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.

It’s hard to be in a place like Kathmandu and not be transformed by the sheer wonder of it all. There’s the history, the society and their understanding of their place in the world.

I’ve been here all week to work with Himalmedia on its digital transformation and I’ve been struck by the graciousness of the co-publisher Kunda Dixit and the scrappiness of his team. More importantly, I’m humbled by the purpose Kunda instills in his team about the power of journalism to change an inherently unequal society in an impoverished country (see the quote of the week at the bottom). News is a relationship business and often, it helps to be reminded of how it needs to be the mirror to society, especially as we find our way in the Trump era.

How well do people recognize news brands on social media? Not very well it seems. A new Pew study shows that 44 percent of people surveyed in the U.S. do not “consider the source” when weighing a news report’s credibility. Less awareness also means less brand affinity — a worrying trend for publishers trying to stand out in a crowded news feed. But here’s the silver lining in the survey: People are more likely to remember your brand if they got it in an email newsletter.

Kudos to CNN for standing up to the White House. CNN turned down an, ahem, opportunity to have Kellyanne “Alternative Facts” Conway on the air, deepening its fight with Trump. Jay Rosen has good analysis (as always) on Twitter.

Fake news popped up in the Netherlands which is headed to the polls in about 5 weeks. Geert Wilders, the leader of the far-right PVV, tweeted a Photoshopped photo of his rival surrounded by Islamists.

…which is exactly why it’s good to see Big Tech getting their shit together. Facebook and Google is working with news orgs to root out fake news in France (which heads to presidential elections from April). So this is how it works: If users flag a story as false, it goes to a portal that eight media companies can access. If two deem the article false, it will be flagged as disputed. Better: Facebook will block all ads running against the article.


Rappler has been under intense attack by trolls in the Philippines trying to discredit the news site by calling into question its ownership structure and therefore, its intentions. Rappler fought back. Well done.

Twitter is rolling out some new features to fight trolling and abuse on its platform. It’s filtering out hateful tweets from its search function as well as “collapsing” conversations with abusive tweets.

Signal — Snowden’s preferred secure chat app — is testing voice and video calling. It’s currently in beta for Android users.

…As it turns out, not all VPN services are created equal. While VPN creates a secure channel, it’s also capable of introducing malware or snoop on your data. Beware.

The New York Times is bundling Spotify with its digital subscriptions. One of its goals is to reach a younger audience. “We’re beginning to focus much more seriously on how many young people we have engaging with us and how we deepen those relationships.”

…Btw, I’m hooked on the new NYT podcast The Daily. It’s such a refreshing way to talk about the news (even though it’s all Trump, all the time). It’s now my daily habit.

Facebook is ramping up its efforts to create original video content. Proof: It’s just picked up MTV’s former head of scripted development. Watch out, Netflix.

Trust the Scandinavians to find a constructive, pragmatic way forward. Denmark is naming an ambassador to deal with big tech companies like Facebook and Google. “We see a lot of companies and new technologies that will in many ways involve and be part of everyday life of citizens in Denmark… So, if we want to be part of what is going on, and we want to have our say in this story, then we need to have, I think, a tech ambassador.”

Snapchat’s IPO may be the most exciting tech listing in a while. But there’s serious doubts over its long-term performance. “To me, Snap is Twitter 2.0—a company with a strong growth rate that is losing a ton of cash, coupled with a massive valuation.”

Tobias Wilson — the chairman of IAB Singapore — had a Jerry Maguire moment: Sub-standard ad work, click fraud, overbilling, and staff exploitation. It’s time to drain the swamp of ad land. Bad!

Here’s another — an anonymous post from a former ad exec about the problems of the ad industry. “Agencies like talking about innovation. For instance, they may build an interface and call it a ‘social listening tool.’ But there’s no underlying technology that makes the agency work easier and more accurate. I’ve seen so many desperate attempts for innovation. In most cases, they are more of a branding tool than anything else.”

If you’re no longer a teen, you wouldn’t have heard of Houseparty. It’s simple: It’s a chat room. But it’s catching on. Here’s why (and a reminder why it’s pointless for brands to try to catch finicky teens).

The Adenauer Fellowship for Media & Communications in Asia is still calling for applicants. Closing date is the end of this month. Applicants should be 35 or younger. Details here.

Robin Kwong has an amazing job. So I just had to get him profiled on Splice. He’s the Special Projects Editor at the Financial Times in London (you may remember him from a Digiday post a couple of weeks back). Robin is responsible for driving experimentation in the newsroom: coming up with projects to try, test drive them and through both success and failure, help seed new practices across the newsroom. This is how he thinks.

If you’re using Google Analytics in your newsroom… I know just how hard it is to make sense of it sometimes. That’s why these tips are invaluable (another tip: Pay attention to the 5-step process mentioned here. Gold.)

If you’re writing about Africa any time soon, go through this hilarious (sad!) list of how not to do it. And if you want to join me in writing a list for Asia, let me know.

Quote of the week
“Media needs a set of values to sustain itself. In a society cursed with extreme inequality, some of these values are fairly obvious: To speak for the last and the least heard.” — Kunda Dixit, “A People War”, 2006


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