Need to Know: May 10, 2019

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


You might have heard: More news orgs are embracing paywalls, reader revenue, and consumer marketing (Nieman Lab)

But did you know: Across 6 European countries and the U.S., the average price for paywalled news is about $15.75/month (Nieman Lab)

A new study from the Reuters Institute for Journalism found that 69 percent of news organizations in the U.S. and in six European countries have implemented some kind of a pay model. That’s a slight increase from 64.7 percent in 2017. Hard paywalls — like the kind used by the Financial Times and the Wall Street Journal — are still extremely rare, with the landscape evenly divided between freemium models and metered paywalls (33 percent each). The average price for the cheapest available monthly subscription across all news outlets was €14.09, or USD $15.79, roughly similar to 2017. Overall, the majority of outlets (53 percent) remain free to access.

+ Earlier: $10 per month is the median price of digital subscriptions to U.S. newspapers

+ Noted: Illinois Press Foundation creates statehouse news bureau (Editor & Publisher); Democracy Fund announces new fund to support legal clinics at universities that focus on the First Amendment, media access, and transparency (Democracy Fund)


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: Muslim, Latino and Jewish communities are being disproportionately targeted by misinformation online; President Trump doubles down on claims that have been debunked; and why Poynter and the International Fact-Checking Network retracted their list of unreliable news sites.


If reporters can strike the right tone, delivering news via text could prove popular with readers (Poynter)

At the end of March, launched Project Text, in which readers can sign up for texts from its reporters on topics like sports, courts, families and beer. Readers pay $3.99 a month for the service, but this month the newsroom is running a free trial for which almost 1,200 people have signed up. sportswriter Doug Lesmerises says the format works well for his conversational writing style. “I kind of think of it as ‘Here’s the deal,’ writing,” he told Poynter’s Kristen Hare. Writing shouldn’t get less interesting if it’s in a more formal setting, he added. Thanks to his large Twitter following and his popular sports podcast, Lesmerises has been able to build an audience for his Project Text beat. It’s the most direct way he’s ever taken part in making money for his newsroom, he said. “Somebody signed up and paid money just for my texts … and if they want that, I am happy to provide that.”

+ The Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism at CUNY has begun building a Latino news media map (Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism)


241 million Europeans may have received Russian-linked disinformation (The Guardian)

A new analysis suggests that 241 million Europeans — around half the population of Europe — could have been exposed to Russian-linked disinformation on social media leading up to the European elections. Evidence shows that “bad actors” attempted to create and spread disinformation tailored for each European Union member state. “Malicious actors, whether they be state or non-state, will not hesitate to use the internet to attempt to influence and interfere in our democratic processes,” said European commissioner Sir Julian King. King was one of a number of EU officials targeted during the election season. Thirteen percent of his Twitter followers were found to be “suspicious,” according to the online security firm SafeGuard Cyber that conducted the analysis.


Americans have so many subscriptions they need apps to track and cancel them (Bloomberg)

A wave of financial firms like Wells Fargo, Goldman Sachs and Discover have begun building apps to help customers weed out payments for services they no longer use or have forgotten about. Gym memberships, food-of-the-month-club dues, cable commitments, and video-streaming services such as Netflix and Hulu (and news subscriptions) are all vulnerable to budgetary “house cleaning” services, writes Anousha Sakoui. Wells Fargo said it started offering this service after after a poll showed 31 percent of Americans had paid for subscriptions or memberships that they didn’t use in the past year. Respondents said they had an average of three paid subscriptions that were unused or not needed. “Corporations in America today make money when people aren’t paying attention,’’ said Thomas Smyth, whose financial management app Trim, which cancels unwanted services, has grown to 500,000 subscribers since it launched in 2015. “We live in a subscription economy. If you’re paying for anything and it’s not a subscription today, it will be tomorrow.”

+ Earlier: The three types of news subscribers include the “Civically Committed” who want to pay you and “Thrifty Transactors” who are watching their wallets carefully; The drive for digital subscriptions hits a bump in the road: subscription fatigue (Poynter)


Should the media quit Facebook? (Columbia Journalism Review)

With all that has transpired between Facebook and the news industry over the last several years — the disastrous algorithm changes, the pivot-to-video fiasco, and of course, Facebook’s continued siphoning off of ad dollars from media outlets — it’s no surprise that there’s often muttering from publishers about quitting the giant social network, writes Mathew Ingram. But it would be difficult to find a publisher who’s carried out such a threat: Facebook still provides a badly-needed revenue stream for thirsty news outlets, and many journalists argue that there’s an ethical argument for remaining on the platform, where billions of people gather to get their news and information. Their reasoning — that journalists can’t abandon Facebook users to the trolls and disinformation running rampant on the platform — “may be the most ethically powerful argument for not abandoning Facebook,” writes Ingram. “But it’s not enough. The fact of journalism today is that working with the giant tech platform in any capacity amounts to a Faustian bargain. The benefits of doing business with Facebook don’t begin to outweigh the ethical compromises required to do so.”


The fierce New Orleans newspaper war is over. Now comes the (surprising) post-mortem. (Washington Post)

The sale of the New Orleans Times-Picayune to the owners of its rival, the New Orleans Advocate, took many by surprise. But the paper had been ailing for several years, weakened by the decline in print advertising, for which it tried to compensate in 2012 by shifting abruptly to a digital-first strategy. The paper’s owners, regional newspaper group Advance Local, decided to cut print delivery to three days a week. That decision — in a city like New Orleans, with traditional habits and a low percentage of people online — may have been the death blow, writes Margaret Sullivan. The paper began going through round after round of layoffs, ultimately whittling its staff down by two thirds. “It never worked,” said Bruce Nolan, who worked at the Times-Picayune for 41 years before being laid off in 2012. “It was New Coke. It was an airplane with its wings put on backwards.” The plane was nose-diving — “and you could see them throwing luggage overboard.”


+ The Dallas Morning News holds community events at local breweries. So does the Investigative Post. And Science Friday. Should your newsroom, too? If you’re considering it, here’s an incredibly useful guide to hosting events at local breweries (or restaurants, cafes, etc.) from the Illinois Newsroom; with sage advice on each part of the process and lots of tips that can applied to all kinds of events for all kinds of newsrooms. (H/t to Illinois Newsroom’s Kristin Walters for creating this document, and for sharing it with Gather.) (Gather Slack channel)

+ “We were thinking, are we focusing too much on how to make newsrooms survive, and not thinking about why they’re trying to survive?”: A new Northwestern University class called Design for Local News brings together journalism and engineering students to design innovative news products (Medill Local News Initiative)