Need to Know: March 22, 2019

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


You might have heardOne-in-five YouTube users say it is very important for helping them understand events that are happening in the world (Pew Research Center)

But did you know: Time spent on mobile jumps up: YouTube corners ~40 percent of traffic, Facebook less than 10 percent (What’s New in Publishing)

Smartphones are the big gainers in media consumption year-over-year, according to data firm Nielsen. There’s been a significant jump in mobile time-spent among 18-34s, from 29 percent to 34 percent. For all U.S. audiences, mobile went up from 21 percent to 24 percent, with media consumption otherwise remaining flat, at about 10.5 hours per day. The growth came at the expense of television viewing, making it “no wonder that a large chunk of the attention is going to the leading online video platform, YouTube,” writes Monojoy Bhattacharjee. A separate study found that YouTube is now responsible for 37 percent of all mobile internet traffic, with Facebook and Snapchat tying for second place at just under 9 percent. “If the numbers ever supported a genuine pivot-to-video, this would be it,” writes Bhattacharjee. “Maybe Zuckerberg wasn’t wrong after all, when he saw ‘video as a mega trend, same order as mobile.’ The revolution wasn’t televised, it simply shifted to YouTube.”

+ Noted: “We tend to be quite leery about the idea of almost habituating people to find our journalism somewhere else” — New York Times CEO warns publishers ahead of Apple news launch on Monday (Reuters); Finalists announced in 2019 Mirror Awards competition honoring excellence in media industry reporting (Syracuse University); Debt specialist expresses confidence in Digital First’s bid for Gannett, saying it is “highly confident” it could raise the funds needed for the $1.4 billion takeover (Wall Street Journal)


In this week’s edition of ‘Factually’

As part of a fact-checking journalism partnership, API and the Poynter Institute highlight stories worth noting related to truth in politics and on the Internet. In the latest edition of Factually: Fact-checkers gear up for elections in Europe; is India going too far in its fight against disinformation; and Google is getting ready to release the beta version of its search engine for fact checks.


Six email metrics that matter (that aren’t open rate) (Medium, Revue)

If you’re too reliant on open rates as your north star, you might have problems in the long run, writes Dan Oshinsky. Oshinsky is the director of newsletters at The New Yorker, and is also the one behind Not a Newsletter, a monthly briefing with news, tips, and ideas about how to send better email. Here are six metrics — beyond open rate — that can shed more light on how your newsletter is performing: monthly list growth; click-to-open rate (important if your newsletter is designed to drive readers to your site); the percentage of readers who open your newsletter 50 percent of the time or more (important, since building habit is key to acquiring and retaining subscribers); engaged minutes per newsletter; mobile open rates; and clicks/1000, which Oshinsky says is his favorite way to predict the future success of a newsletter. The formula — (Total clicks  –  Emails delivered) x 1000 — measures the amount of traffic you’re driving per 1,000 emails sent.


Changing the power dynamics between European news organizations and their communities (Medium, European Journalism Center)

Community-driven journalism can address the imbalance of power that often exists between journalists and communities — especially those that are underprivileged or neglected. In a February workshop run by the European Journalism Center, participants talked about ways to return more power to communities. One theme in the discussion was finding ways to involve audiences in the process of journalism, from sourcing story ideas from readers to holding open editorial meetings. “People love to learn how journalism works, what a news organization looks like from the inside,” said one attendee. Another conversation tackled community funding. “Make sure that people don’t feel they can’t afford a contribution,” said an attendee, “nothing is too little.” One publication said it implemented a “buy a membership, donate a membership” offer in an effort to open up access to low-income families.


Instagram is the internet’s new home for hate (The Atlantic)

Instagram is teeming with conspiracy theories, viral misinformation, and extremist memes, all connected via a network of accounts with incredible algorithmic reach and millions of collective followers — many of whom are very young, writes Taylor Lorenz. But despite the signs pointing to Instagram as the next great battleground in the fight against misinformation, the platform has largely escaped scrutiny. Part of this is due to its reputation among older users, who generally use it to post personal photos, follow aspirational accounts, and keep in touch with friends. Many teenagers, however, use the platform differently — not only to connect with friends, but to explore their identity, and often to consume information about current events. As a result, teens are often led to accounts spreading false and dangerous claims. “I’ve seen talking points from these pages regurgitated up in class debates,” said one teenager. “I know where they’re getting it.”


Does the ‘backfire effect’ exist — and does it matter for fact-checkers? (Full Fact)

Many fact-checkers spend a lot of time worrying about the “backfire effect” — the idea that, when a claim aligns with someone’s ideological beliefs, telling them that it’s wrong will actually make them believe it even more strongly. Fact-checkers may wonder, why bother correcting false or misleading information if it will only make someone double-down even more on inaccurate beliefs? But in a study conducted by UK fact-checking organization Full Fact, data suggests that the backfire effect is rare. While it may occur in some cases, generally, debunking can make people’s beliefs in specific claims more accurate. The cases where backfire effects were found tended to be particularly contentious topics, or where the factual claim being asked about was ambiguous.


Trust and transparency could bring ad dollars back to local news (Editor & Publisher)

“From Europe’s GDPR law to Facebook’s data-mining scandals, we are starting to see cracks in the system that has enabled a few big players to vacuum up almost all of the growth in digital advertising,” writes Matt DiRienzo. “And what’s still barely talked about, but would be of high interest to local advertisers, is the pervasiveness of ad fraud and viewability issues.” This could present an opportunity for local publishers. Their message in the midst of this turmoil could start with “your advertising message will actually be seen by people who are potential customers,” suggests DiRienzo. But to really make that promise, publishers need a significant rethinking of advertising delivery, format and engagement — only accepting advertising designs and formats that fit the desired user experience and standards of your publication, for example, and only accepting advertisements from companies and for products that you know and trust. “At a minimum, publishers could stop accepting ads that are clearly shady. But there’s potential in experimenting with advertising that’s actually formally vetted and vouched for by the publisher.”

+ Related: “IMO what would really help is seeing advertising in local outlets as a positive civic good, a form of corporate social responsibility” (Twitter, @scottbrodbeck)

+ The American Journalism Project has raised $42 million. Here’s the plan for distributing it (Poynter)


+ “We got put into a perfect storm of empathy. That gave us the perfect launching pad”: After the death of alt-weeklies, alt-alt-weeklies (Columbia Journalism Review)

+ Is PACER (Public Access to Court Electronic Records) a “judicially approved scam”? “The U.S. federal court system rakes in about $145 million annually to grant access to records that, by all rights, belong to the public,” writes Seamus Hughes. “For such an exorbitant price — it can cost hundreds of dollars a year to keep up with an ongoing criminal case — you might think the courts would at least make it easy to access basic documents. But you’d be wrong.” (Politico)

+ When you first heard about podcasts, do you remember how excited you weren’t? Adam Sternbergh traces the unlikely rise in podcasts’ popularity (Vulture)