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MarTech and AdTech News Headlines Update on February 25, 2022

Retro content

What makes nostalgic content work? More specifically, what makes it a refreshing change from the sleek modern marketing we see each day? The short answer is nostalgia makes people feel good. See how brands like Burger King, Nintendo and Kodak trigger memories and build authenticity via nostalgic content.

Longer TikTok videos?

TikTok knows its users have short attention spans. Internal survey data also found that 50% of respondents found videos longer than a minute stressful. Despite these findings, the mobile video app is targeting the long-form video market. From a revenue perspective, it makes sense — they can sell more ads. From a creator’s perspective, things get a little difficult. Can the skill it takes to make a 30-second video engaging be carried over to a 10-minute one?

TikTok’s biggest creators

Who are some of TikTok’s most popular creators whom the platform is encouraging to go long? Dancer ​​Charli D’Amelio and life hack mocker Khaby Lame are the two most followed creators on TikTok at the moment — and they keep their videos short and non-stressful. Would these videos be as engaging in a longer format? Will Smith has the sixth-largest following — surely he’d be able to get behind long-form TikTok?

Who are some of TikTok’s most popular creators whom the platform is encouraging to go long?

The ever-expanding creator economy

The global creator economy has recently been valued at US$100 billion, thanks largely to the convergence of e-commerce, social media and online communities. The rise of NFTs, the metaverse and Web3 is further growing this economy thanks to a new type of engagement between creator and consumer. This engagement and convergence of channels means that becoming a creator is a serious career choice and not one solely based on marketing.

Making money

How are you crowdfunding your media startup? Are you having people buy you a coffee on Ko-fi? Tip your jar on Twitter? Sponsor you on Patreon, or just send cash straight to your PayPal? The Creator Economy newsletter from The Information did a quick wrap of a few crowdfunding platforms:

  • Ko-fi (set a crowdfunding goal)
  • Seed&Spark (tipping and minimum pledges for smaller creators from established makers)
  • Spotter (which has a pretty website) funds creators upfront to “license the backlog of their YouTube videos for a period of time”
  • TipSnaps has a feature called Tip Pools that works like this: fans set up crowdfunding campaign to request, say, “a video tour of a fashion influencer’s closet.” When campaign reaches at least 10 donations, TipSnaps asks creator to accept request. Creator uploads video, fans are charged — and if you paid, you’re part of an exclusive fan community that can see the video. TipSnaps pockets 10%.

We’ve been thinking of simple payment solutions ever since Darathtey Din, the creator behind the very cool Campuccino newsletter, said that most of the mainstream platforms like Stripe or buymeacoffee don’t work in Cambodia, where only wire transfers are the norm. Jump in here if you have crowdfunding solutions for her.


Scam artists make for good stories — here’s one about a design agency that was too good to be true. François posted this in the Splice Telegram chat: “Sounds like a Netflix series waiting to be made there 🤔” The sad truth is that real people worked for Madbird, an ostensibly London-based design agency that didn’t exist — much like the jobs, clients, and transfers to London it promised. “The whole thing was fake – the real employees had been “jobfished”. The BBC has spent a year investigating what happened.”

Inclusive design

What does inclusive design actually…include? It means you’re designing for people from all backgrounds and abilities, across “accessibility, age, culture, economic situation, education, gender, geographic location, language, and race. The focus is on fulfilling as many user needs as possible, not just as many users as possible.” I’ve been trying my best to make sure the Splice website has good contrast with its typography, and that all our images have descriptive alt text. Alan and I are also resolutely manel-free and try hard for gender balance in everything we do. But we have a long way to go (we want to Splice in all the languages that our community speaks, to begin with.) How is your newsroom doing this in the way you design content and products for your audiences? I’d love to know — send me examples!

Graphic design

But will you just look at these incredibly designed book covers? The books sound cool and all: titles like Life and Death Design: What Life-Saving Technology Can Teach Everyday UX Designers and Surveys That Work: A Practical Guide for Designing and Running Better Surveys, and Conversations with Things: UX Design for Chat and Voice. But it’s the cover design that grabs me: abstract, thoughtful, ebullient, and truly spectacular. I mean, just look at them.


