Saturday, January 9, 2010

Week in Review

Short reads on a Saturday morning:

• Arguments were held Friday in the Comcast, FCC net neutrality dispute. The case revolves around an FCC order banning Comcast's blocking its broadband customers from the file-sharing technology BitTorrent.  The original order by the FCC was issued when the commission was headed by Republican Kevin Martin. The current commission, chaired by Democrat Julius Genachowski, is placing a top priority on the issue of net neutrality.

• The expected closings at Reed Business Information began a little earlier than expected with the news that Video Business was being shuttered, along with MBT (Manufacturing Business Technology) and Industrial Distribution. Penton quickly followed with the news that two of its B2B pubs would stop publishing print editions and become online only pubs.

• The Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas was held and the news was tablets, tablets, tablets (oh, and readers, too). Whether you are in the newspaper, magazine or book business, new devices are being targeted at consumers.

ComputerWorld states the obvious: You don't need to work in my business to know that publishing is in a world of hurt. Newspapers and magazines are cutting staff or closing down due to declining readerships and the loss of advertisers. Book publishers, also losing readers, bank on high-priced blockbusters, franchise publications, and dashed-off tell-all books, and take fewer risks with unknown authors.

This same article also pointed to an older post on MacWorld that asks "Does Apple really want to sell magazines?": Apple would need to create a new set of iTunes storefronts for books, magazines, and newspapers, and would need to sign deals with major publishers. Publishers would need to present their content to Apple in a compatible format, which could be easy or hard, depending on if Apple were to support a common format or create something completely new.
• Yet more CES news: Sling Media, maker of the Sling Box (I want one, too bad Christmas is over), announced support for Flash support in its hardware and software products. The Sling Box allows users to view television broadcasts on their computer when the device is hooked up to a cable box. Sling Media also has an iPhone app that allows users to watch live television on their phones via their Sling Box.

• And finally, this story backs up my assertion that Microsoft head honcho Steve Ballmer's CES keynote address was a bit of a disappointment.
Apple must be patting themselves on the back, as the Hewlett-Packard (HP) tablet unveiled by Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer on Wednesday night failed to wow those expecting a true competitor to the mythical Apple tablet ... The HP tablet is basically a color e-reader running Amazon Kindle software, with few other details besides a sub-$500 price point and an estimated arrival on the market by mid-2010. So disappointing was the release that Microsoft and HP's shares fell yesterday according to BusinessWeek.

So the media world still remains waiting for tablet publishing revolution.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Zinio launches iPhone app; states it is striving for "ubiquitous" magazine reading platform

Digital publishing technology and distribution company Zinio announced that it had launched a free iPhone app (iTunes store link), and is currently offering two magazine samples to entice readers to use the service.

The move is a wise attempt to allow readers access to their favorite publications, regardless of the device they prefer to use. Zinio describes the move as the "cornerstone of its ubiquitous “Unity” reading platform."
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The easy to use application allows users to download their favorite consumer magazines (hey, where's the B2B?), assuming they are being distributed by Zinio, and read them just as they would an online flip book -- only easier, in my opinion, as the app does not require Flash.

Once the reader has selected the magazine, either the free samples currently available (Vivmag and PC Magazine) or purchased magazines, the reader is taken to a cover shot as seen at left and the app begins to download the rest of the file. The reader swipes to go to another page, a quicker and more natural motion that the corner click used on flip books.  The reader can zoom in using the usual iPhone multi-touch motions. A double tap will zoom you into the desired area, or zoom you back out. Unfortunately, Zinio zooms in a set amount, often too close. (iPhone users familiar with browsing on their phone will immediately compare the way zooming works magically with Safari versus the Zinio app. A tap of a story here often zooms you in closer to the story than you want.

Photoblogging Friday - 1

You've heard of Catblogging, right? The blog tradition goes back almost to the beginning of the medium. The New York Times first wrote about the phenomenon in 2004. Kevin Drum, who then published the Calpundit blog, now of Mother Jones, was most likely the first to start posting pictures of his cat Inkblot every Friday.

