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THE NEWS
Facebook pledged to spend $300 million over the next three years to support “news programs, partnerships and content” globally, with an emphasis on local news.
 
SO WHAT?
Facebook has gradually upped its investment in journalism over the last few years, but the pledge will constitute the company’s biggest to date (and happens to be exactly what Google pledged through its Google News Initiative over the same period). In the official press release, Facebook VP of Global News Partnerships Campbell Brown said that “news is a key part of Facebook’s mission,” though some speculate that the company’s motives may be more closely tied to PR and “guilt money” rather than benevolence towards news.  

Overall, this investment is a relatively small one for Facebook – $300 million over three years will amount to about 0.12% of the global ad revenue Facebook is expected to bring in over that same period.

Of the $300 million, $20 million will go towards expanding two particular programs: the Local News Subscription Accelerator Program, a three-month program for 14 U.S. metro news organizations launched as a pilot in February 2018, and the Membership Accelerator Program, another three-month program designed to help news organizations with membership models first piloted in August 2018.

A further $16 million has already been pledged to places including Report for America, the Pulitzer Center, and the Knight-Lenfest Local News Transformation Fund. You can see the full breakdown in Nieman Lab, here.

The $300 million also includes what remains of the $90 million Facebook had planned to spend on Facebook Watch videos. (It’s unclear exactly how much has been spent.) Some of the Watch funds distributed so far, but not the majority, have gone to local publishers, including Advance Local and McClatchy.

Campbell Brown was hired in 2017 to lead the news partnerships team, and since then, a number of other investments have been made, including fellowships, news literacy tools, training programs, and online courses (that tend to involve teaching journalists how to use Facebook). Brown has also led initiatives aimed at helping organizations fight misinformation, both in the U.S. and globally (including in Brazil, Middle East and North Africa, and France).

LOOK FOR
How publishers take advantage of Facebook’s resources without repeating publishers’ past mistakes. Facebook is known to make pivots quickly, and publishers should continue to account for this when making decisions, especially regarding the allocation of staff and resources.

THIS MADE US SMARTER
The Shorenstein Center at the Harvard Kennedy School and the Lenfest Institute teamed up with digital consultancy Yellow Brim to produce The Newsletter Guide, a newsletter toolkit that includes a checklist of questions to think about before building a newsletter, a guide for revenue and engagement, a roundup of ways to design a newsletter, and access to free open-source newsletter templates.
“Does anyone else feel personally attacked by this tweet?

WHAT'S NEW WITH...
SOFTWARE // Vox Media acquired The Coral Project, an open-source platform founded as a collaboration between Mozilla, The New York Times, and The Washington Post, Axios reports. The Coral Project’s staffers will report to Vox Media’s COO, who also oversees Chorus, the company’s proprietary CMS. The plan is to package and sell The Coral Project’s commenting platform “Talk” with Chorus and Concert, the company’s digital ad marketplace. Interestingly, The Washington Post, which also licenses its CMS and was the first site to implement the Talk platform, did not buy Coral.  
 
NETFLIX // Netflix is raising its prices 13-18% for many of its 139 million subscribers, marking the fourth time the company has increased prices since 2014. The price change is intended to help the company pay for its content spending, which was estimated to be $12-13 billion in 2018, and may need to continue as more competitors enter the streaming market. (Read our write up on Netflix’s strategy here.)

VOICE // The New York Times plans to use its 175-person branded content studio, T Brand Studio, to design custom Alexa skills for advertisers for “roughly six figures,” according to Axios. The studio has already created a skill for Audi as its first partner and estimates it will take over three months to design each skill. According to NYT’s head of global advertising and market solutions, The Times sees “a two-year period to tap into a market growing fast and see if it could be viable long-term.”

AXIOS // Axios is growing its in-house brand studio from 10 to 16 people in 2019, citing more interest from advertisers. Though most of the company’s 2018 $25 million revenue comes from sponsorships for its newsletters, site, and events, brand studio work was the company’s fastest growing revenue segment, according to the company.

STREAM WARS // Sinclair Broadcast Group launched its free ad-supported streaming service, “STIRR,” which includes a local feed based on where the user is located called “STIRR City.” Meanwhile, NBCUniversal announced plans to launch an ad-supported streaming service in 2020. The service will be free for pay-TV subscribers and available for around $10 a month as a separate subscription.

DEPARTURES // New York Magazine EIC Adam Moss stepped down from his post after serving 15 years in the role. The magazine named David Haskell, who has led editorial strategy for video, podcasts, and events across its verticals, to replace Moss. Snapchat’s CFO Tim Stone is also set to depart after less than one year at the company.

TRUST // NewsGuard, the startup that creates the equivalent of nutrition labels for news organizations’ transparency and credibility, announced that Microsoft has agreed to install the service onto its mobile browser. The company uses a team of 50 journalists and analysts to evaluate news sites based on nine criteria and hopes to become a regular part of users’ online reading experience. (See image below.)
PODCASTS // Graham Holdings, parent company of Panoply and Slate, announced that it will spin out Pinna, its paid listening service focused on kids programming. (Read podcast analyst Nick Quah’s take on it here.) Spotify is also looking to focus more on podcasts in 2019 – the company is reportedly looking to sign more exclusive content deals with creators and is considering building or acquiring ad insertion tech.   

