Edition #88

More newsletters for your media diet; the coming deepfakepocalypse

Newsletters 📨

Last edition, I asked y’all for newsletter recommendations. You came through! Thank you. I got many good suggestions, some I’m still reading and some I’m including here (and will add more as they keep rolling in and I keep reading more). It is, not surprisingly, very media nerd heavy, but not exclusively so. I may be wrong, but my current theory about my own media diet is that it’s still far too Twitter heavy, and not nearly enough newsletters. Newsletters are the legumes of the media world. Eat more legumes.

  • Deez Links — daily media pithiness, with the absolute correct amount of ironic distance. a must

  • America Press Institute’s Need To Know newsletter — just good solid media news

  • Spoook — tbh no idea, it’s crime and media and paranormal stuff but good

  • Annotations — bimonthly notes on (a piece of) writing from Jenny G. Zhang

  • Garbage Day — revolting internet filth

  • Newley’s Notes — weekly email from a WSJ reporter based in India

  • Reliable Sources — Long. Very long. I had to unsubscribe, because it was just TOO much. But it’s undeniably comprehensive and probably the one classic big media newsletter everyone should read, so. Now that I wrote that I guess I have to re-subscribe.

  • Splice Newsroom — Media transformation in Asia

  • Nieman Lab — many subscription options to choose from, but the daily is the thing to order


Yahoo Japan, which is currently one of the country’s dominant digital media players, is turning to focus on e-commerce. CEO Kentaro Kawabe, announcing the recent $3.7 billion acquisition of an online fashion retailer, said the company’s goal is to surpass Amazon to become the No. 1 e-commerce company in Japan by the early 2020s. (Nikkei)

TikTok sends out a secret newsletter to specially selected media companies, giving them a sneak preview of the hashtag trends its going to heavily promote in the upcoming week. How does one get on this list? And is it actually at all interesting or useful? (Digiday)

Across Africa, the dominance of print is giving way to digital, though change varies widely by country. Continent wide, the latest available numbers show 21% of the population is online, while in South Africa, for instance, it’s 54%. (FIPP)

Last week’s story about Vice from The Cut, alternate titled “Vice’s Race To Save Itself” or “Vice’s Next Pivot” — just, well, if you haven’t read it, please do. It’s a snapshot of a media company in a very particular, very uncomfortable position. (The Cut)

Josh Gondelman nails exactly what is both so great and so horribly, terribly wrong about TSA PreCheck, over on Vox:

By all logic, PreCheck shouldn’t exist. We should not have to sacrifice privacy for convenience, and we should not be allowed to pay to bypass “necessary” security measures for a small fee. Either no one deserves these privileges or we all do. “TSA PreCheck For All” would be an immensely popular political platform for a Democratic presidential candidate.

That said, if you have the money and the time, it is easily worth the $17 per year to travel with a sliver of dignity intact and to feel, for just a moment, like a FastPass holder at the world’s most boring amusement park.


Read, and weep for the dystopia we now inhabit:

Edition #87

Snapchat opens office in India; Sony’s nostalgic Walkman retrospective.

Happy Labor Day to readers in the U.S. — for the rest of the world, happy September! I’m in dire need of some new newsletters to subscribe to, so if there’s one you love, please hit reply to this and let me know. I’ll feature the best in an upcoming edition.


India has changed its laws around foreign investment in digital media, limiting them to 26%. The country already had similar limits in place for investment in print and broadcast, but the new law raises questions about the scope of digital companies like Netflix and Tik Tok operating in India. It’s unclear exactly how the Modi government intends to use the law, more to come on this. (NDTV)

Tik Tok meanwhile is a new vector for hate speech in India — specifically, hate speech centered on caste. (Wired)

Snapchat just opened its first office in Mumbai, and has so far launched in four Indian languages, with plans to launch in five more before the end of the year. (Economic Times)

Teens in China are increasingly avoiding WeChat in favor of Douyin, the version of Tik Tok available inside China. (Abacus)

How does China like to recruit spies abroad? LinkedIn. (New York Times)

The Times of London used an audit of its content, comments, output and recommendations to grow its digital subscriber base up 19% last year, over 300,000. (Digiday)

In June, according to one study, less than half of global Google searches actually led to a click. (Sparktoro)


The Sony Walkman Exhibit: To celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Walkman, Sony held a temporary exhibit in Tokyo with a full retrospective of the once iconic, now forgotten technology. I would really love a museum entirely devoted to out-dated consumer products like this! If you’re interested in funding it, please get in touch. For now: browse photos from the exhibit (it closed last week) on Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/explore/tags/walkmaninthepark/

Edition #86

The Athletic launches in the UK, Tik Tok faces challenges and Vice is looking for a sale.

Some personal news:

tl ;dr — I had an amazing, long run at BuzzFeed, but the time had come for something new. And I’m thrilled to say I’ve joined Medium as the VP of Publisher Growth & Strategy. I’ll be based in NYC, traveling less than the last few years, but excited to keep this newsletter going (though maybe I’ll start publishing it on Medium, too?).


