Need to Know: October 8, 2019

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


You might have heard: Live TV interviews often allow guests to spin the narrative, with ineffective pushback from hosts (The Conversation)

But did you know: As interviews get tougher, Team Trump doubles down on avoidance (Washington Post)

The moment “Meet the Press” moderator Chuck Todd snapped on live TV during an interview with Sen. Ron Johnson may have marked a turning point in how the media is reporting on the impeachment inquiry, writes Margaret Sullivan. Having been criticized for allowing White House representatives to hijack the impeachment conversation on live TV, cable news hosts as well as White House correspondents are reeling in their tolerance for “gaslighting” and insisting that guests — and President Trump — stick to the line of questioning. The stricter approach has forced a change in the White House’s defensive strategy, says Sullivan: a refusal to go on the usual talk shows, instead pumping those stations with anti-news media ads. 

+ Earlier: The Sunday shows turn on Trump’s enablers (Columbia Journalism Review)

+ Noted: California makes deepfakes illegal to curb revenge porn and doctored political videos (The Next Web); Facebook to pay $40 million under proposed settlement in video metrics suit (Hollywood Reporter); Quartz announces leadership transition (Quartz) after losing more than $16 million in revenue in the first half of 2019 (New York Times); Credder creates the “Yelp for news” (Editor & Publisher)


Podcast: Post & Courier uncovers new revenue with mini-publisher model (It’s All Journalism)

The Post & Courier organized its editorial and sales teams into “mini-publisher” groups focused on new content products; a move that generated almost $900,000 in new product revenue and increased digital subscriptions by 250%. This episode is the latest in “Better News,” a podcast series from It’s All Journalism and API that shares success stories from the Knight-Lenfest Newsroom Initiative.  


Why every journalist should know the ‘unit economics’ of their content (Nieman Lab)

There are two key metrics that every journalist should understand: customer lifetime value and digital ad revenue per 1,000 impressions, or RPM. Customer lifetime value tells publishers how much subscribers are worth over the course of their subscriptions; RPM shows how much ad revenue is generated for every 1,000 page views. Being able to access data on these two metrics gives journalists an idea of whether subscriptions or page views pulls in more revenue in the long run, writes Matt Skibinksi. Dividing subscriber traffic from non-subscriber traffic (if that’s something the analytics platform can do) can help clarify the relationship between page views and subscriptions, as well as looking at which articles people are reading directly before they subscribe. At the very least, Skibinksi says, publishers should be sending regular reports on these two data points to the entire newsroom.

+ Related: API’s Metrics for News gives newsroom customizable insights into these metrics and more, helping journalists understand how their work contributes to the bottom line.


Canadian fact-checkers are pleasantly surprised by the small amount of false electoral content (Poynter)

As Canada prepares to elect a new Parliament in two weeks, the nation’s fact-checkers are feeling cautiously optimistic. Aside from the typical misinformation surrounding issues like climate change, immigration and healthcare (and Trudeau memes), they haven’t witnessed a spike in nefarious activity around the elections, says Eve Beaudin, who runs the fact-checking site Rumor Detector. One persistent thread in the fake news narrative, however, is that Trudeau arranged the recent government bailout of the country’s media sector to ensure favorable coverage in the run-up to the election.


Why companies do ‘innovation theater’ instead of actual innovation (Harvard Business Review)

When companies start to value process over product (one sign: product people report to process people), they become less agile and less innovative over time, writes Steve Blank. When they try to innovate in response to threats, they turn to the usual suspects — calling in consultants to reorganize the company, hosting innovation “activities” like hackathons or design thinking workshops, and in general adding more processes that rarely result in deployable product. It often stacks up to a sort of “innovation theater,” writes Blank, where companies lose sight of what they really need to do: “Explain how and where innovation will be applied and its relationship to the rapid delivery of new product.”   

+ Customers clicking on ads ultimately prefer to purchase on their desktop, study shows (Marketing Land)


We need new journalism formats for the climate crisis (One Man & His Blog)

At the News Impact Summit in Birmingham, U.K., news outlets from around the world talked about their use of innovative storytelling technologies to report on climate change. El Surtidor in Paraguay uses a comic-strip format (made for easy swiping on smartphones) to engage young people with climate reporting; while the New Internationalist has created listicles that explain what individuals can do to reduce their own carbon footprint. Al Jazeera Digital has been investing in VR and other immersive technologies, but uses low-tech principles to anchor their reporting, like an emphasis on talking to locals who are experiencing the effects of climate change first-hand. 


Takeaways for investigative journalists from ‘She Said’ (Twitter, @nichcarlson)

“She Said,” the inside story of how New York Times journalists Megan Twohey and Jodi Kantor reported the sexual assault allegations against Harvey Weinstein, “completely blew me away,” writes Nicholas Carlson, editor-in-chief of Business Insider. In this Twitter thread, he distills the most valuable takeaways for journalists, particularly for the beginning of an investigation: to get past the he said/she said, report on the documents; have a specific line of inquiry (in this case, did Weinstein pay out settlements to women alleging wrongdoing); and concentrate first on wrongdoings that can be easily proved, rather than the most serious wrong-doings.

+ Related: The New Yorker just published the first installment from reporter Ronan Farrow’s upcoming book, “Catch & Kill: Lies, Spies, and a Conspiracy to Protect Predators,” which details “an international plot to suppress sexual assault allegations against Harvey Weinstein.” (The New Yorker)

+ A roundup of the latest and greatest research on local news’ impact and future (Nieman Lab); Lessons from “Parked,” a collaborative media project spearheaded by the Colorado Sun (Colorado Media Project)