Need to Know: November 23, 2022


You might have heard: Media layoffs spike amid recession fears (Axios) 

But did you know: Subscriptions are still on the rise at most newspapers (Medill Local News Initiative) 

During the pandemic, more people began subscribing to local newspapers. And despite worries about interest in local news ebbing since 2020, the Medill Subscriber Engagement Index shows that subscriptions have continued to rise for newspapers of all sizes. And reader regularity — the frequency with which readers go online to view news — has also held steady. Experts say that there are many people who say they are willing to pay for news that don’t currently subscribe to a local paper, meaning there is room for growth. 

+ Noted: AP fires reporter behind retracted ‘Russian missiles’ story (The Daily Beast); Eric Zuckerman, head of US News Partnerships at Twitter, resigns (Twitter, @EricZuck) 


Trust Tip: How to navigate talk of ‘the media’ this holiday season (Trusting News)

As many of us gather with family and friends this week and throughout the holiday season, there will likely be conversations about elections, politics, and, of course, the media. Journalists can be great ambassadors within their own networks, so we’re reminding you this week to lean into those difficult conversations. By taking a more curious, empathic stance, you can help these conversations be more fruitful. Five conversation tips include: don’t defend the whole media industry; get curious about their experience consuming news; help them understand and spot “fake news”; talk about what journalism is, and what it means to you; and remind them journalists are real people. 

Are you a Table Stakes Alumni? Apply for a sprint cohort.

API is partnering with News Product Alliance to hold a product development sprint open to Table Stakes alumni organizations. The cohort, beginning in February 2023, will take you from idea to product prototype. At the end of the 18 weeks, you’ll have a functional draft of a product, such as a ready-to-go newsletter or a minimum viable product for a bigger project like an app, and a pitch to win over stakeholders. Apply by Monday, December 5.


Manchester Mill celebrates local press paywall profitability (Press Gazette) 

The Mill, a two-year old newsletter based in Manchester, England, has reached profitability with 27,000 subscribers and 1,600 paying readers. The newsletter, which received $100,00 from Substack last summer, is one of the few paywall-funded local journalism outlets in the UK. Editor Joshi Herrmann says that their success has come from building trust with a local audience, who now reach out regularly with ideas and tips. 

PQ: “I think the most important thing about us getting into profit is that we’re producing highly differentiated journalism that you couldn’t get anywhere else about this city – and we’re doing it on a consistent basis.” — Joshi Herrmann, The Mill


‘Going English’: How a Latvian news outlet has double down on its English language offerings (The Fix) 

Latvian news organization Meduza began publishing English content only months after its launch in 2014, but it has recently become a core part of the group’s fundraising strategy. The organization has stopped accepting donations from Russia due to financial sanctions and worries that the outlet may be designated an “undesirable organization,” leading to a slew of financial issues. Meduza in English’s managing editor Kevin Rothrock said the outlet can “make up for what we’ve lost in Russia by convincing a smaller number of foreigners that what we’re doing is worthwhile.” 


Chaos on Twitter leads a group of journalists to start an alternative (The New York Times)

As journalists wonder whether Twitter will remain a viable social network, many have moved to the server on Mastodon. Started by journalist Adam Davidson, Joseph Bernstein writes that the switch from Twitter to Mastodon is “like crossing the border to a kinder, more rule-bound, less dynamic country.” There has already been controversy about what is allowed and what is not, forcing Davidson and other volunteers to dive into “the no-easy-answers world of content moderation.” Kelly McBride of the Poynter Institute says the organization is in talks to bring the server under its umbrella. 

+ Related: I joined Mastodon and all it took was my sanity and self-esteem (Buzzfeed News); Elon Musk is running Twitter like a failing newspaper business (Bloomberg); Substack sees an opportunity in Twitter’s chaos (Poynter)  


The Athletic to double women’s sports coverage (Axios) 

The Athletic says it plans to double its coverage of professional women’s sports over the next few years, as part of a deal with Google. Now that the outlet is owned by The New York Times, chief commercial officer Seb Tomich said it’s an opportunity to bring more female readers into the traditionally male-skewing beat. Initially, coverage will focus on the WNBA and women’s soccer, with plans to move into golf, tennis and hockey. Google will provide support for podcasts, newsletters and paid advertising. 


+ “What the hell are we all doing here?”: Media confronts moral dilemmas and coverage quirks at Qatar World Cup (Vanity Fair) 

+ Meet the Smiths: The partnership that led to Semafor (Columbia Journalism Review) 

+ Hate in the headlines: Journalism & the challenge of extremism (PEN America) 

+ Bartlesville kids start neighborhood newspaper (News on 6)