Need to Know: Oct. 3, 2019

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

OFF THE TOP

You might have heard: We’re one month away from the launch of Facebook’s News Tab (Wall Street Journal)

But did you know: Most Americans think news outlets are featured on social media because they have a certain political stance, not because their reporting is neutral (Pew Research Center) 

A study by the Pew Research Center found that most Americans are wary of the role social media companies play in delivering news. A majority thinks social media companies have too much control over the news that appears on their sites, and that this results in a worse mix of news for users. A large majority (82%) also believes that social media companies favor certain news outlets over others. Sensational content, large social media followings and partisan coverage were cited as the top reasons social media sites choose to feature those news outlets over others. Only 18% of survey respondents believed news outlets are featured because they offer politically neutral content.  

+ Noted: Starbucks, no longer selling print newspapers in stores, is now offering free digital access to several newspaper websites (Chicago Tribune); Vice Media to acquire Refinery29 (Variety); Akron’s The Devil Strip will become a community-owned news co-op (Twitter, @bechang8); At Istanbul memorial for Jamal Khashoggi, a moment’s silence, then shouts for justice (Washington Post) 

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TRY THIS AT HOME

Why story labels should include explainers (Center for Media Engagement) 

A survey by the Center for Media Engagement found that readers often miss labels identifying articles as news, analysis, sponsored content or opinion, whether they’re placed above or somewhere within the article. If they do notice them, readers often have a hard time accurately recalling the labels. This doesn’t mean newsrooms should abandon story labels, researchers write; but they should be sure to include “explainers,” which briefly describe the label, and place them in a highly visible location “in conjunction with other techniques for conveying trustworthiness.”  

+ Related: Examples of newsrooms that are using creative, effective ways to label content (Trusting News)

OFFSHORE

How Germany’s Burda Media increased ad revenue by cutting ad clutter (Digiday)

When ad-blocking rates peaked in Germany in 2016, Burda took the counterintuitive step of cutting ad impressions by a quarter. Working closely with the Coalition for Better Ads, it dropped intrusive banner ads (banishing a sizeable chunk of its revenue overnight) and implemented a smart ad-loading technology that causes ads to load only when users start scrolling. The risky strategy appears to work: After an initial three months of revenue loss, digital ad revenues rose slowly back up, with an average 38% year-on-year lift recorded across all its titles in 2018. “Many publishers suspect this [approach] will work but worry too much about quarterly numbers to make any serious changes,” said Neil Thurman, director for the Coalition for Better Ads. “Burda has taken it to an extreme, and gone well beyond our standards, to show that better ads not only makes better business sense but make for happier consumers.”

+ Earlier: Reducing ads can also help pages load faster, which in turn has been found to boost revenue. (What’s New in Publishing)

OFFBEAT

How to demonstrate your strategic thinking skills (Harvard Business Review)

Demonstrating strategic thinking skills proves to your managers that you’re able to position your organization for the future, writes Nina Bowman. It means bringing a point of view to the table — ”Your leaders want to know what you think, and they view your worthiness for promotion through the lens of how ready you are to make bigger decisions” — as well as showing that you can put your ideas into action. “No matter your level,” writes Bowman, “you can demonstrate strategic thinking by executing an innovative project that shows that your understanding extends beyond your current function.”

UP FOR DEBATE

Reclaiming the live TV interview in the name of journalism (The Conversation)

TV news hosts may persist in booking guests who purposely mislead audiences because they’re “newsworthy” or they “speak for the president.” (Or, precisely because they were asked not to invite certain guests by a political rival’s campaign.) But “There’s no journalistic obligation to disseminate views that mislead, misdirect or offer irrelevant information designed to intentionally confuse viewers,” writes Michael Socolow. “In fact, there is a journalistic obligation to do the opposite.” Socolow argues that the most straightforward solution is to not invite guests who will intentionally mislead audiences, full stop.

SHAREABLE

Assessing information needs in South Fresno (Twitter, @LPostCollective)

The Listening Post Collective recently conducted an information needs assessment in South Fresno, interviewing 600 residents and 40 media makers and community leaders to understand how they consume news and which story topics are most important to them. They made several important discoveries, including how a dearth of Spanish-language news is prompting one woman to run articles through Google Translate and post summaries to a Facebook Group; which advocacy organizations are doing a better job than local media of furnishing need-to-know information; and why parents with young children often avoid local TV news.  

+ Earlier: Our report walks you through how to embed listening techniques into your daily reporting 

+ “Welcome to Troll Factory”: This app-based game educates players on how disinformation agents operate on social media. (H/t to Poynter’s Ren LaForme for including this in his journalism tools round-up.) (Troll Factory)