Need to Know: June 12, 2019

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


You might have heard: Does LGBT media have a future? (BuzzFeed News)

But did you know: Greed, mismanagement and private equity: How iconic LGBTQ magazine ‘Out’ almost died (Vice)

A crisis threatening to shut down Out magazine has been averted with an infusion of capital to cover several hundred thousand dollars in back payments to contributors, vendors and other parties. Vice News reported that for the last few months, private equity firm Oreva Capital, which owns Out’s parent company Pride Media, had been unable or unwilling to pay freelancers and vendors. Investors, including Out owner Adam Levin, provided the much-needed funds last week. According to Levin, the publication’s unique monthly visitors are up and its sales are up by $10 million for the first half of this year. Oreva Capital also owns cannabis magazine High Times and placed High Times Holding Corp. in $11.5 million in debt to help finance acquisition of that media property.

+ Noted: Scripps, Reporters Committee partner to advance enterprise journalism, open records (Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press); Can your podcast make money, after all? Pioneer Square Labs spinout Glow debuts tech platform for podcast memberships (GeekWire); Mary Meeker’s annual slide deck of internet trends has become a thing, and the latest one just came out (Vox)


How the Sacramento Bee used ‘sprints’ to drive digital subscriptions (Better News)

Here’s an idea to steal and adapt: The Sacramento Bee used a SMART-goal-setting process to find audiences willing to pay for its work during an effort to transform itself. The newspaper has the goal to maintain and more than double its 22,000 digital subscribers to 54,000 in the next several years. One method is to test four potential new audience groups. The Bee launched “sprints” for each one — short, focused reporting efforts that would show what content might lead these groups to subscribe. This story is part of a series on Better News that showcases innovative and experimental ideas that emerge from the Knight-Lenfest Newsroom Initiative; and shares replicable tactics that benefit the news industry as a whole.

+ Related: The Fresno Bee used sprints to experiment with food coverage and reached more digital subscriptions (Poynter)


Seattle Times Analytics Hub measures story performance, tracks subscriber journey (International News Media Association)

Two years ago, Seattle Times Digital Audience Editor Nick Eaton had an idea to combine all of the newsrooms metrics for a single story in one place, where a reporter could find historic pageviews, real-time users and likes and shares from Facebook. That idea became Analytics Hub, data and charts that place emphasis on readers by showing the percentage of the post’s audience that are subscribers or local. The system includes subscription reports drawn from data on the stories readers viewed in the month leading up to subscribing and how closely they read them. This subscription data and other metrics have helped Seattle Times editors guide coverage and “take the temperature of what does and does not drive subscriptions, which we hope is the business model of the future,” Features Editor Stefanie Loh said.

+ Related: You too can combine all your engagement metrics and learn what drives subscriptions by using API’s Metrics for News program


Digital News Report finds digital subscriptions are up, but not for everyone (Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism)

A report on 38 different markets from Reuters Institute shows a small increase in those paying for online news, whether it’s in the form of subscriptions, memberships or nonprofit donations. Countries with the most growth include Norway, where 34 percent of those surveyed paid for online news, and Sweden, with 27 percent. This year, 16 percent of Americans polled paid for online news, a number that’s been stagnant for the last two years. The number of people avoiding the news increased 6 percent to land at 32 percent, with more than half of those adding that they avoid news because it negatively impacts their mood.

+ Micropayments-for-news pioneer Blendle is pivoting from micropayments (Nieman Lab)


Like comic books? This platform picks titles for you (The New York Times)

On Tuesday, Graphic Comics launched Graphite, a free digital service that offers digital comics in 61 languages, while using artificial intelligence to recommend content to readers. The service is free and includes ads, with the option to pay about $5 a month for an ad-free experience. Digital comics made up about $100 million of $1.1 billion overall sales in the U.S. and Canada last year. Marvel and DC Comics, which have their own subscription services, aren’t providing content to Graphite, but the service will include content from Amazon’s Comixology, Crunchyroll and others, some of whom hope offering free content via Graphite will lead to audience growth.


The one rule of content moderation that every platform follows (OneZero)

Following YouTube’s efforts to demonetize conservative YouTuber Stephen Crowder’s show last week, Will Oremus writes that the tech company followed the script of other tech companies facing hate speech controversies on their platforms. According to Oremus, a pattern exists with similar situations where tech companies like Facebook, Twitter and Google initially claim that the speech is objectionable but doesn’t violate their rules, but later change their tune during sustained outrage over the issue. Oremus believes the problem isn’t the companies’ politics, but “it’s that giant, for-profit tech companies, as currently constructed, are simply not suited to the task of deciding unilaterally what speech is acceptable and what isn’t.”

+ How the Trump War Room uses Twitter, the ‘wild west of misinformation’ (Big If True)


Meet your new public editors (Columbia Journalism Review)

National media outlets in the United States have just one full-time public editor or ombudsman — National Public Radio’s Elizabeth Jensen. Columbia Journalism Review editor-in-chief and publisher Kyle Pope writes that the decline of public editors, who serve as advocates for news consumers, “is the most visible sign of the growing distance between news organizations and the people they serve.” Yesterday, CJR announced it had appointed four public editors of its own to serve as watchdogs for The New York Times, The Washington Post, CNN and MSNBC. The public editors will “be ready to call out mistakes, observe bad habits, and give praise where it’s due.”