Saturday, February 6, 2010

Week in Review

Short reads on a Saturday morning.
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•  Compared to the week prior, this week was a media bore: no major production announcements, no media revolutions. On the bright side, there were few bankruptcies to report, either.  The week ended, however, with another depressing jobs report. Sure, the government announced that the official unemployment rate went down a bit to 9.7 percent, but the economy lost another 20,000 jobs and the government dramatically adjusted upward the total number of jobs lost in this recession. Chart above right courtesy of Calculated Risk.

•  Apple and its iPad wasn't completely out of the news this week. ScrollMotion announced it has signed deals with several major textbook publishers to bring their content to the the new tablet.  Then Apple caused a stir when it posted an advisory on its developer blog stating that programmers for the iPhone should use caution when utilizing the phone's Core Location.

If you build your application with features based on a user's location, make sure these features provide beneficial information. If your app uses location-based information primarily to enable mobile advertisers to deliver targeted ads based on a user's location, your app will be returned to you by the App Store Review Team for modification before it can be posted to the App Store.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Photoblogging Friday - 5

Today Photoblogging Friday goes back in time to the origins of commercial photography -- the daguerreotype.

Louis-Jacques-Mandé Daguerre the inventor of the daguerreotype process announced his photographic process to the public on August 19, 1839 at a meeting of the French Academy of Sciences in Paris. I should know, I was there.
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An early daguerreotype, Boulevard du Temple

Although the daguerreotype was soon replaced by other processes, it is responsible for such memorable photographs as the early portrait of Abraham Lincoln, and the wonderful shot of Edgar Allen Poe. who wrote of of the daguerreotype: "the instrument itself must undoubtedly be regarded as the most important, and perhaps the most extraordinary triumph of modern science.

The daguerreotype here is an early shot by Daguerre that is purportedly the first picture taken that shows an actual human being. Because of the long exposure necessary to register an image, any person on the street would simply be a blur or not show up at all. But the person in the lower left of this picture was having their shoes shined and was still long enough to show up in the final image.

The daguerreotype is a direct-positive process that creates a highly detailed image on a
copper plated sheet with a thin coat of silver. Because there is no negative created, to duplicate a daguerreotype photographers simply shoot another daguerreotype of the original. The process has its advocates today. This shot at right is from Jerry Spagnoli. Because I do not want to violate his rights the image here links back to his excellent portfolio site which I encourage you to check out.

Ready to pay for TV for your phone? FLO TV thinks you are; implications for mobile media publishers

The last thing I need right now is to add $9.99 (plus tax) to my cell phone bill. Believe me, with two daughters on the plan, the bill is high enough as it is.

But FLO TV thinks you won't mind adding a few bucks more to that bill in order to stream on-demand television programming to the features you already pay for.

In fact, the Qualcomm subsidiary is so sure this is the next wave of TV that they are spending a fortune on advertising on Sunday. Three new ads will air during the Super Bowl.

According to an article last year in the San Diego Union-Tribune, Qualcomm has already spent $800 million dollars to launch FLO TV, even before Sunday's splurge. The service promises to deliver TV content to your phone, as well as screens installed into automobiles, as well as other mobile devices.

The catch, of course, is that monthly subscription fee. Smart phone users already pay a monthly data plan fee, and Apple's new iPad has been criticized for the fact that it would require yet another data plan if the user wants to use its 3G capabilities. Now, if you really must watch the Simpsons while at the airport suffering from another airline delay, you will have to have another monthly fee, as well.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Local news apps for mobile media: a look at DoApp; preparing your content and your team to go mobile

Using a third party application developer to build your mobile news app is a matter of making hard choices. For most companies, the idea of spending thousands of dollars to have a software developer write a custom app to for the iPhone, then doing it again to have your content appear on an Android phone, is a non-starter. Then there are the restrictions inherent in opting for an out-of-the-box mobile solution.
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Because of demand, there is a rush of new companies entering the market eager to provide mobile media solutions for newspapers and magazines, including one to be discussed here, DoApp.

But first, there are some questions a publisher should ponder:

  • do you simply want to port over your news content to a mobile device? or you are considering new content? a new brand? and are you currently creating the RSS feeds necessary to do this properly?
  • is there a special reader need you feel your mobile app can fill? or alternatively, is there anything unique about your market that your mobile app needs to take into account?
  • is your editorial team on board, and will they take your mobile app into consideration when working on stories, tagging copy, and the like, just as they do now (we presume) for the paper's web site? (The New York Times, for instance, already produces 164 separate RSS feeds. Each, if desired, could be the source of a new online or mobile product.)
  • how will you monetize this new mobile media product? are you involving your sales team upfront? will you create a new P&L, or roll this up into your interactive budget? (you have an interactive budget, right?)
My experience at newspapers with Hearst, Copley and McGraw-Hill would make me concerned about championing a mobile media solution because getting projects through the bureaucracy of a newspaper can be daunting, with different interest groups from editorial and sales, to billing and production wanting to slow things down.  Having a product manager approach could speed up the process considerably. If you are the publisher things become a bit easier, I suppose. But in the end, if both editorial and sales are not on board, a publisher could end up with a nice app, but little to no revenue, and a product that readers do not find useful.

