Insights, tools and research to advance journalism

Need to Know: March 13, 2018

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


You might have heard: Apple is buying digital magazine distributor Texture for an undisclosed sum (Recode), doubling down on its commitment to “quality journalism from trusted sources” (TechCrunch)

But did you know: Eddy Cue says that part of why Apple is buying Texture is to stop inaccurate stories from gaining traction (9to5Mac)
At SXSW, Apple’s Eddy Cue talked about the company’s acquisition of magazine subscription service Texture in a conversation with CNN’s Dylan Byers. Cue explains that part of the reason Apple wanted to buy Texture was to avoid “a lot of the issues,” such as inaccurate stories gaining traction. Cue went on to argue that platforms have responsibilities when it comes to curating content, and pointed to iTunes and Podcasts’ rules and guidelines for creators as one way Apple has chose to handle those issues. Asked about Facebook’s responsibility to curate media, Cue said, “We’re going to step up and do that.” Apple plans to integrate Texture’s content and features into Apple News.

+ Noted: In its latest marketing push, Fox News is emphasizing its “real” news (Ad Age); National Geographic asked a historian to audit its archive, and found that it has a history of “appalling stories” with racist coverage: The magazine pledges to examine and confront its issues around race (National Geographic); The AP finds that the federal government censored, withheld or couldn’t find records in 78 percent of FOIA requests in the past year, while spending $40.6 million defending decisions in FOIA cases (Associated Press); A&E Networks’ Nancy Dubuc will replace Shane Smith as CEO of Vice Media (Hollywood Reporter); Univision laid off 20 staff members last week, including several high-level executives (Adweek); NYT is experimenting with giving subscribers first access to its new documentary podcast series (New York Times)


Why sports subscription signs are an encouraging sign for publishers moving to reader revenue (Digiday)
“[The] growth [of sports subscription sites] is also an encouraging sign for publishers who hope to focus on consumer revenue rather than advertising,” Digiday’s Max Willens writes on the early success of sites such as The Athletic and Boston Sports Journal. Their growth, Willens explains, shows that there are people who are willing to pay for quality reporting around niche topics — and, these sites are finding that people have a high propensity to renew. “Like other subscription-focused publishers, they face competition from large, ad-supported established players, customer acquisition costs, churn and over time, competition from each other,” Willens writes. “The bet is that they’ll succeed by serving their readers. While a few sites offer things like Periscope access to postgame news conferences and private podcasts, most of the sites focus simply on well-written, deeply reported written features and profiles.”


To broadcast stories that would be censored in China and other countries, journalists from Reporters Without Borders Germany uploaded them as songs to Spotify (MediaMonks, Medium)
“Reporters Without Borders Germany teamed up with creative agency DDB Berlin to help journalists get their stories heard in countries with strict press controls,” MediaMonks explains. “How? By making use of a clever loophole in uploading music to streaming platforms filled with stories that would otherwise be censored by regimes in countries like China, Egypt, Thailand, Uzbekistan and Vietnam.” Called The Uncensored Playlist, the stories are told within the lyrics of the songs in the native language of the respective countries. The project is targeting five countries, all of which have been noted by the UN as areas of strict press censorship. And to ensure people in these countries were able to access the playlist, the songs were upload to five different streaming platforms, including Spotify, Apple Music and Deezer.


Why are gig economy workers more anxious than other workers? They’re more worried about money, and don’t feel like their work utilizes their skills and experience (Marketplace)
According to a new Marketplace-Edison Research Poll, a quarter of Americans who participate in the “gig economy” (which includes everything from consulting to freelance writing to Uber driving) report significantly higher levels of economic anxiety than regular full-time workers. “They worry more about not having enough money for basic necessities or to cover an emergency. They’re also less likely to say their gig work utilizes their skills, experience and education,” Marketplace’s Mitchell Hartman explains. “I would love to be financially stable,” a freelance audio engineer told Marketplace. “I don’t particularly like the idea of freelancing as a sort of permanent solution.”


‘YouTube may be one of the most powerful radicalizing instruments of the 21st century’ (New York Times)
Due to the “nexus of artificial intelligence and Google’s business model … YouTube may be one of the most powerful radicalizing instruments of the 21st century,” Zeynep Tufekci argues. “Its algorithm seems to have concluded that people are drawn to content that is more extreme than what they started with — or to incendiary content in general.” Tufekci argues: “In effect, YouTube has created a restaurant that serves us increasingly sugary, fatty foods, loading up our plates as soon as we are finished with the last meal. Over time, our tastes adjust, and we seek even more sugary, fatty foods, which the restaurant dutifully provides. When confronted about this by the health department and concerned citizens, the restaurant managers reply that they are merely serving us what we want. This situation is especially dangerous given how many people — especially young people — turn to YouTube for information.”

+ Some key points from the EU’s new report on misinformation: The commission says the term “fake news” should not be used, it recommends increased financial support for news organizations, and it asks for public authorities to share data “promptly and efficiently” when its requested by fact-checking organizations (Medium)

+ When wire services make mistakes, it can often mean that incorrect information has an opportunity to spread widely before it can be corrected — and even when those mistakes are corrected, subscribers to the wire service may not always update their stories (Poynter)


By the Bay is explaining local issues to people who feel guilty that they don’t know them better (Nieman Lab)
“I remember certain past experiences when I voted. And when voting for president, when I got to the down-ballot stuff, I’d feel frustrated and stupid,” Jimmy Chion says. “I wanted to alleviate that for myself and for my friends.” Chion and Yvonne Leow are the creators of By the Bay, a news site in the Bay Area that is taking an explainer-based approach to local issues. The site will release a ballot guide for local elections in San Jose; some issues the site has covered so far include “How to pass a law in San Francisco” and “Why your rent is ridiculous.”

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