VICE // Vice is launching “Vice Live,” a two-hour live nightly show hosted by a panel of four artists and comedians on Viceland starting February 25. Viceland president Guy Slattery says the show will serve as a marketing platform for existing Vice properties and a testing ground for new shows and concepts; it will also mark the biggest programming shift since Nancy Dubuc took over as CEO of Vice Media in March 2018. (We have a write up on that too.)

MIC // After laying off nearly its entire staff and selling to Bustle Digital Group in November, millennial-focused digital news site Mic has begun quietly publishing content from new writers. Former employees suspect layoffs were geared towards busting the staff’s recent union and believe the site will be relaunched with contracted staff, effectively getting rid of the union.

PIVOT TO VIDEO // Grindr laid off the entire editorial and social staff of INTO, the app’s LGBTQ+ news site launched in 2017, citing a new strategic focus on video. Though the brand has faced a number of controversies since its inception, it has also received awards and honors for its coverage of the LGBTQ+ community.  

SUBSCRIBER SPOTLIGHT

Sam Felix
Director of Audience + Platforms, The New York Times

@1312Sam
 
Tell us about your role and what you do.

I focus on the company-wide strategy, partnerships, and relationships with key tech partners — focusing a majority of my time on Google, Apple, Facebook, Snapchat, etc. — and figuring out how and to what extent we should be working with these platforms.

My job is to think deeply about how The Times’ journalism is reflected off-platform and monetized and to make sure there’s a clear value to us participating in the platform, whether that be direct revenue or a strong audience value.

We spend most of our time focusing on projects, big and small, that help connect The Times to these sometimes hard to understand, hard to reach audiences off-platform and look for ways to drive them back to our O&O (owned and operated). So the types of projects we tend to work on and lead are things like Subscribe with Google, AMP, Apple News, Snapchat Discover.

How does your team fit within the larger organization?

We’re in a pretty unique position within the company — we work across most of the departments to help spread a consistent strategy for the platforms. We’re technically part of the marketing organization, but physically sit in the newsroom.

We of course have no influence over the coverage and really maintain an appropriate separation from the journalists, but it’s very clear and central to our work that we partner closely with the newsroom audience team and the newsroom thinkers to ensure that we’re building audiences off-platform that reflect our overall strategy.

Can you talk more about The Times’ overall strategy? How do you evaluate new or emerging platforms?

When we’re thinking about new platforms, we are vigilant about our strategy. We look at these new opportunities and these new platforms through different lenses: Can the platform help us demonstrate the breadth of our report to a new audience that we don’t otherwise reach? Does the platform help drive this audience back to our O&O?

We believe that the best way to experience The Times’ journalism is on our properties, and so our goal is to bring users back to our properties, fully immersing them in the journalism, with the goal of developing a relationship and a daily habit with our readers.

We also ask ourselves: does this platform give us a new way of thinking about storytelling — so things like Snapchat Discover — in a way that we might not otherwise do on our properties?

One example is Reddit. Obviously Reddit is not new, it’s actually been around for a very long time, but they are sort of emerging for us, in a way. When we look at how we engage with Reddit and what sort of investment we put into it, one of the things that was most attractive to us was leveraging AMAs as a way to expose this very engaged Times audience to our journalists and answer questions about how the report is made, pulling back the curtain on The New York Times.

Again, something we can’t always do as easily, especially for a new audience on our platforms, and so we can leverage these partners to help us really tell more of The New York Times’ story.

What’s the most interesting thing you’ve seen recently from a media outlet other than your own?

I’m still a big fan of Axios. I love everything they’re doing. I’ve been continually impressed with their ability to leverage their newsletter strategy into a segmented audience strategy where they can build clear, almost communities around each of these subject lines.
They’re developing a direct relationship with their readers. Being in a reader’s inbox is probably one of the closest relationships you can have, so I thought it was a great move when they acquired Sports Internet to flesh out their sports vertical.

I’m really excited to see what they do with that and what else they expand into and hope they can continue to be as engaging in their approach for these new verticals.
 
 
This Q&A has been edited for length and clarity. Read the rest on Medium.
Last week, we asked what “mode” you listen to audio content in most often. 61% of you said you listen to audio when you’re commuting or doing something mundane, 10% said they listen when they’re bored and need an activity, 21% said more than one, and 8% said they don’t consume audio content.

This week: Would seeing a NewsGuard rating on a site affect your trust in a news organization?
FELLOW SPOTLIGHT
Each week, we'll interview one fellow from Atlantic Media's fellowship program. 

Apply for our July 2019 business and editorial fellowships here! Open through January 28th, 2019.

Anna Waters

Editorial Fellow
AtlanticLIVE
@annawaterz
 
 
Tell us about your fellowship at Atlantic Media. 
 
I’m an editorial fellow with AtlanticLIVE, so I research and produce our live events and figure out who we should have on stage. I interview people to figure out how to represent different perspectives and shape conversations under the broad umbrella of an event like the Water Summit or the Education Summit. Then day of, I help make sure that the speakers are there and prepared to go on stage and that our Atlantic moderators are prepared to interview them. I write questions and do the prep for that.

Read the rest on Medium.
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Send us thoughts, tips, and your Netflix login to idea@atlanticmedia.com.

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