Splice News media trends: WhatsApp charges, skinny bundles and the battle for Bond

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 Cambodia Daily printed its last newspaper after 24 years. The government forced the Daily to shut, alleging it owed millions of dollars in taxes. But the paper didn’t go quietly into the night – it ran one last big story on the arrest of an opposition leader.

…Silver lining in all this — you now have some really talented journalists from the Daily out in the wild. Let me know if I can help connect you.

Spreading “fake” news now gets a higher fine in the Philippines, including prison. The amended law defines false news as any publication which “may endanger the public order, or cause damage to the interest or credit of the State.”


Facebook offered $600 million to secure the rights to stream the Indian Premier League cricket matches. It lost out to Murdoch’s Star but it shows just how far Facebook will go in trying to clinch the biggest sports deals.

…Facebook says a shadowy Russian company bought $100,000 worth of ads to reach American voters during the presidential campaign. It says one-quarter of the ads were “geographically targeted.”

Esquire Philippines ran an interview with Rappler’s Maria Ressa about her struggle against haters on social media. “Journalists have now given up their gatekeeping powers, and it’s Facebook and Google that now have those gatekeeping powers. How will these tech giants react to that?”

Remember how WhatsApp used tell you that they would never charge for its service? Well, it’s ready to start charging companies to contact customers on the platform (thankfully, you’ll have to opt-in if you want to be reached). WhatsApp will also roll out verified profiles for businesses.


The New York Times appears to be going after philanthropic funding as a revenue stream. The Guardian is also doing the same. Two implications to consider: First, this will soak up some of the donor money that currently goes toward smaller newsrooms. Second, it will raise questions of editorial independence as newsrooms start covering stories that donors are interested in.

Mic is reportedly following Cheddar and Vice in selling “skinny” bundles of channels to TV cable companies. Not a bad way of trying to win over some of that revenue. If this becomes a trend, it could seriously disrupt entrenched – and expensive –cable channels like CNN.

Quartz just turned five. So it’s launching a bunch of new things – including a printed book. I’m tempted.


Apple and Amazon are reportedly trying to buy the rights to the next Bond film, as well as its franchise. The valuation of the franchise itself could be worth between $2 billion and $5 billion.

Podcast network Gimlet raised more money, this time $5 million from WPP. Getting money from the ad giant is a big deal for an industry that still doesn’t have standardized metrics.

The Economist now has one million followers on LINE. Here’s a bigger surprise: They actually have a dedicated team of three people working on LINE.


Veteran reporter Gauri Lankesh, a fierce critic of Hindu extremism, was shot dead at her house in Bangalore. “This is not the death of a journalist, but the death of democracy and constitutional values.”

Gauri Lankesh


The Washington Post started using Talk, an open-source tool that could make the comments section a little less hostile. For one, you can mute people you don’t like.


Dutch newspaper NRC Handelsblad defended its China correspondent after he was accused by his former news assistant of fabricating quotes in his stories. It said the ex-employee’s lack of journalistic background caused  “annoyances and miscommunications.”

Facebook is blocked in China. But that’s not stopping the company from looking for office space in Shanghai.

Instagram verification is a big deal. You can apparently pay up to $15,000 to get that blue check. It’s an inside job — some employees at Facebook/Instagram are apparently accepting bribes to make that happen.

Australia pulled an episode of Peppa Pig off the air because it apparently tells kids that it’s ok to pick up and play with dangerous spiders. That’s “fake” news in Australia.

You can pay for your KFC in China (or at least at one branch where this is being tested) by simply smiling at a camera. Facial recognition is now connected to digital payments.

Quote of the week

“Trouble is only opportunity in work clothes.” – Henry J Kaiser


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