Thursday, December 30, 2010

Done for the year

Well, I didn't quite hit 1000 posts for the year thanks to that little sabbatical but 875 posts is not bad. Thanks to a little kitchen accident last night I'm not in any shape to sit at my desk and write today, so this is it for 2010.

2011 will start with a look back at the year that just ended and the dramatic changes to the New Media landscape brought on by two tech giants, Apple and Google. We'll also make some predictions just for the fun of it.

Until then, have a happy and safe New Years.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Morning Brief: Wired.com at the center of WikiLeaks spat; ABC figures show that iPad mag sales have slowed

Late last night Wired.com editor-in-chief Evan Hansen and senior editor Kevin Poulsen responded to criticism that they are withholding chat logs pertaining to conversations by Bradley Manning, the US Army Pvt currently held being held in solitary confinement at the Marine Corps Brig at Quantico, Virginia. Manning is facing a court-martial for allegedly passing on classified information to WikiLeaks, which led to the publishing of diplomatic cables by The Guardian, Der Speigel and other news outlets.

The two responses, contained in one post on Wired.com are long on defense, short on new information. Not surprisingly, Glenn Greenwald, one of Wired's fierest critics concerning the way the magazine has handled the chat logs, has fired back in his Salon response.

I'll stay out of the way in this spat, though it is hard to defend a media outlet's refusal to be more transparent -- shades of the NYT and Judith Miller, it will probably not end well for the publication.



John Koblin, writing on WWD.com, says that the ABC is reporting that iPad sales for those magazines reporting have dropped. His post shows that most publishers are seeing a drop off in sales once the initial tablet edition has been released. For instance, Koblin says that Vanity Fair sold 8,700 digital editions of its November issue, down from 10,500 from August through October. Likewise, GQ sold 11,000 of its November issue versus an average of 13,000 copies between May and October.
Photobucket
Koblin reports the numbers without much comment, simply ending with the thought that publishers are hoping sales will return to pre-November numbers in the new year.

That didn't stop the editor of the NYMag.com website from putting this headline online: People Just Aren’t Buying Magazine iPad Apps. To the writer's credit, Chris Rovzar, the actual post does not claim any such thing.

The thing to keep in mind is that even if you take the worst sales month for Wired's tablet edition, October, and compare it to their print sales, you will see that their new tablet edition equals 17 percent of single copy print sales. Any circulation managers out there want to dismiss adding 17 percent in sales?

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

State of the tablet: some newspapers continue to struggle with the concept that the tablet is a unique platform

As the new year approaches we all know that the conversation in mobile media will soon turn to the business affairs of companies like Apple, Google, Verizon, RIM and others as these companies make big dramatic announcements soon about new tablets, old products on new carriers, and the like. Just about every media tech writer likes to watch Steve Jobs strut on stage to announce "one more thing". This next year won't be different.
Photobucket
But for New Media teams at newspapers and magazines, 2011 will be a whole new ballgame.

2010 started with the big announcements from the tech giants and a few publications immediately shot out of their chairs and started work on tablet editions or Android apps. The rest waited: waited all year long, or else slowly began work on their own new electronic "products".

"Products" is put in quotes here because this is one of the big issues facing print publishers: will they create new electronic media products for these new platforms, or will they simply try to port over their existing products? It's the battle of "replica" versus "native" -- and while many publishers don't get the difference, readers do.



It is estimated that Apple will ship close to 16 million iPads in 2010. The US launch of their first tablet was in early April, with the iPad being launched in many European countries at the end of May -- that means 16 million represents about two-thirds of a full year of sales. Estimates for 2011 are in the 40 to 60 million range worldwide.

Then there are the new Android or BlackBerry platform tablets projected to be launched in 2011. All-in-all, 2011 is shaping up to be the year in which tablets go from being an early adopter device to a mainstream device. (If the crowds at the Apple Store were an indication of this I think I'd bet heavily on mainstream adoption of the tablet.)

Of course, this does not mean publishers are, in general, ready for the move to tablets. Even those who launched iPad apps this winter appear to be a bit confused.

Take these two new tablet editions of metro newspapers from the Atlanta Journal Constitution and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. The publishers of these newspapers have looked at Apple's new platform and have come up with very different ideas of what a tablet edition should be.

The AJC has, for the most part, adopted the New York Times model of iPad app: the app uses RSS feeds to populate native layouts for easy reading on the iPad.

But where is this copy actually coming from? I still can't figure it out. A look at the business section shows that the first story is about luxury condo sales -- but it is five days old! Hitting the refresh button on the top of the page produces few changes.
Photobucket
Nonetheless, the app looks and feels like it belongs on a tablet.

Now look at the new iPad app at left from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

"Free for a limited time. An exact replica of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel newspaper, accessible online," the app description says (and by the way, that is the entire description right there. I guess there was simply not much to say about the app.)

Apple does not have a retail store in Milwaukee, choosing to open two stores in the suburbs and one in Madison, so maybe the publisher of the paper, Elizabeth Brenner, has never actually seen an iPad -- who knows, I certainly wasn't going to call to ask "whose brilliant idea was this?"

Photobucket
At right is a screenshot of the "Pages" navigation. No word on whether the second edition of Apple's iPad will come with a complimentary magnifying glass.

The AJC and MJS apps share one thing in common: they have both punted for now on their pricing strategies.

The MJS app is completely free at this point: free to download, and with no subscription requirement within the app. This means that if the tablet edition was an attractive product a reader could choose to dump their print editions and go with their free option -- the circulation manager, though, need not worry.

The paper has a mobile app developed through DoApp Inc., one of the better mobile app vendors. But readers have complained of some technical issues, as well as the limited Green Bay Packers coverage -- very important in that neck of the woods. The paper decided earlier this year to launch a paid app through Spreed called Packer Insider 2010 as an alternative. Ironically, they would have been better off asking Spreed to launch them an iPad app as their app for The Globe and Mail, while not perfect, would certainly have been better than this replica edition.

As for the AJC, they, too, are offering their app and content for free (for now). But the AJC is requiring readers to register with their site to gain access. Why more publishers aren't doing this is beyond me. If you offer someone something for free like an app registering seems fair.

The problem, though, comes after the 30 days of free access -- what will the price be after the introductory period runs out. Right now the paper charges $17.99 a month for home delivery, will this be the price? Or will they create a new price structure. The publisher still has a couple of weeks to answer that question.



Here is the demo video from the AJC:

Monday, December 27, 2010

A closer look at the new special edition from Scientific American for the iPad: Origins and Endings

After almost nine months of living with the iPad and reading media apps, one develops certain likes-and-dislikes: for instance, apps with both portrait and landscape modes is a "like"; an obnoxious video that plays every time the app opens, whether you want it to or not is a definite "dislike".
Photobucket
The new special edition app from Scientific American has many of the features that I've grown to like in a magazine app. It also has the added benefit of having superior content, of course.

Origins and Endings: Scientific American is a special edition of the magazine and the publisher's (Nature Publishing Group) debut on the iPad (they have no mobile apps at this time). The app costs $3.99 and was released just before the holiday weekend. Whether this will be a good thing or not time will tell, but this app deserves to be promoted by Apple in the New & Newsworthy section of the iTunes App Store.