Well, I don't own a cat.  So what will our Friday not-to-be-taken-too-seriously feature be? Why not Photoblogging Friday?

Dean Brierly, former managing editor of Camera & Darkroom, and a photographer himself, will assist me with the photo selection. Dean writes about photography and photographers on his interview blog site Photographers Speak, and you can see more of his work on his own portfolio site.

The inaugural photo is his own, "Wrong Turn, Tokyo" -- click for enlarged view.

Canada's largest media group, Canwest Global Communications, files for bankruptcy protection

Proving that the newspaper industry's woes are not isolated to just the United States, Canada's largest media group, Canwest Global Communications Corp. announced that it had filed for bankruptcy protection for its newspaper division and began the search for a buyer.

The Winnipeg based media giant publishes The National Post, as well as the Montreal Gazette, Ottawa Citizen, Calgary Herald, Edmonton Journal, Victoria Times-Colonist and Vancouver newspapers, the Sun and Province.

Update: Spelling corrected thanks to Anonymous reader.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Twitter as classified killer

If you look to the right of this post you will see my Media News Feeds.  I use Feedmingle, but there are other aggregators that will gather up the RSS feeds and combine them into one clean list of stories.

Every once in a while I notice something that I want to follow-up on.  This time it was the headline from We're Hiring Reporters.

Now its up to Apple after Ballmer keynote at CES fails to ignite tablet wars

TalkingNewMedia is a not a tech site so I won't waste much home page space on this, but I think the tablet wars may be the most important development in publishing this year, so here is an update.

Steve Ballmer, CEO of Microsoft, gave the keynote address last night at this year's Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. Engadget, a great place to get updates on the show, blogged the event live last night. When it was over, surprised at the lack of big news, they wrote: "8:11PM "Thank you very much." And Robbie is gone. And... that's it? Wow. Incredibly boring. Incredibly incredibly boring. Really."  Brutal.

Going into last night, the rumor was that Ballmer would introduce a new "slate" computer from HP.  Hopes were high, and not just because there are those who truly hate Apple and want to see Microsoft lead in this area. A demonstration video of a product, supposedly called Courier, was posted on the Gizmodo site, and videos drawn from that original one have proliferated on YouTube. The reaction was a definite "wow".

But last night Ballmer ran through a laundry list of Microsoft initiatives, XBox, Windows 7, and the rest, before finally, and very briefly, mentioning a "slate" from HP. Ballmer proceeded to play a game on the device and moved on. This was not what publishers were waiting for.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Closings begin at Reed Business Information

Reed Business Information property Video Business announced that the January 4th issue of the weekly magazine will be its last.

VB’s owner, Reed Business Information, is shuttering the magazine and its online operations, effective this week, as part of a larger, ongoing strategy to divest itself of most of its business-to-business publications in the U.S. The company also is closing MBT (Manufacturing Business Technology) and Industrial Distribution.
Reed had given employees the heads-up that they would soon announce the sale of some of its properties, but that those that had not found buyers would face being shuttered, with the inevitable round of layoffs.
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"We have not been able to sell the business as a whole and this unfortunately will result in title closures and job losses across the business during the first half of the New Year," wrote Reed CEO John Poulin in the internal memo distributed to employees on New Years Eve.

Video Business had been publishing for 29 years and according to its last BPA statement had a circulation of 14,020, down considerably from its June 2005 statement of 40,031.

Update: Both Folio: and BtoBOnline are reporting that Penton will be closing two of its print publications, but keeping the web sites: American Machinist and Welding Design & Fabrication. The welding book has a fairly active forum as part of its site, WeldingWeb, raising the number of page views and unique users. At least three positions have been eliminated in the move.

Accessorize your print schedule with a "printer" schedule

Do readers want ads on the articles they print out from your site? I doubt it, but since it is a free service there is no doubt that publishers have the right to monetize those printouts, right?

(This is nothing new: MapQuest and the airlines have been putting ads on their printouts for years. But publishers ... )

Image and video hosting by TinyPicFormat Dynamics released a presser yesterday announcing that Hearst's Good Housekeeping site will be start using their CleanPrint technology to place ads on those, until now, clean printouts readers get when they press the "print" button on the web site. The technology reformats the printed page into a much cleaner and more attractive look, and also places an ad there, as well.

