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Two new features let publishers interact with readers through Facebook Instant Articles

vr, 07/04/2017 - 20:42

Facebook’s relationship with the news industry has been, shall we say, a little one-sided. While the news industry depends on the platform for its growth and distribution, Facebook itself has sometimes downplayed the outsized role it plays in the news industry.

On Friday, though, Facebook announced some new additions to Instant Articles that were developed after direct feedback from publishers: the email sign-up feature, for example, will let readers share their email addresses from within Instant Articles. Similarly, publishers will now be able to offer readers the option to like their pages.

Josh Roberts, a Facebook product manager, wrote in a blog post that the new features are a result of ongoing feedback from news organizations, many of which are looking to “extend the business value of Instant Articles. Across the board, publishers want to have more direct lines of communication with their readers and drive the conversions that matter to their business,” he wrote.

Roberts wrote that Facebook has other similar projects in mind, such as a feature that would let news organizations offer free subscription trials through Instant Articles and one that would drive users to download publishers’ mobile apps.

Facebook’s status as a middleman in publishers’ relationships has been an enduring sticking point over the years. While few publishers have shunned the Facebook traffic referral firehose outright, discontentment over how the company has handled some components of Instant Articles has made some news organizations less gung-ho about publishing on Facebook itself. The New York Times, for instance, has stopped using Instant Articles.

Facebook highlighted some success stories in its Friday blog post. Slate, for example, said that the call-to-action feature helped boost its newsletter signups by 41 percent in two months. The Huffington Post said Instant Articles has become “one of our highest performing acquisition channels for driving email newsletter subscribers” thanks to the feature.

The additions are a product of the ongoing Facebook Journalism Project, which the company announced in January to “establish stronger ties between Facebook and the news industry.” Core to the initiative was the idea that Facebook would directly collaborate with publishers on new news products such as the one Facebook wrote about today.

In other words, while the new features are compelling in their own right, they also serve as vital PR for Facebook’s publishing outreach overall. Facebook’s message: “We’re listening.”

Categorieën: Extern nieuws

What is the right amount of money to throw at the fake news problem?

vr, 07/04/2017 - 15:30

Critics say the bill would limit free speech, and on Wednesday, Andrus Ansip, European Commission VP for the digital single market, told European Parliament (echoing remarks he’d made previously), “We have to believe in the common sense of our people. Fake news is bad, but a Ministry of Truth is even worse…We need to address the spread of fake news by improving media literacy and critical thinking.” At least in the U.S., the audience for fact checks has become somewhat partisan; research here last year found that Democrats view fact-checking more favorably than Republicans. “At a time of no trust in the media, why would the voter trust the [fact-checker] over the politician he or she supported?” Alexios Mantzarlis, director of the International Fact-Checking Network at Poynter, asked recently at a fact-checking summit in D.C.

Facebook: “No, no, don’t worry, we’ve got this.” An “educational tool for spotting fake news” will appear at the top of users’ News Feeds in 14 countries, Facebook announced Thursday. If you click on it, it links to “more information and resources in the Facebook Help Center, including tips on how to spot false news, such as checking the URL of the site, investigating the source and looking for other reports on the topic.” It was developed in partnership with First Draft. These are the tips:

Facebook also “plans to pay fact-checkers to monitor news on its platforms in response to sustained criticism that it has not been doing enough to crack down on fake stories,” reports Madhumita Murgia for the Financial Times.

Quote from Mosseri says they're "open" to paying checkers, but it's not underway. Suspect they need to do this to get more German checkers. https://t.co/Jq7NLHp1So

— Craig Silverman (@CraigSilverman) April 6, 2017

“It’s not porn, it’s not hate or guns”: “More than 60 websites publishing fake news are earning revenue from advertising networks and most of them are working with major networks such as Revcontent, Google AdSense, and Content.ad,” BuzzFeed News’ Craig Silverman, Jeremy Singer-Vine, and Lam Thuy Vo report. Continuing with the whole “it’s not fake news, it’s satire” claim, Google told BuzzFeed that some sites “continue to show AdSense ads because they include disclosures that their content is satirical and they don’t fit the company’s definition of misrepresentative or deceptive content,” while Taboola CEO Adam Singolda said, “While there are different definitions of what ‘fake news’ is, we assume it to include a deliberate intent to deceive and cause harm to consumers. The stated goal of these sites that you sent us is to entertain through parody, we believe.” There is a lot of satire out there!

BuzzFeed conducted part of its analysis with the coauthors of the new Field Guide to Fake News; those authors summarized their work for us here. They stress that fact-checking is not enough to combat fake news: “‘Thicker’ accounts of how fake news circulates may also suggest the limits of approaches to fake news that predominantly focus on fact-checking, debunking, and flagging fake news items — which might imply that fake news thrives because of a deficit of factual information, downplaying its affective resonance or emotional appeal.”

$100 million to promote “global trust.” eBay founder/billionaire Pierre Omidyar’s philanthropy, the Omidyar Network, announced it’s committing $100 million over three years to support investigative journalism and fight fake news. The first organizations to get funding: The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, which was behind the exposure of the Panama Papers; the Latin American Alliance for Civic Technology; and the Anti-Defamation League, which will use the money to build “a state-of-the-art command center in Silicon Valley to combat the growing threat posed by hate online.”

The fight against misinformation, authoritarian lies, and online abuse is a fight we can win. https://t.co/RxBWy64pLn

— Pierre Omidyar (@pierre) April 4, 2017

Also in funding news this week: The News Integrity Initiative, a $14 million project “to advance news literacy, to increase trust in journalism around the world, and to better inform the public conversation,” funded by Facebook and Craig Newmark, among others, and run out of CUNY.

Illustration from L.M. Glackens’ The Yellow Press (1910) via The Public Domain Review.

Categorieën: Extern nieuws

With Push, small publishers have a cheaper, quicker way to develop their own mobile apps

vr, 07/04/2017 - 15:00

Does every news organization need an app? It’s been a sticky question since Apple opened up the App Store nearly a decade ago. The app pendulum has swung in both directions multiple times over the years: For some publishers, apps remain an essential part of the distribution formula, while for others, developing an app is a waste of time and resources.

Christopher Guess can’t say if developing a news app is always the right call, but he wants to make doing so within reach for any news organization that opts to invest in one. Guess is the developer behind Push, an open source iOS and Android app designed to cut down on the time and effort it takes for news organizations to develop news apps. It’s aimed at small-and mid-sized teams that lack the developer resources and capital to create their own apps from scratch.

By Guess’s estimation, the typical news app can take at least six months and cost $50,000 to develop. Using Push, though, a single developer can develop an app within a few days. “With the current financial situation for newsrooms, the economics are impossible,” said Guess, who developed the app during a two-year ICFJ Knight fellowship. “If you want a mobile app as a small newsroom, you’re pretty much completely out of luck unless you’re owned by one of the big newspaper companies.”

News apps built on Push look and function as you would expect, with features that include caching for offline reading, built-in search functionality, video support, and as its name suggests, support for push notifications. The app also lets news organizations integrate donation features.

Since its launch in late 2015, Push has gained the bulk of its traction in Eastern Europe, where 10 publishers are in some stage of using the software to develop their own apps. For news organizations such as Serbia’s Crime and Corruption Reporting Network (KRIK) and Azerbaijan’s Meydan TV, Push’s features — particularly its Push notification support — opened up a new way to keep readers engaged. The early Push users, all of which are affiliated with the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project, have embraced push notifications because they offer a way to notify readers when new pieces are published. That’s important for investigative news outlets, which don’t publish as frequently as the typical site.

“When people visit a site, they want to see brand new things every single time. If you can’t supply that because of resource constraints, you fall off the radar. With push notifications, you stick right there,” Guess said. “Even if users haven’t opened the app for a month, you can still get their phone buzzing. That’s a really big deal for these small publications that need that attention.”

Of course, just because you develop an app doesn’t mean that people will use it. U.S. smartphone users spend nearly three quarters of their time within just three apps, according to comScore. Still, the app remains a powerful distribution channel, particularly for news organizations looking to develop direct relationships with readers. Big platforms’ interests often diverge from those of news organizations. Organic reach on Facebook, long a vital traffic source for publishers, continues to shrink: MarketingLand, citing a report from social publishing tool SocialFlow, said that organic reach declined 52 percent from January to June of 2016.

The ever-shifting reality of news organization-platform relations means that many news orgs are hungry for ways to interact directly with their readers. “This is all about staying in touch with users without those intermediaries,” Guess aid.

It’s an idea that appeals to local news organizations as well. Last month, the Center for Cooperative Media announced plans to help five New Jersey news organizations (Banana Tree News, Delaware Currents, Hudson County View, Route 40, and Planet Princeton) develop their own apps using Push’s software. The project is part of NJ Mobile News Lab, which the Center for Cooperative Media started in an effort to “bridge the innovation gap” between large and small publishers, said Joe Amditis, the associate director of the Center for Cooperative Media.

“Large publishers have the ability and flexibility to play around with different tools, try new things, fund exciting new innovative projects. Their reserves of capital and audience loyalty allow them to do so without much fear of the consequences,” he said. “We want to help the smaller publishers compete by helping everyone recognize the value of collective input.”

The project is still in its early stages, but Amditis said that the goal is to collect data on the publishers’ Push apps to evaluate what works and what can be tried elsewhere. The Center for Cooperative Media is particularly interested in the revenue impact of the efforts. “Hopefully we can try to replicate some of the sustainability we see in some of the larger organizations at the local level,” Amditis said.

Guess, who this week was awarded a Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute fellowship at the University of Missouri, has other plans for Push as well. He aims to use the fellowship to build more features into the app, including support for more content management systems, increased anti-censorship tools, and increased automation and stability.

“The ultimate goal here is to help news sites make apps that feel essential to their readers,” said Guess.

Categorieën: Extern nieuws

What does fake news tell us about life in the digital age? Not what you might expect

do, 06/04/2017 - 20:11

Editor’s note: The first three chapters of a remarkable new document, A Field Guide to Fake News, are being released at the International Journalism Festival in Perugia. The guide, the work of a team of scholars, explores new and more subtle ways of looking at the fake news phenomenon — and, through it, how our lives are mediated in an age of data, platforms and algorithms. Below, three of its coauthors summarize some of what they’ve found; don’t forget to check out the full document.

