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Splice News Trends: Snap layoffs, HK bookseller snatched and Guardian set to break even

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

Platforms

Facebook, in its ongoing retreat from the publisher space, is now asking its users to identify what they consider trustworthy media sources. It doesn’t want to be the one deciding what people should read (I don’t want them doing that either), so they’re asking people to tell them. What could possibly go wrong? Let’s reframe this: So after deciding that people were susceptible to fake news and misinformation, Facebook now wants people to self-declare. I’m not sure how we’re defining trust in media, but I’m absolutely sure it doesn’t translate well around the world.

BuzzFeed got its hands on Facebook’s survey. Facebook has just two questions. You have to see if for yourself. Twitter people had a field day with this one.

Vanity Fair takes a look at what Facebook is trying to do. It asks: what is Zuck seeing in the future that’s caused him to take this sharp turn?

Rupert Murdoch wants Facebook and Google to pay cable-style “carriage” fees in support of the media industry. The owner of tabloids and a fake news channel blamed the duo for “scurrilous news sources” delivered by algos. Joke of the week. No Rupert, you’re not the savior of the industry; you’re part of the problem.

YouTube is creating an “Intelligence Desk” to detect controversial content before it becomes the shitshow it so often does. It says it will use data, trends, reports, and third-party consultants to either remove the content altogether or prevent advertising from appearing near it.

Twitter says about 700,000 people on its platform were exposed to Russian propaganda during the U.S. presidential election. It’s tracked down 50,000 automated accounts that were apparently linked to the Kremlin. The problem is that Twitter has taken down the accounts, so it’s not entirely clear what specific content these bots were driving and how they connect.

Snap laid off two dozen employees last week. These included people from the content division, which works with partners to produce original content for its Discover section. You may recall that Snap separated out the Discover section of the app because (as Facebook figured out later) people wanted to see stuff from their friends.

Governments

Gui Minhai was one of the Hong Kong book publishers who disappeared in 2015, only to resurface later in China under police custody. He’s just been snatched again — this time while on a train in China, traveling with Swedish diplomats. Chilling.

Snatched: Hong Kong bookseller Gui Min Hei has ben re-arrested

In a rare show of unity, 14 media organisations came together in Australia to protest the government’s national security laws. They say the proposed legislation will criminalize news reporting and whistleblowing. Journalists could face jail time of up to 20 years. “The reduction of clear legal protections may reduce the willingness of people to provide information.” We’re putting together a story on this. What should we be asking?

Fresh News is one of the most influential sites in Cambodia, publishing the government’s point of view to millions in the country. “[The government] trusts me because if they give me the whole thing, I publish the whole thing.” Their platform of choice in reaching the masses: Facebook. (How do you think Fresh News will score on that trust survey?).

Trends

Cheap data, more platforms and a surge of videos. 2018 could be a watershed year for online content in India. It’s going to pit content creators, platforms and newsrooms against each other like never before.

Google will start using page speed to rank mobile searches.Some publishers like The Atlantic will come out on top. And then there are slow ones like CNN and WSJ. Here’s the leaderboard.

There’s a fake porn app. That’s right. It takes faces and sticks them on the bodies of porn stars. And it’s all done by AI. If you think you’ve seen the last of fake news, you’ll now see why we’re truly f***ed.

Start-ups

Burmese journalist Min Min had his life threatened by a monk when he was covering Buddhist extremism in Rakhine state.When his own newsroom refused to back him up, he started his own media company — Root Investigative Agency — to uncover what was going on in the state. “What we do is not appreciated by nationalists and racists.”

Root Investigative Agency co-founder Min Min pitcured at his desk in the news agency’s Sittwe office. Photo: RiA

There’s a new grant to help newsrooms pay for the use of community engagement tools like Hearken and GroundSource. Worth checking out, especially if you’re a small startup. But it’s only for U.S. newsrooms, or international ones with a U.S.-based financial sponsor. (We need grants like these in Asia.)

 Transformations

Thailand’s Nation Multimedia, which publishes The Nation newspaper, was acquired by a conservative media company. Nation has struggled over the past few years. The new owner, T News, is considered royalist and pro-junta. The Nation’s Suthichai Yoon (one of our readers) will retire. (Thanks Andrew Batt for flagging this.)

Jobs are being cut at The West Australian, as part of cost reductions by Seven West Media. “Seven West Media is changing its business model, which includes a focus and diligence on cost right across the company.”

Unlike many of its peers, the Guardian has refused to put up a paywall. It gives out its content for free. And it asks that people contribute whatever they can in donations. This year, they expect to break even. Man-bites-dog.

IDN Media and Rappler are partnering to reach millennial and Gen-Z audiences in Indonesia. IDN Times will run Rappler’s content. They will both also collaborate on training and events.

Talent

Here’s something of a dream job. Media investor MDIF is looking for a digital media specialist to “plan, manage and execute different types of technical assistance and capacity building across MDIF’s portfolio companies, generally in emerging and frontier markets.”

Notables

Coming down with a bout of writer’s block can be nasty. This white-knuckle ride of a writing app may be a gimmick, but it may arguably also be the only thing that can cure your procrastypation.

Apparently 90 per cent of Gmail users still aren’t using two-factor authentication. Not good. Especially if you’re a journalist who’s responsible for keeping your sources safe. Don’t wait.

You may not have thought much about the humble headphone jack lately. But as we move to wireless headsets, we’re putting a close to an important part of electrical history. A eulogy to the headphone jack.

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