Saturday, April 3, 2010

Review: New York Times iPad app has the feel of a temporary solution; limited content, no multimedia

The New York Times probably felt an obligation to have an app ready to go on Day One of the iPad era. Steve Jobs, after all, used their web site to demonstrate online browsing with the iPad during his product introduction. And sure enough the Times did not disappoint, getting their Editor's Choice app approved and online well before April 3rd.
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There is no question that the Times app is gorgeous to look at -- but even Talking New Media looks great on an iPad! The glossy scene displays rich colors; the text is sharp and easy to read; and the whites are white, the blacks black (news photographers are going to absolutely love the way their images look).

But the Times app gives you the impression that this is an interim solution. By posting a free app that gives readers access to some content, they may be paving the way for a paid app, or a paid subscription app. In many ways, this limited content approach mirrors the Times news reader for the iPhone.

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Three pages from the Time's Editor's Choice iPad app.
At left: a feature page; middle: the second page of the feature
with an ad from Chase; right: the technology page.

The Times iPad app is not just an RSS reader. The developers of this app didn't take short cuts by just giving iPad users pages of plain text, clearly some thought was behind their decisions. The pages are well design, though a little boxy.

It is what is missing that is interesting: no video, no multimedia of any kind. I know that the developers were probably rushed, but it is surprising that the Times did not go further.
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iPad users can watch full screen video from the Times web site, even without Flash.  →

Sadly, the Times app pales in comparison to the way the NYT web site looks in Safari on the iPad. Readers on the iPad can view Times videos because they have taken into account the iPad's lack of Flash. A quick move and the video is full screen as seen on the right.

While I did not expect that the Times would create a whole new product for the iPad the way some magazine and book publishers were imagining their iPad apps, I did think that the Times would see the world's first tablet as a multimedia device and realize that the first app would have to contain multimedia, as well.

Perfect content for the Time's app might have been videos from Mark Bittman, who writes their Minimalist food column and who often creates video to accompany the column. This content, that can be archived and tailored for the iPad app without rush, would have fit perfectly with the way iPad users are expected to use their devices. The Times also has their own YouTube Channel which contains 5 "shows", as well as almost 1900 uploaded video -- wouldn't this be perfect?

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Left: the Opinion page; Right: a column

One thing to keep in mind, though, is that for many developers, their initials apps are often like beta tests. When I touched the Times app for the first time, what happened? It crashed. Oops. But after that everything was fine -- if a little boring.  There is plenty of time now for the Times to make revisions to this app and, more importantly, begin to differentiate their app content from their web content. A tablet application is, after all, a separate product from a print newspapers, a web site, or a smart phone reader.

One reason the paper may have gone in this direction is that with their metered paywall coming online some time this year, they may have wanted a free option for the iPad. But the metered approach would still give web readers access to some free content -- about as much as what is available with the iPad app.

I think, though, that the developers of this first NYT iPad app will decide to introduce updates that expand and enhance their iPad offerings. But for now, the Times has done it: they've gotten there first and demonstrated they are serious about the format. I'll probably stick to viewing the NYT web site on the built-in Safari browser, though -- at least until this app is enhanced, or is replaced with a whole new approach to tablet publishing.

The obligatory unboxing photos

Unboxing photos are truly dumb. After all, everyone's iPhone, iPad, whatever, looks the same. The iPad I received this afternoon is the same as the next guys, right?
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But it is a tradition, and who am I to go against tradition? So at right is an animated GIF of the unboxing, and below is the final set-up (kind of), all with TNM on Safari, of course.

My next post will look at the New York Times iPad app, but here are some quick impressions:

Fast. It is lightning quick. This is what you would expect from using the iPhone OS as your starting point. Set-up is very easy -- again to be expected. But for computer users who do not have experience with the iPhone this will be a very pleasant surprise. A new user is done with set-up in a couple of minutes and can be online or using apps in a matter of minutes.

This isn't a tech blog so let's do away with any in-depth review. Instead, I would point you to Andy Ihnatko's master review for the Sun-Times. Ihnatko is wildly enthusiastic about the device but acknowledges some of the things critics have said. He loves the iPad as an e-reader and clearly thinks the iPad is the direction personal computing is going.
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Last thought: discussions of the iPad have become almost political. That is, there are those who simply want to hate the device for its supposed shortcomings -- no Flash, closed system, etc. OK, they have some points. But it seems that they now have a vested interest in their position, and they seem to feel a need to defend their turf, no experience with the iPad or other mobile devices not withstanding. What I don't understand is the position some others have taken: media writers who are supposedly covering the mobile media scene but seem to take great pleasure linking to any negative column they can find, even if the column is a silly rant (and there have been plenty of them). Oh well.