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Five months after the U.S. elections, fake news remains high on media, political, and public agendas, having sparked a wave of concern, responses, and counter-responses in countries around the world.

Media and technology companies have established major new projects and charged ten-thousand-person units with dealing with it — leading to concerns about “band-aid solutionism.” Governments and public institutions have launched consultations, programs, and investigations to research and respond to the issue, including state-sponsored debunking initiatives in regions from Russia to the European Union, as well as proposals for multi-million euro fines.

The term has become a keyword for both media institutions and the political mobilizations who contest them. Driven by countless reports, position papers, analyses, columns, reflections, op-eds, startups, imitators, accusations, and parodies, and despite numerous attempts to declare the issue “dead,” “meaningless,” or itself “fake” — the issue endures, like a prolonged argument where no one’s able to have the last word.

Amidst all of the panic, finger-pointing, hype, bandwagons, and fatigue, what are we to make of this highly mediatized and politicized issue? How are we to understand and collectively respond to the phenomena which are the center of concern? As a network of researchers specialising in digital methods for social, political, and cultural inquiry, over the past few months, we’ve been engaged in a number of projects to trace the production, circulation, and reception of fake news online — and to see how we might bring fresh perspectives and unfamiliar angles to the public debate.

It’s a fascinating object of inquiry — not in spite of but precisely because of its highly contested and hotly debated character — which tells us just as much about the character of infrastructures and social institutions whose functioning we may not usually notice as it does about their weaknesses, failings, and blind spots.

The concern is not just that these infrastructures and institutions are being gamed and exploited (as they routinely are by advertisers, media, and technology companies, politicians, and by many other organizations and professions), but rather the feeling that the social rules and norms that normally bind us together are being violated — whether for fun, profit, or (geo-)political gain.

But in following fake news online, we encounter not just rogue producers, state propagandists, geopolitical fault lines and hyperpartisan mobilizations. We also learn about the patterning and politics of collective life online, and the consequences and logics of the different technological and economic modes of organization that undergird it.

Here we have the uncanny feeling that, in hot pursuit of the perpetrator, we discover a trail of evidence leading to our own doors. As media scholars Mike Ananny and Kate Crawford recently pointed out, the platforms and algorithms at the center of fake news controversies can be understood not just as “black boxes,” but also as “relational achievements” that involve and evolve alongside our own lives online.

One can certainly make the point that the person holding the weapon is not necessarily the only one with blood on their hands. But we also wish to suggest that the issue of fake news can be leveraged as an opportunity for public reflection, political economic imagination, and more thoughtful, attentive, and potentially ambitious interventions around the organization of the platforms and infrastructures which pattern our lives in the digital age.

Beyond becoming more efficient and effective at what is often described as the “whack-a-mole” game of cracking down on fake news (including using new technologies to semi-automate social and political acts of judgment and classification), what can we learn about our societies, ourselves, and life in an age of digitization, datafication, and platformization? How might we effect a shift from thinner descriptions of fake news producers and their strategies towards thicker descriptions of the ecologies in which they thrive? And what and how might we learn from these richer accounts?

Below are four ways of seeing fake news differently, drawing on our ongoing research collaborations around A Field Guide to Fake News with the Public Data Lab. The guide focuses not on findings or solutions, but on starting points for collective inquiry, debate, and deliberation around how we understand and respond to fake news — and the broader questions they raise about the future of the data society.

Fake news challenges clear-cut, binary conceptions of fakeness

As many have pointed out, there are many different kinds of fake news. Or, as we put it in a forthcoming paper with colleagues, there are many different “shades of fakeness.”1 So much is evident in what one might call “controversies of classification” (around a list of false, misleading, clickbaity, and satirical sources by Melissa Zimdars, for instance), as well as in difficulties encountered around early attempts to fully automate the identification of fake news.

We have sought to develop digital methods and approaches for exploring what has been associated with the “fake news” label. One thing we established was that the meaning and significance of a given piece of content can vary significantly over time and across different settings. For example, from tracing the life cycles of fake news on Google search engine results, we found that a story that starts life as explicitly satirical can become “laundered” into clickbait and shared as a news source, and then shared again as an example of hyperpartisan misinformation or geopolitical disinformation.

Just as with works of art or literature, the meaning of a fake news story or image cannot be sharply separated from different ways of seeing, cultures of reading, or traditions of interpretation around it. Rather than focusing exclusively on its formal properties in terms of binary conceptions of “facticity,” truth value, or informational content, this would suggest a richer look at the settings in which it is shared and the breadth of meaning-making practices around it — whether satire or solidarity, irony or provocation, resentment or condemnation.

Fake news challenges sharp distinctions between content and circulation

It is not simply by virtue of its “falseness” that something becomes fake news, but also through the character of its circulation — including the speed, scale, and nature of sharing. In particular, recent concerns around fake news are directly related to the threat of its accelerated circulation on the web and online platforms. Hence many attempts to fight fake news focus on material which is trending or gaining significant traction or engagement online.

In the Field Guide, we suggest that this circulation represents more than just the popularity of fake news, but is itself an integral part of understanding what it is and what it means. We also look at ways to explore this circulation beyond the aggregated counts of likes, links, shares, or posts that are often included as part of off-the-shelf social media metrics.

By looking more closely at how fake news moves and mobilizes people, we can develop a richer picture of not only how much it circulates where, but also why it circulates and how it resonates amongst different publics. For example, on Facebook we can look not just at total shares, but also the specific public groups and pages where it is shared, as well as a closer qualitative analysis of how it is shared and what is meant by sharing it.

Understanding this is also critical to ensuring that responses are attuned to the phenomena that they seek to address.

“Thicker” accounts of how fake news circulates may also suggest the limits of approaches to fake news that predominantly focus on fact-checking, debunking, and flagging fake news items — which might imply that fake news thrives because of a deficit of factual information, downplaying its affective resonance or emotional appeal.

Fake news is made possible by the technological and economic underpinnings of the web and digital platforms

Over the past few decades, many responses to misinformation have focused on mapping and debunking claims made or repeated by politicians, journalists, or other public figures. In the guide, we explore ways of looking beyond the content and circulation of claims by examining the technical infrastructures and economic models which underpin them.

For example, we look at how data about web trackers can be used to understand things like how fake news websites are associated, how they may make money, how their economic models differ from mainstream media organizations’, and how they change over time. We also explored this in a recent collaboration with Craig Silverman and his colleagues at BuzzFeed News.

Of course, this tells us not only about how fake news websites make money, but about the broader political economic organization of the web and digital platforms, and their associated advertising networks and partners.

Fake news websites and initiatives that respond to them often have different publics

Finally, we look at different ways of exploring responses to fake news — including their methods and publics. While many fact-checking initiatives focus on providing “truthy” followup articles and “factish” corrections, we look at where these circulate and how successful they are at reaching the publics of fake news on different platforms and in different settings.

For example, we examine how to compare the Facebook groups where popular fake news articles are shared, and the groups where fact-checking responses gain traction. In the case of a set of highly shared fake news stories, the most widely shared fact-checking responses only appeared in a handful of the hundreds of groups where the former were circulated.

Just as social researchers have become accustomed to working with “the shadows cast by our presence as explorers in the field,” as Shannon Mattern puts it, so we might hope that conceptions of journalistic objectivity might come to include the role that journalists and media organizations themselves play in shaping norms, expectations, and institutions of knowledge production in the digital age — as well as ways to understand and relate to so-called “post-truth” publics who feel that these institutions are failing them.

Jonathan Gray of the Institute for Policy Research at the University of Bath, Liliana Bounegru of the University of Groningen and the University of Ghent, and Tommaso Venturini of the Institute of Complex Systems at the University of Lyon are collaborators in the Public Data Lab.

Top image cropped from The fin de siècle newspaper proprietor by Frederick Burr Opper.

  1. M. S. Abildgaard, A. Birkbak, L. Bounegru, J. Gray, M. Jacomy, A. K. Madsen, A. K. Munk (forthcoming) “Fake News: Seven Lines of Inquiry.”
Categorieën: Extern nieuws

Q&A: How Mic used its social accounts to influence its new vertical-focused editorial strategy

do, 06/04/2017 - 17:04

Last week, the millennial-focused publisher Mic unveiled a redesigned site and a new approach to organizing its coverage. It launched nine new verticals covering a range of topics from the Trump administration and body positivity to feminism and personal finance.

The company also announced it had promoted Cory Haik to the role of publisher. Haik joined Mic in 2015 from The Washington Post, and in an interview this week, Haik (along with a Mic spokeswoman listening in) explained her new role.

“It embodies a lot of the strategic work around how we reach our audiences, how we connect with our audiences, the beats and topics we cover, how we do that via video, via written work, and with native social formats,” she said. “It’s a lot of stuff, quite frankly, that to date I’ve fashioned my career around.”

Mic plans to hire about 35 staffers this year as part of its expansion effort, and Haik and I spoke about the strategy behind the new branded approach, how many of the verticals grew out of popular Mic social accounts, and what’s next for the company as it adjusts to the Trump era.

Here’s a lightly edited and condensed transcript of our conversation.

Haik: The Transparency Project is a big fun project on the horizon. Also continuing to build out our direct relationships with our audiences. It’s not a very sexy name, but a direct-to-consumer relationship: emails, push alerts — I know you’ve written about our iOS app, and we’ve talked about that before — the products that our audiences can directly engage with us on are important to us as we continue to grow these channels that they all have ways that our audiences can connect to them by way of subscribing in some form or fashion. Obviously, we’re engaged in social, but we want them to have some direct line to Mic itself.

The third is video. We did 400 million video views last month. As a publisher, the ability to reach that many people is a privilege, and we’re excited about that. One of our reporters did a written op-ed that did okay, and then he did the same op-ed in video format and it reached half a million people in just a couple of hours. It’s amazing that you can connect with that many people in our journalism. The possibilities there, I think we just sort of scratched the surface. A lot more experimentation with some of our reporters, video, and how we continue to build it out beyond how it’s working now. If we talked again in six months, we’d have a lot of exciting things to tell you on the video side. We’re bullish on that in general.

