Need to Know: November 10, 2020


You might have heard: Local journalists are DIYing important coverage via email (Nieman Lab) 

But did you know: Email newsletters are a game-changer for local news (Medill Local News Initiative)

Newsletters are the product du jour of journalism, but many local news outlets, particularly those that invested heavily in blogs or video in the past, may be hesitant to jump into another trend. But email may be just the way for news outlets that no longer reach their readers in print every morning to still have daily contact with their audience. Studies have found that newsletter readers are more likely to maintain a subscription to a local news outlet, and they bring in new readers who can then be converted to subscribers. Newsletters are also highly customizable and can be used to micro-target audiences, and they give readers a personal experience.

+ Noted: Public Media for All’s “Day of Action” today aims to highlight the lack of diversity in public media (Columbia Journalism Review); Applications are open for the NewStart Fellowship Program from West Virginia University, which trains the next generation of local media owners (NewStart)


API and REJ to help publishers of color connect community listening and revenue

Borealis Philanthropy’s Racial Equity in Journalism Fund and API announced a partnership today to help publishers of color explore how listening and in-depth engagement with specific audience segments can lead to stronger journalism and new revenue streams. Over the next year, API and REJ together will provide audience development research and coaching to four publishers of color through a new Listening & Sustainability Lab.

+ How to respond to claims that “the media” is helping steal the election: Explain (or point to other explanations) how the electoral process works, journalists’ role in calling elections, and how you will cover the Trump campaign’s legal challenges. And, writes Lynn Walsh, “Continue to dismiss claims that are not based in facts. Some people may never be convinced, and that’s out of your control. But do your best to correct the public record around your journalism.” (Trusting News)


How news publishers can seize opportunities in the pandemic to renew and rebuild (What’s New In Publishing) 

In a new book from Lucy Kueng at Reuters, she explores ways that publishers can reboot after the pandemic. By tripling down on data, she writes, news outlets can focus on creating the most valuable products for their consumers. At the same time, this is a perfect time to “clear the junk” that is no longer working, whether legacy products that are now irrelevant, innovation projects that never took off or newsroom processes that are no longer necessary. The pandemic caused a major cultural shift, and news publishers can take advantage of this time of upheaval to change business practices for the better.

+ Earlier: How the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel focused on prioritizing with a “Stop Doing” list (Better News); Cutting back on content could boost reader loyalty (Medill Local News Initiative)


Venezuelan media form fact-checking alliance for controversial legislative elections (LatAm Journalism Review)

Fact-checking organizations in Venezuela have formed a collaboration to verify data and fight misinformation in the run-up to the country’s legislative elections on Dec. 6. Venezuela Verifica brings fact-checkers from seven organizations to publish fact checks on the websites and social media accounts of member organizations. The group also plans to launch a website to serve as a repository for all of the content it produces. One of the early goals will be standardizing the verification parameters, and adjusting the various fact-checking mechanisms and tags used by the different organizations to be cohesive across the alliance.


Can Spotify be the one to convince people to pay for podcasts? (Nieman Lab)

When Spotify launched, charging a monthly fee to stream any music was not intuitive, but it’s been a success for the company and its imitators. Now the platform is reportedly considering a similar subscription model for podcasts, though it may face an even harder uphill battle. For one, most podcasts are free, and previous attempts to charge listeners have not succeeded. And listeners of podcasts tend to be devoted to one show alone, and less likely to pay extra to sample other programs. And attempts to mix revenue streams — such as a metered paywall plus advertising — are harder to implement, both technologically and editorially, with podcasts than with news sites.


In the Trump years, The New York Times became less dispassionate and more crusading, sparking a raw debate over the paper’s future (New York Magazine)

In June, #newsroom-feedback was created on The New York Times’s Slack account, giving employees a place to vent about Tom Cotton’s controversial op-ed that advocated for sending American troops to quell protests in U.S. cities. It was a mark of the ongoing shift that occurred at The Times during the Trump years, as people of color, particularly Black employees, fought against the overwhelming whiteness of both the paper’s staff and its readership. At the same time, a younger generation of “insurrectionists” showed less loyalty to the organization, and brought new ideas from their digital-first background to the newsroom. With Executive Editor Dean Baquet set to retire in 2022, the future leader of The Times will have to reckon with a media institution that may no longer be the paper of record.


Journalism has been disrupted. Can product thinking save it? (Knight Lab)

As media organizations have diversified their offerings in recent decades, product thinking has become a valuable skill in the newsroom. Product management in newsrooms is more complicated than in tech companies, since the products must also serve the editorial goals and maintain the ethical standards of the news organization. Focusing on journalism as a product means changing mindsets about who is at “the center” of the news organization, and being flexible enough to see opportunities when they arise.

+ Earlier: The News Product Alliance is charting the emergence of product roles in news organizations, and serving as a place for like-minded peers to collaborate (News Product Alliance)