The Athletic officially launched its UK edition on Friday. It’s aiming to soon have 55 people working full-time there writing about soccer aka football, focused primarily on covering Premier League. (Press Gazette)

Tokyo-based news aggregator SmartNews raised $28 million in a new round of funding, and is now valued at $1.1b. (Axios)

Despite still having some of the most-subscribed-to newspapers in the world, Japan has seen a decline of 10 million newspaper subscribers since 2000. (Nippon.com)

The Guardian officially broke even in 2018, with a majority of its revenue now coming from digital. (The Guardian)

Some U.S. Twitter users, tired of seeing white supremacist content, are changing their locations settings to Germany, where strong federal laws require the swift removal of hate speech and anything promoting Nazism. (CNBC)

Tik Tok is growing quickly, but faces four big challenges, writes Casey Newton. A lot of its growth is still due to the huge marketing budget it has been spending, and now’s the time to start turning the curious masses in to regular users. (The Interface <— if you haven’t subscribed yet, you should!)

Here’s a long look at Quibi, the Jeffrey Katzenberg led short-form video content app launching next year. As always, the numbers are astounding: $1 billion in funding, a $470 million budgeted for marketing in year one, $100 million in advertising commitments for the first year, and already 160 employees hired. (The Hollywood Reporter)

The return of Gawker is on hold. I really can’t wait to learn more of this story — what the hell happened!? — but for now, what we know is this: The relaunch of Gawker under the umbrella of internet overlord Bryan Goldberg has been put on hold indefinitely, and the entire launch staff has been fired. If only Gawker were around to cover this. (NY Post)

The New York Times now has nearly 3.8 million digital subscribers, across its news offering, crossword and cooking apps. (New York Times)

Vanity Fair writes that Vice’s CEO is possibly trying to seek an exit via CBS-Viacom at a price around $1.5 billion. Or maybe not! The article also says CBS may not be interested, especially with the distraction of the looming Viacom merger (likely coming this week). (Vanity Fair)


Paths to subscription: The American Press Institute has released an 18-month study focused on what gets people in the U.S. to subscribe to local newspapers. It’s probably the largest study of its kind, and the main takeaways — which I’d guess would likely apply to any news subscription model — are above. (American Press Institute)

Edition #85

Netflix looks to international for growth, a big report on digital in China and the launch of HuffPost J-school


1. Netflix is increasingly looking to the international market to fuel its subscriber growth. It’s been successful in Japan, but needs to get a win in India. (Axios)

2. Spotify released a lite version of its app on Android in 36 emerging markets. (Bloomberg)

3. The New York Timesrecent job ad for its Nairobi bureau chief was, um, not free of colonial cliches. (Global Voices)

4. Axel Springer’s European news aggregator app, Upday, is reportedly profitable and looking to expand its reach — it comes pre-installed on Samsung phones but is eyeing connected devices like fridges and cars. (Digiday)

5. Mozilla looks to be joining with Scroll to offer a $5-a-month, ad-free subscription news service, but hasn’t released any real details. Mysterious! (The Verge)

6. Here’s an odd, slightly inscrutable look at Verizon’s media business strategy, which is I guess focused on diversifying revenue and aligning its various media properties? (Reuters)

7. The U.K. edition of the HuffPost is launching the HuffPost School of Journalism in collaboration with Birmingham City University. (HuffPost)

8. Spending on digital advertising will surpass 50% of the total global ad spend in for the first time in 2021. (FIPP)

9. A number of car-sharing services in Japan have discovered people are using their cars for things besides driving, like sleeping or eating lunch. One service even conducted a study and discovered people “also rented vehicles to watch TV in, get dressed up for Halloween, practice singing, rapping and English conversation, and even do facial stretches said to reduce the size of their face.” (Asahi)


  1. The Ericsson Mobility Report 2019 — tl; dr “5G cometh”

  2. The China Internet Report (South China Morning Post) — tl; dr “5G, AI and Tik Tok cometh”


The languages the U.S. speaks: This map from Business Insider shows the most common language (besides Spanish or English) spoken at home or at work in each U.S. state. German is the most common by state (with nine states), while Chinese (Mandarin or Cantonese) is the most common overall, with 2.1m speakers.

Edition #84

Byte Dance's big number, plus more media layoffs and a look at "best friends" around the world. the world.

Links 🔗

ByteDance claims 1 billion monthly active users. In the last edition of this newsletter, I included a little video about the growth of various social platforms over time, including Tik Tok’s meteoric rise. This week, Tik Tok’s parent company ByteDance announced announced a new milestone of a billion monthly users across its services. (South China Morning Post)

Meanwhile, Tik Tok is under investigation in the U.K. for how it handles data protection for minors on its platform. The investigation if focused on the app’s messaging system and data collected on children’s videos. (The Guardian)

The U.S. media industry is facing its worst year, job wise, since 2009. So far, media companies have announced over 15,000 jobs cuts in 2019. (Bloomberg)

A judge in Australia ruled that media companies must (somehow!?) pre-moderate comments on their Facebook pages. I’m assuming this will be appealed, because it’s frankly nuts. It would require publications to somehow pre-moderate Facebook comments to any pages they control, using a hacky workaround, and it’s a huge amount of resources for a publisher to pour into a platform they don’t own. (The Guardian)

Verizon Media is aiming to have its revenue from online shopping equal the amounts it makes from total ad sales and subscriptions by 2024. (CNN)

By 2027, India will have more people than China. (CNN)

Chart 📊

How many best friends do you have? Snapchat and ad agency Protein collaborated on a study on friendship in nine countries around the world; the results are above. Despite its questionable use of the word “best” in this context, it raises interesting questions about how the nature of friendship is tied to culture. (Snap)

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