Need to Know: January 23, 2019

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


You might have heard: In 2016, The Coral Project unveiled its first product, an open-source app called Trust, to make comments better (Washington Post)

But did you know: Vox Media is acquiring The Coral Project, an open-source publishing platform housed within the Mozilla Foundation (Axios)

The deal underscores Vox Media’s push to sell software as a service (SaaS) technology as a standalone revenue stream, reports Sarah Fischer. It will also help The Coral Project grow faster by selling its technology to more newsrooms through Vox’s sales team. The Coral Project, which will continue to operate as an open-source platform, provides newsrooms with tools and technology to better manage their commenting sections. More than 50 newsrooms across 12 countries, including The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal and New York Magazine, currently use the platform. Vox Media plans to sell The Coral Project’s flagship comment platform “Talk,” as a part of its publishing technology stack, alongside its content management platform “Chorus” and its digital advertising platform “Concert.” “Online community has gone south so badly because people approach it as a tech problem, but it’s actually a strategy and culture problem,” says Andrew Losowsky, project lead at the Coral Project. “For us, it’s about helping newsrooms change their strategy and then give them the software to make it happen.”

+ Related: How an Argentine newspaper used Talk from The Coral Project to build its membership program (Lenfest Institute); How newsrooms can use comment sections as opportunities to answer questions, build trust and provide an open line for people who have proven to be their most loyal readers (Gather)

+ Noted: NPR has turned ‘Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me’ into a game for smart speakers (Variety); Google is considering pulling its Google News service from Europe as regulators work toward a controversial copyright law (Bloomberg)


What news teams wish managers did more (RTDNA)

It’s easy to get caught in a routine as a busy manager, and miss opportunities for meaningful interactions with staff. Giving valuable feedback is one such interaction — Everyone likes to hear a “great job” from time to time, but what reporters, anchors and producers are really looking for is more substantive. What specifically worked and why? Was the writing on that piece particularly effective? Did the pace in that newscast really flow? Providing even just a little more detail with positive feedback can reinforce what’s working, soften constructive feedback and, when offered publically, clue the rest of the team in to things to work on themselves. The same goes for coaching — most of the time it’s easier to just fix someone’s work so it can get to air, but doing so perpetuates the cycle of not-quite-there work that needs fixing. Taking more time up front to coach (and provide substantive feedback) can help your team learn to do better themselves and save time on fixing later.

+ Tips for finding and pitching stories about race (GroundTruth Project); Research on past government shutdowns and story ideas for covering the shutdown from a local angle (Journalist’s Resource)


How Le Monde site tweaks helped increase subscriptions by 20 percent in 2018 (Digiday)

By highlighting subscriber content more clearly on its homepage and no longer sending subscribers to a separate site to view restricted content, French news publisher Le Monde was able to increase subscriber conversions by 46 percent and increase subscriptions overall by 20 percent in 2018. The tweaks showcase content that is deemed to be worth paying for, as well as shorten the journey from casual reader to subscriber. “We needed to unify the experience for both readers and subscribers so it was the same page for both,” said Lou Grasser, head of innovative subscriptions at the publisher. “People do want personalization — that is important — but they also want the selection of the best content on the homepage and not too many articles so it feels like you are reading the paper.” Putting free and paid-for content side by side has a psychological effect, said Greg Harwood, director at strategy and marketing consultancy Simon-Kucher & Partners. “By forcing consumers to make this decision, of the price-value trade-off, they are able to effectively create the call-to-action that is often required to get a prospective reader over the inertia barrier.”


Changing your routines to maximize your time (Fast Company)

According to research, up to 40 percent of our daily actions are powered by habits — the unconscious routines we’ve developed over time. That’s why habits have an outsized impact on our overall productivity. To maximize productivity, it’s important to adapt our routines to the ebb and flow of our natural energy levels, writes Jory Mackay. That comes down to planning meaningful work when you’re best suited for it, and protecting your time and attention from interruptions, distractions, and too many meetings. It can also mean implementing rituals to help you shift from task to task. “Rituals are repeated behaviors just like routines (they can even be a part of your routine). However, they’re imbued with deeper meaning beyond just a sequence of actions … You could go for a quick walk, grab a cup of coffee, or put away your laptop. The action itself doesn’t matter as much as what it symbolizes to you — that you’re finished with one part of your day and ready to move onto the next one.”


Hot takes and rushes to judgment: This weekend’s biggest stories remind us to set a high bar (Poynter)

The two stories that dominated the news cycle this weekend — the explosive BuzzFeed News report alleging that President Trump directed his lawyer to lie to Congress and the viral video of teen Trump supporters appearing to harass Native American protesters in Washington — have one thing in common: They are both the type of story that encourage hot takes and hasty reporting. “When there is a fear of being left behind on a major story, news outlets must be sure that a ‘hot take’ doesn’t outmuscle smart, prudent and responsible reactions,” writes Tom Jones. “Often in journalism, we find ourselves needing more time for the story to play out. We need more information. We need more context. We need the whole story. We need to know the facts. Until then, the hot take that is too soon, too irresponsible and too uninformed is the real black eye on the media.”

+ Related: I failed the Covington Catholic test: Next time there’s a viral story, I’ll wait for more facts to emerge. (The Atlantic)


What newspapers can learn from ‘slow news’ start-ups (Editor & Publisher)

Two news start-ups are charging full forward on the idea of slowing the pace of news in an era of 24/7 coverage. Tortoise, a British start-up with co-founders who hail from Dow Jones and the BBC, quickly became the most-funded journalism project in Kickstarter’s history. The Correspondent, a successful reader-supported news site based in the Netherlands, recently hits its crowdfunding goal of $2.5 million to launch a new website in the U.S. with around 15 reporters and editors on staff. The Correspondent’s business model of avoiding ads and relying solely on a small number of digital subscribers to fund a small newsroom isn’t exactly a sustainable option for most newspapers. But if you take a look at the website’s 10 founding principles, number five — “We collaborate with you, our knowledgeable members” — is a feature that could be adapted to strengthen your newsroom’s reporting. That reader-centered approach involves Correspondent journalists sharing their reporting notes, posting transcripts of conversations and offering insight into how their story is progressing. This develops a more engaged following to the reporting itself, which ultimately leads to better sourcing.

+ “What McCarthy and television were for journalism in the nineteen-fifties, Trump and social media would be in the twenty-tens: license to change the rules.” (The New Yorker)