Saturday, January 23, 2010

Week in Review

Short reads on a Saturday morning:

• Poynter got a sneak preview of the new IBM Media & Entertainment Group study which concludes that the online newspaper audience is declining while older readers are finally discovering social media. I'll wait until I see the actual study to draw any real conclusions, but I must admit one thing stands out immediately: the claim that newspapers can expect further declines in readership online. This claim, it seems to me, is based on the assumption that newspapers will continue to make the same mistakes they are now -- organizing their new online as they would in print.

For instance, look at the round-up of tablet rumors below. Each story comes from many different sources, yet much of this material can be found either here at TNM or at MacRumors or sites like that -- all sites not considered a newspaper site. In other words, once newspapers editors understand that they need to be aggregating news as well as producing original news, then many online readers will stick with their newspaper branded sites.

• Tablet rumor round-up (last week!):

Apple was apparently hard at work talking to book publishers in order to get them lined up for their new device.  This story has them taking to McGraw-Hill and Hachette, while this one has them talking to HarperCollins.
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The WSJ wrote that "Steve Jobs's Tablet Device Looks to Repackage TV, Magazines, Just as iPod Changed Music Sales". We'll see about that. But as The Mac Observer wrote the last thing the traditional publishers should be worried about is Apple entering the market -- they should be looking forward to it. My guess is that a few newspaper companies, including the NYT are making sure their content is available on Day One. The question is: in what form?

Rumors continue about the fabled tablet's specs, but the general consensus seems to be that it will look like the rendering above.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Photoblogging Friday - 3

It's Friday already. That was quick. Nothing much happened this short week did it? . . . let's see, a Republican was elected Senator from Massachusetts (wot?), the Supreme Court said corporations can not have their political contributions limited (because to old men in robes speech and money are the same thing, right?), and Haiti had another earthquake (enough already). Maybe Friday didn't come fast enough.

But next week, ah, next week will be interesting. Wednesday will either be the most important day in publishing so far this century, or a major letdown, as Steve Jobs stands on stage to introduce Apple's tablet. My suggestion: don't judge the importance of the event right away. I remember being saddened by Apple's MacWorld 2007 announcement that it was entering the cell phone business (boring! Give me a new MacBook Pro!). Well, I was wrong. And so many prognosticators next week will be wrong, as well.
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And next Friday I predict another episode of Photoblogging Friday.

This week I was tempted to shy away from the abstract photography we've posted so far and go with some schmaltzy shot of a kid with his ice cream cone, or something else that would bring in the traffic. But Dean Brierly, of Photographers Speak, sent me a couple of photos for me to choose from his friend, and fellow Chip, David Karamian.  Dean and I both like jazz so this one was the obvious choice.
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The photo was taken at Papa Joe's Jazzlokal, Köln, and to give you a flavor of the place I've included a picture of the man himself, Papa Joe. If you click on his image you will be magically transported to Germany through the power of the Internet. Isn't New Media wonderful. Happy Friday.

The Mac Observer: "Can the Publishing Industry Save Itself From Apple Saving the Publishing Industry?

Bryan Chaffin, executive vice president of The Mac Observer, and the writer of The Back Page feature, wrote a great piece today about the Apple tablet and the publishing industry. You should read the whole piece, it is both funny and on target.

Here is a good sized excerpt, reproduced with permission of the author:

. . .  Rumor has it that Apple CEO Steve Jobs wants to save the newspaper and magazine the same way Apple saved the labels (and in the process make several new fortunes selling the devices that will be part of the saving formula).

I buy into that particular rumor for two reasons. The first is that I think Mr. Jobs has the kind of hubris (and track record) to think he can be that savior, and the second is that newspapers need saving.

Unlike the record labels, newspapers don't appear to be run by idiots, but they do need help adjusting to the changes the Internet has wrought on their business models. From Craigslist to access-everywhere-to-everything, to the lower barrier to entry for new media to enter the market, newspapers have faced dramatically decreasing revenues.