Food tours have got to be one of the more exciting media products I’ve heard of. What problem are they solving? Possibles:

  • “I’m a traveller, not a tourist, so I want to have a unique experience that most people haven’t.”
  • “I want to travel to an exotic place but have these experts curate it for me.”

I’m curious about whether these Atlas Obscura tours are working, though. I know I want to go (I will do almost anything for good food), but this isn’t cheap. Plus, I’m just not a tour group kind of guy, but I can see the appeal. I mean, could Rappler test a Filipino food tour with its diaspora or local users? Yum. Imagine doing a week of Malay delicacies with Malaysiakini. Sri Lankan AND Nepali food with Himal Southasian? Yes please. Have you ever tested this for your newsroom?


Facebook Reels is now running around the world. This was something that FB started working on to counter the rise of TikTok — by cloning it. You can now share short videos on Facebook or cross-post them on Instagram. Reels is something that the company is heavily banking on as a revenue opportunity — this came up several times during the last earnings call (where they said user growth in the U.S. had stalled).

It’s been an incredible month at Spotify. Joe Rogan pisses off audiences, musicians leave Spotify, and the company buys two ad-tech companies to improve podcast monetisation. There’s a lot to unpack here but one thing is clear: Spotify wants to be the YouTube of podcasts. This piece in The Guardian explains it well.

WSJ says LinkedIn is the best social media platform right now. I might have to agree. Annoying humblebrags aside (“Honoured and privileged to tell y’all how awesome I am!”), I find that people are surprisingly nice and helpful when they use real names and have their careers on the line. The LinkedIn algo is also much better than where it was even a year ago — posts are more relevant and they have a longer shelf life when compared to FB and Twitter.

LinkedIn launched its own podcast network. It features shows on entrepreneurship, mental health, and how to hire. All the stuff you’d expect on a professional network.

Trump launched Truth Social, his very own Twitter clone. It’s now on top of the iOS App Store. The app is reportedly unstable with all sorts of glitches, including a 13-hour outage that prevented people from opening an account. There’s apparently a 300,000-person waitlist to get through.

Facebook finally decided it was time to stop calling the main scrolling section a “news feed”. I never understood why they wanted the “news” label in the first place — it confuses people and equates all the randomness in the scroll as newsworthy. Are we surprised that people get sucked into all sorts of misinfo when it’s “news”? So now, it’s just “feed”.

Spotify acquired Chartable and Podsights as part of its strategy to bring together creators and advertisers. These two services provide marketing and advertising attribution for podcasters by making it easier to figure out who’s listening to ads in podcasts and what people do after hearing them. The deal price wasn’t mentioned.

Twitter now allows bots to identify themselves. It’s added a small robot icon and an “automated” label. This is meant to help people identify and use “good bots” such as those that automatically tweet Covid updates or earthquake alerts.

Instagram opened up its video ad-revenue sharing program for publishers last year. It hasn’t been too exciting. “We’re getting nothing,” said one publisher. “I’m hoping to see signs of life, but the CPMs are abysmal.”


The Singapore government will provide US$670 million over the next five years to support the SPH Media Trust. This is a big experiment for the Singapore government to sustain public interest information with public funds. As a taxpayer, I’m not too sure where all of this is going. The Trust is expected to spend about 40% of that money on tech and digital talent. The rest of it will go toward training. The five-year runway seems incredibly long for an institution that’s struggled with transformational change in the past decade. How will this Trust be judged at the end of five years?

The FT is reportedly crossing the 1-million mark for digital-only subs. Axios says half of FT’s subs are from the UK, while the U.S. was the second biggest market.

It’s 2022 and The New Yorker is publishing its first digital-only issue. It’s an online series that features conversations with “note-worthy people”.

Murdoch’s News UK is considering selling NFTs of its photo, cartoon, and iconic front pages. Want an exclusive photo of the Queen for your NFT collection?

Quartz launched a membership product for startup investors in Africa. It said its own surveys showed that most of its readers wanted an Africa-only product and were willing to pay for it.