But one thing is for sure, if you really don't like mobile media, or talking and reading about tablets, web sites, smart phones from a media perspective . . . what are you doing here?

Miscellaneous items while waiting for the UPS truck

MacRumors is living up to its "rumor" moniker as iPad buyers go online to discuss the location of their iPads ("my iPad is still in China!") resulting in record traffic.
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Where's Wired? Sad to see that Wired magazine did not get their iPad app online in time as only their iPhone app appears in a search. Depending on their print production schedule they may have chosen to wisely wait and work on a future issue instead. Their current issue, April, sports a picture of the iPad a feature entitled "Rise of the Machines; how tablets will change the world" (going a bit out on a limb there, don't you think?). You can find the story online here, and since the iPad has a browser (Safari) iPad readers will at least be able to read it online.

Week in Review: if it wasn't already obvious, no Week in Review this week. Normally I write the post on late Friday afternoon for posting Saturday morning, but since I'm working today . . .

Netflix: iPad buyers were very excited about the thought of Netflix coming to the iPad as the device is perfect (based on reviews) for viewing videos. In response, Netflix let it be known that a way to stream Netflix movies to the iPhone and iPod touch was in the works, as well:

Steve Swasey, VP of Corporate Communications, here. Terrific response to our news today about Netflix on the iPad. For those of you asking whether Netflix will be on the iPhone and iPod Touch: We wouldn't invite you to dinner without planning to serve dessert. In other words, we're working on it so stay tuned.
Users are reporting that the app is "quirky", but this is not uncommon for Rev.1 apps. In the case of the iPad, the fact that most developers did not have actual iPads to test their software with -- they had to depend on the iPad simulator -- means there could be a number of unstable apps out there. For iPhone users this won't be a big deal as users are used to having apps updated early on, but for some iPad buyers this could be a new experience. It will be interesting to see how many blame the device.
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News apps: Not many newspaper made the launch date. The Times is there, of course, and Le Monde, as well.

One app that launched yesterday was the iPhone app from the Orange County Register. The app was developed by Handmark which will be launching iPad apps soon we hope.

USA Today, which has an app for the iPad live, also has a promotional video. While I find these videos rather hokey, it is nice, at least, to see a paper doing some sort of promotion of their mobile media efforts.

Friday, April 2, 2010

European newspapers hit the iTunes store

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Although most of the anticipation concerning what newspapers would do on the iPad has centered on the Times, other papers such as USA Today and the WSJ now have iPad apps ready to go, as do at least two European papers.

The app from Le Monde will set you back 99 cents, and while I can read a little French and I wouldn't trust my translations, it appears that there will be a cost for content access over and above the cost of the app (I think you get that day's paper as part of the app cost).  Though clearly the French newspaper is targeting a local audience, they have decided to be there on Day One -- good for them. As you can see here, the layouts give you a newspaper-like look, while also allowing you to look at individual stories. There appears to be a video page, though the screenshots are not clear on this so I did not include it here.
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The Italian newspaper Il Messaggero also has gotten their iPad app approved and in the iTunes store, though honestly I don't know why they bothered. The app is little more than an RSS reader and looks far more appropriate for the iPhone than the iPad. As it didn't look like much effort was made in developing the app, I didn't think screenshots were appropriate.

I think that will be it for today. There is not much else to accomplish without an actual iPad in my hands. I see, however, that this has not stopped some from already giving us their opinions. Amazing how easy it is to pass judgement when one is completely ignorant on the subject -- things are always black and while, only facts creates shades of gray.  If you enjoy negativism, and you're interested in media news, I think you know where to go.

But I will remind those who are 100% sure about the success or failure of either the iPad, or media's efforts to create a market for tablet publishing, that it took the iPhone about six months following the launch of the app store to begin to transform the iPhone from an innovative cell phone into a media consumption device. While the iPad will be used as a reader starting tomorrow, I suspect we will need at least six more months before art directors and developers begin creating original content, and ways to display that content, for the iPad to show (or not show) its potential.

Have patience.

