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Splice News media trends: The week according to Alan Soon

As a leading light of the commentariat in Asia, newsroom consultant and former alumnus of Yahoo, CNBC and Bloomberg, Alan Soon knows a thing or two about the media. Here is his roundup of developments inside the bubble this week

To sign up to his newsletter, from which this content is taken, visit the The Splice Newsroom.

On Tuesday, China announced tighter restrictions on media — a middle finger, if you will — a day ahead of World Press Freedom Day. In its biggest overhaul of media regulations in 12 years, news websites must now be incorporated in China and will have to be managed by a Chinese citizen. JVs in the media space will need special clearance for reporting.

…Many of the old-guard journalists in China have left the industry in the past decade given the risks to media practitioners. The result: Plenty of young, inexperienced reporters have stepped in. And that’s created interesting problems for the industry.

Turkey cracked down further on dissent and block access to Wikipedia. The government also ordered TV channels to stop running dating shows.

Thai police forced the cancellation of a panel discussion by the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Thailand. The event — “Memories of 1932 — the mystery of Thailand’s missing plaque” — apparently “posed a threat to national security.”

The Philippine military chief apologised to Rappler’s Executive Editor Maria Ressa after some of his officers made up fake stories about rape to attack her. “It was not sanctioned and will never be tolerated by [the armed forces]. Such behavior was not taught at the Philippine Military Academy.”

Dubai came up with something modest to promote its brand: a font of its own, named — obviously — Dubai. “Expression knows no boundaries or limits. Expression is strength and freedom. It defines who you are.” Unless of course, that expression involves criticism of the royal family or government.

Facebook reported a stunning Q1. Revenue was $8.03 billion. It also continued to pick up new users (mostly in Asia Pacific) with 1.9 billion monthly active users across FB, WhatsApp/Messenger and Instagram. At this rate, it should cross the 2 billion milestone by the end of this quarter.

…Btw, if you think Facebook’s ad revenue is massive, you should see Google’s. Media agency Zenith estimates that Google is pulling in 3 times Facebook’s ad revenue. You should see how the rest of the industry stacks up. It’s not pretty.

…Facebook is finally beefing up its customer care team to review harmful content. It’s adding 3,000 people to the group, which already stands at 4,500. This is good to see. I was debating this very issue with a Facebook friend this week: How big of an army do you need to manage 1.9 billion people?

…The problem, however, is partly in FB’s move-fast-and-break-things attitude. This article asks: Should Facebook hire a Chief Ethics Officer?

You can thank Trump for this: New York Times now has more than 2 million digital-only subscriptions. On the flip side, print revenue fell by 18%.

…The Economist also got a “Trump bump.” North American subs are up 19% year on year.

Staff at Fairfax’s Sydney Morning Herald and The Age are on strike after management said they would cut 125 jobs. “The fact that our newsroom is being cut by a quarter at least, some figures suggest more like a third, and they want us out the door in two weeks, is an enormous blow to journalism.”

Twitter hooked up with Bloomberg for round-the-clock streaming news. Bloomberg will build an original production channel for this (it won’t be using the stuff that’s already on Bloomberg TV). The content will be supported by ads, but it’s not clear how the revenue will be shared. Either way, I’m not convinced there’s a mass market for linear, live, ambient videos — especially for an attention-deficient Twitter audience.

…Twitter is also adding a bunch of other shows to the platform — a dozen of them. Why does Twitter want to look like TV?

Joshua Topolsky started The Outline because he was tired of the way media companies were run. He’s got an awesome rant about the failure of newsrooms to think beyond the existing models of scale, reach and advertising. “We’re not even looking most of the time — just moving from platform to platform, trying to get to the highest number possible. We have built an industry on a fabrication, one that has become like religion to people who work in media.” This is what he’s learned in building The Outline.

…Another rant worth reading: the ad-tech disease. “Ad tech drives money to the lowest quality publishers. Ad tech’s value proposition is this: we will find you the highest quality eyeballs at the shittiest possible locations.”

Taboola and Outbrain — the two biggest content recommendation engines that appear on article pages — are reportedly in advanced merger talks. If this happens, it could create a combined company that’s valued at more than a billion dollars.

Is social media the new refined sugar? With every bit of content engineered for addiction, it may be time to add “nutrition labels” to content. It’s a stretch of the imagination, but it’s worth thinking about.

If you’re working on some designs, here are some good, commonsense tips on how to create visually strong layouts on mobile.Design in black and white first, add color later.”

The New York Times’ popular podcast The Daily will soon be available on weekends. Yay. And it’ll be on Spotify too.

Malaysia says it may go after WhatsApp group admins if they don’t stop the spread of false information. “If the admin was directly involved or allowed false information to spread intentionally, he will be punished.”

Singapore’s media regulator fined Mediacorp for racially insensitive content in one of their web dramas. One of the characters said Indians and Africans were the same. Another character wore a “blackface” and an Afro wig.

Here’s an amazing idea: A movie kiosk that looks like an ATM. You put in your USB stick and download pirated movies for a few cents each. But you’ll have to go to Ethiopia for it.

Quote of the week
“Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.” — Thomas Edison

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