Automated content

When it comes to content creation, marketers have always assumed humans will have a job. Unfortunately, with recent advancements in AI this might not be the case. Already there are plenty of AI solutions to generate articles, images, videos, and to help with editing. We’ve taken a closer look at some of the bigger players in the field. While automation saves manpower, content marketing is about the messaging and the jury is still out on whether AI has mastered this aspect.

Marketers love content, automation

According to a global survey carried out by Statista, 17.4% of marketers ranked content marketing as the most effective digital marketing technique. The same number also rated automation as the most effective. Does this mean we’ll see more AI-powered automation of content in the future? If so, how will the human role change?

Most effective digital marketing techniques according to marketers worldwide in 2020

The TikTok influence

There’s been criticism levelled against Disney’s latest animation, Encanto, of its TikTok tailored dance routines. If all art is created to be made into social forms of marketing content, does that dilute the original intent and messaging? While this is largely a US concern at the moment, there is a push within Disney to ramp up Asia Pacific originals, meaning a possible issue for local stories.

Sponsored gaming and COVID

The effect of COVID on all parts of marketing has been well documented. In gaming though, an interesting trend is emerging around sponsored content. Basically, gamers love it. Viewership grew by 265.7% between 2019 and 2021. What’s more, this content is proving effective but only for gaming companies. Brands outside of the gaming industry who think they can parachute in on the hype are facing a lack of authenticity.

Data is delicious

Boba is life. Boba is also data. No, not Fett. The boba we mean is bubble tea, and this data visualisation tool by Taiwan Data Stories is the bomb. (“Bubble tea is a Taiwanese tea-based drink with tapioca balls also commonly known as “boba.”) Boba is a complex world, and this lovely, intricately woven example of data viz holds up to all its crazy layering, where you can choose from variables like “base liquid, milk, flavour, and toppings used”. My only grumble? ‘This is best experienced on desktop’, so it really isn’t great on mobile. Still worth it!

Design for paranoia

Now we have a whole new thing to be paranoid about: AirTags. Have you played with these things yet? “Apple released chic, sleek AirTags early last year as a way to keep track of keys and purses. Given the company’s history of introducing products — such as the original iPhone — that lead to mass adoption, AirTags could well lead consumers to location track everything all the time, so that nothing is ever lost again, ushering in a surveillance state with the cleanest of aesthetics.” Now people are freaking out because they’re finding the nasty little things in their cars or pockets. So this journo planted a whole bunch of physical tracking devices on her husband and tracked the living daylights out of him. Yes, still creepy.


This grade school teacher is a media startup unto himself. He hilariously describes what he’s doing as “exploiting children’s imagination for likes”, but there are SO many lessons here about finding, engaging, and loving your audience. (By the way, I have decided that if you’re a teacher who tweets, you’re a tweecher, amirite)

  • Entertain them (this dude is seriously read-out-loud-with-your-friends funny)
  • Be compassionate and inclusive (said teacher-tweeter makes ruthless fun of his 6-year-olds, but always gently, always respectfully)
  • Be interesting. But — even better — be interested. (Our tweecher is not afraid to show how truly invested in the personalities of his kids he is.)
  • Champion your community. Make heroes. (His followers make posters based on his kids’ movie ideas. They know each child by name and personality. They discuss their ideas intricately in breakaway conversations. They are the children’s fans, because he is the children’s fan.)


The travesty that is website design these days: Presenting the abomination that is… the sticky video. What’s going on with you, Fast Company? Is it possible that advertisers will pay more for this nonsense? Just because you can innovate doesn’t mean you should. But there’s always a way out: “I’d be hitting that text only mode button soooooo fast”, says one user. Have you noticed that perhaps text-mode (Safari just calls it ‘Reader’ now) is arguably the best web design from a, well, reader’s perspective?

asshole web design


Okay, game time: how many songs do you know that have the name of a tech company in the title? This one is called Google Me, by CLiQ (feat. Alika and Ms. Banks), and it’s pretty cool. Send me your others, and let’s make a playlist, because that’s how we do.


