Need to Know: June 9, 2021

OFF THE TOP

You might have heard: Solutions journalism combats news avoidance, and can boost subscriptions (What’s New In Publishing) 

But did you know: Solutions journalism may offer a clear path to reader revenue (Medium, The Whole Story) 

A new study from the Solutions Journalism Network has found that solutions journalism appeals to the type of highly engaged reader who is more likely to provide financial support for newsrooms. After analyzing a year’s worth of audience data from a dozen publications, Ned Berke writes that readers of solutions journalism are more loyal, accounting for a disproportionate amount of return activity and engagement. Readers who encounter solutions journalism are more likely to spend more time on a news site and more likely to return in the future. These readers were also more likely to subscribe to newsletters. Berke writes that offering solutions journalism is “an opportunity to effectively identify, attract and engage the highest-quality segments of an existing audience for sustainability initiatives.” 

+ Noted: Google News Initiative launches new tool to find stories from underrepresented voices (Google); News Leaders Association Awards to be held online on June 15 (Eventbrite); USA Today’s Storytellers Project announces “I Am” series to share stories of people of color (USA Today)

API UPDATE

API’s ‘Local News Ideas-to-Action Series’ to advance local governance reporting 

API is beginning a new effort to support audience-centered accountability and government reporting, starting with a kickoff event June 17. Through discussion, peer learning and small project funds, the Local News Ideas-to-Action Series will help news organizations learn from journalists and newsrooms prioritizing the information needs of their communities to shape reporting; develop and refine ideas through peer feedback to better reach and serve audiences; and then execute those ideas through small project funds and cohort-based learning with other grantees.

+ Trust Tip: Use staff bios as a tool for building trust (Trusting News)

TRY THIS AT HOME

How RANGE built a newsletter audience from scratch — and converted 9% of readers to paid members (Medium, LION Publishers) 

Luke Baumgarten is the publisher of RANGE, a solutions-focused local news outlet based in Spokane, Washington, and covering the Inland Northwest. He began by sending a single marketing email to 4,000 of his Gmail contacts, which explained his motivations for starting RANGE and asked them to subscribe to the newsletter. He’s converted 9% of his readers to paying subscribers with a public radio-style pitch about keeping his journalism a public service that is free for all who want to read it. His next goal is expanding RANGE’s reader base; the challenge, he says, is finding the time to commit to user growth ideas and follow them through to completion. 

OFFSHORE

How News Corporation Australia set about rethinking digital news for subscribers (INMA)

Two years ago, News Corporation Australia began to focus on improving subscriber engagement on its four biggest metropolitan news sites — the Herald Sun in Melbourne, The Daily Telegraph in Sydney, the Courier Mail in Brisbane, and the Adelaide Advertiser. The editorial and product teams worked together to improve the digital subscription experience, focusing on improving web loading times, cleaner article pages and content that provided more context. Research found that readers wanted some personalization, particularly when it came to hyperlocal and sports content, but preferred editorially curated news feeds, so as to not miss any important stories. 

+ French government creates agency to fight foreign disinformation (Yahoo) 

OFFBEAT

Newspaper public notice ads are under attack. Can a modernized process protect them? (Poynter)

Column is a new startup that allows local governments to self-place public notices in local print newspapers. The idea is to simplify the production and billing processes for publishers, allowing them to spend less time on one of the few reliable revenue streams for print publications. Clients of Column include The Washington Post, McClatchy and Ogden Newspapers. Part of impetus for the company was to create a system for posting public notices that is more streamlined, so that state legislature proposals to end the publication of legal notices are less able to attack their obsolescence. 

UP FOR DEBATE

Obama’s question for the media: How do we start telling a ‘common story?’ (CNN) 

In a recent interview, former President Barack Obama decried the nationalization of media and politics as a barrier towards maintaining a strong democracy. He asked CNN host Anderson Cooper, “How do we start once again being able to tell a common story about where this country goes?” With the decimation of local newspapers, and the increase in national news stories on local television stations, Obama argued that people are more caught up in “highly ideological debates” than the day-to-day news stories of their community. The multiplying of national news sources “has contributed to that sense that we don’t have anything in common,” said Obama. 

+ Related: The benefits of cutting national politics from opinion sections and keeping opinions local (American Press Institute)

SHAREABLE

FiveThirtyEight reflects on its previous forecasts (FiveThirtyEight)

Forecasts, particularly in election years, are a key part of FiveThirtyEight’s site. Now, the site has added a function that allows users to view the site’s politics and sports forecasts back to 2008, in an effort to evaluate the success of the previous forecasts. The analyses look at two elements of each forecast; its calibration, or the likelihood that scenarios projected 20% of the time happened 20% of the time, and how the forecast compared to historical averages. The site says that it plans to keep updating the project, and that it hopes “you’ll come back as we add future forecasts and help keep us honest.”