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.

Every week, I try to find a way to lead this newsletter with something other than Facebook. I keep failing. This week, a Thai man videoed himself killing his 11-month-old daughter on Facebook Live. And then he shot another video, this time of him committing suicide. And if that wasn’t appalling enough, both videos was still available about 24 hours after it went live — and by then, the two videos had 370,000 views. How is it that a company that pulls in $8 billion in quarterly revenue and attracts the smartest people around can’t solve a problem like this?

…I know we’ve heard a lot about Facebook and its responsibility — as a media platform — in the delivery of “fake” news and other content shenanigans. But if you had to read one great (and long) piece about how Zuckerberg thinks, you must read this story by NYT’s Farhad Manjoo (who’s something of a genius himself). “If it’s an exaggeration to say that News Feed has become the most influential source of information in the history of civilization, it is only slightly so.”

…Facebook is reportedly paying publishers to create videos that will eventually carry the company’s new ad products. Videos will have to be at least 90 seconds long so that Facebook can drop a mid-roll ad in it.

…The Guardian is the latest publisher to pull out of Facebook’s Instant Articles format. It didn’t say why, but many publishers have been complaining that they money they make off IA pages just aren’t as much as what they get on their own sites. The Guardian has also pulled out of Apple News.

…A study by Newswhip shows that despite the lower monetization, Instant Articles continue to drive more engagement than regular posts on Facebook for some publishers.

Is Google so big that regulators should break it up? Here are some ideas on how to do it.

…Btw Google is making some changes to its search engine so that “fake” news doesn’t appear as often. One way is to make it easier for people to flag disputed content.

…Facebook is also making some changes. They’re testing a different version of its Related Articles widget, which you’d normally see when you jump back to the News Feed after opening a link. If many people are discussing that story, you’ll be shown content from other perspectives, including articles by external fact checkers.

Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales launched Wikitribune, a site that blends journalism with fact-checking by the public. Professional journos will write the pieces, while volunteer contributors will vet the facts. “If there is any kryptonite to false information, it’s transparency.” Hmm… so what could possibly go wrong?

Mobile now represents the biggest segment of digital ad spend in the U.S. Mobile dollars jumped 77% year-on-year in 2016.

Netflix finally found a way into China. It’s reached a distribution deal with Baidu’s video platform iQiyi — a first step toward a direct service model in China. “We’d love to have direct relationship in China, and it’s just a matter of when and how, and that’s something that we’re trying to figure out over time.”

Twitter surprised Wall Street in its earnings report this week by adding 9 million new users in Q1. This is its biggest q-on-q jump in two years.

…Here’s an interesting idea on how Twitter can make some good money: Charge companies to be on the platform. “Would a major brand leave Twitter if a new fee of $50,000 per month were imposed? Companies with millions of followers derive far greater economic value than this monthly sum.”

As some of you know, I’m a big fan of NYT’s The  Daily podcast. It runs for about twenty minutes and is the perfect fit for my morning routine (Pro tip: Get a waterproof Bluetooth speaker for the shower). NYT brought in a team of outsiders to create the podcast and now it has more than 20 million downloads. This is how it comes together.

The Huffington Post is now just HuffPost. “[It’s] what our readers call us anyway.”

BuzzFeed is the latest publisher to turn to affiliate commerce for a new revenue stream. So now if you see an article on say, top gifts for cat lovers, you can click and buy right away. BuzzFeed then gets a cut.

ESPN laid off about 100 employees in the face of shrinking cable subscribers and higher content costs. “We believe the steps we are taking will ultimately create important competitive advantages for our business over the long term.”

…“If ESPN can’t make it, shit, who can?” A look at what the ESPN layoffs say about the rest of the industry.

Antoine Amann founded Echobox to help newsrooms take the pain out of writing social posts, scheduling them and distributing them. The platform uses AI to create posts and automatically determine when to push it out based on historical and real-time data. Check out his Splice Media Entrepreneurs profile here.

If you could see the notes that a reporter is taking, would that build trust in how stories come together? Hearken thinks so. And it’s building an open notebook that transparently shows you what’s being recorded in the process of reporting.

Under a proposed law, reporters in Thailand could face fines — and jail — for doing their jobs without a license. “We found providing a traditional massage service without a license is punishable by two years in jail even though the impact that media have is much more extensive.”

Publishing monopoly Singapore Press Holdings acquired a nursing home operator, marking its entry into the healthcare sector. The media giant already derives the majority of its profit from its property business. Makes you wonder: Is the future of news so bad that SPH has given up trying to build a great, sustainable media business?

Last week’s story in vanity metrics was the most clicked link in the newsletter. So I know you’ll also appreciate this fantastic piece by Rafat Ali (everything that comes out of his mind is gold). This is what happens when you drop that mindless pursuit of reach and scale — and instead build a company that people care about. “While media companies focused on scale-for-scale-sake talk about unique visitors to their sites, we talk about unique residents.”

Quora is now a unicorn. Based on its latest Series D round, the Q&A service is now worth about $1.8 billion. https://techcrunch.com/2017/04/21/uniquorn/?ncid=tcdaily

If you’re in a startup or trying to build one, read this. Great advice in here on survival.

Grrrrr. The Trump administration may start banning laptops in the cabins of flights from European airports to the U.S.

The UK went without coal-powered energy for a day last week — the first time ever since the Industrial Revolution. Coal is finally giving way to renewables.

Quote of the week
“Life has no limitations, except the ones you make.” – Les Brown


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