Need to Know: September 20, 2020

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


You might have heard: Publishers are using newsletters to build their subscriptions (Digiday)

But did you know: Publishers brace for iOS changes to their newsletter businesses (Digiday)

When Apple rolls out its new operating system today, one of the changes will be email privacy protections that could change the way news organizations track audience engagement data on newsletter platforms. Apple Mail users can choose to block email senders from collecting information on their open rates and other metrics. For newsletter producers, this could affect ad revenue, the accuracy of open rates, and their understanding of reader engagement. Some factors could dull the impact of this change. Apple Mail users have to opt in and Apple device users don’t necessarily use Apple Mail.

+ Noted: Some local TV news stations are using streaming apps to reach local viewers (The Streamable)


API is hiring for two positions on our Metrics for News team

We are looking for a Senior Web Applications Engineer to support the Metrics for News application, a web analytics tool designed for news publishers, and a Newsroom Success Manager to help our partner newsrooms use their data to discover insights about audience engagement. Learn more and apply. 


News UK is changing how it commissions stories to grow subscriptions (Digiday)

The Times and Sunday Times are prioritizing live and visually-driven coverage as part of a strategy to increase digital subscriptions. The publication is creating a digital hub for graphics, video production, and audience building, and the newsroom will consider which format works best for each story, such as real-time updates on social media for events like the Met gala. Edward Roussel, head of digital strategy and development, said the publication basically wants “to do fewer stories and tell them better.”

+ Earlier: How newsrooms can do less work — but have more impact (American Press Institute)

+ How news organizations used automated news to cover COVID-19 (Poynter)


European Union calls for better media safety (Associated Press)

Last year, more than 900 journalists and other media workers were attacked in the European Union’s member countries, according to the European Commission. The commission has recommended that EU countries provide protection to media workers who are being threatened, especially female journalists, 73% of whom have experienced online violence. The commission also suggested member nations should create helplines, legal advice, psychological support and other services to help journalists who have experienced threats or violence. 

+ Earlier: In the United States, the Radio Television Digital News Association has called for making assaults against journalists a federal crime (Radio Television Digital News Association)


The myth of the productive commute (Culture Study, Substack)

As employers push for a return to the office, Anne Helen Petersen argues: “If your presence is not necessary to do your job, daily commutes are a waste.” For some workers before the pandemic, commutes were an extra block of time to focus on their jobs, and while working from home, employees may have felt pressure to fill the time they would have been commuting with extra work. As an alternative, Petersen suggests making mental commutes to mark the beginning and end of the work day and create a barrier between home and work life while working remotely. 


What Casey Newton learned from a year on Substack (Platformer, Substack)

In a piece sharing his takeaways a year after leaving The Verge for Substack, Casey Newton says that although it “can be a deceptively hard business,” he hopes more journalists explore leaving mainstream publications and going independent in one form or another. After speaking with reporters who were considering this path, Newton wrote, “I was struck over and over again at how little journalists value their own work — in large part, I think, because their bosses have taught them to.” While media companies essentially own their reporters’ work, Newton says independent journalists have greater flexibility to make podcast or TV deals that expand the reach of their journalism.


Troll farms reached 140 million Americans a month on Facebook before the 2020 election, an internal report shows (MIT Technology Review)

According to an internal Facebook report from 2019, content created by troll farms was reaching 140 million American users per month, many of whom didn’t follow their pages and only saw the posts because of the platform’s algorithm. Troll farms are groups that produce coordinated social media content and often share propaganda. Leading up to the 2020 election, a network of Eastern European troll farms had reached almost half of all Americans. A Facebook spokesperson said the company had “taken aggressive enforcement actions against these kinds of foreign and domestic inauthentic groups,” but MIT Technology Review reported that five of the troll farm pages mentioned in the report are still active.

+ How The Indianapolis Star published the story that conveyed the “magnitude” of gymnastics abuse (The Washington Post)