The Splice Slugs: Week 57

I’m filing this from Grahamstown, a small university town in South Africa. I’m here to help facilitate a media workshop on alternative revenue models run by the Open Society Foundations.

Africa has good lessons for other emerging regions like Asia. There are plenty of young people coming online. But they won’t be buying printed newspapers. This is how South Africa’s Independent Media is thinking about that problem and its opportunity.

And here’s something I didn’t know: WeChat is big in South Africa as a platform for mobile transactions. That shouldn’t be a surprise — Naspers, Africa’s biggest company by market value, has a 34% stake in WeChat maker Tencent.

— Alan Soon

Google is taking it upon itself to police the use of interstitial ads across the mobile web. Starting in January next year, Google will lower the search rankings of sites which use pop-up ads that block the main content on articles. This is a big step forward in cleaning up the user experience of ads — something that the publishing industry refused to do on its own.

Ad blocking at source is gathering speed. Israeli startup Shine signed a deal with South African telco Econet to block ads at the network level, stripping out ads before they even show up on your phone.

The Guardian is now selling time-viewed ad campaigns. That means they make money on the time that people actually look at the ads. Clients can buy fragments of 10, 15, 20 or 30 seconds. “It’s part of our fewer, better ads strategy, and it develops our thinking that not all ad impressions are the same.”

New York Times is prepping its expansion into Canada and Australia. It’s started recruiting journos to build out small newsrooms in the two markets.

Breaking news alerts are always a touchy topic — not everyone has the same idea of which stories make it to your lock screen. This is how NYT thinks about notifications.

Facebook is testing autoplay videos — with the the sound on. “This is one of several tests we’re running as we work to improve the video experience for people on Facebook.” This is despite the company’s own research which shows that sound-on videos annoy 80% of users.

…and Facebook is leaving some publishers blind. It’s cutting access to Domain Insights, an important tool that helped publishers understand how their content was doing when people shared it on Facebook.

Spotify is expanding its lineup of original videos. It launched 12 original series in May and wants to add to that. It will invest up to $200,000 into each “brand defining” episode — ie., music.

Fusion is experimenting with email newsletters. The thinking is that emails need to sound personal, not robotic. “This is not something you’re going to create by just sending out a email RSS feed or using an algorithm.” They’ve gone the extra step in making sure that editors don’t treat newsletters as an afterthought — by building it straight into the CMS.

CNN International set up its first digital bureau in Nigeria, which will create snappy content for Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. “The strategy is to ask our TV producers to send images of the amazing things they’re seeing. I took a video in Lagos of the biggest prawns I’ve ever seen at a fish market, and the image got 4,000 views.”

CNN also launched AIR — a new division dedicated to drone imagery and reporting. It’ll have two drone operators to start and a multitude of devices. “We realized that CNN was in aviation all of a sudden.”

Btw, CNN is at war with BuzzFeed. CNN’s chief Jeff Zucker said he didn’t think BuzzFeed was a legit news organization. And BuzzFeed claims CNN abdicated basic news principles in its desperate coverage of Trump. Meow.

BuzzFeed split itself into two parts — one for news and one for entertainment. The push to video is at the heart of the change. “Instead of organizing around a format or technology, we will organize our work to take full advantage of many formats and technologies.” Are they downplaying news?

The hype around Pokemon Go is starting to decline. Data shows that daily actives, downloads and engagement are all off their peaks. That’s relief for publishers who are worried that Pokemon was going to suck up all the time from mobile consumers.

The maker of the popular Chinese selfie app Meitu is looking for an IPO in Hong Kong. It could raise up to $1 billion. If it all goes well, this could help persuade Xiaomi and Didi Chuxing to seek similar listings in the city.

The Russians may be spying on U.S. media companies. News organizations are considered top targets because they contain valuable intelligence on government sources and inside information. Another reminder for media companies to take encryption seriously.

Samsung is shutting its Milk Music service in the U.S. Reinforces the point that you can’t get people to use your app even if you pre-load it.

Singapore is reviewing its copyright law around the use of “allowable circumventions” — ie., should VPN use be banned?

There are at least 35 video streaming services in Asia. Here’s yet another one: Taiwan-based Catchplay has launched in Taiwan, Indonesia and Singapore.

North Korea may have built a Netflix-style video service. There’s no House of Cards, but there’s plenty of exciting videos on the great leadership of the country. You can also learn Russian and English.

The internet has made journos more exposed and vulnerable — especially female journos taking a stand on issues. My friend Erwin Oliva, who teaches ethics in media, posted his views on Medium.

So why can’t Twitter shake its problem with harassment? It’s just too hard to define hate sometimes.

Singapore is the first country to get driverless taxis. It’s really just bragging rights — the trial is only open to an invited group of about 10 people.

Good hiring advice from Bracken Darrell, CEO of Logitech. “You can get a feel for what people are like when you’re in a restaurant… I don’t like people who don’t respect others as equals, whether it’s a recruiter or a waiter.”

Quote of the week:
“I never lose. I either win, or learn.” — Nelson Mandela.

Enjoy the weekend everybody!


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