Frequently Asked Questions

JournalList and the trust.txt framework are new, indeed.

Here are some answers to questions you may have. If there are more questions you still have, please be in touch.

 

reporter

Why should we participate?

If you are doing good work, and you want your work to be noticed, you need to make it easy for the search engines, social networks and advertisers to understand who you are. They make decisions with data. If you are a member of an organization, that’s data. If you have social channels you control, that’s data. But right now that data is pretty much invisible. This will make data — that helps you — visible.

How do we actually make this text file?

I know you are not a developer, but really this is as simple as code gets. Follow the examples provided to you. If you have a web person, ask them to post this (it should take less than five minutes) If you are your own web person, just put the txt file at your root directory, the same place your robots.txt and ads.txt file are now.

What if I don’t belong to any associations?

If you think about it, you may belong to one and not even think of it like a regular association. It could be a non-profit that gave you some funding, along with some others. Any group at all will work. If that organization hasn’t heard about JournalList and the trust.txt framework yet, send them to this site to see if this is a good idea for them.

What if I put up a trust.txt file, but my associations do not?

There’s no question that the network effects are stronger if you join along with your association. But just joining on your own is a positive first step, and will at a minimum make sure that your social channels are properly linked to you.

Do I need to join JournalList as a member for this to work?

No, but there are a couple of good reasons to join:

  1. You will be listed on the trust.txt file maintained by JournalList, which will give the platforms a good signal about your legitimacy.
  2. You will be doing a small part to establish that journalists should decide who is and is not a journalist.
  3. You will be helping to ensure that the trust.txt framework remains independent and not controlled by any one company.

Photo by CoWomen on Unsplash

state capitol

How often would the list need to be updated and who is monitoring the list for changes?

This is totally up to you. In general, you want the file to be current at all times, as crawlers may look at the trust.txt file at any time. You will especially want to update the list if you have a member who exhibits what you think to be unethical or otherwise problematic behavior, including ending a relationship with your association.

How important is it that our members post a trust.txt file?

It’s important, but not required. We understand that the relationship between members and an association can be delicate. We do not want you to do anything to jeopardize that. Our basic advice is that you let all members know that this new file will give an important new signal of trust. And just like with a robots.txt file, there’s really no reason not to do it. It won’t take long; it won’t hurt and it may help a lot.

Is this something that we can just do for our members so we don’t have to create another task for them?

You can help them along the way. (And JournalList will help you to help them with whatever supporting materials you may need.) But they will need to post the file themselves. Part of what builds up the network of trust is proving that a participant indeed controls a domain.

Related to that, can we just pay the dues for our members to join JournalList?

Part of the reason that we encourage publishers to join JournalList is that membership itself is a signal of trustworthiness. A part of that is that each publisher has to enter a credit card number and join this membership organization. If we allowed one entity to pay for a bunch of other entities, malicious actors could use that as a technique to prop up websites built with an intent to deceive. The very act of using a credit card that is tied to an organization is a small but significant signal of authenticity.

Is there a business opportunity somewhere in this for us? 

Probably nothing new. That said, this is positive for you and for your members for a couple of reasons:

  1. Together you will be taking the existing value of membership in your organization and make that visible to the platforms and others.
  2. Your members over time should find that quality traffic from the platforms increases.
  3. If your members sell advertising on their sites, they should be able to get better CPMs and be able to participate in higher quality ad networks.

 

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man reading paper

I’m a consumer of news online, how does this affect me?

The short answer is that it doesn’t.

Think of it like the sticker on the back of your inkjet printer, the one with a bunch of tiny logos. If you ever looked at that and wondered what it was, you may have figured out that the logos are of standards groups—industry associations that come together to make it so that any wifi will work withe printer, and that standard sizes of paper will work, etc.

Here, the logos represent not technical standards groups but associations of publishers. The trust.txt file then is an online version of that sticker with all the logos. It’s not the standards, it’s just the sticker that shows what standards have been met.

So just as with that sticker on your printer, you can dig into it and figure out what it all means, or you can just interact with your printer (and your news) the way you always have.

Photo by Kyle Wagner on Unsplash