Need to Know: Oct. 1, 2019

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


You might have heard: Facebook is offering about 40 or so publishers around $2 to $2.5 million a year each for the rights to put their content in News Tab, a new human-curated section of the site (Dylan Byers)

But did you know: Facebook will pay only about 25% publishers whose content is featured on News Tab (Wall Street Journal) 

With one month to go until the launch on News Tab, more details are emerging around how Facebook plans to compensate the 200 or so publishers whose content will be featured. According to the Wall Street Journal, Facebook will pay fees mostly to corporate owners, many of which own multiple news outlets, instead of to the news outlets themselves. That means about one in four individual newsrooms involved in the launch of News Tab will receive payments. News outlets currently negotiating terms with Facebook include Wall Street Journal parent Dow Jones & Co., the Washington Post, the New York Times, Business Insider, BuzzFeed, HuffPost and the Philadelphia Inquirer. Facebook is offering a range of licensing fees as high as $3 million a year for national news outlets to several hundred thousand dollars a year for regional publications.

+ Noted: Facebook plans to exempt opinion and satire from fact-checking (Wall Street Journal); Apple launches Apple News+ in the U.K. and Australia (MacRumors); Today is #NewsEngagementDay (AEJMC)


Cutting print: Making it work when publishing days must go 

This week the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette announced it will only print on Thursdays, Fridays and Sundays (even giving up Monday’s Steelers coverage), marking the latest in a still-short line of publishers who are reducing print delivery days. Our new Strategy Study looks at best practices for cutting print as part of a larger transition to digital.


Publishers opt for leaner websites to attract and keep users on site (What’s New in Publishing)

Users will often abandon web pages that take more than a few seconds to load; making faster load times a high priority for many news organizations. Sports publisher GiveMeSport, which has 3.2 million monthly unique visitors, boosted direct traffic by 63% year over year after improving its site speed. It built a new lean website, and reduced the number of ads from an average 11 per page to four. Its pages now load in no more than five seconds. “Since we launched the lightweight version and removed the ads, we’ve seen users get far more engaged and spend more time viewing the content and the ads,” said Dean Drury, product director at GMS. “It was a bold decision [removing ads,] but it has paid off.”

+ Earlier: Can local news websites shift from annoying their readers to serving them? (Medill Local News Initiative)

+ Tips on investigating disinformation networks from BuzzFeed’s Craig Silverman (Global Investigative Journalism Network)


BBC reverses decision to censure presenter Naga Munchetty (The Guardian)

The BBC has walked back its decision to sanction Naga Munchetty, one of its most prominent minority journalists, for comments she made about Donald Trump that caused a viewer to complain about her lack of impartiality. The reversal was made after a leaked document showed that Munchetty was receiving harsher punishment than her white male co-host Dan Walker, who was also the subject of the viewer’s complaint; the revelation sparked several days of staff protests. Many BBC employees said they felt the incident was symptomatic of the underlying diversity issues at the network. 

+ Related: The Naga Munchetty row shows diversity is still about optics, not real change (The Guardian)


How a big enough news story — like impeachment — could warp the polls (FiveThirtyEight)

Blockbuster news stories, the kind that typically happen only or twice in an election cycle, can throw off polling accuracy by attracting survey takers who are firmly on one side of an issue. The effect, which pollsters call “differential nonresponse bias,” is a skewed representation of real-world opinion. If we see a surge in support for President Trump’s impeachment, writes Mark Blumenthal, it could be due in part to nonresponse bias; meaning that pro-impeachment Democrats are more willing to be surveyed on the issue than Republicans. Journalists should be cautious if the next polling result on impeachment looks like an outlier compared to previous results, warns Blumenthal, and take into account the average of multiple recent polls rather than looking at one new result on its own.


Jeong departure highlights potential impact of #CancelNYT activism (The Hill)

Last week’s news that Sarah Jeong had left The New York Times editorial board came amidst the latest #CancelNYT controversy, in which subscribers threatened to cancel their NYT subscription after the Times reported partially identifying details about the Trump whistleblower. In a tweet, Jeong pushed back at a journalist who urged people against canceling their subscriptions. She wrote, “NYT does pay attention to subscriber cancellations. It’s one of the metrics for ‘outrage’ that they take to distinguish between ‘real’ outrage and superficial outrage. What subscribers say can back up dissenting views inside the paper about what it should do and be.” The tweet appeared to some as a call to unsubscribe, although Jeong says it wasn’t. The Times says she had left the editorial board in August, although she remains a contributor to NYT Opinion.


INN launches editorial collaboration on decline of rural hospitals (Institute for Nonprofit News)

As rural hospital closings reach crisis stage, leaving millions without ready access to healthcare, the Institute for Nonprofit News has launched a collaborative effort among 12 Midwestern news organizations to do solutions-oriented coverage of the issue. “Seeking a Cure: The quest to save rural hospitals” is the first of three collaborations facilitated by INN this year, all of them suggested by members. “This topic appealed to me because it was on our short list of stories to tackle in our plans to carve a niche in Midwest public health reporting,” said Lyle Muller, founding editor of IowaWatch who, along with Seattle Times editorial writer Jennifer Hemmingsen, brought the idea to INN’s attention. “You could say that it’s an Iowa problem, but it’s a problem in other Midwest states as well. The idea that we could pool information across state lines, so you could look at problems and different solutions, seemed like a worthwhile thing to do.”

+ It’s been one year, but the world hasn’t forgotten the horror of journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s murder (Washington Post)