The Splice Slugs: Axios’ business model, the alt-right and protecting journalism

I’m in beautiful Cape Town this week to help run a workshop by Open Society Foundations on media business models and applying design thinking to editorial services. The discussions have been great, especially in the context of our post-fact society. In particular, a reminder of the importance to building and nurturing a real community of users instead of chasing anonymous clicks. If there’s a silver lining to this year, it’s that we’re finally confronting the need to provide a real service that people want and need. — Alan Soon

Speaking of business models in journalism, Politico co-founder and former CEO Jim VandeHei has been quietly working on a new media startup. Not much has been revealed, apart from the name (Axios) and this: Subscribers could pay $10,000 or more for its news and analysis. But you should watch the video here, where VandeHei is interviewed by Kara Swisher. Pay attention to the way he describes the problems he wants to solve and how he sees the evolution of reporting.

The white supremacist site Breitbart is asking its readers to boycott Kellogg’s. Breitbart said the brand’s decision to pull its ads off the site was an “escalation in the war by leftist companies … against conservative customers whose values propelled Donald Trump into the White House.” An ad agency exec called it extortion.

AP, which sets the benchmark on editorial style, issued guidance on the term “alt-right”. “Avoid using the term generically and without definition, however, because it is not well known and the term may exist primarily as a public-relations device to make its supporters’ actual beliefs less clear and more acceptable to a broader audience. In the past we have called such beliefs racist, neo-Nazi or white supremacist.”

Someone hates the alt-right term so much that he created a Chrome extension that replaces alt-right with “white supremacy”. Handy!

What does your filter bubble look like? There’s also a Chrome extension that visualizes your political leanings.

I put out a call last week in this newsletter for ideas to improve media literacy. I got a bunch of emails from lots of people with the same concerns. The Journalism and Media Studies Centre at the University of Hong Kong has done a lot of work in this space. Anne Kruger, a lecturer at the school, sent me some links to what they’ve done:

Nic Dawes, with his vast experience running newsrooms in South Africa and India, penned a set of instructions to his journalism colleagues in the U.S. on how to survive the Trump administration. This is good stuff. “I am worried. We all are. In the countries where I’ve spent my working life, the press still matters, but there is less of it, and the whole accountability ecosystem has become unbalanced.”

On this day in 1766, the Swedish king enacted what became the world’s first legislation guaranteeing the right to a free press. Today, on the 250th anniversary of its enactment, WAN-IFRA and the Fojo Media Institute is calling attention to the dangers and hostilities faced by female journalists. You can sign the declaration here.

The New York Time saw surge in new subscriptions since election day. About 132,000 new subs have come in — 10x from a year ago.

Reuters built its own algo called News Tracer to help spot and verify breaking news on Twitter. “A large part of our DNA is built on the notion of being first, so we wanted to figure out how to build systems that would give us an edge on tracking this stuff at speed and at scale. You can throw a million humans at this stuff, but it wouldn’t solve the problem.”

Do you remember Elite Daily? They were a fast-growing, millennial focused publisher that rode a surge in Facebook. The Daily Mail bought them two years ago — and has now written off the entire investment in the company citing “poor performance”.

CNN acquired the video-sharing startup Beme. The deal is valued at $25 million and will help CNN tap the app’s large, young audience.

CNN is looking to add a writer/producer to its social team based in Hong Kong. You’ll have to be quick at identifying social trends and build out great ideas for content across the social web. Perhaps one of the best things about this job — you’ll get to work with the fantastic @janieoctia and @marclourdes combo. Culture matters.

Notifications are probably one of the best ways to get traffic to your content on mobile and in the desktop browser. So it’s no wonder that some publishers are overdosing on them. “As soon as someone gets a web notification they don’t like, the only option is to go nuclear.”

Silicon Valley VCs are steering clear of Conservative media sites. Is that a bad investment strategy?

Love em or hate em, comScore’s value is diminishing in the eyes of agency buyers. For one, you can’t optimize it to understand social distribution.

Spotify launched an outdoor campaign, highlighting some of its most powerful assets — its data on listening habits. See it here. Makes you wonder what publishers could do with the data they have (if they have it at all!).

Here’s a funny collection of stories about creative agency executives and how they climbed the ladder. “I started my career during the summer of 1992 as the Kool-Aid mascot. During that summer, I learned the importance of working your way up.”

If you’re looking for help to step up in journalism, check out some of these scholarships, grants and awards. There’s always help!

There’s a couple of days left to submit your entries for the Mumbrella Asia Awards. There are 16 new categories this year. There are also 113 jurors from the industry (including me!).

You’ll love this if you’re on Netflix. You can now download Netflix shows directly to your phone to watch offline. Binging on the go.

Quote of the week

“I remember the first day at RISD I had a teacher who said, ‘You’re a designer. You live in other people’s worlds because they designed that world for you, but those people were no smarter than you. It is your time to design the world you live in.’ This had a huge effect on me because it allowed me to stop editing my imagination.” — Brian Chesky, CEO of Airbnb on finding strength.


From our readers

“There are just too many stories we can read about the future of media and journalism and still only 24 hours in a day… Alan’s carefully-curated list of the best stories and ability to extract the key highlights for each selection in a short and simple paragraph are a blessing to his loyal readers.” — Francois Guerin


I started The Splice Newsroom consultancy to help solve a difficult problem: getting newsrooms to adapt and evolve in the ongoing shift to digital with the right strategy, operations and training. I help transform traditional newsrooms and support the development of editorial startups. What can I do for you?

Questions or feedback? Want to sponsor this newsletter?

Email me at alansoon@thesplicenewsroom.com.