By creating a new class of inventory, CleanPrint provides Hearst’s advertisers with a unique, targeted opportunity to reach their audience long after they log off.
I like the look of the page produced (click picture for enlarged view). My guess is that readers won't mind the ads too much, especially if they don't appear on every page.

My questions include 1) can the reps sell this? and 2) can the ads be contextual, or are they random?

Like all new space, Hearst will have to provide advertisers with some hard numbers concerning the volume of readers an advertiser can expect to reach, and may want to sell it on a pay per-view-basis -- or in this case, pay-per-print (great, a new acronym for PPP).

Mobile media round-up

Yesterday was a huge day in the mobile space.

Why should traditional publishers care? Because even if you don't believe mobile media is the direction your products are going (oh my), then you at least need to understand that many of the dollars that are now, or soon will, be going to mobile media are dollars not going to your B2B publication, or national consumer magazine, or your local newspaper (via your national advertising department).

Let's start:
MQ = the money quote; TNM = my comment

The Mobile Advertising Industry Is Worth At Least $1 Billion Now
MQ: The $1 billion-dollar figure comes from adding the $750 million Google paid for AdMob, and the rumored $270 million Apple paid for Quattro.

TNM: Kind of a convoluted way of arriving at a market value, but it works. More importantly, it demonstrates the growing value of this market and to me, someone who has been in newspapers and magazines, I immediately see this as money leaving the print world going elsewhere. (It's not true, of course, this is money coming from all types of media, but I'm a competitive guy and any dollars not going to my products would annoy me.)

Apple's acquisition of Quattro: more proof of mobile competition

MQ: ...with more investments and acquisitions in the space, including from established players like Apple and Google, that's a sign that vigorous growth and competition will continue. That's ultimately great for users, advertisers and publishers alike. 

TNM: Easy for Google to say, they are fighting to get the FTC to approve their acquisition of Admob. Most people think Apple's acquisition will be approved because Apple is not considered an advertising company, whereas Google proudly proclaims themselves advertising driven (I kind of admire them for that stance).

OverDrive Expands International Distribution for eBooks & Audiobooks

MQ: "During 2009, OverDrive dramatically expanded its global network with the addition of 1,700 retailers, publishers, and libraries," said David Burleigh, director of marketing for OverDrive. "We're enhancing on-the-go access to content through new digital book apps for AndroidTM and Windows Mobile® phones available now, and apps for iPhone and BlackBerry® coming in 2010."

TNM: Compare this to the CourseSmart story from yesterday. OverDrive is definitely in the mobile phone arena -- what are their thoughts concerning tablets? I've sent an inquiry to the company and will provide an update should they respond.

Google’s New Nexus One ‘Superphone’ Isn’t Revolutionary

MQ: Google is calling the device, built by HTC, a “superphone,” and as that name would imply, it does sport a lot of the latest hardware and has some software surprises, but it’s not revolutionary. That said, it’s a very solid device that provides a nice competitive offering to the iPhone.

TNM: Back to cell phones. I need to bone up on Droid based phones and what Google is doing in this area. As an iPhone owner it is easy to be Apple-centric. But as a publisher my question would be this: will it be easy to enter the mobile content market on both platforms, or will I be dependent on an outside firm helping me in this area? Most small publishers bring in outside firms to help them launch their initial web products, I assume this will be the case with mobile, as well.

And finally, a couple quotes from a round-up of reactions to the Quattro acquisition and its impact from GoMo News:

MQ: GoMo News: Mobile advertising can (and will) affect every single person who owns a mobile device - and that’s where the real money is.

MQ: Paran Johar, CMO of Jumptap: “If there is any doubt that 2010 is the year of Mobile Advertising, Apple just cleared up any speculation. Apple’s acquisition of Quattro is for two main reasons: first, to have a mechanism to monetize free apps with the Quattro sales force and secondly to capture a share of the growing mobile advertising media spend.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

E&P in Exile

Thanks to Blogspot you can find the crew of Editor & Publisher here -- at least temporarily. A note on the Kirkus Review web site shows that the staff is still hoping something can be worked out for that publication but as far as I've heard both the E&P and Kirkus staffs have cleaned out their desks. Cross your fingers.

