Need to Know: March 21, 2019

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


You might have heardFacebook is building out “accelerator” programs to help publishers develop subscription and membership revenue (Facebook)

But did you know: Google starts ‘subscriptions lab’ for local publishers to develop paid content (Digiday)

Google is adding to its year-old Google News Initiative with a new program to help local media develop paid content products. The GNI Subscriptions Lab is a six-month program that will include eight North American news publishers (still to be selected) of different sizes, featuring both chain-owned and independent ownership models, and covering small communities and metropolitan areas. Participants will work with Google and program partners Local Media Association and FTI Consulting to assess their audience’s willingness to pay and the size of a subscription product’s addressable market. This process will begin about a year and a half after Google began developing Subscribe with Google. The tool has earned a mixed grade from publishers, in large part because of the heavy work required to integrate it into their products. Google, like Facebook, says the subscriptions program isn’t about promoting its own product, but is part of a larger effort to help the news industry implement best practices.

+ Noted: New paid Apple News service said to feature Wall Street Journal; Washington Post and New York Times have opted out (New York Times); Medium seeks partners to launch new publications (Medium); Local reporter flagged Boeing safety issues days before Ethiopia crash (Columbia Journalism Review); Judge blocks ProPublica Illinois from publishing details of child welfare case (ProPublica)


Takeaways for newsroom leaders from #MeToo summit: Focus on culture, not just policy (RTDNA)

In a summit recently held at the Newseum in Washington, D.C., newsroom leaders said they haven’t yet demonstrated enough “real commitment” to forging workplaces that are free of harassment and discrimination. The group acknowledged that HR policies and procedures are ineffective if, underneath, a work culture exists that allows such behaviors to perpetuate. Leaders talked about shifting from a punitive to a proactive response to harassment; focusing on things like caring for employees’ mental health, valuing diverse voices, and supporting working moms. Other suggestions that came out of the discussion included hiring for collaborative skills (not just technical skills); having peer support groups for interns; providing active bystander training; and communicating cultural expectations to new employees.


The colonial-era laws that still govern African journalism (Al Jazeera)

Back in the late 19th century, European powers were setting sail for Africa, sweeping across the continent, colonizing country after country. Once they took power, they wrote laws designed to ensure that the colonized would not rise up against the colonizers; laws that could also be used to silence, censor, jail or intimidate journalists who refused to toe the line. Much of that colonial legislation is still in place today, and there is now a growing list of journalists in sub-Saharan Africa falling afoul of those laws. According to Vuyisile Hlatshwayo, director at the Media Institute of Southern Africa, post-colonial leaders called for a free media at first, “but after that [independence], they changed. They decided to use the strategy that was used by their colonial masters and there was a reason for that … Our leaders see the media as an opposition and they don’t understand the role of the media.”


A shared passion for place can make a business more resilient (MIT Sloan Management Review)

In the modern working world, executives — and employees — are increasingly mobile, which sometimes makes them strangers in the places where their organizations reside. But can the nomadic nature of today’s professionals actually hurt their businesses in the long run? Researchers at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business, looking at what factors into organizational resilience, recently found that deep community ties are important to a business’s success. “We found that leaders who establish ties with the broader community of stakeholders are well-positioned to help their organizations thrive in the face of that hardship,” writes Morela Hernandez. “Conversely … leaders who lack a clear sense of place and have not established those connections might be putting their companies at a disadvantage in times of struggle.”


Why an Australian broadcaster’s response to a controversial image ended up silencing the victim, not the attackers (The Guardian)

When a photo of a female athlete in play began to attract droves of internet trolls, 7AFL, the Australian broadcaster that posted the image, removed it along with the accompanying comments, many of which were offensive and inappropriate. But the decision was met with backlash from many in their audience and in the media, who pointed out that taking down the image didn’t silence the trolls — it silenced the athlete. “The tweets and posts that were directed at 7AFL were not calling for the photo’s removal,” writes Kasey Simons. “They were calling for moderation and reporting of the degrading, sexist, transphobic, homophobic and hateful messages that sat beneath it.” 7AFL quickly relented and reposted the photo, promising they would “work harder to ban trolls from our pages.”

+ Beto, Biden and Bernie: The B-Boys and the media’s dangerous, self-fulfilling prophecy (Washington Post)


The new social network that isn’t new at all (New York Times)

The newsletter is not a new phenomenon. But there is a growing interest among those who are disenchanted with social media in what has been called “the world’s oldest networked publishing platform,” writes Mike Isaac. For that crowd, the inbox is becoming a more attractive medium than the news feed. Recently media start-ups like The Skimm, a daily newsletter started by two former NBC producers, have grown from dozens of readers to millions. Axios has tapped into the newsletter market with a focus on politics and business. Other big media companies — Vox, BuzzFeed, CNN — have latched on to the newsletter trend as they seek a deeper bond with readers.

+ “It’s such a hyped-up moment”: how the Mueller press corps is bracing for the big one (Vanity Fair)