Why we need to celebrate media startups

Here’s the short answer to that headline: Because if the industry doesn’t celebrate its own, then no one will.

At Splice, we believe that the most enduring transformation of this industry can only come through the work of media startups. Our mission is to get behind them. Illustration: Rishad Patel
At Splice, we believe that the most enduring transformation of this industry can only come through the work of media startups. Our mission is to get behind them. Illustration: Rishad Patel

The longer answer is that we’re tired of the narrative around media. The past 10 years has been about losing our influence, losing our revenue streams, losing utility with our audience, and worse, losing their trust.

Honestly, I don’t know of any other industry that talks itself down as much as we do. If we don’t celebrate media, why would we assume that advertisers and audiences will? If we don’t believe in our ability to thrive, why would anyone put money behind us?

No one’s coming to save us, goes the narrative. Joshua Topolsky said it best in 2016: “Your problem is that you make shit. A lot of shit. Cheap shit. And no one cares about you or your cheap shit.” Fair enough.

When Corey Ford’s Matter — seen by many as a framework for the industry —  suspended its accelerator plan, he put it down to a lack of investor interest in the industry. But like us, he too believes that the innovation must continue. “The industry needs a space where innovation can happen — both on the entrepreneurial side and in a way where we can inject it into media institutions that matter,” he wrote.

And that’s what Splice Beta is all about.

We believe that the most enduring transformation of this industry can only come through the work of media startups. Our mission is to get behind them.

We’re here to support and celebrate the innovation in these companies. But we think there is something more exciting happening that we want to get behind in a big way.

We’re talking about the little startups in Asia who are resolutely trying to serve niche communities that they understand — and respect. It’s those startups who, because they understand their communities, are figuring out solutions to problems. The jobs-to-be-done. The product-market-fit. That kind of stuff.

We know they exist because we’ve reported about them on Splice. They’re New Naratif, Magdalene, The Squiz, The News Lens, The Ken, Islami.co, Sarawak Report, Cofacts, Myitkyina News, FactWire, and so many more.

We love their work. Many of these exist to serve a specific community by first identifying the problems they face, and finding solutions to those.

The Ken is betting that people want quality, deep reporting, not just volume. New Naratif is finding ways to get under-reported Southeast Asian stories out there because there isn’t a single platform dedicated to that. All of them have unique missions and serve unique communities — we believe it’s this audience-first focus that also makes this media fundable and sustainable.

So we’re bringing together these great startup teams, as well as the rest of the ecosystem for Beta: investors, donors, academics, mentors. We’re also thankful for the work of media support groups like Media Development Investment Fund, International Media Support — the ones who’ve made long-term bets on media startups in Asia.   

There’s a front-row seat waiting for you in Chiang Mai.

Splice Beta is happening in Chiang Mai. May 1-3. Three days of deep conversation, keynotes, workshops, one-on-one mentoring, collective problem solving, curated discussions, and ridiculous amounts of fun. Grab your tickets here.

Co-Founder, CEO of The Splice Newsroom. Covering the business of media transformation in Asia. Follow Alan Soon on Twitter.

more about us

Hello — we’re Splice.

Our mission is to drive radical change by supporting bold, forward-looking media startups in Asia. In order to do this, we report on, teach, transform and fund newsrooms in Asia.

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We’re Alan Soon and Rishad Patel, and there’s more about us here.

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