Considering using a vendor for off-the-shelf iPhone app development? Go it alone approach may still be best

For the past two weeks I've been working on a post comparing the many iPhone developers that have launched web based iPhone app development tools for publishers. After two weeks of trying out different vendors approaches I came to one conclusion: if you are serious about mobile do it yourself.

That's not to say that the door is closed to the off-the-shelf approach. Several companies have come up with easy to use interfaces that makes creating a simple RSS driven apps a breeze. And prices seem to fall into a small range: $199 to $499.

☜  The TNM iPhone as built by Appmakr.

The key is that you can not build an app with one of these vendors and charge for the app on the iTunes store. In order to put a price on your app you must be part of the Apple developer program. The good news is that this is very easy, simply go here, fill out the necessary pixel work and pay the fee. This now gives you the freedom to develop and launch your own app free from the constraints of these vendors, or, conversely with an outside vendor.

On the other hand, if you have no intention to charge then an off-the-shelf solution might work. So what's the variables you will see in prices? Are you hosting the content? If the app is simply going to bring in content from your RSS feeds then hosting costs will be eliminated. Plan on including advertising? Well if you want to use Admob, a popular option, then the price goes up a bit. If you will allow the vendor to place ads then the cost goes down.

My advice, though, is simple: don't give up your brand, don't surrender your revenue options, and give yourself as much flexibility as possible.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Short reads: a word of warning; bloggers fill in the gaps in coverage; Condé Nast declares iPhone app a success

Arnon Mishkin has a column on that expresses optimism over Apple tablet, but warns "content creators and audience aggregators should be careful about how they deal with the e-readers or it could turn into primarily a bonanza for Apple, as the Kindle may be primarily a bonanza for Amazon."

. . . Sister site finds new content and good writers in the world of soccer -- um, make that football. CP interviews blogger Richard Farley, who himself interviews blogger Brian Quarstad about the world of soccer blogging as they fill in the gaps created by a lack of coverage by the mainstream media.

. . . Condé Nast declares its GQ iPhone app a success, bringing in $39K in its first month. Strange, didn't Business Insider declare the app a failure (after only a day).

. . . Publishing people generally don't like to talk online about their business until someone is let go or resigns -- then the knives come out. Now it's Farrar's time.

. . . Google reported  revenues of $6.67 billion in the fourth quarter of 2009, representing a 17% increase over fourth quarter 2008.  Total revenue from Google sites, subtracting out other owned properties, rose 16%. For those about to start work on their taxes you might like to know that Google's effective tax rate was reported as 23%.

Is this the end of the B2B magazine industry, or only the end of the large debt, private equity model?

A strange sense of deja vu overwhelmed me as I read yesterday that Greg Farrar, CEO of Nielsen Business Media would be leaving the company. Folio: reported that Andy Bilbao, senior vice president of brand media, will be taking over while the company evaluates strategic alternatives.

"Strategic alternatives"?  Sounds a bit like Reed's announcement of the departure of CEO Tad Smith, doesn't it?  Like Reed's decision to get out of Dodge, Nielsen is looking to exit the market, fast. 

So is this the end of B2B magazine publishing in America? If the nation's two biggest trade publishers, Reed and Nielsen, want out, who will be left? Cygnus? Questex? (OK, bad joke.) McGraw-Hill, the company where I entered the B2B media industry, is slowly exiting the publications game -- having sold Business Week to Bloomberg, and having watched Hanley-Wood take from Arch Record the official designation from the AIA, what's left? Wither ENR?

And talk about piling on: Gordon T. Hughes II announced Wednesday that he will leaving his post as president-CEO of American Business Media in July. The announcement was not entirely unexpected as Hughes had been with the organization for 16 years. But when asked recently if magazines were going to be "obsolete" Hughes responded "This is where we are going."

