Coconuts fights back against ‘fucked up’ online media by introducing a paywall

South East Asian media giant Coconuts has issued a brutal take-down of the “fucked up” digital media ecosystem as the network prepares to put up a paywall this week.

Coconuts: ‘Publishers have lowered quality and become increasingly similar to chase audience size’. Image credit: Coconuts

The irreverent news site, which flourished during the social media boom, has unveiled COCO+, a membership scheme that allows access to Coconuts’ articles and videos for US$5 a month. Non-members will be granted 15 articles for free in the same timeframe.

In an online post, Coconuts claimed the change stemmed from the plummeting quality of online publishers on Facebook, the platform that originally helped Coconuts reach its height of 4.2 million monthly users.

In addition, the network argued that the social media site had become “hijacked by extreme political movements and armies of trolls and bots”.

The post read:

“In the seven years of our existence, the online media ecosystem has changed drastically.

And frankly, right now, it’s all fucked up.

Garbage content – fake news, clickbait, and 30-second newsfeed videos – has exploded, fueled by Facebook algorithms that are constantly changing and often rewarding our worst instincts.

Publishers have lowered quality and become increasingly similar to chase audience size.

Even worse, social media has also increasingly become hijacked by extreme political movements and armies of trolls and bots.

We believe that intelligent people are increasingly fed up with this worthless content, constant outrage, and the mindlessness of scrolling through social media feeds.

We believe there is a community of readers that wants to actively choose what to read or watch, not passively consume content selected by formulas.

We believe that community is YOU, our readership.

Above all, our primary responsibility is to you – not to Facebook, not to advertisers, not to any corporation or government.”

Founded by Byron Perry in 2011, Coconuts functions as a collection of city news sites, covering South East Asia and Hong Kong.

Known for producing humorous, quirky stories that often went viral on social media, the company now covers Manila, Singapore, Hong Kong, KL, Jakarta, Bali, and Yangon.

Over the past seven years, the company has gone on to sell a TV video series to Netflix and has branched out into producing advertising campaigns for brands.

Last year, Coconuts decided to unify its network under the editorial leadership of former Phnom Pehn Post editor Chad Williams, who outlined his vision to bring more serious stories to the platform. 

The company decision follows a difficult period for global competitor news sites such as Mashable and Buzzfeed, which, like Coconuts, found success through the Facebook algorithms. The former recently laid off 100 members of its workforce, while the latter was recently bought out by Ziff Davis, which promptly closed its Asian operation. 

Coconuts was contacted for further comment.


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