Insights, tools and research to advance journalism

Need to Know: October 3, 2018

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

OFF THE TOP

You might have heard: The great majority of nonprofit news outlets remains highly dependent on foundation funding (Shorenstein Center)

But did you know: Nonprofit news orgs still draw 90 percent of their revenue from philanthropy, but many are building out their revenue streams (Nieman Lab)

After a decade of concentrated growth, the nonprofit news sector now pulls in almost $350 million in total annual revenue, dominated in particular by the organizations started almost a decade ago, according to a new report by the Institute for Nonprofit News. There are now about 200 nonprofit newsrooms in the U.S. The vast majority of their revenue comes from philanthropic support, but many nonprofit news sites are investing in other revenue streams, including membership and events. Just over a third (34 percent) have four or more revenue streams, and nearly half have two or more. Individual giving, including membership, makes up 33 percent of total revenue from nonprofit news. Funding from foundations makes up 57 percent of total revenue. Other sources for revenue include event sponsorship (both via selling tickets and selling sponsorships), syndication, and display advertising.

+ Noted: The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, and The Caucus join forces to cover Pennsylvania state capitol (Philly.com); Newseum and Freedom Forum Institute launch Newstrition, a free browser extension that helps users fact-check articles (Freedom Forum Institute); WBUR’s innovation initiative, BizLab, launches open call to public media stations interested in conducting revenue experiments in the digital age (WBUR); The Washington Post finally raises its “crummy” 401(k) match (Washingtonian)

TRY THIS AT HOME

Here’s a simple way to figure out which of your readers are most likely to subscribe (Nieman Lab)

Transitioning a news organization from an advertising model to one that’s based on reader revenue is no easy task. Laura Hazard Owen highlights takeaways from API’s new report on reader revenue strategies that can serve as guideposts along the way: First, think about ditching some of the most annoying forms of advertising on your site. Now that the goal is to build loyalty, you want to make the audience’s experience on your site as positive as possible. That also includes figuring out how to have a “single view” and speak in a “single voice” to each reader, so that their experience feels personalized to whichever stage of the funnel they’re in potential subscriber, subscriber or incidental visitor. “A simple framework you can use to quantify a visitor’s propensity to subscribe is based on just three things,” writes author Damon Kiesow. “How did they arrive on your site, where are they located and what section did they read?”

OFFSHORE

Why a new fake news law in Singapore could be a big test for Facebook, Google and Twitter (BuzzFeed News)

Two weeks ago the Singapore government released a report recommending legislation that would allow it to “swiftly disrupt the spread of online falsehoods.” If the law is passed, as it’s expected to, and includes the recommended elements of rapid takedown or throttling of false reports, criminal penalties for perpetrators, and provisions against monetizing falsehoods, it would be the most far-reaching fake news law passed by a government so far, reports Craig Silverman. It will also represent a unique challenge for Facebook, Google and Twitter, whose Asian headquarters are in Singapore and who have significant operations in the country. If the three tech giants want to stay in Singapore, they will need to comply with the government’s new model for the speedy removal of content from their platforms.

OFFBEAT

How managers can curb implicit biases (Harvard Business Review)

There are two small — but powerful — ways managers can block bias when hiring, evaluating and promoting employees. One is by broadening their definitions of success. “Not surprisingly, most managers end up hiring people who match their implicit template of success,” write Lori Mackenzie and Shelley Correll. “Even if we want to be inclusive, the template itself may inadvertently invite bias by giving preference to more traditional candidates, or ‘the safe bet.’” Thinking about the value each employee adds to their team can help managers challenge the assumptions behind their templates for success. “Maybe we’re privileging some criteria without evidence that they are necessary for success,” write Mackenzie and Correll. “Ask, ‘What are my hidden preferences?’ Then challenge your hidden preferences by asking what are the mindsets, skills, and diverse experiences that actually lead your team to success.”

UP FOR DEBATE

Press coverage of Kavanaugh is imperfect. But imagine if we didn’t have it. (The Washington Post)

As the Brett Kavanaugh nomination turmoil rages on, the mainstream press is under fire, writes Margaret Sullivan. And not just from the predictable right. Criticism of the media’s handling of the Kavanaugh case has come from all sides, some of it valid and deserving to be aired. But the journalistic digging into Kavanaugh’s life in high school and college has been impressive, argues Sullivan, and overall, the press is performing its crucial watchdog role in a way that citizens should appreciate. “The press criticism … reminds me of the oft-quoted quip about democracy: ‘the worst form of government except for all the others.’ So, too, American journalism in 2018.” Journalists make factual errors, they blur the line between news and opinion, they’re highly distractible and guilty of tunnel vision, arrogance and groupthink. “Even so,” Sullivan writes, “they might be American democracy’s best hope at the moment.”

+ Earlier: 54 percent of Americans say it is extremely or very important for the press to be a watchdog over the powerful. Another 30 percent consider that somewhat important. But those numbers are higher for Democrats than Republicans.

SHAREABLE

After this town’s newspaper closed, the kids started their own (Poynter)

Francesca Di Cristofano stood up in front of her junior-year chemistry class at Pelham Memorial High School and told everyone she had an announcement to make. The town’s newspaper had fallen apart and it needed a new one. She wanted her classmates to help make that happen. One month later, The Pelham Examiner launched online. It’s registered as a corporation and owned and run by Di Cristofano and her classmates, who aren’t yet making any money. But that’s not their goal, writes Kristen Hare. They just want their town to have news — and get a learning experience unlike any other. “There’s a lot to be said for the teaching hospital model when it comes to training students in journalism,” said Matt DeRienzo, executive director of the Local Independent Online News Publishers. Getting kids to think not just about the news but about how it’s sustained as a business, he said, takes that model one step further.

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