Splice News media trends: This week – political fallouts, What’s App drama and Elon Musk

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


The UK government is calling for international support to curb the use of end-to-end encryption on the Internet, hoping to deny a “safe space” for terrorists to spread propaganda and organise attacks. “We cannot allow this ideology the safe space it needs to breed. Yet that is precisely what the internet – and the big companies that provide internet-based services – provide.”

I was recently on a flight to London via Istanbul. And as part of enhanced security tactics, I wasn’t allowed to carry my laptop into the cabin; all laptops had to be checked in, including any devices larger than a cellphone (no Kindles either). You can imagine my separation anxiety. But for investigative journalists with far more confidential information on their computers, the new security methods are risky. Here are some ideas on how to stay secure.

The U.S. implemented a new travel rule that could see authorities demanding five years worth of social media profiles as part of a visa application. “What we would emphasise is that this is a dynamic threat, we have to keep changing to keep up with it, and we’re constantly looking for ways to do that.”

Qatar was hit by its worst diplomatic crisis this week when five Arab states broke ties with it. And that may mean it’ll have to sacrifice Al Jazeera to make good with its neighbours. “Qatar’s Emir first gesture of good will likely be the shutting of Al Jazeera TV network entirely, which could happen in months if not weeks,”

…Al Jaz was attacked by hackers. “These attempts are gaining intensity and taking various forms. However, the platforms have not been compromised.”

Hacked: Qatari news network Al Jazeera

Facebook rolled out new features that will help politicians better connect with constituents in designated districts. Instead of seeing names and faces of potential constituents, elected officials could see a special badge identifying that a user lives in a particular district.

…Facebook’s role in European elections is getting scrutinised. Since political ads aren’t regulated, no one knows what’s being said on Facebook when it comes to politics — and the company won’t reveal what it knows.

…It’s practically impossible for Facebook and Google to be politically neutral. “While Google and Facebook, as they are currently constituted, keep making decisions that broadly agree with a liberal and scientific perspective, what their stranglehold on our attention will mean for the proper functioning of democracies is subject to debate.”

Chinese authorities ordered the country’s internet companies to shut 60 popular celebrity gossip accounts on social media. “Websites must… adopt effective measures to keep in check the problems of the embellishment of private sex scandals of celebrities, the hyping of ostentatious celebrity spending and entertainment, and catering to the poor taste of the public.”

Ethiopia pulled the plug on the internet because it wanted to stop its citizens from cheating in their exams. “We are being proactive. We want our students to concentrate and be free of the psychological pressure and distractions that this brings.”


Apple’s upcoming MacOS update to Safari later this year will include a way to block autoplay videos, which would have a devastating impact on publishers who’ve managed to chalk up big video views through autoplays. Keep in mind that Google’s future Chrome update will include adblocking as a feature. Taken together, we’ll see a huge shakeup of publisher ad revenues — and a big step forward in putting the consumer first (because publishers won’t).

…Apple’s plans (and Google’s) could have a big effect too on ad tech companies. “Advertisers like it. But here’s the rub. Consumers don’t like it.”

…Here’s a look at some of the other announcements from Apple this week that could affect the media industry.

The Wall Street Journal is shutting its What’s News app. Not many people downloaded it anyway, but it is (was) still one of the nicer digest-styles that emerged a couple of years ago.

WhatsApp has some new features in iOS. Your photos will now get grouped together as an album. You’ll also be able to apply filters to your photos within the app itself.


Facebook’s mid-roll ads are starting to bring in money for some publishers, but it’s still a long way off from matching YouTube’s. “What Facebook lacks in terms of a net CPM, they’re making it up in terms of volume.” In other words, you’ll have to push a lot more traffic to pull in the same amount of revenue.

NBC News managed to bring its video loads to under 3 seconds — simply by moving from Flash to HTML5.

This is so cool. A new video drama series debuted in South Africa — on WhatsApp.

The Malaysian government is offering up to US$1,000 in cash for the best videos that explain how to “prevent” homosexuality. Videos must focus on “prevention, control and how to get help” as well as “issues and consequences.”

As part of our series on Leading Millennials, we spoke to Cristina Maza, a freelance reporter based in Cambodia about leaving the newsroom. “I spent a lot of time filing short, 300-word stories that only skimmed the surface of an issue. I think that has a lot to do with what daily newspapers have the space and capacity for, but I found it frustrating.”


Lenfest Institute wants to fund local news innovation projects and individual entrepreneurs-in-residence. Details here.

The Guardian U.S. launched a new series called “This Land is Your Land,” covering the threats to public grounds. Here’s the best part: It’s asking people for $50,000 to pay for the coverage.


LINE has a new office in Tokyo. It’s stunning.

The New York Times opened its content marketing agency T-Brand Studio in Hong Kong. The agency employs 100 people worldwide.

It’s hard to imagine the internet without email. You just can’t not have it. Unless of course you’re in China, which skipped email altogether and went straight for chat apps.

How does Elon Musk run two multi-billion dollar companies and five kids at home? Lots of work (up to 90 hours a week), just enough sleep, and a shitload of coffee. “I got so freaking jacked that I seriously started to feel like I was losing my peripheral vision.”

Quote of the week
“Education is the kindling of a flame, not the filling of a vessel.” — Socrates


Get the latest media and marketing industry news (and views) direct to your inbox.

Sign up to the free Mumbrella Asia newsletter now.



Sign up to our free daily update to get the latest in media and marketing