Need to Know: January 11, 2022

OFF THE TOP

You might have heard: News engagement fell off a cliff in 2021 (Axios) 

But did you know: Media leaders around the world are feeling optimistic about 2022 (Reuters Institute) 

A new, wide-ranging survey from the Reuters Institute at Oxford finds that media professionals around the world are grappling with digital, business, and social changes in the industry — but overall are optimistic about the year ahead. More than half of publishers (59%) said their revenue had grown in 2021, even as 54% reported that website traffic had stayed put or fallen. Journalists, writes Nic Newman, “feel that their role is more valued by audiences and the business side in particular is on a more solid footing.” Three-quarters of media leaders have confidence in their own company’s prospects in 2022, while 60% have confidence in the journalism industry overall. 

+ Noted: ​​Audie Cornish, NPR veteran, joins CNN for streaming show (Variety); Audible discontinues daily audio digests of NYT, WSJ and Washington Post stories (GeekWire); Advocates say a new NYC salary transparency law could help address journalism pay gaps (Poynter); Wired lays out policy that all comments made to reporters are on the record by default (Wired)

API UPDATE 

API welcomes Shay Totten as newsroom success manager

API is pleased to announce the addition of Shay Totten as newsroom success manager. In this role, Totten will work closely with newsrooms using API’s Metrics for News product to help answer important audience questions, identify better ways to engage users, improve loyalty and drive subscriptions. Totten recently led the growth and membership strategy at The Compass Experiment, a collaboration between the Google News Initiative and McClatchy that launched digital newsrooms in underserved communities. To learn more about Metrics for News or to schedule a demo, please visit our website or contact the team at team@metricsfornews.com.

TRY THIS AT HOME

Need help navigating change in your newsroom? Khan Academy has some ideas. (NiemanLab)

Khan Academy began as a nonprofit educational platform for individual learners, but has grown into a partner of school districts across the country. That transition process involved spending as much time as possible with potential users, to understand the needs of administrators, teachers, students and parents. Newsrooms can follow Khan’s lead, write Kim Perry and Eric Athas, by conducting on-the-ground experiments and focusing on learning as much as possible for making big changes. When it comes time to scale, look back at the lessons from the initial experiments and develop processes that can be improved and refined over time. And before moving forward, communicate clearly and consistently with staff and “articulate the “why” in day-to-day work.” 

OFFSHORE

Nigeria’s Business Day adopts digital-first strategy to offset print decline (International News Media Association) 

Business Day, a business-oriented newspaper based in Lagos, Nigeria, has established itself in print but has recently begun switching to a digital-first model. Reader revenue subscription models are still somewhat new in Nigeria, and the outlet’s head of digital services, Onyinyechi Eze, focused on “an airtight strategy that would bring value to our customers.” The paper also focused on diversifying its revenue streams, adding revenue-producing products, affiliate revenue-sharing, and premium newsletters. After one year, the outlet saw a 40% growth in digital subscriptions and a 244% growth in digital revenue. 

OFFBEAT

Texas GOP’s voting meme shows how Trump-style messaging wins internet’s attention (The Texas Tribune) 

When the Republican Party of Texas posted a meme that compared waiting in line for COVID tests to waiting in line for voting, the comparison infuriated many — and the image became one of Twitter’s top trending posts for the day. Sam Woolley, who researchers propaganda at the University of Texas at Austin, says that the meme worked as intended — by dividing people into groups that are “driven by a perspective that other people who don’t believe what you believe are the enemy.” This social media strategy, of packaging complex ideas into simplified bites, is meant not just to appeal to like-minded individuals but also to roil those who disagree. “You are being rage farmed,” wrote the University of Toronto’s John Scott-Railton to those who had reacted angrily to the post. 

UP FOR DEBATE

Jobs reports provide a highly effective Rorschach test for our major newsrooms (Press Watchers) 

Last week’s jobs numbers — which showed the addition of 199,000 jobs in December — were covered very differently by major news organizations, writes Dan Froomkin, revealing the “personalities and politics” of the newsrooms. Headlines in politics-focused outlets like The New York Times and The Washington Post portrayed the numbers as disappointing, linking the numbers with disapproval of President Biden’s economic policies. Other, more business-oriented outlets like The Wall Street Journal and The Financial Times saw the news as more positive, focusing on low unemployment numbers. “It’s in coverage like this that their natural impulses are easiest to divine,” writes Froomkin. “Faced with a combination of positive and negative indicators, what do they reflexively focus on?” 

SHAREABLE

Local news rebirth in Chicago: ‘More exciting than it’s ever been’ (Local News Initiative)

Over the last few years, Chicago has become “a petri dish for the re-invention of news media,” writes Mark Jacob. Following a major downsizing at the Chicago Tribune, other news organizations — public radio station WBEZ, investigation journalism organization the Better Government Association and digital nonprofit Block Club Chicago, among others — are stepping up to cover the city in both innovative and traditional ways. Though there may no longer be a single newsroom that will provide all the news a resident needs, these outlets are collaborating with each other rather than competing for scoops. 

Earlier: Block Club Chicago’s coronavirus hotline connects readers with questions to reporters with answers (American Press Institute)