The New York Times wants to know your religion, marital status, Insta handle, hobbies, areas of expertise…


This post is by Christine Schmidt from Nieman Lab


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The New York Times wants to know more about you. It’s now asking readers to fill out a form detailing their contact info, online presence, occupation, race, political leanings, interests, and more. (“What are your interests or hobbies? Please be as specific as possible. For example: photography, sprint triathlons, narrative non-fiction writing, doing crosswords, hunting.” “List any organizations or affiliations, if any. For example, do you belong to any advocacy groups or trade associations? What school(s) did you graduate from?”) It’s an initiative recently tweeted out by the Times’ editor of digital storytelling and training and digital transition editor, with the pure headline “Help Us Cover The News”:
The perspectives of our audience are invaluable to our journalists, helping us better understand the news and our world. This year, we are expanding our efforts to include readers’ experiences, and we would love to add your voice… Continue reading "The New York Times wants to know your religion, marital status, Insta handle, hobbies, areas of expertise…"

Local public meetings are a scrape and a tap away, on City Bureau’s Documenters tool


This post is by Christine Schmidt from Nieman Lab


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Public meetings — now there’s an app for that. We’ve seen relationships between news organizations and news consumers expand from tossing in a few bucks for a subscription to chipping in a few more for the journalistic mission to even volunteering their services in support of the news cause. City Bureau’s Documenters program has taken another tack, coaching and paying $15/hour to residents to attend and record notes from public meetings to build a stronger public record — and asking volunteer civic coders to help construct its scraping system. Now its tool for scraping, tracking, and documenting meetings is centralized and accessible for anyone else who wants to use it — but the journalists are still trying to figure out the best way to incorporate it into newsroom workflows. “We’re able to source that information and summarize it and package it in a way that allows organizations to get at
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Can this network of lit-to-be-local newsletters unlock younger civic engagement?


This post is by Christine Schmidt from Nieman Lab


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As a younger-generation American who wants to be informed about my local area, is there a good option to get local news that doesn’t involve reading a site that feels like its pop-ups are draped with cobwebs? Younger Americans are paying for news in greater numbers. Younger generations are better at telling fact from opinion, though adults under age 29 are also the only age group to think “most news reports are fairly inaccurate.” Younger Europeans are turning to newspaper websites over TV news. And, unsurprisingly, younger Americans are the ones who are more likely to skip voting. (Though they did a bit better yesterday than in previous midterm elections.) The media industry is still adjusting to serving those tricky millennials with the type of news and information that will get them informed to participate in democracy. (We’ll handle Generation Z, or whatever you want to call them
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Follow up with your fans (and your ex-fans): Here’s how to create a successful culture of listening in your newsroom


This post is by Christine Schmidt from Nieman Lab


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A horde of engagement evangelists walk into a newsroom. There’s no punchline — they just all listened to each other. The American Press Institute gathered representatives from three dozen news organizations to brainstorm about deep listening strategies and how journalists can continue to build relationships with their audiences. A report from media consultant Cole Goins, formerly of Reveal and the Center for Public Integrity, shares the lessons from that gathering (yes, there was lots of l i s t e n i n g involved) and how you can build those strategies into your own “culture of listening.” Here’s how the group defines that culture of listening, no Merriam-Webster dictionary included:
When API says “listening,” we mean the process of seeking out the information needs, feedback and perspectives of the people in our areas of coverage. In particular, this emphasis on listening is meant to expand our attention Continue reading "Follow up with your fans (and your ex-fans): Here’s how to create a successful culture of listening in your newsroom"

After crowdfunding success, Swiss magazine Republik charts a course to “reclaim journalism as a profession”


This post is by Christine Schmidt from Nieman Lab


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In its first seven hours of existence, the Swiss online news magazine Republik — a startup with the allure of in-depth journalism and membership transparency — gained 3,000 subscribers and 750,000 Swiss francs. But that whirlwind of support created a new pressure: delivering on its promise. Thirteen months (and thousands more members) later, Republik is living up to the hype, reporting substantive investigations and finding new ways to engage and collaborate with readers — like virtual “dinner parties” to discuss the impact of its work. “If you don’t have democracy, if you don’t have really good information that you can cite, there’s a problem,” Susanne Sugimoto, Republik’s CEO, told me. She calls 20 Minutes, the free Tamedia tabloid read by about half the country each week, “a business success story, but it’s not a success story in terms of journalism with a deep quality.” Members of the Continue reading "After crowdfunding success, Swiss magazine Republik charts a course to “reclaim journalism as a profession”"

Is audience engagement a mushy construct based on anecdata — or something audiences actually want?