Lichterman: You have those big audiences that originated on social platforms — how do you think about trying to convert them to having more direct relationships with Mic on your platforms?

Haik: You always want to be mindful that you’re not beating someone over the head with “subscribe, subscribe, subscribe.” But you still want to do it to some degree. It’d be silly not to. But if your video reaches 500,000 people, the degree to which some of them will convert to a newsletter subscriber of that columnist is pretty high. They’re interested. We are thinking about a lot of ways of connecting our very viral moments to our direct to consumer products. It’s working. Facebook has been a very good lever for us to grow our Navigating Trump’s America newsletter. Whenever there is a big story about Trump and we promote our newsletter, we can get hundreds to thousands of email subscribers. That’s a pretty great funnel. It can be tedious, because you have to pay attention to those moments, and it can be manual, but we put a lot of effort into figuring out how we can capture and convert those audiences to our channels when we can off of social in particular.

Look, we do a lot of talking to our audiences specifically with the audiences and focus groups I talked about. Listening to them — those are our power users, people who come directly to Mic.com, use our app, or follow us on Facebook and aren’t just seeing us because it was in their feed from someone else’s share. Those people are very meaningful. When they have something to say, we follow up and we ask them. Being mindful of those two things and build that virtual connection and also with some of the more viral moments to make sure there’s an opportunity for people to connect with us directly is key.

Lichterman: Going back to the channels for a minute: I’m curious how you balance their individual identities versus the overall identity of Mic. How do you want readers to think about them within the overall structure of the publication?

Haik: Mic really is the network of all these other brands. Mic itself is actually a channel as well — that’s really our core news channel. I definitely think there are these places where our audiences overlap for some of these channels and places where they don’t at all. This body-positivity channel is very specific — it’s a celebration of different body sizes and styles. That’s an important topic that’s very prescient right now, it’s in the conversation right now, but also it’s a pretty specific kind of channel and a certain kind of journalism and storytelling. I don’t know that there’s a ton of crossover between Strut and something like Navigating Trump’s America. There might be. People are interested in politics, obviously, and can be interested in fashion, but we would be perfectly happy if someone just followed our Instagram channel or followed our Facebook page for Strut. We’d view that as a success. We’re figuring out how we bolster these channels on their own, but we do want people to know that they are part of the Mic family. They’re all supported by the endorser brand of Mic.

Lichterman: Something like Navigating Trump’s America feels very of the moment. Do you expect these channels to evolve, titles to change, or new channels to pop up? How do you expect them to evolve moving forward?

Haik: They definitely will evolve. That’s the fun part of being publisher. They will all evolve. The one thing I know for sure is that we will continually ideate and iterate. Mic has this mantra of “always in beta,” and that’s more real than ever. I absolutely love that about this place. We fully embrace the strategy that you think about the platforms, you produce work for the platforms, you work with your audiences, and you produce the best journalism that you can. Then a new platform will emerge and you’ll think about new audiences you can build and how you can connect with. You’ll see them grow certainly. As new platforms emerge, we’ll uncover new ideas about how we do storytelling there. That’s one thing for certain.

Video is a big wide open space that we’re just at the tip of the iceberg with what we’re doing. There are even bigger possibilities in the world of OTT and streaming that we can tap into each of the channels as well. And I think there’s the potential for us to launch more. There’s a couple I mentioned in the post which aren’t live yet — Out of Office, which is our travel channel, and Multiplayer, which is our gaming channel, and they’re launching very, very soon. If there are other big opportunities that make sense across platforms and that make sense editorially, we will continue to grow.

Lichterman: The last thing I wanted to ask is that I know other publishers have tried to take this standalone vertical approach, and some have had more success than others. I’m wondering how you’re measuring success with this project and are there specific targets you’re looking at to determine what success is?

Haik: That’s always an important thing for us to think about on the front end at Mic. We actually have very specific success metrics for each of these, and they’re by platform. Again, they’re not one-size fits all. What we want the Payoff podcast to grow to is different than what we want the newsletter to grow to on Slay, but they are specific to those audiences. We spend a lot of time thinking about that. It’s not just a quantitative number, but also a qualitative mark around what we want that point of view, audience acceptance and understanding of that channel to be. We like to have ambitious goals, so they all have pretty aggressive and ambitious goals — not just for continuing to grow but for being remarkable in the editorial areas that they’re covering. Success is the continued growth, but also that they break out in some way. We just launched these channels, but we would like them to be front of mind for things like feminism and Trump and politics and policy for our audience.

Categorieën: Extern nieuws

The election-related stories people seemed to prefer to read and share were about scandals and corruption

do, 06/04/2017 - 15:42

As the November 2016 election that eventually brought the U.S. President Donald Trump approached, local news outlets appeared to turn away from news stories that touched on specific issues such as the economy, energy, or education. Readers, too, were more interested in stories involving scandal and corruption, according to a report out Thursday from the Engaging News Project and the American Press Institute.

On average, 2.5 issues were mentioned in a news story published 20 to 32 days before Election Day in November, compared to 1.8 issues mentioned in news stories published zero to nine days before Election Day, based on the report’s analysis of 705 election-related — but non-presidential campaign — stories pulled from nine news websites across six states. (The states: California, Florida, Idaho, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Washington.) Social issues such as abortion or rights for LGBTQ people were heavily covered, followed by issues around public safety (e.g., gun control or crime). The issue given least attention in local outlets’ down-ballot coverage was, perhaps unsurprisingly, trade:

Notably, the timeframe covered in this report includes the week of the Trump Access Hollywood tape. The authors write:

Examining the coverage, local news outlets’ coverage of social issues seemed to be influenced by what occurred at the top of the ballot with the presidential race. Coverage of then-candidate Donald Trump’s treatment of women — including the disclosure of the Access Hollywood tape — became an issue for Republican candidates down the ballot. News articles mentioning U.S. House and Senate races discussed how candidates for these offices were responding to the Trump tape and their positions on issues of women’s rights and sexual harassment. The national conversation became a prominent topic of debate down the ballot.

Scandal and corruption coverage was common in local outlets: 22 percent of articles analyzed in the report focused on “accusations, investigations, or criminal charges leveled against non-presidential candidates for federal, state, or local office.” News stories about campaign or government corruption garnered more pageviews and social referrals than stories that didn’t touch on these topics at all (clickbait-y headlines in local election coverage, though, were not found to be helpful in that regard).

Other findings:

— A missed opportunity: Fact-checking was largely absent in local election articles: 2 percent of the stories analyzed in the report included checks on claims made by candidates and their campaigns.

— Local news election stories relied heavily on “horserace” coverage, with “frontrunners” and “underdogs.” More than half the stories analyzed (54 percent) referenced that narrative.

— The campaign stories that mentioned the horserace, campaign fundraising and spending, and public opinion received predictably fewer page views and social referrals than articles that didn’t.

The full report is available here.

Categorieën: Extern nieuws

Want to bring automation to your newsroom? A new AP report details best practices

wo, 05/04/2017 - 19:24

In 2014, the Associated Press began automating some of its coverage of corporate earnings reports. Instead of having humans cover the basic finance stories, the AP, working with the firm Automated Insights, was able to use algorithms to speed up the process and free up human reporters to pursue more complex stories.

The AP estimates that the automated stories have freed up 20 percent of the time its journalists spent on earnings reports as well as allowed it to cover additional companies that it didn’t have the capacity to report on before. The newswire has since started automating some of its minor league baseball coverage, and it told me last year that it has plans to expand its usage of algorithms in the newsroom.

“Through automation, AP is providing customers with 12 times the corporate earnings stories as before (to over 3,700), including for a lot of very small companies that never received much attention,” Lisa Gibbs, AP’s global business editor, said in a report the AP released Wednesday.

The AP’s report — written by AP strategy and development manager Francesco Marconi and AP research fellow Alex Siegman, along with help from multiple AI systems — details some of the wire’s efforts toward automating its reporting while also sharing best practices and explaining the technology that’s involved, including machine learning, natural language processing, and more.

The report additionally identifies three particular areas of note that newsrooms should pay attention to as they consider introducing augmented journalism: unchecked algorithms, workflow disruption, and the widening gap in skills needed among human reporters to produce this type of reporting.

To highlight the challenges of using algorithmic journalism, the report constructed a situation where a team of reporters covering oil drilling and deforestation used AI to analyze satellite images to find areas impacted by drilling and deforestation:

Our hypothetical team begins by feeding their AI system a series of satellite images that they know represent deforestation via oil drilling, as well as a series of satellite images that they know do not represent deforestation via oil drilling. Using this training data, the machine should be able to view a novel satellite image and determine whether the land depicted is ultimately of any interest to the journalists.

The system reviews the training data and outputs a list of four locations the machine says are definitely representative of rapid deforestation caused by nearby drilling activity. But later, when the team actually visits each location in pursuit of the story, they find that the deforestation was not caused by drilling. In one case, there was a fire; in another, a timber company was responsible.

It appears that when reviewing the training data, the system taught itself to determine whether an area with rapid deforestation was near a mountainous area — because every image the journalists used as training data had mountains in the photos. Oil drilling wasn’t taken into consideration. Had the team known how their system was learning, they could have avoided such a mistake.

Algorithms are created by humans, and journalists need to be aware of their biases and cognizant that they can make mistakes. “We need to treat numbers with the same kind of care that we would treat facts in a story,” Dan Keyserling, head of communications at Jigsaw, the technology incubator within Google’s parent company Alphabet. “They need to be checked, they need to be qualified and their context needs to be understood.”

That means the automation systems need maintenance and upkeep, which could change the workflow and processes of editors within the newsroom:

Story templates were built for the automated output by experienced AP editors. Special data feeds were designed by a third-party provider to feed the templates. Continuing maintenance is required on these components as basic company information changes quarter to quarter, and although the stories are generated and sent directly out on the AP wires without human intervention, the journalists have to watch for any errors and correct them.

Automation also changes the type of work journalists do. For instance, when it comes to the AP’s corporate earnings stories, Gibbs, the global business editor, explained that reporters are now pursuing different types of reporting.

“With the freed-up time, AP journalists are able to engage with more user-generated content, develop multimedia reports, pursue investigative work and focus on more complex stories,” Gibbs said.

