Splice News media trends: The week according to Alan Soon

alan-soon-image-4As 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.

I’d love to have a week where I don’t fill this column with stuff about Facebook. But we live in interesting times. This week, Facebook said it’s going to prioritize “authentic” content in the News Feed. It will tweak the algo so that it promotes stories that people consider “genuine“. Here’s another tweak they’re making: You’ll now see more stories that are going viral and attracting engagement.

…Facebook still has a long way to get policymakers on its side. The EU’s digital chief warned that the company and other social media platforms must take a stronger stance against fake news or face action from Brussels.

…Facebook is under investigation in the United Kingdom for its role in spreading fake news. Lawmakers may order Facebook to put up warnings on disputed stories. “Consumers should also be given new tools to help them assess the origin and likely veracity of news stories they read online.”

…In Indonesia, the top Muslim authority will issue a fatwa declaring the spread of fake news as “un-Islamic” in part because it’s fueling religious animosity. “We will issue it as soon as possible, because the situation is worrying. Hopefully, at least Muslims won’t be involved any more in hoaxes.”

Facebook is tweaking its video strategy again as it tries to win over some TV ad dollars. New rule: If you create longer videos (say 90 seconds) and people watch it, the algo will make sure you’re seen by more people. Just another way that Facebook builds habits and addictions.

…And Facebook is also reportedly building an app for TV set-top boxes including the Apple TV. Part of its plans to distribute longform, premium video content.


…Facebook is trying to avoid mistakes it made in the past with measurements. It’s expanding third-party verification with Nielsen and ComScore, making its easier to validate key metrics like viewability and in-target performance.

Facebook has tried everything to enter China. Zuckerberg hired well-connected execs, built censorship tools, and even jogged the smoggy streets of Beijing. And it’s still not working.

Upworthy – a big viral star of Facebook at one time – is merging with Good Worldwide. Some 20 people lost their jobs on both sides. Upworthy started out as an aggregator of “happy” stories on Facebook, then moved into original story production to stand out in the News Feed… and then pivoted yet again, this time to creating videos as Facebook prioritized the format. A reminder of just how hard it is to keep up.

Ok. Enough of Facebook. Reuters Editor-in-Chief Steve Adler wrote his staff this week to explain how they should go about covering Trump in the “Reuters way”. Plenty of nuggets in here that should make their way into editorial policies everywhere. “Don’t pick unnecessary fights or make the story about us. We may care about the inside baseball but the public generally doesn’t and might not be on our side even if it did.”

This was a bit of a surprise to me. According to PageFair, 94 per cent of ad blocking on mobile devices happens in Asia. How many of you have mobile ad blockers?

Attention is the currency of the internet. So there’s something to be said about good design — something that doesn’t trigger the urge to keep checking your phone. Tristen Harris has been trying to change the way designers and consumers think about notifications. So what if you could do the opposite: Reduce the time that people spend on their phones? He’s certainly changed the way I look at attention economics. Check out this podcast. It’s time well spent.

If you’re freelancing, here are some good tips from NPR about how to pitch a story. Same rules apply for PR companies trying to get a story in.

If you’re creating un-narrated audio stories, these two tips are invaluable. Check it out.

The New York Times launched a 15-minute weekday news podcast this week called The Daily. “Just as the Times’ daily meeting schedule has shifted from print-centric to something more digital, its audio strategy has shifted from literally echoing newsprint decisions to something more native to the medium.”

Poynter launched a drone journalism school. The curriculum includes flight, ethics and “coordinated operations in a breaking news environment”.

This is spooky: Could big data – collected and analyzed by an obscure company called Cambridge Analytica – be responsible for Trump’s election win? Cambridge has apparently profiled 220 million people in the United States and it may know everything about how Americans act and react. And they were hired by Trump’s campaign. “Pretty much every message that Trump put out was data-driven.” (Thanks Keith Morrison for this.)

Japan’s Supreme Court is set to present its guidelines on the “right to be forgotten”. The criteria will make it easier for people to order Google and Yahoo Japan to remove their names from search results and other public records.

Will robots replace baristas? Here’s one that can. You pick the coffee you want and it makes it, at scale.

There’s a secret code behind the naming of IKEA’s products: Rugs are named after cities and towns in Denmark or Sweden. Outdoor furniture is named after Scandinavian islands. IKEA’s founder, who struggled with dyslexia, had a hard time remembering numbers in item codes, and so he came up with this system. (Btw, IKEA is an acronym if you haven’t noticed.)

Quote of the week

“In an information-rich world, the wealth of information means a dearth of something else: a scarcity of whatever it is that information consumes. What information consumes is rather obvious: it consumes the attention of its recipients. Hence a wealth of information creates a poverty of attention.” Social scientist Herb Simon, published in 1971.


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