It is simply not true that business people will no longer be in need of business intelligence, is it?. The trade press industry will go on surely.

e-Readers increase media consumption by 44% according L.E.K. Consulting study

L.E.K. Consulting released a study today that shows that e-reader owners outpace other device owners in their increase of new media.

The report, "Hidden Opportunities in New Media Survey", reveals that 44% of e-reader owners increased their new media usage in the last year, as compared to 16% of "iPod Nation" and 19% of "Facebook Fanatics".  The report, co-authored by Dan Schechter and Bret Masterson, Vice Presidents within L.E.K.'s Media & Entertainment Practice, also documented that "one of every ten consumers who are online now owns an e-reader." 

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Weighing in on the NY Times paywall announcement

Ken Doctor, of Content Bridges, has a piece on the New York Times announcement that their pay wall goes up in 2011. Here is my favorite part:

What does "frictionless experience across multiple platforms," in the Times release this morning, mean?

I think this is one major move, if the Times can pull it off well and quickly. In the age of the smartphone, the coming tablet, and (coming a bit after that) the Internet-mediated livingroom TV monitor, readers are already coming to expect easy, and smart, access to the their content wherever, whenever. They also will come to expect -- we're seeing it in some iPhone apps already -- the stories they save on one device to be known by another; ditto email sharing lists, stock portfolios, favorite sports team preferenes. If the Times can provide such synchronicity, then readers who are asked to pay can understand the charge as, in part, an access charge.

We, Americans, love to pay for access -- think massive cable and wireless bills -- we just have thought digital news content should be free. At a panel I moderated yesterday in New York, Dow Jones consumer chief Todd Larsen, indicated a similar philosophy about universal access. One rub here to watch: who owns the customer relationship with the emerging tablet. Amazon has stubbornly clung to the position that it will "own" the customer (hey, wait a minute, that's me), while news companies -- getting a glimmer of an all-device-access future -- have pushed back, and are negotiating with Amazon's Kindle competitors, to keep their customer touch. [Reformatted for TNM.]
Read the entire piece here.

What publishers could learn from Google, Apple, Microsoft, and the growing mobile ad wars

Do a search for Google, Microsoft and Apple -- use your favorite search engine, I bet it's Google -- and you will find hundreds of stories on the rumor that Apple is in negotiations with Microsoft to make its Bing search engine the default search engine on the iPhone.

What does this have to do with my business you might ask? A lot.

Publishers continue to struggle to get the hang of New Media publishing and now the ground is shifting yet again as the major players in technology line up to do battle in markets traditional publishers are not even been in. All these dollars in advertising have to be coming from some place, and that place is your pocket.

First point, for the those in the dark, this is the big news of the day: BusinessWeek is reporting that Apple is in discussions with Microsoft to make its search engine, Bing, the default search engine on the iPhone. There are also rumors that Apple may get into the search game themselves, but these are more sketchy.

The impact of this move can only be seen when one realizes the enormous market shift this may represent. Google makes billions in advertising through its search products (Google is expected to show huge revenue gains for the 4th quarter). Apple signed its iPhone deal with Google a few years ago because 1) Google and Apple were making nice back in 2007, and 2) because Google's search engine is the clear leader in the space. Of course, back in 2007, no one could guess that the iPhone would be a huge success and that the device would bring millions more people into the mobile media market.

Going mobile: inexpensive (or free) solutions to get your content on mobile browsers (part 2)

In part two of this series we look at a couple of companies that offer services similar to MoFuse, but with variations.

Mobify offers a truly custom solution for those who want their sites to be viewed in a mobile format on smart phones. The process process begins with creating the mobile layout from live elements of your web site. And immediately, here is where Mobify would require a little more technical know-how: "it helps to know CSS!". From here one moves on to working on the mobile design, to deployment, to picking your plan.

The example I chose from Mobify's web site was completed by a web design firm -- and it shows. Aztekweb's mobile conversion not only mirrors their own web site, but contains important design elements that still work well on this iPhone version. Others did not migrate as well. You can see other examples on Mobify's gallery pages.

