Need to Know: June 10, 2019

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


You might have heard: Congress is considering legislation that would grant a four-year antitrust exemption to news publishers as they negotiate with Google and Facebook over how news content is used and how ad revenue is distributed (Washington Post)

But did you know: Google made $4.7 billion from the news industry in 2018, study says (New York Times)

The revenue from search and Google News is nearly as much as the $5.1 billion the U.S. news industry as a whole brought in from digital advertising in 2018, says David Chavern, president and chief executive of the News Media Alliance, which conducted the study. News is a significant part of Google’s business, according to the study. Some 40 percent of the clicks on the platform’s trending queries are for news. That’s content that Google does not pay for, the report said, although it often presents headlines from news outlets verbatim. “They make money off this arrangement,” Chavern said, “and there needs to be a better outcome for news publishers.”

+ Noted: Effort to bolster New Jersey media through a state-governed coalition has yet to receive funding (NJBIZ); New visual storytelling initiative CatchLight Local will connect photojournalists with local newsrooms that no longer have strong visual departments (GroundTruth Project); One of the most prominent pushers of micropayments, Dutch news aggregator website Blendle, ditches the pay-per-article model (Dutch News); Twitter simplifies its rules on safety and privacy (Engadget)


The Economist is using interactive data-driven Instagram Stories to reach younger audiences (

The Economist is stepping up its efforts to bring data-driven journalism to life on Instagram, using weekly news quizzes, native content and Instagram’s new multi-poll feature to build Stories that engage younger readers. “We start with selecting a piece of journalism, which might be a long read, a video or one of our daily charts, and then write the script with the help of the author of the original piece and an eye on which visual (charts, photos) and interactive (Instagram’s native stickers) elements can be used to tell the story,” said Francesco Zaffarano, Instagram producer for The Economist. Lucy Rohr, Stories editor for The Economist, added that understanding editorial voice and strong visual storytelling skills are crucial for creating compelling, on-brand Instagram content. The script is written with visuals in mind, she says, and the process often involves not only the original author but the data and design teams.


ProPublica’s Facebook-monitoring political ad tool (which Facebook fought) is now at the Globe and Mail (Nieman Lab)

The Globe and Mail is the new home to the Facebook Political Ad Collector, a browser extension that ProPublica built and released in 2017. The tool collects political ads from a user’s news feed, and shows them other Facebook political ads that weren’t aimed at their demographic group and that they wouldn’t ordinarily be able to see. Although Facebook could block the tool (which it temporarily did earlier this year while ProPublica was still owner), it’s currently up and running, and the Globe and Mail is planning to use it to bolster its coverage of the Canadian federal elections this fall. Canada recently passed legislation aimed at increasing political ad transparency online — one of the first countries to do so. “It’s going to be interesting to see the practical implications of this stuff play out,” says Tom Cardoso, the data journalist at the Globe and Mail who is overseeing the project. “Our effort here is to understand what political speech looks like in Canada, when it comes to advertising.”


The making of a YouTube radical (New York Times)

Through the story of 26-year-old Caleb Cain, Times reporter Kevin Roose shows how YouTube’s recommendation algorithm has been gamed by alt-right actors to attract users to extremist content. Roose’s conversations with Cain and an analysis of the data from Cain’s YouTube history, which he shared with Roose, “form a picture of a disillusioned young man, an internet-savvy group of right-wing reactionaries and a powerful algorithm that learns to connect the two,” writes Roose. “It suggests that YouTube may have played a role in steering Mr. Cain, and other young men like him, toward the far-right fringes.”


Axios on HBO, New York Times on FX: Can journalism find new audiences on Sunday night TV? (Baltimore Sun)

Last Sunday saw the premier of a newer, shorter form of TV news with the start of the second season of “Axios on HBO” and the debut on FX of “The Weekly” from the New York Times. Both, but especially the Axios episode, in which journalist Jonathan Swan grilled Jared Kushner, had classic elements of compelling TV news, writes David Zurawik — proving that news organizations don’t always need to reinvent the wheel. “For all the media consultants and really smart people working at places like the New York Times who are trying to develop genre-busting formats to gain a foothold on the small screen, new is not necessarily better. Axios seized the buzz last Sunday with one of the oldest formulas in the medium and hardest of hardcore staples of journalism: a well-prepared and fearless interviewer sitting down one on one with a shady and smug character and shredding his facade one tough question at a time.”


Rural teens seek (but rarely find) themselves in local news coverage (Reynolds Journalism Institute)

There is a heightened interest in what goes on in the heads and hearts of modern teenagers — dubbed “Generation Z” — particularly by legacy media. But teenagers from rural communities, especially in the Midwest, are not often factored into mainstream Gen Z coverage. This can be attributed to a number of factors, including living in a news desert, living in the middle of the country away from coastal journalism hubs, and unpredictable Wi-Fi access that hampers engagement with news and information sources. RJI Fellow Nico Gendron spent a year working with rural Missouri teens to develop their news consumption habits through a project in which they produced an original, local news story about their community that they felt hadn’t been explored by the media. As one of the participating students told Gendron upon filing in his final draft, “journalism is much harder than writing fiction.”