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.

I was at the Digital Journalism World 2017 conference earlier this week in Singapore. Two presenters blew my mind with the work they’re doing to map and understand their audiences. Stakk’s Christina Lo calls its template an “empathy map,” while the BBC’s Tammy Gur calls theirs by a more commonly used label — personas. Both presenters struck at the heart of the problem with mass media these days — we’re publishing for a mass audience, and yet we have no idea who we want to inform, educate or entertain. Our ruthless chase of traffic has left us blind to the people who actually interact with our content. So leave your dashboards aside for a moment; who’s your ideal customer?

Snap had a spectacular debut on the New York Stock Exchange. It was the biggest U.S. IPO since Alibaba in 2014. Here’s a comparison: Snap’s IPO is valued at more than twice that of Facebook, and four times more than Twitter. Shares opened at $24, a jump above its IPO price of $17, valuing the company at $29 billion.

…Snapchat’s user growth, which was once massive, is starting to slow in the U.S. This means they’ll have to start looking outward to keep investors happy. But that’s also a problem: The fastest growing emerging markets don’t have the right data infrastructure to drive such a video-heavy app.

…Some users are unconvinced about Snapchat’s viability — especially when you compare it with Instagram Stories. Here’s a well-argued piece about why Instagram is doing a better job on ephemeral videos and photos.

…Medium launched something they call “Series”. It’s basically Snapchat Stories that don’t expire after 24 hours. They want to encourage users to create stories that unfold over time. “We wanted to build that continuity, and the update loop, right into the product.”

An interesting survey of young Americans shows just how little that demographic thinks of news brands. “If I don’t see it on social media, I’m not going to hear it.”

Posting an article in Facebook’s fast-loading Instant Articles format is a difficult strategic choice for newsrooms: Is it worth ceding control of data, ads and experience to Facebook? Some new research shows the industry is divided.

UK publishers say their Facebook Live traffic is starting to stagnate. Facebook is also ending its payments to publishers to create live videos, so it’s all coming back down to earth. “Does [Facebook] think that melting lollipops and fake moon landings are a good user experience or are going to deliver revenues in 12 monthstime? No.”

YouTube wants you to buy their $35-a-month TV service. It bundles channels from the major broadcast networks and some cable networks and delivers them on an app. It’s basically a TV package for cord cutters.

There’s no shortage of prescriptions on how to save Twitter. But when Ben Thomson writes, people notice. Referring to the wrong “Best Picture” winner at the Oscars, he wrote, “What made it special in the moment was not just seeing it happen (one can replay it forever), and not just the shock (which truly is unique to “live”), but also the incredulous reaction on Twitter (and the host of jokes that followed). That reaction, though, is completely lost to time.” Check it out here.

…Btw, the New York Times ran a brilliant ad campaign during the Academy Awards. Watch it here.

…It helps to get a nice endorsement from a billionaire. Warren Buffett says there are only 2 newspapers that have an “assured future” — the NYT and the Wall Street Journal. “They have developed an online presence that people will pay for.”

The Huffington Post is trying to reach a new audience. It’s launching a weekly newsletter (like this!), targeting female Gen Z readers (we’re entering a post-millennial phase already?). Here’s the twist: The content is only available on email and nowhere else. But do Gen Zs even read emails?

There’s been a some layoffs and new hires at Refinery29 as the publisher adjusts its strategy of serving up hard news and fashion tips. Everything you wanted to know about Aleppo and sorting out bad hair days on a single site. “Refinery is in the throes of an identity crisis. It’s a fast-paced organization that is at a crossroads in its evolution.”

PR Week ran a profile of Mike Allen of Axios about the premium service and how it plans to stand out in the market. “Too much journalism is too long and built for journalists. Things should be made to serve the reader.”

CNN Chief Jeff Zucker wants to grow digital into a $1 billion business in the next five years. So he’s lining up new shows and signing up a $25 million YouTuber you may never have heard of.

In the fall of 2015, violence erupted in Israel, where Palestinian groups (some linked to Hamas) used social media to incite hate against Jews. That incident as now dragged Facebook to court in the U.S., where the plaintiffs say Facebook should be held accountable for allegedly providing services to known terrorists.

The EU Parliament voted to strip Marine Le Pen’s immunity for tweeting horrific pictures of violence by Isis. Prosecutors can now pursue her for the offense, which carries a maximum prison term of three years in France. But once again, the point needs to be made: Why does Twitter (or other social media) allow politicians to get away with abuse and hate, when it so blatantly contravenes their Terms of Service?

Germany’s foreign intelligence agency reportedly spied on journalists from the BBC, Reuters and New York Times. Spiegel says the BND has been tapping phones, which is illegal in a country where journalists have widespread protection against state surveillance.

Press freedom organizations are getting together to start a news site covering violations in the U.S. It launches in the next three months.

Google talked a big talk three years ago about delivering end-to-end encryption on Gmail. Yet today, it still hasn’t happened.

NRKbeta — the tech vertical of Norway’s public broadcaster — is trying an interesting idea to clean up rants in the comments section: They want you to take a quiz to demonstrate your understanding of the article before you’re allowed to leave a comment. “We thought we should do our part to try and make sure that people are on the same page before they comment. If everyone can agree that this is what the article says, then they have a much better basis for commenting on it.”

…Twitter rolled out new anti-harassment features to fight trolls. You can now mute specific words from your timeline as well as filter out people who haven’t confirmed their email addresses.

I absolutely loved interviewing Ryan Singel, who started the content recommendation platform Contextly. Good nuggets of advice for media entrepreneurs throughout this Splice Newsroom profile. “When I started out, I’d quote our pricing and then immediately try to justify it or offer a discount. I finally realized that the best thing to do is to state prices simply and then shut up.”

Podcast fans, listen up. If you haven’t already, try “On Being With Krista Tippett.” Start with her interview with Anil Dash about tech’s moral reckoning. It was so good, I had to listen to it twice. (Thank you Betty Warner for the recco!)

Google, which can’t stop rolling out communications apps, just launched a new one called Meet. It’s a video conferencing app for business. And oddly, it’s not on Android.

Facebook is working with Airtel and BCS to roll out 500 miles of fiber cable in Uganda. Part of Zuckerberg’s plan to bring more people onto the internet.

Here’s an interesting piece of speculation. Could Ja Ma be interested in picking up Australia’s Fairfax Media?

Uber CEO Travis Kalanick apologized for well, being a dick, to one of his Uber drivers. In an incident that was recorded on video, Kalanick berated the driver for telling him that the pricing model wasn’t working. “[It’s] a stark reminder that I must fundamentally change as a leader and grow up.”

…Kalanick also needs to clean up the rampant sexism in the company (which to many people wasn’t a surprise given his personality). What do you need to do to make sure your company isn’t blindsided by sexism? Here’s a good read.

Reuters is looking for a Managing Editor in Singapore. Here’s the JD.

Quote of the week
“The master has failed more times than the beginner has even tried.” — Stephen McCranie


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