MapCrunch is a map randomiser that was big in 2012, but it now appears to be back. The original MapCrunch is just a website that takes you to a random place in the world on Google Street View. But the MapCrunch Game is a whole other thing: to play, you go to the website, select “stealth”, unselect all countries, and go. You will now be dropped in a random part of the world — sometimes on the side of the road, and sometimes on a boat. The objective is to find your way to an airport to get the heck out of Dodge. Or wherever it is you are. Seems like it’s made for the Covid pandemonium. I’m currently stuck in what I’m pretty sure is Yogyakarta, and I can’t find the airport — send help.


MapCrunch was invented by a guy named Nick Nicholaou, who curiously also invented the deliciously abominable newsola. newsola is “top news at a glance” — basically a page chockablock with news story blocks. Bigger blocks are more important stories; brighter blocks are newer stories. This thing is basically world news sourced from Google News, but visualised using a treemap formula. newsola is so terrible that I can actually see it working beautifully if you set it up well (it has an auto-refresh mode). I mean, look at this thing.


I love this story about the Noted app: founder gets bored in a long meeting and decides there’s got to be a better way — world agrees. When Terenze Yuen and Fai Tung finally escaped a marathon meeting a few years ago, they had an audio recording, but no way to search it. Transcribing was going to be tedious. “You can imagine the pain,” they said. So they created Noted, which lets you record, add text notes and hashtags while recording. So stuff like “Tweetable quote” or “this is off the record!” is all automatically timestamped, and therefore instantly searchable. Users include students in lecture halls, people at conferences — and obviously, journos! One amazing feature: “Noted can automatically skip over long silences in your recordings.”

Cookieless marketing

What does a cookieless online world mean for digital marketing? For Meta (or Facebook), it means a loss of US$251 billion in one day. As more rigorous controls emerge around privacy and online tracking, organisations that rely on cookie-based programmatic advertising might be worried. All isn’t lost though, marketers are nothing if not adaptable. We’ll likely see a pivot to first-party data and contextual advertising.

Digital marketers have been preparing for the “cookiepocalypse” ever since Google announced it would block third party cookies last year. Spending now looks to be focussed on first-party data, with just over 50% of respondents focussing on this area. From a creative perspective, it’s not just about collecting this data but how you make it useful to the customer.

Spending now looks to be focussed on first-party data, with just over 50% of respondents focussing on this area.

NFTs on the street

With all the hype surrounding NFTs, there’s no getting away from the fact that some collectors are spending a lot of cash on code. What are you actually collecting and what’s the point? Street artists are embracing NFT technology to allow their temporary works to live on digitally. Murals to the Metaverse turns street art into a 3D model before the original piece is destroyed. Not only does the piece live on but its influence moves away from the boundaries of the street.

Virtual world harassment

Unsurprisingly, online trolling and harassment has moved seamlessly from social media to the Metaverse. Facebook looks to be getting on top of this quickly though. Its parent company Meta has just introduced a “personal boundary” function meaning an avatar’s personal space cannot be invaded. You can change the digital experience but not the users’.

Product Review

Harleen Kaur sounds cool. She launched Ground News to ‘identify biases and coverage gaps in prominent news sources’. It’s a great idea: aggregate and compare news across multiple news sources — and the political spectrum (there’s a little visual metre that tells you where on the political spectrum the source is: left, centre, or right). However, the app doesn’t look like it “identifies coverage gaps” at all. When I installed, the onboarding screen asked me to choose the edition most relevant to me:

  • United States (“​​This edition will focus mainly on the United States with breaking news from around the world.”),
  • International (“This edition will provide a more balanced coverage of all the news from around the world.”), or
  • United Kingdom (“​​This edition will focus mainly on the United Kingdom with breaking news from around the world.”).

Sigh. I chose the international edition, and the first stories I got were Trudeau talking about trucker protesters and something about Canada pushing back against GOP support for Covid protesters. Then I allowed the app to see my location (Singapore). My feed promptly showed me a story about how the U.S. CDC warned against travel to Mexico, Brazil, and Singapore. The top 3 suggested ‘topics’ for me were Fayette County, Kentucky, La Stampa, and McKinney (a town in Texas). You get the idea. When your idea of ‘international’ is Canada, it’s probably best not to be flexing about how you’re a “news source that could give me a full picture”.