Google acquires online video broadcasting platform; purchase of Episodic a move into live streaming

What a pleasant surprise, writing about something other than the iPad. Of course, it if it's not Apple, it must be about Google.
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Episodic today got to cheerfully announce that they have been acquired by Google (funny how happy people are just after they have just been given millions of dollars). Episodic is a platform for broadcasting live and on-demand video to the web or to web-based mobile devices.

Episodic also has analytics and the ability for broadcasters to monetize their viewers with ads inserted into live streams.

"Episodic and Google share a common vision for video on the Web," the company wrote on its site. "Online video will be ubiquitous, engaging, entertaining, informative and effective. Both teams place value on creating a great experience for viewers and on delivering a powerful and flexible platform for publishers, marketers and advertisers of all kinds. We’re very excited to join the talented team at Google and to continue creating great experiences for viewers and powerful platforms for publishers, marketers, and advertisers."

Photoblogging Friday - 13

Photoblogging Friday will post early today so that I can still post updates, if necessary, concerning iPad newspaper and magazine apps. PbF continues with a photograph our resident photography editor Dean Brierly selected before departing for a trip to Japan. This post should have hit the site two weeks ago but the deaths of photographers Charles Moore and Jim Marshall delayed this post on the work of Jeff Alu.

Dean recently interviewed Alu recently for his Photographer's Speak web site.

Jeff Alu is a freelance digital artist and photographer who spends most of his free time roaming California's desert areas in an open-ended journey of personal and visual exploration. His black-and-white photographs play with lighting, scale and perspective to transform the mundane into something ominous and alien. Visual equilibrium becomes a tenuous concept, as the viewer tends to feel trapped between dimensions of reality and surreality. Yet no matter how unbalanced things become, one is invariably seduced by the dark poetry of Alu’s post-apocalyptic visions.
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Read the entire interview here.

Old media fights back! "Nothing can save us, we are doomed to complete & utter destruction. Now go away"

T his is downright painful to watch, but here it is anywhere.  Here we have two old media types, and mean old media types, stating with confidence that "no, the iPad will not save print media".

Well, I know very few serious commentators that have said that a single device would save print media. But, come on, one of these guys, Alan Murray, represents the WSJ, a company that plans to charge iPad users more than the cost of a combined print and online edition -- and he is supposed to have a clue? The other, columnist Jon Friedman, says "If everything is free on the web, you're not going to be able to sell people an expensive app, they'll take the free stuff." Ah, Jon, who is charging for an expensive app? The WSJ. Of course, if you use Murdoch as the model, you'll say the iPad won't fix the problems of print media. But who is taking the "let's charge a fortune" crowd seriously anyway?

For a different view, digiday:DAILY's John Gaffney has an interview with National Geographic’s Paul Levine, SVP, Corporate Strategy, Development and Extended Platforms (what a title!). “We don’t think there’s ever been a better time to be in the publishing business, and yes, we’re very excited right now,” says Levine.

And, yes, the National Geographic Society already has one iPad up on iTunes, and their magazines will be available through Zinio.

NYT used single-sponsor approach for its first iPad app; worked with Medialets to develop 2 new ad units

The New York Times released a press release today announcing the iPad TNM looked at yesterday.
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The "New York Times Editor's Choice" app will feature a single sponsor, the credit card Chase Sapphire. This avoids the whole issue of integrating display ads into the iPad -- at least for the time being.

It buys the Times some time, something they have seemed to desire. The Times announced, for instance, that they would go to a metered system for its web site, but pushed off the implementation of the paywall until later in the year.

"This app provides a great opportunity for advertisers to use the latest digital technologies to reach The New York Times's affluent and loyal readers," said Denise Warren, senior vice president and chief advertising officer in the release. "The Editors' Choice app launches with a full-page vertical and horizontal interstitial ad that provides a large interactive canvas for our advertisers."

The Times worked with Medialets to develop two new ad units which the Times claims will "leverage the creative capabilities of the iPad."

Tablet Publishing for magazines debuts: a first look at apps from Condé Nast and Bonnier

Here is a first look at the new GQ and Popular Science apps for the iPad. Although screenshots really won't give you an idea of what interactivity the Condé Nast and Bonnier magazines have incorporated into their tablet versions, one can see the layouts, menus, and the like.
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The GQ app appeared in the iTunes store last night and is a universal app -- meaning that there is one listing for the app for both the iPhone and iPad. The app recognizes which version it needs to deliver. It means, as well, that if you own an iPhone, you would have access to the content on both devices with one purchase.
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You can find the app on iTunes here.

