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

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The UK’s Home Secretary Amber Rudd is going after WhatsApp after reports said the terrorist, who killed four people in London last week, used the service just before he went on his attacks. WhatApp — owned by Facebook — offers end-to-end encryption, which makes it difficult for both the company as well as authorities from scanning messages. “We need to make sure that organizations like WhatsApp, and there are plenty of others like that, don’t provide a secret place for terrorists to communicate with each other.”

…You can finally start doing voice calls on Telegram (which apparently is the chat app of choice among terrorists). There’s also an interesting way to exchange encryption keys — you just need to compare four emoji characters over the phone.

The U.S. Congress approved a measure that allows internet service providers to sell your web browsing history to the highest bidder. Proponents say this is needed because the current guidelines are unreasonably strict and stifle innovation.

Originality, it seems, is overrated. Facebook rolled out Camera — ephemeral videos and photos with filters. Just like Snapchat.

You can now live stream 360 videos on Facebook. But you’ll need the right camera for it.

Twitter launched pre-roll ads for its Periscope videos. But advertisers say they Facebook is the better way to go. “Twitter is grasping at straws to create ad revenue where it doesn’t exist as a last-ditch effort to support the business. Frankly, this unit is not something brands will be jumping to embrace with options like Facebook Live’s mid-roll units, which will blow this out of the water.”

Indonesia’s highest Muslim clerical council may issue a fatwa against the circulation of fake news on the internet. “In Islam, slander is a big sin. It is so troubling that many young people nowadays are involved in the business of distributing hoaxes online.”

It’s always refreshing when someone inside the digital advertising industry calls bullshit. Online ads are “devious, non-transparent, and unscrupulous. It is intentionally confusing and its motives are often unclear. It does everything possible to hide its real intent.”

Some really great nuggets of advice here from Bloomberg Media’s CEO Justin Smith on surviving the digital revolution. “If you’re producing content that someone else is also producing, you have to stop right away and rethink your approach. Create content that no one else is producing.” Also, there’s a slide deck at the end of the article that’s worth saving.

…So if you could build a news service that focused every single part of its operations on building trust with the consumer, what would it look like? No click-bait headlines, no blind pursuit of page views, no silly videos. That’s why you should pay attention to De Correspondent. It started in the Netherlands, and now they’re looking to make an imprint in U.S. — a tough, cynical market.

…Btw, The Guardian’s U.S. operations are in serious trouble. Staffers were told last week that costs would be cut by 20% to keep operations running. What was the problem? There’s no proper strategy around monetization. “They were very unconcerned anytime someone wanted to talk about the business model.”

Rafat Ali built Paidcontent back in 2002. He sold it to The Guardian in 2008. And he regrets it. “The main lesson is never sell. I sold in a hurry and got seduced by The Guardian as an editorial brand, I should have done more due diligence on their history of supporting other companies and their history of the business side being in sync with the editorial side.”

The Atlantic is finally going international. They’re setting up a global office for 10 editorial and business staff in London — just like everyone else, which does nothing to differentiate the brand. (How about Asia for a change?)

Some of the editorial staff at the Wall Street Journal signed a letter to management, criticizing it for failing to diversify the leadership of the company. “Nearly all the people at high levels at the paper deciding what we cover and how are white men.”

Australia’s ABC has been trying out Apple News as a way to distribute their stories to a different audience (mostly younger and more women). Turns out ABC is getting twice the open rate on Apple News compared with its own news app. “In Apple News, we try to focus on more positive news. We’re not just sending a daily death toll. But equally, we are a serious news organization, that doesn’t mean we’re going to send lollipops and rainbows every morning.”

From lollipops to cats. BuzzFeed is reportedly planning an IPO in 2018. CEO Jonah Peretti hinted at going public back in 2015 but his remarks were subsequently downplayed.

…BuzzFeed News is expanding into Mexico and Germany. They will bring on journos to cover local stories in the local language.

Thailand’s Voice TV is appealing a decision by the government to suspend its operations for a week. The news outlet, owned by Thaksin Shinawatra’s children, is accused of biased reporting.

FedEx is still using Flash even though many people have stopped. So they’re giving you $5 to download Flash (again).

Singapore is shutting off its 2G mobile networks from April 1. The problem is 123,000 subscribers are still on the network.

…And a bad omen for the launch of the new Samsung S8: a Samsung Experience Store caught fire in Singapore.

A town in the Netherlands started putting traffic lights into the sidewalk — just because people can’t/won’t take their eyes off their phones.

Quote of the week
“Build a team like you’re collecting art — the group should be greater than the sum of its parts.” — Justin Smith, Bloomberg Media CEO


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