In the news this week, the Pulitzer Prizes were announced, and some notable online collaborations won, including the ICIJ for its massive “Panama Papers” report, as well as ProPublica and the New York Daily News. The SEC cracks down on paid posts on investment websites, and schemes to pump up small biotech stocks. The Huffington Post and the New York Times are finding success building loyalty — and engagement — with Facebook Groups. Our Metric of the Week is Podcast Metrics, and we’re joined by Kristen Go, the editorial director for newly launched Common Sense News, from the folks who help rate media for kids.
Don’t have a lot of time to spare, but still want to get a roundup of the week’s top news? Then check out our Digital Media Brief below!
Digital Media Brief
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Mark Glaser is executive editor and publisher of MediaShift and Idea Lab. He is an award-winning writer and accidental entrepreneur, who has taken MediaShift from a one-person blog to a growing media company with events such as Collab/Space workshops and weekend hackathons; the weekly MediaShift podcast; and digital training, DigitalEd, in partnership with top journalism schools. You can follow him on Twitter @mediatwit.
Kristen Go is the editorial director for Common Sense News. Previously, she was the managing editor of digital at the San Francisco Chronicle, where she launched and ran the Chronicle‘s Incubator, a program that provided digital and social media training to the staff. She oversaw several multi-platform reporting projects that earned the Chronicle acclaim, including “Even Odds,” which looked at Oakland’s efforts to help young African-Americans succeed in school.
Top News Of The Week
The Pulitzer Prizes Award Collaborations and Non-Profit Media
While legacy newspapers like the New York Times and Washington Post typically dominate the Pulitzer Prizes each year, there’s been growing gains by digital news outlets, non-profits and the role of collaboration and crowdsourcing. This year, the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists or ICIJ, along with McClatchy and the Miami Herald, won in the category of Explanatory Journalism for their incredible work on exposing offshore havens in the “Panama Papers.” The effort included work by more than 300 journalists across 6 continents. And ICIJ just received a large grant of $4.5 million from the Omidyar Network, so they have a lot to celebrate — *and* more resources to investigate wrongdoing in collaborative ways. Also, non-profit powerhouse ProPublica won an award for Public Service reporting in collaboration with the New York Daily News for reports on how the police abused eviction rules in New York.
BuzzFeed News received its first notice as a Finalist for a Pulitzer, for work done by Chris Hamby in international reporting. Hamby uncovered a little-known arbitration process that international companies were using to undermine local regulations and environmental rules. As Poynter’s Benjamin Mullin noted, BuzzFeed has brought on more than 20 investigative journalists since 2013, who’ve won six Pulitzers among them. And even the win by the Washington Post’s David Fahrenthold for National Reporting showed the power of social media and crowdsourcing. Fahrenthold shared images of his notebook in an effort to drum up help from Twitter followers in finding out whether Trump had really given money to charities. He later found out that not only had Trump lied about his charitable giving but that his own charity was responsible for paying for massive portraits of Trump and even a lawsuit settlement. Trump later said he was closing the foundation. As many people decry the state of investigative journalism, the Pulitzers show that digital media, collaboration, and crowdsourcing are a source of strength and innovation in journalism.
The SEC Cracks Down on Paid Posts on Investment Sites
Over the past year, the focus on fake news has been on politics for obvious reasons. But fake news has been around even longer when it comes to pump-and-dump schemes for Wall Street manipulators. And now they’ve been caught funding stock promotions by writers, who write under pseudonyms on sites like The Motley Fool, Seeking Alpha and Forbes.com, without disclosing that they were paid to promote the companies. This has become such a big problem that the Securities and Exchange Commission, or SEC, is stepping in to crack down on it. On Monday, the agency announced it was charging 27 firms and people with secretly promoting stocks on financial websites, and even put out a special alert to investors to be wary of stock recommendations on “investment research sites.” The offending articles paint a rosy picture of small biotech companies without a disclosure that authors received compensation from those companies.
What’s troubling for consumers is that these articles were placed on reputable websites without raising suspicions from editors. One big problem is that financial websites such as Seeking Alpha and Benzinga rely on lots of user-generated content to boost traffic and ad revenues. That means there’s less rigor in policing submitted content. But after the SEC investigation and fines against bad actors ranging from $2,200 to $3 million (though not for the websites), these sites have tightened up their rules for contributors. Seeking Alpha’s CEO Eli Hoffmann wrote that it was thanks to one of their authors that the SEC began investigating, and that the site was using IP tracking and ID verification to thwart future stock manipulators. But still, the problem of contributors to online publications using secret payoffs to fuel their posts isn’t going away. At MediaShift, we get dozens of these kinds of pitches each week from disreputable sources. For investors, the best solution is to follow the advice of the SEC: “When making an investment decision, thoroughly research the company using multiple sources.”
The Huffington Post and New York Times Launch Facebook Communities to Boost Engagement
If publishers are truly tiring of the chase for clicks, views and eyeballs, and getting more serious about creating an engaged, loyal fan base, then building communities on Facebook might just be the ticket. Even though publishers are wary of the social giant for lack of revenues with Instant Articles and poor video metrics in the past, some larger publishers are trying out Facebook Groups and Pages to foster community in niche subjects. Digiday’s Sahil Patel reports that Huffington Post has launched an array of niche communities on Facebook to test underserved audiences. One that’s catered to introverts, called “Cancelled Plans,” has already racked up 20,000 followers and sees more shares and engagement than on Huffington Post’s bigger Facebook pages. In fact, the page started without Huffington Post content at all, building its cred as a place to share news and even cartoons from around the web that introverts could relate to. Once the page hits critical mass, then HuffPost can start producing more content geared to that audience.
Meanwhile, the New York Times is trying a similar experiment with podcast fans, and its new Podcast Club page on Facebook. The page posts one episode of a podcast each Monday for the fans to discuss in the threads. It’s kind of like a Book Club for podcast listeners. The aim is to help build a community for podcast fans at the Times, as the Times begins to develop more podcasts with its audio team, according to Nicholas Quah, who wrote about the effort in his HotPod newsletter. Many publishers have been trying out Facebook Groups, including the Boston Globe, creating one for its paying members to discuss the news. So far, moderating the groups on Facebook seems a lot better than dealing with comments under stories. But the real test will be if these communities can help drive content creation, loyalty, and ultimately more trust (and paid subscriptions) in the long run.
Music on this Episode
Can’t Hate The Hater by 3 Feet Up
Sinking Feeling by Jessie Spillane
DJ by Jahzzar
Backed Clean Vibes by Kevin Macleod
Air Hockey Saloon by Chris Zabriskie
I Never Wanted To Say by Lorenzo’s Music
I’m Going for a Coffee by Lee Rosevere
Jefferson Yen is the producer for the MediaShift Podcast. His work has been on KPCC Southern California Public Radio and KRTS Marfa Public Radio. You can follow him @jeffersontyen.