The app tells a compelling story: from the origins of the universe, of life on Earth and our early human ancestors through to what happens to our bodies after we die, the odds of an apocalypse, and the end of time. Our interactive feature "How Much Is Left?" demonstrates how long it will take before some of Earth's most crucial resources are depleted, whereas "The Future of Biotech and Agritech" offers smart suggestions for alternatives. Finally, in the app's Innovations section we explain how computing began long before the transistor and how that technology evolved into technologies today, including your iPad. We explain the origins of many everyday items and phenomena found in the kitchen, office and the fields of entertainment, transportation and medicine.
- iTunes App Description
The app utilizes navigation techniques that may become standard in tablet magazines: swiping to go from story to story, and scrolling to read within the story. This way of navigating was described in the Bonnier tablet video released a year ago, before Apple announced its iPad launch. I find it logical, though I know some tech writers are getting used to the idea of swiping for one action, scrolling for another.
Photobucket
The app offers both portrait and landscape modes, as well as plenty of audio and video built-in. Because of this the app weighs in at 384 MB, smaller than some big apps. And because the user does not have to download the edition after installing the app, the download times seem very reasonable.

Maybe I'll return yet again to writing about this app after I have lived with it longer and read all the content. But for now I must say this one was a very good Christmas present.

Morning Brief: the unofficial holiday week kicks off; one retailer blew it out; media events in Hungary get noticed

It's the week between Christmas and New Years and for many a holiday week of shopping, travelling, relaxing, and everything except work. But us Internet slaves are here just in case.

I spent the entire day yesterday out of the house so that I wouldn't be forced to watch what has become of my once-great 49ers. Oh well, I can still spend the winter watching reruns of the World Series.

Out at the mall I could see that things were fairly busy, despite the lake effect snow we were having. But one store was positively jammed: the Apple Store. The place was packed with folks looking at iPads and iPhones, Macs and such. But a huge majority of those in the store seemed to be taking advantage of Apple's set-up services. Now my wife asked "why do you need someone to help you set up your iPad?" -- and I agree. But there they were, nonetheless.

I went into the store several times to see if I could make it to the back to check out phone cases and each time I found the place packed to the gills. The thought kept getting in my head about those columns I read back in April and May from our supposed media gurus: "The iPad is retrograde", "I don’t have $500 to throw away" wrote one media blogger who I never read anymore simply because I know it is no longer 1999.

I also thought about those writers who proclaimed when Apple announced it had sold 3.2 million iPads in the first quarter following its launch. "Where's the market?" asked some, assuming I suppose that the world was about to end and there wouldn't be a second, third or fourth quarter to follow.

I have no idea how many iPads or Samsung Galaxy Tabs will be sold during the holiday season, but I bet there will be a boat load (actually, a few plane loads). And then January will happen and guess what? Apple and others will announce new tablets. Predictability can be fun, too.

How long can the dinosaurs continue to be denial? Forever. Believe me.



Media and tech news may be minimal this week, but that doesn't mean there aren't some important things going on out in the world. One story that I don't think has gotten enough coverage here in the States, and which I've tried to promote by including headlines in the Short Takes section, is events in Hungary.

Today the Washington Post gets around to writing an editorial about moves being made by Prime Minister Viktor Orban to limit press freedom. Their editorial, titled The Putinization of Hungary? obviously compares moves being made in Hungary with those by Vladimir Putin in Russia.

Of course, the Washington Post is pretty quick to see tyranny abroad while promoting it at home. This is, after all, the same paper that allowed Marc Thiessen to write that WikiLeaks must be stopped column back in August.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas! Back with posts Monday.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Yo ho, my boys! No more work to-night!

"Yo ho, my boys!" said Fezziwig. "No more work to-night. Christmas Eve, Dick. Christmas, Ebenezer. Let's have the shutters up," cried old Fezziwig, with a sharp clap of his hands, "before a man can say Jack Robinson."

You wouldn't believe how those two fellows went at it. They charged into the street with the shutters -- one, two, three -- had them up in their places -- four, five, six -- barred them and pinned then -- seven, eight, nine -- and came back before you could have got to twelve, panting like race-horses.

"Hilli-ho!" cried old Fezziwig, skipping down from the high desk, with wonderful agility. "Clear away, my lads, and let's have lots of room here. Hilli-ho, Dick! Chirrup, Ebenezer."

Clear away! There was nothing they wouldn't have cleared away, or couldn't have cleared away, with old Fezziwig looking on. It was done in a minute. Every movable was packed off, as if it were dismissed from public life for evermore; the floor was swept and watered, the lamps were trimmed, fuel was heaped upon the fire; and the warehouse was as snug, and warm, and dry, and bright a ball-room, as you would desire to see upon a winter's night.

Charles Dickens - A Christmas Carol

Wrap-Up: Virgin's 'Project' goes free for the holidays; more updates for media and technology apps

A few short items to read before we shut down TNM for the holiday weekend.

The iPad magazine 'Project' from Virgin Digital Publishing has gone free for the holidays. The app was always a free download, but once installed the reader could access a sample of the issue for free, but was required to pay for full access. It was probably a good idea to open this up for a limited time to entice new readers.
Photobucket
One of the biggest complaints about 'Project' was slow issue download speeds. I didn't find it too much of a problem myself, but my broadband connection is pretty fast. But Virgin has decided to take no chances and have reduced the size of the issue by a third to assist in downloads. They have also made the issue compliant with iOS 3.2, as well. (Come on guys, update your iPads!)

If you missed TNM's original look at 'Project" you can see it here.



More updates: The Globe and Mail has had its iPad app updated by Spreed, its developer. This makes this version 1.4 -- and I see this as a good thing. Frequent updates is not necessarily a sign of trouble. Better an update than letting an app go too long with problems.

I enjoy reading The Globe and Mail on my iPad, but must admit that the layout of the tablet edition forces a spot on most stories for a photo -- and when there is no photo to go with the story a red maple leaf is inserted. As you might guess, some times the front page ends up looking a bit strange.
Photobucket
Another update comes from Apple for its Remote app, and this much appreciated. The update brings AirPlay video support to the app, as well as Internet radio control. For those people owning an iPhone or iPad (or both) and an Apple TV, this is a very welcome update.

To my surprise, I've found that I'm glad I've purchased an Apple TV. The old Apple TV didn't appeal to me, and seemed over priced. The new version only costs $99 and I've found that I've been using it more than I thought -- streaming photos to my TV, watching Netflix, and looking at Flickr slideshows while simultaneously listening to Christmas music through Pandora by streaming Pandora from my phone to the Apple TV.

Morning Brief: B2B gets a shake-up and a launch (of sorts); HP disses Android and goes its own way

My first gig in B2B publishing was with the Construction Information Group at McGraw-Hill publishing a daily newspaper for the construction industry of Northern California. It was a great group, for a while, with an amazing group of publishers.
Photobucket
One of the last great moves made by leaders of the group was the securing of the AIA contract in 1997. It was a deft act that stole away the title of "official" magazine of the association from Architecture, then owned by BPI Communications. Some saw McGraw-Hill's move at the time as simply buying the market, but the move catapulted Architectural Record from third in the field, behind both Architecture and Progressive Architecture, to first.

