Need to Know: October 24, 2018

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


You might have heard: Study estimates ad fraud will cost advertisers $19 billion in 2018, representing 9 percent of total digital advertising spend (Business Wire)

But did you know: BuzzFeed News investigation exposes multimillion-dollar ad fraud scheme (BuzzFeed News)

The massive, sophisticated digital advertising fraud scheme involving more than 125 Android apps and websites connected to a network of front and shell companies in Cyprus, Malta, British Virgin Islands, Croatia, Bulgaria, and elsewhere, reports Craig Silverman. More than a dozen of the affected apps are targeted at kids or teens, and a person involved in the scheme estimates it has stolen hundreds of millions of dollars from brands whose ads were shown to bots instead of actual humans. By copying actual user behavior in the apps, the fraudsters were able to generate fake traffic that bypassed major fraud detection systems. After being provided with a list of the apps and websites connected to the scheme, Google investigated and found that dozens of the apps used its mobile advertising network. It has removed more than 30 apps from the Play store, and terminated multiple publisher accounts with its ad networks.

+ “…let’s think about how much better off media would be if $19 BILLION went to real companies with real audience — instead of criminals” (Twitter, @CraigSilverman)

+ Noted: “They really treat us well”: Trump leans on local media ahead of midterms (Politico); Younger Americans are better than older Americans at telling factual news statements from opinions (Pew Research Center); Digital publisher Refinery29 to lay off about 10 percent of workforce (The Wall Street Journal)


How telling overlooked stories can rebuild trust and sustainability (Poynter)

Chasing the same stories as other media outlets can actually have a damaging effect on trust, writes Damian Radcliffe. “What needs to be avoided is allocating precious resources to rewriting wire copy, featuring stories simply because your competition is, and reporting stories and covering beats the way you always have,” writes Radcliffe. “Reporting stories not found elsewhere is an important differentiator in an increasingly noisy and cluttered media landscape. For local newsrooms, this means focusing on telling stories that might be overlooked by other outlets, as well as offering new and fresh perspectives. Weeklies, which make up the majority of newspapers in the United State, are especially well placed to do this, as they’re working on different publishing cycles.” Newsrooms can also benefit from revisiting and updating previous stories, which can produce deeper, more valuable journalism in the long run and can help offset the common criticism (and trust-killer) of “parachute journalism.”

+ Related: Finding overlooked stories requires knowing how to listen, especially to communities that may feel neglected or misrepresented by your coverage

+ What would it look like if journalists linked to every source document for every fact in their articles? Something like this. (Twitter, @jcstearns)


UK government bans phrase ‘fake news’ (The Telegraph)

The UK government has banned the term “fake news” after urging ministers to use “misinformation” or “disinformation” instead, reports Margi Murphy. The phrase will no longer appear in policy documents or official papers because it is “a poorly-defined and misleading term that conflates a variety of false information, from genuine error through to foreign interference in democratic processes,” officials said. The ban on the phrase was prompted by an inquiry into “fake news” that examined the potential for social media to be misused to sway elections. “We recommend that the Government rejects the term ‘fake news’, and instead puts forward an agreed definition of the words ‘misinformation’ and ‘disinformation’. With such a shared definition, and clear guidelines for companies, organisations, and the Government to follow, there will be a shared consistency of meaning across the platforms, which can be used as the basis of regulation and enforcement,” the committee conducting the inquiry stated.

+ Khashoggi death throws new light on Saudi prince’s crackdown on dissent (The Washington Post)


Overcoming inertia in the shift to digital (McKinsey Quarterly)

“If there’s one thing a digital strategy can’t be, it’s incremental,” write Tanguy Catlin, Laura LaBerge, and Shannon Varney. “The mismatch between most [companies’] business models and digital futures is too great — and the environment is changing too quickly — for anything but bold, inventive strategic plans to work.” One way for leaders to cut through incrementalism and inertia is to fight against ignorance (all too common, especially at executive levels), of the digital landscape and how to navigate it. That requires raising your organization’s collective technology IQ. “Consider the experience of a global industrial conglomerate that knew it had to digitize but didn’t think its leadership team had the expertise to drive the needed changes. The company created a digital academy to help educate its leadership about relevant digital trends and technologies and to provide a forum where executives could ask questions and talk with their peers. Academy leaders also brought in external experts on a few topics the company lacked sufficient internal expertise to address.”


‘The caravan is coming!’ Cue the media frenzy (The Washington Post)

“The exodus of migrants walking through Mexico is, no doubt, a real story,” writes Margaret Sullivan. “It’s just not the same story that much of the American news media is incredulously — at times hysterically — telling.” Beyond dehumanizing a humanitarian crisis that needs real solutions, the tone and content of much of the media coverage plays into President Trump’s hands as the country heads into the midterm elections, she argues. By last weekend, “…every network news broadcast was treating the caravan as huge news, even as the migrants themselves were hundreds of miles away from the U.S. border … the ‘immigration crisis’ works as a proven winner for [Trump], allowing him to stoke fear and resentment as he did so successfully during the 2016 campaign, where cries of ‘build the wall’ reverberated at every rally.”

+ Related: Is the media making American politics worse? (Vox); At the border town that the news cycle has left behind (The New York Times)


What happens when Facebook goes down? People read the news (Nieman Lab)

On Aug. 3, 2018, Facebook went down for 45 minutes, causing web traffic patterns around the world to detour … directly to news sites to get their information fix. “This window into consumer behavior reflects broader changes we see taking hold this year around content discovery, particularly on mobile,” writes Josh Schwartz, chief of product, engineering, and data science at Chartbeat. Among those broad changes: a major reversal in the specific sources driving traffic to publisher sites (Google Search referrals have sharply outpaced Facebook referrals), and “incredible growth” in the usage of news aggregator apps like Google News and Flipboard. Publisher-owned apps are also making a comeback, writes Schwartz.

+ Why social media is still a minefield for journalists: “One errant observation, or an improperly worded thought, and journalists can find that they’ve inadvertently exposed their own biases to the world — and caused a firestorm in the process.” (NBC News)