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.

You may think this is a bit extreme, but we’re living in interesting times. Quincy Larson wrote a widely shared piece on Medium about why you should never take your smartphone on an international flight. He warns that border control agents have been forcing people to unlock their phones, so that the authorities can pull data off the device. This is especially worrying if you’re carrying sensitive trade secrets. Worth reading. Maybe it’s time to get a burner phone for travel.

…CNN’s Masuma Ahuja put out a good FAQ on what to expect at American airports — whether you’re American or foreign. Could my laptop, phone or other electronic devices be searched? Could I be asked for access to my social media profiles or email? Yes.

Edward Snowden is trying to protect reporters and their confidential sources from surveillance and hacking. One of the things he’s working on: A hardware mod for the iPhone that would detect if malware on the phone is secretly sending out a reporter’s data, including location. “Newsrooms don’t have the bud­get, the sophistication, or the skills to defend them­selves in the current environment. We’re trying to provide a few niche tools to make the game a little more fair.”

The UK is considering a draft law that could see journalists being jailed for up to 14 years for obtaining leaked official documents. This is a dramatic shift in liability from simply distributing official secrets to “obtain and gather” — and criminalizes basic journalism.

WhatsApp added two-factor verification for all its users. You pick a secret 6-digit code and it’ll prompt you for it every 7 days. You should enable it.

You’ll start to see more tweets and shares coming from Trump. The White House is hiring new staff to work with Trump on his Twitter, Facebook and Instagram accounts. (Requisite: The ability to use exclamation marks convincingly!)

Gizmodo is buying highly targeted ads on Facebook to get whistleblowers to a new website called TellOnTrump.com. “We are targeting people who are employed by federal agencies because we want them to know that if they see or know about something they think is newsworthy, we are here for them.”

Australia’s ABC is bringing back the fact-check unit that it killed off as part of its budget cuts. This time, they’re working with RMIT to test the claims of politicians, advocacy groups and institutions.

Facebook will reportedly open up more of its advertising data to third parties for auditing. This will be a big step forward in appeasing ad agencies who’re concerned about the accuracy of the data.

…Facebook is doing something new with its videos: It will now autoplay with the sound on. Part of its push to increase video engagement. Don’t worry, you can apparently turn it off.

Apple is finally making a step into the original video market to take on Netflix. Two shows are coming up on Apple Music (odd choice of product, but ok) — James Corden’s “Carpool Karaoke” spinoff and “Planet of the Apps”, a reality TV show about app developers trying to build, er, apps.

…BuzzFeed and NBC Universal are also putting out originals as part of a joint TV production deal they signed about a year and a half ago. The first of the shows will be a crime-investigation docu series (think Netflix’s “Making a Murderer”) based on investigative reporting by BuzzFeed’s Katie Baker.

Spotify is reportedly speaking to several podcast producers including Gimlet about creating original shows. These will likely be focused on music, naturally.

The YouTube sensation PewDiePie lost his deal with Disney after he made anti-Semitic jokes and Nazi references in his videos. The Wall Street Journal found that nine of Felix Kjellberg’s videos contained swastikas and Nazi salutes. YouTube also cancelled an original show that they were producing with him.

China is tightening restrictions on the use of online live videos, requiring foreigners posting videos to first seek the approval of the Ministry of Culture. Live streaming, through apps like Ingkee and YY, is one of China’s fastest growing entertainment sectors and sometimes borders on soft porn.

An IPA report shows that social media is declining as the lead media channel used by marketers. TV is still key, leaving social media as a “supportive and amplifying medium”.

My clients often hear me say this: The standard mass media construct is dead. So it’s nice to hear Josh Topolsky’s (he started The Outline; former Verge and Bloomberg editor) views on the topic. “The business is not built to be modern, the business is built to replicate something that is clearly dying off.” You gotta check out this podcast.

…This piece perfectly sums up why we could finally be at an inflection point with a switch to subscription models, away from mass media advertising. It also explains why this is the right strategic move for media companies.

…If you think that’s too optimistic, here’s a counter argument — why subscription models won’t save journalism.

…Business Insider has a look at what happened at Medium — how Ev Williams tried to change the publishing/advertising model and crashed. “The business we could have built, if we were to go all in, was not going to justify Medium’s valuation. That’s a trap of venture funding. If it turns out the market you find isn’t big enough, you are in trouble.”

Amazon is now in the conferencing space, taking on Skype (painful!) and everyone else to provide an easier experience to get people on a video call. It’s called Chime. $2.50 per user per month for the mid-tier plan.

Here’s a new analytics tool to try. Kaleida was built by the team behind the Guardian’s in-house metrics dashboard Orphan. It collects data from several media outlets and helps editors understand what they should/could cover for their audiences. Not a new concept, but a fresh take.

NewsWhip — which tracks trending stories — raised $6.4 million in a round of funding. The AP and Asahi Shimbun joined other investors in the round. The competition in this space is heating up ever since Facebook acquired CrowdTangle late last year (and made it free).

India put 104 satellites in orbit this week — in a single rocket launch. The mission seals India’s place as cost-effective option for launching satellites.

And the Bank of England says it will continue using animal fat to make its new plastic banknotes despite opposition from vegetarians and Hindu temples. It says it would cost almost $100 million dollars to switch back to paper notes.

Quote of the week
“Every time you fall down, pick something up.” — Oswald Theodore


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