Need to Know: November 6, 2018

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


You might have heard: The Associated Press, in conjunction with Fox News, launches new exit polling project AP VoteCast, abandoning the embattled model of in-person exit polling that has dominated election nights for decades (Politico)

But did you know: How polling has changed since 2016 (Huffington Post)

Heading into the 2018 election, there’s been an effort to drive home the uncertainty of traditional polling. Starting with 2017′s off-year elections, several media outlets took the still-unusual step of releasing multiple estimates for how a race might look, depending on which kinds of voters turn out. “We do not know what the population is until Election Day,” Monmouth pollster Patrick Murray, who has regularly released polls showing results for both high- and low-turnout scenarios, wrote earlier this year. “We are modeling a possibility.” The online survey firms SurveyMonkey and Ipsos have also released surveys with multiple turnout models; outlets including CBS and The Washington Post have presented readers with multiple estimates based on their polling. Perhaps the most extreme effort at transparency came from The New York Times’ Upshot, which partnered with Siena College to release dozens of polls as they were being conducted. Although reactions focused mostly on the queasy thrill of watching a candidate’s numbers grow or shrink in real time, the project also went to painful lengths to catalog the often-unspoken caveats that encumber every horse-race survey.

+ Related: CNN, ABC, CBS and NBC will again rely on an exit poll conducted by Edison Research. Several other major news organizations, such as The Los Angeles Times and The Washington Post, will use AP VoteCast. (AP)

+ Noted: Facebook, NBC and Fox News pull Trump campaign’s anti-immigration ad (CNN); Facebook blocks 115 accounts ahead of U.S. midterm elections, saying they may be linked to foreign entities (CNBC); Chrome will soon ad-block an entire website if it shows abusive ads (The Verge); Amazon to stop pushing Washington Post stories to customers (Bloomberg); The Boston Globe finds funding alternatives for accountability journalism (Dan Kennedy)


How newsletter publishers re-engage lapsed subscribers (Digiday)

Many publishers have found that they need to drastically change what they’re sending if they want to catch a lapsed subscriber’s attention. A subscriber who hasn’t opened an email in 90 days, for example, gets a personalized note addressed to the subscriber by name, says Sean Ryan, whose lifestyle newsletter Elevator has over 300,000 subscribers. If someone hasn’t opened Morning Brew, a daily business newsletter with over 700,000 subscribers, in six weeks, they get a message from the CEO, which is meant to restate the value of the newsletter, says Morning Brew co-founder Austin Rief. Meanwhile, targeting lapsed subscribers with ads on social media has proved ineffective for many publishers: “If [they] don’t want a daily email, the platform’s not going to matter,” said Rief.

+ Related: How to get the email addresses you need to drive new subscriptions

+ For journalists covering the polls: If you have questions about your rights at the polls or run into issues, legal assistance is available all day through the Reporters Committee Legal Defense Hotline; you can also access RCFP’s Election Legal Guide for journalists, available in English and Spanish (Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press)


Our leaders must stop killers of journalists acting with impunity (The Guardian)

“The murder and apparent dismemberment of [Jamal] Khashoggi, who ventured into the Saudi consulate in Istanbul and never came out, marks a new low in the depravity of the attacks on journalists,” writes Jane Martinson. It also makes clear that the United Nations-designated day to “end impunity for crimes against journalists,” which falls every year on Nov. 2, has failed to have the desired effect. Already this year, 74 journalists have died around the world, according to the International Federation of Journalists, and more than 600 have been killed in the past six years. Nine out of 10 of these murders remain unsolved. A report to be published next week suggests that journalists are being attacked everywhere – including in Europe, the historic bastion of press freedom.


Using experiments to launch new products (Harvard Business Review)

We’ve seen companies miss important opportunities for experimentation, and we’ve seen experiments that suffer from implementation and interpretation challenges, write Jeff Fossett, Duncan Gilchrist and Michael Luca. For companies looking to test new products experimentally, here are some guidelines for getting started: Decide what metrics matter to you most, and then come up with hypotheses about how they might behave; choose a random subset of markets in which to launch the product; track not only whether your new product is working but also how its launch affects existing products; and make sure you understand why your product is succeeding or failing.


The election has already been hacked (The New York Times)

This election has already been hacked even if not a single voting machine has been compromised, writes Zeynep Tufekci. It has already been hacked even if not another ruble has been spent on spreading disinformation. It has already been hacked even if voter registration information has been undisturbed and no vote tallies are altered. Why? Because the legitimacy of an election depends on the electorate accepting that it was fair, that everyone who tried to vote got to vote and that every vote counted. Lose that, and your voting system might as well have suffered a devastating technological attack. Unfortunately, in much of the United States, we are no longer able to assure people that none of those things has happened. A recent poll shows that 46 percent of the American electorate do not think their votes will be counted fairly, and about a third think it is likely that a foreign country will tamper with the results.


If you let commenters go after your reporters, it hurts your credibility with other readers (Nieman Lab)

A new study, designed to measure whether online abuse of female journalists lessens their perceived credibility, found that abusive comments in particular damage the credibility of journalists regardless of their gender, an impact that also spreads to their news outlets. “While newsrooms may be heartened to hear that abusive comments are not affecting perceptions of women, these results should still give outlets pause,” the researchers wrote. “Across three studies we found that abusive comments penalized journalists. These results suggest that adopting guidelines for flagging abusive comments, much like The New York Times, may help mitigate these penalties.”

+ Related: The Great Splinter Commenter Purge: “Starting today, Splinter will be unfollowing every single commenter on the site … This decision is the result of multiple in-house discussions. It’s an attempt to foster and cultivate a more productive comments section; ours is currently ridden with trolls of every conceivable stripe.” (Splinter)

+ An interview with representatives of the press freedom groups that are suing President Trump for violating the First Amendment (It’s All Journalism); A fast-rising journalist hits a speed bump with his latest scoop about Trump (The Washington Post)