Splice News Trends: Facebook’s midlife crisis, Marriott’s social hiccup and NHK’s $6bn bill

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


So let’s get right to it. It’s all about Facebook’s midlife crisis. We didn’t get the whole “Make Facebook Great Again” stuff into our last newsletter — we missed it by two hours. But that’s given us plenty of time to reflect on where media is headed this year.

There’s a lot of great writing out there. There’s little doubt that 2018’s biggest theme, as our co-founder Rishad Patel puts it, is about “media freedom from Facebook.” This isn’t the apocalypse that some say it is; it’s the pivot-to-quality that publishers need to get on with. This will be the year that media gets its shit together. And we’ll have Zuck to thank for that.

What’s the fuss about? If you’re still catching up on why Facebook is deprioritizing publishers (some would prefer the use of an expletive as an adjective), here’s a quick and smart way of looking at things: Farhad Manjoo’s Cookie Theory. It’s not as bizarre as it sounds.

Is Facebook having a midlife crisis?

Frederic Filloux, as usual, delivers clear, concise insight. “Those who imagined Las Vegas, now find themselves stuck in Detroit.” His advice to publishers: Deal with it. Get back to basics.

What does it mean to go back to basics? Here are some tips on what your newsroom should refocus on.

Mumbrella asked several publishers in Asia how Facebook’s algo change would affect them. So many publishers were still quoting FB reach metrics only weeks ago. Now, everyone’s like — yeah, we got this.

But Stratechery’s Ben Thompson says it doesn’t add up. What exactly is Facebook’s motivation for this change? “Facebook is taking a long-term view, and it would only make this change were it right for the business. I’m just not entirely convinced that Zuckerberg and Mosseri are telling us the entire story.”

WhatsApp is reportedly testing an “anti-spam” warning. If a message — often spam or hoax — gets forwarded multiple times, WhatsApp will display a notice that the message “has been forwarded many times.” Re: Re: Re: Fwd: Fwd: Fwd: aWeSoMe!!!


Rappler, long targeted by the Philippine government for its reporting of the presidency, lost its operating licence. The corporate regulator said Rappler has been using a “deceptive scheme” to work around constitutional restrictions around foreign ownership of local media. It’s bullshit. Watch Rappler’s press conference.

Here’s context. Duterte has made it clear he wants to take down three of the country’s most critical news organizations: Inquirer, Rappler and ABS-CBN. Inquirer is already in the arms of one of his allies. So it’s now Rappler and ABS-CBN.

What might. So touchy. China shut Marriott’s websites for a week after the hotel chain listed Tibet, Hong Kong, and Macau as individual countries in one of its surveys. One of Marriott’s social media accounts also ‘liked’ a post made by a group supporting an independent Tibet.

Nepal is now connected to the internet through China. This puts an end to the kingdom’s dependence on India for connecting to the web. चल बाई.


What a week for Philippines media. TV5 is closing its news site InterAksyon.com after seven years. It’s not clear what triggered the move, or what will happen to the staff. Watch this space.

CNN Philippines laid off 88 staff. Roles affected included editors, engineers, cameramen, coordinators, floor directors, graphics artists, and associate producers. Management said they needed to “rightsize” (what a cowardly term) after assessing the company’s operational requirements.

Singapore Press Holdings’ media business continues to shrink. Profit from its media arm contracted 20 percent to S$26.5 million in Q1 (still attracting some envy in this industry). SPH’s property business still leads in profit. My hunch — and it’s total speculation — SPH will split its media and property business this year. It’ll keep the property arm listed.

Australia’s sole newspaper dedicated to kids will close. Crinkling News says the paper “will need a much bigger business, government or philanthropy to take all the amazing things we have done together and keep the momentum going.”

The Saigoneer in Vietnam is rolling out an English-language podcast this week. It wants to stir discussions around issues. It just needs to stay clear of the censors.

Frontier Myanmar will relaunch in March as a fortnightly magazine. It says the move “better reflects the size of the market for a high-quality, English publication like Frontier, as well as the shift in the way readers consume content.”

How much does NHK get in public fees a year? $6.2 billion. They don’t intend to cut it. We’re just going to type that again: 6.2. Billion. Dollars. ありがとうございました


The Philippines topped Pornhub’s “most time spent” leaderboard for the fourth straight year. Must be the bandwidth, not the addiction.

Quote of the week

“We are prepared. Bring it.” 
— Rappler’s CEO Maria Ressa.


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