Need to Know: September 20, 2018

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


You might have heard: Google rebranded DoubleClick as Google Ad Manager in effort to simplify advertising for publishers (Google)

But did you know: Publishers claim Google Ad Manager has been down for several weeks (Digiday)

Publishers have struggled to get visibility on who is buying their inventory for the last two weeks, due to what many claim to be an unusually long Google Ad Manager outage, reports Jessica Davies. The platform has been down for several weeks, according to multiple publisher sources, with some reporting that they haven’t been able to use it as far back as Aug. 29. A Google spokesperson confirmed there have been issues that they’re working to rectify, but said the problem has been global for only three days. Campaigns have continued to run, so direct revenue hasn’t been affected, writes Davies. However, the outage has disrupted publishers’ ability to forecast and see how buyers are spending. “Not knowing how deals are running or being able to pull the results of the campaigns has been a headache,” said a publishing executive at a national newspaper. “It’s a massive issue. It means that we’re flying even more blind than normal,” said another.

+ Noted: Amazon is forecast to be the No. 3 digital advertising player in 2018, trailing Google and Facebook (The Wall Street Journal); The New York Times asks readers to submit screenshots of political disinformation or false claims online (The New York Times); New York Review of Books editor is out amid uproar over #MeToo essay (The New York Times); On the heels of billionaire Marc Benioff’s purchase of Time, British investor Ian Osborne is in talks to buy Fortune (Recode)


Confusion about what’s news and what’s opinion is a big problem, but journalists can help solve it

In a recent survey, we asked people how easy or difficult it is to tell the difference between news and opinion content, and found significant confusion. Just over half (55 percent) of Americans say it’s easy to distinguish news from opinion in news media in general. Notably, people reported the most difficulty on digital news sites and social media. One step newsrooms can take is to make clearer distinctions between content types, especially on social media channels. Explaining the purpose of your opinion content and editorials can also help, particularly as our research found that many people aren’t familiar with terms like “op-ed” or how a reporter differs from a columnist.


How local outlets are using Nextdoor to connect with their communities (Columbia Journalism Review)

Nextdoor, a private social network for neighborhoods, could be a boon to local news outlets, especially as their monopoly on local eyeballs has diminished, writes Anna Altman. Since last year, when the platform began to admit news organizations, local outlets have been authorized to post news stories on Nextdoor as well as source local coverage and request tips. “You have the built-in audience that wants more information about their community,” says Joe Lanane, executive editor of the newspaper group Community Impact. Lanane says his colleagues use Nextdoor to post multiple-choice polls for stories in progress — for instance, on what residents think the new name for an existing school should be. And last year, when Hurricane Harvey brought historic flooding to the Houston area, Community Impact asked readers to submit photos of the wreckage and received scores of images. “We’ve found a level of engagement on Nextdoor we haven’t seen on other channels,” Lanane says.

+ The “Broke in Philly” collaboration is focusing local media’s attention on poverty and economic mobility (Nieman Lab)


How #MeToo China inspired a user-generated model of investigative journalism (Global Investigative Journalism Network)

As the Chinese Communist Party tightens its grip on the news media, investigative journalism has suffered a heavy toll, disappearing from China’s newsrooms, writes Ying Chan. But the recent outpouring of #MeToo exposés in China forms a new genre of investigative journalism marked by user-generated content, with sexual assault victims, their families and friends, citizen writers, and professional reporters working together. This new form of #MeToo investigative journalism has thrived in China partly due to high internet penetration and flourishing social media, which have offered multiple platforms for information dissemination by citizens, writes Chan. In this new media ecosystem, reporters report, write, aggregate and check facts, digging through massive information posted on social media to connect fragments of information to make sense of them.


How connected is your community to everywhere else in America? (The New York Times)

Even in the age of the internet, distance matters immensely in determining whom — and, as a result, what — we know. In the millions of ties on Facebook that connect relatives, co-workers, classmates and friends, Americans are still far more likely to know people nearby than in distant communities that share their politics or mirror their demographics. A series of interactive maps by The New York Times, using data analyzed by economists at Facebook, Harvard, Princeton and New York University, give a picture of social connectedness in America, showing how factors like migration patterns, geographical features and quirks of the local economy — whether, for example, an area is home to a military base, a resort hub or a booming oil industry — impact the connectedness of every county in the United States.


Can the people who almost brought down the news business save it? (The New York Times)

Marc Benioff, the billionaire who just purchased Time magazine, is not the first tech mogul to buy a diminished media asset recently. He joins Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, who bought The Washington Post; Laurene Powell Jobs, who has invested in The Atlantic and several other publications; and the biotech entrepreneur Patrick Soon-Shiong, who purchased The Los Angeles Times. “This media-buying binge can be explained in three simple words,” writes Kara Swisher: “Because they can. And maybe four more: Because media is cheap.” And while many in this small but growing group have indicated a simple, altruistic desire to help out the Fourth Estate, “journalists can’t help feeling slightly queasy for having to rely on the largess of a people whose wealth is a direct result of the same digital age that has chastened the once powerful media business,” writes Swisher. “It’s the ultimate irony: Those who almost killed us are making us stronger.”


They left public radio to try their fortunes on the blockchain (The New York Times)

Manoush Zomorodi’s eyes used to glaze over when she heard someone bring up blockchain. Now she talks about it all the time as the host of ZigZag, a podcast funded by cryptocurrency company Civil Media that will go into its second season next month. Zomorodi and her colleague Jen Poyant, both formerly at WNYC, created ZigZag to chronicle their journey as they try to understand blockchain technology and its possible implications for journalism. And because Zomorodi and Poyant are living the very topic they are reporting on, the podcast is also about what it means to be working mothers who are trying to make a go of it as entrepreneurs as they stake their financial and professional stability on Civil’s success.

+ Related: How to buy into journalism’s blockchain future (in only 44 steps) (Nieman Lab)

+ USA Today, ESPN and The New York Times are now targeting ads to mood (Digiday)