Need to Know: June 24, 2019

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


You might have heard: Google says it isn’t killing ad blockers. Ad blockers disagree. (Wired)

But did you know: This July, Google Chrome will make it easier to bypass paywalls (What’s New in Publishing)

The ad blocking controversy is still fresh, and now publishers have to contend with yet another salvo from Google Chrome, writes Monojoy Bhattacharjee. The next version of the browser, Chrome 76 — scheduled for a public release in late July — will introduce a set of changes in its API implementation that will make it practically impossible for publishers to detect when a Chrome browser is in incognito mode. Publishers that rely on subscriptions and paywalls are aware of the popular incognito hack to bypass paywalls, and have been closing loopholes as various paywall blockers emerge. However, some say it’s not worth the effort. “Free riders aren’t that valuable; it’s a low likelihood they will ever pay, so why bother,” Michael Silberman, SVP Strategy at paywall tech provider Piano, told Digiday. “Publishers are trying to find the right balance between restricting access and making it harder for current and prospective subscribers who are considering it. They don’t want to add too much friction and are wary of tactics that get in the way of that.”

+ Noted: As of December, publishers will no longer be allowed to send out newsletters on WhatsApp (Nieman Lab); Political outlets form nonpartisan ad alliance to win dollars back from Google and Facebook (The Drum); Reveal from the Center for Investigative Reporting launches local reporting networks (Twitter, @ByardDuncan)


Covering arts and entertainment in your own backyard (Poynter)

The Southern California News Group has a simple approach to covering local arts and entertainment: Report not as an observer, but as a community member who just happens to have great access and useful info. The approach has yielded a few successful niche products — the Park Life newsletter, which covers the area’s theme parks and has an impressive 38% open rate; Festival Pass, which has tripled subscribers in the past year and has a 25% open rate; and Casino Pass, which launched in March of this year and has a 32% open rate. “All these people go to these places,” said Vanessa Franko, SCNG’s digital director of entertainment. “Here’s an opportunity for us to write about something that’s here in our backyard. Let’s go write about some roller coasters. Let’s go write about Space Mountain … Our approach as a team is if we’re not having fun, we’re doing it wrong.”


Fact-checking in a fact-less, crisis-stricken world (Poynter)

Is fact-checking impossible in a place like Venezuela? Speaking at the Global Fact 6 conference in South Africa, Venezuelan journalists Daniel Acosta and Jeanfreddy Gutierrez Torres described the challenges they face in a country where poverty levels have soared above 90% and many independent news outlets (including Acosta’s own fact-checking website) have been shut down. “We can’t work like the rest of the world,” Acosta said. “In fact-checking courses taught by Chequeado or the Knight Center, the first thing they tell you is to refer to the official source. But in Venezuela, official sources don’t exist.” Acosta and Gutierrez described their workarounds, including relying more on secondary sources for data, like universities and nonprofits, and using social media to distribute their reporting. They know their fact-checks might not be considered perfect by global standards, but in a country that desperately lacks dependable sources of knowledge and information, they’re doing the best they can. As Acosta said, “En el mundo de los ciegos, el tuerto es rey.” (“In the country of the blind, the one-eyed man is king.”)

+ Behavioral advertising is out of control, warns U.K. watchdog (TechCrunch)


Most managers don’t know how to coach people. But they can learn. (Harvard Business Review)

A recent study found that most managers don’t understand what coaching really is — they tend to think they’re coaching when they’re actually just telling their employees what to do. One of the keys to being a good coach — letting the coachee arrive at their own solution — is difficult for most managers, many of whom tend to take a micromanaging approach to coaching, write Julia Milner and Trenton Milner. While developing good coaching skills can take a relatively short amount of time, it depends first on understanding that coaching is mostly about listening, asking the right questions, assisting with goal setting, and recognizing and pointing out strengths — in other words, being a supporter, not a guide.

+ Earlier: Help your team become better story-tellers through coaching, not “fixing.” (RTDNA)


“First-generation fact-checking” is no longer good enough. Here’s what comes next (Nieman Lab)

“First-generation fact-checking” — the approach of simply publishing fact-checks — isn’t enough if you want to change people’s minds. That’s the consensus reached by three global fact-checking organizations. “The idea that fact checking can work by correcting the public’s inaccurate beliefs on a mass scale alone doesn’t stack up,” write representatives from Full Fact (U.K.), Africa Check (Africa), and Chequeado (Argentina), in a manifesto of sorts published Thursday to all three sites. The organizations are advocating for a “second generation” approach that will move from merely “publish” to “publish and act.” Their means include using “whatever forms of moral, public, or where appropriate regulatory pressure are available to stop the spread of specific bits of misinformation” as well as interventions from “educating children or adults to advocating for policy changes.”


We listened to academics and practitioners talk about engaged journalism. Here’s what we learned (Medium, Tow Center)

Communication between journalists and journalism academics is often hampered by lack of a shared language and lack of trust. At a recent gathering in Washington, D.C., a group of about 50 journalists and academics shared ways to improve collaboration between the groups. Some of the suggestions from journalists included supplementing peer-reviewed academic publishing with freely-available, fast-tracked work that is free of academic jargon, setting clearer goals and expectations at the beginning of a new partnership, and keeping communication channels open even after projects finish.

+ Earlier: Pro tips from scholars for journalists (and vice versa) (Journalist’s Resource)

+ LGBTQ news coverage still evolving 50 years after Stonewall (AP)