Features

Splice News Trends: Mashable flames out, WeChat soars and Skype axed in China

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

Trends

The shock! Mashable sold itself to Ziff Davis at a massive discount. The sale price — a reported $50 million — is a fraction of the $300 million offer it got from Turner only two years ago. It’s a reminder of how difficult it is to build a mass digital business. Like many, a pivot to video isn’t a solution.

What caused Mashable to flame out? Pivot to more content categories, pivot to video, and an assumption that a Facebook strategy was all it needed to get big. “Once it took funding, Mashable faced big expectations to return profits for investors, but struggled to figure out what it was.”

The HuffPost-Fairfax joint venture in Australia is reportedly in trouble. Mumbrella reports the partnership could end, resulting in “a series of redundancies.”

This is a nice contrast to all the gloom in the digital publishing business. Singapore-based media startup Tech In Asia raised $6.6 million in a funding round led by Korea’s Hanwha Investments. The company says the capital will be used to develop research and products. There’s always room to grow when you’re not just delivering content. In simple terms, they’re a data company that just happens to be in the content and events space.

Willis Wee of Tech in Asia – a data company, doing content

Tencent, which owns WeChat, surpassed Facebook in terms of valuation. It’s now the only Asian tech firm in the $500-billion valuation league.

Platforms

Sandy Parakilas was an operations manager at Facebook pre-IPO. She’s concerned about the way the company collects data, arguing that it has no reason to put safeguards in place. She’s now calling for more regulation, or the breakup of the company. “The company won’t protect us by itself, and nothing less than our democracy is at stake.”

Al Jazeera’s social video team AJ+ started out on Facebook where it found quick traction with people. But now they’re starting to pivot to YouTube, which proves to be a better platform to build retention and longer time spent. “YouTube is a search engine, but it’s also the world’s largest video-on-demand platform. The audience is naturally looking for a different style of content, something that’s more in-depth and presented.”

Governments 

Skype was removed from all Chinese app stores in the past month. “We have been notified by the Ministry of Public Security that a number of voice over internet protocol apps do not comply with local law,” according to Apple.

Press freedom advocates say the fake news bill that’s in front of the Philippine Senate is “potentially unconstitutional.” The bill seeks to punish the “malicious creation and distribution of false news” with fines and jail. Critics are pushing back, saying current laws are enough to regulate speech.

Start-ups

Stories about media in tiny Brunei don’t make the news. That’s why you should read about what The Scoop is trying to achieve. The staff hail from Brunei Times, which was forced to shut down last year (allegedly under pressure from the Saudis), so you can assume they have a story to tell.

Transformations

Australia’s SBS cut 12 languages from its radio services as part of a restructuring. Instead, it will add 7 new languages to its programming, including Rohingya.

Designs

Journalists drink. Sometimes a lot. And that’s why this could be an interesting lesson in understanding our audience and designing better products for them. Kris Gage isn’t from media. But her time in bartending told her a lot about what customers want. “People don’t drink because they need alcohol.”

Google Maps has a new design for the first time in ages. There’s colour coding, a more detailed icon vocabulary, and a deeper understanding of the fact that we often use map apps to make lifestyle decisions, not just navigational ones. Getting yourself to the closest coffee just became a lot more fun.

Tools

You can now send higher-resolution photos in Facebook Messenger — up to 4K. The update will hit the U.S., Canada, France, Australia, the UK, Singapore, Hong Kong, Japan, and South Korea first. Nice pimples.

Even the non-parents among us are enjoying Common Sense Media, the tool that assesses media choices for kids with “sanity, not censorship.” They have a great system for rating and reviewing everything from games, movies, TV shows, and websites. In this age of rapidly eroding trust, maybe it’s time for a grown-up version too.

Safety

ProtonMail launched an encrypted contacts manager so you can keep your sources safe. There’s also a digital signature that makes it hard for anyone to tamper with or edit your contacts’ details.

Talent 

Universities are doing a disservice to their students if they’re only teaching the craft of journalism. FFS, teach some business skills already, like PR.

Valerie Madon, the chief creative officer of Havas Southeast Asia, has a bone to pick with agencies who won’t evolve because they’re just too lazy to learn new things. “It’s a very different way of thinking, but who is to say we can’t change things with this much data in our hands?”

Quote of the Week

“There is no map, and charting a path ahead will not be easy. We will need to invent, which means we will need to experiment.” — Note from Jeff Bezos to Washington Post employees when he bought the paper. Three years on, some are now referring to WaPo as a software company that just happens to publish a newspaper.

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