Actually, BPI had bought already Progressive Architecture from Penton and shut it down, clearing a bit of room in a field where editorial and production costs can be a bit higher than other markets. The move back fired on BPI when McGraw-Hill secured the AIA contract and at least two publishers lost their jobs over the moves.

Now Hanley-Wood will be taking over the AIA contract at the beginning of the year for its magazine Architect, having previously purchased and shut down Architecture. Meanwhile, the editor of ArchRecord, Robert Ivy, will be leaving McGraw-Hill to become head of the AIA. Ironic, no? But it all looks like shuffling chairs on the Titanic as McGraw-Hill continues to lessen its presence in trade publishing, and the association for architects tries to stay relavant in its industry.



Speaking of B2B and construction: Cygnus Business Media released a press release announcing that they will be launching a quarterly magazine next year called Sustainable Construction. Reading through the release one sees that the quarterly will be created in partnership with Caterpillar -- though they don't use the term "partnership".

The last paragraph of the press release is a bit confusing:
Sustainable Construction, a quarterly publication slated for late-Summer of 2011, features three digital publications -imbedded video, audio and other rich media tools- and a print product (produced with soy ink on recycled paper).
I suppose they mean "embedded" video, but no matter. What are these three "digital publications". And "late summer"? Who puts out a release about a launch no one will see for eight to nine months?



The WSJ posted an interesting interview with HP's head of mobile Jon Rubinstein yesterday. Rubinstein used to be the CEO at Palm. No wonder then that the interview gives on the distinct impression that HP will be be pushing its own WebOS in competition to Apple's iOS and Google's Android.

I guess I see HP as a low priced manufacturer of bland, workable devices, not as the creator of a new platform. I would have expected that HP, if it wanted to continue to develop WebOS, would also produce Android or Windows based tablets. HP seems to be the kind of company that would want to flood the market with different kinds of tablets, rather than focus only on its own platform.

But who knows, maybe this is a change in direction that will make sense as we get into 2011.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

All I want for Christmas is a media app: a look at some newly released media apps for iPad and Android tablets

I couldn't believe how busy yesterday afternoon got. Here we are in the days before Christmas and suddenly I'm getting e-mails about new media apps left and right. It was kind of nice to be that busy looking at new media products, while waiting anxiously to see if UPS and FedEx will be delivering the presents I bought online in time for Christmas morning. (Looking at the tracking reports it looks like it will be a close call.)
Photobucket
Amanda at Bonnier sent me a note to tell me that their magazine Popular Science has launched an Android app exclusively for the Samsung Galaxy Tab. Their press release had the oddest collection of upper case and lower case I've ever seen, but being someone who owns an iPad, maybe this is common in the world of Android. In any case, I appreciate hearing about any new apps for Android since I don't currently have an Android tab. Thanks Amanda.

“One of the great opportunities in this project was the chance to advance our own learnings about creating the best user experience for this new screen size,” Mike Haney, editorial director, Bonnier R&D is quoted in the release. “Although the smaller space requires more simplified layouts, we found that the horizontal orientation of the widescreen display gave us the best canvas for easy-to-read, flowing text and big, beautiful images without the screen ever feeling cluttered—preserving that immersive, relaxing magazine experience. The issue feels like it was made for this device—because it was.”

Interesting point about the "simplified layouts", don't you think?


Photobucket
Yesterday I wrote about different strategies for B2B publishers, and one of those strategies was publishing special editions for tablets. It looks like the folks at Nature Publishing Group had that same idea.

First thing this morning the publishers new iPad app for their magazine Scientific American has been launched. The app is a special edition called Origins and Endings: Scientific American.

The app costs $3.99 to download and weighs in at 384 MB. "For our debut on the iPad we curated some of our favorite articles from two single-topic issues, "Origins" and "The End," and added interactive informational graphics that show how things work as well as slide shows, audio interviews with scientists and video supplements," reads the app description.

I love reading these types of magazines. Anybody want to put a promo code in my Christmas stocking?


Photobucket
OK, this one isn't actually a magazine, but I think it is interesting to look at, nonetheless. It is Avenue Montaigne Guide for iPad. Now anybody who knows me knows how much I love Paris, and although shopping on the Avenue Montaigne is a bit ritzy for me, you should check this one, nonetheless. Especially if you have international editions.
Photobucket
Yes, you can drool at the Haute Couture, but what got my attention here is that the app offers French copy while in portrait mode, and English in landscape mode. Until tablets come with automatic translating -- and I think they will one day -- this is the way to go when trying to reach two different audiences.

This is the seventh edition of their print publication and is the Fall issue. The developer promises a new tablet edition in early April of next year. (The developer is listed as Société Emeraude Diffusion France and the link on the app description page takes you to an interesting video.)

Hoodgrown Magazine relaunches as an tablet magazine, complete with video, audio and a sense of adventure

It took awhile, but I was finally able to download the first issue of Hoodgrown, the tablet magazine from Christopher English -- ah um, I mean Chris "Cartel" English. Better known around these parts by his commenter name Tablazines. Mr. English has been a frequent commenter here, which I very much appreciate.

Hoodgrown is an ad supported tablet magazine, free to download in iTunes. And while readers are discovering that it takes a long time to download issues, once the app is installed the app itself has lots to offer lovers of "urban music".
Photobucket
(English's editor's column points out that the original tagline of the print magazine was "A Different Kind of Hip Hop Magazine" -- the new tagline of the tablet magazine is "The Magazine of Urban Music & Lifestyles".)

Hoodgrown Magazine was started in 2004 and only lasted three issues. The introduction of the iPad appears to a good opportunity to relaunch the magazine into a market that until now has been a bit nerdy and stale. Welcome back Hoodgrown.



Hoodgrown is not the product of some corporate entity -- you know that right away just looking at the app description. The name of the damn magazine is both Hoodgrown and Hood Grown. The Editor's Column proudly blares out "Damn, I'm Da Man". Good, it's about time we got some tablet magazines with some attitude. Let's dig in.
Photobucket
The app itself was developed with the help of Alligator Digital Magazines. English, that is Tablazines, commented on that story "Thanks to this site we will now be utlizing Alligator Digital Magazines for our iPad Publications!" and adding "Of course you'll be the first to know when we launch." I gotta tell you, that feels good.

The app can be a bit sluggish at times when in landscape mode, but I noticed no major problems such as crashing. The magazine app has what you'd want from a music magazine: lots of video and audio, as well as a little bit of animation. As mentioned, it works in both portrait and landscape modes, which I really think is vital for most magazine apps.

What it doesn't have it doesn't really need. All that social network article sharing is hot right now, but is it really necessary?

You can tell that this tablet magazine is not "native" -- that is, was created as a tablet publication without any history of print editions. The layouts feel like print which will make most readers feel comfortable. I am not convinced that the magazine form is dead, so there is no need to completely reinvent the form -- though I know a few people who feel otherwise.

Morning Brief: Triumph of the tablets as study shows tremendous growth potential; Palm tablet on the horizon; Apple's app policies begin to worry even supporters

Good morning. Following today's Morning Brief I will finally post my look at the new tablet edition of Hoodgrown Magazine. After that a few words about some new media apps to be found in iTunes. Otherwise today is a travel day for me.

