Need to Know: Nov. 8, 2019


You might have heard: Google Discover is one of the fastest-growing sources of traffic for publishers (Nieman Lab)

But did you know: Publishers are hopeful that Google Discover will help drive loyal readers to their brands (Digiday)

For some publishers — mostly in overseas markets like India and Europe, where Android has staked out a dominant share of the mobile market — Google Discover is now driving more traffic than Google Search. Discover loads personalized content suggestions every time a user opens a new Chrome tab in their browser, recommendations that appear to be based on content they’ve searched for or read in other Google products, such as Google News. Although publishers say they are hesitant to depend on Discover as a reliable traffic driver, they “appear to be most excited about Discover because of its ability to build familiarity and habit among readers,” writes Max Willens. “Google Discover could potentially turn into something that builds habits and loyalty to a certain brand.”

+ Earlier: Apple should do for news in Safari on mobile what Google has done for news in Chrome (Nieman Lab)

+ Noted: The Global Editors Network is shutting down after 9 years due to lack of sustainable finances (Global Editors Network); SPJ and 28 other journalism groups urge Congress to address communication between journalists and federal agencies (Society for Professional Journalists); Substack launches a fellowship for independent writers (Substack); The Center for Media Engagement and the National Conference on Citizenship launch Civic Signals, an initiative that will explore lessons from urban planners, designers and technologists to build healthier digital spaces (Civic Signals)


In this week’s edition of ‘Factually’

Facebook and fact-checkers get together for an off-the-record meeting, TikTok faces congressional scrutiny after concerns about Chinese censorship, and 8Chan becomes 8kun. Factually is a weekly newsletter produced by API and the Poynter Institute that covers fact-checking and misinformation.


Making a business case for vertical subscription products (Twipe)

Publishers sometimes avoid launching vertical products out of fear of cannibalization — what if a subscriber currently paying for the full product then downgrades to the lower-priced vertical? But several publishers have seen great success with those products, like McClatchy with its SportsPass subscription and The New York Times with its crossword. Esquire magazine has even launched a subscription that features just the work of one of its star reporters, Charles Pierce. As their thinking goes, if a subscriber is looking to downgrade their subscription, then it’s better to at least retain them with a vertical than to lose them completely.

+ Earlier: How the Miami Herald created a sports-only subscription plan to lure out-of-market readers (Better News)


To fight Google and Facebook, European publishers try login alliances (Digiday)

Looking to gain more registrations, which will help them gather the first-party data prized by advertisers (and of course, move readers along the funnel), publishers in multiple European countries are forming “login unions” that enable readers to use a single account to register with multiple sites. Ideally the alliances will give publishers more of a competitive edge against Google and Facebook. “I think alliances are the future for media owners,” said Alessandro De Zanche, founder of media consultancy ADZ Strategies. “It doesn’t mean [publishers will need to flatten] their different characteristics; it doesn’t mean having a monopoly, but it means [having] an environment with strict standards.”


Why groups struggle to solve problems together (Harvard Business Review)

People tend to assume that problems can be solved in sequential stages: defining a problem, generating solutions, evaluating solutions, choosing a solution, and making a plan. But if we examine our own individual problem-solving process, it rarely happens so neatly, writes Al Pittampalli. Add other people to the mix and the result is often chaos, with everyone focused on different stages in the process — but assuming others are at the same stage they are. “To solve problems as a group, we need to … embrace a more methodical approach — one that homes in on just one problem-solving stage,” writes Pittampalli. “In a methodical meeting, for each issue that needs to be discussed, members [should] deliberately and explicitly choose just one problem-solving stage to complete.”


The death of the rude press (New Republic)

The death of Gawker and Splinter, and the spiritual death of Deadspin, are warning signs that an irreverent, stick-it-to-the-man brand of media is dying, writes Alex Pareene. “The defining quality of rude media is skepticism about power, and a refusal to respect the niceties that power depends on … this skepticism is frequently missing from the coverage of what we once called the ‘mainstream media’ and people who have long and successful careers at our most prestigious press outlets tend to either never possess it, or have it systematically beaten out of them over time.” The result, says Pareene, is a media landscape where civility may prevail, but the willingness to flaunt a certain disrespect for authority — and have it still be called journalism — is gone.


When a newspaper struggles, you don’t have to close it — you can give it to its community (Nieman Lab)

Instead of closing The Gleaner, a small newspaper serving a string of rural communities in Quebec, its owner Gravité Média offered it up to members of the community, who formed a nonprofit — the Chateauguay Valley Community Information Services — and purchased it for $1. An 11-member steering committee, comprised of Gleaner reporters and editors, as well as several volunteers, stepped in to carry on the work of getting the paper out. Now, just a few months into the new ownership model, The Gleaner’s staff and board of directors are cautiously optimistic about its sustainability. The Gleaner is not the first newspaper to switch to community ownership, says John Hinds, president of News Media Canada. “It is certainly a trend we are seeing. I think The Gleaner is the most advanced in terms of really getting that community ownership model going.”

+ Related: Earlier this month, the Akron Devil Strip became the first local community news cooperative in the U.S. (The Devil Strip); A useful round-up of resources at the intersection of journalism and philanthropy (or you can follow #lovelocalnews) (Knight Foundation)


+ Prospective SRCCON:LEAD attendees describe how they’d like journalism leaders to be: more diverse, more interdisciplinary, more intentional in their development, and more open in their communication (Open News)

+ The Flood Watcher: How Eric Sorensen, a meteorologist in Iowa, makes climate reporting local (Columbia Journalism Review)

+ TIME magazine chronicles the aftermath of the Capital Gazette shooting, and how the newsroom has soldiered on after witnessing tragedy in their workplace (TIME)