Need to Know: Oct. 31, 2019

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


You might have heard: Newsrooms are gearing up for the Trump impeachment inquiry with new hires, podcasts and newsletters (CNN)

But did you know: Impeachment content will be ‘catnip for news junkies’ — but could also boost news avoidance (Nieman Lab) 

During President Trump’s first 10 months in office, research showed that people from both ends of the political spectrum felt “inundated” by three particular emotions when consuming political news: anger, frustration, and an overall feeling of being overwhelmed. Those emotions were shown to intensify if people consumed their news on social media, with many participants in that study calling it a toxic environment for news and declaring their intentions to cut back on their usage. The authors of that previous study, María Celeste Wagner and Pablo Boczkowski, now write that impeachment stories will “likely feel increasingly personal, passionate, and irritating to people as the proceedings unfold. For some, this will draw them in, while others will likely turn off from the news.”

+ Earlier: Britain’s Sky News is betting viewers’ Brexit fatigue is so extreme that it’s launching a “Brexit-free” news channel (Bloomberg)

+ Noted: Twitter will no longer allow political advertising on its platform (Twitter, @jack); Told to “stick to sports,” Deadspin editors quit en masse (New York Times) 


How might we reimagine opinion journalism for our digital, polarized age? Reflections from news leaders

Newspaper opinion sections can be polarizing — and in an age of fragile trust in local news, many newsrooms are unwilling to risk driving away readers. In a new essay collection, we look at three innovative ways newsrooms are reimagining opinion journalism, turning it into a platform (in the digital and physical sense) that engages readers in inclusive, civil debate on local issues.


This Wisconsin newsroom wants to cover esports like high school football (Poynter)

When Denise Lockwood, publisher of Racine County Eye, heard of an esports program at the local high school that gave out scholarships to participating students, she wanted to cover the story from a solutions angle. She also saw it as an opportunity to introduce the students to area tech schools and help them see how their skills could be translated into a career. Now the Eye has a reporter assigned to write weekly dispatches from the game, which it helps finds sponsors for. It’s also a great way for the Eye to help a new generation understand how news is made and why it matters, Lockwood said. “Nobody else is talking to these kids about why news is important.”


Why a group of Italian journalists turned Instagram into a board game (

The journalists, belonging to an Italian association for freelancers, wanted a creative way to share complex stories about urban development in three Italian cities — Naples, Rome and Milan. Their board game makes use of Instagram’s tagging feature to guide users, breadcrumb-style, through a progression of photos, infographics and Instagram Stories. Along the way, users learn how each of the cities has been transformed over time by tourism and gentrification. “We’ve tried to show that using Instagram is not just a hobby, but it is also for reading a complex story,” said Matteo Garavoglia, one of the game’s authors. “If you create a roadmap with the Stories, photos and good content, maybe [it’s] more impactful.”

+ Russia tests new disinformation tactics in Africa to expand its influence (New York Times); BBC “deliberately misled” female employees on salaries, union claims (Financial Times); 72 British lawmakers condemn “colonial” coverage of Meghan Markle (New York Times)


Price elasticity tests yield revenue opportunities for publishers (INMA)

When consulting company Mather Economics ran a series of tests to see what the optimal renewal price would be for several publishers, the optimal price each time was higher than expected. For example, for customers starting at 99 cents per week, it found an optimal renewal price of $3.99. In a similar test of digital-only subscribers beginning at $2.99 per week, it found the optimal renewal price was $5.49 per week. The tests took into account various factors that can influence decisions to stay subscribed, including income level and how engaged subscribers are with a publication. The tests also showed that engaged digital-only subscribers tend to be less sensitive to renewal price increases than print-only subscribers in the same market. “To the degree a publisher is open to a differentiated pricing strategy, where not all customers receive the same renewal price increase, the potential for incremental reader revenue will increase substantially,” write Mather economists Matthew Lulay and Matt Lindsey.


What’s blockchain actually good for, anyway? For now, not much (Wired)

Blockchain was touted by many as a solution to some of society’s most complex problems, including the death of local news. But the cryptocurrency hasn’t delivered, hobbled by its underlying technology. A recent report from Gartner predicted that up to 90% of blockchain-based supply chain initiatives would suffer “blockchain fatigue” by 2023 due to a lack of strong use cases. Some say blockchain may yet prove useful as a way to get competitors and other distrustful parties to share data and tools; for now, using blockchain to process thousands of transactions is “just too much for the technology today,” said one expert.

+ “Your move, Facebook”: Why Facebook should follow suit with Twitter’s decision to ban political ads (New York Times)


‘Journos just don’t understand’ (Columbia Journalism Review)

At a conference hosted in New York this week by the National Association for Media Literacy Education, journalists, educators and Facebook representatives heard from high schoolers about what the young people think of news organizations’ attempts to capture their attention on social media. Students laughed at the Washington Post’s TikTok account, where creator Dave Jorgenson’s antics have gained admiration (and imitation) from the media world. But they grimaced at a Fox meteorologist’s rendition of the viral “Git Up” dance challenge. And many of them declared that they just wanted reporters to stick to what they do best. “For me, honestly, to be engaged — just give me the facts straight,” said high schooler Jubahed Qayum. “I think teenagers are a lot smarter than adults give them credit for,” he went on. “Treat me like an adult without throwing in funny memes, and I’m ready to meet you like an adult.” 

+ Impact editors, story scientists, community wizards … What to make of media’s new job titles (What’s New in Publishing)