Mobify offers pricing that ranges from free to their enterprise level which requires a custom quote. Their "Publisher" level costs $99 per month ad server integration, but no SSL security. Mobify's free option does offer you a custom domain, but they list "custom branding" as not included. This could be a deal breaker for many.

Instant Mobilizer offers a format that is similar to that of MoFuse but has some advantages. The whole process works like launching a web site. The user uses one of the company's registrar partners to register a .mobi domain. Then the mobile provider let's you preview your site to see how it would look using Instant Mobilizer.

Sadly, this is where things fall apart pretty quickly. Using the preview this is what saw (see right). Not encouraging. I then tested a WordPress site and received the same warning screen.  OK, I thought, let's test another of my sites that is plain ol' html. It rendered the site without a problem, but . . . no way I would consider the newly rendered mobile site acceptable.

Instant Mobilizer's advantage is that pricing is simply the cost of registering a new site and paying for hosting. The downside of this approach, however, is that most publishers are not looking for a new URL, but want a subdomain approach. That is, what I would want for would be a mobile domain that reads

For those who insist on absolutely free, publishers can migrate their content using Mippin. Mippin allows content providers to get their news content seen on the Mippin service while maintaining your branding.

There are several things to like about Mippin: 1) it's your brand and your site the readers sees; and 2) using Admob you can monetize your site (if you recall, we used Admob on the MoFuse example).

The bad news is obvious: this is Mippin, and the only way a reader will find your content is if they either search the Mippin service for you or the content you have tagged, or if they already know your Mippin address.

I will create new editions of this post as I discover more companies in this space. Feel free to contact me if you would like to publicize your company and its services, or if you know of more good choices for small and individual publishers.

Next, however, we look at the world of apps -- stay tuned.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

After the invitation the deluge

Talk on some of the journalism blogs today is about newspaper bankruptcies (guess what? magazine companies are going bankrupt, too), but meanwhile the talk elsewhere is about pay walls, tablets, and rumors, rumors, rumors.

PC World has a couple of articles up today about the Apple tablet including one so poorly thought through that the writer seems to think the new rumored device will be a giant iPod. Sorry, I refuse to link to that one.

In the meantime, work continues behind the scenes to bring content to the mysterious device. The WSJ has reported that "HarperCollins Publishers is negotiating with Apple Inc. to make electronic books available for the introduction of a new tablet device from Apple, according to people familiar with the situation, posing a challenge to Inc."

The article states that they could not discover whether the publisher would sell books through a new iTune media store, or through the existing iTunes store. Another option might be through an app -- though there is nothing to stop HarperCollins from doing this now.

The issue of pay walls continues to be hotly debated (pro and con and con) as the New York Times prepares their own Great Wall.  

Going mobile: inexpensive (or free) solutions to get your content on mobile browsers (part 1)

We may be two weeks away from what we may look back at as the real beginning of the mobile media revolution -- assuming Apple really does blow people away with their tablet introduction. But media people can't just wait around, or at least they shouldn't.

Here is a short guide to assist small business publishers, as well as individuals and organizations, get their content on mobile devices -- concentrating on cell phones for now.

Let's break this up into two categories: 1) the go-it-alone type who is doing to do all the work themselves; and 2) the site that will call on the work of their designated web genius (we hope).
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Our first company probably crosses into both categories. MoFuse has been a leader in the mobile area for a while now.

Their new free service for bloggers is very handy indeed. While their design template is rudimentary, and does not offer much in the way of customization, nonetheless, the conversion process from start to finish is fast and easy. You can also redirect your site to a custom domain through changes to your dns records.

Most importantly, at least to me, you can quickly monetize your site by adding Google AdSense or Admob ads to your site. In this case, I added Admob ads because, more often than not, their ads resemble web banner ads as opposed to text based ads (though they sell both). The down side of this is that MoFuse will get a cut.