Still, in order to use this type of automated reporting, newsrooms must employ data scientists, technologists, and others who are able to implement and maintain the algorithms. “We’ve put a lot of effort into putting more journalists who have programming skills in the newsrooms,” said New York Times chief technical officer Nick Rockwell.

The report emphasizes that communication and collaboration are critical, especially while keeping a news organization’s journalistic mission front and center. The report outlined how it views the role data scientists play:

Data scientists are individuals with the technical capabilities to implement the artificial intelligence systems necessary to augment journalism. They are principally scientists, but they have an understanding as to what makes a good story and what makes good journalism, and they know how to communicate well with journalists.

“It’s important to bring science into newsrooms because the standards of good science — transparency and reproducibility — fit right at home in journalism,” said Larry Fenn, a trained mathematician working as a journalist in AP’s data team.

The full AP study is available here.

Categorieën: Extern nieuws

Competing news outlets in Norway are building a new standalone site dedicated entirely to fact-checking

wo, 05/04/2017 - 18:28

In Norway, fact-checking is growing up.

The country of 5 million will soon get a site devoted entirely to fact-checking. Faktisk — which means “actually” or “factually” in Norwegian — is an unusual collaboration between rival news organizations that will be fact-checking everything from stories that are beginning to trend on social platforms to political debates to the media itself.

Editors at Verdens Gang, the Norwegian daily tabloid owned by Scandinavian media giant Schibsted, had been mulling over the possibility of a more permanent national fact-checking effort ahead of the country’s parliamentary election in September, with the warning posts of Brexit, the U.S. election, the fears around fake news in Europe looming large.

Instead of keeping the effort inside Schibsted, VG looped in Dagbladet, the second-largest daily tabloid in Norway.

“Six people were put into a secret dark room in downtown Oslo just before Christmas. We were told, ‘You’re going to outline a strategy for how this initiative could work, and work together.’ It took maybe just five minutes before we were all speaking freely,” Kristoffer Egeberg, a longtime investigative reporter for Dagbladet, who is heading up the new Faktisk team, told me. “One of the first things we realized was that we had to sit outside our own organizations.” The team then brought in NRK, the Norwegian public broadcaster, as a third partner news organization.

Fritt Ord, a Norwegian foundation that focuses on freedom of speech issues, along with Tinius Trust (a major share owner of Schibsted), the Dagbladet Foundation, and NRK together invested 8 million NOK (just under $1 million USD) to kickstart the project.

Faktisk is skipping over what dominant platforms like Facebook might want to offer in the way of fact-checking and forming its own separate company, with its own staff of editors, reporter/fact-checkers, and developers. Jari Bakken, a VG developer currently working full-time on Faktisk, is building a new CMS to handle the work (with an assist from a few other front-end developers). All the development work will be open sourced.

“The developer team at my old paper had been asking, why don’t you use the CMS we have? We’ve spent millions developing a state-of-the-art CMS, so why are you spending time to use your own?” Egeberg said. “The answer is, we are not just making articles. We are making fact checks. We need a CMS that can cut up our fact checks into parts, that will then make it possible in the future to use it in automation and artificial intelligence efforts. Our traditional CMSes are not made for this.” (The team has met with research institutions like SINTEF and the IBM Watson group to discuss potential ways to scale tasks like social monitoring and detecting claims. Egeberg and Bakken both gave a nod to the U.K.’s Full Fact on its work in automating the fact-checking process.)

“A lot of journalism produced today is still just a chunk of unstructured text, and I think a CMS with a bit more structure than a normal article and some intelligence built into it can enhance the user experience for both the journalists and the audience,” Bakken said, pointing to various ideas that have been floated around by structured journalism evangelists. “A traditional fact check has a lot of information embedded in it that makes sense to pull out and store as structured data instead of text — the claim itself, who made it and where, where was it cited, reproduced or shared, what concepts, people, organizations, events, or locations are discussed, what sources were used to fact-check it, and what is the final conclusion or rating. The same is obviously true for a lot of reporting, but a fact check is a well-defined piece of journalism that always has these same components.”

As part of its mandate for transparency and openness, Faktisk intends to distribute and share widely any information it has checked and written up — its fact checks can be taken and embedded by any other news outlet or individual writer in their own work as they see fit. VG has an edition on Snapchat Discover in the Nordics, where the team also intends to distribute information to reach a younger audience. NRK had been planning a television program around fact-checking leading up to the country’s September elections, in which Faktisk may now also play a part.

It’s also hoping to team up with more media partners, Helje Solberg, editor at VGTV and chairman of Faktisk, said, “and based on the response so far, we expect that to happen.” (Also welcome: Facebook, if it’s interested.)

Issues around climate, international relations, and the country’s own elections will likely feature heavily on the site, and “a big job for us is to cut through and help people differentiate between what’s an opinion and what’s a fact-based statement which you can actually fact-check,” Egeberg said. “We’ll have five different conclusions on our scale from totally wrong to entirely true. We’re not using measures like Pinocchios. It’s important for us to use wording that’s quite neutral, that we’re not calling anybody a liar, which would throw gas onto the fire. We’re saying ‘this is correct,’ or ‘this is not.’ Not, ‘this is a lie.'”

In a country the size of Norway, and as a site whose founders are resistant to the idea of advertising out of conflict of interest concerns, foundations and large grants look to be the primary sources of revenue for Faktisk: “We will focus on large donations to fund Faktisk — we do not expect to significantly fund it through crowdfunding, though we acknowledge that crowdfunding can strengthen the relationship with our readers,” Solberg said.

“Initiatives like this are often only something we do before an election. It’s hard for one newspaper to keep up such substantial efforts — maybe NRK could do it because it’s public-fee-supported,” Egeberg said. “But we’re trying to gather more resources and partners to have an organization which has the stamina to keep up and live through the election, through 2017, 2018, 2019 — and hopefully be a permanent addition to the media family in Norway.”

Categorieën: Extern nieuws

“Society 10 years from now”: This South Korean social video startup is made by millennials, for millennials

wo, 05/04/2017 - 16:00

Sodam Cho dropped out of studying for the South Korean media exam after her little brother was beaten by his teacher. When the incident made the news, the tables turned for the young aspiring journalist, who was now the one being interviewed by the press. That was when she experienced disappointment in what she saw as the superficiality of South Korean traditional outlets — ask a few questions prodding for emotional quotes by deadline, then sensationalize the story without getting to know the victim’s situation.

“I was really skeptical,” she said. “They would just get one or two sentences for the story, and that would be the end of it. In contrast, I would want to sit with the person on the floor together and have a conversation.”

Seeking a more intimate connection with subjects is what fueled Cho, 27, to start Dotface (styled as .face), a new social-native video outlet for South Korean millennials launched last September. With 40 million won (about $35,000 USD) in financial support from Seoul-based media incubator and seed investor Mediati, Dotface has focused its coverage on five areas it deems important to a younger generation: social justice, LGBTQ issues, feminism, urban ecology, and how technological development impacts societies. The nine-person Dotface team provides articles and videos on community, national, and international topics, from presidential contenders to Emma Watson’s thoughts on college, guided in part by their followers’ chatter on social platforms.

Last summer, traditional outlets covered a gay pride parade near Seoul City Hall as a typical social conflict story: conservatives versus liberals, Christians versus queer-identifying people, traditional values versus loosening social mores. But Cho focused on the presence of parents of LGBTQ children who were offering free hugs to the crowd.

“I looked at all the reports later that night, and this scene was not mentioned once. In contrast, we were able to cover this because we had our own subjective standard — that embracing diversity is something to be valued,” Cho said. Dotface’s video covering that scene went viral, amassing 5 million views on Facebook alone.

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Cho believes younger Koreans are thirsting for media content that goes beyond conglomerate news, dense political coverage, and rewrites of government press releases. She says her friends often share poorly translated articles and videos from U.S.-based digital outfits like BuzzFeed or ATTN: about everything from job interviews to not wearing bras, just for something new to read. While 70 percent of Koreans head regularly to major portals like Naver and Daum for news, Dotface is attracting its audience through social media, which has erupted as a source of news, especially for those who prefer to get their news via mobile. Virtually all Koreans in their 20s read their news online, with 75 percent getting it from social media, according to the Korea Press Foundation. Dotface’s niche is on platforms like Facebook and the Korean app Pikicast, where twentysomethings congregate over news of mutual interest and share open comments. Dotface’s videos get around 6 million views a month; 42 percent of its Facebook users are between the ages of 18 and 24.

Small media startups are impeded from cracking into wider audiences by a variety of policies that are intended to block spammers and fake news producers. The Committee for the Evaluation of News Partnership, an alliance of interest groups, regulates media outlets through a strict screening process that generally prevents smaller outlets from reaching the news portals of Naver and Daum. Meanwhile, Naver TV Cast, a popular web broadcast portal, allows only existing broadcasting companies’ content.

These restrictions are loosening, however, as these news portals are now branching out to partner with multichannel networks. And Cho is confident that as more media startups launch that fall somewhere between legacy media and Facebook-only verticals, the South Korean media landscape will see a revolution.

Dotface is still figuring out its business model. Some advertisers might be wary of associating with a media outlet willing to publish a documentary on the drag queen culture featuring Korean-American diva Kim Chi; Dotface also reserves the right to decline advertising from companies whose values conflict with theirs. (That said, “there has not yet been a time when an advertiser backed out of advertising with us,” according to Cho.)

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Dotface has experimented with branded content, producing videos for companies that want to reflect a message appealing to its readers. One recent video sponsored by local oil refiner GS Caltex, produced by Dotface, portrayed the endurance of a man backpacking through Patagonia. But that revenue stream is limited by the young startup’s limited connections in the ad agency and content distribution worlds.

The startup plans to continue experimenting with native advertising and Dotface-branded merchandise — such as, Cho suggested, a potential partnership with sex toy brand Tenga. It’s also floated ideas like creating community-based platforms such as a dating app friendly to both straight and queer identities.

“Entertainment agencies are trying to become media companies, and they can actually push aside content from traditional media,” Cho said. “So in reality, with all the new competition coming in, if it isn’t fun, it’s hard to survive. It’s the same for news.”

Ryu Ji-min contributed to the reporting of this article.

Photo of Sodam Cho by Elaine Ramirez.

