Need to Know: May 6, 2019

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


You might have heard: More than 80 percent of journalists admit to falling for fake news online (Poynter)

But did you know: How actual news consumers grapple with fake news and (sometimes) tune out (Nieman Lab)

In the International Journal for Communication, Temple University’s Andrea Wenzel looks at how consumers — in 13 focus groups across cities in California, Indiana, Kentucky, and New York — “navigate vast quantities of often conflicting information and misinformation about the state of their country and fellow residents.” Many of the participants in the focus groups, she found, cycle between verifying news updates — often cross-checking news across different sources — and disengaging from news completely as a way to relieve stress. Several participants referenced seeking out news sources associated with the “other” political side — generally through direct visits to legacy brands such as Fox or CNN. A few spoke of following politicians or campaigns they disagreed with on Twitter or Facebook, or being subscribed to email lists. However, several also spoke of feeling exhausted by this process. “At the end of the day, it’s like, well, got to go on with your daily life,” said one participant.

+ Noted: Entire New Orleans Times-Picayune staff laid off in sale (The Hill); Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard announces the 82nd class of Nieman Fellows (Nieman Foundation); Today NPR’s ‘Morning Edition’ changes its tune (New York Times); Shake-up looms at CBS News, as a celebrated new boss makes her mark (New York Times)


‘We launched a paywall. It worked! Mostly.’ (Wired)

Wired introduced its paywall a little over a year ago, to overall success. Now, it’s passing on some lessons learned in that first year. “The stories that led people to subscribe were a little surprising,” writes Editor in Chief Nicholas Thompson. “When we started this, we invested in three new kinds of pieces: longform reporting, ‘Ideas’ essays, and issue guides. All three types overindex in generating subscriptions. But they weren’t the only things that drove subs.” They found that readers were attracted to a mix of content, which shows that people will subscribe after reading all kinds of stories if they’re done well, writes Thompson. They also found that newsletters help convert readers into subscribers. “A visitor who reaches us via search is 1/19th as likely to subscribe as one who comes in from a newsletter; a reader coming in from Facebook is 1/12th; and a reader coming in from Twitter is 1/6th …That’s one reason why we’re launching all kinds of new newsletters, tied to specific sections of the site.”

+ Related: API’s Metrics for News analytics platform can shed light on the unique subscription drivers for your newsroom


Ukraine made a comedian its president. Here’s what U.S. media can learn. (Columbia Journalism Review)

Ukraine, like the United States, has a sensationalist, ratings-driven and politically polarized news environment that requires viewers to consume content from multiple sources in order to piece together a version of the truth. In the recent election, Ukrainians, like Americans, searched in vain for measured, fact-based news. Now, “as the United States careens into another presidential election driven more by personality than policy, television networks can choose to situate American political discourse in its own version of Ukraine’s stadium, complete with insult-slinging candidates who embrace domestic disinformation and thousands shouting in support or dissent,” writes Nina Jankowicz. “Or it can relocate the discourse to a quieter room. That room might be smaller. It may not have captivating music or lights, but it’s an environment where people are forced to listen to one another.”


Why you should start binge-reading right now (New York Times)

Forced by a power outage one night to turn to a book for his evening’s entertainment, Ben Dolnick rediscovered the joy of reading for hours at a time — an indulgence that’s increasingly rare for most people. When not reading in five to 10-minute bursts, writes Dolnick, “…subplots that would once have been murky to the point of incomprehensibility (what was the deal with that dead sea captain again?) step into the light. Little jokes and echoes, separated by dozens or even hundreds of pages, come rustling out of the text forest. A writer’s voice … starts to seep into and color the voice of your innermost thoughts.”


How ethical is it for advertisers to target your mood? (The Guardian)

Psychographic targeting — when advertisers and media companies show readers ads based on their probable mood — doesn’t have a great public image, writes Emily Bell. Cambridge Analytica, the company that misused Facebook data and, according to its own claims, helped Donald Trump win the 2016 election, used psychographic segmentation. “The implications of targeting based on mood and attitude remain troublingly creepy. The New York Times would never allow the exploitation of mental health fragility on its pages, but there are plenty of unethical companies that would. So why are media companies such as the NYT and ESPN pursuing it, and why would advertisers buy it?”

+ Earlier: The New York Times sells premium ads based on how an article makes you feel (Poynter)


The First Amendment as a roadmap for engaged journalism (Medium, Peggy Holman)

The five freedoms of the First Amendment — religion, speech, press, assembly, and petition — articulate a roadmap for how to participate in community life so that communities can effectively govern themselves. They also parallel with the qualities of “engaged journalism,” providing an exciting reaffirmation of what journalism can contribute to the lives of our communities, writes Peggy Holman. “How prescient the [Founding Fathers] were in providing a map of civic participation. By strengthening this whole system, journalism can find its way back to a financially viable, universally valued, steward of the natural tensions between individual freedom and the common good.”