Need to Know: Oct. 4, 2019

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


You might have heard: Is audience engagement a mushy construct based on anecdata — or something audiences actually want? (Nieman Lab)

But did you know: The connection between audience engagement-focused reporting and revenue is still unclear (Nieman Lab)

One year after three dozen news organizations began experimenting with “listening” technologies like Hearken and GroundSource, there is still no clear business case for audience engagement. A report on the Community Listening and Engagement Fund, which helped those newsrooms access the technology through funding from the Knight Foundation, the Lenfest Institute, Democracy Fund and News Integrity Initiative, did show promising results — as long as a few caveats are in place. “Our research found that Hearken and GroundSource can both be used effectively to deepen community engagement, open up relationships with new audience members, and shape editorial coverage, if managed by motivated staff members, in newsrooms with ample support from leadership, and enough time to employ the services well,” the report’s authors wrote. The majority of newsrooms were not able to connect their engagement experiments with increased revenue, they added, although there were some exceptions.

+ Noted: Applications for the 2020 Women’s Leadership Accelerator are now open (ONA); CNN rejects two Trump campaign ads, citing inaccuracies (New York Times); TikTok says it will ban political ads (TechCrunch)


In this week’s edition of ‘Factually’

As part of a fact-checking journalism partnership, API and the Poynter Institute highlight stories worth noting related to truth in politics and on the Internet. In the latest edition of Factually: sorting fact from opinion in the impeachment debate; why Greta Thunberg’s critics often resort to personal attacks; and a new report on “trolls for hire.”


Using events and direct mail to get your reporting in front of larger audiences (Medium, KPCC)

When KPCC ran a three-part series on the growing rates of elder abuse in L.A., it was concerned that the target audience — older adults and their caregivers — may not listen to or read the story. So it partnered with local health organizations and set up information booths at their events. It also used USPS’s Every Door Direct Mail service to deliver postcards, printed in English and Spanish, to neighborhoods with high populations of elderly residents. The work was mostly an investment of time rather than financial resources, writes Michelle Faust Raghavan. It was also key that the KPCC staff members involved spoke Spanish and were able to connect not only with a large segment of the target audience, but also many of their community partners.   

+ Related: “You aren’t getting paid to write. You are getting paid to be read” — techniques from Poynter’s Kristen Hare on expanding your audience (Poynter)


Facebook can be forced to delete content worldwide, E.U.’s top court rules (New York Times)

The European Court of Justice ruled Thursday that E.U. member countries can force Facebook to take down content determined to be defamatory or otherwise illegal, not only within their own countries but globally. The ruling sets the stage for future disputes over Europe’s role in setting rules on the internet, especially as the region has been more proactive than others in proposing regulations. However, the decision is not likely to not lead to a flood of orders against Facebook to take down content globally, experts say. The opinion was narrowly written and urges national courts to weigh any bans carefully against international laws.

+ Earlier: In another recent landmark case, the European Court of Justice limited the “right to be forgotten” privacy law, ruling that it can’t be enforced outside the European Union. (New York Times)


How magazines like New York became M&A targets for tech companies like Vox Media (Variety)

“The internet’s years-long rising tide keeps pulling readers away from legacy print editions — and has spurred a new wave of dealmaking in the sector,” writes Todd Spangler. Now digital media companies are joining forces with iconic print brands to battle shrinking ad revenues and audience attention spans. But the acquisition of a legacy print publication isn’t enough to secure a sustainable future, and many digital media companies have needed to expand beyond editorial into events, branded content, premium video, podcasts and commerce to make the model work. Bustle Digital CEO Bryan Goldberg predicts an age of “digital exhaustion” in the decade ahead that will make print and experiential businesses more valuable: “People want to unplug, and connect with real people.”


With impeachment looming, news media spine ‘needs stiffening’ (Washington Post)

As misleading and obfuscated information begins to swirl around impeachment talks, the media needs to step up to help American consumers figure out where they stand, writes Margaret Sullivan. Interviewers need to be “quick on their feet and utterly prepared” — and not give oxygen to known peddlers of misinformation. Journalists also need to be wary of the “both sides” trap. Referring to Trump’s claims about Biden as “unsubstantiated,” instead of calling them lies, is an example of false equivalency, she says.    


How The Washington Post’s TikTok guy Dave Jorgenson gets millions of views by being uncool (Poynter)

The Washington Post’s TikTok account, run by 28-year-old Dave Jorgenson, may seem bizarrely disconnected to the newsroom’s journalism. But the short videos featuring Jorgenson eating pumpkin-spice Spam or walking around the newsroom dressed as a cockroach are, in fact, aligned with a very mission-oriented strategy: Highlight the Post’s brand and expose teen viewers to a variety of reporters and beats. “Part of what Dave does is mix trending TikTok memes with slice-of-life newsroom insight, which gives us the ability to laugh at ourselves while also hinting at the depth of our work,” said Gene Park, audience editor at the Post. And while he racks up views, Jorgenson is helping cultivate the Post’s next generation of subscribers.


+ Some lessons from the MIT Media Lab controversy (Columbia Journalism Review)

+ Trudeau’s blackface: The chilling effects of disinformation on political engagement (Nieman Reports)

+ A merger of chumbox-mongers Outbrain and Taboola might leave publishers a little bit poorer (and their websites a little less revolting) (Nieman Lab)