Need to Know: September 25, 2020


You might have heard: A 2016 study found that six out of 10 people share links on social media without reading them (The Washington Post)

But did you know: Twitter plans to bring prompts to ‘read before you retweet’ to all users (TechCrunch)

In June, Twitter tested a feature with a small group of users that would encourage them to think again before sharing a story they hadn’t actually read. “Headlines don’t tell the full story,” the prompt stated. “You can read the article on Twitter before Retweeting.” In the experiment, users opened the articles 40% more often than they did without the nudge. “After building platforms tuned to get users sharing and engaging as much as possible, introducing friction to that experience seems counterintuitive,” writes Taylor Hatmaker. “But inspiring even just a moment of pause in user behavior might address a number of deeply entrenched social media woes.”

+ Noted: Report for America and the Investigative Editing Corps will pilot a program pairing experienced editors with emerging journalists to do investigative and watchdog reporting for local newsrooms (Report for America); The Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism at CUNY, together with News Catalyst, will offer a tuition-free, online product development training program for journalists in small newsrooms (Twitter, @newmarkjschool); Arthur Sulzberger Jr. will retire as New York Times Co. chairman, succeeded by his son, A.G. Sulzberger (The New York Times)


In this week’s edition of ‘Factually’

A fact-checking chatbot on WhatsApp, TikTok’s content moderation “time bomb,” and younger people are more likely to believe COVID-19 misinformation. Factually is a weekly newsletter produced by API and the Poynter Institute that covers fact-checking and misinformation.


How Documented changed its pandemic coverage thanks to its audience (Medium, Documented)

Before the pandemic, Documented, a nonprofit news outlet covering immigration in New York City, used WhatsApp to send out a weekly round-up of its articles. But as the city went on lockdown, readers began texting in questions and Documented shifted its focus to getting those questions answered, swapping more traditional news articles for Q&As and guides on topics like health insurance and tenants’ rights. The information stemming from readers’ questions now makes up Documented’s “master guide” of resources for immigrants during the pandemic.

+ Earlier: How Documented changed its weekly WhatsApp newsletter to accommodate readers’ coronavirus questions (American Press Institute); Documented also created illustrated versions of answers to audience questions, designed to be easily shared on WhatsApp and social media. (Twitter, @Documentedny)

+ Facebook and Instagram are making changes that will affect how publishers embed posts on their websites. Here’s what your IT team or tech vendor will need to do. (Local Media Association)


How Radio Feral is using youth media training workshops as a tool for peacebuilding in the community (Engaged Journalism Accelerator)

The independent radio station is based in northeastern Bosnia and Herzegovina where two ethnic groups, Bosnian Serbs and Bosnian Muslims, still live in relative segregation. To bring young people from both groups together, Radio Feral hosts an annual training program that focuses on bridge-building topics — like how to prevent peer violence or detect racially-charged misinformation — from a journalism lens. After the training, the participants record, produce and edit reports based on what they learned, which are then broadcast by Radio Feral.


Can a publisher-owned hyperlocal platform compete with Nextdoor? (Local Media Association)

A Google News Initiative-funded project to create a hyperlocal social media app similar to Nextdoor, which would be managed by a local news outlet and used to encourage discourse on community issues going uncovered, sounded like a good idea in theory. In reality, the newsrooms test-driving the app struggled to contain toxic and politically divisive comments from users — at least at first. Once they got strict about enforcing their content moderation policies and booting out disrespectful users, the app has started living up to its potential: a source of story ideas and readers with whom to build stronger, more trusting relationships.


In the reader revenue model, it’s all about who you know (Editor & Publisher)

What would your news organization do differently if anonymous readers couldn’t be monetized? That’s a good exercise to focus more keenly on getting to know readers who actually live in your community — and who could, through high-quality content and events, be persuaded to become loyal members or subscribers, writes Matt DeRienzo. Another important exercise is knowing how to calculate the value of a “known reader” — someone whose email address you have, and who is therefore in the “funnel” to becoming a paying customer. The dollar value of a known reader might be higher than the revenue generated from popup ads, clickbait, and other desperate tactics designed to squeeze cents from anonymous readers who, based on that experience, will probably never visit your site again.

+ Related: The new folks in town are an untapped audience for local news (even if they don’t stay forever) (Nieman Lab)


Climate change news coverage has declined. The audience for it has not. (Digital Content Next)

U.S. media coverage of climate change has declined since March, according to data from Taboola Newsroom. Fewer new articles have been published and so fewer articles are being read overall. However, readership has not dropped off, indicating an opportunity for publishers, writes Fran Burkman. Americans’ appetite for climate change news has actually been building, despite their attention being called to other crises, like the pandemic and the resulting economic meltdown.


+ Census 2020 exposes America’s deep digital divide and reinforces the need for paper options (Daily Yonder)

+ Can we agree on how to define a “news desert”? (Columbia Journalism Review)