This post is by Laura Hazard Owen from Nieman Lab


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Is the importance of audience engagement largely anecdotal and abstract? What is it actually delivering? Do audiences want a direct connection with journalists as much as the startups that focus on engagement claim that they do? In a paper published in Digital Journalism last month (summarized on CJR on Monday) Northwestern Ph.D candidate Jacob Nelson looks at three engagement-based startups and is left skeptical about whether they are fixing a problem that real people actually have or are largely just appealing to journalists who have an unquantifiable sense that something is wrong. Nelson embedded with Hearken, a startup that helps newsrooms create engagement strategies, for three months. In his paper, “The Elusive Engagement Metric,” he argues:
Hearken’s pitch to newsrooms relies primarily on appeals to intuition. Its employees argue that their interpretation of audience engagement will lead to a better quality of journalism, which will Continue reading "Is audience engagement a mushy construct based on anecdata — or something audiences actually want?"

What a failed media startup can teach us about involving readers in reporting


This post is by Ashley Renders from Nieman Lab


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When OpenFile launched in 2010, the tight-knit Canadian media community reacted with slightly skeptical enthusiasm. Legacy newspapers including The Globe and Mail and National Post said OpenFile was going to revolutionize online news…or at least “redefine” it. Behind the headlines was an elegant concept: Ask readers to tell you what they think is important and make editorial decisions around that. Two years later, the media industry watched with equal fascination as OpenFile suspended publication, went through a bitter fight with unpaid freelancers, and eventually shut down its site. “Canada doesn’t try things twice,” said former OpenFile editor David Topping. When a media company attempts something new and fails, it’s used as an example for why that idea should never be attempted again. Yet the organization produced lots of compelling stories by putting its audience at the center of its work, proving that citizens who are media savvy
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It’s Time For Publishers To Get Bullish On SEO Once Again


This post is by Mads Holmen from MediaShift


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A version of this article was originally published by Bibblio.org. Twitter accounts for less then 2.5 percent of traffic to publishers; Instagram and Pinterest barely supply one percent together. Currently, Facebook represents 22 percent, but its role in distributing publishers’ content has been falling dramatically for more than a year, and is only accelerating. Data from Parse.ly, which tracks visits to more than 2,500 publishers, shows that ahead of the 2016 U.S. presidential election, more than 40 percent of traffic to those sites came from Facebook. By the end of 2017, it was less than 26 percent. It’s still dropping. For some sites, like BuzzFeed, this is a big problem, but even if you don’t rely on social traffic to the same extent, it’s a challenge. The chart below shows the amount of traffic coming to publishers from Google and Facebook since the beginning of
Google's mobile search is sending more traffic to publishers
Ranking factors analyzed
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What strategies work best for increasing trust in local newsrooms? Trusting News has some ideas


This post is by Christine Schmidt from Nieman Lab


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After six months of investigating thousands of disciplinary cases in dozens of police departments around Cincinnati, Scripps TV station WCPO was almost ready to share its findings on air and online. But the team decided to add one more thing to their to-do list: an on-air segment and online letter about why and how they did it. “Our motives are simple: We want to make sure the people who protect us and enforce our laws are worthy of the high level of trust the public gives them,” wrote Mike Canan, then WCPO.com’s editor. “Our goal is to show you if police departments are transparent about how they respond to findings of misconduct, if the punishment fits the behavior, and what can be done to provide a better system of checks and balances that benefit police — and our community,” explained Craig Cheatham, the station’s chief investigative reporter, Continue reading "What strategies work best for increasing trust in local newsrooms? Trusting News has some ideas"

6 Things Data Visualization Can Learn From Feminism


This post is by Paxtyn Merten from MediaShift


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This story originally appeared on Storybench: Tools, Tips and Takeaways on Digital Storytelling From Northeastern University’s School of Journalism. It’s about time to infuse feminism into data science and visualization. At least, that’s what Emerson data visualization and civic tech professor Catherine D’Ignazio says based on her research into what an intersectional feminist perspective on data could look like. “We’re in this moment when big data and visualization are being heralded as powerful new ways of producing knowledge about the world,” D’Ignazio said at a recent talk hosted by the Northeastern University Visualization Consortium. “So whenever anything has lots of power and is valued very widely by society, we just want to interrogate that a little more and say ‘Is it being valued equally?’ and ‘Is it benefitting all people equally?’” She and her research partner found that the field has major problems with inequality, inclusion and quantification.
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GroundSource switched from an email newsletter to a SMS newsletter and actually got responses


