The Splice Slugs: Media’s golden moment, new business models, and defamation in Myanmar

Here’s your human-curated, algo-free, artisan weekly roundup of trends, tools and threats in the media industry. Supporting “crooked” and “dishonest” newsrooms since 2015! — Alan Soon

First it was CNN, then BuzzFeed. I’m talking of course about the “explosive” report about Donald Trump’s golden showers and the rest of the dirt that the Russians supposedly have on him. CNN didn’t carry the details, but BuzzFeed was more than happy to put out the entire 35-page document. Never mind the fact that the document couldn’t be verified, couldn’t be corroborated and comes from an anonymous person claiming to be an ex-British intelligence agent (now confirmed). It wasn’t journalism’s golden moment.

…This is how BuzzFeed justified its decision to put out the entire document, which it acknowledged was unverified. “Publishing this document was not an easy or simple call, and people of good will may disagree with our choice. But publishing this dossier reflects how we see the job of reporters in 2017.” Putting out unverified information coming from anonymous sources, and making yourself an easy target from PEOTUS for putting out fake news. That’s what we do in 2017.

Medium’s change of heart about running its business on ads a couple of weeks ago struck a depressing chord in the industry. If Medium, with its “quality” content delivered in a beautiful platform, can’t sustain a business model, what can? Here’s a look at what Medium could do to turn things around.

…Venture capital money is getting blamed for getting Medium into this spot. A reminder of the danger of building a publishing business on VC money.

The Information’s Jessica Lessin took issue with the view that there aren’t good, sustainable business models for media. Read her rant. Then read the comments. They’re all good (once again proving the value of serving a high quality community of engaged readers).

Unless you’re in biotech, you may not have heard of The Timmerman Report. It’s a one-person operation, run by a veteran reporter who covers the industry. He charges $149 a year for subscriptions. This is how he’s doing it. “I have a distinctive voice. Some people like it; not everyone does. It’s who I am.”

Axios — the premium service started by Jim VandeHei — started delivering newsletters. Sign up here to see what the fuss is about. It’s good.

…Nieman interviewed Vandehei about the newsletters. This is how he thinks about it, as well as his approach to servicing his customers on the website. “How do we make that reader experience as smooth and efficient as possible? You do that by not worrying about page views, by not worrying about little tricks that you do to get people to click, but by making that information essential.”

The Washington Post has an interesting idea: They’re putting out a newsletter on the conversations and comments on the site.

A short, concise piece on how your content management system dictates the way your newsroom thinks about its output. You’re only as good as your CMS.

Quartz and The New York Times encrypted their traffic with users this month by moving their sites to the HTTPS standard. It’s amazing how many of the biggest news media haven’t. Check out this scoreboard. CNN, why are you failing?

The New York Times has an interesting problem: It’s serving two audiences — one (as its name suggests) is in New York. The other is international, as it tries to grow subscriptions globally. This is how its executive editor Dean Baquet looks at the paper’s two audiences.

WeChat launched its own walled garden for native apps. The Xiaochengxu feature (“Small Apps”) will let users run apps within WeChat itself without ever having to leave the chat app itself.

This is how a brand dies. The post-Verizon shell of Yahoo (the one with stakes in Alibaba and Yahoo Japan) will be renamed Altaba Inc. No, it’s not a typo. Maybe they should put an exclamation mark on that.

Steve Jobs introduced the iPhone a decade ago this week. Here’s a look at the phone that changed the way we work and communicate… and spend our time.

Facebook is taking steps to act more like, well, a media company. They launched the Facebook Journalism Project to collaborate with newsrooms on tech engineering, create new storytelling formats and train journalists. This is the plan.

…Facebook found its public-facing news partnerships head — someone who would help ease its strained relations with media. It hired NBC anchor Campbell Brown to “help news organizations and journalists work more closely and more effectively with Facebook”. She doesn’t have much digital media experience, but apparently has the right political connections.

…And for the first time ever, Facebook could help publishers make some real money. They are testing a mid-roll ad format so that publishers can show an ad, say 20 seconds into a video. FB will reportedly give 55% of revenue generated on those ads to the publisher.

…Facebook is apparently blocking content from a number of users in Thailand under orders from the government. The country is using its lèse-majesté law to suppress criticism of the royal family from a number of high-profile users including journalists.

The CEO of Myanmar’s Eleven Media Group was released on bail last week after suffering a heart attack in prison. His chief editor is also out on bail. The two have been detained for two months for defamation.

…Make no mistake: Media freedom is worse with the Suu Kyi government than when Myanmar was under military rule. At least 38 people have been charged with online defamation since April last year. Between 2013 and 2015 — under military-backed rule — there were just seven charges under the controversial Article 66D of the Telecommunications Law.

Singapore will update its Films Act and the Broadcasting Act this year to accommodate changes in technology such as live streaming and Over-The-Top services. Singapore is also working on a cyber-security bill.

Rebecca Pazos is an interactive graphics journalist at Singapore Press Holdings. She works with journalists and designers at The Straits Times to create visual content to enhance stories. She’s in Splice’s profile of Leading Millennials this week.

The New York Times is hiring tech reporters in Asia to explain what’s happening in this space to the rest of the world. Sounds like a dream job!

If you’re looking for a fellowship to expand your journalism career, here’s a solid list of what’s available on Mediashift.

Amazon is in trouble in India for selling Indian-flag door mats on its Canadian store. India’s foreign minister Sushma Swaraj says she’ll block or rescind all visas to Amazon executives to India.

Quote of the week
“Those who have the privilege to know have the duty to act.” — Albert Einstein


From our readers
“This is one nifty little email you put together. Good on you!” — Wesley Fogel


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?

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Email me at alansoon@thesplicenewsroom.com.