Need to Know: June 21, 2019

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

OFF THE TOP

You might have heard: WordPress.com and the News Revenue Hub are working on a tool that’s not just a CMS for newsrooms, “but a full business system that enables publishing and monetization at the same time.” (Nieman Lab)

But did you know: Now that more publishers are switching to reader revenue, tech startups are betting they could use CRM smarts (Nieman Lab)

Working with the Austin Monitor on an experiment around micropayments, Pico (formerly known as PennyPass) stumbled on a gap that exists in many newsrooms: the lack of a sophisticated customer relationship management tool. And now that more publishers are relying on reader revenue, having that kind of tool (and knowing how to use it) is increasingly important. “When we finished the [micropayments] pilot, very few users had converted into subscribers, but we had this big spreadsheet of leads,” said cofounder Jason Bade. “We asked them: ‘Where do we put it? Do you have a format you like it in?’ They said: ‘We don’t have a CRM. We have a plugin that manages who’s paid, and we have Mailchimp to email people.’ Honestly, that moment when they said ‘send us a CSV,’ we realized this was nuts.” Pico joins other startups trying to edge into this space, writes Christine Schmidt: GroundSource is going through a reinvention period as a “loyalty engine,” The News Project is developing a news-business-in-a-box, membership manager Steady has emerged from the outlet Krautreporter in Berlin, and the News Revenue Hub and WordPress.com are beta-testing a toolkit for local newsrooms called Newspack in the form of a “maestro that will arrange and conduct an orchestra of plugins.”

+ Noted: Twitter is removing precise-location tagging on tweets — a small win for privacy but a small loss for journalists and researchers (Nieman Lab); NewsMatch and REI Co-op partner to expand support for local environmental reporting (Medium, Jason Alcorn); The Washington Post announces plans to expand its investigative journalism (Washington Post)

API UPDATE

In this week’s edition of ‘Factually’

As part of a fact-checking journalism partnership, API and the Poynter Institute highlight stories worth noting related to truth in politics and on the Internet. In the latest edition of Factually: takeaways from the Global Fact 6 conference; the difference between cheapfakes and deepfakes; and one good example of how politicians can “take a sprawling piece of legislation, cherry-pick one part, take it out of context and gin up an attack line.”

TRY THIS AT HOME

Learning the best ways to grow our local news subscribers (OpenNews)

WhereBy.Us, a digital news startup with branches in Miami and Seattle, recently took an inventory of its newsletter subscriber acquisition strategies to see which were most effective and efficient. It used three metrics to gauge each strategy’s success — the total number of new subscribers acquired, time and cost invested per subscriber, and engagement levels. The team used MailChimp’s subscriber tags and contact ratings as measurement tools. “The clearest takeaway was how effective partnerships overall are for our local brands — hundreds of new subscribers sign up from our partnership efforts every month,” writes co-founder Anika Anand. The site’s referral tool also rose above its other acquisition tools, emphasizing the dual importance of tech efficiencies and relationship-building. The referral tool’s “success relies on the relationships and loyalty we build with our subscribers, so that they are excited to share the newsletter with their friends,” writes Anand. “While it doesn’t bring in as many new subscribers as our partnerships, the users we do acquire through referrals tend to be more engaged and loyal in the long-term.”

+ Introducing City Bureau’s community engagement guidelines (City Bureau)

OFFSHORE

An oral history of China’s foreign press training programs (Columbia Journalism Review)

China has spent billions in recent years to bolster its soft power abroad, and the news media often takes center stage in its efforts. Xinhua, China’s newswire service, aims to build 200 bureaus by 2020 (the Associated Press operates 254), and state-run CGTN, a rebranding of CCTV for international audiences, is hiring around the world. Chinese interests have acquired shares in a slew of foreign media companies, in some cases purchasing them outright. Chinese diplomats are writing op-eds in foreign papers. And paid inserts from China Daily, a top English-language outlet, can be found in newspapers from The Statesman, in India, to The Des Moines Register, in Iowa. The goal, experts say, is not just to improve China’s image abroad. “This is about control of the narrative and legitimization of the [Communist] Party’s power and governance,” says David Bandurski, co-director of the Hong Kong-based China Media Project. In the long term, Bandurski says, as China looms ever-larger on the world stage, its pursuit of a sanitized image of itself might also threaten a shift in journalistic norms.

+ Swedish magazine subscription app Readly raises €15 million (EU-Startups)

OFFBEAT

How librarians are teaming up with journalists to rescue local news  (Nieman Reports)

Increasingly, libraries are playing a greater role in journalism, as journalists and librarians — long entwined by common goals, and facing similar challenges as their industries undergo rapid transformation in the digital age — find ways to collaborate. Some librarians help where news organizations are absent or have been decimated in recent years. Other librarians are teaming up with journalists to promote media literacy and tackle misinformation, develop community journalists, spur civic engagement, and even to take on reporting projects.

+ Related: 6 newsroom-library partnerships to check out (Twitter, @News Co/Lab)

UP FOR DEBATE

Why A.G. Sulzberger took on Trump in The Wall Street Journal (Vanity Fair)

New York Times publisher A.G. Sulzberger’s op-ed in the Wall Street Journal this week was notable not just for its message — “Accusing the New York Times of ‘Treason,’ Trump Crosses a Line” — but for the platform where that message was broadcast: a rival newspaper with a famously red-blooded opinion section. “One of the concerns I have right now is, if you look at who’s responding to the attacks on journalists, it tends to be journalists,” said Sulzberger. “Folks like Marty Baron, folks like me. And I worry that it’s easy for the public to regard that as institutions looking after their own self-interest. I don’t view it that way. I really hope that other leaders will raise their voices as well. It shouldn’t just be journalists defending journalism. I think any successful business leader will tell you how valuable the free and trustworthy flow of information is for their ability to be successful.”

SHAREABLE

Congratulations to Slack, the now-public company that keeps thousands of newsrooms humming (Nieman Lab)

Yesterday Slack became a publicly-traded company, valued through a direct public offering at about $17 billion (that’s about three times the value of The New York Times Co.). The company launched five years ago, and some of its early success can be attributed to its journalist fan club, writes Joshua Benton. “Slack has indeed become the central nervous system of many newsrooms, replacing endless email threads and becoming a friendly universal archive for information and documents … At this point, there may be more newsrooms running on Slack than there are on Microsoft Word.” Nieman Lab, to date, has written 36 stories on the various ways newsrooms have used the platform.

+ Earlier: Our Slack primer for your newsroom if you’re new to it; How a Seattle Times Slack channel lets people speak up about insensitive coverage (Better News)

FOR THE WEEKEND

+ Redistributing power in communities through involved journalism (Membership Puzzle Project)

+ The New York Times is hosting a walking tour of 11 landmarks that tell the story of the city’s LGBTQ history. “This is the kind of work that sets the Times apart from most news outlets, yet it’s the kind of journalism that can be replicated by other media organizations,” wrote Poynter’s Tom Jones.

+ The Colorado Sun — ad free, journalist-owned and run — is nearing its one-year anniversary. Co-founders Dana Coffield and Larry Ryckman talk about the organization’s launch, supported by Civil and Kickstarter, and what they’ve done over the past year to attract members. “We made very specific asks during the course of our Kickstarter such as: help us pay for travel to rural areas, boost our budget for photography and to help us in open records battles,” said Ryckman. “I think people responded to that.” (Reynolds Journalism Institute)