Considering that the first commercially viable tablet media device (as opposed to computer) only appeared nine months ago, it is remarkable how the public has embraced the form factor. This impression is reinforced by a study released yesterday, The study from Harris Interactive, and sponsored by Fuze Box, showed that one in five Americans plan to own a tablet by 2014. I think these numbers may actually be low.

The reason they may be low is simply that there are few decent tablets currently available in the market. Besides the iPad, the Samsung Galaxy Tab is about the only thing currently available that would entice buyers -- who otherwise are still looking at e-readers such as the Kindle or Nook.

"Since before the iPad launched in April, we’ve persisted that tablets would soon become a widely used business tool,” Jeff Cavins, CEO of Fuze Box, said in the company's release. “With 2 in 5 tablet owners using their device for business by 2014, we have officially entered the post PC era and the potential is there to reinvent the business environment for collaboration with portable and tactile computing devices, complete with cameras, document sharing, cloud computing, and storage.”

All we need now are more tablets . . .



Fox News (I know) is reporting that HP owned Palm is set to introduce three models of the PalmPad at the Consumer Electronic Show in early January. According to the fair and balanced™ report, the PalmPad will run on a new version of WebOS and will run on Sprint's 4G network.

Supposedly the three devices will have displays of a similar size to the iPad's 9.7 inch screens -- an important point if newspapers and magazines are to be read on these devices.

No word on whether it will be the official policy of Fox News to promote these devices -- we'll keep our eye on MediaMatters to see if they can get the memos.



Most people think competition in the tablet arena will be good if only to advance the use of these devices as media consumption tools -- an alternative to print, but also a good companion to print. With Apple dominating the platform so far, some have expressed concerns about Apple and its app approval process, as well as its inability to understand the needs of publishers. Some have even accused the company of being an evil empire with nefarious intentions and instincts.

I've often defended the company because I felt it had entered into areas that were new to them. They have always been a company that has had to defend itself from larger competitors, and the Windows crowd has never been kind to its little brother. It's "Think Different" campaign captured the mood perfectly: stop being being a conformist, be creative, stretch the possible, think different.

But an incident yesterday has me really concerned.

Yesterday it was reported that Apple had pulled an app from an independent developer called WikiLeaks App. The action caused a minor uproar on the Internet as many people were quick to scream "censorship!". But I looked into the app, its developer, and wrote last morning about this.

I defended Apple because I saw that this seemed like the right move: here we have an independent developer taking the content of another entity that is available free online and trying to monetize it through a paid app. Plus, they were using the name of the other entity without their permission. It seemed to me a clear case of both violating trademark and piracy.

I thought "let's look at this from another perspective". What if the app was called "New York Times App", and all the content was derived from the NYT website. The developer then produced the app with the NYT name and charged readers for access to the content. Shouldn't that app be pulled from the App Store?

But it may turn out that Apple didn't pull the app to defend a media entities name or content. Late yesterday a representative of Apple reportedly contacted Business Insider and said "We removed WikiLeaks because it violated developer guidelines. An app must comply with all local laws. It may not put an individual or target group in harms way."

This is doubly bad, if true.

First, no reference is made in this response to the stolen content and brand name -- in other words, my own defense of Apple is wrong. According to the statement, Apple didn't protect either the content or brand name of the firm involved.

Second, if this statement is an accurate reflection of Apple's thinking, then Apple has joined PayPal and Amazon on the dark side. I hope to God this is not true.

No matter what you think of WikiLeaks and the whole controversy surrounding the leaked diplomatic cables, the idea of a private corporation joining with the government to suppress another entity, all outside the judicial system, is chilling, frightening.

Let's hope the "representative" from Apple simply got it wrong. It's definitely one of my Christmas wishes.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Sideways' Buddy Reading allows parents to read books to children remotely using their iPhones and the iPad

Here is an ingenious and fun use of Apple's new mobile devices, as well as software solutions, combined with some original additions from the Cleveland based software company Sideways LLC. The Sideways' Buddy Edition allows two people to read aloud together using their iPad and either an iPhone or iPod touch. The first app featuring this has just been released: the Peter Rabbit: Buddy Edition of the Beatrix Potter classic.
Photobucket
This $1.99 app is for iOS devices, but to take full advantage of all the app offers you need two separate devices -- one iPhone or iPod touch, and an iPad. Once the app is downloaded and installed (it only weighs in at a modest 93.7 MB), children can read the book themselves or have it read to them by the app itself. There is also a "Learn to Read" function that allows children to touch objects in the books and see and hear the words.

The app also features a built-in coloring book with line drawings from Beatrix Potter’s first version of the book -- which thankfully comes with an eraser for people like me!

But the main event is a demonstration of what Sideways is calling 'Buddy Reading'. The process to set up Budding Reading is a bit complicated, but is clearly explained in the app.
Photobucket
Buddy Reading takes advantage of Apple's new Game Center, which was introduced to the iPad through the iOS 4 update. The first thing that must occur is that the user has to register with Game Center if they have not done so already. Both devices used -- the iPhone and iPad, for instance -- must have separate accounts because both users will be accessing Game Center at the same time.

One person then invites the other to become friends through their accounts. One person then opens up the Peter Rabbit: Buddy Edition app; they tap "Read the Book", then "Buddy Reading". The first person chooses the second person to read with, waits for that person to accept, then they hit "Play Now". A security code is then required on both ends.

I told you it was a bit complicated. But Sideways advises walking through the process together the first time before trying to do this remotely. The key is that it works.

“Nothing can take the place of a parent reading a bedtime story to a child. Now with the Buddy Reading technology, it’s possible for traveling parents to keep that intimate, precious connection to their children at home, no matter the distance,” Charles Stack, CEO and co-founder of Sideways is quoted as stating in a release. “The new generation of multi-media devices offers great ways of telling classic stories. We’ve taken the century-old delight experienced when reading Peter Rabbit and respectfully extended it using new technology, which can be efficiently applied to books new and old.”
Photobucket
At two bucks this app is obviously a bargain. But this app is really a demonstration of the Sideways' own publishing solutions. The company is courting authors to use their "Anigraphic Engine" to create interactive books. The company's website lists some of the technology they can offer.

I've written about Sideways on a number of occasions involving their own tablet-only magazine, also called Sideways. Back in June CEO Stack said that the company was working to see what Apple's new tablet could be when it grows up (my words).

"We're really interested in experimenting with the form, what this medium wants to be when it grows up," Stack said in June. "The iPad medium wants to be something, like when sculptures talk about letting the sculpture out of the wood. It's the same kind of model, we're trying to figure out what this hardware platform is really good at, or best at."

Both the company and the tablet has already come a long way. It will be fun to see this technology continue to be pushed and developed.

Here is the company's own promotional video for their new book app:

The Guardian brags up its web numbers, compares UK news sites, news sites behind paywalls noticeably missing

I like it when media companies brag about their numbers, they should do it more often. Today, The Guardian bragged that its "average daily browsers" had increased by nearly 12 percent in the month of November, as compared to the previous month, and over 20 percent year-over-year.

According to The Guardian, the Mail Online, the website for the Daily Mail, remains the number one news site in the UK at 2,939,799 "daily browsers" (visitors, as opposed to unique users). The Guardian ranked second, while the Telegraph's website at Telegraph.co.uk ranked third with 1,724,153 "daily browsers". Both the Independent and Mirror Group trailed with just over one-half million.