This is what a media startup for the outdoors should look like. Bewilder is founded by the mighty Yvonne Leow, who also moonlights as creator-in-residence at CUNY. Bewilder has itineraries, food, gear, nearby activities, how-to guides, tips, sharing…you could go on, and they should because each one of those is an audience segment. The website design by Gabi Robins looks like it would taste really good — crisp, juicy, and very healthy. That headline typeface, called Eighties, and the calls to action, endorsements, usability, and voice are so utterly perfectly on-brand. Speaking of which: the new branding by Anuja Shukla is brilliant (that undulating, hilly B logo is just so delicious) because it’s optimistic and bright, the colours are fresh, the intent is earnest, and it doesn’t try too hard. More than anything else, it makes you WANT to belong to this community. (Sadly, this is only in California currently.) I desperately want Bewilder merch.

Chrome got an icon refresh. This is interesting not just because it’s a brand update but because you get a look into how a designer should think about brand.

Covered in this thread:

  • Brand expression (as in, how all the different bits of design language, like shadows, outlines, textures, proportions, hues, brightnesses, and spacing can come together to form the design vocabulary of a brand)
  • Colour vibration (“…we also found that placing certain shades of green and red next to each other created an unpleasant color vibration, so we introduced a very subtle gradient to the main icon to mitigate that, making the icon more accessible”
  • OS-specific customisations (“We want the icons to feel recognizably Chrome, but also well-crafted for each OS. For example, on Windows, the icons take on an obviously gradated look, appearing at home on Windows 10 & 11)
  • Redesigning for size (If you’re a news website, this means you’re redesigning your logo differently for different sizes, not just resizing it. Small size? Big difference.
  • Negative space (this didn’t work out for the Chrome icon, but still: “we explored introducing more negative space. However, in context, the white required a stroke that shrunk the icon overall, and made it more difficult to recognize, especially next to other Google apps”)

STFU, brand. When brands ingratiate themselves into trending social themes in a desperate attempt for traction with the cool kids, things can get pukey. But there’s a simple, non-cringey way for brands to do this: don’t. “Silence, brand.”


I’m embarrassed to say that I never got into Wordle. I feel like I’ve missed out on a whole social phenomenon. Now Wordle is a media phenom after NYT bought the puzzle for a price that’s “in the low seven figures”. That’s a lot of digits, but…

  1. These are table stakes for the modern media economy — you’re buying both attention and habit — extremely rare commodities in the space of consumer internet outside of social media and gaming (try naming another app that has done that).
  2. Non-news assets matter. NYT Games and Cooking subs passed 1 million paid subscribers in December. This is something we’ve seen in newspapers and broadcasters: you don’t build a media business on news alone.

Btw, it’s also worth noting that NYT now has 10 million digital subscribers. And it’s hit that goal 3 years ahead of schedule because of its acquisition of The Athletic which, again, drives the point that news alone doesn’t get you there.

BuzzFeed is holding off on new hiring as its share price continues to slide. The company raised only around $16 million of investor cash in its IPO, which doesn’t give it much leeway. Worse, it is now expecting a lower revenue from commerce sales.


Neil Young and Joni Mitchell have been good for headlines. But nothing has changed about Covid misinfo on Spotify. Joe Rogan promises to do better. We’ve seen this playbook before:

  • Controversial content shows up on platform
  • It stays in the news for a week
  • Platform says it won’t stand in the way of free speech (see below)
  • Platform says it’ll add some features and update its policy guidelines (Spotify will add a “content advisory” to any Covid discussions)
  • But nothing changes, really

Every hosting platform finds itself in this position at some point. And in the case of musicians, you’re not going to find others walking away from Spotify. “Streaming income, while by no means the whole income picture, is the key income source now, and it’s driving the sky-high valuations that are allowing some artists to sell off and then sail off into the sunset with a yacht-load of cash.”

