Need to Know: July 25, 2019

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


You might have heard: Mobile content discovery apps like Flipboard and the Google News app are driving more readers to news sites than Facebook (Nieman Lab)

But did you know: Traffic to news websites seems to have leveled off (Pew Research Center)

In its annual assessment of the state of the news media, Pew found that unique visitors to websites of both newspapers and digital-native news sites showed no growth in 2018, the second year in which there was no notable growth. It also marked a decline in time spent on these websites. The average number of minutes per visit for digital-native news sites was down 16% since 2016, falling from nearly two and a half minutes to about two per visit. Among the other findings: U.S. newspaper circulation fell to historic lows (it’s at its lowest since 1940), with total daily newspaper circulation (print and digital combined) an estimated 28.6 million for weekday and 30.8 million for Sunday in 2018.

+ Noted: U.S. government issues stunning rebuke, historic $5 billion fine against Facebook for repeated privacy violations (Washington Post); A New York Times blockchain project aims to help convince people that a photo really is (or isn’t!) what it seems to be (Nieman Lab); Missouri School of Journalism launches new investigative fellowship program to support authors (Reynolds Journalism Institute); New York “mugshot ban” leaves newsrooms in the dark (RTDNA)


Trust Tip: Explain how you tried to reach a source (Trusting News)

For journalists, the phrase “unavailable for comment” might seem self-explanatory, but for your audience, it isn’t. They may be skeptical and assume you didn’t put much effort into contacting the source or didn’t give them enough time to respond. Trusting News Director Joy Mayer recommends including specific details that explain how you contacted the source, including whether you reached out by phone, email or in person. Sign up for weekly Trust Tips here, and learn more about the Trusting News project — including how your newsroom can get free coaching — here.


Keep audiences top-of-mind when considering new verticals (Medium, The Idea)

When considering new products to spin off from their wildly successful newsletter Morning Brew, co-founders Austin Rief and Alex Lieberman decided to stick with what they do best: newsletters. In addition to Morning Brew, which covers business news, Rief and Lieberman are launching tech and retail newsletters that take the same casual, unwinding-at-the-bar-after-work tone that helped make Morning Brew so popular. But the true magic of the newsletter as a platform, said Rief, is the one-to-one connections it fosters. “I don’t see us ever creating a ton of content on the website just for the sake of doing reporting and page views,” he said. “I don’t think it’s a great user experience, and I don’t think that’s a great business model for a lot of publishers and especially ourselves.”


How news orgs in financially and politically pressured environments are innovating (WAN-IFRA) 

A new report from WAN-IFRA surfaces key themes in how news orgs are grappling with business challenges in low- and middle-income countries where press freedom is restricted. Among the findings: Partnerships are increasingly used to help news orgs stay resilient — to buffer against loss of ad revenue (one example is consortium-driven advertising networks, which are helping publishers scale audience reach and attract advertisers) or strengthen coverage of social justice issues. There’s also been a shift toward membership and subscription models, accompanied by an increase in participatory journalism methods. Many of the news orgs studied are more formally involving their audiences in sourcing story ideas and making efforts to meet them face-to-face at discussion forums, exhibitions and other events.  

+ Peruvian journalist launches first collaborative journalism platform on public health in Latin America (Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas)


What to do when your products compete with each other (Product Hunt)

When Product Hunt, a tech website where startups and individuals can launch their latest creations, wanted to grow readership for its tech news app Sip, it “cheated” by giving Sip its own section on the Product Hunt website. The move caused readership to increase tenfold, but it also cannibalized traffic from other parts of the website, drawing more meaningful engagement away from Product Hunt’s core product. So in January 2019, the team decided to quietly discontinue Sip. “The most successful consumer products often have distribution built into the product itself,” writes Ryan Hoover. “Sip was a single player experience and lacked an engagement loop that would encourage users to invite other users. This point is even more important today as consumers face fatigue and makers face increasing competition as the cost to build continues to drop. Distribution should be considered on day one and built into the product.” (H/t to the Splice Frames newsletter for spotlighting this article!)


Reporters commenting on the ‘optics’ of the Mueller testimony show ‘basic misunderstanding’ of their jobs (Columbia Journalism Review)

After yesterday’s testimony from Special Counsel Robert Mueller before Congress, MSNBC host Chuck Todd tweeted, “On substance, Democrats got what they wanted: that Mueller didn’t charge Pres. Trump because of the OLC guidance, that he could be indicted after he leaves office, among other things. But on optics, this was a disaster.” The tweet echoed the sentiment of many other journalists and commentators, who found fault with the lack of “pizzazz” at the hearings, writes Maria Bustillo. “May I suggest that if you, a journalist, are bored with the politics of this — if you are demanding somehow to be entertained, right now — you’re not doing your job,” she writes. “Politics isn’t entertainment, it is not a performance to be critiqued.”


What to do if the older people in your life are sharing false or extreme content (BuzzFeed News)

Although Boomers and older generations are by no means the only people struggling to navigate the online information landscape, they may be the demographic most neglected when it comes to media literacy and digital skills training. If they’re consuming (and spreading) misinformation or extremist content online, it may be due to a lack of understanding of the context, says Mike Caulfield. That’s when a careful intervention is needed, he says. “There’s a good chance your family member doesn’t understand that and might be horrified at what they’re sharing. And so there’s a point to intervene and let people know, ‘Hey, I know, this was probably not what you meant, but…’”

+ Earlier: Old, online, and fed on lies: how an aging population will reshape the internet (BuzzFeed News)