Categorieën: Extern nieuws

If fact-checking’s going to stay relevant, it’s going to have to move past, uh, checking facts

di, 04/04/2017 - 18:46

Fact-checking has become completely entwined with partisan politics. “At a time of no trust in the media, why would the voter trust the [fact-checker] over the politician he or she supported?” Alexios Mantzarlis, director of the International Fact-Checking Network at Poynter, asked in January at a fact-checking summit in Washington, D.C.

“We’re not reaching red America,” said Bill Adair, director of the Duke University Reporters’ Lab and creator of PolitiFact.

The event, hosted by the American Press Institute, Poynter Institute, and the Duke Reporters’ Lab, brought together “more than 70 participants, including fact-checkers and other journalists, researchers, educators, librarians, and representatives from foundations and technology companies,” to discuss how fact-checking can reach a wider audience. American Press Institute wrote up their discussions on Tuesday, and offered some suggestions and thoughts on how fact-checking can modernize, improve, and reach more readers.

“Instant and tense reactions”

Fact-checking in real time is hard, but it also stresses people out:

David Mikkelson, the publisher of Snopes.com, said readers can wonder how debunking can be produced so quickly after reaching the Internet. And, as Duke University’s Mark Stencel found, instantaneous fact checks during a tense debate can cause instant and tense reactions from partisan viewers.

One idea: “finding ways to incorporate fact checks into people’s regular news consumption behavior.”

“They just don’t believe you”

“It’s not that they haven’t heard you,” R. Kelly Garrett, a professor of communication at Ohio State University, told the group. “They just don’t believe you.”

Maybe fact-checkers should disclose where they stand politically: “The public may see transparency as knowing such things as whether reporters own guns or attend church regularly or give donations to interest groups,” the API notes. They might also want to “engage with subjects or readers who strongly disagree with their findings” (which sounds about as much fun as wading into the comments), “share with their audience information about why they’re checking claims,” and “monitor and explain the partisan breakdown of the sources of claims that they check.”

Reaching people with “trust issues”

From the report:

Even when fact checks reach a larger audience, that audience is skewed — geographically, with more readers on the coasts than in the South or heartland; and ideologically, with progressives more likely to engage. Readers who most engage with fact checks tend to be Democrats who already have above-average knowledge about politics, research indicates. “We’re doing a terrible job as a group, getting our information to the people who could most benefit from it,” said Rebecca Iannucci, a project manager at the Duke Reporters’ Lab who’s working on fact-checking studies and research.

Summit attendees identified two groups that fact-checkers need to do a better job of reaching: “younger, digitally savvy” people who want information in new formats, and people who “[consume] more news through older methods…and [are] harder to reach not because of platform preferences but because of trust issues.”

“An important tactic going forward will be finding ways to bring fact-checking to people in neutral packages,” said Tom Stites, founder and president of the Banyan Project.

New formats needed

Michelle Ye Hee Lee of The Washington Post noted that each Friday leading up to the 2016 election, she and her colleagues broadcast findings from the week on Facebook Live. And, she added, fact checks had among the highest engagement of any of the news organization’s offerings on Snapchat. These non-traditional tools were a way of presenting information where readers and viewers live, not waiting for them to navigate their way through a website.

Ronny Rojas, who leads fact-checking at Univision, said that the newsroom presented fact-checks with comics and got “40 to 50 percent more traffic than comics with regular text.” It’s expensive, though.

The full report is here.

Categorieën: Extern nieuws

The Huffington Post introduces a less “eat your vegetables” way to show alternate views on news

di, 04/04/2017 - 18:00

Right now, if you’re one of the small number of people who actually care about exploring the biases in your news consumption, you have to do a little work. You can install a Chrome extension, maybe, or an app. Or you can seek out alternate sources to add to your reading list. One thing these activities have in common is that they’re not much fun.

Analyzing and changing your media diet may never actually be fun, but The Huffington Post is trying to make it at least slightly more so with The Flipside, an interactive matrix that collects the latest headlines on various topics (immigration, Neil Gorsuch’s nomination to the Supreme Court, Russia) from 14 publications and plots them on a grid, from most to least trustworthy and most liberal to most conservative.

Julia Beizer, head of product at The Huffington Post, wrote in a blog post Tuesday:

Today, you can dive into the Russia topic and see a mix of stories about this morning’s attack and the Trump team’s connections to the Russian government. But what’s trending across these sources paint a wildly different picture of what matters on this topic. A Daily Kos story is trending on Comey’s impact on the presidential election, while Breitbart’s trending story is on France’s Marine Le Pen encouraging Putin to partner with the West in the face of terrorist threats. Mainstream media, for its part, trends with a mix of news on the attacks and opinion pieces about Trump and Russia.

“We didn’t want to approach this in a really didactic way — like, ‘Here are five news stories you’re not seeing, liberal user,'” Beizer told me. “If you wanted to take a peek at someone else’s feed, this is what you might see. It’s a spectrum of how people cover these really thorny topics; it’s more of a grazing tool.” (And you don’t have to install anything.) The Huffington Post is linking to The Flipside from its homepage and social channels Tuesday, but eventually, the tool will be incorporated into its stories: It might appear at the bottom of a Huffington Post article to show a spectrum of how other news organizations are covering that same topic. (This is somewhat similar to what BuzzFeed is doing with its “Outside Your Bubble” feature.) There are, conceivably, other outlets for such a tool as well: Last month, at a Facebook Journalism Project hackathon in New York, members of The Huffington Post’s product/tech team collaborated with other publishers to create a Flipside-like product for the Facebook platform, which would allow users to see where a piece of news appears on an ideological spectrum without leaving the News Feed. It was the Hackathon’s winning project.

A few notes on methodology: The headlines on The Flipside are culled from the 14 publications’ Twitter feeds over a period of two hours. The Huffington Post didn’t rank the sources itself on either trustworthiness or ideology. The ideological rankings came from a 2016 Public Opinion Quarterly study that used a combination of machine learning and crowdsourcing to plot sources on a spectrum. And for the trustworthiness ratings, they worked with Snopes to categorize the outlets’ trustworthiness. (I asked Snopes for more information and hadn’t heard back at the time of publishing this post.)

When you play around with the tool, you’ll notice that The Huffington Post is included on the grid — and ranked lower in trustworthiness than outlets like The New York Times and The Washington Post. In fact, Snopes gave it the same trustworthiness rating as it gave Fox News.

“Yup. We’re not at the top of the trustworthiness scale,” Beizer said. “But under our new editorial leadership, we are out there every day, trying to earn readers’ trust. That’s why I was really adamant on including ourselves in the scale.”

Categorieën: Extern nieuws

NPR’s upcoming daily news podcast sounds like a Morning Edition promo, which would be too bad

di, 04/04/2017 - 16:36

Welcome to Hot Pod, a newsletter about podcasts. This is issue 114, published April 4, 2017.

First things first. NPR announced Monday that it’s launching something called Up First, a take on the morning news brief podcast that draws from the DNA of Morning Edition, one of NPR’s two tentpole programs. Editions will be published at 6 a.m. ET on weekdays, starting Wednesday, and it will feature the same team of David Greene, Rachel Martin and Steve Inskeep on hosting duties.

Nieman Lab, Poynter, and NPR’s own press blog have the assorted details on the project, including the press messaging surrounding this launch (“a way to do it that makes sense for the whole system”), target demographic breakdown (young folk, clearly), and the names involved in its development (note the headlining of Morning Edition EP Sarah Gilbert and NPR GM of pdcasting Neal Carruth).

Let’s talk big picture here. The most meaningful way to read this launch is to think through what it tells us about how NPR is balancing the need innovate in order to set itself up for the future with the delicate politics and incentives strung out across the wide spectrum of local public radio stations that make up its major constituency, whose carrier fees for NPR’s major news programs Morning Edition and All Things Considered make up a sizable chunk of NPR’s revenue. (And, I suppose, whose well-being is sort of among NPR’s main reasons for being.) The Nieman Lab write-up, in particular, examines this dynamic, and it’s telling how Gilbert and Carruth talk up the groundwork that was done to attain political support from stations. “A lot of station managers we have spoken to in preparation for this launch have expressed genuine excitement about the possibility of reaching a new discrete, younger audience, and finding a way to invite them into the public radio system,” Gilbert told Nieman Lab.

But it is the way Up First resembles a top-of-the-funnel instrument more than anything else that most draws my attention. Each episode is said to be made up of the “A” segment from the 5 a.m. ET newscast that’s sandwiched between a preview of the other stories in the edition along with…well, what sounds like marketing material for public radio. “We’re also going to have language in the episodes that tells listeners — many of whom will be new to public radio content — about the public radio system, the availability of all kinds of incredible programming on our stations, guiding them in finding ways to donate, if they want to donate to their local stations,” Carruth said later on in the article.

In other words, it sounds like a big, fat Morning Edition podcast promo.

Perhaps another way to look at it is to view Up First as an audio equivalent of the morning news email newsletter digest — though not the beefy, newsletter-first constructions like Politico Playbook or CNN’s Reliable Sources newsletter, but something closer to, say, The New York Times’ First Draft, whose existence is designed to pull readers to a core destination.

I suppose all of that is perfectly fine, but it’s nevertheless disappointing given what appears to be the heating-up of a content area that’s long been discussed as fertile land for on-demand audio: the newsy podcast. Up First’s launch comes about two months after The New York Times drew first blood with the format (Marketplace’s Morning Report doesn’t count, alas) in the shape of its 10- to 20-minute weekday morning news brief The Daily. Though calling The Daily a “news brief” is somewhat imprecise, as that show functions a lot more like a straightforward news magazine that feels incredibly native to the podcast format, given its impressive dedication (and resource allocation) to structuring each edition around one or two stories that are exclusive to podcast, often providing deeper or additional reporting on the biggest stories from the day before, and executing them in a rich, intimate, non-broadcast-reminiscent style. That design gambit has yielded a unique and compelling package, and though it has certainly made the occasional choice falling from its design commitments that have led to criticism (I’m still mulling over the interview in question from last week, and find myself increasingly perturbed), it is absolutely a creature of its own and is cultivated as such.

