The Atlantic's animation fellow + Facebook vs. false info
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Last week, Google announced two new changes that could help publishers with their subscription products. It ended its First Click Free program in favor of “flexible sampling” and announced its Insights Engine Project, which uses machine learning to help publishers convert subscribers.

As they continue to gain share of the digital ad market, Facebook and Google are trying to equip publishers with tools to earn revenue through subscriptions; the duopoly has an interest in helping publishers develop a sustainable model so that they have the resources to produce high-quality content. Facebook began testing a subscription program through Instant Articles in August, and last week’s developments are Google’s first major efforts to help publishers in need of subscription revenue.

Under First Click Free, publishers were required to provide three free articles through Google Search and Google News before customers were shown a paywall. Now, with flexible sampling, publishers can decide the number of free articles they can provide to readers, if any. Also, those that opt out of Flexible Sampling will no longer be penalized in search results.

The Insights Engine Project aims to convert subscribers on publishers’ websites by using machine learning to predict whether to serve ads from marketers or from the publisher with a subscription offer. The project will also provide publishers with data currently reserved for Google’s advertisers, which will allow publishers to compare their own content and ad performance to competitors’, predict ad revenue growth, and perhaps better attract advertisers to their own sites. Google expects most of this technology to become available by the end of the year.
Whether publishers use this technology, and if these programs result in increased subscription conversions. 

A report examining local journalism practices in the Pacific Northwest predicts that newsrooms will continue to decrease in size and become increasingly dependent on aggregation and newswire services to cover various beats. It also predicts increased prioritization of direct dialogue with readers, including via events and open editorial meetings.
This adorable video of Avocado Man

ANALYTICS // CrowdTangle, the analytics firm that Facebook acquired last November, is onboarding the Local Media Consortium’s 700+ members to give them access to real-time tracking and best practices across Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Reddit at a hyperlocal level. In a recent case, The Sarasota Herald-Tribune used CrowdTangle to source stories about Hurricane Irma from alerts on topics overperforming on the analytics platform.

FACT-CHECKING // After announcing last year that it would partner with fact-checking websites like Snopes and Politifact to verify news content, Facebook reportedly plans to sign on The Weekly Standard, a conservative publication that is highly critical of the Trump administration, as its newest partner in an effort to mitigate concerns of a liberal bias at Facebook. The Poynter Institute must approve each of Facebook’s fact-checking partners, which may take several weeks.

FAKE NEWS // In further efforts to minimize the spread of fake news and bogus sources, Facebook is testing a feature that will give users additional context about articles. A small button will yield a card with information from the publisher’s Wikipedia entry, a link to the publisher’s Facebook Page, related articles about the topic, and information about how the article is being shared across Facebook.

LA TIMES // Members of The LA Times’s newsroom are attempting to unionize and push for improved working conditions, more generous pay and benefits, and protections against cost-cutting measures taken by owner Tronc. If successful, the journalists would join The New York Times, HuffPost, Vice, and a number of other major unionized newsrooms. In other news, after undergoing a major management overhaul in August in an effort to revitalize the paper’s digital operation, The Times named Lewis D’Vorkin as its new editor in chief yesterday. D’Vorkin was most recently the chief product officer at Forbes.

THE PRESS // According to a recent Ipsos/Reuters poll, the percentage of American adults that have a “great deal” or “some” confidence in the press has risen to 48% from 39% last September.

FACEBOOK ADS // The digital director of President Trump’s campaign, Brad Parscale, told CBS the president won the election through microtargeted, highly customized dark Facebook ads. Facebook offered Trump’s and Clinton’s campaigns a group of Facebook employees to help them utilize the platform’s technology, and Parscale said he vetted them extensively to ensure the employees were Trump supporters.

TWITTER STREAMING // This fall, Vox is offering two weekly Twitter livestream shows. Circuit Breaker, based on the gadget blog of the same name, debuted last Tuesday, and Vox will premiere the video version of its gaming podcast, The Polygon Show, on Thursday. At least one of Twitter’s recent livestreaming initiatives has seen some success: BuzzFeed reports that the first week of its AM to DM morning show garnered an average of 1 million viewers each day.

PODCASTS // Crooked Media, the producer of popular podcasts including Pod Save America run by former Obama staffers, is expanding with the launch of a contributor network meant to bring more voices and perspectives on the air, and a website for written content. Ads on the website and a forthcoming newsletter will supplement revenue currently driven by podcast ads, live events, and merchandise sales.

MEDIUM // After beginning testing in August, Medium is now letting anyone paywall stories on the platform. Writers can lock or unlock content whenever, and will still get paid for paywalled content based on engagement.

VIDEO ADS // According to the company’s recent discussions with ad agencies and media companies, Amazon is willing to share more consumer information with advertisers in order to become a major force in video advertising. Amazon Video Direct, Amazon’s streaming service which offers similar ad units to YouTube’s, has yet to garner the same volume of advertisers , likely because of its relatively small data offering.

Atthar Mirza
Animation Fellow, Atlantic Studios

Can you give us a brief overview of your role at The Atlantic?
My role on the Atlantic Studios team gives me a lot of responsibility and chances for creative expression. My day-to-day includes animating sections of our web hosted series (such as You Are Here), researching and pitching new projects, or working on writing/narrating/editing/animating a larger project like the Mona Lisa!

What is a cool project you've been working on recently?
The "Mona Lisa's Smile" animation [the video accompaniment to The Atlantic’s October cover story] was so much fun to make. I'm lucky in that I do have a lot of creative control over the project. As long as it's a robust vision, our Art Director Jackie Lay is very good about encouraging us to bring our own ideas to the table. The process for creating Mona Lisa went something like this: (1) I had to write a pitch and treatment showing why the video will be informative and well received, (2) I worked with a producer to edit together a script for the narration, (3) I divided up the script into scenes and shots, and created a storyboard for the visuals, (4) I recorded the narration with producers Ashley Bloom Kenny and Daniel Lombroso coaching me, and (5) finally came the animation of the scenes in the storyboard and sound effects.

These days I'm also coding a new Atlantic Studios website — it's exciting to get to practice web development in addition to my animation roles.
How does the Mona Lisa animation interact with the written feature?
In this case, we didn't really add information that doesn't exist in the article. Our job is to make it concise and accessible. Daniel Lombroso and I went through many iterations of a script before we were satisfied that the video would convey the core argument while staying short and engaging to our audience. Three minutes is actually on the longer end of our fully animated videos. As for the visuals, this involves coming up with a style and interesting metaphors for ideas in the article. [The video representation] can also help clarify more complex ideas, such as the fovea segment in Mona Lisa's Smile.

What is the most interesting thing you've seen from another media outlet?
There's so much cool stuff out there! Something I saw recently, shared to me by my fellow animators Tynesha Foreman and Caitlin Cadieux, is this amazing YouTube channel: Kurzgesagt – In a Nutshell. They make beautifully animated explainers.
Last week, we asked where you stood on Twitter's decision to double the character count. 39% of you think it will ruin Twitter, 11% of you say you love it and are interested in seeing how content will evolve, 11% don't think it will have an affect on the platform, and 39% of you don't care.

This week: Amazon is reportedly exploring ways to deliver items inside your home via a smart doorbell device to minimize porch thefts and weather-damaged products. Would you let a delivery person inside your empty home to avoid leaving your packages unattended outside of your home?
Send us thoughts, tips, and Amazon delivery men at

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