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.

Facebook started pinning “disputed” tags on fake news posts. Facebook of course doesn’t want to get into the business of deciding what is factual or bullshit (I don’t want them making those decisions either) so “disputed” is as far as it’ll go with labels. Unfortunately, the process of flagging can take days, according to this report by Recode. Effective moderation is at the heart of the issue: As a consumer, can you count on FB to act quickly and efficiently to remove content flagged as misleading or unethical?

…The WSJ has a look at Facebook’s rush to launch Facebook Live. Zuckerberg apparently pulled more than 100 employees together into a “lockdown” to deliver a live platform in an amazing two months. The product worked from a technical perspective but the company wasn’t able to keep out the dark side of videos — crime, beheadings and porn. Once again, there’s a need for effective and efficient moderation.

…In the UK, the chairman of the Commons media committee Damian Collins says he has “grave doubts” over Facebook’s ability to moderate content on its platform. The BBC claims that it flagged dozens of photos to Facebook involving child exploitation and abuse — but only 20% were removed.

South Africa is prepping laws to curb “false” information on social media, a bold step for the country which has the freest media environment on the continent. “Regulation is the way to go.”

German publishers are apparently skipping Facebook’s fact-checking initiative. “When you ask five questions, Facebook has the answer to none of them. The initiative appears to be set up by amateurs. It’s like communicating with a black hole. They are completely lost.”

The Columbia Journalism Review dug into more than 1.25 million stories written about the U.S. election heading into November 8. They found that rather than outright fabricated news, many of the stories were simply misleading. But the CJR went a step further in its analysis, putting together a visualization map that showed just how exclusive the filter bubbles were. “This turned the right-wing media system into an internally coherent, relatively insulated knowledge community, reinforcing the shared worldview of readers and shielding them from journalism that challenged it.” (Thanks Torben Stephan)

Google is great at helping you finish your search query even before you finish typing it. So what happens if it gives you an answer that isn’t factually correct? Featured snippets are actually worse than fake news.

Forbes rolled out a new mobile site based on Progressive Web App — a Google-supported format that feels like a native app, but loads fast. If you’re on Android, you can add the site to the home screen, just like an app. This also allows the site to push content notifications… all without an app. We’re heading quickly into a post-app world for publishers.

Baidu, Sogou and Yahoo Japan will start serving up Google AMP pages — a big step forward for publishers in Asia.

WikiLeaks is offering tech companies access to the CIA’s hacking tools so that they can patch those security flaws. WikiLeaks revealed this week a staggering number of CIA initiatives to hack into consumer devices, including getting your smart TVs to record your conversations at home.

NowThis is on an “aggressive hiring plan” to build up long-form videos and investigative journalism. This comes as Facebook shifts its priorities toward driving longer videos (hoping to capture mid-roll ads). NowThis says they’re also keen to tie up with OTT players like Netflix and Amazon.

Many people haven’t realized this, but Twitter’s algo has been running for about a year now. Like Facebook, it prioritizes people that you normally interact with and it shows you popular tweets from people you follow. The world didn’t collapse (as the anti-algo camp said it would). But it hasn’t changed Twitter’s fate either.

…Techcrunch has an interesting idea: Snap should use its billions in recently acquired public money to buy Twitter. Here’s why it would make sense.

…Instagram continues to copy Snapchat’s best features. It’s just added geostickers that lets users add and arrange illustrations to their Stories posts. Jakarta is one of the first cities to get it.

Spotify has 50 million subscribers. And it’s still unprofitable.

Remember last week’s story about the Norwegian site that requires you to take a quiz before you post a comment? That quiz module is now open source.

This should make some people happy: You can now write up your articles in Google Docs… and it publishes directly into your WordPress blog. This is how it works.

Google Hangouts is getting overhauled to take on Slack. Group chats, integrated into Google Docs and Sheets.

Robin Kwong — the guy with the cool job of running experiments and innovation projects at FT — put together an “IKEA-inspired” toolkit for running newsroom projects. No Allen keys required. Worth checking out.

Coconuts — the Southeast Asian media group — hired Chad Williams, the ex-editor of the Phnom Penh Post, to run Editorial across its sites. With the new hire, Coconuts wants “to publish more hard-hitting and substantive stories” and reduce its reliance on Facebook for referral traffic.

How do you manage Gen-Ys? Maxus global CEO Lindsay Pattison has some good tips here. “You can reveal differences, and you can reveal vulnerabilities at times. You don’t always have to have the answer to every solution, but you should show your approachability and humanity.”

Demo Days — favored by accelerators as a way to introduce startups to potential investors — may have run their course. Startups don’t actually meet their core investors at these events. Also, there’s a bias toward startups that sell well on stage — not necessarily how well they’re run as businesses. Here’s a better way of doing it.

Blockchain appears to have found a foothold in the shipping world. Maersk is keen on using blockchain as a way to track food and other items on its ships. (There’s also a good explainer in the story about how blockchain works. Handy.)

Panasonic has a new washing machine targeted at the Indian market. It comes with a special button labelled “curry“.

Poetry (!) of the week
“Men at forty
Learn to close softly
The doors to rooms they will not be
Coming back to.”
— Donald Justice


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