Another peak at the future? CourseSmart shows off its vision of tablet publishing for the textbook industry

This story is an interesting variation on the Skiff launch story from yesterday.

The WSJ story, honestly not much more than a press release for CourseSmart, contains a video that envisions its e-book products as they might appear on the soon-to-launched, much-rumored-about-but-never-seen, Apple tablet.

Take a look:
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CourseSmart is not a book publisher, instead they are rushing to be the mobile source for textbooks. Anybody currently in college, or with kids in college, knows that the price of textbooks is . . . well, out of control. What used to be a rather minor expense issue is quickly becoming yet another reason for students to go into debt.

Analysts (insert lawyer joke here)

So the great Khan has spoken and he says that Internet advertising will increase big time in 2010 -- well over 10 percent.

I don't necessarily disagree, but you have to wonder what the big deal is when the man from J.P. Morgan speaks. In this year's report he says that 2009 online advertising was down 5.2 percent . . . but did he mention that his 2009 report predicted a 6.7 percent increase in display advertising and a 12 percent increase in search?

Oh, well. Win some, lose some. In any case, if you are interested here are some slides from the presentation. Other sources are repeating the message, but if you ask me (and you didn't) it's pretty much a duh: does anyone think 2010 will be worse than 2009? No, especially when it comes to online advertising.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Skiff to unveil new reader at CES; teams up with Sprint; will launch store to sell newspapers, magazines, books

Skiff LLC announced today that the company will formally unveil its new Skiff Reader at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas later this week to an invitation only crowd that apparently does not include your humble blogger. The Skiff event will be presented by Sprint, who signed a multi-year agreement to provide 3G connectivity for the new reader.
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The new Skiff Reader is an 11.5" LG Display touchscreen with a resolution of 1200 x 1600 pixels and weigh just over one pound (17 - 9/16 oz). The reader will have WiFi, in addition to 3G, and comes with a built in speaker, USB port, and 4 gigs of memory with 3 additional gigs available for content. (More pictures below.)

Piecemeal sale of Reed Business assets opens the door to possible fire sale of other titles

RBI CEO John Poulin has confirmed what we all have been hearing: RBI can not find a buyer for its entire portfolio of publications and will be selling them piecemeal.

According to the memo, obtained by, the staff was told last week that Reed will soon be announcing the sale of some of its titles, but not all -- meaning closings and layoffs are soon to follow.

Excited about Apple's new "iSlate" tablet? But have you talked to your advertising staff yet?

It's the rage of the Internet this morning: David Carr from The New York Times, ComputerWorld's IT Blogwatch, Ken Doctor, Mark Potts all have posts about the upcoming introduction of Apple's tablet/reader to the market January 26th. But, as usual, the talk is all coming from the perspective of media owners, journalists and analysts. Wait 'til they discover that their advertising staffs are skeptical, disinterested, or completely in the dark!

For those of you who have not been following the drama of Apple's product introduction (it is amazing how much free publicity Apple gets prior to a product introduction), here are some of the details:
The new tablet/reader is rumored to be a 10" device that would be a cross between their iPhone and a laptop; it would use a modified version of the OS found in the iPhone, itself a version of OS X, Apple's operating system for the Mac; it would presumably have a touch screen, WiFi capability, and possibly could place phone calls like the iPhone; therefore, it might be a subsidized product (like a cell phone) to drive down the cost of purchase, but force the user to have a contract with a provider like AT&T; finally, it will solve all the problems of both the newspaper and magazine industry (OK, that's being sarcastic, but they certainly are hoping it gives them a boost).
John Gruber has a nice way of looking at what he thinks the Apple's tablet will be:
Do I think The Tablet is an e-reader? A video player? A web browser? A document viewer? It’s not a matter of or but rather and. I say it is all of these things. It’s a computer.