“Stories may have political impact less by persuading than by reminding people which side they are on”

The growing stream of reporting on and data about fake news, misinformation, partisan content, and news literacy is hard to keep up with. This weekly roundup offers the highlights of what you might have missed.

“Humans can be successfully manipulated through social bots.” Chengcheng Shao, Giovanni Luca Ciampaglia, and others at Indiana University, Bloomington, analyzed 14 million tweets spreading 400,000 claims during and following the U.S. presidential campaign and election and found that “accounts that actively spread misinformation are significantly more likely to be bots.” Also, “humans do most of the retweeting, and they retweet claims posted by bots as much as by other humans. This suggests that humans can be successfully manipulated through social bots.” The paper offers a couple ideas on reducing bot activity; here’s one:

An alternative strategy would be to employ CAPTCHAs challenge response tests to determine whether a user Continue reading "“Stories may have political impact less by persuading than by reminding people which side they are on”"

The Information launches an accelerator for subscription news startups, with investments starting at $25K

Jessica Lessin, founder and editor-in-chief of the subscription tech news site The Information, gets a lot of questions on how to create a news business like hers, and over the roughly four years that The Information — which costs $399 a year (less for students, and $10,000 for an extra-premium product) — has been in business, she’s provided casual advice to those who want to follow in her footsteps. Now she’s coupling formal advice with money: The Information announced Friday that it is launching The Information Accelerator, “a vehicle to invest in and advise up-and-coming subscription news startups.” “We’re doing this because the existing VC model just isn’t aligned with news entrepreneurs,” Lessin said. “It values scale over sustainability.” Startups that specialize in subscription-based news — and that, importantly, have not“already raised a lot of venture capital” — can apply to participate, by Continue reading "The Information launches an accelerator for subscription news startups, with investments starting at $25K"

DocumentCloud will start asking some users to chip in as it leaves IRE for its own nonprofit

For six years, DocumentCloud has enabled journalists to upload, annotate, organize, and share primary source files with readers and embed them into articles. They’ve also been doing it free of charge, for everyone. But for some users, that’s about to change. With just one lead developer, DocumentCloud holds about 60 million pages of 3.6 million documents, stored on 31 servers by 8,000 accounts. Some news organizations have uploaded more than 300,000 documents in the eight years of its existence. For a nonprofit startup with no tangible revenue in a journalism world increasingly reliant on data, documents, and cloud storage, DocumentCloud’s supporters realized this model was unsustainable. “There was a very real possibility that DocumentCloud would have just simply gone away. It’s not now, thank god, but I think that was a significant wakeup call for everybody,” said Aron Pilhofer, a cofounder of DocumentCloud. “We need to address the Continue reading "DocumentCloud will start asking some users to chip in as it leaves IRE for its own nonprofit"

Two years in, the hyperlocal Worcester Sun questions whether Sunday print is still in its future

The Worcester Sun launched as a hyperlocal news site (and a competitor to the print-and-online Worcester Telegram & Gazette) two summers ago. It promised an interesting twist on the local online model — heavily paywalled, aiming to eventually launch a print weekly newspaper. Since then, many of its founding tenets have stayed the same, but there have also been surprises. The Sun, covering the second-largest city in New England, is still tightly paywalled. Subscribers still pay $2 a week, whether they want a one-week subscription or a one-year subscription. Two digital editions of the Sun are now published each week, on Wednesdays and Sundays (up from just Sundays at launch). The ultimate goal, said Mark Henderson, the Sun’s president and cofounder, is to publish a digital edition seven days a week. At launch, the Sun offered exactly zero free content other than a daily, comprehensive listing of obituaries Continue reading "Two years in, the hyperlocal Worcester Sun questions whether Sunday print is still in its future"

What sort of limited Internet does Facebook’s Free Basics offer? Not much local content, but plenty of corporate services from the U.S.

What hath Facebook wrought? Its Free Basics program now offers free but limited Internet surfing in 63 countries around the world through partnerships with local telecoms communities. (You may also know the initiative by its most prominent setback, in India.) In essence, in regions where Free Basics operates, a set of Facebook-curated websites — including news, health, and employment sites — can be available for mobile users to access without data charges. But a close review of six countries where Free Basics operates by Global Voices researchers reveals significant hiccups in Facebook’s stated goal of bringing Internet access to developing regions of the world. Technologists and activists with the citizen media and research group conducted research in Colombia, Ghana, Kenya, Mexico, Pakistan, and the Philippines this past spring and found that not only did the app offer a very limited window of local news content and local languages, the Continue reading "What sort of limited Internet does Facebook’s Free Basics offer? Not much local content, but plenty of corporate services from the U.S."

With its new iOS app, The New York Times is finally unifying its iPad and iPhone experiences

The New York Times unveiled a new version of its iOS app yesterday. Version 6.0 — the first major update since last October — adds a handful of notable new features, including simpler personalization, support for split-screen multitasking on the iPad Pro, and support for 360-degree video. The most noticeable design changes are on the iPad, where the new homepage has some of the modularity that the Times’ ongoing web redesign has. Here’s what the new (top) and previous (bottom) iPad apps looked like this afternoon: Also noteworthy is what’s under the hood: This is the first version of the app that’s universal for iOS devices, meaning that the same code is at work across the iPad, iPhone, and even the Apple Watch. The Times released the first version of its iPad app in April 2010, just a few months after Apple announced the iPad and shortly before Continue reading "With its new iOS app, The New York Times is finally unifying its iPad and iPhone experiences"

Where are the mothers?

Editor’s note: This piece by Nieman Fellow Katherine Goldstein is the cover story in the next issue of our magazine sibling, Nieman Reports. We’re sharing it with Lab readers as a sneak peek.

“We’re having a bit of a baby boom,” says Lauren Williams, executive editor of Vox.com and the mother of an 18-month-old. When the news startup began in 2014, there wasn’t a single parent working at the site. But as the website has grown, so have employees’ families. Now, around 15 percent of the 90-person staff have children. Margaret Wheeler Johnson, who has a 2-year-old and an infant, was the first person to have a baby while working at Bustle.com, a startup women’s site. She’s now managing editor of Romper.com, owned by the same company, a site for millennial moms that is also experiencing a surge in new children among Continue reading "Where are the mothers?"