Splice News media trends: The week according to Alan Soon – Facebook, The NYT and Tencent

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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Fairfax received a $2.2 billion bid from private equity firm TPG to buy out its Domain real estate business, as well as its flagship titles — Sydney Morning Herald, The Age and AFR. Domain is the crown jewel of Fairfax, bringing in about 40% of operating profit. Here’s the real shocker: The deal implies the three newspapers are worth less than $20 million combined.

…Striking journalists at Fairfax returned to work on Wednesday. HR was quick to warn all staff that encouraging the public to boycott the company could be grounds for dismissal.

…Australia’s media industry is also headed for a major shakeup after the government said it would drop the controversial “two out of three” rule. The restriction has prevented companies or persons from owning newspapers, TV and radio stations in a major city.

…In New Zealand, regulators rejected a merger proposal that would have brought together NZME and Fairfax NZ, the country’s two biggest media companies. The Commerce Commission said a merger would create a less competitive market with higher prices and worse ad products. However, it totally missed the point that in the global ad tech space, the real competitors are Google and Facebook.

In the U.S., TV ratings have dropped 33% in the last four years while TV ad prices rose 20%. Advertisers are starting to wise up.

…Facebook is set to launch its first TV-like shows next month. This is a big step for Facebook, which is starting to see high-quality video as an important feature to retain users and pull in TV ad dollars.

USA Today asked the FBI to investigate a surge of Likes on its Facebook page. USA Today contends that spam accounts made up a significant percentage of its followers on Facebook.

Criticized for doing too little to stop the spread of misinformation, Facebook took out full-page ads in the UK to tell readers how to spot “fake” news. Readers are told to “be skeptical” of what they read. Helpful, except the print newspaper audience isn’t the choir to preach to.

…Facebook says it’s purged “tens of thousands” of fake accounts in the UK ahead of the election next month. They hope this will reduce the volume of misinformation within the network.

Facebook is blocking people in Thailand from seeing a video of the king in a crop top as he walked through a German mall with one of his mistresses. “When governments believe something on the internet violates their laws, they may contact companies like Facebook and ask us to restrict access to that content.”

…Separately, five men in Thailand have been charged under the country’s lese majeste law for sharing Facebook posts written by an exiled dissident. This is the first time the law has been applied under the new king.

India is taking a harder stance against the spread of misinformation. An admin of a WhatsApp group was arrested for allegedly altering a photo of the prime minister to look “ugly and obscene.”

What irony! Tencent’s WeChat is now blocked in Russia. Russia requires that ISPs register with related government bodies but Tencent says it has a “different understanding” of the issue.

At the eleventh hour of the French presidential election, someone dumped gigabytes of emails and documents purportedly from Macron’s campaign. But this wasn’t going to be the same upset as the U.S. election. This is how Macron’s campaign outsmarted the hackers. A case study for cyber warfare.

The New York Times is trying something interesting: It’s selling tickets to a “Brexit” tour of the UK. The six-day tour costs about $6,000 a person and promises to help people understand the inner workings of British politics, and why “Britain, or maybe England, [is] amputating itself from Europe.”

Snap suffered a massive hit to its stock price this week after releasing its first quarterly earnings report. Revenue was lower than expected and it’s clear that Facebook was able to steal some of Snap’s audience growth by copying its key features. And to make things worse, the company posted a $2.2 billion net loss — mostly related to CEO Evan Spiegel’s bonus for taking the company public.

Media Prima Digital is set to acquire REV Asia in a deal worth $24 million making it Malaysia’s biggest digital media company. A bit of eye-rolling in the industry over this deal, which reflects the doldrums of Malaysia’s digital media industry.

Here’s an interesting profile of Mediaload, a media startup in Cambodia with intentions of becoming the country’s BuzzFeed. “Our objective is to  beat BuzzFeed in terms of the number of Facebook followers.”

TheSkimm — that popular newsletter for young women — is now something of a holy grail for book publicists. “There used to be Oprah, now we have theSkimm.”

This is what initiative looks like. Some guy was rejected for a design internship at Apple Music. So he spent the next three months redesigning the Apple Music app on his own. Lots of interesting UI lessons here.

I gave an interview recently to Sourcefabric, covering some of my thoughts about the future of digital newsrooms. Let me know what you think.

Singapore is testing out flashing lights embedded in sidewalk so that the smartphone zombies out there can continue looking at their screens while crossing the street.

The U.S. Marines are testing disposable drones that can supply troops in enemy territory. “Rather than fly a bunch of helicopters around and needing to stop and unload, here you could just have a cargo plane dump a couple gliders off the back and hit a couple locations.”

Quote of the week
“The best years of your life are the ones in which you decide your problems are your own.” — Albert Ellis


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