Need to Know: October 12, 2021


You might have heard: The New York Times is testing out subscriber-only newsletters (Nieman Lab) 

But did you know: The Atlantic wants to hire newsletter writers — and it wants their subscribers, too (Vox)

The Atlantic is planning a subscriber-only newsletter offering that features journalists who already have their own independent followings via Substack or a similar platform. The journalists won’t be hired on as full-time employees, but offered a base payment with the ability to make more money if they hit certain subscriber goals. The Atlantic’s goal is to convert those writers’ audiences into Atlantic subscribers — “If you’re currently paying Provocative But Thinky Takes Guy $5 a month for his work,” explains Peter Kafka, “now that same money will get you that letter, plus any other newsletters the Atlantic publishes, plus the Atlantic itself, which currently sells a digital-only subscription for $50 a year.” The move makes sense for the Atlantic, which has been experiencing a post-Trump audience slump; it could also provide more stability for writers who want to stay semi-independent.

+ Noted: The Solutions Journalism Network launches the Advancing Democracy project with 8 reporting projects in 10 U.S. newsrooms (Solutions Journalism Network)


How Newsday and The Spokesman-Review keep more subscribers

On September 28, API hosted an online discussion on tactics for retaining subscribers. Erik Zenhausern, director of acquisition and retention at Newsday, explained how Newsday’s online cancellation process helps deflect 29% of cancellations; and Pat Leader, director of audience and consumer revenue at The Spokesman-Review, described their onboarding process for new subscribers, which has helped boost engagement and reduce churn.

+ Earlier: What news publishers do to retain subscribers 


How to practice ‘deep listening’ before producing a story (Medium, Gather)

As director of teaching and learning at LION, Lisa Heyamoto has seen a “significant increase in digital news startups that are launching explicitly with a community-first approach.” For many, that means creating an editorial strategy with input from their communities, including one-to-one interviews and “listening tours.” Megan Raposa, founder of Sioux Falls Simplified in South Dakota, interviewed readers about the kind of news they were interested in and got very specific responses: Readers wanted to know, for example, about K-12 education, community trends and local nonprofits. “I didn’t expect to hear that,” Raposa said of the feedback about local nonprofits, “but I was like, ‘OK, cool, people like knowing what these groups are doing in the community. I can do more of that.”


Reuters Institute launches the Oxford Climate Journalism Network (Reuters Institute)

The project, funded by a £477,170 grant from the European Climate Foundation, will connect journalists worldwide who are covering climate change. They will have access to experts and scientists, professional forums, courses, and other resources to strengthen their understanding of climate change. The network, which journalists must apply to, is not only for science journalists, but any journalist interested in exploring how climate change impacts all facets of life, as well as for editors and news media executives.


Facebook launches an ‘audio hub’ for podcasts, live audio and short-form clips (TechCrunch)

Facebook has created a new “Audio” destination in its mobile app for U.S. users, where users will be able to discover podcasts, live audio rooms, and short-form audio stories. The feature is an attempt to compete with apps like TikTok and Clubhouse. However, audio is a more difficult form of media to moderate, notes Sarah Perez, which means “Facebook could become a platform for more misinformation to spread if it’s not able to develop the necessary technology that would make audio a safe environment.”


Mic reboots itself, with more pop culture coverage and less politics (New York Times)

Mic unveiled the new version of itself last week, with less political news and fewer opinion essays and more lifestyle and culture pieces accompanied by magazine-style illustrations and photography. “The ‘millennial political news website’ is a very outmoded concept for lots of different reasons,” said Joshua Topolsky, a chief content officer at Bustle Digital Group, which owns Mic. There will be a particular focus on race and identity coverage, but less of the “outrage clicks or even race baiting” that Mic sometimes skewed toward in the past, added Shanté Cosme, Mic’s editor in chief.


40-50 new hires ‘expected’ after WBEZ merger with Chicago Sun-Times (Medill Local News Initiative)

Chicago Public Media, WBEZ’s parent company, will acquire the Chicago Sun-Times in a deal that could be replicated in other parts of the country. In an interview with Medill’s Mark Jacob, Chicago Public Media CEO Matt Moog said that there are no plans to lay off staff, and the merger would actually create 40 to 50 new positions. “It’s not just about having more resources to do more breaking news, to do more investigations, but it really is an opportunity for us to think innovatively about how we collaborate and how we serve those audiences that neither of us may reach,” said Tracy Brown, WBEZ’s Chief Content Officer. Moog also said that the merger will be as “open-book and collaborative as possible,” so that others can learn from it.