It’s bad form to sling a full judgment on Up First without actually experiencing it firsthand, so I’ll give it a couple of weeks before piping up conclusively. And I will also say that I’m fully cognizant that this is a podcast execution that’s probably unique to Morning Edition within the context of NPR, given its political complexity within the broader public radio ecosystem. I will also say that NPR’s other podcasting efforts have proven to be more encouraging, between the stuff they’ve been doing with NPR Politics and Embedded as well as whatever the heck they’re cooking up with Sam Sanders. But I’m just inclined to pour one out for a genuine go at building out a full-blown NPR News podcast, which is something I now suspect might never actually happen.

Ah well, back to Barbaro it is.

Apple freeze? Digiday has an article on the emerging windowing trend that we’re seeing in the podcast industry — prominent first with Missing Richard Simmons, and then with the Spotify deal with Gimlet over what is now known as Mogul: The Chris Lighty Story — and while the write-up mostly touched on developments that shouldn’t be particularly new for Hot Pod readers (relevant issues here and here), the piece does bring forth a genuinely juicy scooplet that might be worrying, depending on where you stand:

According to multiple people familiar with the matter, Apple was excited about promoting Missing Richard Simmon until it heard about the windowing strategy. They subsequently abandoned all the marketing plans for the show, those people said.

If true (I’ve heard talk on my end that corresponds with this, but I couldn’t corroborate on the record with full confidenc,
and if we still buy the premise that Apple continues to drive the majority of podcast listening, and if we also continue to buy that the iTunes front page is still a meaningful driver of podcast discovery, then we’re left with what is the clearest example of Apple, previously described as a dominant but hands-off of the podcast ecosystem, actively placing its thumb on the scale when it comes to dictating the shape of the space. That Missing Richard Simmons ended up being a success regardless is interesting, but nonetheless irrelevant; this is a situation that feasibly validates the fears of those who are concerned about the unchecked conduct of Apple as a governing platform.

One imagines this also adds fuel to the fire among the pockets of the community that feel that, at the rate and substance that the podcast industry is growing, the way things are with Apple can’t possibly be sustainable, with its erratic charts system, its user experience, its opacity. But then again, that’s kind of the story of all modern digital publishing.

I reached out to Apple for comment yesterday, but have not heard back.

One more on windowing… looks like The Ringer will distribute its MLB podcast exclusively on TuneIn Radio for the month of April, a development that might worry some of the more open internet-oriented folks in the industry.

Early S-Town numbers. It’s a whopper: the Serial spinoff reportedly enjoyed 10 million downloads in four days since launch day, according to Variety. That report came from before the weekend, so it’s possible there’s a bump we can’t account for, though it has traditionally been unclear whether listening happens very much on the weekends. But given S-Town’s unique full-season release structure — which encourages binges — and buzzy profile, it’s feasible to think that the show might’ve enjoyed anomalous weekend listening behavior.

Two quick things about the Variety article:

— The 10 million number refers to overall downloads, not unique downloads as a proxy of the actual size of the audience base. Back-of-the-napkin math (10 divided by 7 to spell it out, but I mean come on) places that somewhere north of 1 million unique listeners at the time of publication.

— From the piece: “In another data point highlighting the popularity of S-Town, the feed for the podcast series already has 1.45 million subscribers since Serial Productions released the trailer a little over two weeks ago. By comparison, the Serial feed has 2.4 million, and This American Life has 2 million.” I’m told that Serial Productions uses Feedburner to check these numbers, and that the number was up to 1.48 million by Monday morning. Feed subscription numbers aren’t exactly a metric that’s in vogue among the industry at this point in time, but that’s besides the point: compared against its own portfolio, S-Town has performed very well within a very short period of time.

Two curious developments from WNYC. I haven’t written very much about the station recently — probably my own oversight as opposed to the station genuinely laying low — but two things caught my eye over the past week:

— The station announced in an internal email last Wednesday that it will not be renewing its relationship with The Sporkful, the James Beard-award nominated food podcast hosted by Dan Pashman that’s been in the WNYC portfolio since 2013.

“Despite our pride in what we have accomplished, we’ve made the tough decision not to renew The Sporkful and so that means we will be saying farewell to Dan and Anne this week,” WNYC’s chief content officer Dean Cappello wrote. “That’s not a commentary on the show’s growth or the work in any way but rather a recognition of the changes that are inevitable as we continue to grow WNYC Studios.”

I’m told that the decision to part ways actually took place several months ago, with Pashman given ample runway to secure a new home. A new network has indeed moved to pick up The Sporkful, though its identity remains uncertain to me. Details of the arrangement will announced sometime over the next two weeks, ahead of the podcast’s relaunch on April 17.

For anybody keeping a record (and I know there’s a Greek chorus of you): the last show to leave WNYC was Hillary Frank’s The Longest Shortest Time, which ultimately landed at Earwolf.

(2) Several readers also flagged this job posting last week: WNYC is apparently looking for a branded content producer. Here’s the most salient portion of the job description:

You will be part of a little startup agency nested within an established, mission-driven organization populated by the most creative and pioneering audio producers in the country. Your focus will be creating original podcasts and bringing to life other cross-platform productions on behalf of our sponsor partners…

I’m still wrapping my head around this, though it does strike me as genuinely surprising — and more than a little strange — that a public radio station, especially one as big and prominent as WNYC, is moving to develop what looks like an in-house creative advertising agency. When contacted for comment, a spokesperson simply told me: “For several years now, clients and agencies have been asking us about creating custom content. And like every media organization, we’re trying to meet the needs of our clients who are eager to work with us.” Hm.

While we’re on the subject of public radio…

(1) I’m following the WUTC story, in which the Chattanooga-based NPR affiliate station fired reporter Jacqui Helbert after local lawmakers complained about Helbert’s reporting on a state transgender bathroom bill.

There’s a thick line you could draw between this incident and the Marketplace-Lewis Wallace story from February, and also between this story and the West Virginia Public Broadcasting state defunding crisis from last month, which was only superficially resolved after Governor Jim Justice pulled back on defunding and pushed toward a deal that would see the state’s public broadcasting infrastructure integrated into West Virginia University. The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga owns and operates WUTC, and Helbert’s dismissal is said to have been a decision made by university officials, not newsrooms editors, providing one notable data point for a question I wondered aloud when writing up the West Virginia Public Broadcasting story: how does university ownership affect a public broadcasting system?

Anyway, the WUTC story is far from over. Since Helbert’s dismissal, NPR has condemned the decision, and the reporter has filed a lawsuit against the university.

(2) Missed this last week, but Ben Calhoun, the VP of content and programming at WBEZ, is leaving the station, according to Robert Feder (the all-powerful source of Chicago media news). Calhoun is expected to return to This American Life, where he had served as a producer between 2010 and 2014. It is unclear who is up to take over the position.

(3) On Current: “CPB board members excoriate colleague for publicly backing defunding.”

Alice Isn’t Dead returns for its second season today, as Night Vale Presents pushes forward in its intriguing attempt to build out a predominantly fiction-oriented podcast network (it has one nonfiction project, a documentary collaboration with indie band The Mountain Goats, in the pipeline) off the long-running momentum cultivated with Welcome to Night Vale. I’m told that the first season’s ten episodes collectively garnered over five million downloads, as of last week. That season ran from March to July 2016. I’ll be keeping an eye on this.

Panoply readies its follow-up to Revisionist History. The project is called The Grift, a podcast on the world of con artists hosted by psychologist and author Maria Konnikova. Konnikova is a regular on Slate’s The Gist, and I suppose you could call The Grift a podcast adaptation of the work Konnikova has built out for her book The Confidence Game, which was published early last year.

The Grift appears to represent Panoply’s next step in a strategy that originated with Revisionist History, where the network partners with a known author — in that case Malcolm Gladwell, whose value in the marketplace has long been proven — to create a highly produced, non-linear podcast that more or less resembles the composition of your basic nonfiction New York Times bestseller. This also seems to be the programming zone within which Panoply feels most comfortable developing its big swing projects.

Coming up with benchmark numbers to evaluate The Grift is a little tricky. When asked about Revisionist History’s numbers, a Panoply spokesperson told me the company doesn’t share download or subscriber numbers for any of its shows at this time. I was told the same thing when I reached out a few weeks ago for numbers on Life After, the network’s most recent fiction project. The best I can come up with is a number pulled from a rosy Bloomberg profile of Panoply published ahead of its launch last summer, where chief revenue officer Matt Turck was quoted saying that Revisionist History “could draw over 500,000 downloads per episode” — citing Apple marketing support and Gladwell’s #personalbrand as factors in his prediction — which the article also notes would match the best performance of The Message.

The Grift dropped its first episode today.

Audio fiction over the past year. Last Tuesday saw the second annual Sarah Lawrence College International Audio Fiction Awards. It’s an increasingly active time in the fiction podcast space: the higher-profile projects, growing interest in adaptation deals, the rising ambition both in terms of quality and quantity. I checked in with Ann Heppermann, the awards’ founder, to get her view on what has changed in the genre over the past year or so.

From where you sit, how has audio fiction changed over the past year?

Over the past year, it feels as though there have been seismic changes as well as a continuation of certain trends. This year, The Sarah Awards saw many more submissions from audio networks — and nearly, if not all, of the major podcasting networks entered this year from Panoply to Gimlet to Wondery to Radiotopia to many others. To me, that’s a good sign. It says that those who are in the business of making money from audio believe that audio fiction is something that’s both a worthwhile creative endeavor and a profitable one. It also says to me that there is a possible future for students, like mine, who are learning and want to create fiction. Not that long ago, I would encourage young producers who wanted to create audio fiction that if they wanted to make any money at it they should look into creating works for audiences outside the United States, primarily for the BBC and Australian markets. Now, gasp, I think that there might actually be some jobs they could apply for in the near future. It’s awesome.

Creatively, I feel like we are seeing more series as well as more high-budget productions. Thrillers and science fiction seem to continue to dominate the audio fiction world — or at least, in the submissions we received from this year and last — but for this year I would say that the Sarah Awards judges chose pieces representing the vast array of work that is being created. Yes, there were thrillers and science fiction pieces amongst the winners but there were also musicals, political fiction, and whatever unique category needs to be made up for Andrea Silenzi and Randy. Maybe next year an audio sitcom or an audio telenovela or some S-Town Faulkner-esque piece will win a Sarah Award. In my mind, it feels like the possibilities are endless.

