Need to Know: Feb. 25, 2020


You might have heard: Spoken-word listening is up by 20% since 2014 (Radio Ink)

But did you know: Audio articles are helping news outlets gain loyal audiences (Nieman Reports)

The Harvard Business Review, the Economist, The New Yorker and Denmark’s Zetland have all found that narrated articles — featuring one voice, no outside sound, and no musical scoring — have helped attract loyal subscribers. The average completion rate for an audio story is 90% — “They open the app in the morning and they just press ‘play’” and listen until they finish their commutes, says Zetland co-founder Hakon Mosbech. Some news outlets make the narration themselves, while others turn to partnerships with news narration apps, which offer not only a share of the subscription fees the apps collect, but exposure to a new audience.

+ Noted: Report for America will support 19 journalists to cover Native American communities (Nieman Lab); After a long wait (and some missteps), The Markup is ready to “show our work” (New York Times); After a Sanders surge and a Matthews gaffe, MSNBC prepares to pivot to more pro-Sanders voices (Vanity Fair)


We curate the best journalism advice on the web and put it all in one place

Better News is a free resource for news innovators, offering hand-picked journalism wisdom from around the internet and organizing it into “big picture,” “strategic” and “tactical” categories, depending on how ready you are to implement the advice. It also features lessons learned by newsrooms that participated in the Table Stakes training program managed by API. 

+ API’s Metrics for News is named as an INMA finalist for “Best Use of Data Analytics or Research” (INMA); Puerto Rico’s El Nuevo Día is also named as an INMA finalist for its use of Metrics for News to improve SEO and drive subscriptions (INMA)


When it comes to Election Day preparedness, most local newsrooms get a ‘D’ (Cronkite News Lab)

Imagine this Election Day scenario: Claims of violence at polling stations in your community are surfacing on Twitter, accompanied by fake photos that make it appear as though the National Guard has been called out. Meanwhile, a Reddit thread is assuring users that they can avoid the violence and instead vote by text. Is your newsroom ready to verify and report on this? Claire Wardle, U.S. director of First Draft, a nonprofit that offers simulation training to help journalists combat election misinformation, says newsrooms need to practice responding to worst-case scenarios.

+ Related: A handy checklist for verifying content (First Draft News)


19 U.K. news organizations to receive government funding following Cairncross Review (

After an independent report recommended government funding as one route to sustain public service journalism in the U.K., a £2m fund was set aside to “put grantees on a path to discover new, sustainable business models through two tracks: a ‘prototyping sprint’ or an ‘accelerator,’” writes Jacob Granger. “The former will help build and test new ideas with masterclasses and workshops, and the latter will help find early-stage investors from business-building programmes.” Out of the 178 news outlets that applied, 17 have already received funding and two more will be announced in the coming weeks.

+ To silence a newspaper, Nicaragua’s government took away its paper and ink (Los Angeles Times)


Who needs deepfakes? Simple out-of-context photos can be a powerfully low-tech form of misinformation (Nieman Lab)

It takes a lot less than deepfakes to fool people into believing visual misinformation. One of the most successful tricks is to simply recycle legitimate old photos and videos and present them as evidence of recent events. Research suggests that photos can make headlines seem more true and more familiar to people, and they’re simply more memorable — and more likely to be shared on social media.

+ Earlier: The News Provenance Project from The New York Times and IBM is experimenting with ways of tagging images with information about their origin (Nieman Lab)


Making journalism schools worth it again would mean a revamp of the traditional curriculum (Monday Note)

Students pay anywhere from $60,000 to $100,000 (not including living expenses) for a degree from one of the top journalism schools in the U.S. Meanwhile, the average base pay for a journalist in the U.S. is $44,477. “Top universities are making a huge margin on tuition and they should better align their fees with expected salaries of their students,” writes Frederic Filloux. They also need to better align their curricula with the realities of the field. That could mean tossing out the two- and four-year degree, he suggests. “In the next decades, the media market will call for numerous qualifications that no one can even fathom today. New forms of teaching would … encompass flexible, lifelong-learning modules, certified ‘nano-degrees’ corresponding to skills in demand at a given moment of a career.”

+ Privacy is going to kill advertising as we know it (Business Insider)


Creating pool funds for local news (Medill Local News Initiative)

At a Chicago journalism town hall held this past weekend, attendees discussed the city’s dynamic news landscape and the search for financial stability. One interesting idea that emerged was that of forming a pool fund at the Chicago Community Trust, which would make it easier for local foundations to support local news. “What it allows is for foundations who don’t want to create a program officer and a whole new funding stream, they can put their money into a pool fund, and someone else will do the labor of reading through the grant applications, understanding the liabilities and all that,” said Tracy Baim, publisher of the Chicago Reader. “I hope [the pool fund is] a reality by 2021 because we’re at such a precarious point.”