The beauty of working with an outside vendor is that they provide one-stop shop solutions, making the process of getting your mobile app created, approved and up on iTunes easier and quicker.

DoApp Inc., a Rochester, Minnesota based developer, currently has over 100 apps on the iTunes store, most from local newspapers and television stations.  I downloaded the app for the Daily Herald, a Chicago suburban newspaper owned by Paddock Publications Inc., and took it for a test ride.

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The user interface is clean and well designed, making it very easy and intuitive for readers to get to the news they desire. The key to the experience is the ability of the newspaper to provide logical and clean feeds. In this case, the Daily Herald's news may not be well tagged (I assume) because a local dog show photo appeared as the main story under "Nation/World", as well as under the proper local category. But generally each major news areas contained appropriate local content.

On the Daily Herald web site I could find only one RSS feed available to subscribe to. Creating a mobile app may be a good opportunity to rethink the kinds of feeds you want to have and offer to the public. These will come in handy should you need them for a tablet publishing solution, as well.

Local news apps from aggregators still a work in progress

I downloaded three iPhones news apps yesterday and looked at a fourth to see the progress being made in delivering local news to mobile devices.  Here is my report:

Fwix has launched a series of local news apps for San Francisco, New York City, Chicago, Los Angeles, Portland, and Seattle. I downloaded the Chicago app and was impressed with the look and feel. Fwix already has local news sites that aggregate news from news sources, blogs and what it calls "indie" content. Essentially, though, Fwix is aggregating linked content and flowing them into new layouts.

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When a user sees a story of interest and clicks the link they are transported to the original provider of the news. So, for instance, the hockey story took me to ChicagoNow and delivered the news in browser form, not in a mobile reader format. From there I can continue to surf the ChicagoNow site, or could click the back "News" button to return me to the home page.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Report: Amazon to buy touch screen technology company

In a move that would give Amazon important new technology for its Kindle e-reader, the New York Times is reporting that the company has purchased Touchco, a start-up that specializes in touch screen technology.

Touchco's multitouch, clear screen technology

The move would be a sign that Amazon plans to upgrade its pioneering reader and move it beyond the single use device the Kindle is considered now, as well as directly compete against Apple's iPad device scheduled to be released in early April.

In a blog posting late last year the Times touted the Touchco's technology stating that it promises to deliver multi-touch tracking, high-res pen tracking and fine pressure sensitivity.

Earlier Amazon announced that it planned a Kindle application store** along the lines of Apple's app store. If true, this could open up the reader device to apps from publishers, further pushing forward tablet publishing as a legitimate new channel for newspapers and magazines.

Textbooks come to Apple's iPad tablet through the iTunes app store; major publishers ink deals with ScrollMotion

The media deals are starting to be finalized that will bring textbooks to Apple's new iPad. According to the WSJ (reg.) publishers such as McGraw-Hill, Pearson and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt K-12 have signed agreements with ScrollMotion Inc., a developer of apps for the iPhone, and now the iPad.

While students hope the deals will bring down the prices of textbooks, a more likely scenario is that prices will remain high due to the lack of competition in the industry (a specified textbook generally only has one publisher).

More importantly, while this deal will quickly bring content to the iPad, something very necessary if Apple is to attract buyers for its new device, the porting of textbooks without additional content or capabilities would be the equivalent of magazine publisher's use of flip books -- a poor adaptation of new technology. The WSJ story does say, however,  that the deal "with publishers (will) include applications to let students play video, highlight text, record lectures, take printed notes, search the text, and participate in interactive quizzes to test how much they've learned and where they may need more work."

Google gives notice: IE6 has to go

I received notice from Google yesterday that by March 1 the company plans on discontinuing support for Microsoft's web browser Internet Explorer 6, as well as other older browsers including their own relatively new Chrome 3.  Users visiting this site and many others will see a notice asking them to upgrade their web browsers.

"Starting this week, users on these older browsers will see a message in Google Docs and the Google Sites editor explaining this change and asking them to upgrade their browser.  We will also alert you again closer to March 1 to remind you of this change," read the e-mail sent to web publishers and other Google clients.

The move was generally applauded, and Microsoft does not seem to be against the move. According to ComputerWorld the issue is compatibility. "Even Microsoft beat the anti-IE6 drum, although it has also admitted that the job is difficult because the old browser is still mandated by some enterprises. IE6 also accounts for half the browsers used in China, according to recent data from metrics company," wrote Gregg Keizer.

IE6's bad reputation even made it into Wikipedia: "This version of Internet Explorer is widely derided for its security issues and lack of support for modern web standards, making frequent appearances in "worst tech products of all time" lists, with some publications labeling it as the "least secure software on the planet."

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Google posts video of man with two hands and no body demonstrating nonexistent Google tablet

A video, missing a soundtrack, was posted on Google's Chromium blog today showing what a Chrome OS user interface would look like on a tablet. (Chromium is the open-source development source code on which Google's Chrome browser is based.)