What are the challenges that are still holding audio fiction back, in your opinion?

Even though I’m extremely excited about how large networks are getting more involved and that Hollywood stars signing up for audio fiction projects, I worry that it could become more difficult for creative people with lower budgets to have their works made and find audiences. I also worry that those who are putting a lot of money in these projects will be less willing to take creative risks because they, rightfully so, have to worry about the return on their investments. So the thing that excites me, increased professionalization, also scares me a little bit.

Another challenge is that there is a lot of fantastic audio fiction happening behind paywalls that I don’t think people are finding. Audio fiction can be incredibly expensive and so paywalls do make sense, but it’s just that currently most people don’t want to pay for it. I’m sure that will change, and I know that people are working on ways to mix up their fiction offerings so that their programming consists of free as well as paywall content, but I just hope they can figure it out soon because there’s some awesome stuff behind the paywall that I personally wish had larger audiences.

Oh, and diversity. The field, as with all things podcasting, needs a lot more of it—from creators to writers to producers to actors to works in languages other an English. Diversity, diversity, diversity.

You can read about the winners of this year’s Sarah Awards, and more about audio fiction more generally, on the website.


  • Shannon Bond’s latest: “Marketers aren’t waiting for the arrival of ads on voice-powered devices – they’re already there.” (FT)
  • A couple of podcast-related honorees at the Gracie Awards, an awards ceremony presented by the Alliance for Women in Media Foundation to celebrate women in the media and media about women: Nora McInerny was named best podcast host for her work on APM’s Terrible, Thanks for Asking, and the fourth season of Gimlet’s Startup, where host Lisa Chow and team covered former American Apparel CEO Dov Charney, won best podcast. (website)
  • Did you know that Keith Ellison, congressman and recently named deputy chair of the Democratic National Committee, has a podcast? Well he does, it’s called We The Podcast (yep), and he just started it back up. (Vanity Fair)
Categorieën: Extern nieuws

The News Integrity Initiative is taking a cross-industry approach to fixing the news trust problem

ma, 03/04/2017 - 18:39

News has a trust problem. Beyond the rise of fake news, the institutional attacks on journalism (not to mention plenty of self-inflicted wounds) have eroded the public’s ability to trust what they read. Just 18 percent of Americans said they have “a lot” of trust in news from national news organizations, according to a 2016 report from Pew.

Improving online news literacy and increasing trust in journalism are core parts of the mission of the News Integrity Initiative, a new project announced by CUNY Graduate School of Journalism today. It’s an ambitious concept infused with significant early capital: $14 million has been pledged at launch, thanks to the efforts of 19 organizations and individuals around the world, including Facebook, the Craig Newmark Philanthropic Fund, John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the Tow Foundation, and the Democracy Fund. (Disclosure: Knight is also a funder of Nieman Lab.)

Those usual suspects, however, are joined by more surprising groups such as advertising exchange AppNexus, and PR companies Edelman and Weber Shandwick. CUNY journalism school professor Jeff Jarvis wrote that these groups were included because the group wanted to “expand the conversation to include other affected and responsible parties: ad agencies, brands, ad networks, ad technology, PR, politics, civil society.”

@dirkliedtke @dangillmor Because, like ad agencies, they are responsible parties that can have an impact. https://t.co/pVo4iicy9s

— Jeff Jarvis (@jeffjarvis) April 3, 2017

Specific project ideas from The News Integrity Initiative are still slim, but some work has already begun. Last month, members of the group met to discuss the fake news problem, a discussion that resulted in a “tangible plan,” as Jarvis wrote:

We will investigate gathering and sharing many sets of signals about both quality and suspicion that publishers, platforms, ad networks, ad agencies, and brands can use — according to their own formulae — to decide not just what sites to avoid but better yet what journalism to support.

The News Integrity Initiative’s ultimate goal is to shift the focus away from what news consumers can do to improve their news literacy and instead focus efforts on specific measures that news organizations, platforms, and others can implement to improve things on their end. A core part of its efforts will involve exploring existing research and funding new studies about, for example, the many factors that affect the sharing of news stories. “We plan to be very focused on a few areas where we can have a measurable impact,” wrote Jarvis.

I like that this effort, run by @cunyjschool, doesn’t treat news literacy as something media must “teach” consumers https://t.co/t3fSJN7xBF

— Liz Heron (@lheron) April 3, 2017

Categorieën: Extern nieuws

Analysis without benchmarks: An approach for measuring the success of innovation projects

ma, 03/04/2017 - 18:27

Newsroom innovation initiatives like our mobile lab in the Guardian U.S. are springing up everywhere. Projects are being funded by philanthropies and tech companies through smaller programs in New Jersey and larger ones at the BBC, and there are also national newsroom transformation projects underway like the Poynter Local News Innovation Program. Google, the Knight Foundation and ONA also recently teamed up to issue newsroom innovation challenge grants (submissions due April 10), and oh, Facebook plans to lend their engineers to newsrooms to build new products together.

However, in order for publishers to realize the potential of all of this innovation work, we need to transform the way we measure its success.

We need to quickly redefine the signals we use to tell us what’s working, and find ways to measure success without any pre-existing benchmarks.

Metrics developed to measure desktop news sites — like pageviews and time spent — aren’t useful when your innovation project isn’t a website and someone spending more time doesn’t equate to a better experience.

Since being able to measure the success of our projects is essential to making any meaningful progress, we set about building out our analytics structure from the ground up, with the help of the analytics and data science teams at MaassMedia.

What did we find?

Over time in the lab, we’ve found that the best way to truly gauge success has been to put the user back at the center of it, since it’s their new mobile habits and preferences that matter much more than our old and ingrained habits for tracking.

As a result, we’ve started looking at a new set of qualitative and quantitative metrics that help us gauge whether or not an experiment was valuable enough to make it worth offering again, or offer it to a wider audience.

And it’s a work in progress. Each day we’re inventing brand new benchmarks for success and building upon them. Our efforts also help us avoid the all-too-common practice of making unscientific comparisons between innovation work and existing products, and it gives us something that looking at just pageviews and click throughs can’t: multi-dimensional signals about how satisfied our audience was with an experiment.

The metrics we’ve chosen to look at tie directly into where we see potential for news organizations to build new formats that better serve and more deeply engage mobile news readers. This set of metrics also helps us gain a sense of user interest in a feature, which, if high can lead us to see potential for other news organizations, and conversely, where we might want to develop or hone features in the future. We’ve outlined our approach below.

The first new metric: Net interaction rate

The net interaction rate, a quantitative measurement recommended by MaassMedia, signals whether or not a project was an overall success. Roughly, it sets data, or user interactions, that we deem positive off of those we see as negative, divided by the total number of things shown (in this case, notifications).

Here’s what it looks like:

Looking at the net interaction rate for an experiment helps us understand how positive or negative the experience was overall for our audience, and it’s also simple to calculate once the right tracking has been implemented.

There are a few additional reasons that using this metric might uniquely benefit innovation teams.

  • By their nature, innovation teams build things that haven’t been built before, and because we’re breaking new ground rather than treading well-worn paths, it’s important that we re-think what makes for a positive user experience. Applying the net interaction rate requires teams to talk upfront about the user experience, so positive and negative interaction categories can be established. Therefore using this metric builds deep thinking about the experience into the process, and promotes good and open team communication.
  • Applying this metric also helps avoid a scenario in which one team or one team member is overly responsible for the assessment of what makes an innovation project a success. In order to apply this metric, a multidisciplinary team (which may span editorial, product, analytics, development, design, etc.), needs to have a shared vision of which interactions are positive and which are negative before launching. Is someone closing a notification bad? Is someone sharing their quiz results good? Establishing a common definition of ‘good’ ensures that everyone can consistently interpret the data after an experiment.
  • This metric also applies well to innovation work because the calculation itself creates space for users to have negative interactions during an experiment — interactions that wouldn’t occur if they were just opening another app or browser tab, which are now routine tasks for a majority of the digital audience. The negative engagements that are bound to happen when trying something new, can’t overshadow the positive engagements associated with offering something new and better. This leaves you free to focus on what you really want to know, which is whether or not this was a great experience for people on the whole and is worth pursuing.

Below is an example, drawn from our experimentation with a Leaderboard alert, an update of medal counts sent in a daily news notification during the Rio Olympics. The three data visualizations below illustrate the total interactions over time with the alert, the positive and negative interactions over time, as well as the net interaction rate with the alert over the two-week span of the games.

An example of a Leaderboard alert.

One of the lessons that came from analyzing the net interaction rate for this experiment included a definition of the ideal function of each notification — particularly about whether the alert was meant to drive deeper engagement with the Guardian site or whether it was to provide quick information-based utility for the audience — in order to inform the positive and negative categories.

To illustrate this in more detail, I’ve invited Lynette Chen, a senior analytics consultant at MaassMedia, to give context the visualizations, and explain the initial application of the metric.

Lynette writes:

In this visualization of the Leaderboard alert over time, the increase in the number of interactions might lead you to think the experiment was more successful towards the end of the Olympics.

The total number of interactions with the Leaderboard alert over time.

A deeper analysis, in which you breakout the engagements into positive and negative groupings, reveals that although the total number of interactions increased over time, this increase was actually driven by a surge in negative engagements. [For the Leaderboard alert experiment at the time of the analysis, a user closing the notification or managing their update settings counted as a negative engagement, whereas tapping on the alert or tapping through to the full leaderboard page counted as positive.]

A breakout of the number of user interactions by positive and negative engagements over time.

To better demonstrate the difference between the positive and negative engagements, you need to use the net interaction rate. Through graphing the net interaction rate, a clear negative linear relationship becomes apparent. Thus, the net interaction rate decreases over time, suggesting that users were more likely to close the notification after receiving the Leaderboard alert every day for two weeks.

A calculation of the net interaction rate for the Leaderboard alert over time.

This early experiment led to greater discussion of how to interpret expected behaviors in long-running experiments, such as notification closes or changes to settings. For instance, if users closed a notification because it provided all the information they needed, that kind of interaction may not necessarily be counted as negative. Going forward, we believe that survey information about how users interact with notifications might add more context.

