Splice News Trends: Instagram video, Quartz on Facebook and Google fact-checking

In his weekly round-up newsroom consultant and former alumnus of Yahoo, CNBC and Bloomberg Alan Soon unpacks the happenings at Quartz, Instagram, Facbook, Google and The South China Morning Post among others

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Instagram launched IGTV, a long-form video app. The idea isn’t to go after Snapchat (now that they’ve copied practically everything) — it’s YouTube they’re after. It’s directed at video creators, offering them up to 1-hour video clips (versus a mere 1-minute on Instagram). They’ve spent a lot of time thinking about how to design this app for mobile audiences. It’s vertical, full-screen, and autoplaying. A vertical YouTube, perhaps. I have to say the UX is fresh and enlightening. What will it take for newsrooms to jump onboard?

Quartz will launch a business show on Facebook Watch. It’s not just video — Quartz will be using a Messenger chat bot as well to surface stories and engage with users. Quartz is one of 20 publishers who will soon be launching video shows on Facebook Watch.

Facebook will let some Group administrators charge fees.They’re testing this out in specific areas — parenting, cooking, and home cleaning groups. “We hear from group admins that they’re looking for ways to help them earn money to deepen engagement with their members and continue to support their communities.”


SCMP, extending its rollout of new products, launched a video series called Goldthread. Think AJ+ meets Anthony Bourdain. These are video stories covering aspects of culture, food and identity in China, packaged for a young, international audience. Goldthread is led by former Mashable editor Victoria Ho. “It’s clear that somewhere between blobs and banned memes is an opportunity for stories with greater cultural context and less exotic freakiness.”

Back in the day, Hong Kong’s Next Magazine exposed corrupt officials and dodgy real estate tycoons. It also took a lot of heat for its reckless pursuits of stories. With the demise of its business, it offers plenty of lessons for media startups trying to make an impact.

21st Century Fox accepted Disney’s takeover offer, rejecting a competing bid from Comcast. Disney is getting Fox for $71 billion in cash and stock. Comcast earlier offered $65 billion in cash. This move will bring Pixar, Marvel, X-Men, and The Simpsons under one roof.

The Los Angeles Times picked 75-year-old Norman Pearlstine as its top editor. Patrick Soon-Shiong, the new owner of the paper, wants to send the message that he’s focused on journalistic values and will return the publication to its glory days. I’d like to know: How much are you spending on tech?


China spends billions of dollars to make sure its messages are heard around the world. The objective of CGTN is, as directed by Xi Jinping, to “tell China stories well”. Is it working?

The Myanmar government told the Democratic Voice of Burma that it can no longer run content from U.S.-funded Radio Free Asia because RFA uses the word “Rohingya”. RFA said it will continue its coverage of the refugees on radio and Facebook.


I’m still shocked by the killing of Shujaat Bukhari, the founder of the English-language newspaper Rising Kashmir. Bukhari was a middle-ground advocate for peace in Kashmir — until he was gunned down in Srinagar last week. The police still haven’t found any leads. “The killing of Bukhari teaches us that one who truly stands for peace pays the price of getting 15 bullets in his head and abdomen.”


Google plans to train 8,000 journalists in India on fact checking. They’re running workshops in English, as well as Hindi, Tamil, Telugu, Bengali, Marathi, and Kannada.

Nuzzel (one of my daily used apps) launched NuzzelRank, which scores news sources based on authority. They’re picking up signals based on reading behavior and engagement. It’s also working with partners like NewsGuard and Deep News for authority rankings.


Singapore-based New Naratif released their financial statement, in a show of transparency rarely seen in these circles. The team is appealing the Singapore government’s rejection of its business application (on grounds that NN is “contrary to national security”) so they’re hoping this will shed more light on their operations. I love reading financial statements of media startups — always a treat. It’s also always staggering to see how much money gets spent on PayPal fees (a problem we face as well).


It’s hard not to get excited about this — Google finally has its own podcast app. You iOS people will find it hard to believe, but Android never had a native podcast app before. And if you think about how Android dominates global smartphone sales, you’ll understand why we’ve only just entered the Golden Age of podcasting. James Cridland, who writes the fantastic Podnews newsletter (and reads this one!), has an FAQ for all podcasters.

The folks at Kaleida (they too, read this newsletter) are putting together a mysterious product. Kaleida is apparently building a mobile news app for “people who want to share news… in private, only with people they know, from quality news sources”. I have no idea how that’s going to work. But you can join me on the waiting list here.

Microsoft rebranded its MSN news apps to simply Microsoft News. If you’ve never tried it, News boasts an aggregated base of 1,000 “premium publishers” and 800 human editors who pick and feature stories. I re-installed the app today, just to see what’s different from the old MSN app. Quick rant: I don’t know why news app publishers are still asking people to self-declare their interest in topics. Isn’t it clear by now that people don’t necessarily know what they want to read in news? We don’t think in terms of categories — tech, sports, money. If it’s interesting, we’ll read it, right? Sectioning was invented by newspapers to address very specific reader and advertiser behaviors in print. They don’t apply to digital.


There’s a book documenting the remarkable history of India’s first newspaper. Irishman James Hicky started Hicky’s Bengal Gazette in 1780, which covered what we today call “hyperlocal” news. He also exposed corruption in the East India Company and embezzlement in the local churches.

I’m not sure if I even get this: China’s anti-porn office is cracking down on women who whisper into microphones.There’s even a term for this: autonomous sensory meridian response, or ASMR. Abacus News does a good job explaining why people are into this stuff. Sounds creepy to me.



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