This post is by Christine Schmidt from Nieman Lab


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Want to connect with and update audience. Spend time perfecting email newsletter. Ask subscribers for responses. Receive zero responses. Sound familiar? This is the trap into which GroundSource, a platform known for its messaging-based engagement tools (now also offered to newsrooms as part of the Community Listening and Engagement Fund), recently fell with its email newsletter (GroundSourced). So they launched an SMS newsletter instead. Their prompts within the email newsletter had been pleasant: “This newsletter is all about helping you better engage your community. Each week, we’ll share news, tips, and answers to questions you ask. Let us know your engagement questions by replying to this email. We’ll find a solution and share it with you and 1,500+ GroundSourced subscribers.” But nobody was taking them up on the offer. “It’s been a thing on the to-do list to restart the email newsletter, and we wanted to make
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Why ‘Dialogue Journalism’ Is Having a Moment


This post is by Tiffany Lew from MediaShift


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Turn on the TV today, and chances are you’ll see political commentators sparring. Log on to Twitter and you’ll see the latest heated tweet from President Trump. We’re living in a time of overwhelming connection thanks to the interwebs, but chances are, we’re not nearly as connected to those those who don’t hold similar beliefs. In a polarizing moment when trust in media and the government is low, a number of new projects, now commonly called “dialogue journalism,” from organizations including Spaceship Media, Hello Project and the Seattle Times are focusing on bridging communities and pushing diverse viewpoints. Dialogue journalism uses engagement projects to tap into nuanced audiences, providing them with a platform—such as a Facebook group or a video call—to encourage sometimes difficult conversations. Journalists are present to help guide the dialogue, fact check and use the platforms as a launch pad for stories. These projects attempt to use
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A new report offers a primer (and a reality check) on the news membership model


This post is by Ricardo Bilton from Nieman Lab


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News organizations across the board have largely embraced the notion that the future of digital news will be lighter on advertising and heavier on subscriptions and other forms of reader support. Less clear, though, is what that ideal audience revenue model will look like, and, for the organizations that currently lack one, the best route to make the business shift happen. A new report from from Elizabeth Hansen at the Tow Center for Digital Journalism and Emily Goligoski at the Membership Puzzle Project offers more clarity. A product of hundreds of conversations with newsroom managers, reporters, and even members themselves, the 121-page report offers a lot of insight into what makes an effective reader revenue model work, and a framework for how news organizations can implement their own. The report was written to give news organizations a clearer picture of “the limitations and sheer amount of effort that goes into Continue reading "A new report offers a primer (and a reality check) on the news membership model"

An Experiment in Live Fact-Checking the State of the Union Speech by Trump


This post is by Bill Adair from MediaShift


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A version of this piece ran at the Duke Reporters’ Lab. Except for the moment when we almost published an article about comedian Kevin Hart’s plans for his wedding anniversary, the first test of FactStream, our live fact-checking app, went remarkably smoothly. FactStream is the first in a series of apps we at the Duke Reporters’ Lab are building as part of our Tech & Check Cooperative. We conducted a beta test during Tuesday’s State of the Union address that provided instant analysis from FactCheck.org, PolitiFact and Glenn Kessler, the Washington Post Fact Checker. Overall, the app functioned quite well, with only 2 glitches and mainly positive feedback. Our users got 32 fact-checks during the speech and the Democratic response. Some were links to previously published checks while others were “quick takes” that briefly explained the relative accuracy of Trump’s claim. When President Trump said “we enacted the biggest
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Opinary is building new tools to help news orgs use polls to inform their coverage


This post is by Ricardo Bilton from Nieman Lab


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News organizations have spent a lot of time talking to their readers; these days, they’re getting a little bit better at listening. Increased adoption of tools like Hearken and GroundSource over the past two years have shown that more newsrooms understand how direct feedback from readers can help drive their coverage. Germany-based Opinary has also benefited from this shift in outlook. The company, which develops polling tools that publishers can embed in their articles, recently raised €3 million ($2.7 million) both to build its product and to fund its expansion into the U.S., where it already has a small foothold. In addition to landing most of the top news organizations in Germany, Opinary has attracted the likes of The Telegraph, The Guardian, The Times, and The Independent in the U.K. and Time, Fortune, Forbes, HuffPost, NBC, and NPR in the U.S. Over 60 media companies
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Why Social Media Editors Should be Better Integrated into Newsrooms


