This week we hear from Marcela Kunova, Editor at She’s recently launched a newsroom innovation mentorship programme which will pair experienced industry professionals with local and regional journalists in the UK, with the aim of nurturing innovation in audience engagement, AI, editorial strategy and more. We talked about what she’s hoping to achieve with the programme, how she translated Newsrewired to a virtual event, and why it’s so important for the site to support freelancers.

Learn more about the programme and apply here.

In the news roundup the team discuss a report on the broken link between reach and revenue, and ask if we can ever get past the ‘publishers vs. Duopoly’ industry mindset. We also discuss the closure of Knewz, how privacy is driving advertisers to Android, and genuinely horrifying behaviour from a BBC non-exec director. Chris lives under a busy flightpath now, apparently.

The transcript is live here, or see below for some highlights:

The origin of the newsroom innovation mentorship programme

The idea came up in the middle of the pandemic, and what we realised is that loads of people, one, are isolated in their homes, two, loads and loads of things in the newsrooms need to change, because the whole system and processes have been just thrown up in the air. And people needed to find new ways of doing their job.

But also the support network just disappeared pretty much overnight. We all started to work from home, and you didn’t have people to chat to, the water cooler moments, as they call it. And suddenly, people wanted to do something new, they craved the change. But there were suddenly fewer people around them they could have these meaningful chats with.

And so we thought, well, let’s make the best out of it, of this new acquired skills, and be actually able to do something just virtually and pair journalists with someone who went through the whole innovation circle in their newsrooms, and can provide them with support.

So we want to help people – journalists, but also other people who work in smaller or regional newsrooms – to do something differently. And unlike many other mentorship schemes that are very often focused on broader career or broader skills, we want to base it around a project.

A community driving change

If nothing else, we really want to create this community of people who just want to see change. Sometimes you don’t revolutionise everything, but you can chisel at that stuff that doesn’t work, and little by little nudge it in the right direction.

It’s really about mindset. There is nothing really mysterious about innovation. It’s really just roll up your sleeves and just experiment, and just try to do the best thing you can with what you have.

The importance of freelancers

We’ve been supporting freelancers have since forever. It’s such an important part of journalism, and I don’t think we talk about freelancing enough, and just how important this community is to the media.

So what we offer freelancers is the space to obviously advertise their services, but also, we offer them editorial coverage, or podcasts and just all around help to not only do their jobs better, or just to feel more comfortable in their freelancing career, but also to offer some solutions to some very concrete problems that you encounter as a one man or one woman band.

But also, very often we hear from freelancers, it can be quite isolating to work on your own and work from home and loads of freelancers miss colleagues or a community, so we try to provide that as well.

Future opportunities for publishers

Climate is increasingly important, as a problem that humanity has. And media are waking up to today’s reality. So climate is definitely an opportunity where as a young journalist or someone who’s looking for new [career] path, that is definitely a beat where I would look to go, because that coverage will only increase.

The knowledge – knowledge of data, science – you need people who are actually able to cover climate in a way it deserves to be covered. It’s not a bit like any other. It can be quite specialist.

Key story:

News in brief:

  • Speaking of reach not equating to revenue – there is no Knewz. The News Corp aggregator closed down after 18 months, with a statement on the site stating it “certainly had provenance, but not profits, and so we bid Knewz farewell”.
  • Rolling Stone is getting a dedicated UK edition more than 50 years after the first attempt. Stream publishing – which publishes Attitude magazine – has signed an exclusive deal with Penske Media Corporation to launch the brand in print and online in the UK. 
  • MEL magazine has been acquired by Recurrent Ventures months after its financial relationship with Dollar Shave Club came to an end. The majority of the staff have been rehired, and Josh Schollmeyer will remain as editor in chief, and will now be able to pursue monetisation options.
  • The Information is launching a new publication about batteries and electric vehicles. “The Electric” will launch as a weekly newsletter and email updates, and will be run as a stand-alone business with its own subscription.
  • The Evening Standard has reported a £17 million loss after Covid-19 more than halved its revenues last year. The paper is normally available free to pick up in tube stations around London and other UK cities, but with workers at home, it had to quickly renew focus on its digital products. 
  • Reach plc are recruiting 76 sports journalists across the country in a major expansion of their sports coverage. It will also be focusing on more niche sports, aka not just football.
  • A BBC non-exec director – Sir Robbie Gibb – tried to block the appointment of Jess Brammar as overseer of BBC news channels because it would harm relations between the BBC and government. Curiously he’s also on culture secretary Oliver Dowden’s panel looking at the future of the corporation. 
  • Gannett’s USA Today has officially joined the paywall party. Much of its content will remain free, but there will be exclusive investigations, visual explainers and other ways of storytelling that will be marked as subscriber only. 
  • Advertisers have begun shifting spend to Android after huge numbers of people declined to be tracked with Apple’s new iOS changes. Advertisers say they have lost much of the granular data that justified high prices on iOS ads.

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