Need to Know: June 17, 2020


You might have heard: People pay for news that reinforces their social identities

But did you know: People who pay for news say the most important factor is the distinctiveness and quality of the content (Reuters Institute Digital News Report)

On Tuesday, the Reuters Institute published its annual digital news report, packed with interesting tidbits about the media around the world. In the US, more than half of paying news subscribers say they want to “help fund good journalism,” but 40% of Americans say that “nothing” could persuade them to pay for news. Despite being “a minority activity that appeals mostly to older readers,” email newsletters reduce churn, with daily updates being the most popular type of regular newsletter. In Brazil, 73% of adults said they were interested in local news, compared to 48% of Americans(and only 12% of South Koreans).

+ Noted: The Institute for Nonprofit News published its 2020 Index study and member compensation survey (INN); Axios to launch flagship daily news podcast next Monday (Hot Pod News); Minnesota Public Radio reduces staff by 28 (MPR); GroundTruth announces new podcast series, “On the Ground with Report for America” (Medium, Report for America); Federal lawsuit alleges Post-Gazette violated civil rights laws In treatment of black reporter (WESA)


Trust Tip: Here are two ways we can support your election coverage (Trusting News) 

With everything else happening in the world, it’s almost easy to forget that 2020 is a major election. This week’s edition of Trust Tips looks at two programs that will help you demonstrate your site’s credibility and its value as a public service when it comes to the election. Sign up for weekly Trust Tips here, and learn more about the Trusting News project — including how your newsroom can get free coaching — here.

+ Related: API’s Trusted Elections Network looks at lessons learned from the spring primaries, and questions journalists should be asking about voting in upcoming elections


Local news outlets are riding the wave of new COVID-19 subscribers by focusing on personal appeals (Local News Initiative)

While ad revenue has crashed during the pandemic, many news outlets are seeing a wave of new subscribers, which means subscriber retention has become a primary goal. So far, new paying readers seem to be sticking around, but personal outreach to new readers is an important way to keep people engaged. Many sites have leaned into email as a primary source of communication — some have focused on “pop-up” products related to the pandemic, while others have funneled new subscribers into existing newsletters and alerts. Nonprofits have also seen a bump in donations and memberships since the pandemic began.

+ Earlier: Publishers are prioritizing subscription volume over immediate revenue (Digiday)

+ Tips and guidelines for covering transgender people with accuracy and sensitivity (Medium, Gillian Branstetter)


Columnist calls for BBC Two to clear its schedule for live educational programming during COVID-19 crisis (Press Gazette)

With school children across Britain learning from home, media lecturer Leon Hawthorne argues that the BBC should devote hours of weekday programming to live educational shows. He proposes that BBC Two replace the “re-runs and game shows” of its usual daytime programming with teachers giving entertaining lessons for students of different ages. The goal is to reach the children least likely to have access to computers or broadband, and ensure that they are on the same page as their wealthier counterparts. 


Do true crime podcasts perpetuate the myth of an effective criminal justice system? (NiemanLab)

Ever since Serial swept the podcast world in 2014, true crime has been one of the most popular podcast genres. But Charley Locke wonders if these podcasts, which often rely heavily on police reports, give the impression that the criminal justice system is generally effective and fair. Many podcasters know that listeners prefer a clean narrative with a wrapped-up resolution and a hero to root for, which often turns out to be the police officer or detective involved in the case. But these simplified stories may be glossing over, or avoiding entirely, the flaws within the criminal justice system.

+ Google excludes two websites from its ad platform over protest articles (NBC News)


Jeff Bezos could solve pay equality tomorrow (CJR)

In his latest column for CJR, Hamilton Nolan argues that Jeff Bezos should address pay inequality at The Washington Post with some of his own billions. A study from the Post’s guild found that there are pay discrepancies, with women and people of color making less than men and white employees. Nolan estimates the cost of addressing pay equity in the newsroom is equal to the $10 million that Amazon recently pledged to “supporting justice and equity.”


How El Tímpano passes the mic to Spanish-speaking and Indigenous immigrant communities (The Oaklandside)

The Oaklandside, a new nonprofit news organization in Oakland, has partnered with El Tímpano, a media organization targeting Spanish-speaking Latino and Indigenous Mayan immigrants in the area. To introduce the partnership, The Oaklandside featured an interview with Madeleine Bair, El Tímpano’s founder, about the lack of diverse representation in local media, one-on-one interviews with community members, and why text messaging is their primary method of communicating. The Oaklandside and El Tímpano will be meeting weekly to build partnerships for reaching Oakland’s Latino immigrant communities.

+ Related: “Hundreds of Oaklanders told us what they want from local journalism. Here’s what we learned.” (The Oaklandside)