Now in the News: The Boston Globe Agrees To A $5m Settlement For Sending User Video Data To Facebook

May 26, 2023

The Boston Globe Agrees To A $5m Settlement For Sending User Video Data To Facebook

Web publishers are notorious for violating our privacy, and news organizations are no exception. Now, though, one of those organizations, The Boston Globe, is being held to account. The paper has agreed to a $5 million settlement of a lawsuit brought by a California man named David Ambrose over the Globe’s practice of hoovering up the identifying information of users who watch videos on its website and sending it to Facebook.

The proposed settlement, now pending in U.S. District Court, would encompass $4 million to compensate subscribers, who could receive $22 to $44 apiece, and another $1 million to extend the subscriptions of affected users for one week. News of the proposed settlement was first reported Friday evening by Adam Gaffin of Universal Hub. The Globe has denied any wrongdoing.

Before paid digital subscriptions overtook free news, it was understood that the only way news organizations could make money online was to barrage readers with popups, pop-unders, autoplay digital ads and other forms of obnoxious, intrusive commercial messages. That set up a downward spiral, with users fleeing and news orgs ratcheting up the ads even more. You’d think those days would be in the past — but they’re not.

Now that the Globe has agreed to end one of those privacy-violating practices, I hope the paper’s business-side executives will think about how much inconvenience and privacy violations they want to inflict on their digital subscribers, who pay an industry-high $30 a month. I hope other news outlets take heed as well

The Times Reaches A Contract Deal With Its Newsroom Union

The New York Times reached a deal on Tuesday for a new contract with the union representing the majority of its newsroom employees, ending more than two years of contentious negotiations that included a 24-hour strike.The agreement, if ratified, will give union members immediate salary increases of up to 12.5 percent to cover the last two years and 2023, and will raise the required minimum salary to $65,000, up from about $37,500. The previous contract expired in March 2021, and union members have not received contractual raises since 2020. Under the contract, the median salary for reporters in the union would be about $160,000.

The union negotiating the deal, which is part of the NewsGuild of New York, represents nearly 1,500 employees in the newsroom, advertising and other areas of the company. More than 1,800 people work in The Times’s newsroom. The union said members would vote to ratify the five-year deal in the coming week.

“This deal is a victory for all the union members who fought for a fair contract that rewards our hard work and sacrifice,” Bill Baker, The New York Times Guild’s unit chair, said in a statement. “It shows that the company cannot take us for granted and must be held accountable.”

Axios Local Slows Its Rapid Expansion After Missing Revenue Goals

The nationwide network of free, local newsletters from Axios, called Axios Local, has slowed its rapid expansion, citing the need to grow its existing readership and monetization capabilities before launching into new markets, according to a person familiar with the matter.

After Axios Local launches in San Diego in July, its sixth new market of the year and 30th overall, it will not expand any further in 2023 and is still determining whether it will enter any new markets in 2024, Axios’ chief business officer Fabricio Drummond confirmed.“We think it is time better spent and investments better made to unlock a more substantial presence in these markets before further expansion,” Drummond said. “Once we do that, we will have a bigger canvas to play with.”

In November 2021, the division pledged to eventually reach 100 markets, but it has never offered a timeline for doing so. At its current pace of roughly 10 markets per year, meeting that goal would require nearly a decade.

The revision in strategy reflects an evolving understanding of the commercial and editorial challenges of standing up a nationwide stable of local newsletters. By slowing its growth, the publisher hopes to build out both its monetization suite and readership. The pause comes amid a depressed advertising climate, although demand for Axios Local has not appreciably flagged, according to Drummond. Nonetheless, the program fell short of its revenue projections last year.

In 2021, its first year, the program entered 14 markets and generated around $4 million in revenue, according to a person familiar with its finances. In 2022, it entered 10 markets and netted a total of $8.6 million—short of its $10 million forecast. So far this year, Axios Local has booked $7.5 million in revenue, although it is not currently profitable. Across all markets, it has 1.55 million free subscribers, up roughly 500,000 from last summer, according to Drummond.

The venture, whose ambitious scope helped Axios secure its $525 million sale to Cox Enterprises last August, represents perhaps the most substantial attempt from a single company to reverse the yearslong decline of local news in America.

Readers Want Local News And Reporters Who Visit Their Neighborhoods, Study Finds

Local news may be suffering due to staff cutbacks and newspapers being closed by their hedge funds owners. Nobody should assume that this is what readers want. They crave local news, not some bland rewrite from a city two states away, judging by a new study from the American Journalism Project

However, their needs are not identical. “When asked about what topics they want information about, people may have a tendency to prioritize different topics in each market,” writes Loretta Chao, vice president of strategy and startups at the American Journalism Project, in an analysis published on the Project site.

Chao continues, “Transportation agencies and highway commissions come up more in places like Houston and Los Angeles, for example, while political polarization is top of mind for many people in Wichita and across Indiana. Government transparency and criminal justice are top of mind for many in Cleveland. Housing is consistently a topthree issue across the board.”

Those are not the only differences. “Within single regions, we’ve encountered communities who have fond respect for their local newspapers, while others in the same place feel they’ve been harmed by the very same publications — or hadn’t even heard of them,” Chao reports. “We’ve also spoken to people who have no exposure to local news outside of word-of-mouth, because of paywalls, digital divides, or literacy or language barriers.”