Need to Know: July 11, 2019

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


You might have heard: Knight Institute calls on Facebook to lift restrictions on digital journalism and research (Knight Foundation), after Facebook attempted to kill a Gizmodo investigation into how Facebook’s People You May Know algorithm works (Gizmodo)

But did you know: Social media giants are restricting research vital to journalism (Columbia Journalism Review)

The Cambridge Analytica scandal and ongoing fallout have caused social media companies to lock down their data — in the process shutting out researchers examining how the platforms are used to influence elections, and limiting how well they can serve as sources to journalists, writes Jeff Hemsley. “Without this research, the public would be less informed about how politicians and the public use social media during the political process. We would lack an understanding of the ways platforms like Facebook and Twitter are affecting how we access political information.” While researchers will still be collecting social media data during the 2020 election, they will get less of it, says Hemsley. While efforts to protect users’ data privacy are understandable, there should be exceptions for researchers looking to access data for educational purposes, similar to fair use laws for copyrighted materials, he suggests.

+ Noted: Expansion of secrecy law for intelligence operatives alarms free press advocates (New York Times); Trump hosted “social media summit” without Facebook, Twitter or Google (ABC News); Twitter went down during yesterday’s White House social media summit (The Verge); Facebook will now show you how to opt out of targeted ads (BuzzFeed News); Blaming “shrinkage,” Starbucks will stop selling newspapers at its coffee shops in September (New York Post)


In this week’s edition of ‘Factually’

As part of a fact-checking journalism partnership, API and the Poynter Institute highlight stories worth noting related to truth in politics and on the Internet. In the latest edition of Factually: politicians mimic fact-checkers’ work; Facebook will snuff out fake news … about Facebook; and could false information actually cause a war?

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How Nordic giant Schibsted ‘saves’ unsubscribers (Digiday)

Subscribers to Schibsted newspapers definitely don’t have to call the publisher if they want to cancel their subscription. Instead, the personalized “My Subscription” page offers them three clear choices: cancel, change or pause their subscription. Subscribers who click “cancel” are presented with a customized message explaining why they should stay subscribed, and if they still want to cancel, they are asked for feedback on why they’re choosing to leave. Based on that, they’re shown relevant offers to tempt them to stay. Those who still cancel after this point are presented with a gracious email and receipt from the editor-in-chief and a “regret” button that will resume their subscription should they change their mind. “The main objective is to keep customers from churning in a customer-friendly manner,” wrote Siri Holstad Johannessen, head of sales and marketing at Schibsted. “That is a tricky balance as customer satisfaction and business profitability don’t necessarily correlate.”

+ Related: Publishers “cannot overlook the user experience” for subscribers. UX can be the reason subscribers choose to stay — or go. (Twipe); Our Reader Revenue Toolkit looks at how to design good subscription offer pages and registration and payment forms


How a Belgian media co-op promoted its stories using bright yellow posters in bookshop windows (Engaged Journalism Accelerator) 

Eager to draw attention to its local investigative stories, Belgian media co-op Médor came up with the idea to design colorful posters depicting the stories and have them hung in bookshop windows where their quarterly magazines are sold. They also displayed the posters at newsstands, cultural centers and local shops that gave permission, making sure to highlight all the shops where locals could buy the magazine. “We wanted to alert, provoke curiosity and induce readers to read the article in question which was related to the region where we posted the posters,” said communications executive Tiffany Lasserre. “And of course, make Médor known in a particular region where our readership is still small.”


Pay-by-installment options are ‘latest Millennial obsession’ (Gartner L2)

The rising popularity of pay-by-installment options are proving especially appealing to Millennials, who are increasingly using apps like Afterpay and Affirm at online retailers. “Millennials have a combined spending power of $200 billion, but 60% don’t own a single credit card,” writes Zoe Tang. “This is the result of an overall shift in attitudes towards credit cards because of massive student debt (which 41% of millennials carry).” Pay-by-installment options could be worth looking into for some publishers who want to give their audiences more flexible membership or subscriber options — particularly when appealing to younger consumers.


Governments are making fake news a crime — but it could stifle free speech (The Conversation)

Laws against fake news are ripe for abuse, writes Alana Schetzer — especially in countries with authoritarian leadership and a track record of censoring media and dissident groups. Even in countries with strong freedom of speech, attempts to crack down on fake news by regulating social media companies can and do go awry. Self-regulation by those companies is also problematic, as they often struggle to objectively police themselves. One alternative is for media industry groups to get involved, suggests Schetzer. She points to the Journalism Trust Initiative, launched by Reporters Without Borders, which is working on a certification system for news content that would act as a “guarantee” of quality and accuracy for readers. Standards are still being discussed, but would include factors like ownership, sources of revenue, independence and ethical compliance.

+ Earlier: The Trust Project aims to separate untrustworthy news from reliable news by labeling articles with “nutrition label” indicators (Nieman Lab)


How CALmatters is growing out of its startup stage (Nieman Lab)

Four-year-old nonprofit CALmatters is shaping up its business plan as it steps into a bigger role as a convener of local journalism across California. “For an organization that started with an editorial focus and very generous founding donors, it wasn’t necessary to build up the business side any earlier — but it is now,” said CEO Neil Chase. With support from the Knight Foundation, CALmatters has signed on with The News Project, a company that packages CMS, audience development services and editorial functionalities into one platform designed especially for mid-sized newsrooms (similar to Pico and Newspack). TNP has also helped CALmatters migrate to the latest Gutenberg-powered version of WordPress and add in newsletter nudges to grow its membership program. “A lot of the stuff on the site was homemade and worked on most browsers but not all. It worked well this way, but not this way,” Chase said. “This is more resilient, less ‘hey, the system’s down.’ We’re just growing out of that initial level of tech startup-ness.”


+ How a public television station in Philadelphia, known for programming and staff that represented the rich diversity of the region, transformed itself into a private foundation that supports local media and media-making organizations (Medium, Molly de Aguiar) 

+ How magazines made Asian America (Columbia Journalism Review) 

+ Six reasons young adults think the news media is dividing our country (Medium, Knight Foundation)