April 26, 2018

‘How can I make my readers wonder how they ever got along without this?’

Companies have been rushing into newsletters, improving and employing new strategies.

At McClatchy, you need to know the answers to these things first, says Suzanne Levinson, its director of news projects.

  1. Who is the audience exactly?

  2. How will you serve them?

  3. Why do we care about this audience? Big or important?

  4. What’s the payoff? People click on links? Loyal?

  5. Who will write it?

  6. Who will do the design, development and production work? How will we pay for that? (There’s one email product manager for all of McClatchy)

  7. How will you promote and market the newsletter?

  8. How will you track your progress? Not just metrics, but sales, feedback, etc.

  9. How and when will you decide if you’re succeeding?

Here’s the document written by McClatchy’s vice president of news, Tim Grieve, that fleshes this out. Though not new, it holds up fairly well.

Also included: seven keys to writing a successful newsletter. From No. 7: “Every day, you’ve got to ask yourself: How can I make this newsletter indispensable? How can I make my readers wonder how they ever got along without this?”

With that in mind, we bring you stories you may find indispensable today.

Quick hits

A VULTURE CAPITALIST, A COURAGEOUS JOURNALIST: When the Boulder Daily Camera hired veteran journalist Dave Krieger in 2014, the publisher couldn’t stop praising his new hire. Krieger was popular on his return to his hometown; he told it like it is, even publishing one op-ed critical of the paper’s cost-cutting owner, known in the industry as the “destroyer of papers.” On Tuesday, Krieger was fired by that same publisher. “The verb the publisher used was ‘terminated,’” Krieger tweeted Tuesday night, adding: “As a euphemism for fired, it's actually way worse. I'd much rather be fired than terminated.” Krieger said he’d add more detail later, “but right now I'm going to have a cocktail.” Supporters wished him well.

NO WAY: Tina Brown says she was approached by disgraced talk show host Charlie Rose to produce a series in which he’d interview Matt Lauer, Louis C.K. and other men fired or shunned after widespread reports of sexual harassment. She rebuffed the overture. “These guys are already planning their comebacks!” the New York Post quoted an outraged Brown as saying at a luncheon this week.

DECEPTIVE LOAN PRACTICES: A self-described journalist who claimed to specialize in student loan debt was so good at his hobby that he became widely quoted in major media outlets, including the Washington Post, the Boston Globe and CNBC. But Drew Cloud wasn’t real, the Chronicle of Higher Education found out. And now the company that created his persona — complete with a photo of the supposed expert — is apologizing, saying it is “Deeply sorry.”

A SHOW WITH BUILT-IN BUZZ: Netflix is teaming up with BuzzFeed to create a new weekly documentary series called “Follow This.” The 15-minute episodes will follow a BuzzFeed reporter working on a presumably scintillating story. It debuts July 9. Not everyone is convinced there’s an audience for it, though.

POOF, YOUR JOB IS GONE: That’s what members of the Wall Street Journal’s copy editing ranks have learned. Chris Roush of Talking Biz News obtained a memo to the staff from Jason Anders, chief news editor at the Journal, and Steve Wisnefski, editor of professional news, saying they could apply for other jobs. “In this reorganization, each of you will be asked to consider on which desk you’d most like to work and in what role, and we’ll provide you with information and discussions to help inform your decisions. You will need to apply for the positions in which you’re interested because your current roles won’t exist in the future.”

WilliamsMORE THAN A PRO-GUN BLOGGER: He’s a gun podcaster, too. And sometimes a columnist with the Sarasota Herald-Tribune, his work occasionally featuring a photo of himself with a gun. Oh, and he’s a news editor of that Gatehouse Media paper, too, responsible for assigning reporters and editing stories such as the fallout from the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland. The move, which runs counter to AP ethical guidelines, has some of the staff livid. Says columnist Tom Becnel: “A fierce NRA ally is editing gun stories in the news sections. … It's surreal.”

KEEP AN EYE ON TRONC: The New York Post reports that McCormick Media, which just purchased 25.7 percent of the stock owned by ex-chairman Michael Ferro, wants to up its stake in the company even more. The company is apparently talking with another “significant” shareholder — rumored to be “Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong, the California bio-tech mogul who is set to buy the Los Angeles Times and San Diego Union-Tribune from Tronc for $500 million.” The story also has an interesting tidbit about Soon-Shiong possibly “dragging out the negotiations for those papers” because he doesn’t have enough liquid assets for the purchase.

