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Splice News Trends: Facebook’s week from hell, Spotify turns 12 and why media start-ups fail

In his latest media column, The Splice Newsroom's Alan Soon examines Facebook's latest blunderings, the passing of Malaysia's hardline anti-fake news law and Spotify's 12-year legacy

To sign up to his newsletter, from which this content is taken, visit the The Splice Newsroom.

Governments 

We all saw this coming. We just didn’t think it would be this soon. Malaysia pushed through a law that makes fake news punishable with a maximum six-year jail term. It targets both local and foreign media in an apparent effort to muzzle criticism of the 1MDB scandal involving the PM. An election is expected to be called soon.

Indonesia threatened to shut Facebook down in the country if the company is found to have harvested data on its citizens. Communications Minister Rudiantara also wants FB to curb fake news during the upcoming elections. “If I have to shut them down, then I will do it.” He should know — he’s the same guy who blocked Telegram last year.

India dropped its plan to blacklist journalists for writing “fake” news. The notice was slammed by opposition politicians and journalists as an assault on media freedom.

The governor of Chiang Mai is seeking criminal charges against a local magazine for a “blasphemous” illustration showing the country’s ancient kings wearing masks to protest smog in the province. “The statues of three kings are very sacred and respected by Chiang Mai residents, they were our ancestors.”

Platforms

Facebook is making sweeping changes to restrict the use of its API in the aftermath of the Cambridge Analytica scandal.Events, Groups, Pages, and Login APIs will all be tightened. The Instagram Platform API will close. This could be the end of Facebook-as-a-platform as we know it.

Buried in Facebook’s post on API changes: “We believe the Facebook information of up to 87 million people — mostly in the U.S. — may have been improperly shared with Cambridge Analytica.” That’s far more than the 50 million initially reported by NYT and the Guardian. U.S. audiences are on top of that list. Guess who’s in second and third place? Philippines and Indonesia.

In an interview, Zuckerberg told Vox that Facebook’s role in the Rohingya genocide is a “real issue” that’s getting a lot of focus inside the company. Critics say the company still isn’t doing enough.

If you’re running your site on Drupal, you’ll want to read this.The team behind the platform is warning admins that a bug could leave one million sites “highly compromised.” It’s labelled the risk “highly critical.”

Transformations

The New York Times wrote a profile of the new, revamped SCMP under Alibaba. It suggested that the SCMP is mere propaganda machine meant to paint a more palatable view of China’s dominance. This will always be a thorn in the SCMP’s side— no matter how good the journalism and the journalists who work there, critics will always point to their ownership.

The FT’s readership is 80% male, 20% female. That’s gotta change. This is what the paper is doing to change the view that it’s a publication for men. “We realised that if that was the perception of the brand or the product in general, then naturally women didn’t feel represented, or they felt that it was useful, but not for them.” (Thanks for the tip, Arnab.)

Trends

Coconuts, once a fast-growing BuzzFeed-style site in Asia, is taking a hard right into memberships. Founder Byron Perry has had enough with the endless chase of reach and scale, calling it “all fucked up.” But will people pay for Coconuts’ content? A Splice Original.

Start-ups

101 Reporters is a startup in India that is trying to take the hassle out of pitching and commissioning stories. It connects freelance reporters with media organizations — and ensures freelancers who deliver on time get paid.

“Slow growth is the new hockey stick.” Check out this wonderfully written piece about self-funding your startup and growing it slowly instead of chasing down investors. Splice is bootstrapped, so you might say we’re biased.

Starting up is tough. Many media startups fail. Christopher Buschow looked at 15 media startups in Germany to understand why they failed. Some great insights here that are probably true around the world: too homogenous (too many journalists), lacking networks, and conflicting founder roles.

Notables 

‘Never made money’ – Spotify celebrates 12 years

Spotify is 12 years old. It’s never made money. It debuted as a public company a couple of days ago with a valuation of $26.5 billion. What’s interesting here is that the company did a “direct listing.” No money was raised. Instead, existing shares were sold by employees and investors. 

The Straits Times holds English writing classes for working adults. It’s an interesting product for a newspaper company, and a comment on the evolving role of newspapers in communities. This is the first of many work-related training programmes the company expects to launch.

Quote of Week 

“We’ll read crap on the web we wouldn’t have put up with in print.” — Ev Williams’ rant about the state of media and why it’s so hard to reinvent the advertiser-consumer relationship.

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