Splice News media trends: Facebook launches Watch, Disney drops Netflix and Thailand backs down

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


De Correspondent — that great news subscription service from the Netherlands — sat some of their subscribers down to better understand why they signed up for the service. There are some really important nuggets in here around reader loyalty and trust, and how to cultivate them. If you’re building a news subscription service, this is worth a read. “I appreciate that De Correspondent is open about the fact that journalists have opinions.”

…Btw how do you know what your subscribers are reading on your site? Chartbeat has a new feature for that. “If 2016 was the year that was all about platforms, 2017 was the year all about subscriptions.”

Facebook finally launched its premium video service called Watch. It expects that people will go there to watch episodic videos, as well as live sports like Major League Baseball. But is that what people will want to do on Facebook? Here are some other good questions to ask.

Disney is pulling all its shows off Netflix because it wants to start its own video streaming service in 2019. Disney says it will make a “significant investment” in exclusive movies and TV serials for the platform. Either way it’ll be an uphill fight in a space already dominated by Netflix, Amazon and Hulu. And 2019 is a long way away.

iFlix — the Netflix of Asia — raised $133 million in a round led by Hearst. The company doesn’t give much in the way of numbers but claims that subscriptions tripled in the past year.

A left-leaning YouTube startup in the U.S. raised $20 million. The Young Turks Network plans to use the funds to double its team to about 200 people. “News is red hot right now and being positioned on the progressive side of the coin has put us in a very good place.”

Bloomberg is getting into consulting — into areas such as financial services, tech and telecom, auto and government. “I’m like a kid in a candy store because there’s so much intelligence in this company.”


I love it when editors speak their minds, even anonymously. That’s how we know just how insane things are in newsrooms.“We autoplay. We’re told to put videos on top of stories that aren’t even related to the story. Sometimes, I just refuse to and hope my editor doesn’t see it… Nobody’s thinking about the user experience.”

…So Google rolled out its Ad Experience Report about two months ago. It scores websites on whether ads on those sites are annoying to users. Stuff like autoplaying videos with sound. So far, it’s given fail ratings to 700 sites — including big names like Forbes and LA Times.

Singapore Press Holdings and Mediacorp will combine their ad inventories into an ad network called SMX. They’re committing at least 2 billion display and video impressions across their platforms. It’s a great move… but is it too late?

Quartz boasts a 90% renewal rate for branded content. Quartz says this is because it helps clients stay on top of changes in tech, for example, by building them a chat bot. “Content isn’t the thing that advertisers need every single time. When an agency is looking for something ownable, really specific to a larger theme or brand challenge, we start that.”

If you want your readers to trust you, why then are you stalking them across the web? It’s time for publishers to rethink their use of third-party trackers.

The giants

Here’s a fabulous piece about the changing media landscape and how the pursuit of digital readership is destroying journalism.“Dependence generates desperation—a mad, shameless chase to gain clicks through Facebook, a relentless effort to game Google’s algorithms.”

…Publishers have long complained that Facebook and Google are sucking up practically every new ad dollar in digital. And yet nothing changes. “Pretty much everyone will say it is much healthier to have multiple players competing with each other. After they’ve said that, they all go and they pay into a handful of dominant players.”

…Two German broadcasters are trying to do something. RTL Group and ProSiebenSat.1 Media SE formed an alliance with an ISP to create a unified registration and login service for consumers.

FT’s iOS app is back in the App Store after a six-year absence. The FT pulled the app in 2011 because it didn’t want to give Apple a 30% cut of its in-app subscription revenue. This time, Apple still won’t be getting a cut because of a smart workaround.

Governments and policy

Israel says it will shut Al Jazeera’s operations in the country. “We have identified media outlets that do not serve freedom of speech but endanger the security of Israel’s citizens, and the main instrument has been Al Jazeera.”

Indonesia and Google will run the Trusted Flagger (what a name) program in which accredited volunteers will be given the authority to flag terrorism, hoaxes and other “negative” content. They will bring together civil society institutions such as Wahid Institute, ICT Watch and Mafindo as content moderators.

Thailand backed off on its threats to slap penalties on social media platforms, saying it’s satisfied with what Facebook and YouTube have done in taking down 1,800 pieces of content over the last three months. It says all sides have been “collaborative.”

Myanmar’s Aung San Suu Kyi, who once courted the independent press, is now telling people to turn to the state broadcaster for the facts behind what’s going on in Rakhine state. “We take a lot of care as the whole world is interested in this.”


Thailand’s Sattahip naval base — the largest in the country — is overrun by monkeys. The navy is trying a new weapon to stop them: vasectomies.

Custom porn. That’s now a thing.


“A society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in.”
— Greek Proverb


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