Despite the fact that the net interaction rate with the Leaderboard alert declined over time, there are a few reasons we might still run a similar experiment in the future.

Primarily, we might run this type of experiment again to find out through survey responses if the alert provided value even when users closed it, which would impact our categorization of the interactions. We also received user feedback that there was limited incentive to tap through on the alert, since it led to that day’s live blog. The blog was a good source of background information on the day’s events but wasn’t directly linked to the content in the alert, which was a summary of the countries at the top of the medal-count leaderboard. If we focused on providing more relevant information when users tapped through, they may have had more incentive to do so.

The second new metric: Survey responses from users

The second metric, or set of metrics, we look at are the qualitative responses to a short survey we send subscribers after they participate in an experiment. These add helpful context to our quantitative analysis. We ask subscribers to rate the experiment’s usefulness, their level of interest in it and whether or not they’d sign up for it again.

For example, here are the results from a question we asked about the live-data alert offered in the Guardian apps the night of the U.S. presidential election.

Responses to a user survey about the live-data alert sent the night of the U.S. presidential election.

An overwhelming majority of people said that the content in the expanded version of the alert was useful, giving us one of many very good signals that they were happy with the new format.

The live-data alert sent the night of the U.S. presidential election.

We understand that users who fill in surveys are a self-selecting group and their opinions may run askew from the general population who participates in our experiments, but we always consider survey feedback ‘directional’ and combine it with quantitative data about actual engagement in order to gauge success of an experiment.

Over the past few months of working with MaassMedia, we quickly learned that while running an experiment once tells you something, it doesn’t tell you everything.

As we continue to run experiments of the same kind, we can use each set of results to start creating benchmarks, upon which we can make better conclusions. We’re looking to see if engagement and satisfaction levels remain high if you run the same experiment for, say, a sports audience and a breaking news audience. We’re also interested to see if satisfaction levels stay the same when, for example, we cover politics in a new way, and then also apply the same format to economic news.

As you might expect, the results vary, and it is only after running multiple instances of an experiment across many topics that you can start to spot trends that point towards opportunities for a format’s lasting success.

As more teams like ours take root in within journalism, we need to keep experimenting with better ways to interpret where our experimentation is most effective, and what signals will show us the way towards evolving news for new mobile platforms.

We’re eager to hear what methods and metrics you’ve found work for your team. Please add them in the comments below. We’d love to give them a try!

This piece is copublished with the Guardian Mobile Innovation Lab, of which Sarah Schmalbach is senior product manager. Disclosure: Both the Guardian Mobile Innovation Lab and Nieman Lab are funded by the Knight Foundation.

Photo of measuring tape by Sean MacEntee used under a Creative Commons license.

Categorieën: Extern nieuws

NPR’s Morning Edition gets a little refresh — and its own new podcast

ma, 03/04/2017 - 18:00

Why doesn’t NPR publish a daily morning news podcast, along the lines of Morning Edition?

Save for when its politics podcast went daily leading up to last year’s election, the absence of a rundown of each day’s biggest events to watch out for, available through a listener’s podcast app of choice, has left an opening for other news operations. The reason why NPR’s flagship shows like Morning Edition and All Things Considered are not also immediately available as podcasts to the car-less, radio-less, digital native set has had less to do with technical obstacles and more to with NPR’s organizational structure and its relationships with member stations. (The two tentpole shows bring in the largest audiences — and account for the largest slice of revenue — for NPR.)1

On Wednesday, NPR will start offering Up First, a 10-minute weekday morning news podcast built off the top news from Morning Edition. (The trailer dropped today and leans heavily on trustworthiness.)

“As you can imagine, this is something that the people at Morning Edition have been talking about for a while, kicking around and working through a lot of ideas, and it took us until just before Christmas,” Sarah Gilbert, executive producer for Morning Edition, said. “We conceived of [the show] as a welcoming, 10-minute digestible companion to a very busy period of the day, and infused it with a conversational, accessible sensibility.”

Up First will contain the “A segment” of the 5 a.m. ET hour of Morning Edition with its cast of hosts David Greene, Steve Inskeep, and Rachel Martin. It’ll then be spruced up with a “more podcast-y tail and top” and released as a podcast at 6 a.m.

“The podcast version will have a top that tells you what’s in that day’s episode, and we’re also going to have language in the episodes that tells listeners — many of whom will be new to public radio content — about the public radio system, the availability of all kinds of incredible programming on our stations, guiding them in finding ways to donate, if they want to donate to their local stations,” Neal Carruth, NPR’s general manager of podcasting (a new position as of last fall), added. “We’ve learned through our research that this younger and more diverse demographic often makes up a discrete audience from the Morning Edition audience. The podcast will point them back to public radio ecosystem.”

NPR is clearly keen on keeping up with the news preferences of younger listeners, spinning out new shows and reworking the sound of old standbys. More than half of the total audience for NPR’s slate of podcasts is between the ages of 18 and 34, according to NPR survey data. For the Morning Edition radio broadcast, the audience is “more evenly split” across all the age groups, according to a spokesperson, but a quarter of those 18- to 34-year-olds report listening to NPR offerings via podcast (“half those also then started listening to a broadcast station”).

What does the existence of Up First — and Morning Edition material — as an on-demand podcast mean for local stations who pay (a lot) to be able to distribute shows like Morning Edition and All Things Considered? (The NPR-and-member-station dynamic produces interesting tensions. See here or here or here or here or here.) Gilbert and Carruth both gave rosy replies.

“A lot of station managers we have spoken to in preparation for this launch have expressed genuine excitement about the possibility of reaching a new discrete, younger audience, and finding a way to invite them into the public radio system, and building that loyal relationship which has sustained us for such a long period of time,” Gilbert said.

“Safe to say, [the podcast] is something we’ve thought about well before last December, when it really moved into high gear. That’s just a function of finding a way to do it that makes sense for the whole system,” Carruth said. “It’s central to the project that we’re enhancing and improving Morning Edition, while at the same time, connecting with this emerging digitally native on-demand audience.”

“There’s an interplay here with the conversational values of the on-demand space,” he added. “You’ll hear an ongoing evolution of the sound of Morning Edition, influenced by its being available in the on-demand space.”

Listening in the car. Photo by Jordan Cameron used under a Creative Commons license.

  1. Yes, there are ways to get these shows on-demand. If you have the NPR or NPR One app, for instance, you can tap into a feed.
Categorieën: Extern nieuws

Filterbubblan is a Swedish effort to give a side-by-side, real-time glance at the country’s filter bubbles

ma, 03/04/2017 - 17:36

In the wake of November’s election, the concept of the filter bubble is often discussed as if it’s a uniquely American reflection of a left/right that other countries are somehow immune to.

Not so. In Sweden, concerns about the country’s own potential political filter bubbles helped give birth to Filterbubblan (translation: “The Filter Bubble”), an online tool that gives users a side-by-side, real-time view of the political conversations happening among the country’s political parties. On the left are the liberal parties (represented by red and green); green and blue represent the center parties; and on the right are the more conservative discussions (blue and a darker blue). With a swipe, users can navigate from one feed to the next, simplifying the process of reading about how a topic is discussed in different political circles.

Per Grankvist, an author and columnist for the Swedish newspaper Sydsvenskan, developed the project with Swedish innovation agency Great Works. Grankvist followed the U.S. election from afar and was surprised when Trump won. Why anyone would vote for Trump, he said, “baffled me,” but the widespread support for the then-candidate inspired him to start using Twitter to create lists that could provide more insight into the information sources that fed Trump support. This was invaluable, he said, because it proved that “everyone is voting for a candidate because it feels logical to them. I was trying to emulate that kind of logic. I wanted to recreate that news environment they were in that made the decision to vote for Trump seem logical. That was my starting point.”

Filterbubblan is based around the concept of discrete Twitter lists for different segments of Swedish politics. The project uses Twitter’s suggested user algorithm, which offers users accounts to follow based on the topics and people they’re already interested in. To build each bubble, Grankvist created a new Twitter account and followed the six to 12 accounts suggested for figures central to each bubble, such as party leaders and secretaries. He then kept track of the other accounts that Twitter suggested, adding names until there were around 80 for all three bubbles, each of which represents the feed of a hypothetical person. (The lists don’t include media organizations.) Every tweet that gets pulled in is also analyzed for content and placed in realtime within each feed. Filterbubblan tracks big political topics such as housing, crime, equality, education, and healthcare. These topics, unsurprisingly, are talked about very differently depending on the feed; those on the right, for example, used the recent terror attack in London to talk about the risks of unrestricted immigration.

“Very quickly, you learn the worldviews in all these bubbles are very different. Things are described differently, they refer to different sources, and they often see very different things,” Grankvist said.

Still, politics in Sweden isn’t as hyperpartisan as it can be elsewhere. The Twitter lists that Grankvist built in the U.S. barely overlapped, but he said the filter bubbles in Swedish political discussion are on a continuum, a reflection of how the country’s parliamentary system makes building coalitions more realistic. “In Sweden, we still have conversations and discussion across party lines,” said Grankvist. He pointed out that, in contrast with the U.S., it was a lot more common for Swedes on the left to communicate with and retweet those on the right, and vice versa. “There’s much more of an overlap,” he said.

The project’s resemblance to The Wall Street Journal’s “Red Feed, Blue Feed,” another tool meant to offer users a peek into the feeds of other partisans, isn’t accidental. Filterbubblan was inspired by the Journal’s project, which Grankvist said was “a good starting point” for addressing the issue. But he said that Filterbubblan is a more powerful tool than “Red Feed, Blue Feed,” because it’s based on Twitter’s own algorithm (rather than editorial decisions) and because it places the tweets within the contexts of specific political topics.

Filterbubblan is also similar, at least in its aim, to projects such as Allsides.com and Read Across the Aisle, both of which are designed to help people diversify their news consumption habits and, in turn, gain a deeper understanding of how political discussions look among people they disagree with.

Like all of these projects, Filterbubblan is designed to “put a spotlight on how we talk to each other in the public domain. Everyone is taking a slightly different angle to attack the problem,” Grankvist said.

Photo of the Riksdag Parliament Building by Neil Howard used under a Creative Commons license.

Categorieën: Extern nieuws