Substack makes about $2.5 million a year in revenue from prominent anti-vaxxers. There’s a lot of pressure on the newsletter platform to curb such content. It won’t. “We make decisions based on principles not PR, we will defend free expression, and we will stick to our hands-off approach to content moderation. While we have content guidelines that allow us to protect the platform at the extremes, we will always view censorship as a last resort, because we believe open discourse is better for writers and better for society.”


It’s been a big earnings week. Here are some standouts that caught my eye.

  • Meta reported its first ever quarterly decline in DAUs, and slower growth in ad sales. That earnings report sent the stock down more than 20% — and just like that, $200 billion in market value. This has been a long time coming. The Facebook app itself lost 1 million daily users in North America where it struggles to remain relevant with young people.
  • Some of Meta’s troubles are attributed to iOS, which now requires Facebook users to give explicit permission to gather personal data. “We believe the impact of iOS overall is a headwind on our business in 2022, on the order of $10 billion.”
  • And it looks like Meta will double down on Reels, Instagram’s “fastest growing content format”. Reels was mentioned a few times during the earnings call. The metaverse barely got a mention.
  • Google continues to make money out of air. Ad revenue for the last quarter was up 33% to $61 billion — that’s $15 billion that came out of nowhere (maybe that was money that Meta couldn’t grab). Execs didn’t mention any impact from the iOS change. Alphabet’s stock was up 7%. I guess we won’t be talking about Meta and Google in the same breath anymore — this is the point where their businesses truly diverge.
  • YouTube’s ad revenue itself was $8.6 billion. Compare that with Netflix’s $7.7 billion in revenue for the same period. And with all the money that YT is sharing with creators (55% of ad rev goes to them), YouTube is truly the heart of the creator ecosystem.
  • Spotify is now calling itself “the best place for audio creators”. For the last quarter, Spotify reported 406 million MAUs (wow!), but the stock fell more than 18% because they expect monthly user numbers “only” at 418 million this quarter.


Lawson Media launched a new daily news podcast called The Defrag. This one covers technology, business, politics, and science — and there’s merch to go with it! They’ve also launched a membership program to help grow their revenue. There’s also a little Discord server worth checking out.

Some major podcast producers in the U.S. are looking to translate their big hits into other languages. Wow in the World (which my kids grew up with) will be offered in German, Japanese, and Spanish.


Remember Nuzzel? That was my favourite tool to discover popular content shared by people I follow on Twitter. However, Nuzzel was paralysed by an archaic backend and never evolved. It was eventually acquired by Twitter last year. Some of the employees behind Nuzzel are now out and have created Newslit, a better version of Nuzzel, and are promising to do better.

Wait, did you want a quick, no-code way to build a quick web app or resource directory for your newsroom? You’re in luck. Check out this list of stuff people have built with Softr. At Splice, Alan and I have been using Softr to build our database of the media ecosystem, and it’s incredible, because

  1. we don’t code,
  2. but our coder collaborators also really like it,
  3. we can make our Airtable data available in an easy-to-use web interface, and
  4. we’ve been so impressed with how responsive the Softr team has been to feature requests and improvements.

What are you going to make for your newsroom?

Canva acquired Flourish. Expect to see gorgeous data stories everywhere soon.

Gmail is getting a new look from February 8. And it’s long overdue. Unfortunately it looks like more feature creep — the layout will integrate Google Chat, Meet, and Spaces into an already crowded screen.

Descript rolled out new features to help you with your social posts. You can now create audiograms right within your composition.

The Substack juggernaut rolls on with new tools and updates for its writers. There’s more header navigation, sectioning, larger images (including a full-width option) — your newsletter now has what resembles an actual…website. Is it just me or is Substack now heading rapidly towards upping its full-stack website game? This might be a smart move; if I was Substack and wanted to soak up the newsletter writer market and compete with Mailchimp and, increasingly, Ghost, I’d want to offer way more than just a paid newsletter platform that has boring old Substack branding (instead of the writer’s own branding). In fact, maybe I’d want to start testing user appetite while making inroads into creator territory, not just newsletter-writer territory. I could then start competing with the likes of Squarespace and Wix, and just make a comprehensive newsletter-forward website builder + business platform with everything a creator needs. But then, maybe I’m just getting ahead of myself.