Missing from the figures, of course, was the Times website which has been behind a paywall for about half a year. According to one "leaked" memo, the Guardian estimates that only 54,000 readers access Times.co.uk each month. News Corp., however, has said that about 50,000 readers are using the pay-as-you-go method of accessing Times content, while 100,000 print readers have activated their bundled online subscriptions to access the site's content.

American City & County releases Handmark developed mobile apps for Android, BlackBerry and iPad

The Penton Media owned trade magazine American City & County has released a series of mobile apps for the various mobile OS platforms, including a rather awful tablet edition that should have been launched for the iPhone instead.
Photobucket
The apps, developed by Handmark, are the usual RSS feed driven apps, but in this case produced by a B2B that really doesn't need a mobile app because of the lack of new content its editorial team produces. Articles in the app show that only one new story has been generated in the past 24 hours, with most of the stories at least a week old. A weekly e-newsletter would probably be a better fit.

The apps take their content from a single RSS feed taken from the "In The News" section of the AC&C website. Because of the way the site is designed the "Top Story" is therefore omitted. Other "sections" of the app are either promotions for other apps the developer has created, or are the readers "Saved" stories.

Since all controlled circulation magazines depend on advertising to pay the bills one would think that any mobile or tablet efforts would be built around the paid ads found in the latest issues of the magazine. Nope. There is one tiny ad found at the bottom of each page -- obviously designed to be displayed in a smartphone environment, but there in the iPad version, as well.

Man, what a mess.



The basics of the B2B media industry are easy enough to understand. Except for a select group of magazines that charge subscriptions, like AdAge, Engineering News-Record, and others, most B2B magazines are controlled circulation magazines. Since the magazines are, therefore, free to the reader, the way the bills get paid is through the advertising found in the magazines. And in many, maybe most cases, the advertising is as interesting as the stories since so much of the editorial content found in these magazines are PR driven drivel.

OK, that was easy enough. So why should B2Bs who produce controlled circulation magazines be interested in mobile? For the same reasons they are interested in print: to drive revenue -- either through advertising or by now charging for their content.

These are the ground rules. But there are major barriers to success. For one thing, getting a list of those people in an industry or audience segment in order to send a print copy of a magazine is fairly easy -- there are lots of list brokers out there who will sell you a list of manufacturing executives, for instance. When I was in charge of getting a list of top manufacturing executives in the U.S. I simply bought a list that told me the target reader's name, address, title, company name, size of company, etc. Voila, a choice list of future readers.

Ah, but Apple doesn't have this same information for sale, and neither does the various carriers who sell Android and BlackBerry OS smartphones. So targeting readers is impossible, the best a publisher can do right now is to simply launch an app and hope the right people find it.

Are the readers there? Maybe. Take American City & County again. They have a BPA audited circulation of just under 70,000. Say the size of the municipal and country government market is between 50,000 and 200,000 -- remember we want "qualified" readers, not just any old government employee, but those with the authority to buy and specify products and services. Now by my very rough calculations I estimate that there is between 3,500 and 14,000 possible iPad owners that would fit the description of a potential American City & County reader -- not bad really. Then you can add in those that own Android and BlackBerry phones and the market seems viable.

Great, let's go. Right? But what is the product? And where is the business model?

A publisher is either going to make money by selling apps or subscriptions, or by selling advertising. It's one or the other.

An app that will be paid, or only offer full access through a subscription, has to offer valuable (or interesting) content. These publications often have robust websites that generate lots of content. And, no, press releases probably won't qualify.

That means that for most B2Bs, their mobile and tablet efforts have to begin with the notion that they will be advertising driven --- either display ads for their tablet editions, or else display or directory advertising for their mobile efforts.

That leaves two last alternatives: the single-sponsored app, and the special product.

Hoodgrown relaunches as tablet magazine; but technical issues with the app prevent a real look at the magazine

I was really looking forward to examining the new tablet edition of Hoodgrown, the newly launched tablet edition from Christopher English. The free app, developed under the Tablazine name, looks to have promise, but the developers appear to have some server issues making the first edition of the tablet-only magazine currently inaccessible. Bummer.
Photobucket
The magazine is self described as about "urban music in a street oriented, yet intelligent manner." Assuming I am able to download the issue later I will write a new post on the magazine tomorrow. But until then it is worth mentioning a couple of things I've already noticed that the folks Tablazines are doing right.

First, the app opens to a registration page where readers are encouraged to send along their name and e-mail addresses. Declining in no way prevents the reader from accessing the magazine -- their server does that -- but it a gentle way of attempting to get more information from the reader, and hence opens up the possibility of directly getting demographic information down the line.

Second, Hoodgrown says it is free because it is ad driven. Well, many publishers have said the same thing, but the folks at Tablazines seem to be taking this seriously: they already have a media kit online and two sales reps are listed on the website.

Let's assume that the publishers are having server meltdown issues because of all the people downloading their first issues. So to give you a flavor of what the magazine actually looks like here's is their promotional video.

Morning Brief: new magazine tablet apps that take radically different approaches; EU approves News Corp's acquisition of BSkyB; FCC set to vote today on new rules

It's the first day of Winter (officially), so naturally that means that a couple of inches of snow needed to be cleared this morning. Hopefully it's sunny and warm where you are.

Here is a preview of a couple of new apps that have been released in the past 24 hours from two very different sources.
Photobucket
The first we'll look at later this today is from Chris English, under the Tablazine label. Hoodgrown is the rebirth of a previously closed print magazine, now given a new life as a tablet edition. The magazine is ad supported and has its own ad team (yeah), complete with media kit (double yeah). I can not tell you how many magazines have launched with a media kit ready to go and available on the website, probably Hoodgrown is the first I've seen (great job guys).

The second magazine app is from American City & County, the trade magazine for the municipal market that has had more owners lately than Cliff Lee (sorry, baseball reference). Now published under the Penton Media umbrella following the merger with Prism Business Media, the app is another of those RSS driven apps from Handmark. We'll try and keep an open mind, but . . .



Despite much opposition, News Corp. today received approval from the European Commission for its proposed full take over of the British Sky Broadcasting Group, known as BSkyB, the satellite broadcasting company.

"I am confident that this merger will not weaken competition in the United Kingdom. The effects on media plurality are a matter for the UK authorities," The Guardian quotes EU competition commissioner, Joaquin Almunia.

In the US, Comcast still awaits approval from the FTC and the Department of Justice for its proposed merger with NBC Universal. Level 3 Communications has been pushing to have conditions added to any agreement due to its recent run in with the cable company and ISP. "Comcast's recent decision to charge for the delivery of content to Comcast, which has been requested by Comcast's subscribers clearly, has important competitive and public-policy implications," Level 3 CEO James Crowe wrote in a letter to the FTC.



Many believe today is the day many will remember as the day the Internet died, as the FCC is scheduled to vote today on new rules regarding so-called Net Neutrality rules. The reason for the pessimism is because the commissioners seem intent on opening the door to a tiered Internet, or as Timothy Karr wrote yesterday on Huffington Post: "broadband payola - letting phone and cable companies charge steep tolls to favor the content and services of a select group of corporate partners, relegating everyone else to the cyber-equivalent of a winding dirt road."

