Need to Know: September 30, 2019

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


You might have heard: Facebook said it would give detailed data to academics. They’re still waiting. (BuzzFeed News) 

But did you know: Ahead of 2020, Facebook falls short on plan to share data on disinformation (New York Times)

Facebook is struggling with privacy issues that are limiting its ability to share data on disinformation with academics. As a result, researchers say, the public may have little more insight into disinformation campaigns on the social network heading into the 2020 presidential election than they had in 2016. Seven nonprofit groups that have helped finance the research efforts, including the Knight Foundation and the Charles Koch Foundation, have even threatened to end their involvement. 

+ Earlier: At least 70 countries have had disinformation campaigns, and the number-one platform for those campaigns is Facebook (New York Times)

+ Noted: Opinion journalism drives subscription traffic, McClatchy finds, so it’s expanding (Poynter); News Catalyst from Temple University is running a survey to see how news organizations are using third-party software; the results will be used to identify gaps in the industry and develop new tools for newsrooms (News Catalyst) 


What makes people pay for news

As part of the Media Insight Project, a joint effort between API and the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, we conducted what may be the largest study ever undertaken of people who have recently subscribed to newspapers. See what “triggers” makes people subscribe, and why they continue to stay subscribed.


Loyalty is membership’s North Star. Here’s how news sites & advocacy groups measure it. (Membership Puzzle Project)

News orgs with membership programs should focus on building member loyalty, a quality that can be measured through repeat activity and member retention. Emily Roseman, a researcher for the Membership Puzzle Project, looked at membership metrics at public media and digital news sites and found that, across these organizations, email newsletters in particular are a big membership driver. That speaks to the “building repeat activity” factor, she writes — loyal audiences regularly open and read newsletters, visit the website, or otherwise “return again and again to take an action or use your product.” 


Southeast Asian nations weigh unified approach to regulating Big Tech (Straits Times)

Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam and the Philippines — which together make up 80% of southeast Asia — are joining forces to better negotiate with Google, Facebook and other tech platforms on content regulation and tax policy. Together, they’re hoping to force the platforms to take responsibility for stopping fake news at the source — their demands include setting up and funding domestic information “verification centers” — and paying taxes on ad revenue. 

+ Related: “It’s blackmail”: French and German publishers unite to fight Google’s refusal to pay them copyright fees (Digiday); Why publishers wouldn’t earn much from Google’s “snippet tax” — and why the copyright law itself is flawed (Twitter, @baekdal)


How the ‘climate kids’ are participating in the culture wars but rising above the fray (New York Times)

Like the “Parkland kids,” the key players in the youth climate movement are proving resistant to vitriolic criticism and misleading attacks from politicians and right-wing media, writes Charlie Warzel. Part of this is due to their digital-nativeness, but it’s about more than their ability to make meme-able protest signs and garner support from their social media followings, he says. It’s also about their ability to stay cool-headed and on-message, despite the clamor of critics with political agendas. Battle-hardened by the internet, these young activists can “spot enemies looking to divert attention and … ignore or dismiss them.”


Journalists must make the shrinking free press a campaign issue (Seattle Times)

The one issue that journalists are ignoring in their coverage of the 2020 campaign is the media itself. Consolidation and corporatization has been a major driver of journalism’s decline; a lack of net neutrality exacerbates this trend. The media should hold candidates accountable for the country’s shrinking free press, write former FCC commissioners Michael Copps and Newton Minow. “Reporters should begin asking candidates why we don’t have net neutrality and an open internet despite polls showing 85% of the public — Republicans, Democrats and Independents — support it. Reporters should be asking the candidates if media consolidation troubles them and what they might do about it. Reporters should be asking why so many communities live in news deserts today and what they would do to fix this.”


Translating New York’s hidden stories (Columbia Journalism Review)

Many of New York’s most compelling news stories originate in languages other than English. Voices of New York, a project that translates select stories into English, helps ensure that those stories are picked up by the mainstream press, widening the range of perspectives that are represented there and increasing the impact of ethnic media reporting. “We want as many New Yorkers as possible to be able to access the reporting that we’re doing,” said Jeanmarie Evelly, the project’s editor. “And part of Voices of New York is making the great reporting that’s already happening across the city more accessible to more people.”

+ Earlier: Our Strategy Study on how mainstream media and ethnic media can collaborate