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Monday, October 3rd
by The Fix Team

Who counts as a podcast listener? 

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The podcasting industry is reflecting on the practice of paid downloads. Last week, Bloomberg’s Ashley Carman reported on a little-publicised way podcasters use to increase listener base (or, from a less charitable point of view, inflate metrics) – ads in mobile games.

Every time a game player taps on a podcast ad, a podcast episode gets downloaded on their device, adding a new listener to the podcast – at least formally. As Carman writes, “the practice allows networks to amass downloads quickly by tapping into a wellspring of hyperactive video-game users” – however, “it also calls into question who a legitimate podcast listener is and what length of time should be required to count as a download.”

This report – and the active response from the podcasting industry in the US and elsewhere – highlights how little metrics are available to podcasters outside of the walled gardens of Spotify and a handful of other platforms. Number of downloads is the major metric, and only a minute of a podcast has to be downloaded so the download counts (which can be easily achieved within a few seconds a mobile ad is running).

On the one hand, this story shows that podcasting is still a young market, with a lot of space for improvement in the coming years. On the other, the dubiousness of metrics highlights the importance of audience revenue for news media – there’s no more reliable connection with a listener (or reader) than when they pay to hear what you want to say. 

From The Fix
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Top Belarusian and Ukrainian media use the Russian language a lot – can they abandon it?
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Even amidst Russia’s invasion, the Russian language is difficult to abandon for Ukrainian media – and more so for Belarusian outlets
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Takeaways from the Media Pluralism Monitor 2022 on Poland
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SEO is vital for audience acquisition and paywalls help generate revenue. However, paywalls can also impact SEO. New report offers tips on how publishers can minimize the impact of paywalls on SEO

This week's newsletter is sponsored by BeyondWords, an AI voice and audio publishing CMS for publishers to transform their content into audio experiences that drive engagement, expand audiences, and enhance subscriptions.

BeyondWords offers everything publishers need to deliver their articles and newsletters in superb audio, using professional voices that resonate and natural language algorithms that redefine text-to-speech. Some of the world’s largest media companies – including Schibsted, Media24, and Fox News – rely on BeyondWords’ deep learning models, APIs, player SDKs, and analytics to deliver audio experiences to millions of listeners every day.

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What we are following 
The reaction to the death of Queen Elizabeth II from the news media was instant. Obituaries and dozens of news stories appeared in a matter of hours. This happened partially because major news publishers had been ready for this event for a long time – and for other notable deaths. Obituaries for most influential people are usually prewritten. Poynter explains how the media decided whose obituaries to prewrite and when to update them. 

Having a multi-billionaire as the owner of a media company has a lot of perks. However, it might bring more complications than advantages. Columbia Journalism Review examines how Jeff Bezos’ ownership affects The Washington Post and the perception of the newspaper in the public eye. 

Managing news media in multiple languages is tough. Even when you go through organising translations, there is still a question of how to reach the intended audience. Natalie Van Hoozer, the U.S. representative of Sembra Media, talks about the challenges of bilingual journalists. 

Industry news
Meta, Facebook’s parent company, announced taking down two disinformation networks in China and Russia. The Russian network is “the largest and most complex Russian-origin operation that we’ve disrupted since [Russia’s open invasion of Ukraine]”, the report notes. The disinformation operation impersonated dozens of big media outlets like The Guardian or Bild, spreading false narratives in Ukraine, Germany and other European countries. On some occasions, Meta’s investigations shows, fake articles would even be promoted by official accounts of Russian embassies. The Chinese operation, which Meta says was unrelated to the Russian one, targeted US domestic politics, as well as Czechia, attempting to impact the country’s foreign policy stances on China and Ukraine.
Tony Gallagher replaced John Witherow as editor of The Times. Previously, Gallagher was editor of The Daily Telegraph and The Sun, and most recently Witherow’s deputy editor. Witherow will become chair of Times Newspapers, which oversees both The Times and its sister publication The Sunday Times. The Times is one of the UK’s largest newspapers, founded in the late 18th century and owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News UK. As Financial Times notes, the outlet “has faced what has sometimes threatened to be a painful transition to the online age”, but “found financial and editorial success” under Withetrow, who led The Times’ newsroom since 2013.
Substack, while best known as a platform for email newsletters, has bigger ambitions. This week, it announced a new web-based RSS client, which allows users to read both Substack newsletters and external publications. As The Verge notes, “Substack’s the latest company trying to resurrect Google Reader from the dead — well, in spirit at least”. Google Reader shut down almost a decade ago, but in the age of social media feeds there’s been some nostalgia for the RSS format of consuming content – something Substack might want to capitalise, trying to increase its user base.
Opportunities and deadlines

Professional Development Grants for Environmental Journalism. will provide funding to projects from organisations and institutions that train and support environmental investigative journalists. The total available amount to be distributed among all supported projects is around €85,000.
More info:
Deadline: October 6

New Media Writing Prize. The Media School at Bournemouth University is accepting entries for its New Media Writing Prize. The organizers are looking for written interactive stories (fiction or nonfiction).
More info:
Deadline: November 25 / December 20 

News Creator Workshops 2022. YouTube launched registration for News Creator Workshops 2022. The program aims to help journalists launch and grow their YouTube channels. Applicants must have reporting or newsroom experience. Applicants with interest or experience in video creation for news media are required. 
More info:
When: October 5 to December 14

Job Openings

Armenia: Deputy Chief of Party. Internews will hire a Deputy Chief of Party for a USAID-funded media development project focused on Armenia. In this position, you will support program management, at both strategic and operational levels. The role is based in Yerevan, Armenia. 
More info:
Deadline: Open till filled

Programme Coordinator. One World Media is seeking a Programme Coordinator. The responsibilities will revolve around OWM’s annual training event, Global Short Docs Forum: Solutions Edition. The position is based in London. 
More info:
Deadline: October 11

Research Assistant. The Digital Forensic Research Lab seeks an open-source researcher to work on topics of Ukraine and Russia. In this position, you will monitor the Ukrainian information environment and coordinate research activities and training. Residence in Central or Eastern Europe is preferred.
More info:
Deadline: Open till filled
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