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Splice News Trends: Alibaba ‘sexist’ video slammed, YouTube cleans up and Yahoo sells Flickr

In this week's media roundup, Alan Soon mulls the the tech giants' latest results, Alibaba's global PR crisis and National Geographic's eye-catching redesign

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Platforms

Facebook’s revenue growth continues to accelerate. It jumped 49% to a stunning $12 billion in Q1. There was no sign of any damage from the Cambridge Analytica scandal, which emerged at the end of the quarter.

Facebook made a bold move this week to publicize the internal guidelines it uses to censor certain topics on the platform. 27 pages on why some posts get removed. In a way, Facebook wants to say it has a process and is consistent in how it applies these guidelines; we would expect it to be. Except, of course, it still makes plenty of exceptions along the way — that sometimes make absolutely no sense. Like this rule of having no “visible anus and/or fully nude close-ups of buttocks unless photoshopped on a public figure.” What does that even mean?!

Zuck said earlier this year that the changes to Facebook’s algo was meant to help drive “meaningful social interactions.”The company also said it wants to support local news. A study by Tow Center however shows that posts by local U.S. publishers have plunged by as much as half since that algo change was announced. Why? Unclear.

A man in Cambodia killed his ex-wife and then himself. He broadcast his suicide on Facebook Live as he jumped off a bridge. Facebook users shared the video. Reuters says it wasn’t clear when or if it was taken down.

Something is finally going right at Twitter. It’s taken more than a decade, but the company seems to be headed in the right direction. It posted its second quarter of profit in Q1: $61 million profit on $665 million in revenue. User growth is also up: +3% from the same quarter last year. But take the long view and you’ll see that the stock is up 115% over the past year — far better than Google, Facebook or Amazon.

But hey Twitter, something strange is going on here in Southeast Asia. There’s been a surge of bot activity and fake accounts. Some journalists are reporting a massive increase in followers for no apparent reason. Twitter says it’s no big deal. “It looks like a pretty standard sign-up/onboarding issue.”

Bots are definitely in play in Malaysia, pushing out pro-government messages ahead of the May 9 election. The Atlantic Council think tank says 17,000 bots have been tweeting last week.

YouTube says it dropped 8.3 million videos for breaking community guidelines in Q4 last year. It published the numbers in its first quarterly moderation report as way to quell the concerns that people have about its ability to handle extremist and abusive content.

Brand safety remains a pressing issue for YouTube

But they have a long way to go. BuzzFeed says they uncovered bestiality thumbnails of women having sex with animals. Many have had millions of views. Its origins: probably Cambodia. “There are many. Without needing to search, YouTube’s recommendation algorithm pointed BuzzFeed News to dozens of accounts, each with multiple videos featuring explicit bestiality thumbnails.”

Youku is the latest platform in China to clean up its inappropriate content. The country’s media regulator (with its friendly acronym SARFT) has been pushing tech platforms to get rid of stuff that runs counter to national values.

Trends

Alibaba. You should know better. A report from Human Rights Watch took the lid off rampant gender discrimination in China, offering a critical look at the country’s tech giants. Alibaba, in one of its recruitment videos, promises male tech engineers a chance to work with beautiful women. “Goddesses,” it offered. It also called them “late night benefits”. Appalling. Watch this video op-ed by journalist Zhang Lijia on the New York Times.

China’s biggest music streaming company Tencent Music is reportedly planning an IPO later this year. That offering could be worth over $25 billion.

VICE launched in India through a partnership with Times of India Group. It will produce videos about food, music, politics, sports, sex, and comedy.

India’s Economic Times launched a membership-based service called ET Prime. It promises “insight-rich” stories, great conversations and a great reading experience. Hmm, makes you wonder what regular people get. In any case, I can’t figure out what else is on offer because they put the pitch article behind the paywall!

Vanity Fair launched a $20-a-year paywall. You’ll hit it after your fourth article in a month. Interestingly (no doubt to maintain their traffic numbers), slideshows and videos are exempt from the paywall.

Orchid Labs, a San Francisco startup that is building a surveillance-free layer over the internet, just raised $36 million dollars. They’re looking for a total of $125 million.

Axel Springer lost its legal bid to shut down AdBlock Plus. It argued that blocking ads was anti-competitive. It also pointed out that AdBlock’s whitelisting policy was also legally dubious (some say it’s a protection racket for the publishing industry). The German Supreme Court doesn’t agree.

Transformations

Verizon started breaking up Yahoo, which it bought 2 years ago. First to go: The once mighty Flickr. It’s going to an equally ancient photo service — Smugmug. No mention of its price. (Random trivia: Smugmug hosted my first photo gallery way back when people were still doing photo galleries. Another bit of trivia: Flickr was founded by Stewart Butterfield — who started Slack with the money he made from selling Flickr to Yahoo.)

The venerable National Geographic has been redesigned. The May print issue just hit newsstands today, as did the online version. The print version comes with new paper stock, two new typefaces, and some spectacular typographic layouts. The redesign is part of a move towards being bolder and more provocative, and they’ve pulled it off. But I’m really happy they’ve decided to hold on to that iconic yellow rectangle.

The new-look National Geographic

Streaming is, for the first time, a larger revenue source than physical formats. The International Federation of the Phonographic Industry’s Global Music Report 2018 said that the number of paying subscribers has grown to 176 million worldwide: a third of those were added in 2017.

Talent

If you’ve been looking for Asian-funded journalism fellowships and grants in the region, you’ll quickly learn that they don’t really exist. Blame it on commercial pressures and cultural influences. We should be concernedA Splice Original

The Information is looking for a reporter to cover Asia, based in Hong Kong. “We need a reporter who can deliver deeply sourced exclusives on corporate strategy, agenda-setting trend pieces as well as scoops on the mega funding rounds.”

Facebook is looking a Burmese-speaking media partnerships manager, based in Singapore. The job requires working with Myanmar’s biggest newsrooms to help them with Facebook’s products and tools. Given the troubles they’ve had in Myanmar, you can see why this matters.

Start-ups

Mediati — a media startup accelerator in Seoul — is forming an army of content makers to shake up South Korea’s staid media landscape. Their goal: to teach journalists that startup success is much more than just promising to deliver compelling content. A Splice Original.

Notables

The Internship of the Year is at Harley Davidson. Ride a Harley around America. Post to social media. Get paid. And you get to keep the bike. The motorcycle company just reported a drop in profits. This 12-week gig is part of their struggle to be what the cool kids are riding. Scooters, anyone?

My latest podcast obsession. NYT’s Caliphate.

 

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