Need to Know: November 16, 2021


You might have heard: Journalists should think twice before turning to Twitter (Nieman Lab)

But did you know: Most Twitter news consumers follow breaking news on the platform (Pew Research Center)

While less than a quarter of Americans (23%) use Twitter, most of those who do (69%) use it to get the news, according to a new survey from the Pew Research Center. And about 7 in 10 of Twitter news consumers say they follow breaking news on the platform. However, very few of these users say Twitter is the most important way they keep up with news. Twitter news consumers generally trust the news they get there, with two-thirds saying they have at least some trust in it. That’s significantly higher than the share of Americans (27%) who say they have at least some trust in the information they find on social media in general.

+ Noted: The Seattle Times debuts its “Save the Free Press” website, intended to educate the public about the crisis facing local news and what’s being done to save it (Seattle Times); The Aspen Institute releases official recommendations for addressing “information disorder” (Aspen Institute)


How the Long Beach Post’s community editorial board provides more than opinion

In the summer of 2020, the Long Beach Post launched a community editorial board, made up of seven local residents with vastly different backgrounds, who would write opinion pieces and editorials, identify possible stories for Post reporters to pursue, and even serve as sources. Community engagement editor Stephanie Rivera explains the Post’s approach to forming and running the inaugural board, what they learned, and what they’ll do differently the next time around.


How to retain ‘at-risk’ subscribers (Medill Local News Initiative)

Less than half — 42% — of news publishers are able to identify subscribers who are at risk of cancelling their subscriptions, according to an API survey conducted in 2020. But nearly all agree that it’s important. Keeping subscribers — particularly those who rarely visit your website or open newsletters — requires regular contact, whether it’s through email newsletters, more personal emails from publishers or from reporters explaining how they cover a beat, news alerts, text messaging or events. Proper onboarding can help too. “Through that onboarding, the more you can get permission to talk to that subscriber on a number of platforms, the easier it’s going to be to reach out to them if they become quiet in their engagement,” says Mark Campbell, chief marketing officer for Hearst Newspapers.

+ Related: The Arizona Republic considers killing “zombies” a staple of its digital subscription strategy (Better News); How The Spokesman-Review’s email onboarding series helps reduce churn (American Press Institute)


What does impartiality mean? BBC no-bias policy being pushed to limits (The Guardian)

Restoring trust in the BBC’s impartiality is a top priority for director general Tim Davie. But the gray area surrounding a concept like impartiality is proving a hurdle, particularly when it comes to topics like climate change and diversity. Although the BBC strives to apply “due impartiality” to its coverage — the idea that not all sides of an argument necessarily deserve equal airtime — it often struggles to reconcile staffers’ different interpretations of impartiality in its official policies. For example, some argue that anti-racism is a basic news value, and as such, reporters should be allowed to take part in anti-racist demonstrations, while others believe participating in any kind of demonstration is inappropriate for reporters.


How employees are learning to say ‘no’ (Digiday)

A remote work environment offers flexibility — but also can blur the boundaries between work and personal life. Employees need to be able to put stakes in the ground when asked to take on too much work, says cognitive behavior therapist Somia Zaman. For those who find it difficult to say no, Zaman suggests thinking about times in the past when you weren’t able to say no, what your reasons were, why you found it difficult and what you think would actually have happened. “Once you’ve worked out your anxieties around saying no, then you can start to challenge them by letting yourself consider potential alternative outcomes,” she says. But it’s also up to employers to hear employees out when they refuse a project or task, using it as an opportunity to evaluate whether the work is really important.

+ Related: How newsrooms can do less work – but have more impact (American Press Institute)

+ Why humor is a powerful conflict mediation tool for polarizing discussions (Medium, Amanda Ripley)


Have we reached the end of ‘click to subscribe, call to cancel’? (Nieman Lab)

The Federal Trade Commission recently declared that it would ramp up enforcement against “illegal dark patterns that trick or trap consumers into subscriptions.” That includes most “call to cancel” policies that require customers to jump through hoops to cancel their subscriptions. According to an API survey, the majority of news publishers do not make it easy for people to cancel subscriptions online — meaning they’re prime targets for FTC enforcement. While many of these publishers are hedge fund-owned news outlets, writes Sarah Scire, not all of them are — even The New York Times requires anyone wishing to cancel their subscription to call or start a live chat with a customer service agent.


Newsletter start-up Substack hits 1 million subscribers (Financial Times)

The number of people paying to subscribe to a Substack newsletter has risen from 250,000 last December to 1 million this November, “underlining the growing power of à la carte journalism by individual writers as a business model for news,” writes Anna Nicolaou. While most writers offer their newsletters on Substack for free, a very small number make a sustainable income from subscriptions. Once a niche platform, Substack now faces competition from newsletter offerings from Facebook and Twitter — and from some news outlets, which are trying to poach journalists back.

+ Related: A good newsletter exit strategy is hard to find (Vanity Fair)

+ Pope Francis thanks journalists for helping expose Church sex scandals, also says journalists need to “escape the tyranny” of always being online: “Not everything can be told through email, the phone, or a screen” (Reuters)