Need to Know: July 27, 2020

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


You might have heard: The Seattle Police Department subpoenaed local news outlets for unpublished materials to aid an investigation (The Seattle Times)

But did you know: Judge rules Seattle media companies must hand over unpublished protest images to police (The Seattle Times)

A judge ruled last week that The Seattle Times and four TV stations must comply with a subpoena and give the Seattle Police Department video and photos taken during a May 30 protest. A Washington state shield law protects reporters’ unpublished material from being obtained, but the judge ruled it didn’t apply to this situation, in which law enforcement are seeking material to aid an investigation into stolen guns and arson involving police vehicles. Seattle Times Executive Editor Michele Matassa Flores argued that the subpoena “puts our independence, and even our staff’s physical safety, at risk.” According to the ruling, police can’t use the images to identify crimes and suspects outside of their investigation.

+ Related: In Portland, a judge temporarily barred federal officers from using force, threats and dispersal orders against journalists (The Oregonian)

+ Noted: Fox Sports laid off 50 to 100 staffers (The Wrap); McClatchy’s new owner plans to keep all employees, but not the CEO, sale agreement says (McClatchy); Hearst magazines president resigns after report about lewd workplace behavior (The New York Times); A settlement was reached between The Washington Post and Covington High School student in lawsuit over misleading March for Life video (Deadline)


Drive more subscriptions or memberships 

Our Reader Revenue Toolkit is a living resource that guides publishers through the practical challenges of generating reader revenue: designing an attractive subscription offer page, improving registration and payment forms, building email lists and more. Check out the toolkit, and let us know if there’s an additional challenge or step you’d like us to cover. 


Podcast creators mull more ads while preserving high listener engagement (Digiday)

After taking a 10% dip in March and April, podcast downloads are up, and so is interest in expanding the presence of ads on the platform. Digiday reported that publishers like the Wall Street Journal are considering placing more ads on their shows, but Stephen Smyk of media agency Veritone warned that creating a new ad slot can reduce the effectiveness of other advertising spots. Others point out that listeners can simply skip ads, although ads on podcasts are less likely to be skipped than spots on other media, including YouTube.


Why Vogue is launching in Scandinavia now (Press Gazette)

The first issue of the fashion magazine, slated to cover Scandinavian countries and the Nordic region, will launch in the spring next year. Sweden and other Scandinavian countries that invested early in the technology industry are now home to most of the millionaires in Europe despite their population size. Condé Nast executive Wolfgang Blau said Scandinavian design has gained global influence, adding, “Scandinavian fashion companies have also been important drivers of the global conversation about fashion, sustainability and climate change.”

+ How a new wave of podcasts is shaking up Chinese-language media (Politico)


A look at the Americans who believe the conspiracy theory that COVID-19 was planned (Pew Research Center)

According to Pew, 5% of those surveyed said they fully believe a conspiracy theory that powerful people plotted the pandemic, while 20% think it’s probably true. The data shows that factors like a person’s education level and politics affect how they interpret the false theory. About half of those with a high school diploma or less believe the theory is true or probably true, and about a third of right-leaning Republicans and Independents said the same.

+ Related: Sinclair to delay segment featuring “Plandemic” conspiracy theory (Politico)


Diversity, equality, inclusion, and ‘the pipeline problem’ (Nieman Reports)

Doug Mitchell, founder and director of Next Generation Radio, writes that 72% of his organization’s alumni are women and 60% are women of color. He suggests that when managers are interested in hiring journalists of color, they consider asking themselves if they know anyone who would be good for the position before asking others. “Seriously. Because, if you don’t, whose fault is that?” Mitchell writes. “It’s not mine. And I’m not here to absolve you of that or create a short cut on your behalf.”


Reporters are leaving newsrooms for newsletters, their own ‘mini media empire’ (The Washington Post)

Journalists from New York Magazine, Rolling Stone, Sports Illustrated and New Republic have left their publications for the greener pastures of Substack, a newsletter platform founded in 2017 to combat social media algorithms’ dampening of news distribution. According to Substack, writers there have attracted 100,000 subscribers, allowing the most lucrative newsletters to yield hundreds of thousands of dollars a year in revenue. Mailchimp has also seen growth, with a 45% increase in publisher accounts last year.