Best of the week: Fighting fake news in France

There is no shortage of media woe out there. Brands want to bring programmatic in house, but find there are significant challenges to achieving efficiencies. French newspaper Le Monde wants to combat the scourge of fake news — like so many newspapers do — so it built a searchable database of 600 disreputable sites. It is finding, however, that what constitutes “fake” news isn’t so cut and dry.

Millennial newspaper reporters, meanwhile, are waking up to the realities that the digital marketplace have wrought on their beloved print. And brands have the Super Bowl Spending Blues, so more legacy advertisers are sitting next Sunday’s game out. But hey, there’s a silver lining to all of this: As you read our best stories of the week, the weekend is mere hours away.

Le Monde tackles the world of fake news

Set to release a suite of products designed to throttle the spread of fake news online, French publisher Le Monde says it has identified 600 unreliable sites responsible for the proliferation of falsehoods, lies and propaganda.

“Decodex” is the name for Le Monde’s three new open source fact-checking products powered by a database compiled by the publisher’s fact-checking unit, Les Décodeurs, over the last year.

“We don’t want to make this political at all,” said Samuel Laurent, head of Les Décodeurs. “You can be far right if you want as long as you respect the facts and don’t seek to manipulate them.”

The challenges for bringing programmatic in-house

A flurry of brands have been building up their in-house programmatic teams. Some see it as an opportunity to cut costs and take greater ownership of their customer data. For others, it is a way to leapfrog media agencies they no longer trust to give them a solution that’s best-in-class.

But getting programmatic on the agenda and being consistent with are challenges, according to one brand media chief we spoke to on the condition of anonymity:

While I’m convinced it’s the right thing to do in the long run, with everything in the communications industry, especially digital, everyone jumps in head-first without really knowing in many cases what their returns are going to be. We’re sheep.

Most advertisers are unaware of the complexity of it. Really, you need a clear goal about what you want to do and how. If I did it all over again, I’d dip a toe in the water first, maybe one country with two or three contrasting brands, and scale up over the course of a year.

A day in the life of a tweeting dictionary

Merriam-Webster’s Twitter account has become a delight in the months leading up to and following the election. Wryly speaking truth to power through cold, hard vocabulary, it corrected Trump’s usage of “braggadocious” and responded to Hillary Clinton’s usage of “demagogic.”

The woman behind the account — content and social media manager Lauren Naturale — insists she’s not being overtly political. While the new attention is strange, it’s also exciting. But, she said, “We’ve been doing a lot of interesting things for a while. And we’re not political, so I hope people don’t hang around and just get disappointed after.”

Naturale walked us through a typical day in her life and it is delightful.

Confessions from the Tronc trenches

Pity the poor millennial newspaper reporter: She went to journalism school with visions of Woodwards and Bernsteins dancing in her head. Now? She’s writing for something called Tronc.

We granted her anonymity in exchange for candor. She let loose:

“We have, like, one copy editor looking at more than one newspaper per shift. And that copy editor has duties outside copy editing, like laying out the pages. Mistakes get through, and that erodes the credibility of the paper. It’s one of the ironies because the newspapers are focused on growing an audience, but you’re losing that when you make mistakes. There’s that term, feeding the beast. You have to put out a print newspaper every day. I’ve seen reporters leave and companies be very slow or unable to replace them. I’m doing three beats right now. I’m barely scratching the surface on these. It’s an injustice to readers.”

Brands have Super Bowl fatigue

Super Bowl ads seem to have been a tougher sell this year than usual.

Brands including Butterfinger, Toyota, Frito Lay and Taco Bell are sitting the Super Bowl out after years of advertising during the big game. Only 90 percent of Fox’s ad slots for the event were sold out as of early December — a benchmark usually hit in September or October.

Part of the reason is the cost: A 30-second spot has doubled in just a few years, from $2.5 million in 2010 to $5.5 million today. But the media cost is only part of the total expense of a Super Bowl campaign. Ads now require significant digital support, a PR push and production and agency fees. A brand can easily spend upwards of $10 million around a moment — albeit the biggest of the year.

“The decision has become a heck of a lot difficult, and there’s a bit of a fatigue,” said Mike Sheldon, chairman and CEO at Deutsch North America. “If you’re the CEO, you have to justify it a hell lot more.”

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