Need to Know: March 23, 2023


You might have heard: Spotify podcast workers demand more clarity about diversity fund (Bloomberg)

But did you know: Spotify has spent less than 10% of its $100 million diversity fund (Bloomberg)

Following controversial comments from top Spotify podcaster Joe Rogan, Spotify announced a $100 million Creator Equity Fund aimed at promoting diversity in podcasts and music. But a year after the effort was announced, the audio streaming service has spent less than 10% of the money. Ashley Carman writes that the initiative got off to a slow start due to hiring challenges and shifting priorities, and that key projects and budgets were still being finalized in early 2023. The fund is intended to be used over three years. 

+ Noted: Grist expands regional partnerships to Illinois and Michigan (Grist); Meta rehires partnerships executive after vowing to shrink management (The Information)


How the Montgomery Advertiser is building trust and growing audiences in Alabama’s rural communities (Better News)

Here’s an idea to steal and adapt: Build trusted relationships with people who have lived without local news sources for years by showing up for these communities, listening to them and delivering the content they most want. Make sure the coverage is for these communities, not simply about them. The Montgomery Advertiser built out its coverage of a nearby rural news desert by serving the audience and sustaining reporting efforts with ongoing grant funding while building trust with the community they were reporting on.

+ API’s Letrell Crittenden is speaking at a Gather Lightning chat on models for accountability infrastructure in newsrooms next Tuesday at 1 p.m. ET. Register here.


Charting revenue: How The New York Times makes money (Visual Capitalist)

Over the past decade, The New York Times has been adapting its revenue model to adapt to the digital era — and it’s working. It previously earned half its revenue from print and online advertisements, but in 2011 it put some online content behind a paywall. The move resulted in $47 million in revenue the first year — but The Times’ digital subscription model has grown, bringing in $979 million in revenue last year. In 2022, digital subscriptions accounted for 42% of revenue, while print subscriptions brought in 25% of revenue and advertising made up 23%. 

+ Related: The New York Times eyes longer play sessions for games in subscription drive (Digiday)


Let’s talk about audience surveys (Indiegraf)

When asking for feedback from readers — especially if it takes more than five minutes of their time — every second counts. Surveys can help better understand your audience’s needs, as well as what they need to support you in return. Using checkbox questions and including an “Other” option can streamline the survey and hone in on what you want answered. Consider making two surveys — one for your email readers, who might skew older, and one for social media to target younger audiences. Once you get feedback, segment responses by demographics for a clearer picture of what different groups want. Lastly, let your audience know how you’re acting on their feedback.


Iraq and the limits of anniversary journalism (Columbia Journalism Review)

It’s been 20 years since the U.S. invaded Iraq, but Iraqi media has been “radio silent” on the anniversary beyond some TV show discussions, writes Jon Allsop. Local journalists that Allsop spoke to said reporting on the anniversary of the invasion was pointless and there are other more newsworthy issues to cover. One Iraqi reporter received dozens of interview requests, but all from foreign media. The U.S. media, meanwhile, has extensively covered the anniversary — but Allsop questions the value of such introspective annual coverage without follow up.


A journalist believes he was banned from Midjourney after his AI images of Donald Trump getting arrested went viral (Buzzfeed)

Following speculation about the impending arrest of Donald Trump, journalist Eliot Higgins used the Midjourney AI image generator to envision what Trump’s arrest would look like. After posting 50 images on Twitter — which quickly went viral — Higgins, the founder of investigative journalism site Bellingcat, appears to have been banned from Midjourney. The platform also banned the word “arrest” from being used in its image generator. Higgins said he was playing around to see how complex AI images could get and doesn’t begrudge his ban. 

+ Related: WGA would allow artificial intelligence in scriptwriting, as long as writers maintain credit (Variety)


Hey, local news publishers: Give the people a calendar (Nieman Lab)

Sarah Stonbely, the research director of the Center for Cooperative Media at Montclair State University, surveyed residents in three different communities in New Jersey about what they want from local news, even though all three cities have lost most of their news outlets over the years. Despite the demographic differences, respondents in all three communities want more service journalism with information about municipal government meetings — and added that they relied heavily on Facebook for news, despite understanding the platform’s flaws.