And then there’s the amazing Canva, that browser-based tool that can out-Photoshop Photoshop in so many ways. I’m not surprised it has over 55 million active users. “You’re probably one of them.” I certainly am. Here’s a list of great ways to use it, including making a website, which I had no clue about.


You’re not wrong if you’ve assumed that Australian media coverage of Covid is heavily skewed toward the U.S. and UK. Where are the Asia stories? Here are some numbers.

The Pulitzer Center has a project to support reporting on and with artificial intelligence. They’re running a survey to better understand barriers you face in reporting about technology. Respond here.

The International Red Cross and DART are developing a course on trauma and humanitarian reporting. The content will be delivered on SMS and WhatsApp. If you’re interested, reply to this post in our Telegram group.


Really excited to see more opportunities coming up at Himal Southasian in Colombo. They’re looking to hire an Engagement Editor to develop and implement the publication’s outreach, audience engagement, and membership program. “The ideal candidate will have experience in overseeing the growth and retention of online audience, subscribers or members of digital media outlets (or similar organisations) through outreach campaigns, events, media products, engagement opportunities, social-media initiatives, newsletters and content curation.”


This gorgeous video on the climate emergency is a collab by seven animators around the world. Each one was given only the last 5 seconds of work by the previous animator. The result, woven together in all its different styles, is stunning.

Media Startups

Mongolia-based Lemon Press launched its first foreign newsletter. Inside Mongolia’s mission is to attract foreign investors to Mongolia and to promote Mongolian businesses to the world. This week’s newsletter talked about the popularity of crypto — at least one in six Mongolians has some kind of crypto asset. Who knew!


Meta is going to start popping its 3D VR avatars from Oculus Quest 2 into Facebook, Messenger, and Instagram. Cool cool. The big avatar and metaverse strategy, according to Meta’s ‘head of Metaverse’, was “selling virtual items, either for virtual spaces or as avatar accessories”, but that looks like it’s going to take a while.


The datajourn-focused Sigma Awards received a record 603 entries this year. An impressive 44% were from Asia. A shortlist is expected soon.

Want to learn about disrupting the music industry? New York University’s Clive Davis Institute has a course on Taylor Swift, the media entrepreneur.

Product Strategy

Come for Maria Ressa; stay for the news. Rappler was already crushing it before Maria’s arrests, trolling, and the Nobel Peace prize. But it’s also because their business and product model is a classic retail model: loss leading, which involves selling products at non-profitable prices in order to bring the customers in — and then upselling. Think free apps with in-app purchases. And then there’s that other significant and wonderful thing: “A newspaper has readers, Rappler has fans.” There are some great insights in this story by The Always Amazing Ken.


Josh Wardle, the Wordle guy, just sold Wordle to the New York Times. The NYT is on a spree. But who can blame them? Wordle had 90 users on November 1, and exactly three months and millions of daily players later, the media monster has gobbled it up for a sum “in the low seven figures”. They said the game would “initially remain free to new and existing players.” Wardle said “I’d be lying if I said this hasn’t been a little overwhelming.” If there isn’t a Netflix docuseries about Wardle in the next few months where the credits are designed as Wordle tiles, I will change my name to Rishad Wordle (and I don’t even play). Meanwhile, well played, Josh — and slow clap, NYT.

Microsoft now owns Call of Duty, Diablo, Overwatch, Warcraft… and the mightiest of them all, Candy Crush. Enter player three. When these giant game franchises (each of these has entire media, merch, event, and collaterals businesses behind the actual games themselves) are added to the Xbox Game Pass subscription in 2023, it’s hard to think of another gaming company that will come close to the top three— Sony, Tencent, and, well, Microsoft. But this isn’t just about gaming for Satya Nadella— he clearly sees that gaming has been gateway metaverse for all of us for a while now. “Just like the first wave of the internet allowed everybody to build a website, I think the next wave of the internet will be a more open world where people can build their own metaverse worlds, whether they’re organizations or game developers or anyone else.”


