Splice News: Apple moves into Facebook’s shoes, CNN layoffs and FT gets creative

In this week’s media roundup, The Splice Newsroom’s Alan Soon looks at Facebook's latest wrangling, The New York Times' print predictions and Apple's media push


We’ll soon need a whole category labeled ‘techlash’ as this picks up speed. Unilever — the world’s second biggest advertiser — is threatening to pull its ads from Facebook and Google. It says these giants aren’t doing enough about improving transparency about news, or protecting children from toxic content. “It is in the digital media industry’s interest to listen and act on this.”

Harvard and MIT are jointly offering a new course on the ethics and regulation of AI. “Technology is not neutral.

Wired spoke to 51 current and former employees at Facebook for a massive piece on what went wrong at the company. It’s a long, deep read. You’ll probably want to print it out for a read at the pool. This is about how Facebook built itself into the world’s most powerful “we’re-not-media” media company and now finds itself in a mid-life crisis.

Facebook seems to have finally found its voice with publishers. A year ago, it was “let us show you how to build an audience on Facebook.” This time: “If anyone feels this isn’t the right platform for them, they should not be on Facebook.” That’s so blunt and so refreshing. Now STFU and get on with it.

Apple is already filling some of Facebook’s shoes. The Information says referrals from Apple News have been as much as 60% for some stories. One big factor is that Apple has human editors interacting with publishers (via Slack) when it comes to story pitches. But can it monetise? “It’s similar to Facebook Instant Articles, but Apple seems to be a bit more committed to publications than Facebook.”

Google reached a licensing deal with Getty Images. Google will be able to use Getty’s images in Search and its other products. Getty filed a legal complaint against Google in 2016, saying the search engine was displaying high-res images in its results, thereby reducing the need for people to go to the original website.


Reuters published an extensive report into the killing of 10 Rohingya men in Myanmar. There are two good reasons to read this: First, it sets a high bar on investigative reporting with its interviews and detailed analysis of how that massacre happened. Second, this is what two Reuters journalists are in prison for. It’s something the Myanmar government wants to ensure you don’t ever see.

Reuters’ report of the recent killings in Myanmar

Burmese journalist Esther Htusan, who won a Pulitzer Prize for her reporting, apparently fled Myanmar after receiving death threats. The government accused her in November for misrepresenting a speech by ASSK on immigration and terrorism. “She’s not going back any time soon.”

Exiled Cambodian politician Sam Rainsy filed a suit against Facebook, demanding that it hand over data to prove that Prime Minister Hun Sen bought Likes on the platform to make himself look popular. Hun Sen has about 9 million Likes on his page. This is the first time that Facebook has been sued for information regarding a world leader’s page.

A German court ruled that Facebook’s default privacy settings and its use of personal data are illegal. It said Facebook isn’t giving enough information to people that would help them provide meaningful consent. Facebook will appeal.

France is putting together new legislation to fight fake news.The proposed legislation empowers the broadcast authority to suspend the license of any “foreign-influenced” media during elections (we’re looking at you, RT). But that’s not going to stop a multitude of shell companies disseminating information on the web. The threat is asymmetrical.

Japan is bolstering protections for whistleblowers. The government is concerned that internal corporate compliance is too weak and employees aren’t coming forward when things break. (Compare this with what Australia is doing on whistleblower protections.)


CNN is laying off “fewer than 50” jobs — all on the digital side.Digital chief Andrew Morse said “financial targets were overly aggressive,” adding that CNN “tried to do too much too fast.” In other words, they were probably betting big on Facebook referrals and thought they could monetize those in a meaningful manner. Some of the first casualties of the year.

The New York Times digital paywall business is growing as fast as Facebook and faster than Google. In 2017, it saw a 46% jump in subscriptions. Here’s the other crazy part: That’s the average digital subscription growth since the paywall went up in 2011. The NYT is now a $4 billion company. That’s inspiring.

The New York Times’ CEO Mark Thompson says print still has another 10 years to go. “We’ll decide that simply on the economics,” he said. “There may come a point when the economics of [the print paper] no longer make sense for us.”

NYT CEO Mark Thompson” ‘Print has another 10 years’

The Washington Post is opening a bureau in Hong Kong. “The Hong Kong-based correspondent will allow us to turn a closer eye to Southeast Asia.” Hmm. So why is that person sitting in Hong Kong?

So to reach a younger audience, here’s an idea to use: You could pivot it to video and just rap the news. All you need is good curation and a couple of hosts. And you could lay down that beat just like the Phnom Penh Post. Word.

Malaysia’s The New Straits Times Press shook up its management lineup as part of its efforts to turn itself into a digital publisher. 27-year veteran Yushaimi Maulud Yahaya is taking over as the new editor-in-chief.


Google announced AMP for email. Easy, tiger. It sounds like fun, but let’s be careful here. Just because you can work that 10-slide carousel and a whole lot of dynamic product and pricing content doesn’t necessarily mean you should. Like everything else, it’s a tool — brilliant in the hands of someone who knows how to use it, but instant unsubscribe hell otherwise. Take it for a spin. Gently.


Reporters Without Borders is telling journalists in China to shut their iCloud accounts. This follows Apple’s plans to outsource its iCloud operations in China to a firm connected to the government. Your iCloud account contains critical details like contacts, photos, files, email, and passwords, so you see why RSF is raising the alarm. February 28 is the deadline — that’s when Apple makes the switch. Don’t put yourself or your sources at risk.


Financial Times wants a creative producer on the team.They’re looking for someone to take news stories and transform them with visuals, data, photos or videos. It’s fantastic. Best part — you get to work with the amazing Robin Kwong.

Quote of the Day

“They should get back to baby pictures.”
— Susan Wojcicki, YouTube CEO — who is no stranger to controversial content — on what Facebook should be doing.


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