We can write about Twitter, we can stay on Twitter, but we can’t expect anything from Twitter

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.

Are you still having fun? Brief recap of why Alex Jones and Infowars are bad and gross. Infowars is a conspiracy-theory-driven website that publishes many fake stories and also sells a ton of overpriced and ineffective nutritional supplements. (It has also, over the years, ripped off thousands of pieces of content not just from Russia Today but also from mainstream news organizations like The Washington Post, The New York Times, BuzzFeed, and CNN.) Some of the conspiracy theories that Jones has propagated on the site and his daily radio show: That the Sandy Hook massacre was a hoax (Sandy Hook parents are suing Jones for claiming that their murdered children were crisis actors); that Continue reading "We can write about Twitter, we can stay on Twitter, but we can’t expect anything from Twitter"

The Cincinnati Enquirer wrote an audience-driven article using Instagram Stories (and it wasn’t even about a hippo)

If you follow news organizations on Instagram, you probably see a dozen news quizzes or “things to know” every week on your Instagram Stories. Now, there’s nothing necessarily wrong about testing followers on current events and sharing roundups. But on a platform that lets users vote, rate something’s emoji-level, ask questions directly, and more — there might just be opportunity for a little more engagement. If you follow the Cincinnati Enquirer, though, you might get the chance to decorate some digital coloring book pages of Fiona the Hippo, or even sound off on the city’s public transit problems — and have the newsroom hear you out.
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There will always be another Alex Jones, a glitch in the American system

Confrontational characters spouting conspiracy theories and promoting fringe ideas have been with us since the invention of American broadcasting. First on radio, then on television, the American audience has consistently proven eager to consume the rants of angry and bitter men. Before Alex Jones and InfoWars, there was Glenn Beck. A decade ago, Beck was hawking his conspiracy theories on HLN and Fox News. Beck eventually left HLN and lost the Fox News job, just as the inflammatory Morton Downey Jr. had lost his lucrative syndicated broadcast decades earlier. And before Morton Downey Jr., there was Joe Pyne, the war hero who eventually ended up railing against “hippies, homosexuals, and feminists” on the airwaves in the 1960s. Before Pyne, there was Father Coughlin, “the radio priest.” Coughlin was eased off CBS in the 1930s when he refused to allow the network to vet his
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How The Wall Street Journal is revamping its newsletters — and trying to add some whimsy

The Wall Street Journal is not exactly known for its sense of whimsy — but that’s what the folks revamping its newsletter system are aiming for. When Cory Schouten and Annemarie Dooling (formerly of CJR/Indianapolis Business Journal and Vox Media, respectively) joined the Journal’s newsletter team earlier this year, they embarked on the journey of whittling down the paper’s 126 newsletters. Some were automated but didn’t generate many clicks; others had a little more voice, but a pretty dry voice nonetheless. That whittling has led to what are now around 40 streamlined, audience-driven emails. They can now feature market information updating in real time (even after a newsletter is sent), and coaxing non-payers toward a subscription is core to their mission and design. (This process began under product designer Cory Etzkorn three years ago and accelerated through a migration to the Campaign Monitor platform since last fall.) “When
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Whoops, the paywall just reset: Here are some of the nasty bumps your paid-content setup can hit

The growing troubles of (non-Facebook, non-Google) digital advertising have left many publishers eager to move to a reader-driven, digital-focused revenue model. And it can be done: The New York Times announced in its earnings report Thursday that subscriptions now account for nearly two-thirds of its revenue, and that of its 3.8 million subscriptions, 2.9 million are digital. But there are a lot of kinks to work out along the way. In a new AP Insights report, Ryan Nakashima and Anne Cai outline some of the concrete ways that publishers are making the transition — and some of the oh-shit moments they’ve faced in doing so. Here are a few: — Whoops, the paywall just reset. Digital First’s Bay Area News Group, which added a paywall to The Mercury News and East Bay Times last year, swapped out the art on its regular paywall prompt — from “plain vanilla, Continue reading "Whoops, the paywall just reset: Here are some of the nasty bumps your paid-content setup can hit"

In Germany, a news site is pairing up liberals and conservatives and actually getting them to (gasp) have a civil conversation

If only online dating could go as smoothly. As an attempted antidote to sociopolitical polarization in its country — particularly all the hateful logjams that play out online — the German national news site Zeit Online has developed a seemingly simple mechanism of matching up people who live near each other but have different views on policy, and encouraging them to meet offline to hash out their disagreements. The site, the digital home of national weekly paper Die Zeit, likened its My Country Talks initiative to “political Tinder.” The idea of trying to temper animosity through in-person interaction isn’t entirely original, but My Country Talks successfully seized a moment. In its inaugural edition, about 12,000 people completed Zeit Online’s short survey of yes-or-no questions around politically divisive issues (such as the number of refugees the country was accepting, or whether the West was treating Russia fairly). Of those, 1,200 Continue reading "In Germany, a news site is pairing up liberals and conservatives and actually getting them to (gasp) have a civil conversation"

If Facebook makes a safe harbor for journalists and researchers, would it help?

If The New York Times hadn’t reported on the fake Twitter follower factories. If ProPublica hadn’t investigated targeted Facebook ads discriminating against users based on race, disability, and gender. If Gizmodo hadn’t uncovered the way Facebook’s “People You May Know” feature can create shadow profiles for non-users. If the Tow Center and The Washington Post hadn’t analyzed the depth of the Russian disinformation campaign on Facebook. If journalists and researchers stopped investigating activity on social media platforms — especially Facebook, one of the most closed platforms and also one of the most widely abused — the “thens” are too important to sacrifice. That’s the argument Continue reading "If Facebook makes a safe harbor for journalists and researchers, would it help?"