Publishers have been noticeably missing from the discussion. They remind me of some of the construction executives I used to talk with in Washington who were pushing hard for more trade with China in order to grow their businesses, but are now complaining that China is taking their technology and becoming competitors. These executives simply were not thinking through the consequences of their positions. Likewise, media executives seem naturally inclined to want to support the ISPs without understanding that a multi-tiered Internet may result in higher fees or lower bandwidth for their own products -- not everyone will be viewed as important to a company like Comcast or AT&T as their own media properties.



Apple has pulled the WikiLeaks App, and because of this is getting a fair amount of bad press this morning. But because the app is missing many people will not see that the app was not actually from WikiLeaks at all, but from Igor Barinov publishing under the "Hint Solutions" name.

The app was charging $1.99 for access to the same content available for free online, a clear violation of Apple's terms, and a rip off to boot. Of course, that won't stop some from screaming "censorship". And that's too bad, because it will confuse the real issue here: Apple's continued poor judgement concerning media apps. This app shouldn't have been pulled because it should not have been approved to begin with as it does two things that should be a plain violation of the rules: it charges for content that is free on the web, and it uses the name of another entity without that entity's approval. Had this app been called the NYTimes and then was pulled no one would have been surprised.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Motorola hypes, but does not reveal, its own tablet

This site launched a few weeks before the Apple event that unveiled the iPad, now we are coming full circle as the Consumer Electronics Show approaches. Set for January 6-9, 2011, the show will no doubt be a good place to preview new tablets that run Android or some other OS (other than iOS, that is).

So here we have Motorola hyping its own (see video below). In case you don't get it, the bee at the end refers to Honeycomb, the next generation of Google's Android software.

It's taken awhile, but maybe by early next year there will be some another viable tablet platform for publishers to deal with -- we'll see.

Arkansas Democrat-Gazette releases tablet edition; iPad app is a cross between a replica edition and a native app

The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette has released its first tablet edition, a free app for the iPad which is an interesting cross between a replica edition and a native app.
Photobucket
Arkansas Online - The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette app offers up a replica edition of that morning's newspaper but embeds links in the headlines that take the reader to versions of the stories laid out in a more native tablet format. This allows for the insertion of advertising, though at this it does not look like the developers and the sales team are on the same page yet as the only ad I saw was for ePillow, an iPad accessory.

The use of a replica edition design may be used to make regular newspaper subscribers more comfortable with the tablet edition, but it is not necessary. iPad owners are familiar by now with what newspapers look like on their tablets, disguising the tablet edition as a print edition is probably not necessary. Besides, it locks down the front page which makes the app less useful when breaking news occurs throughout the day.

To compensate for this weakness, the app includes a link to an RSS feed driven version of the website (not seen in these screenshots). Unfortunately, because the newspaper uses a slideshow on its front page which shows the more important stories, these major stories are not as visible on the tablet version. As a result, the tablet edition ends up being a compromise between print and web -- and probably not as useful as either, though if a reader prefers the tablet experience this can be a good substitute for the print edition. (Also, the app crashed for me a couple of times, I'm sure they will want to address this in future updates.)


PhotobucketPhotobucketPhotobucket
Left: The front page of this morning's edition with embedded links visible; Middle: The library where readers can 'order' issues, though the first two are complimentary; Right: links lead to articles in a more 'native' layout.


Readers who download the app get two complimentary issues, while subscribers can sign in to continue to have full access. It was not immediately apparent how much the paper is charging for a subscription, though it appears to be $9.99 online.

The newspaper also has an iPhone app in the iTunes App Store. The free mobile app was developed by Handmark which has been starting to release some iPad apps, as well -- though none, at this point, that offer native tablet designs.

Morning Brief: Holiday schedule; NY Post releases paid iPhone app; the holiday season and media launches

Light posting ahead as the holiday nears. Between travel and typical holiday activities, TNM will slow to crawl before just plain stopping for the holidays.
Photobucket
The New York Post launched a new mobile app this morning. The app costs $1.99, the same price as their iPad app. Unlike the tablet version, this is a one-time fee.

The thing I noticed right away was the carrier used in the screenshots: Gol Mobile -- a Brazilian copy. Very strange.

Nonetheless, the new iPhone app continues News Corp.'s philosophy of paid apps and paid content. The true test for the company is coming up, of course, when News Corp. launches The Daily. According to Peter Kafka of the WSJ, the tablet-only newspaper is set for launch on January 17.

Somewhere that date and the end of the month I would expect that Apple will hold a media event to announce new products including iPad2. Remember, Apple used to make a string of announcements as part of Steve Jobs's keynote address at MacWorld. But now Apple sticks to its own events. Whether Apple would want to time its own event around the launch of Murdoch's daily tablet newspaper is doubtful, though not completely out of the question.



Publishers generally don't make that big a deal over the Christmas holiday season -- that is, most publishers simply continue producing the same type of product (daily newspaper, for instance) and leave it to the editors whether the holidays should get a mention.

Many newspapers continue to produce special local Christmas sections, of course, hoping to attract local advertisers, possibly writing about special holiday events such as the one millionth performance of The Nutcracker. But rarely do publishers actually produce a new product for the holidays.

The app game, it seems to me, would be a good way to change this behavior. Many game manufacturers, as you would imagine, like to make sure their new games are available in time for Christmas. This is true even if the game manufacturer depends on a device -- like the XBox or Wii -- to be played.

I would think that a smart publisher might realize that a lot of new iPads and smartphones will be sold during the holidays and a large number of potential customers will be downloading apps after the holidays -- what a good time to launch a new app, a specialty app, or a sample content app, no?

Friday, December 17, 2010

Comments, comments, comments: Huffington Post impresses with sheer volume of reader involvement

I like to tell a story of the early days of Internet publishing, it goes like this: back in the early nineties, the very, very early days of "online" publishing (let's not even call it web publishing) we had many discussions at McGraw-Hill about what it would take to succeed online. Amazingly, we came up with half of the right answer: community. The other half of the question was "how do you build community?" That part was a mystery.

Today, some people like to talk about page views and unique users, others talk about reader involvement like comments.

This is a long way of getting into a little item. You might have heard of the story released today of the study conducted by the University of Maryland which informed readers and viewers are concerning political issues -- or put another way, how misinformed those same readers and viewers are based on the source of their information. The results show, shock-shock, that Fox News viewers are, let's say, a bit misinformed.

OK, no surprise there, and many of the more liberal websites are having a bit of fun with it. But after reading a few versions of the same story something really shocked me. The story posted on the Huffington Post, which was posted this morning, has at this hour 5,725 comments. Seeing 300+ comments on a Paul Krugman or Charles Krauthammer column impresses me. But 5,725 comments?

Oops, over 5,800 now. You've have to admit, that's impressive. But this is not even unusual. A story that simply recaps Jon Stewart's last show of the year has over 4,000 comments.

Touch Gaming keeps it going with its second edition; tablet magazine also releases a free "Lite" version

Dutch independent publisher Rijnders Media has released its second edition of its iPad-only Touch Gaming Magazine. Edited by Patrick Rijnders, with app programming by Alfred Rijnders, this is definitely an independent publishing venture, despite all the company names associated with the effort.
Photobucket
TNM looked at the first effort from Rijnders back in early November, so it is nice to see that the publishers have been able to get a second issue together so quickly in order to maintain some sort of regular frequency.

