Need to Know: Oct. 28, 2019

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


You might have heard: SmartNews, a news aggregator app, was’s most reliably growing external traffic referrer in 2018 (Nieman Lab)

But did you know: SmartNews is the latest platform to pay publishers for their content (Digiday)

“The prospect of publishers getting paid for content seems to be in the air a bit recently,” writes Max Willens. Facebook just launched its news tab last week, Apple News launched earlier this spring, and even Snapchat is having conversations with publishers about building a news-only section of its app, which it would pay publishers for. Now SmartNews, a news aggregator app that started in Japan, is paying 30 U.S. publishers, ranging from BBC News to BuzzFeed to Billboard, with licensing fees based on how much of that publisher’s content is read in the app. Payouts can range from high five figures to over six figures, according to multiple sources participating in the program. “There’s clarity around what you’ll make,” said a source at one participating publisher. “I think publishers like seeing that. It helped us pull the trigger.”

+ Noted: Medill Local News Initiative wins Google Innovation Award to create subscriber engagement index, which will give local news orgs “timely, unique, actionable insights about the online behaviors of their digital subscribers” (Medill Local News Initiative); Indian Country Today joins the Associated Press (Columbia Journalism Review)


Make the transition from advertising to reader revenue

In our report “What it takes to shift a news organization to reader revenue,” we examine the critical elements that must be in place to build and maintain a successful subscription program. Find out what you’re doing — or not doing — that could be hindering reader revenue.


Code-switching for a bilingual audience (Cronkite News Lab)

Noticing that their bilingual subjects would often fluctuate between English and Spanish while giving an interview, members of the Cronkite Noticias reporting team began to wonder if they shouldn’t preserve those natural language choices in their reporting. So they put together a broadcast with Spanish subtitles for Spanish-only viewers, and English for English-only viewers — while delivering bilingual viewers an authentic, unfiltered story. The approach brings together three different audiences and is a more inclusive way to tell certain stories, says Cronkite Noticias Director Valeria Fernandez. “Those who are bilingual see themselves represented in the show, and monolingual audiences are invited to step a little outside their comfort zone while being offered a window into a new language. Rather than being left out, they are invited into the conversation.”


Brexit and the failure of journalism (Atlantic)

The agonizingly long process of Brexit, combined with the complexity of the problem and its many tedious details, has many U.K. media outlets focusing on the drama of the exit and the “knife-edge votes” that will eventually deliver a deal, writes Helen Lewis. But in the meantime, journalists are neglecting to cover the long-term impact of Brexit, including its potentially damaging effects on the economy. “If that happens, and jobs are lost and Britain becomes poorer, there will be little sympathy for the idea that Britain simply had to ‘Get Brexit done.’ Instead the question might well be: Why didn’t politicians, and the journalists who cover them, also care about getting Brexit right?” 

+ Telegraph owners to put newspapers up for sale (BBC)


The California Consumer Privacy Act — ‘another GDPR in the making’ (The Next Web)

With nearly 40 million people and the world’s fifth-largest economy, what happens in California rarely stays in California. That’s going to be especially true when the state’s Consumer Privacy Act goes into effect on Jan. 1, 2020. Similar to Europe’s GDPR, it will impact every business that collects data from a California customer — and there are very few that can say they absolutely do not. “Data-driven organizations, websites, and marketers everywhere must sit up and take note — governments are taking action when it comes to safeguarding their constituents’ online information,” writes Matthew Baier. “California wasn’t the first to crack down and it certainly won’t be the last.”


The trouble with anonymous quotes (The Guardian)

Journalists are often too quick to repeat anonymous quotes, which then get “injected into the conversational bloodstream caffeinated by social media,” writes Gary Younge. “When powerful people say things, too many journalists simply convey them, acting not as critical interlocutors but convenient conduits.” The danger in this, he argues, is that unnamed sources can then set an agenda without being held responsible for it. “Mistaking power for perspective and forgoing analysis for access, [journalists] can end up not reporting on the machine but making it run more smoothly.”

+ Mark Zuckerberg is struggling to explain why Breitbart belongs on Facebook News (The Verge)


What working at a suicide prevention hotline taught me about being a journalist (Medium, Madeline Faber)

“It isn’t enough to be insistently optimistic” when talking to people with suicidal thoughts, and you can’t simply tell someone contemplating suicide “Don’t,” writes Madeline Farber. Instead, the conversation should be about listening to the other person and honoring what they’re going through. “The same approach can be adapted in journalism to interview subjects whose views conflict with your own,” writes Faber. “By coming from a place of empathy, even if you disagree, you can have a more productive conversation.” Some of the techniques journalists can use to be more empathetic listeners: question (or think about) motivations over opinions, which can make it easier to relate to a person, and keep yourself out of the conversation — but if you’re struggling to build rapport, try to find common ground over something uncontroversial, Faber suggests.