Need to Know: July 11, 2018

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


You might have heardAfter years of growth, the use of social media for news is falling across the world — but messaging apps are picking up the slack (Nieman Lab)

But did you know: How journalists can report from within chat apps and other semi-open platforms (Nieman Lab)

As news audiences move from public social media to peer-to-peer messaging apps, journalists are struggling to discover and verify stories on these and other private platforms, without violating ethical standards in the process. “If people seek the privacy of a forum with like-minded individuals to share their views, they’re unlikely to think well of a lurking journalist,” writes Mark Frankel. But “we’d be foolish to ignore the opportunity to engage with them where they feel most at ease.” Frankel examined closed or semi-closed networks, including Facebook Groups, WhatsApp, public subreddits, Discord and NextDoor, for appropriate “entry points” for journalists looking for stories. If journalists abide by each platform’s unique set of rules and build trust over time with users, he found, these groups can yield opportunities for better community-based reporting.

+ Noted: Univision says it’s exploring sale of former Gawker sites and The Onion (Variety); U.K. data watchdog hits Facebook with $664k fine for Cambridge Analytica scandal, paving way for more government-imposed penalties (The Washington Post); New Yorker magazine recognizes staff’s union (CNN); Groups join petition to delay Sinclair-Tribune merger review (The Hill)


The New York Times’s recipe for newsletter success (The New York Times)

The New York Times announced yesterday that it now has 14 million subscribers across its 55 newsletters. According to Elisabeth Goodridge, The Times’s editorial director of newsletters, the “secret sauce” to good newsletters is as follows: Know your audience, have an expert write it, design it beautifully, maintain it with best practices in mind, and, perhaps most important, “offer something valuable that you can’t get anywhere else.” It should also be an intimate and controlled space. “We want it to be a friction-free experience,” said Andrea Kannapell, the editor of briefings at The Times. That means shorter, lighter sentences; a conversational voice; and information that equips readers to take on news conversations at work and at cocktail parties. “We want them to leave the briefing feeling uplifted,” Ms. Kannapell said. “Like their friend in the newsroom made sure they knew what they needed to know.”

+ Related: More resources we’ve curated on how to create effective newsletter strategies (Better News)


WhatsApp is using newspapers to fight fake news in India (CNN)

WhatsApp is using old media to tackle its misinformation problem in India, reports Rishi Iyengar. The messaging service, owned by Facebook, took out full-page ads in leading English and Hindi newspapers on Tuesday, giving readers 10 tips to spot messages that might be fake. The ads are part of a campaign by WhatsApp in its biggest market following a spate of lynchings that have been blamed on hoaxes sent over the platform. A spokesperson told CNNMoney that the company would translate the ads to run in local newspapers in nine Indian states, many of which speak different languages. WhatsApp’s tips include checking with other sources, looking up photos online that may be edited, and thinking twice before forwarding a message you have doubts about.

+ Related: WhatsApp is taking baby steps to fight misinformation on the app, including a feature that labels forwarded messages (Poynter)


It’s time to reconsider ‘best time to post on social media’ studies, and run your own experiment (Buffer)

“We marketers have unintentionally put more emphasis on ‘best times to post on social media’ studies than doing our own experimentation,” writes Alfred Lua. “What works for other brands might not work for you so it’s important to do your own experimentations.” He offers a step-by-step guide to running a “best time” experiment, which can be adopted by journalists and social news editors: Start with informed guesses; set up a posting schedule that will allow you to compare engagement rates for similar posts published at different times; and, based on that data, update your posting schedule. Lua recommends keeping a running experiment using an 80/20 ratio — 80 percent tested times/20 percent experimental times.


Business Insider changes internal editorial policies after pulling controversial column (Daily Beast)

Business Insider removed a post about portrayals of trans individuals in Hollywood after staff complained internally about the column, saying the article did not meet the publication’s standards, reports Maxwell Tani. The decision also prompted BI to alter its own internal editorial policies. In an email to editors on Monday obtained by The Daily Beast, global editor-in-chief Nich Carlson announced that BI would create an internally available list of employees who had “volunteered to talk about culture and identity issues” to other staff. Further, Carlson also announced that culturally sensitive columns, analysis, and opinion pieces would now be reviewed by the company’s executive editors before publication, to avoid “shallow, ‘hot takes’” and ensure “fully thought-out arguments that reflect and respect the opposing view.”


BuzzFeed to launch Sunday evening show on Facebook Watch (Vanity Fair)

BuzzFeed announced plans to launch a Sunday evening interview show called Profile, hosted by Audie Cornish of NPR’s All Things Considered, that will air on Facebook’s new Watch platform. BuzzFeed is one of many digital media companies that are lately turning to television, writes Joe Pompeo. “The emerging wave of text-to-television adaptations, however, has a decidedly of-the-moment feel. Viewing habits are shifting from the traditional cable package to the mobile phone. Insurgents like Netflix and Amazon are spending billions to create their own hit shows, and social-media titans like Facebook and Twitter are also getting in on the original-programming action. These companies all want a piece of media outlets that do high-quality, original journalism, and those media outlets want a piece of them, too.”

+ The Washington Post cites satire website ClickHole as a source, a mistake that was quickly noted and ridiculed on social media (Vulture); A look at how the loss of local newspapers, combined with dwindling regional coverage, is affecting American cities like Boulder and Denver (BBC)