Splice News media trends: China blocks VPNs, The Economist tries Quora and what is going on with Donald Trump Jr’s name?

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


David Chavern, the CEO of the News Media Alliance, put out a rant in the WSJ about how antitrust laws in the U.S. prevent media companies from putting up a real fight against Google and Facebook. He’s looking for a provision to allow publishers to negotiate collectively against the giants. The Alliance is however made up mainly of print publishers; digital native publishers aren’t a part of it. And here’s the problem: Even if they have a common threat, do they have common ground — or a path toward innovation — that would hold them together? Nope.

…The New York Times followed up on that piece, pointing to the discontent in media. “The temperature is rising in terms of concern, and in some cases anger, about what seems like a very asymmetric, disadvantageous relationship between the publishers and the very big digital platforms.”


The Wall Street Journal is restructuring the newsroom to allow the editorial team to publish faster. It’s also creating new senior roles in analytics and audience. “If we are to thrive in the competitive environment newspapers face, we must ensure that we are hiring and promoting the best people.”

Time Inc. may rename the company to reposition itself as a modern media brand in the digital space. No decisions have been made, but the company is obviously cautious given the mockery of media rebranding in recent years.


China ordered the country’s telcos to block access to all VPN services by February. China says it won’t bar legitimate access by businesses but says that “if they require leased lines or other methods to access the internet abroad, can turn to authorised telecommunications entities.”

…To comply with new cybersecurity rules, Apple will start storing all cloud data for its Chinese customers with a government-owned company in Guizhou. Apple will have control over encryption keys for the data, but it’s not clear if it will have direct access to the data itself. “It’s clear that this is now being enforced across the board. Any cloud-based company coming into China has to have a local operating partner.”

Facebook met with the Pakistani government to discuss a demand that the company stop “blasphemous” content or face getting blocked. Pakistan has been cracking down on social media accounts for allegedly promoting terrorism but activists say the authorities are also going after government critics.

Thailand’s broadcast and telecoms regulator scrapped a controversial plans to force over-the-top providers to register for tax purposes. It’ll come up with a revised plan instead.


CNN’s mobile app is under attack by Trump supporters who’ve been driving the app’s ratings down. It’s now a one-star app on Apple’s App Store and the Google Play Store.

The Press Association in the UK picked up a grant from Google to run a news service written by bots. It says this will help meet “increasing demand for consistent, fact-based insights into local communities.”


Some publishers are pissed that Facebook will no longer let them change the headlines in links after an API change. Facebook is doing this to curb the spread of ‘fake’ news. But “this is causing concern for audience development folk and social media teams who recognise how it drastically curtails their ability to tinker with an article once it’s published.”

Your Facebook Messenger apps will soon be filled with ads. FB tested the format in Thailand and Australia and concluded that everyone in the world deserves to see ads in Messenger.

The Economist has been experimenting with Quora as a commenting platform. “We were really impressed with the quality and specificity of the questions and how engaged people were on the platform… [It] has built a community of smart people, which attracts experts; we’ve not been able to build a similar environment on the Economist.com.”


Slate found that only 2.5 per cent of reporters who cover the U.S. Congress are using secure communication tools like PGP. Incredible.

If you’re looking for a great email app for MacOS, try Astro. Great features — priority inbox, snooze and email tracking. It’s made my inbox a lot cleaner.


Cheddar — the “CNBC for millennials” — bought a viral stock-picking game started by a 26-year-old engineer. “We’ll be able to use it almost like our own real-time polling mechanism.”

The New Yorker has an odd copy style: “Jr.,’s” — as in Donald Trump, Jr. Confused? This is why they insist on that silly period-comma-apostrophe format.

Why is it so hard to get content personalisation on mobile right? This is how the Guardian’s Mobile Innovation Lab frames the problem — and the opportunity.

Stone-walled by China, diplomatically speaking, Taiwan’s president is trying a new way inject the island into global conversations. She’s using Twitter.

A corruption inquiry in Pakistan has come down to one thing: the use of the Calibri font.

Quote of the week:

“While one person hesitates because he feels inferior, the other is busy making mistakes and becoming superior.” — Henry C. Link


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