Insights, tools and research to advance journalism

Need to Know: September 4, 2018

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


You might have heard: Trump’s tariffs on Canadian newsprint are overturned (The New York Times)

But did you know: The tariffs are gone, but the burden of print weighs heavier and heavier (Nieman Lab)

The decision to eliminate newsprint tariffs, announced Wednesday by the International Trade Commission, will provide only partial relief to publishers, as just a third of the newsprint pricing increase (estimated to be about 30 percent) is directly linked to the tariffs, writes Ken Doctor. The other two-thirds is due to “premium pricing” that most of the newsprint producers added on to the tariffs “because they could, tucking in the price increases along with real tariff-induced pass-along pricing.” It remains to be seen whether that as-much-as-two-thirds increase will stick or go away. But “as the daily printed newspaper era fades rapidly into history, everything about it is getting tougher,” Doctor writes. Digital revenues, despite growth, are less and less able to make up for lost print revenues, both ad and subscription. One current phenomenon, says Doctor, is that as publishers cut back on newsprint, dropping sections and pages, they’re worsening their value proposition with their most loyal, high-paying customers: their print subscribers.

+ Related: API is looking for people to help develop new research and best practices about how newspapers can successfully cut back on print without losing subscribers. If you might want to gather ideas or provide expertise on this issue, contact us.

+ Noted: Vox Media revamps its ad sales workforce, dividing it into an “enterprise” team and a growth team (The Wall Street Journal); The Village Voice ends editorial production, lays off half of staff (Columbia Journalism Review); Myanmar court jails Reuters reporters for seven years in landmark secrets case; Reuters editor-in-chief says company is considering whether to “seek relief in an international forum” over sentencing (Reuters)  


How a culture of listening strengthens reporting and relationships (American Press Institute)

A new report from API and community engagement consultant Cole Goins examines how newsrooms can use deep listening and dialogue to build stronger relationships with their communities, particularly with groups that may feel marginalized or misrepresented by their reporting. “Culture of Listening” covers practical ways to build listening techniques into reporting workflows and newsroom roles, showing how a relationship-centric approach can shape journalism for the better and open up new opportunities for revenue and sustainability.


Newsletter engagement strategies to grow community and readership (Medium, Ned Berke)

Audience development professionals are rethinking newsletters as tools to drive action, conversation and content, writes Ned Berke. Many of their tactics depend on reshaping the newsletter from a one-to-many medium into a one-on-one conversation. One way to do this is to give readers specific ways to interact. For example, some newsletter editors have asked their readers to join a group or follow a particular series, or challenged them to an activity, or invited feedback. Many have banished “no-reply” email addresses and replaced them with the editor’s email address, and some have even used reader responses in future newsletters, pushing the conversation forward. This new focus on interaction could call for new metrics, Berke points out. Instead of tracking open rates, newsletter editors should consider metrics tied to the purpose of the newsletters; for example, a boost in group membership, responses to a call for feedback, or sign-ups for another newsletter or story series.

+ Best practices for using email newsletters to engage and build your audience (Better News)


How U.S. journalist Marie Colvin became a martyr in Syria (The Daily Beast)

Marie Colvin, a U.S. foreign correspondent, and her photographer, Paul Conroy, were witnesses to one of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad’s first onslaughts against his own people, in the early months of a conflict that would spiral into a bloody, ongoing civil war. The two smuggled themselves into a besieged rebel stronghold, going on live TV to bring international attention to the crisis — and simultaneously alerting the Assad regime to their location. “When we went back in,” Conroy said later, “we knew we were going back in to a group of people who had volunteered to die.” Colvin was killed on Feb. 22, 2012, the morning after their last TV interview, when the Assad regime directed its missile fire at the building where they were seeking shelter. “…She felt now this was her story and she was going to go for it whatever the cost,” said Conroy.


The surprising benefits of being an introvert (Time)

Despite their tendency to prefer to be in the background, introverts have certain strengths that make them natural leaders. Beth Buelow, author of The Introvert Entrepreneur, identifies traits introverts can hone to simultaneously improve their leadership abilities: They are good listeners and process information carefully; they think before they speak (which, Buelow cautions, can be a drawback if they take too much time to give input, especially in fast-paced business settings); they’re observant and attuned to how others may be feeling; they’re good at making meaningful connections; and they tend to learn more about their subordinates than extroverted leaders do.


‘I helped create insider political journalism. Now it’s time for it to go away.’ (BuzzFeed News)

As the institutions of journalism gear up for another presidential campaign, we face an audience that isn’t just bored by tactical, amoral, insidery, and mostly male-dominated political reporting, writes BuzzFeed News editor-in-chief Ben Smith. Americans of all political stripes now actually hate it, and the sports metaphors that used to be a great way to go viral — the game changer, the horse race, the Hail Mary — are painfully inadequate for the movement politics of a new era, with higher stakes, higher passions, and far wider interest.


What happens when Facebook mistakenly blocks local news stories (Wired)

When a Virginia woman was blocked by Facebook from sharing local news stories involving her daughter, who had been a victim of sexual assault, it was chalked up to a problem with Facebook’s spam detection software. But this isn’t the only example of local news being blocked from distribution on the social platform, writes Louise Matsakis — especially as Facebook ramps up its efforts to weed out fake accounts and activity. “While every online platform will inevitably make errors, the stakes are uniquely high for Facebook, which has come to play a role in millions of Americans’ civil lives. Facebook is where a reported 45 percent of Americans get their news, according to the Pew Research Center … If anything, [Danielle] Bostick’s experience highlights how Facebook has become a necessary part of how millions of Americans interact with their own communities. Protesting a local school board decision or sharing a news article often now intrinsically involves the social network.”

+ Future elections may be swayed by intelligent, weaponized chatbots (MIT Technology Review)

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