Need to Know: Oct. 30, 2018

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


You might have heard: The Skimm got 100,000 people to commit to vote in the midterm elections (Forbes)

But did you know: How the Skimm went from a small two-woman operation to being delivered to 7 million readers a day (The Cut)

By any measure, the Skimm — founded in 2012 — is a massive success. It has grown by more than 100 percent since Donald Trump took office and has 7 million subscribers, twice as many as the New York Times. The Skimm is now its own universe — in addition to the main product, the site features guides and a podcast for its readers to live more informed lives. In addition to those high subscription numbers, the Skimm offers advertisers something else they like: a clear market segment to understand and target. The founders think a lot about what their company’s success means. “For our sixth birthday … we had some of our team pull some stats together to take a moment to reflect on what we’d done,” said CEO and founder Carly Zakin. “The stats were more jarring than we expected. We are in the .05 percent of start-ups that are founded by women thus far. You can hate our tone, you can love our tone, but the story of the Skimm matters.”

+ Noted: Scripps acquires 15 Cordillera TV stations, bringing Scripps’ portfolio to nearly 21 percent of U.S. TV households (TVNewsCheck); A “suspicious package” headed to CNN’s Atlanta headquarters has been intercepted off-site (CNN Business) and the NYPD is investigating a suspicious paper envelope sent to The New York Times headquarters (Hollywood Reporter); The Columbia Journalism Review’s first misinformation newsstand is in Midtown Manhattan and aims to educate news consumers in the lead-up to midterms (Columbia School of Journalism)


To grow subscribers, The Wall Street Journal focuses on product testing (Digiday)

Dow Jones & Co. set a goal of getting 3 million subscribers by the end of 2017, and to get there it ramped up product testing, partly through a six-person optimization team. The team, which lives inside the Journal’s memberships group, works on 12 different products across the Journal and Barron’s. When the team launched with two people in 2015, it was focused purely on improving subscriber conversions at the Journal. By 2017, it had started working on other outcomes like increasing consumption. It runs dozens of tests a month on tasks like getting more email newsletter registrations.


CPJ’s Global Impunity Index finds Somalia, Syria and Iraq have the worst records for prosecution of journalist murderers (Committee to Protect Journalists)

Impunity is entrenched in 14 nations, according to CPJ’s 2018 Global Impunity Index, which ranks states with the worst records of prosecuting the killers of journalists. Somalia tops the list for the fourth year in a row. In the past decade, at least 324 journalists have been silenced through murder worldwide and in 85 percent of these cases no perpetrators have been convicted. More than three quarters of these cases took place in the 14 countries that CPJ included on the index this year. All 14 countries have been featured on the index multiple times since CPJ began to compile it in 2008, and half have appeared every year. The Impunity Index is published annually to mark the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists on Nov. 2.

+ Condé Nast International is launching Vogue in Hong Kong in spring 2019, the 26th international edition of the magazine (South China Morning Post)


How Gab, the social network where the Pittsburgh shooting suspect aired his hatred in full, became a platform of choice for neo-Nazis and other extremists (The New York Times)

There have long been hateful enclaves online, and chat rooms and message boards where white nationalists, neo-Nazis and other extremists have congregated, writes Kevin Roose. But the popularity of mainstream mega-platforms like Twitter, Facebook and YouTube has created environments in which misinformation and hate can multiply, and where extremists can attempt to convert a new generation to their cause. Facebook and Twitter’s attempts to crack down on hateful and violent speech have been inconsistent, and many objectionable posts still slip through the cracks. But the companies have made earnest efforts to clean up their platforms — and in the process, they have pushed some extremists to alternative venues like Gab.


‘Twitter should kill the retweet — that’s the feature that derails healthy conversation and preys on users’ worst instincts’ (The Atlantic)

On Monday, Twitter was briefly ablaze after CEO Jack Dorsey reportedly suggested to The Telegraph that the company might eliminate its heart-shaped like button. If Twitter really wants to foster more healthy conversation, the like button is a puzzling target, writes Taylor Lorenz.  Retweets, not likes, are Twitter’s most powerful method of reward. If Twitter really wants to control the out-of-control rewards mechanisms it has created, the retweet button should be the first to go. Retweets prey on users’ worst instincts. They delude Twitter users into thinking that they’re contributing to thoughtful discourse by endlessly amplifying other people’s points — the digital equivalent of shouting “yeah, what they said” in the midst of an argument.

+ “Voter suppression is one of the most important stories being missed by broadcast news networks obsessed with covering Trump and breaking news” (Washington Post); Will Google’s homepage news feed repeat Facebook’s mistakes? (The Verge)


What is lost when contracts bar freelancers from discussing pay? (Columbia Journalism Review)

The power to talk with other freelancers about money gives us the information and strength to negotiate for fair conditions and sustain our work, says Adina Solomon. Such conversations are often hushed; they happen via Twitter direct messages, Facebook groups publicized through word of mouth, emails among trusted networks, chats over coffee. For freelancers, these conversations can be crucial to survival in a business where they lack the support and advantages of established companies. So recently, when two organizations offered Solomon contracts that prohibited necessary discussion of pay, it felt like a new twist in freelance survival. After reaching out to a number of other freelancers, she found that a slate of companies have issued contracts that either specifically bar discussing payment amount for an assignment or prohibit disclosing contract terms altogether.

+ A new ad from The New York Times details the slow burn behind its investigative journalism (AdWeek)