Jarrod Chua is a Singaporean undergrad with a nerdy little hobby: he draws space-themed comics. Then NASA, arguably the most famous nerd-centric org in the world, bought his artwork.


Speaking of Microsoft, I don’t like PowerPoint. But I might have to. Seriously, with presentation candy like Google Slides, Keynote, and Pitch in the world, why would you work with something as janky as PowerPoint? Here’s why: the new PPT now has recording. And teleprompter mode! Enough to make me want to switch? Maybe. This new improved Microsoft continues to amaze me.

As part of the Great Rebundling, the defence intel company Janes just popped three of its existing publications into the blender and poured out one single mag from the mix. Defence tech and security wonks now have a single source that folds in Janes International Defence Review, Janes Navy International, and Janes Intelligence Review into one big war-mongerer’s dream called Janes Defence and Intelligence Review.


Mumbai’s colonial past is alive and well in this typeface called Bombay. But the designer, Manav Dhiman, also baked a nifty tool into the font that solved a major usability problem. “The rupee symbol is a recent addition to Unicode, so “almost all of the legacy typefaces don’t have it,” he says. By adding an R-s ligature, he produced a “unique enough combination of letters and case that when you type this it turns into ₹.”

Why does this designer-writer want to dress his words in Garamond? “The Garamond Guy, if you will, is irritatingly uptight, so certain of his own profundity that his words must be conveyed with the weight of a 500-year-old French typeface.”


The world of noisemedia is amazing. “It often isn’t the volume, it’s the frequency”, I find myself mansplaining so often. There are so many specific problems to solve in the land of sound (and thankfully, they all have solutions):

  1. You’re trying to work in a noisy home but music is not the solution (thank you, noise cancelling ear-tech)
  2. You’re trying to sleep through snoring or traffic but you don’t like earplugs and can’t wear earphones if you’re a side sleeper (welcome to white or pink or green or brown noise—not kidding (I’m a green noise guy))
  3. You’re trying to record your podcast but your sneezing neighbour is having a particularly bad nasally-challenged day (the choice of soundproofing panels from Lazada is insane)
  4. You’re looking to zone out but that yoga music is annoying (ASMR and forest sounds with rain on tin roof with a crackling fire are your friends)
  5. But what do you do if you miss the newsroom because your WFH situation is way too quiet? My daft media product idea for you journo creators is…newsroom soundscapes. Hear me out: you get a generic newsroom buzz for free, but your priced upsell could be specific newsroom soundscapes, screaming editors and all, so you can select your immersive news audio experience from newsroom options like Frontier Myanmar or WaPo or El País or Malaysiakini newsrooms. What do you think? My commission is 20% thanksbye.


I love everything about this grocery startup. UglyFood sells ugly produce at a discount, it disrupts wastage, and the founder is 27 years old. Ask yourself: do you really need waxed, unblemished lemons, perfectly round watermelons, and weirdly orange oranges? Augustine Tan helps you get real about your food. Now if only his currently-very-virtuous Insta account celebrated the ugly and only posted pictures of truly ugly food.

Speaking of celebrating the ugly, have you seen Ugly Design? Truly grotesque product design — how could you not love it?

Interesting Marketing Video and Report

Fairy tale styled animation and storytelling, focussing on beehives, to stop car theft. It makes sense when you watch.

A distinct use of colours and quick animation that moves from problem to solution seamlessly (and in 30-seconds).

The fact that a Top Gun sequel has been made is weird enough but there’s no way a Porsche can go as fast as a jet fighter. Looks cool though. #TopGun #Porsche

For those who’ve never even seen snow, check out the technology that ensures the start of each ski rave is perfect. #OMEGAOfficialTimekeeper

Not all content has to be short and sweet — if you love sneakers you’ll watch eBay’s quiz show.

Can you show how your product works in 10 seconds? Locking a door, frosting a cake and multi-tasking.

In an attempt to get a window seat, an illusionist races through Istanbul airport and shows off everything it has to offer. Somehow it makes sense. #TurkishAirlines #TürkHavaYolları #WidenYourWorld

Even great animation can’t hide the bleakness of a fully automated world.