The Splice Slugs: Responses to the Zuckerberg Manifesto, WhatsApp gets Snapchat features, and Disney’s problems with Maker Studios

Here’s your weekly roundup of the biggest trends, threats and tools in media. Human curated, algo-free. A big welcome to our new subscribers from Sparkline (see you this afternoon!) and Nanyang Technological University. — Alan Soon

It was conspicuously missing from Mark Zuckerberg’s 6,000-word manifesto on community building and the state of journalism today: The role that Facebook plays in undermining the efforts of media organizations, deliberate or otherwise. One commentator, writing in the New York Times, spells out one way to solve the problem — a “massive philanthropic commitment.”

…I don’t believe that direct funding from Facebook is what the industry needs. FB didn’t go out to destroy media; it found a better way to deliver content and information in a matter that’s highly efficient and habit-forming. The media industry in general still struggles with technology — mainly because it won’t embrace it. But Zuckerberg has found himself in a position where he’s inadvertently responsible for the decline of traditional news publishing — and he doesn’t know how to come to terms with it. “Zuckerberg doesn’t want Facebook to kill journalism as we know it. He really, really doesn’t. But that doesn’t mean he won’t.”

…This fantastic piece from Ben Thompson is worth reading. “That Zuckerberg believes Facebook can do it alone is evidence enough that for Zuckerberg, saving the world is at best a close second to saving Facebook; the last thing we need are unaccountable leaders who put their personal interests above those they purport to govern.”

…And if you can stomach another response to Zuck’s manifesto, try this. “This comes in the context of the declining fortunes of democracy in governments the world over; we may be losing our countries to authoritarians, but at least we will have our Facebook.” (Via Karen Vera)

Ok, enough of Facebook. So WhatsApp is rolling out Stories. You’ve seen it in Instagram (which Instagram first copied from Snapchat): A feature that lets you share photos and videos for up to 24 hours, and then they disappear. WhatsApp is calling it “Status”.

…Btw, Instagram is rolling out slideshows in its app. You will soon be able to select multiple images when uploading. You can add up to 10 photos or videos to a slideshow.

What does BBC Persian use to help it circumvent censors and make sense of what’s going on in Iran? Telegram. “The only way we could basically understand what is going on inside the country and get access to pictures was to put a call to action on different platforms and then receiving the UGC via our Telegram.”

Disney bought Maker Studios in 2014 for $675 million dollars. It was a bet on the future of YouTube’s multi-channel network ecosystem. Except of course, that scale for the sake of scale on YouTube just doesn’t work. “It’s the epitome of the colossal failure of the MCN business.” Here’s why.

…YouTube will stop running un-skippable 30-second ads by next year. “I’m reading this as a signal that YouTube is very worried about Facebook… Their video offering is becoming ever more attractive to brands by the day, and YouTube is panicking.”

Jigsaw (the tech incubator in Alphabet) launched a tool that uses machine learning to identify toxic comments in articles. Publishers can use it through an API. This is how it works.

The Washington Post has a new motto under its masthead: “Democracy Dies in Darkness.” What do you think?

The Financial Times is reportedly cutting 20 editorial jobs around the world as its print revenue continues to slide. Bloomberg says the paper is offering voluntary buyouts and won’t replace people who are leaving.

Russia’s foreign ministry now has a section on its website dedicated to the coverage of fake news. Each of the articles carries a big red stamp reading “FAKE”, which the ministry defines as “does not correspond to reality.”

Donald Trump apparently owns at least 3,643 website domains carrying his name. Everything from TrumpEmpire.com to TrumpFraud.org. It’s reputation management. “You’re preparing yourself for defamation of character, that’s why you would buy this.”

Forbes is designing a new CMS with social in mind. Editors will be able to use the new system to create content for specific social platforms. “If a journalist wanted to be successful, it used to be that you needed to understand digital. Now if you want to be a successful journalist, you better understand how to create content for those social platforms.”

The top 3 countries for the fastest mobile internet: South Korea, Norway and Hungary. Here’s the rest.

India rolled out Skype Lite, which is redesigned specially for the Android-dominant, low mobile-speed Indian market. It also integrates with the Aadhaar scheme, which provides citizens with a unique registration number. Handy for authenticating identities of users.

The International Center for Journalists is looking for applicants with a background in multimedia and data journalism for a year-long ICFJ Knight Fellow position in Indonesia. It’s fantastic. Fluency in English and Bahasa Indonesia/Malay required.

Bolt, the content marketing platform, is looking for a content strategist to help clients develop and execute branded content ideas. Details.

Terrorists are getting better with flying drones. So France is training eagles to take them out of the sky.

…This is pretty amazing. UPS has delivery trucks that are capable of launching delivery drones. Insanely cool.

Bill Gates wants robots (drones too, presumably) to pay taxes. He figures this would help to slow the use of automation and fund support the creation of specific jobs in “human” areas like caregiving.

I was really proud to give out the award for Disruptor of the Year at the annual Mumbrella Asia Awards last night. Weber Shandwick India picked up the award for its work on “Vibha Bakshi — Daughters of Mother India”. Here are the other winners.

Splice on the road
I’ll be in Yangon on the week of March 6, and in Hong Kong on the week of March 20. Who’s around for a drink/coffee? Hit reply.

Quote of the week
“You can fail at what you don’t want, so you might as well take a chance on doing what you love.” — Jim Carrey


Mumbrella Asia relaunched its website and appointed a new editor in Eleanor Dickinson. It will also launch an annual three-day media and marketing festival Mumbrella360 Asia in Singapore in November — a mirror of its sister event in Sydney. For information on sponsorship opportunities, contact the Mumbrella Asia publisher Dean Carroll at dean@mumbrella.asia.

The Digital Journalism World conference takes place in Singapore on February 27–28. It’ll discuss social, mobile and video. I’ll be there to moderate a panel on media entrepreneurship. Would love to say hi in person! Use Splice’s promo code DJW17-SPN10 for a 10% discount off the standard fee. Details and registration are here.


From our readers
“Just received your first newsletter — really like it. Thoroughly well informed.” — Will Brown, impactSocial


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.