Insights, tools and research to advance journalism

Need to Know: November 26, 2018

Fresh useful insights for people advancing quality, innovative and sustainable journalism

OFF THE TOP

You might have heardTwitter is sweeping out fake accounts like never before, putting user growth at risk (The Washington Post)

But did you know: New study finds that bots significantly amplified misinformation during the 2016 U.S. election (Poynter)

Since the 2016 American election, there has been a lot of speculation about the role that bots played in spreading online misinformation. Now, that role has been quantified. According to a study published in the journal Nature Communications last week, automated Twitter accounts disproportionately amplified misinformation during the last U.S. election. It found that, while bots only accounted for about 6 percent of the Twitter users in the study, they were responsible for 34 percent of all shares of articles from “low-credibility” sources on the platform. While Twitter has made efforts to curb the number of automated accounts on its platforms, bots are still widely used — and not always for nefarious purposes. Some misinformation experts argue that they should be allowed to try to beat the bots at their own game. “I think artificial intelligence is the only way to tackle misinformation, and we have to build bots to tackle misinformation,” said Tai Nalon, director of Aos Fatos, a Brazilian fact-checking project. “(Journalists) have to reach the people where they are reading the news. Now in Brazil, they are reading on social media and on WhatsApp. So why not be there and automate processes using the same tools the bad guys use?”

+ Noted: Sign up to receive a Dow Jones News Fund intern for 2019 (Dow Jones News Fund); Applications open for RTDNF scholarships and fellowships for undergraduate student journalists (RTDNA); Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg rejects request to testify in front of seven countries’ lawmakers — but a lower-level official will appear (The Washington Post)

TRY THIS AT HOME

Audience engagement for successful fund drives (Medium, Hearken)

To steal a line often said during pledge drives for public media: your listeners’ (or readers’) financial support makes the work you do possible. But a pledge drive isn’t true audience engagement. True engagement happens when you offer people the chance to directly connect with your newsroom throughout the year; through things like thoughtfully-planned events, journalism built on good listening techniques, and even creative products that celebrate your community. You’re showing your audience that you value their contributions, that you’re interested in building a relationship on trust and understanding. As a result, supporting you will feel like a no-brainer.

+ ProPublica explains where its journalists get their story ideas (ProPublica)

OFFSHORE

The website that shows how a free press can die (The New York Times)

The story of how Hungary’s leading news website, Origo, transformed from an independent news source to a government cheerleader offers a blueprint of how Hungary’s prime minister Viktor Orban and his allies pulled this off. Rather than a sudden and blatant power grab, the effort was subtle but determined, using a quiet pressure campaign. Origo’s editors were never imprisoned and its reporters were never beaten up. But in secret meetings — including a pivotal one in Vienna — the website’s original owner, a German-owned telecommunications company, relented. The company, Magyar Telekom, first tried self-censorship. Then it sought a nonpartisan buyer. But, ultimately, Origo went to the family of Orban’s former finance minister.

+ After just five days into The Correspondent’s campaign, 11,000 founding members from 87 countries had already joined the movement for “unbreaking news” (Medium, Ernst Pfauth)

OFFBEAT

Managers, consider these things before you give someone a promotion (Fast Company)

Being a good employee doesn’t automatically translate to being a good leader. That transition requires learning a lot of new skills, sometimes from scratch. Many companies train managers when they move into a managerial role, but this is far too late — they need training before they step into the role. Managers could make the case for management training programs, mentoring, or coaching that helps employees cultivate valuable leadership skills before they take on supervisory positions. And after an employee has been promoted, it’s also helpful to gather feedback from their teams — apart from annual performance reviews — that will give them valuable insight into how their leadership abilities have developed.

UP FOR DEBATE

Is it finally time for media companies to adopt a common publishing platform? (Nieman Lab)

Until recently, publishers didn’t have a viable “buy” option when it came to a digital publishing platform. All-in-one CMS/platforms like Drupal, CQ, and WordPress suffered from design limitations and a perception that they would be slow to adapt to changes in web technology. So many media companies choose to build their own proprietary platforms and content management systems. Today, though, the commercial market for publishing platforms is maturing, and “buy” is finally becoming a viable option. “For the media industry as a whole, the stakes are high,” writes Jesse Knight, who helped build Vice’s platform as chief technology officer. “If media could consolidate around a common publishing platform, it would allow players of all sizes to cut costs as well as better compete against Facebook as a media union, taking action collectively, and once and for all addressing their biggest revenue challenges.”

SHAREABLE

The funnel and the news business (Medium, Andrew Haeg)

Funnels. Pipelines. Ladders. Cycles. Once marketing jargon, these terms are now gaining traction within the journalism profession. It’s no secret why: Journalism is rapidly transitioning from ad-based, scale-above-all business models to ones based on more engaged audiences that support the news directly through subscriptions and memberships. As a consequence, journalism leaders are rethinking how they relate to their audiences and communities — both in how they serve them with information and how they activate them as supporters. The old-but-new concept of a marketing “funnel” (or whichever metaphor you find most useful) might be what ties media’s public service function and its future as an again-thriving industry.

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