Need to Know: Jan. 10, 2020


You might have heard: Half of publishers say reader revenue will be their main income stream going forward, according to a new Reuters Institute study (Reuters Institute)

But did you know: In the shift to reader revenue, more reporters are being asked to show how their work drives subscriptions (Digiday)

Publishers are beginning to look more closely at data around subscription conversions, writes Max Willens. At The Dallas Morning News, for example, reporters are tracking returning visitors rather than page views; at Tribune properties, weekly meetings of editors with reporters now focus on the stories subscribers read and which pieces contribute the most to readers’ signing up for digital subscriptions. Business Insider is now offering quarterly bonuses to reporters whose work spurs a certain number of subscriptions. And while there are no penalties attached, The Dallas Morning News and The Seattle Times are setting goals for each reporter to boost reader engagement and new subscriptions by 5% to 20%.

+ Earlier: Our strategy study looks at how to make metrics simple and meaningful (and not punitive) for reporters

+ Noted: Minnesota Public Radio launches service to help audiences identify disinformation during the 2020 elections (Bring Me the News); News website rating tool NewsGuard will start charging its users (Press Gazette); The Native American Journalists Association and Report for America take new steps to strengthen reporting in Indigenous communities (NAJA)

Correction: Yesterday we included as a “Noted” item a report that TEGNA is partnering with First Draft to train its journalists to combat disinformation — but with the wrong link. Here is the correct link to the article from Variety.


In this week’s edition of ‘Factually’

Our 2020 fact-checking forecast, Iranian fact-checkers in Canada correct wildly inaccurate New York Times tweet, and bogus images of Australian wildfires are sweeping social media. Factually is a weekly newsletter produced by API and the Poynter Institute that covers fact-checking and misinformation.


Richland Source presents ‘Citizens’ Agenda’ to elected leaders in Mansfield, Ohio (Richland Source)

In the fall, Richland Source launched a “listening tour” called Talk the Vote, designed to capture the concerns of Mansfield voters. At each stop on the tour, residents were asked about the issues they most wanted local candidates to cover in their campaigns. Their responses were compiled into a “Citizens’ Agenda,” which were presented in an open meeting that candidates were invited to attend (although they were asked to simply listen).

+ Earlier: Here are the key steps in the citizens’ agenda style of campaign coverage (PressThink); You don’t have to do a listening tour — a citizens’ agenda can be created by circulating a simple Google Form, like this one from LA Times reporter Matt Pearce (Nieman Lab)

+ The new Engaged Journalism Experiments Directory (still in beta) has 30+ ready-to-replicate newsroom experiments on audience engagement (Engaged Journalism Accelerator)


How Rupert Murdoch is influencing Australia’s bushfire debate (New York Times)

Conservative Australian media outlets owned by Rupert Murdoch are pushing a narrative that seeks to downplay the severity of the fires, divert attention from climate change, and shift the blame away from conservative leaders, writes Damien Cave. “A search for ‘climate change’ in the main Murdoch outlets mostly yields stories condemning protesters who demand more aggressive action from the government; editorials arguing against ‘radical climate change policy’; and opinion columns emphasizing the need for more backburning to control fires — if only the left-wing greenies would allow it to happen.”


Confronting the early-career gender gap (McKinsey Quarterly)

When it comes to gender parity at the C-suite level, we’re beginning to see results. Today’s average C-suite has 24% more women than it did in 2015. However, there is still glaring gender disparity at the very first rung of the corporate ladder: While women account for 48% of entry-level hires, they account for just 38% of first-level managers. That accounts for the imbalance we are still seeing at the executive level, where men vastly outnumber women. “Remedying problems at the beginning of the talent pipeline might be the key to turning incremental gains into explosive ones,” write Kevin Sneader and Lareina Yee. “If we start hiring and promoting women into first manager roles at equal rates as men today, we could bridge most of the gap between entry-level and manager roles for women in just five years.”


What if modern conspiracy theorists are altogether too media literate? (The Outline)

The standard response to misinformation, disinformation and conspiracy theories raging on the internet is to increase efforts at making the public more media-literate, writes Will Partin. But what if media literacy might actually be complicit in creating the very problems it’s trying to solve? “Media literacy is imagined to be empowering, enabling individuals to have agency and giving them the tools to help create a democratic society,” internet researcher danah boyd has argued. “But, fundamentally, it is a form of critical thinking that asks people to doubt what they see. And that makes me nervous.” Looking at Qanon, a leading conspiracy theory group in the U.S., there seems to be good reason for questioning media literacy. The group is obviously skeptical of the mainstream media narrative — and while its version of present events “is bullshit,” writes Partin, “a considerable portion of the facts it trades in are not.”


Slacktivism: Slack has become the connective tissue in media unionization efforts (Digiday)

In an industry frequently rocked by mergers and pounded by layoffs, media workers are increasingly turning to private Slack channels, separate from employer-run ones, to be able to communicate freely about their career concerns. The private channels are also becoming important spaces for unionizing efforts — although the Tech Workers Coalition, which has helped lead organizing efforts at different companies in Silicon Valley, says it does not recommend using Slack for such a purpose because the platform is not secure.


+ In six months, a partnership between Florida news outlets to cover climate change has tripled in size. Eleven of the 18 organizations involved are expected to produce two stories each month: “We deposit two, we get to withdraw 20,” says Mark Katches, executive editor of the Tampa Bay Times. The partnership has resulted in readers getting 10 times more climate stories than they otherwise would. Here’s more about how the work is divided and the lessons learned so far. (Nieman Lab)

+ Did Twitter help stop war with Iran? (Wired)

+ “To save itself, journalism has to help save its community,” and other lessons from Chris Horne of The Devil Strip, a community-owned alt-weekly covering Akron, Ohio (Medium, Colorado Media Project)