Nieman Lab: The Daily Digest

Yes, deepfakes can make people believe in misinformation — but no more than less-hyped ways of lying

The reasons we get fooled by political lies are less about the technology behind their production and more about the mental processes that lead us to trust or mistrust, accept or discount, embrace or ignore. By Joshua Benton.

Do you know the McMuffin man?

Capitol coverage, the problem with op-eds, and that Vogue cover. By The Objective Staff.
Axios promises it will never have an opinion section, and more, in an “audience Bill of Rights”
What We’re Reading
The Information / Tim Dotan and Jessica Toonkel
Apple is planning a podcasting subscription service →
“The company, which runs the most widely used podcasting app in the industry, is discussing launching a new subscription service that would charge people to listen to podcasts, according to people familiar with the matter. Such a service could pose a threat to Spotify, SiriusXM, Amazon and other big companies that have in the past couple of years swallowed up podcasting production firms in an effort to gain more control of the podcast ad market.”
Vox / Rani Molla
Signal has so many new users, it’s stopped working →
Signal — once a niche messaging service for the privacy-minded (including many journalists) — is currently the most downloaded app in the United States. “Signal’s growth in popularity also came as numerous tech companies, including Facebook and Twitter, began deplatforming Trump and his followers and trying to prevent their technologies from being used in service of further violence. Parler, the right wing’s social media alternative, was also booted from the internet; Google and Apple banned it from its app stores and Amazon Web Services stopped hosting the app on its servers.”
Vanity Fair / Joe Pompeo
Politico’s Playbook will have four authors and (for the first time) its own dedicated editor →
The team will be editor Mike Zapler and journalists Rachael Bade, Eugene Daniels, Ryan Lizza, and Tara Palmeri. (Guess Thursday was the last time we’ll see Ben Shapiro take the reins.) “I want to bring some of the old Playbook back,” said Palmeri. “That flavor that, when I was working at the New York Post, it felt like I had to watch what was popping on Playbook at all times.”
USA TODAY / Nathan Bomey
Gannett announces goal of 10 million digital subscriptions within five years →
The company’s flagship publication, USA Today, does not currently have a paid digital subscription option, but CEO Mike Reed said one is under consideration. Gannett reached the 1 million subscriber mark in the second half of 2020.
The New Yorker / Andrea DenHoed and Eléonore Léo Hamelin
“I can honestly tell you that our journalism has made a difference”: Covering the Covid-19 crisis in the Navajo Nation →
“The Navajo Times, based in Window Rock, Arizona, is the only newspaper focussed on reporting the news of the Navajo Nation—which covers an area larger than West Virginia and is home to more than a hundred and seventy thousand people. Many residents of the reservation don’t have Internet service, so the paper is vital to the community in a way that is increasingly rare these days, as local-news outlets around the nation are withering, sometimes supplanted by social media and sometimes by nothing at all.”
New York Times / Taylor Lorenz
Snapchat wants people to post. They’re willing to pay millions. →
“The company debuted Spotlight in November and is ‘distributing over $1 million USD every day to Snapchatters,’ a spokesperson said … Katie Feeney, 18, a high school senior in Olney, Md., said she has earned over $1 million from Snapchat in the past two months … Feeney said the cash has opened up new opportunities already. Colleges that she wasn’t planning to apply to because of financial concerns are suddenly on the table.”
Nieman Reports / Celeste Katz Marston
Trump’s stoking of hostility — rhetorical and physical — toward reporters is likely to outlast his presidency →
“Making us ‘the enemy of the people’ has made it hard … In the Tea Party days, they didn’t really like us either, [but] they didn’t treat us like the Trump people do, or the anti-mask people do, or the militia people … They just come right at us, like, ‘Who are you with?’ and ‘What do you think you’re doing here?,’ [They] attack us, which is something totally new to me in my career.”
CNN / Kerry Flynn
Medium has acquired Glose, a digital platform for buying, reading, and discussing books →
“Glose’s 20 employees, most of whom are based in Paris, will join Medium. Glose CEO Nicolas Princen will become vice president of books at Medium. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.”
Washington Post / Karen Kornbluh and Ellen P. Goodman
Three steps to help treat America’s debilitating information disorder →
“We should create a new ‘PBS of the Internet’ to strengthen our civic infrastructure and ensure a strong online supply of trustworthy, nonpartisan scientific and election information.”
Bloomberg / Gerry Smith
Corporations’ political reckoning began with a Judd Legum’s “Popular Information” newsletter →
“Legum said he looks for angles to stories that he thinks media outlets are unlikely to pursue. Last week, he and his research assistant spent four days finding the corporate donors for senators who objected to the election results, then contacted all 144 companies for comment. ‘My guiding principle is to find something that’s so monotonous and boring that it’s unlikely to be duplicated,’ he said in an interview.”
Mediapost / Ray Schultz
Consumers prefer free email newsletters supported by ads, one study says →
“In general, 52.7% subscribe to no email newsletters at all, either for news or entertainment. Only 19.4% subscribe to two or three newsletters, while 14.7% subscribe to one, 7.5% to five or more and 5.7% to four or five. Of the people are willing to pay, 71.5% would cough up to $10, 14.6% from $11 to $15 and 14.4% more than $15.”
New York Times / John Leland
Many retirement communities have been less than transparent with residents during the pandemic. This 80-year-old started a newsletter to fix that. →
“‘We are not children, to be confined to our rooms, to have the names of those who are sick, or have died, withheld from us’ … “And she has lately started to think more broadly. What if The Buzz started a movement of resident newsletters around the country? Surely, hers was not the only big mouth out there. With the web service Substack, which enables people to create and distribute newsletters online, writers could reach not just residents but their families as well.”
Public Media Mergers Playbook
The new Public Media Mergers Playbooks offers newsrooms insight into collaborations between public radio stations and digital news outlets →
“In turbulent financial times for digital news and in the midst of increasing pressure to deliver high-quality local journalism, the marriage of public stations and digital newsrooms can boost the sustainability of both entities by growing the audience and the service. But while this model has many benefits in the abstract, it is not a panacea. Without explicit alignment on purpose, strategy, and leadership, an acquisition will face cultural and workflow obstacles that can drag down both entities. Purpose, strategy, and leadership are also not one-time activities. Both entities must be prepared for a continual revisiting of the goals, strategy, and shared vision of the acquisition as a necessary ingredient for long-term success.”
NewsGuard / Matt Skibinski
How trusted brands helped fund sites pushing misinformation behind the Capitol riot →
“An analysis of programmatic advertising data shows that many of the world’s largest and most trusted brands have been financially supporting websites, including sites funded by the Russian government, that spread election-fraud myths and conspiracy theories—placing thousands of programmatic ads on these sites during the period leading up to and following the 2020 election…It is likely that, in many cases, these ad placements were inadvertent and unintentional—that is, the brands did not intend to fund hoaxes and conspiracy theories. But the data demonstrate how the various players involved in programmatic advertising, from ad exchanges to verification companies to agencies, are not providing brands with adequate tools to avoid funding misinformation that threatens democracy.”
Thomson Reuters Foundation / Damian Radcliffe
The Covid-19 crisis is being used to curb press freedom around the world, a new report warns →
Laws restricting “fake news” — which have been introduced in 17 countries — can be used to support government crackdowns on a legitimate free press. The report also includes first-person stories from journalists in India, Egypt, Mexico, Malawi, Kenya, Brazil, Moldova, and Zambia.