Splice News media trends: WSJ cuts, Alibaba and fake news in Singapore

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 Wall Street Journal is reportedly pulling back on its print operations in Europe and Asia. To cut costs, WSJ will stop providing free copies and will trim its hotel distribution deals. WSJ says it’s “constantly examining the balance between print and digital at a time when we’re seeing sharp growth in customer demand for digital.”

…The WSJ is also killing off 8 blogs to trim costs. Some of these have had a strong following, such as the often hilarious China Real Time blog.

“The China story has changed, and so have the tools for telling it. Regretfully, the time has come for China Real Time to end its run.” In doing so, the WSJ is entrenching itself in its mass product at a time when audiences are seeking out distinct voices and niche insights. Regrettable.


It’s high time someone wrote this. Every newsroom seems to be trying to “pivot-to-video” as if this is the silver bullet that we need for newsrooms to survive. Where does this the-audience-wants-video assumption come from? Why aren’t we validating that? More importantly, what do those CPMs look like?

…And here’s another equally eloquent bashing of this insane “pivot-to-video” phase we’re in. It isn’t what you’re pivoting to, but away from. “You could write a depressing history of the American media through its dumb attempts at pivoting.”

How smart is it for Asian TV broadcasters to upload their entire shows to YouTube? It could leave broadcasters “dead in two years,” according to one view.


EU antitrust regulators may punish Google with another record fine. This time, it’s over Android. Google requires phone makers to pre-install Google Search and Google Chrome, which regulators see as hurting competition.

The German parliament voted in favour of a law to slap up to $56 million on companies like Facebook and YouTube if they fail to remove hate posts within 24 hours. “Our experience has shown that, unfortunately, social media companies do not improve their procedures without political pressure.”

Al Jazeera went on the offensive to push back on a demand by Arab governments that the network be shut to resolve an ongoing diplomatic spat with Qatar. “To those who demand that Al Jazeera be shut down and that people’s right to the truth be suppressed, we too have demands.” Watch the clip here; it gets the point across.

Didn’t get this into last week’s newsletter: China banned online videos showing “abnormal” sexual relations such as homosexuality. They’re also going after videos that “propagate military conquests of ancient emperors” and those of people “conjuring spirits.”

Thailand is close to setting up a “central social media watch centre” to keep an eye on internet users. It’s part of a proposal that could require social media users to register their mobile numbers along with fingerprints and facial scans.

Prominent Vietnamese blogger Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh — better known as Mother Mushroom — was sentenced to 10 years in prison for sharing anti-state propaganda on social media.

Mother Mushroom

A law professor in Singapore wants the government to reconsider its suggestion that the country needs new laws to tackle “fake” news. He says there’s “no compelling need” for new legislation — the government just needs to clarify the class licensing regime under the Broadcast Act.


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Facebook has a theory about spammers and “fake” news publishers in your feed. It claims that people who post more than 50 times a day are probably bots pushing clickbait or false news. And it’s shutting them down.

The Economist’s social media team has been in a state of evolution over the years to keep up with the constant shift in social platforms. This is how they do it.

The Washington Post has an interesting new internal policy on social media for its employees: Do not criticise our advertisers, customers and subscribers… or face disciplinary action, including termination.

A number of people have been calling for Twitter to suspend Trump’s account for inciting abuse against the media. But Twitter says Trump’s mock post of him beating up a CNN face doesn’t violate its rules.

ThinkProgress is the latest publisher to leave Medium in favour of WordPress. It says it’s concerned about Medium’s commitment to publishers. “It’s connected to a platform that’s not going to be developed with publishers in mind, it doesn’t really make sense to think through that as a platform. That sealed it for me.”


Amazon is getting closer to publishers through its Echo platform. Unlike Google and Facebook before it, Amazon is positioning itself as an engaged partner. “We get a lot of early insight and access to their product road map. They called us very early on. We like that when we share concerns or needs, they’re very responsive.” Well played, Jeff. I see what you did there.

…Alibaba is expected to launch a voice-activated assistant similar to the Amazon Echo. The device will be targeted at Chinese customers.

…Samsung is heading down the same path. It’s reportedly building its Bixby assistant (imagine having to say that!) into a voice-activated device.


Investigators say Amelia Earhart survived her last flight. A newly discovered photo suggests she was captured by the Japanese.

Tencent will curb the amount of time that young kids spend on the popular mobile game “Honour of Kings.” Parents and teachers have been complaining that kids are getting addicted to it. Users younger than 12 years old will now be limited to one hour of play a day.


GetCRAFT (a whole bunch of them are on this newsletter!) helps brands connect with publishers, influencers and creators. They’re looking for a country head for Malaysia. Worth checking out.


“The fact that a man is a newspaper reporter is evidence of some flaw of character.”
— Lyndon B. Johnson


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