Need to Know: Sept. 25, 2019

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


You might have heard: Vox and Ezra Klein: testing the limits of the digital-news expansion (Columbia Journalism Review)

But did you know: Vox Media acquires New York Magazine, chronicler of the highbrow and lowbrow (The New York Times)

In a deal announced Tuesday, Vox Media will acquire New York Media, which owns 50-year-old New York Magazine, along with The Cut, Vulture, Intelligencer and other sites. The sale follows a layoff of 5 percent of the staff at New York Media, which was losing as much as $10 million a year until recently. The companies, which did not disclose the value of the deal, told The New York Times that the acquisition won’t result in layoffs or editorial changes and will lead to an estimated total 125 million unique visitors each month. BuzzFeed, Vice, Bustle and other digital media companies have pursued mergers in the last year to take advantage of cost savings amid declining advertising revenue.

+ Noted: BuzzFeed, Insider and Group Nine Media team up to compete for more video ad dollars (The Wall Street Journal); The Information and Bloomberg discuss a bundled subscription (Axios); ESPN inks Facebook deal to bring exclusive shows and content to Watch service (Variety); ‘Vice’ docuseries to return at Showtime (Variety)


How a small-town North Carolina newspaper became digital-first to save its 123-year-old legacy (Better News)

Here’s an idea to steal and adapt: The News Reporter of Columbus County, N.C., built a digital-first workflow, established a metered paywall and consolidated its subscription plans. The result was an increase in its circulation and subscription revenue. This story is part of a series on Better News that showcases innovative and experimental ideas that emerge from the Knight-Lenfest Newsroom Initiative; and shares replicable tactics that benefit the news industry as a whole.

+ Related: How LAist created merch for digital audiences (Poynter)

+ This primer on how the impeachment process will work can help journalists cover what’s coming (PoltiFact)


How the Houston Chronicle transformed its coverage of homicides (Poynter)

As newsrooms face declining resources, coverage of homicides have been relegated to breaking news, but papers like The Houston Chronicle are using data-driven projects to find trends and new story opportunities. Inspired by a similar project from The Los Angeles Times, the Chronicle requested homicide data on a monthly basis from the local medical examiner’s office, then tasked five journalists with contacting victims’ families to go beyond the data. Data Editor Matt Dempsey says that “there are many enterprise stories lurking in those numbers and in the stories we hear from the loved ones of victims.”

+ Six tips to improve the audio quality of your podcast (


How a news startup is driving reader revenue with its own customer relationship management tool (What’s New in Publishing)

Denník N, a Slovak newspaper, already had 21,500 subscribers in 2016 about two years after its founding. The publication has since doubled that number and tripled its registered readers, in part due to an in-house, open-source customer relationship management (CRM) system focused on driving subscriptions. The tool initially focused on paywalls, but eventually expanded to manage newsletters and other marketing emails, targeted messages to readers, and subscription ads. The system also produces story-level data on readers who become subscribers. Staff then analyze and improve articles that have a high number of visitors but low conversion rates.

+ UK broadcast regulator to probe Chinese state broadcaster over Hong Kong protest coverage (Press Gazette)


How to be less distracted at work – and in life (Harvard Business Review IdeaCast)

For all the benefits of technology, it’s created new behaviors that may whittle away at your ability to focus. Author Nir Eyal distinguishes between obvious distractions, like getting lost in YouTube videos, and other distractions that appear to be productive at first blush, like email. He frames distraction as the result of an internal trigger that we can learn to control. In one tip, Eyal recommends acknowledging feelings that lead to distraction, like anxiety, fatigue, or loneliness, writing them down, and then exploring them without judging yourself, which can exacerbate distraction. He also suggests going beyond to-do lists to budget your time and schedule based on how long tasks take to complete.


Defending the Facebook news tab (A Media Operator)

After news broke of Facebook’s plans to launch a “News Tab” that will pay journalism organizations to curate their articles, the plan was met with some skepticism. Jacob Donnelly writes in support of the tab, which he claims will generate revenue and traffic for news outlets with no drawbacks. He does note, however, that relying on revenue from the tab would be risky. “If Facebook is going to offer you $3 million, take the damn check,” he writes. “But don’t suddenly hire another 50 journalists with that money because you think in another few years, you’re going to get another $3 million—you’re not.”

+ In response to a project that aimed to improve trust in Wyoming media, Mike Rispoli writes that changing people’s minds will take longer than six months (Twitter, @RispoliMike)


I wanted immigration detention complex blueprints, but all I got was a hefty legal letter (International Consortium of Investigative Journalists)

After spending months reporting on solitary confinement in immigration detention centers, reporter Spencer Woodman filed a records request with the city of Conroe, Texas, in search of blueprints for a new facility there. Lawyers for the GEO Group, a for-profit company that manages prisons and detention centers, argued against releasing the documents, claiming that making them public would “put GEO Group at a competitive disadvantage” and endanger staff and visitors to the facility. Woodman writes that his experience is part of a growing trend of private and public sectors working together to block records requests.

+ Merriam-Webster inducts 533 new words, including “deep state” (Columbia Journalism Review)