Splice News Trends: What’s App founder quits, Twitter hones video and Facebook tries dating

In his latest round-up of the media industry's rumblings, Alan Soon explores Facebook's latest data shenanigans, Twitter's meetings with Disney and what Jan Koum will do with his billions

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


Facebook started ranking news orgs based on trustworthiness (whatever that means). They’re asking people whether 1) they’ve heard of certain news brands and 2) if they trust them. How do you feel about Breitbart? “We feel like we have a responsibility to further [break] down polarisation and find common ground.”

Facebook’s move toward trust is big — and that’s why you need to read this piece. Blows my mind. It’s a simple argument calling out what appears to be a mega trend. Gloria Origgi explains that we’re now done with the Information Age. Instead, given the surge of content, we’re entering a “Reputation Age”, where information is only valuable if it’s “already filtered, evaluated, and commented upon by others.”

Murdoch won’t be getting Facebook’s money. Zuckerberg ruled out demands for Facebook to pay an annual carriage fee for using content from publishers. “People come to Facebook primarily not to consume news but to communicate with people,” Zuckerberg said.

Facebook has so much data on single people that it’s going to start matchmaking them. But not the young, hookup Tinder stuff. It’s about getting the old(er) people to fall in love. (Now why can’t they get people to fall in love with news? Single email newsletter seeks passionate LTR with a reader of news and views. Must like long talks about reach.)

YouTube is finally doing something to keep all that creepy scary shit away from kids. You can now limit what your kid sees to “human-approved” channels. Because AI isn’t meant to babysit.

Twitter closed more than 30 deals with publishers such as Disney and NBCUniversal to beef up its video offerings. Disney, in particular, will create live sports shows for the platform. That news sent Twitter’s stock up 4.5% on Monday. (Some are now calling for Disney to buy Twitter.)

Should Twitter make a podcast app? Here’s a strong argument in favour.

Jan Koum, who started WhatsApp and sold it to Facebook for more than $19 billion, is leaving the parent company. Koum has been a proponent of privacy and security (remember how they promised to never sell ads?) and is reportedly frustrated at Facebook’s attempts to use WhatApp’s personal data for targeting. He says he’d rather spend his time with his hobbies “such as collecting rare air-cooled Porsches”. Some day, I too will have an air-cooled German car.


ABC is cutting another 20 jobs in Australia. It’s restructuring eight capital-city newsrooms as part of its shift to digital. Management wants everyone to know that it’s not actually cutting jobs but replacing them with new roles.

New York-focused Gothamist is back! It closed in November but was resurrected through an acquisition by WNYC.


A Danish citizen has become the first person to be convicted under Malaysia’s fake news law. Salah Salem Saleh Sulaiman posted a video on YouTube accusing the police of taking 50 minutes to respond to distress calls following the shooting of a Palestinian lecturer on April 21. The police say they only took 8 minutes. Sulaiman was fined about $2,500 but chose to spend a month in jail because he couldn’t pay.

My friend and former CNN digital director Marc Lourdes was on WNYC to put some context around Malaysia’s fake news law. Check out his audio interview.

Malaysiakini is suspending its paywall for the next two weeks for the elections. “Barring someone turning the Internet off, we expect more than 80 percent of voters with Internet access to surf Malaysiakini on polling day.”

China continues to hunt down Peppa Pig. Thousands of Peppa Pig videos were removed from Bytedance’s Douyin, a popular video app. Authorities have recently turned their sights on Peppa for being an “unexpected cultural icon of shehuiren subculture” — referring to poorly educated “unruly slackers”. An editorial in the People’s Daily also called Peppa “gangster”. Oink you too.

One of China’s anti-graft watchdogs claims it managed to retrieve deleted messages from a suspect’s WeChat account.Tencent, which owns the platform, says that’s impossible since chats aren’t stored on the cloud, only on devices. One of them is telling the truth.


Vietnam may be seeing the start of its own #MeToo campaign — in media. An intern at the newspaper Tuoi Tre was allegedly sexually assaulted by a department head. The intern reportedly attempted suicide after the incident. The scandal led a number of female journalists to come forward with their own stories. Bao Uyen, a journalist, wrote on Facebook, “If you’re a journalist, your colleagues will never let you appear in a news feature about any rape case wherein the suspect is the editor-in-chief, the managing editor, or head of a department.” Her Facebook account was later blocked.

Bloomberg rolled out a paywall for its news site, mobile apps, Bloomberg TV livestreams, videos, and newsletters. You’ll get 10 free articles per month before hitting the pay button. An “all access” pass is priced at $39.99 per month. Woah!

It’s newsletter season. Singapore-based journalist/activist Kirsten Han launched a newsletter to cover civil liberties and social justice in the Republic. It’s called “We, The Citizens” (after the opening line of the Singapore national pledge). Subscribe here.

Activist Kate Walton in Jakarta also started a newsletter of her own called Solidaritas. It covers women, gender and feminism in Asia. Updates expected fortnightly. Sign up here. Won’t be long before someone starts a newsletter rounding up newsletters in the region.

Erin Cook’s newsletter is brash, funny, and an indispensable guide to Southeast Asia news. Sometimes if you can’t find what you want, you’ll just have to write it yourself. This is how this Australian journalist is building a community around her newsletterA Splice Original.

Could Mic.com be the next Facebook-based mass publisher to fall? How scary is this: Its views on FB have plunged from 192 million in April 2017 to just 11 million in March.

Media start-ups

It’s a surprisingly counterintuitive approach to journalism in the digital age. Hong Kong’s investigative news startup FactWire has a radical approach to ‘collective journalism’: it has no editors and runs on the equivalent of peer reviews. Yet it works.


Washington Post named Shibani Mahtani of the Wall Street Journal as its Southeast Asia correspondent. Oddly, she’s based in Hong Kong. Shibani is Singaporean (wooo) and graduated from the LSE and Columbia.

ICFJ is looking to place full-time Fellows to work in newsrooms in Brazil, India, Indonesia, Nigeria, and the U.S.They’re looking to embed experts who can help reporters improve the reach and impact of fact-checking. This is a six-month fellowship. What an incredible opportunity. Deadline is the end of May.

Staff at Al Jazeera’s London bureau will go on a one-day strike on May 9 because they haven’t received a pay rise in four years. The National Union Journalists voted 90% in favour of the strike.


Cambridge Analytica is shutting down. “The siege of media coverage has driven away virtually all of the Company’s customers and suppliers.” That’s what you get for being evil.

Here’s a rare interview with Jeff Bezos — done on stage by CEO of Axel Springer Mathias Döpfner. He talks about creating Amazon, and what it’s like to have Trump come after you.


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