This post is by Tiffany Lew from MediaShift


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Picture this: You’re in a bustling newsroom. The social media team is organizing an engagement project on a major story, working with reporters to find sources online, and informing them of audience feedback. The project isn’t yet finished, but the social team is already an integral part of it. When it’s time to present and promote the piece, they know what to do and which readers to tap into because they were an included in the editorial process. That’s a lovely idea, but in reality, the newsroom is often a lonely place for the social team. Rather than being fully engaged in the editorial process, social media teams—or possibly just a lone social media editor—are scrambling to publish content on Facebook, churn out copy, and follow analytics moment by moment. Exercising creativity and collaborating with other teams get lost amidst budget cuts, time constraints and the real pressures of the
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The New Publishing Economy: An Optimistic Case For the Industry in 2018


This post is by Jeanne DeWitt from MediaShift


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Twenty-one years ago, almost to the day, the New York Times embraced the “World Wide Web” and launched an online version of its daily newspaper, part of its “strategy to extend the readership of The Times and to create opportunities for the company in the electronic media industry.” Nearly two decades later, news organizations are still figuring out how to adapt to the digital age, and it’s going to get more complicated for them in the years ahead. Thanks to the rise of ad blockers on desktop and mobile, the ads-based revenue model that has dominated the media industry over the last decade is showing signs of wear; and this month Facebook dealt publishers a major blow by announcing an overhaul to its news feed algorithm that would de-prioritize content from brands and publishers. But while some were quick to paint the news as a doomsday scenario, all
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What ‘Engagement Reporting’ Is and Why It Matters


This post is by Taylor Blatchford from MediaShift


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What if readers, not just sources, were an active part of the news reporting process? A new group of journalists is exploring that possibility in an effort to deepen their reporting and build community relationships. “Engagement reporters” are journalists who combine the power of community engagement with traditional news reporting to do journalism that aims to authentically serve the community and reflect their interests and needs. They’re not audience engagement editors and they’re not news reporters — they live in both worlds. These roles are relatively new and still somewhat unclear, and the structure depends on the newsroom’s engagement mindset. But they add value to newsrooms by engaging with the audience throughout the reporting process and encouraging a focus on serving the community. I interviewed 12 journalists that fit this role in newsrooms across the U.S. to better understand how engagement reporters fit into newsrooms and the value they
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Will Comment Sections Fade Away, Or Be Revived By New Technologies?


This post is by Trent Erickson from MediaShift


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A version of this piece appeared at J-Source. The New York Times and Washington Post are two of the world’s most influential newspapers. Every day, they battle over sources and jostle for a better story. So it’s extraordinary that the two rivals have teamed up to create software to run comment sections. The alliance began in 2013, at a news industry conference where Aron Pilhofer, the Times’ interactive news editor, and Cory Haik, the Post’s executive director of emerging news products, bumped into each other. The two shared troubles their papers were experiencing with comment sections and decided to work together to fix them. That conversation would grow into the Coral Project, a collaboration between the two journalism giants, and later Mozilla with its open-source software know-how. The New York-based project aims to use this software to improve comment sections. In 2015, Andrew Losowsky, a journalist, became the project’s lead. He says, “It
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What To Expect From Media Metrics in 2018


This post is by Jason Alcorn from MediaShift


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We asked 10 experts in media metrics to tell us what they expected to see in 2018 (including several of our MetricShift20 honorees). The answers are at once sanguine about the direction of media metrics and frank in their assessment of what needs to change. From podcasts and VR to advertising and loyalty, here are ten storylines to watch in media metrics in 2018 and beyond.

A Content Renaissance Is Coming

By John Saroff If you build it, they will come. Realizing that users arriving to a site via search and social are largely ephemeral (returning only 1.2 times a month), the strongest publishers will reinvest in distinct identities across their owned platforms (i.e., desktop web, mobile web, app) where users are approximately three more likely to return. On the content side, this realization will drive investment in distinct editorial and brand identities that truly resonate
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