The second edition of Touch Gaming Magazine follows the same design as the first, but this time the publishers have decided to release a second free version the magazine in order to provide readers with a preview. This "Lite" version gives the reader "a taste of the magazine, with 3 interviews, reviews and a background article on retro gaming," according to the description. I downloaded the paid version: at 99 cents, it was the least I could do, right?
Photobucket
Like the first edition, this second edition contains interviews and lots of reviews of games designed for iOS devices. The page designs are simple and do not contain animation and video -- because of this, the second edition is even "lighter" than the first, only 10.2 MB in size.

Since the demographics of iPad owners skew heavily towards young males, you would think that an iPad-only magazine for touch gaming would be a perfect fit. But the first edition only garnered one review in the US iTunes store, and none at all in the UK or Dutch stores proving how hard it is to break through the clutter of the app store.

Morning Brief: Executive at Apple supplier gets nabbed for providing inside information; don't report those numbers!

The Business Journal reported yesterday on the arrest of Walter Shimoon,a senior director of business development at Flextronics in San Diego, an Apple supplier. He is accused of funneling information about Apple's product plans to investors through Primary Global Research, a Mountain View consultancy.

According to the report Shimoon has alleged to have been caught on tape giving the research firm information on Apple's new tablet project, what became the iPad. "It’s a new category altogether. I believe it’s called K48 ... At Apple, you can get fired for saying K48 ... outside of a meeting that doesn’t have K48 people in it. That’s how crazy they are about it."

Maybe Primary Global should get out of the tech consulting business and become a media firm.



If you don't like the numbers, don't report them.
Photobucket
That seems to be the message sent by the folks at Research in Motion. RIM reported its Q3 earnings and most of the press is pretty impressed with the sales numbers. So why is it that the maker of BlackBerry has announced that it will no longer report its subscriber growth numbers?

Oh well, things will get interesting once the launch, if they launch, their BlackBerry Playbook -- still several months away. For publishers, iOS and Android continue to be where the action is. Only the largest media firms can develop for all the mobile platforms (as can the third party vendors).

But that fact doesn't seem to faze RIM's CEO Jim Balsillie who once again went on a tear during the company's conference call:

I think the PlayBook redefines what a tablet should do. I think we've articulated some elements of it, and I think this idea of a proprietary SDK and unnecessary apps -- though there's a huge role for apps -- I think is going to shift in the market, and I think it's going to shift very, very quickly. And I think there's going to be a strong appetite for web fidelity and tool familiarity. And I think there's going to be a rapid desire for high performance. And I think we're way ahead on that. -- Yahoo transcription.
Drink decaf often helps.



For those who may have wondered what happened to the series I was writing on B2B media . . . but there aren't any TNM readers wondering, are there? You see I doubt that many people directly involved in the B2B media business read TNM -- at least that is my impression based on the feedback I get, as well as my traffic numbers.

I did write those follow-up posts, quite a number of them actually. But this morning I decided to delete them all. They were very long, thoughtful pieces about what troubles the B2B media industry when it comes to New Media and what could be done about it. Then reality hit: B2B media executives don't give a shit about New Media. The people I know in B2B either already get it, or they are just plain hopeless -- I don't know anyone in between. So why waste posts on people who thing site redesigns and new content management systems are a part of New Media strategy?

So let's move on and talk about the things of importance to TNM readers.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Apple to open Mac App Store on January 6; will some media firms be enticed to develop for the Mac desktop?

Apple has set the date: January 6th. That is the day the company will open its Mac App Store. The store will try and duplicate the success of the iTunes App Store for iPhone and iPad apps.
Photobucket
In their announcement Apple said that the new Mac App Store " will be available in 90 countries at launch and will feature paid and free apps in categories like Education, Games, Graphics & Design, Lifestyle, Productivity and Utilities." Noticeably missing from that list is "News", a major category in the current iTunes App Store.

The rules of the game for the new Mac App Store are the same as for the other stores: developers get to keep 70 percent of the price of the apps, and are not charged for offering their apps for free.

Because the full Mac operating system is different than the mobile iOS version, developers will not be able to convert their iOS apps as easily as the move from iPhone to iPad proved to be. Nonetheless, I am sure some media entity out there will be tempted to experiment with the idea of a media app for the desktop.

Morning Brief: tons of app updates -- a reminder to publishers that mobile should be treated differently than print; Condé Nast looks to monetize its free apps

Yesterday afternoon I plugged my phone into my computer to pull off a couple of screenshots. But before plugging it in I made sure to check if there were any app updates waiting in iTunes. Sure enough, there they were -- 18 of them.
Photobucket
For anyone who owns an iPhone, iPad (or both), this is a common experience, especially after Apple has updated the OS. Some have complained that developing an app for iOS or Android is a pain because of the need to constantly update their apps. Publishers, the thinking goes, just aren't used to this kind of thing.

But those complaints are wildly misguided. Users actually love updates. App updates are like getting something for free and publishers need to take advantage of this as often as they can.

Apple certainly knows how to take advantage of updates. Yesterday it updated its iBooks app by adding the ability to print via AirPrint. It also added some illustrated books to its offerings, as well as made some other minor changes. All for free, of course. The update served as a reminder to users that the app is there and can be a good alternative to the Amazon Kindle app (or others).

But a few media apps were in that batch of updates including updates for apps from the New York Times and Washington Post. And this morning? Seven more apps have updates waiting to be downloaded, including updates to apps from PBS, Flipboard, Xfinity and two local ABC television affiliates.



Condé Nast's Epicurious app was one of the early apps launched for the iPad back in April. The company did a good job with its app and new iPad owners downloaded the app in huge numbers. The app, though, was/is free and now Condé Nast would no doubt like to find ways to capitalize on its new product.

On Tuesday the company updated the app and added a few features including the ability to sync recipes with the app. There is a one-time charge of $1.99, a minor fee really. But I would guess that the company would like to see how many of its users (who can use the app on the iPhone and iPod touch, as well as the iPad) sign up for the feature.

Idea: a recipe aggregation app. (Donations from developers appreciated.)

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Nomad Editions brings on Chris Leach to establish custom publishing division; health and sports will be focus

With now three live mobile publications under its belt, and a fourth soon to be released, Nomad Editions is ready to move into custom publishing. Today the company announced that Chris Leach, formerly director of custom media at EPS Communications, as well as editor at Inc. Magazine, will head the new division at Nomad Editions.
Photobucket
“I look forward to leading the efforts in the Nomad Editions Custom Media division, providing readers with a highly customized and targeted reading experience that is not available elsewhere today, even on the digital platform,” Leach said in the company's release.

As director of custom media, Leach will focus on health and sports. Robert Benchley will serve as chief content officer for the health initiative, while Nomad Editions' Director of Business Development, Peter Savarino, will concentrate on college and professional sports.
Photobucket
Nomad Editions is the brainchild of Mark Edmiston former managing director at M&A firm AdMedia Partners, and former CEO at Newsweek Inc.

