense. “We go to the places where [Bukele] has promised something and we interview people on the ground and look for documentation to find out if what he said is real or not,” says Ezequiel Barrera, editor of digital newspaper Gato Encerrado. The president’s digital-native habits also means journalists are turning to digital-native sources, rather than relying solely on the traditional rolodex of politicos and pundits. In some ways that’s having a democratizing effect on news-gathering efforts, says Julio Villarán, editor at La Página. “We used to rely on politicians and people in the public eye [for comment], but now the citizens also have a voice.”


How WHO is harnessing the power of Big Tech to fight coronavirus misinformation (MIT Technology Review)

On Feb. 2, the World Health Organization dubbed the new coronavirus “a massive ‘infodemic,’” referring to ”an overabundance of information — some accurate and some not — that makes it hard for people to find trustworthy sources and reliable guidance when they need it.” Recognizing social media’s outsize role in the spread of disinformation, WHO is working with Facebook to target specific populations and demographics with ads that provide important health information, and Google to push its own information to the top of search results. It’s also working with social media influencers across Asia to keep disinformation at bay.


The media keep falling in love — with anybody but Bernie Sanders (Washington Post)

Media coverage of Democratic nominees tends to hover over the candidates perceived as most electable, writes Margaret Sullivan. But Bernie Sanders, though emerging as front-runner in Tuesday’s Democratic primary in New Hampshire, has never been seen that way — a perspective that often seeps into straight news reporting, as well as commentary and punditry, says Sullivan. “The subtext behind much of the disdain is a partly a deep-seated sentiment that Sanders, if nominated, has little chance of winning the general election. But it’s also partly — and more insidiously — that many journalists don’t identify easily with Sanders in the same way they do with, say, Warren or O’Rourke or Buttigieg.”


Women leave newsrooms at much higher rates than men (McKinsey)

According to the 2019 “Women in the Workplace” study, women at almost every level in news organizations are leaving at higher rates than men. At the vice-president level, for example, women’s attrition rates are almost triple those of men. Across the media and entertainment industry, external hiring skews male for C-suite positions (of external hires in the C-suite, 79% were men and 21% women), which contributes to a corporate environment in which women are well represented at early-tenure positions but remain a minority at more senior levels.


+ Radio Sputnik, a propaganda arm of the Russian government, began broadcasting on three Kansas City-area radio stations during prime drive time (New York Times)