Need to Know: July 29, 2021

OFF THE TOP

You might have heard: Publishers are finding LinkedIn isn’t just for business and careers news (Digiday)

But did you know: Despite platform wariness, some publishers are signing on to a new referral program from LinkedIn (Digiday)

LinkedIn quietly launched a pilot program last month called LinkedIn Premium News, which gives LinkedIn Premium users access to paywalled content from publishers that use the paywall software Piano. That included less than a dozen publishers at the program’s launch, but more are expected to come onboard. LinkedIn’s pitch to publishers is that in exchange for greater access to paywalled coverage, it will send publishers “highly qualified leads for their own subscription products,” Max Willens reports. LinkedIn will not take a cut of any subscriber revenue that publishers might get from those leads.

+ Noted: Gawker relaunches with Leah Finnegan as editor-in-chief (Gawker); Substack continues its acquisition streak with public correspondence startup Letter (Digiday)

API UPDATE

How the Dallas Morning News’ Instagram became a lifeline during a historic Texas winter storm (Better News)

In February 2021, a historic winter storm left thousands of Texans without power and water amid sub-freezing temperatures. To quickly respond to readers’ questions and encourage sharing of critical information, the Dallas Morning News turned to Instagram. Knowing many Texans had rarely experienced this kind of cold, let alone during widespread power outages, the audience team created several how-to posts for Instagram based on people’s questions, like how to drive in snow and conserve energy in cold weather. This story is part of a series on Better News that showcases innovative and experimental ideas that emerge from Table Stakes, the newsroom training program; and shares replicable tactics that benefit the news industry as a whole.

TRY THIS AT HOME

How KPCC/LAist involved community members in a reporting series on childcare (Medium, KPCC/LAist)

In August 2020, KPCC/LAist gave cameras to 12 child-care providers in Southern California and asked them to take photos of their work, as part of its “Childcare, Unfiltered” reporting series. The photographs were later displayed at outdoor installations, with KPCC/LAist issuing invitations via direct mail to encourage residents to visit the installations. Local cultural institutions and groups were eager to partner on the photography project, seeing a shared mission to uplift community members and encourage reflection on the pandemic’s impact.

OFFSHORE

Guardian digital reader revenue climbs during pandemic year with half from outside UK (Press Gazette)

The 2020 U.S. election helped the Guardian attract more international reader revenue, with 2020 turning into a banner year for subscriptions. The Guardian’s digital subscriptions were up 46% year-on-year to 401,000 (a record for the media company), and print subscriptions were up 8% to 120,000. Digital reader revenue climbed by 61% in 2020. Despite a “strategic restructuring program” in 2020 that cut 125 jobs, Guardian Media Group interim chief executive Keith Underwood has said that the company is now in a position to invest in its journalism and capabilities for deepening reader relationships. The Guardian celebrated its 200th anniversary in 2021.

OFFBEAT

What makes vaccine skeptics change their minds? (Poynter)

Interviews conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation probed the common reasons vaccine skeptics agreed to get the vaccine. Many said — unsurprisingly — they had been convinced by family and friends or trusted doctors, but many also explained that their “wait and see” approach had panned out. “It was clearly safe. No one was dying,” said one South Carolina man. A small but significant number of people said that the easing of restrictions for vaccinated people compelled them to ultimately get the vaccine.

UP FOR DEBATE

Are comment sections worth the trouble? How can we measure their value? (Nieman Lab)

No editor wants to abandon their comment section to trolls and hostile, abusive users. But do they want to invest the time and resources in making it a forum for productive, thought-provoking conversations that encourage people to keep returning to their news site? In a roundtable discussion on comment sections, editors from several news organizations examined (among other issues) how to measure their value. One suggestion was obtaining commenter email addresses as a relationship-building tactic and to track whether this eventually leads to new subscriptions. Otherwise it’s very difficult to determine whether comments persuade people to subscribe or revisit.

SHAREABLE 

The power of asking, ‘Is there a better way?’ (Medium, Solutions Journalism Network)

After sheriff’s deputies in San Mateo County, Calif., repeatedly used a taser on a mentally-ill man walking in traffic, resulting in his death, many news reports focused on the ensuing outrage. But a reporter from The Wall Street Journal began asking experts how police might change the way they respond to mental-health calls. His research led him to a tiny Oregon nonprofit that was working on that very problem. After the reporter published a story on the nonprofit, it got picked up by other news outlets, and eventually the nonprofit was launched into the national spotlight. Now it is regularly cited by policymakers and advocates trying to address overly aggressive policing. The spread of the original solutions story shows the power journalists have to vet new ideas and help them catch on, Mark Obbie writes.