Need to Know: June 5, 2019

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


You might have heard: Targeted-ad tax could revitalize U.S. journalism, Free Press says (Current)

But did you know: U.S. probe of Google’s online ad dominance would appease long suffering rivals, publishers (Reuters)

Google is responsible for 37 percent of online ad spending in the United States so far this year, compared with Facebook’s 22 percent and Amazon’s 10 percent, according to research firm eMarketer. And revenue from digital advertising made up the lion’s share of revenue for Google’s parent company Alphabet Inc. last year. In connection with a potential antitrust investigation, the Department of Justice plans to look into Google’s role in the online advertising market. Google’s influence impacts the advertising profits of online publishers that rely on the company for both search reach and ad tools. Reuters reports that some website owners have said that Google’s position allows the search giant “to dictate industry policies and practices in ways that squeeze out their companies and favor its own.”

+ Noted: Following reports of an expanded newsroom for the 2020 election, Vice Media parts with two top editors, after layoffs and before an expansion (New York Times); These reporters lost their jobs. now they’re fighting back against Big Tech. (BuzzFeed News); YouTube decides that Steven Crowder, host of Louder with Crowder, does not violate its policies (The Verge)


Trust Tip: Clearly label opinion content (Trusting News)

News organizations don’t always make it easy for readers to identify opinion pieces, writes Lynn Walsh, assistant director of Trusting News, who offers recommendations in this edition of the Trust Tips newsletter for how to rethink the way your publication labels these posts. For instance, Walsh suggests using the phrases “editorial” or “op-ed” may fall flat because the public lacks widespread knowledge of what those words actually mean. Sign up for weekly Trust Tips here, and learn more about the Trusting News project — including how your newsroom can get free coaching — here.


Overwhelming and depressing or empowering and hopeful? 4 stories that change the way we think about news (Radio Television Digital News Association)

Some media forecasters are concerned that the rate and content of our current news cycle can lead to news fatigue and avoiding news entirely. The Radio Television Digital News Association recommends turning to solutions journalism as one option to inform the public in a way that is empowering. Reporting on community challenges and giving your audience the information they need to potentially take action “enables people to make more informed decisions to support a response, improve it or reshape it – and make their communities better.” In one example, Public Radio International’s The World covered an Iraqi couple’s challenges with diabetes after moving to the United States, while also highlighting an immigrant-focused health program with potential to help others.

+ Chartbeat spent over 400 hours analyzing subscriptions – here’s what we’ve found (Digital Content Next)


Police raid on Annika Smethurst shows surveillance exposé hit a nerve (The Guardian)

After News Corp Australia journalist Annika Smethurst reported that the Australian Signals Directorate was considering a plan to spy on Australian citizens without their knowledge, the government dismissed the news as “nonsense” and “completely false.” On Tuesday, more than a year after she first published the story, officers with the Australian Federal Police raided her home, spending the majority of the day following through on a search warrant that included her phone and computer. AFP later said that the warrant was a response to the publishing of classified information that had the potential to undermine national security. News Corp Australia said in a statement that the raid “sends clear and dangerous signals to journalists and newsrooms across Australia.”

+ What’s Crap on WhatsApp? is the winner of the 2019 Fact Forward Fund (Poynter)


Why you should create a ‘shadow board’ of younger employees (Harvard Business Review)

Some companies struggle with a disengaged younger workforce, and one solution is forming a shadow board made up of millennials to work with executive teams. This approach exposes company leaders to more diverse perspectives and allows them to tap into younger employees’ thoughts. Since 2015, luxury fashion brand Gucci has run a millennial shadow board that meets regularly with the company’s executive team. CEO Mario Bizzarri said that the team’s feedback “served as a wakeup call for the executives.” After forming the shadow board, Gucci’s sales grew 136 percent, largely due to new digital strategies.


Author of New York Times’ controversial Biden-Ukraine story becomes new Ukrainian president’s spokeswoman (The Daily Beast)

Last month, freelancer Iuliia Mendel co-wrote a report in the New York Times claiming Joe Biden had a potential conflict of interest related to the ousting of a Ukrainian prosecutor when he was vice president. A report from Bloomberg questioned the report’s timeline, and a fact check from Politifact concluded that a similar conflict-of-interest claim against Biden from another source was overreaching. Mendel has since accepted a position as the spokesperson for the president of Ukraine, a move that has drawn its own conflict-of-interest allegations. A spokesperson told Mediaite that if Mendel had told her editors she was a candidate for the position in Ukraine, “they would not have given her that assignment and we would have stopped working with her immediately given this serious conflict of interest.”


Spotify begins testing curated podcast playlists (The Verge)

On Tuesday, Spotify launched a pilot group of five podcast-centered playlists to a small group of its users in the United States and seven other countries. Each playlists will feature episodes clustered around a specific genre, like true crime and comedy. Tech reporter Ashley Carman writes that the main goal of the pilot is to increase the number of podcasts a listener might encounter and subscribe to on their own. That’s opposed to the main way people discover new podcasts, which is by word of mouth. Some podcast apps already recommend shows selected by humans, not a recommendation algorithm, but those lists don’t direct listeners to individual episodes.