Need to Know: November 18, 2021


You might have heard: The startup pace for nonprofit news outlets is accelerating. According to the Institute for Nonprofit News, a third of the nonprofit news outlets publishing in 2021 did not exist five years ago. (Institute for Nonprofit News)

But did you know: A new partnership aims to serve as an incubator for nonprofit news startups (American Journalism Project)

The American Journalism Project and the Google News Initiative are partnering to develop a new incubator program for local news startups. The program aims to ramp up the growth of local nonprofit news outlets across the U.S. The AJP will help provide “landscape assessments” and other market research to identify opportunities for local news startups. The Google News Initiative will offer its expertise and resources like the GNI Startups Playbook, News Consumer Insights and its Local Experiments team. Participating news outlets will also have access to products and services available through GNI-funded partners Newspack and News Revenue Hub. The Ohio Local News Initiative, which will launch in 2022 with a Cleveland-based newsroom, will be one of the first startup news organizations to participate in the program, with more to follow next year.

+ Noted: Meet the winners of the 2021 LION Publishers Local Journalism Awards (LION Publishers); U.S. and China agree to ease restrictions on journalists (The New York Times); Substack to offer $500 health insurance stipend to writers making $5,000 a year (The Wrap)


API is hiring an editorial associate

We’re looking for an editorial associate to oversee and contribute to API’s editorial content, including this newsletter. The ideal candidate already closely follows the news industry or digital media — trends, innovations, experiments, emerging business models and more. Candidates will benefit from a working knowledge of those things and a bottomless hunger for learning and spreading new ideas. Applications should be submitted no later than Dec. 6.


Three ways to repurpose content (What’s New in Publishing)

It’s worth identifying evergreen content — content that’s not tied to a news event and has long-term relevance — that has proven popular with audiences. Updating or repurposing those stories gives news organizations a chance to reach new audiences without starting from scratch. For example, evergreen content can be used to add context to current news events, or to maintain engagement during slow news periods. It can also be repurposed for another platform — for example, turned into a limited-run email series or even a set of infographics or graphic cards designed for sharing on social media.

+ Earlier: How Documented’s evergreen content — inspired by reader questions — became a major driver of traffic (Medium, Documented)

+ A playbook for sustaining externally-funded editorial roles in newsrooms (NewStart); Fifty proven ways to make media pay, grouped by revenue areas like subscriptions, paywalls and advertising (What’s New in Publishing)


Using comics, music, and theater to bring investigative journalism to new audiences (Global Investigative Journalism Network)

Convoca, an investigative news outlet in Peru, chose an unlikely medium for its reporting on how lead poisoning impacts COVID-19 patients — an interactive comic strip. Comics can “help citizens understand a complex reality,” said director and founder Milagros Salazar Herrera. “Exploring an innovative format was necessary to tell a story in the public interest.” Convoca’s reporters worked with cartoonists and programmers to develop the comic strip and made sure it could be viewed easily on different devices. Convoca is one of many news outlets around the world that are experimenting with novel ways to tell stories, including partnering with musicians and documentary theater companies.

+ How comics journalism can help fight news fatigue (Journalist’s Resource)


The Philadelphia Inquirer bets on live streaming video sports coverage (Digiday)

Starting with the 2021 football season, the Inquirer began streaming pre-game shows designed to get viewers ready for the Philadelphia Eagles games. The shows feature Eagles beat reporter EJ Smith and columnist David Murphy, who talk through the coming matchups. About a month in, the Gameday Central series has attracted thousands of viewers, which is more than twice the audience of its regular live video programming. Now the Inquirer is hoping to stretch the concept across all of the teams that Philly sports fans follow. “Our future vision for this is that we can do this for all of our sports,” said Michael Huang, the Inquirer’s managing editor of sports. “For all of our pro teams, I fully intend on having a robust, Gameday Central activity.”


A growing group of journalists has cut back on Twitter, or abandoned it entirely (Poynter)

Twitter holds many advantages for journalists — it can help us connect with new sources, drive traffic and attention to our work, rally support for union drives and build solidarity with peers. “But for all the value journalists can extract from Twitter,” writes Mark Lieberman, “they can also fall victim to its less savory aspects: engaging in petty squabbles over esoteric issues; fielding bigotry and bad-faith attacks from anonymous users and bots; enduring relentless brain stimulation that can distort perception and distract from more pressing responsibilities.” That some journalists are now cutting back or eliminating their Twitter activity altogether reflects growing doubts in the industry over the platform’s outsized role in making and breaking news.


How obituaries got a jolt of new life in the Internet era (The Washington Post)

A well-crafted obituary for a prominent figure can attract enormous online readership, which is why some news organizations are starting to stockpile hundreds of pre-written obits. The obits that are first off the mark can win the lion’s share of those readers. “We’ve ratcheted it up in the last few years,” said Mike Barnes, senior editor of the Hollywood Reporter, which now has more than 800 obituaries written for still-living celebrities in the entertainment industry. “It’s gotten to be so competitive.” The appeal of obituaries can be attributed in part to Baby Boomer nostalgia, but the untimely deaths of young celebrities are a proven draw as well. To prepare for unexpected deaths, some obituary editors assign advance obits for young superstars with chaotic lives. In some cases, obituaries are written years — even decades — before their subject actually dies.

+ Earlier: Obituaries are important, worth rethinking and reviving (Poynter); A look at VTDigger’s self-service portals for obituaries (Lenfest Institute)