WHOSE VOICES ARE MISSING?: That’s the question The New York Times asked its readers. It got more than 1,000 responses. Among the themes: Expand the boundaries on both sides; publish more conservative arguments, especially the non-elite conservatism that helps explain Trump’s rise; and more unabashedly left-wing voices. Two other points: The media’s voices are too male, too white, too privileged and too American — and some positions don’t deserve a national platform.

MANAFORT FILES: Five national news organizations are asking a court to unseal records from the criminal case against former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and the investigation into Russian influence in the 2016 election. CNN, the Washington Post, The New York Times, Politico and the Associated Press are asking to unseal all search, seizure and electronic data warrants in the Russia criminal investigation, reports Katelyn Polantz of CNN.

OLD SCHOOL: Hannah Wise of the Dallas Morning News noted in a tweet this early example of audience engagement, from 1945: (Thanks Jen Graffunder for this research and writeup)

STAY AHEAD OF NOVEMBER’S VOTE: What are the stakes from the 6,066 legislative races, 36 governorships and 150 statewide ballot initiatives (so far) up to voters this November? This resource, from the National Conference of State Legislatures, is a solid starting point. (Hat tip: Gary Price)

ACTUALLY HELPING LOCAL JOURNALISM: New labs will open in four cities to help local journalists and expand their reach and community connection, the Center for Investigative Reporting has announced. CIR's editor in chief, Amy Pyle, says the new Reveal Local Labs will "help local newsrooms publish important investigations and harness the power of public engagement to improve trust with local audiences." To be hired: a collaborations editor to coordinate this project and an engagement specialist to help partners ensure their investigations reach key audiences locally and nationally. The effort is funded by a $500,000 Knight Foundation grant. 

GOTHAMIST IS BACK: The site relaunches today, and is already up with its first story — on New York's crackdown on e-bikes.

What we’re reading

This photo shows a bronze statue called "Raise Up" as part of the display at the National Memorial for Peace and Justice. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)

SOBERING: The New York Times story and photos about the new National Memorial for Peace and Justice rightfully caught the attention of social media on Wednesday. The memorial in Montgomery, Alabama, is dedicated to lynching victims and features stark steel beams hanging from the ceiling. It opens to the public today. The images alone in the story are worth a look, but the interview with the memorial’s founder, Bryan Stevenson, is inspiring. But you should also head to the Montgomery Advertiser website, which has been running an array of stories on the new memorial, including a virtual walk-through with 100 searing photographs. (Use the full screen feature for an immersive experience.)

NFL CRISIS CONTROL: Last October, NFL owners and players met secretly to discuss how to address the growing public relations disaster that resulted from President Donald Trump’s caustic Twitter tirade over kneeling players. What was said inside that meeting, where players and owners sat interspersed, is now known after the New York Times acquired an audio copy of the three-hour meeting. It’s clear from the transcript that the players were vigorous in their belief that Colin Kaepernick was being blackballed by the league for his kneeling.

TRUMP SLUMP COMING?: Michael Kruse of Politico has done several deep dives on the president’s personality, and now he’s got another good one. Kruse uses the example of “The Apprentice’s” second season to show Trump’s “splash-and-crash” cycle, where “his initial successes are often followed by reckless decisions to double down on his bet, just to keep the excitement going — with often disastrous results.”

A PRIMER ON ‘INCELS:’ More information is coming out about that incident in Toronto on Monday where a van driver plowed into pedestrians on a busy street, killing 10. The CBC is reporting that the incident is shining a spotlight on the controversial world of "incels." The word stands for “involuntary celibate,” and is used by an online community of men that’s virulently misogynistic. Toronto police say Alek Minassian, accused in the attack, posted a cryptic message on Facebook that said: "Private (Recruit) Minassian Infantry 00010, wishing to speak to Sgt 4chan please. C23249161. The Incel Rebellion has already begun! We will overthrow all the Chads and Stacys. All hail the Supreme Gentleman Elliot Rodger!" The CBC story has a lot of information about the group, as does this Twitter thread by freelance journalist Arshey Mann.

PREPARE FOR RFK COVERAGE: Joan Walsh writes in The Nation that two projects tied to the 50th anniversary of his death offer deep insight into Robert Kennedy’s 80-day run for president. One is a Netflix documentary, “Bobby Kennedy for President,” by filmmaker Dawn Porter, which debuts on Friday. The other is a book by David Margolick, “The Promise and the Dream: The Untold Story of Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy.” Kennedy was assassinated in June 1968.

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