Splice News Trends: Amazon the ad firm, YouTube media grants and Ofo’s newsfeed

In his weekly round-up newsroom consultant and former alumnus of Yahoo, CNBC and Bloomberg Alan Soon dives beneath the headlines on Amazon's advertising plans, YouTube playing nice with media organisations and Ofo getting into content creation

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After six months of preliminary hearings, a Myanmar court decided to charge two Reuters journalists under the Official Secrets Act. The prosecution alleges that the two, who were reporting on a massacre of 10 Rohingya men and boys, collected and obtained secret documents about security forces with the intent to harm national security. That’s bullshit. We’ve already heard in court from the police that they were ordered to plant the documents and entrap the reporters. A court witness also testified that the documents were already published in the mainstream press. FFS. And oh, ASSK, who relied on journalists to communicate with the outside world in all those years of house arrest is still silent on the matter.

Security firm FireEye says a group of Chinese hackers is targeting Cambodian media outlets, activists, and opposition figures in the upcoming election. With Cambodia as a frontline state, China has a lot to lose if the election doesn’t go its way. “I was shocked, there were so many. And how sophisticated it was. They had our real logo, almost everything.”

Facebook was handed the first of what could be several fines by governments in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal. The UK data watchdog imposed its maximum fine — of just $664,000. But hey, don’t feel bad for Facebook. They make that kind of money every 17 minutes.


I missed this one last week. Facebook secured a $200 million deal to broadcast the English Premier League in parts of Southeast Asia. The agreement covers Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos, which makes me think this is a pretty small price for reaching those massive audiences. (Thanks, Marc Lourdes, for flagging.)

Twitter is going all out to take down fake and suspicious accounts. Data seen by the Washington Post shows that the rate of suspensions has more than doubled since October. It’s almost a million removals a day. They’re so aggressive in their takedowns that Twitter expects an actual decline in monthly users in Q2.

YouTube has had a tough year. Its algo has been surfacing stuff it shouldn’t — conspiracy theories, fake news, and crap that scares the hell out of kids. So they’re introducing new tweaks to the platform. Developing stories will now carry links to authoritative sources to help build context. Local news will also get more prominence. But perhaps the most helpful part (and I think this is the first time they’re doing this) — YouTube is giving out $25 million in grants to “support news organisations in building sustainable video operations”.

WhatsApp is also taking steps to curb the flow of misinformation on its platform. Messages that have been passed from one person to another will now carry a “forwarded” label to add context to the conversation. WhatsApp has been testing these labels in India and Brazil.

Nikhil Pahwa at Medianama in India has been thinking a lot about the changes he’d like to see on WhatsApp to curb misinformation. He takes the accountability and responsibility approach (we agree!). “The solution… lies in separating the public from the private — give users power over what they make public and allow to be forwarded, and thereby holding them accountablefor what they choose to make public.”

Facebook is buying ads in Indian newspapers to warn about fake news on its platforms. Is the newspaper-reading audiencethe kind that needs to be warned about fake news? Surely there’s a better way to target people on Facebook itself with this message.

Have you ever thought of Amazon as an advertising company? Google knows what you’re interested in. Facebook knows who you are. But Amazon knows what you’re actually buying. And that’s valuable to advertisers. Guess how much Amazon made in putting advertisers in front of you? $2 billion in just Q1 of this year.


Two researchers interviewed 54 newsrooms in 9 countries in the U.S. and Europe. They found out that the problems in media run deeper than simply those of business models or tech. They concluded that to solve media, we need to get away from the journalism fundamentals that we all grew up with. Controversial but necessary sacred cows to slaughter: “The dogma of arm’s length; the dogma of neutrality; the dogma of objectivity; the belief that journalists have a special ability to find and choose what is important for citizens. And not least: the basic idea, that journalism is primarily about transporting news and information from A to B.” Which of these would you walk away from to save your business?

TrendsA lot is being done in India in the way of fact-checking. Much of the work is in English and Hindi, but that leaves out the far bigger audiences in regional languages. That’s a problem. A Splice Original.

Ofo — the ones running those ubiquitous yellow bikes — started a newsfeed in the app, delivering content from CCTV and Xinhua. 
The company says it wants “to attract more young followers to take an interest in these ‘mainstream’ values.”

Ride-sharing service Grab is also dipping its feet into news as it tries to build a WeChat-like super app. It’s working with Yahoo to carry news in Singapore, Malaysia, and the Philippines. Look guys, you really just need to do one thing right: Give me a better ride booking experience. The app is horrendous.


Splice reader Nithin Coca wrote up an interesting piece about life without Google. He’s taken himself off all things Google and reveals the viable alternatives he’s found to replace Gmail, Hangouts, Maps… Courage!

Singapore is deploying surveillance cameras with high-def thermal sensors to catch people smoking in prohibited areas. The environment authority says it’s going to be “mindful” of privacy issues — but didn’t say what it’ll do to safeguard that.

Everyone’s celebrating the safe return of the soccer boys in Thailand. Not Elon Musk. Because no one wanted to use his little submarine. Please take your toys and go home.


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