Need to Know: July 23, 2018

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


You might have heard: Twitter is asking the public to help measure how toxic it is (The Verge)

But did you know: New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman pulled back from Twitter because ‘Twitter is not where a nuanced or thoughtful discussion can happen’ (The New York Times)

Haberman, a frequent target of President Trump’s criticism on Twitter, announced last Sunday that she was taking a step back from Twitter, where she has racked up close to 700,000 followers. “I have used Twitter enough to know that it no longer works well for me,” she wrote. She argues that it’s no longer a place where she can glean reliable information about breaking news and engage in thoughtful debate. “Tone often overshadows the actual news. All outrages appear equal. And that makes it harder for significant events to break through.” She also writes that President Trump has used Twitter to turn her and other journalists into into protagonists in his narrative, making them targets of vicious online attacks.

+ Response from Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey: “We need to focus more on the conversational dynamics within Twitter” (Twitter, @jack); Should journalists let the Twitter universe take care of itself? Or step in with facts and real news?

+ Noted: WhatsApp will drastically limit message forwarding across the globe to stop the spread of fake news, following violence in India and Myanmar (Recode); Ta-Nehisi Coates is leaving the Atlantic, where he emerged as one of the country’s top reporters and thinkers (The Washington Post); U.S.-funded broadcaster directed ads to Americans, in potential violation of laws meant to protect Americans from domestic propaganda (The New York Times); Senate candidate Corey Stewart says New York Times reporter broke into aide’s apartment (The Washington Post); New standalone site for BuzzFeed News embraces programmatic advertising (Digiday)


A look at how media organizations covered the World Cup with AI and automation (Medium, Global Editors Network)

Fox Sports (in the U.S.) teamed up with IBM Watson to make AI-powered highlight videos, French publication Le Figaro created automated visual summaries, and The Times (in the U.K.) launched its own World Cup Alexa Skill. The tools helped Fox Sports and Le Figaro generate compelling coverage from tens of thousands of hours of World Cup video content; while The Times’ experiment with voice AI allowed Alexa users to get a taste of its World Cup reporting without having to register or subscribe — potentially leading to future subscriptions.


How U.K. football site Goal has weathered Facebook’s changes (Digiday)

Goal has been steadily reducing its reliance on Facebook to reach audiences. The inflated traffic highs that came with the World Cup this summer let the publisher learn what works on new platforms, like Apple News and Twitch, and existing platforms like YouTube. With less than 10 percent of traffic coming from Facebook, Goal reduced the number of Facebook posts linking back to its site while upping the number of video and multimedia posts aimed at increasing engagement. Rather than drive people from Facebook back to its site to monetize, Goal works with brands like Nissan, Kia and Paddy Power on co-created content, and has run over 90 paid-for campaigns on Facebook over the last 90 days. Goal has also been publishing 10-minute documentaries to YouTube and made use of Amazon-owned Twitch to deliver football-based streaming content.

+ A global guide to state-sponsored trolling (Bloomberg)


How to pitch an innovative idea (McKinsey Quarterly)

“Much of corporate innovation travels along well-orchestrated pathways — a neat tech breakthrough, a product owner, and an orderly progression through stage-gate and successful launch,” writes Julian Birkinshaw. But occasionally, “crazy” ideas bubble up from somewhere unexpected. In most cases, what carries these ideas through to fruition is good storytelling. Here are three lessons for telling a good innovation story: Position your idea as a reinvention for a changing world (don’t say “we cannibalized our old business,” even if it’s true); remember the enduring appeal of serendipity, perspiration and being the underdog; and show how your idea helps your organization stay ahead of the trends — or in other words, “position yourself as the expert surfer who caught the wave at exactly the right moment.”


Women’s media is a scam (The New Republic)

Women’s media has run on advertising dollars forever. That women’s magazines compromise their editorial freedom to maintain relationships with their advertisers is an open secret in journalism, but one so old that nobody cares, writes Josephine Livingstone. “The difference between today’s women’s media scam and yesterday’s is that the advertising is now hiding in ‘native’ content, and the scummy clickbait is packaged better. Instead of sitting in a box next to a trashy article about celebrities, lucrative advertising these days lurks inside content that simulates ethical, feminist journalism.”


‘Hipsters will want paper soon,’ says the billionaire who bought the Los Angeles Times (The Guardian)

Biotech billionaire Patrick Soon-Shiong has bought the Los Angeles Times and a handful of other California newspapers for $500 million, vaulting him into an exclusive club populated by Rupert Murdoch, Jeff Bezos and a handful of other proprietors, writes Rory Carroll. Now he plans to turn the LA Times into a multimedia leviathan that will compete with the likes of The Washington Post and The New York Times. His ambitious “100-year plan” includes tackling fake news (“the cancer of our time”), hyper-partisan discourse, and short attention spans (caused by our addiction to mobile devices, he insists).  

+ Diversity in newsrooms starts with student papers (The Globe and Mail)