Need to Know: March 26, 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: ‘Bundles always dilute the brand’: Publishers grapple with Apple’s new subscription service (Digiday)

Monday’s unveiling of Apple News Plus, a paid subscription product that gives customers access to dozens of magazines and (a very small) handful of news organizations, has given publishers “a lot to dislike,” write Max Willens and Lucinda Southern. Apple will keep 50 percent of the revenue and divide the remaining half among publishers based on readers’ “dwell time” — terms that have turned many publishers away (plus the fact that Apple will not share audience data). Many have also warned that lumping content from multiple publishers, at a price far lower than a typical newspaper subscription, sets a “dangerous precedent.” “Bundles always dilute the brand visibility and brand narrative of a publisher by dint of being thrown together with everyone else,” said one news executive. “It will not be a ‘sticky’ read for any one publisher.” Publishers are not entirely opposed to bundling strategies, especially as they seek to grow consumer revenue, write Willens and Southern. Yet with so many feeling like they haven’t captured all of their potential subscribers yet, some publishers are worried that Apple could stunt one of their biggest growth opportunities — and are willing to wait to sit out of Apple’s flashy new product, for now.

+ “Apple News Plus is all about magazines, with a heavy dose of lifestyle titles. Nothing against magazines, but it’s supposed to be Apple News,” writes Nieman Lab’s Joshua Benton. “Go watch the keynote and tell me that non-magazine content doesn’t feel shoehorned in.”

+ The Wall Street Journal goes (maybe not all) in: Editor Matt Murray tells staff the Apple News deal means the Journal will be hiring “several dozen” people (Talking Biz News)

+ Noted: Google launches a new real-time data product for journalists (TechCrunch)


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How solutions journalism at a New Orleans HBCU is enriching coverage of the black community (Medium, Solutions Journalism Network)

Thirteen years after Hurricane Katrina, there is no shortage of reporting on the city’s long road to recovery. But Xavier University professor Shearon Roberts noticed that stories about the area’s black community tended to attract little attention. She knew these stories resonated with her journalism students, so she reached out to three longtime news outlets in the city, each founded specifically to serve the black community, and worked with them to get her students’ work published. “I’ve found that my students come away with a stronger embrace for journalism as a whole if they write about their community for media organizations that are committed and dedicated to covering issues that impact their community,” she said. “It helps us to be better journalists … when we move to careers in the mainstream press  —  we can understand what more could be done in better capturing the voices and experiences and the challenges of diverse communities.”

+ Earlier: “A truly diverse newsroom represents the community in its makeup, but also shines light on people and communities through understanding”: Our report shows how empathy plays a key role in better coverage of neglected communities

+ The New York Times explains how it decides what to investigate, part of its series unpacking its journalistic practices for readers (New York Times)


Instead of helping Canadian news startups, a new government subsidy will only prop up failed models (Nieman Lab)

In Canada, the Trudeau government has pledged, controversially, to provide $645 million in financial support for the country’s ailing news industry. But not everyone thinks the bailout is a good idea. One sore point: The financial support is only available to legacy newspapers — “a model that is failing both as a business and to serve diverse audiences of Canadians,” writes Erin Millar, founder and CEO of Vancouver-based The Discourse. Millar argues that the financial package, as it stands, encourages big newspaper chains to hire journalists to compete directly with startups: “A policy that actively disincentivizes new media outlets from launching and growing to serve the information needs of Canadians is bad policy.”  


The punishing ecstasy of being a Reddit moderator (Wired)

There are fewer than 500 paid employees at Reddit, but tens of thousands work as volunteer moderators, overseeing millions of subscribers to subreddits on everything from Pokemon to puppies. The “mods” often make up their own rules and build their own tools to enforce those rules, but sometimes they host democratic votes on how their little communities should be run. “At Reddit, all of the volunteers, certainly in the thousands, are trusted with freedom to do as we like with our sections of the site,” writes Robert Peck. “We appreciate this. I appreciate this. But that isn’t why I spend 20 hours a week arguing with people on the internet and banning trolls. I do that because it’s satisfying to chase and destroy the zombies, and to do it alongside people I trust. It’s fulfilling to be needed and to be skilled. We don’t own the site, but we consider its spaces ours.”


AOC creates ‘Trump bump’ of her own for news media (Bloomberg)

Just as President Trump’s election provided a much-needed boost to the news business, U.S. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s rise to political stardom has delivered higher TV ratings and online visitors to the media outlets covering her, reports Gerry Smith. Young, charismatic and armed with provocative ideas, she’s garnered widespread coverage — on podcasts, magazine covers, (including the latest Time magazine), late-night talk shows and Twitch streams. “Media brands court her. They want her to retweet them,” said Emily Bell, director of the Tow Center for Digital Journalism at Columbia University. “She has become a platform for some media brands rather than the other way around.”

+ “You say you want a media reckoning?” tweeted Washington Post columnist Margaret Sullivan, after Sunday’s no-evidence-of-collusion news. “Here’s mine”: Serious journalists should be proud of — not bullied over — their Russia reporting (Washington Post)


How Twitter’s algorithm is amplifying extreme political rhetoric (CNN)

Over the last several months, Twitter has begun inserting what it believes to be relevant and popular tweets into the feeds of people who do not subscribe to the accounts that posted them. The company says it wants to introduce users to new accounts they may be interested in. But when it comes to politically-oriented tweets, this innocuous practice may come with unintended consequences. CNN’s investigation found that some tweets contain extreme political rhetoric or advance conspiracy theories. And they are regularly posted by media or internet personalities who hold fringe views (many are also verified, giving them an added sense of credibility to people who may not be familiar with them), exposing users on the platform to radical content they may otherwise have not encountered. In effect, the practice means Twitter may at times end up amplifying inflammatory political rhetoric, misinformation, conspiracy theories, and flat-out lies to its users.

+ $132 million in venture funding, countless pivots, and many mistakes later: The long, complicated, and extremely frustrating history of Medium, 2012 – present (Nieman Lab)