The Splice Slugs: Week 61

I was at the Jakarta World Forum For Media Development this week. My back goes up when conferences open with speeches lamenting the many “challenges” of the media industry. Invariably, there’s always a line that goes, “We need to ask what is the role of media and journalism today.”

FFS. Just invent it already.

We’re in the golden age of media. We’re now capable of reaching a far wider audience than previously possible. We have the capability of personalizing both content and advertising so that it reaches the right people at the right time on the right device. We have better ways of understanding our readers and providing them a service. We have lower costs of production — and often, all you need is that smartphone in your hand.

And yet we talk about media today as though there are no options.

With all the gloom in the industry, it’s sometimes hard to recognise this fact: There’s no better time to be an entrepreneur in the media space (I’m one!). Here are 30 great reasons why by Rafat Ali.

If you’ve never heard of Rafat Ali, you may have heard about his previous business — PaidContent — which he built and sold. He’s a big proponent of building focused, niche media businesses. So if you’re looking for an alternative to mass business models, you should listen to this podcast with Peter Kafka. Or at least read the transcript.

Here’s an example of an interesting niche service. The Hill is launching a healthcare site that focuses on regulation and policy. This is one of five paid verticals coming out of The Hill.

There’s also a new service called that recently launched with the goal of creating 250 different newsletters based on various topics. It will provide 2–3 line summaries of stories from major publications and will link out to them. Simple. “People who sign up for the email are opting into curation.”

The company thinks newsletters “might save journalism”. Worth a shot, I say. This is how they’re describing the relationship they want to build with their audience. You don’t hear many mass publishers talking about relationships with their customers.

And have you heard of Ownpage? They’re a startup that specializes in delivering personalized content. And newsrooms have been using them to create personalized email newsletters. “Naively, we thought that the newsletter was dead and that the future was more in the social network, homepage, and applications. But the more we worked around media with publishers, we learned that newsletters are one of the best ways have a relationship with the readers.”

Do you know those “From around the web” stories that appear at the bottom of so many articles these days? According to a new study, only half of those actually linked to legit advertisers. Publishers may be getting some revenue on those — but they’re losing trust with their users. We need to crack down on those modules.

Joshua Topolsky has seen a lot of crap at Bloomberg, The Verge and Engadget. So he wants a reset on the way media publishers operate. His new site The Outline will launch soon — and he’s avoiding the race for mass scale or dependency on Facebook. “Already there’s a new generation of audience that is not that interested in Facebook.”

Quartz has been around for about four years now. They saw a gap in the market where global business professionals were moving to mobile — and FT, The Economist and WSJ weren’t doing much about it. Quartz’s target audience is the “people who are traveling on the front half of airplanes around the world everyday.” This is how founder Jay Lauf articulates that vision.

Dutch publisher The Correspondent is adding about a thousand new paid subscribers each month. They carry no ads and are mission-driven to simply provide information that is useful. “Coming from a print background, Pfauth (the co-founder) saw how ads corrupted content: New travel or career sections sprung up because they were easy to sell against, rather than to serve any reader need.”

As the opportunities grow, there are plenty of interesting, new jobs in the evolving media industry. This is Amy Webb’s prediction of future jobs in media. “Our newsrooms will look different. Things like reporter and social media manager will be gone.” Could you a Public Editor for Code?

DJI — the massive consumer drone maker — is looking for a Managing Editor to run its UAV Content Lab. The person will be responsible for planning, assigning, editing and publishing a weekly budget of UAV and aerial camera-related news. Email for more. Tell him Alan said hi.

Here’s a job worth doing: moderating comments at the New York Times. Do you have what it takes? Try this quiz.

It looks like Facebook overestimated its key video metric for two years. Some ad buying agencies are reportedly pissed that FB “miscalculated” the average time users were watching videos by up to 80%. This obviously has a huge impact on where agencies run their ads.

And get ready for bigger video numbers. Apple and Google have updated their respective mobile web browsers to autoplay videos with no sound.

BBC launched a new feature on its news app, featuring 10 vertical videos summarizing the top stories of the day.

Huffington Post is launching its 17th international edition — HuffPost South Africa. The site launches in November in partnership with Media24.

Washington Post did something really odd (and unprecedented in media history): They called for the prosecution of their own source — Edward Snowden. It says Snowden should stand trial for espionage. No pardon. By the way, WaPo won a Pulitzer Prize for its coverage of the Snowden leaks.

Publishers can now start selling subscriptions through the Apple News app. Apple will take 30% of revenue from new subs (yikes!) and 15% from renewals. The joy of working with intermediaries.

Mode Media (previously called Glam Media) was once valued at a billion dollars, with revenue of $90 million last year. It suddenly shut down.

Women launch more than half of all new Internet companies in China. That’s more than double that of the U.S.

Did you just start a podcast? There are some amazing tips from the Buffer team on how to promote it.

Google launched Allo — a smart messenger app. It features a preview of its Assistant bot. Ask it questions within your chats and get instant answers.

Is it possible to make milk… without cows? Yes, according to this startup.

How many websites does North Korea have? 28.

Quote of the week:
“If you don’t do it, nothing’s possible.” — Jack Ma.