Need to Know: September 17, 2020


You might have heard: For many community newspapers, ad revenue collapsed “almost overnight” as lockdowns went into effect across the world (USA Today) 

But did you know: Report predicts five years of steep global decline for newspaper industry revenue, both print and online (Press Gazette)

PWC’s Media Outlook report looks at the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the newspaper industry and how quickly it can expect to rebound. Global newspaper advertising revenue is set to fall by $8 billion in 2020, and global circulation revenues are down by $6.5 billion from last year. The report predicts that global print revenues will continue to fall faster than digital growth can offset. More publishers are reporting that their subscription revenue, boosted by digital growth, has displaced advertising as their most significant revenue stream.

+ Noted: The Local Media Association selects 16 news organizations to make up its first lab cohort focusing on fundraising for journalism projects (LMA); The Borealis Fund has awarded a grant to the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press to create a one-year legal fellowship to address the legal needs of journalists of color (RCFP)


API introduces 2020 Table Stakes coaches

Today API is excited to announce the addition of six news leaders from across the journalism industry who will coach news organizations in this year’s Major Market cohort of Table Stakes. Table Stakes is an innovative yearlong program supported by the Knight-Lenfest Local News Transformation Fund, that helps news leaders transform their organizations through intensive change management training.

+ API is helping publishers examine their subscriber retention strategies. Please take 10 minutes to answer these survey questions about your retention practices and whether you feel they’ve been effective. We can also help you evaluate your existing strategy and potential ways to improve it.


A step-by-step guide to building a membership program for your newsroom (Medium, Membership Puzzle Project)

Yesterday the Membership Puzzle Project, in partnership with the Lenfest Institute and the Google News Initiative, released a guide that walks news organizations through the challenges of creating and sustaining a robust membership program. The guide helps you think through important questions, like how to set prices, how much revenue to expect, how to market the program, and metrics to measure its success. Case studies from 34 news organizations show you how to put the advice into practice.

OFFSHORE’ recipe for growing its members and expanding into new areas during the pandemic (Poynter)

The Swiss news outlet already had a reputation for its rigorous science and health reporting by the time the coronavirus arrived in the region. Its COVID-19 reporting focuses on debunking virus misinformation as well as explainer articles that are often based on reader questions submitted to a dedicated section of its website. The team dedicates a lot of time to this section, answering four to five questions per day (not all of them coronavirus-related). Over the course of the pandemic, has more than doubled its subscribers, who are mostly referred from its newsletters, but also via free weekly articles that contain messaging about how the free content serves the public interest.


Many Americans believe false election narratives, survey shows (Indiana University)

Researchers from Indiana University took five unsupported claims about the 2020 presidential election — claims that are particularly prevalent on social media, like “Mail-in ballots cause election fraud” and “Kamala Harris is not a natural-born US citizen” — and asked survey participants whether they’d heard of the claims and found them plausible. Nearly 80% of participants had heard of at least one of the claims, 61% believe at least one. Whether or not participants believed one or more of the claims was closely tied to their political affiliation, more evidence of the dueling information systems that are deepening America’s partisan divide and increasing uncertainty heading into the election.


WAMU leadership tried to oust reporter accused of sexual harassment. American University stopped them. (DCist)

In his five years at the public radio station, multiple sexual harassment allegations had piled up against transportation reporter Martin Di Caro. Now, records show that WAMU tried to fire Di Caro as early as 2016 after he had received a “final” written warning, but that the station’s leadership was overruled by legal and HR representatives at American University, which holds the station’s radio license and determines its employment policies. The station’s general manager, JJ Yore, resigned in August following turmoil over the failure to oust Di Caro — although the documents now prove that the choice was not entirely within his control.


How COVID-19 has changed beat reporting (Medill Local News Initiative)

During the pandemic, subtle shifts in perspective and tone have been occurring across traditional newsroom beats. Instead of buildings and institutions, reporters now cover people, says Kristen Hare, local news innovation reporter for the Poynter Institute. Education reporters cover families instead of school board meetings, while local government reporters cover taxpayers instead of City Hall. Hare believes four beats have been impacted the most: housing, good news, food and obituaries. She also sees a growing focus in local newsrooms on beats that capture a “sense of place,” like a Tampa Bay Times column on Florida history, and a Houston Chronicle podcast called “BBQ State of Mind.”

+ A graphic designer cut men from the New York Times sports section to show how little remains (CBC)