Need to Know: April 17, 2019


You might have heard: Subscription-based podcast app Luminary aims to be the “Netflix of podcasts” (New York Times)

But did you know: Like most media, podcasting is pivoting to paid (with complications) (Digiday)

“Podcasting looks poised for a major infusion of consumer revenue in the next few years,” writes Max Willens. “The question is whether audio platforms, rather than individual creators or studios, will reap all the benefits.” Podcasters have so far struggled to add subscription revenue to their business, relying mostly on advertising (or creating their own subscription-based podcast apps, as BBC and The Athletic have done). But as new subscription services like Stitcher Premium and Luminary gain traction, publishers are feeling a mixture of hope — looking forward to increased exposure and increased consumer willingness to pay for (previously free) content, and apprehension — as the arrival of more platforms, and their interest in bundles, may wind up limiting their ability to scale their own direct relationships to consumers.

+ Noted: Despite tough times and smaller newsrooms, local news was a star in this year’s Pulitzers (Poynter); Medium eyes media partnerships in pursuit of 1 million subscribers (Digiday); HuffPost introduces a three-tiered membership program (HuffPost); Notre Dame Cathedral fire spurs Islamophobic conspiracy theories on social media (NBC News)


Trust Tip: Explain how breaking news works (Trusting News)

When news is breaking, it can be difficult to avoid mistakes and nearly impossible to give audiences a complete picture of what’s happening. “We strive to prevent mistakes, but we don’t often explain how we do this,” writes Joy Mayer, director of Trusting News. “And in breaking news situations, we really should.” This week’s edition of Trust Tips suggests language you can add to breaking news stories (on air, online and in print) that explains how quickly information flows in these situations, your overall approach to reporting the story, and how you will update or correct your reporting. Sign up for weekly Trust Tips here, and learn more about the Trusting News project — including how your newsroom can get free coaching — here.

+ API is now offering online demos of Metrics for News, our news analytics software that helps newsrooms focus on the metrics that matter most to their success. Sign up for one of our recurring demos every Tuesday at 1 pm CST or every Thursday at either 10 am CST or 3 pm CST.


The ‘eHarmony of political coverage’ (Medill Local News Initiative) Here’s a neat idea that other newsrooms might want to steal. During Chicago’s recent election, the Tribune ran a quiz headlined, “Which Chicago mayoral candidate do you align most closely with?” The Tribune got candidates to answer a set of 14 questions, and then readers were invited to answer the same questions and learn which politician they were most in synch with. The feature served multiple purposes: educating readers on the candidates, helping readers focus their own opinions on the issues, and creating the kind of interactivity that builds strong reader engagement. “We knew it would be popular, but it exceeded expectations,” said Christine Taylor, the Tribune’s managing editor for audience. “The feature was a major winner in converting readers into subscribers, and was also popular among our existing subscribers.”


How one news nonprofit gives Greek immigrants the skills to tell their own stories (Engaged Journalism Accelerator)

As part of its mission to use media as a tool for social inclusion, Greek nonprofit Solomon launched a series of workshops covering journalism skills for volunteers who contribute to its digital magazine. With funding from the Engaged Journalism Accelerator, Solomon enlisted experienced freelancers to teach courses on topics including security for journalists, organizing and editing footage, filming indoors and pitching stories to editors. After four months of training, the volunteers will contribute to the May edition of the magazine, which will also coincide with an open event at Solomon’s office in Athens for the students to present their stories and get feedback from the community. The program “has been key to inspiring, challenging and motivating the participants to become more engaged in local community matters and create stories that have an impact on various social issues,” said manager Iliana Pangeli.


What is polarizing legislatures? Probably not what you think. (Vox)

Researcher Seth Masket compared state legislatures that have become either more or less polarized, and found little evidence to support the “folk theories” that polarization is caused by party spending, legislative professionalism, chamber size, redistricting or the openness of primaries. Instead, Masket’s and other research suggests that polarization is driven by economic inequality (rather than the other way around), the distribution of public opinion (if “it’s not easy to figure out what most voters want, legislators may just follow what their party wants”), and the decline of state political journalism. “These factors don’t lend themselves to easy fixes by a long shot,” writes Masket. “But if we’ve decided that polarization really is a problem, it would be good to focus on what is actually associated with it.”  


How to cover 2020: Assume nothing and beware of Twitter (New York Times)

The pressure is on for journalists to be smarter in 2020, writes Michael Grynbaum. And that means acknowledging we have no idea how the election will play out. We assume nothing, get out of the office and into our communities, listen more than we talk, and we realize that Twitter, flush though it may be with the thoughts of pundits, activists, campaign operatives and other reporters, isn’t a representative slice of the electorate. “Even in the press, some of us in recent years scoffed at shoe-leather reporting: We have data now; we have so many elite voices who are so smart,” said Peter Hamby, the host of Snapchat’s “Good Luck America,” at a recent gathering of top political journalists in Chicago. “We lost sight of some very fundamental old-school habits of good political journalism.”

+ Will it soon be legal to say curse words on broadcast television? (Hollywood Reporter)


15 months of fresh hell inside Facebook (Wired)

Wired’s editor in chief Nicholas Thompson and editor at large Fred Vogelstein spoke to 65 current and former Facebook employees over the span of 15 months to paint a stunning picture of the chaos, division and distrust that now defines the company’s culture as it struggles to combat problems of its own making. The article chronicles 2018, a year in which Facebook unveiled major changes to its News Feed to prioritize “meaningful social interactions,” a move that downgraded content from news organizations — which Facebook began to rank on a credibility scale of its own making, in an effort to fight fake news and extreme content on the platform. The move was met with dismay and withering scorn from the media world, and sparked a series of new problems for the company. “As crises multiplied and diverged, even the company’s own solutions began to cannibalize each other,” Thompson and Vogelstein write.

+ Mark Zuckerberg leveraged Facebook user data to fight rivals and help friends, leaked documents show (NBC News)