Along with designer Roger Black and others, Nomad Editions is releasing a series of electronic publications specifically for the mobile market, though no mobile or tablet apps are part of the equation. The publications are designed to be read online at your computer, on smartphones, or on tablets, through the device's browser.

The company has launched three e-pubs to date: Wave Lines, Real Eats and Wide Screen, with a fourth, u+me, set to launch in January.

Mid-day Notes: Another flipbook maker turns to apps; DirecTV and NFL Sunday Ticket; Apple TV & Google TV

Selling Power magazine has a rather confusing approach to tablet editions, it has two identical apps in the iTunes App Store from Canadian flipbook maker Kastoff Enterprises. One app, released in October and called Selling Power App says it gives you access to one sample issue and then the user can get a one-year subscription (six issues) for $9.99.
Photobucket
Now there is a second app, more appropriately called simply Selling Power, which is also free and offers a sample issue (the September-October issue) and then says you can buy individual issues for $1.99 a piece. My guess is that the annual subscription idea wasn't a big hit and so this approach is replacing it.

In any case, this is another of those replica editions produced by a flipbook vendor. On the bright side, this is an easy way to make your magazine accessible for iPad owners. The app offers pinch-to-zoom, page swiping, etc. On the downside, you have to love flipbooks to want to duplicate the experience on a tablet. I could go on, but every TNM knows my view of flipbooks.

The vendor, Kastoff Enterprises of Montreal, Canada, calls its brand Turn-page and appears to be using Selling Power magazine has a showcase client. Maybe he cut the publisher a deal (like free!).



While Google TV has struggled to gain traction, Apple's newest version of Apple TV seems to be doing better. Part of the reason may simply be price -- at $99 its not much of an investment, and with its little one button remote, its a breeze to set-up and use.

Engadget is reporting that a recent survey from DirecTV hints that its NFL Sunday Ticket could be coming to Apple TV, as well as other boxtop devices. It's a good idea. While having a monopoly on the product is a good way to draw new customers, extending the product to boxtop makes even more sense. As a former DirecTV customer who was tired of constantly having channels pulled from my service, it is really the only way I'd consider buying anything from DirecTV again (anyone what to volunteer to climb on my roof and pull down that satellite dish?).

Apple has also issued an Apple TV update in an attempt to resolve issues with resolution some users have experienced. My experiences have been pretty good so far, but the device is still at the mercy of the content providers. For instance, Netflix seems to stream well, but YouTube is, well, it's YouTube.



If Apple is having more luck with its new TV product than Google is with theirs (my opinion), then the opposite appears to be true of mobile ad networks.

Apple yesterday launched its first iAd for the iPad, and an ad for Disney's "Tron Legacy" -- of course, and ad for a Disney product isn't really a real ad, is it? (A "real" ad, as any publisher can tell you, is one that is sold by a staff salesperson, with a signed insertion order, copy in house, and accounting ready to bill.)

If it is true (see here) that Apple is butting in to control or influence creative, look for clients and agencies to go elsewhere. Word to Apple, learn from publishers, there is always someone else willing to sell you that ad.

B2B continues its struggles with New Media - part 1

Of all the publishing segments that are struggling with New Media, none are suffering quite as badly as B2B. Whether it is the web, mobile or tablets, B2B publishers continue to beat their heads against the wall hoping that one day all this mess will go away and we will return to the late nineties and good times.

The causes of B2B media's woes are quite complex: one could blame the PE firms who really aren't much interested in developing their companies beyond buying and selling properties, or the management teams who move from firm to firm like managers moving from one last place team to another. Others have argued that B2B editorial teams have never gotten the web, and never will -- but it should be said that that position is becoming less relevant as time goes on simply because new J grads are far more interested in New Media than B2B coming out of school.

But before examining possible solutions, let's take a look at the present state of the industry.

One firm that has publicly committed to electronic publishing is Penton Media. Recently the company redesigned and relaunched many (all?) of its B2B websites. The websites, such as this one for Electronic Musician are modern in appearance, clean, and attractive. One way to tell a "modern" websites is simply width -- emusician.com is 970 pixels wide, compare that to the NYT, its about the same width. Now look at Editor & Publisher's website: it is 782 pixels wide, not counting the orphaned house ad on the side. It looks like it was designed a decade ago (thanks Nielsen).

Unfortunately, most website redesigned projects are obsessed with content management systems and page design. If either of these two elements were really that important would the Drudge Report be successful?

Most B2B websites suffer from the same three problems: they are not updated frequently enough, they are press release trash cans, and they have little personality.

Frequency
With the exception of the major B2B brands, most B2B websites get updated "periodically", as if posting stories online were just another of several jobs to be done in a week's time. Electronic Musician, for instance, has four stories that rotate on its home page slide show. All the stories with bylines show that they were posted a week ago within a half hour of each other. The section below the slideshow is for the "Robair Report" (not to be confused with the Colbert Report, I suppose). The column from Gino Robair was last posted on the 9th -- not too bad -- but the links to the previous columns produce an error message, showing that the editors are not too concerned with their web content.

Of course, the world of media today is 24/7, so it hardly need be said that posting new material daily is vitally important to any commercial website. Looking at other Penton sites you see a mixed bag -- Ward's Dealer Business, for instance, seems to be updated regularly, but sadly the site is still using their old design.

Any blogger can tell you this simple truth: traffic is directly related to frequency of posting. Volume is not necessarily the key here -- one or two good posts a day will drive regular readers back to your site. But simply posting PR won't get it done.

Press Releases
OK, everyone knows that the press release is the life blood of the B2B editor, but things are really bad online where many sites only post press releases.

Look at the new website for Construction Equipment, the former RBI magazine, now part of Scranton Gillette. The site appears to be designed to be a press release magnet. "News", actually just links to items found elsewhere on the web, is relegated to second fiddle. If readers of this once dominant trade publication were hoping a change of scenery would improve the magazine's online efforts they were wrong.

Personality
B2B editors are pretty much invisible now-a-days. The days of editors like Howard Stussman, editor at Engineering News Record for 33 years, are long gone. It's not the tenure that is important here, but personality. Stussman's replacement at ENR, Janice Tuchman, has been there for almost ten years now, but anyone who endured attended a speech by Stussman at an industry event knew that the man was in charge of not only his magazine, but would have thought he ran the whole damn industry. Those of us who were either his colleague or competitor (I was both during my B2B years) bristled at the man's ego, but were ultimately jealous of his standing in the industry.

An editor like Stussman infused his magazine with his personality -- one way or another. This same sort of "putting one's stamp" on the product is missing from many magazines today, but is completely absent from most B2B web products.



Of the three points above, at least two of them could apply to many B2B print products today, as well. But B2B websites stand out in their blandness, and formulaic approach to their production.

One reason I think this exists is that management is enamored with CMS -- it is as if having an efficient and easy to manage content management system will lead to a profitable web strategy. Sorry, it doesn't work that way. Traffic and ad sales leads to profits.

One reason are so obsessed with their back-end systems is that they are so leery of their front-end -- that is, their editorial and sales staffs. At every B2B I've worked for, management tried to keep as much of the control and maintenance of the websites from the staff as possible. Editors simply posted stories -- layout, design, maintenance was not their area of concern. Imagine if print magazines were handled the same way?

Tomorrow: some suggestions for B2B managers.
Later: mobile and tablet editions and B2B.