The missing soundtrack is said to contain a narrator stating: "See, multitasking, multitasking. We can do multitasking!" TNM could not confirm the report.

Russia: opposition newspaper faces denial-of-service attacks; Senate committee looking into cyber warfare

One of Russia's opposition newspaper, Novaya Gazeta, said yesterday it had complained to officials about a massive hacker attack. The denial-of-service attack has kept offline for the past six days.

Agence France-Presse (AFP) reported that the newspaper has complained to the government. "We filed our complaint with the interior ministry, the investigative committee, the prosecutor general and the FSB security service and we are waiting for their replies," said newspaper spokeswoman Nadezhda Prusenkova.

Novaya Gazeta employed Anna Politkovskaya, the journalist gunned down outside her Moscow home in 2006.  Four of the paper's reporters have been murdered or died under mysterious circumstances since 2000, according to AFP.

Update: Ten minutes after posting this story the New York Times posted this story about cyber attacks posing a military threat.  "Sensitive information is stolen daily from both government and private sector networks, undermining confidence in our information systems, and in the very information these systems were intended to convey,” Dennis C. Blair, the director of national intelligence, said in prepared remarks to a Senate committee.

Neal Awards recognizes trade media for mobile efforts: "No award was given in this category"

Random thoughts:

What can I say, it speaks for itself: ABM's 2010 Neal Awards finalists in the category of Best Use of Mobile" reads "No award was given in this category."

In the meantime, I continue to receive January issues of some of the top B2B magazines even though it is now February. One trade magazine arrived today with a 40 page folio (actually 44, they don't count covers) -- not unusual for many magazines except that this is/was considered a heavy hitter in the space. Yesterday I received my copy of Advertising Age, that was interesting, to say the least -- 24 pages.

Last year at this time, as January issues arrived in the mail, I wondered if things could get much worse for print. They didn't, they just continued on in an anemic fashion. Now we are into 2010 and improvement can be seen in some areas -- but only in some. The problem today is that 2009 was hardly a banner year, so improvement might not be good enough. Many publishers were hanging on by their fingernails at the end of '09 hoping that survival would equal success. It's an old story: this is what we do, so either things will improve or we'll close up shop. But, time is running out.

Advertising revenue declines continue at Gannett; dramatic cost cuts lead to a profitable quarter

Sometimes the markets drive me crazy, like when a company reports good earnings but the stock declines anyway. All of this is tied to expectations, and whether the financial results were already built into the stock price. Occasionally, however, the market reacts logically when a company announces "good earnings", but the underlying numbers reveal continued problems.

That was the case yesterday when Gannett share prices fell 11 percent despite the fact that the company reported that the company earned $133.6 million in the quarter versus a loss of $4.7 billion in the last quarter of 2008. The revenue story, though, was bleak, with newspaper ad revenue falling a further 18% in the final quarter of '09 -- and remember, the last quarter of '08 showed huge losses.

Monday, February 1, 2010

A late farewell to a great magazine professional

One link led to another, and to another, and finally led to some very bad news.

The connections: Better Roads, a magazine that was my arch-rival when I was publisher of Roads & Bridges, named Mike Anderson editor of the month trade magazine. Anderson had been an editor at Construction Equipment magazine. This made me want to call Terry McGinnis, one of the best B2B sales reps I've ever known.

Terry McGinnis, promoting the Tour of Utah Bike Race.  Photograph care of the Deseret News.

I'd known Terry McGinnis since late 1991 when I first joined McGraw-Hill in San Francisco -- I was publisher of Daily Pacific Builder, a daily (M-F) newspaper mostly composed of construction bid news, and Terry was an advertising rep for Intermountain Contractor. Back then, McGraw-Hill's Construction Information Group was made up of regional construction magazines, a couple daily newspapers, and was anchored by Engineering News-Record.

It was an interesting group and an amazing team.  Some moved on, some got promoted, but like all teams it eventually broke apart when the internal McGraw-Hill politics changed the dynamics.

Rules to live by: never take media advice from a guy who can't pronounce the name of the publisher of the NYT

I don't know if this was posted as a joke, or whether this guy extended his weekend one day too long. In either case, if your work week is not starting off too well just think what it would be like to have to work for this guy.

Posted for your amusement:

David Carr claims the iPad need media deals

Wish I'd said that. Oh yeah, I did.

Enough traffic envy.  Carr should be commended for saying what others are thinking: "... the book industry seems ill-prepared to take advantage of many of the new worlds the iPad opens up. Although five of the top six publishers signed on, there was little indication that they would use some of the muscle the device displays."

Indeed, isn't this the whole problem in a nutshell? The media world wants to continue to monetize its bland offerings while the rest of the world knows they can do better. (Ever read the comments on media sites?  There is not a lot of good will being expressed towards the media world right now.) With the announcement that Amazon has "capitulated" to Macmillan and will raise the price of their e-books to $14.99, publishers in the New Media space are once again getting a black eye -- didn't anyone learn from the RIAA's continued missteps?