Need to Know: June 25, 2019

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


You might have heard: Readers landing on news sites from aggregators and other third-party referrers grew 21% in 2018 (Nieman Lab)

But did you know: We’re entering the age of ‘super aggregators’ for news (Publishing Executive) 

Super aggregators — think Apple News and Google News — go beyond typical aggregators, which present a very simple story layout or a collection of links, to offer a more user-centric experience that honors each publication’s unique style and functionality. As more readers use such aggregators to access news, publishers need to think beyond subscriptions to offer access to content in ways that gives these readers more choice, writes Cosmin Ene. “Someone who occasionally browses a site won’t subscribe, no matter what you do, but they may buy a few articles if it is easy. More frequent users may buy a day or a week of access if the content entices them. And the most loyal users are still likely to opt for subscriptions … By embracing user-centricity and providing options beyond subscriptions, publishers allow readers to consume content as seamlessly as they like. Doing so sets them up not only to retain existing readers, but also to engage with audiences that come to the site via outside sources — even Super Aggregators.”

+ Noted: News Corp tabloid offers journalists bonuses for clicks, page views and subscriptions (The Drum); Memorial proposed in D.C. for fallen journalists year after shooting (Southeast Missourian); GateHouse Media launches national investigative reporting team (BusinessWire)


Introducing a Trust 101 class for journalists (Medium, Trusting News)

Trusting News, an affiliate of API, is offering a five-week online course for journalists looking to build trust with their audiences. Participants will get a better understanding of what causes readers to mistrust their work and learn how to avoid those mistakes and demonstrate credibility to their audiences (especially critics). The time commitment is about three to four hours each week. Applications are being accepted until July 15. And thanks to funding from Democracy Fund, the class is completely free. Apply here. 

+ Related: Trusting News is also launching a free webinar series with Poynter on the subject of earning trust and demonstrating credibility through reporting. (Poynter)


How to optimize for mobile when a shiny new website or cutting-edge CMS aren’t in your future (Poynter)

In a survey of local newspapers’ mobile websites, researchers Meg Heckman and John Wihbey found a lot of fantastic journalism — fantastic journalism that was frustratingly sabotaged by slow page loading, screen-obscuring pop-up ads and unreadable formats. That’s a problem with huge implications for the future of local news, they write. The number of readers getting their news from mobile continues to skyrocket, and those readers won’t return to a mobile site that doesn’t give them a good experience. Fortunately, you don’t have to have the resources of The New York Times to make your website more mobile-friendly. Consider how your website appears and functions on a smartphone — can you read the text in the top stories? Do ads get in the way? How easy is it for someone to buy a subscription or update their credit card information via their smartphone? Are large files slowing down your site? These are all changes that, to some extent, are possible to make with your in-house tech team. Finally, think about non-web channels for reaching mobile audiences, like email newsletters and social media, that showcase your journalism while bypassing the headaches of mobile.


An Australian judge just ruled that Australians can sue the media over Facebook comments from readers (BuzzFeed News)

An Aboriginal man has been given the green light to sue three of Australia’s largest media companies over Facebook comments written by their readers. Dylan Voller is suing News Corp, Fairfax Media (now Nine), and the owner of Sky News Australia for defamation over comments on Facebook posts sharing various news stories related to his custody in juvenile detention. Before Voller’s case went to trial, Justice Stephen Rothman considered whether the media companies could be considered liable for the reader comments. The three companies argued they were not liable during a three-day hearing in February, in which social media managers took the stand and were questioned about how they monitored and moderated Facebook comments. The judge wrote that each company had the power to effectively delay reader comments on Facebook and monitor if they were defamatory before “releasing” them to the audience.


Don’t fall for these myths about growing online communities (Coral Project) 

Communities like Facebook and Twitter are built on a series of myths that conveniently maximize growth at all costs, primarily to benefit advertisers and investors, writes Andrew Losowsky of the Coral Project. Myths like “Everyone should be able to be reached by everyone.” Over the course of this week, Losowsky will share five myths that can actually be detrimental to online communities, starting with that first one. “If the platform’s design pushes freeform interactions between loosely connected people, its members are very likely also to be vulnerable to attack, thereby sacrificing safety and privacy for an ever-increasing network,” he writes. A healthier community allows users control over who can directly interact with them, such as by restricting @ mentions or prohibiting following or direct messaging.  


In debates, gaffes and viral moments are entertaining. But they shouldn’t steal the show. (Washington Post)

During the first Democratic presidential debates on Wednesday and Thursday, “weird, unscripted moments and hot takes will once again explode in all their viral splendor,” writes Margaret Sullivan. “Journalists and political insiders thrive on that sort of thing.” But without pausing to consider how that kind of reporting serves voters (it doesn’t really), journalists will be squandering limited resources and opportunities to help voters make informed choices, she writes. Journalists should be making better use of headlines, chyrons, video snippets and news alerts, to push, as much as possible, deep analysis and voter-oriented coverage instead of gaffes and sensational sound bites, no matter how entertaining they are.


R.I.P. Quartz Brief, the innovative mobile news app. Maybe ‘chatting with the news’ isn’t something most people really want to do? (Nieman Lab)

Quartz announced Friday that it would shut down Quartz Brief, a news app that made use of bots to allow users to have a “conversation” with Quartz journalists. The app’s functionality and its vision was much admired by people in media, but it never really took off with the general public. Its demise shouldn’t necessarily be viewed as a defining verdict on chat interfaces for news, which peaked in 2016 and have since dwindled as news orgs abandoned the briefly promising technology, writes Joshua Benton. “But my takeaway from all these moves is that there’s little evidence people want to chat with news organizations, at least not at scale, and that trying to nose our way into their private spaces isn’t always appreciated.” 

+ In the Rio Grande Valley, a fight to bring back NPR (Columbia Journalism Review)