Condé Nast also has an iPad app for Epicurious. Cooking iPad apps and cook books customized for the iPad hold tremendous potential. Magazines like Saveur would be in a world of hurt competing with Condé Nast iPad products. But Saveur was brought into the Bonnier family a few years ago -- and we expect great things from Bonnier on the iPad.

The first iPad app from Bonnier that has shown up in iTunes is from Popular Science -- find it here. The app is specifically for the iPad as Bonnier has been slow to introduce mobile apps. The only iPhone I found using a search for "Bonnier" was for Islands -- they may have more in there somewhere. The Popular Science app will set you back $4.99 which gives you the April issue. The magazine's mechanism for purchasing future issues is show below-right.

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iPad: good for making salsa, too

Gawker posted this video this morning: Stephen Colbert bragging about his iPad last night on his show. He demonstrated that the device has many uses, including apparently making salsa.
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He also confirmed that, just like the iPhone, the iPad can not make calls (ouch, AT&T can't like that one.)

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Did BBC 'accidentally' release an iPad app? App shows up in iTunes, but landing page is offline

Here is a mystery for you. A few days ago the BBC Trust announced that the BBC would hold off on releasing their iPhone apps due to concerns from the UK's newspaper association, the NPA.
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Today, however, the iTunes app store shows that the BBC will have its own iPad app. Here is the link (iTunes link).

Also strange, a search for the "BBC" and "iPad" pulls up this site, a cached page, care of Google. But clicking directly to the page gives you an error message.

Well, in any case, the app store now has an app from the BBC. We'll see if it is still there on Saturday. On the app page in iTunes, the app links to a "support page" -- but really just goes to a "feedback" page,

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At left is the cached page -- at right is where the link currently takes you.

First look at the NYT iPad app; free app only offers limited access, will paid version be next or subscription?

With app developments occurring at quick pace, please expect less new posts, and more updated posts. Thanks.

The New York Times iPad app has made its first appearance is the iTunes store, and while it is impossible to review before Saturday, it does give a glimpse of the Times strategy.
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The app is called "NYT Editor's Choice" and is designed specifically for the iPad.

"Enjoy the award-winning journalism of The New York Times with the unique functionality and navigation of the iPad. The Editors’ Choice application offers a limited selection of news, opinion and features that are automatically updated to your device."

The app claims to offer readers "unique display of media content", as well as offline reading. Readers can share content through e-mail, though no social networking sharing seems to be included.
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←  NYT Editor's Choice iPad app.

The app is free, but with content limited. I would assume that the Times would opt for a subscription option to access full content, but we'll have to wait and see. A more complete review of the app will follow the Saturday release.

Other news apps that have appeared:

• The WSJ's app has just appeared and is free, as expected. But word is that accessing content will require a subscription.

• USA Today, another free app that appears to give full access.

• NPR's much anticipated app, a hit on the iPhone. In addition to viewing and listening to the news, the app gives iPad owners  access to public radio stations and on-demand programing. A must. (Can you tell I'm thrilled this will be available on launch day?)

• Both AP and Reuters will free apps.

• There are also several RSS readers that are paid apps, ranging from $2.99 to $9.99.

• As of yet, no Instapaper.  (Update: Arment's Instapaper Pro, at $4.99, has been approved and is now in the store. Here are two screenshots. Congratulations Arment.)

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Advanstar signs deal to offshore production with HCL Technologies; B2B media firm to eliminate 100 positions

Advanstar Communications has signed a deal with HCL Technologies to take over production duties at the B2B media company.
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According to WNMT in Duluth, the company will be eliminating 100 jobs as HCL takes over production duties and shifts them to India.

"In this highly competitive media marketplace, we need to focus on the things that we do well, creating a valuable platform for our clients, while handling other functions through partnerships or outsourcing agreements that will provide the economies of scale we need to operate more efficiently," said Chief Executive Officer Joe Loggia in a release.

"Because of its impact on our employees and their families, this was not a decision we made lightly. Given the many challenges facing the business-to-business print industry, we must change the way we do business in order to continue to provide maximum value and service to our customers," Mr. Loggia said.

HCL Technologies also offers digital publishing services, though no mention of the company taking over web duties was mentioned in the release. As a result it appears this is purely a cost savings measure. The loss of production personnel, however, will severely limit Advanstar's ability to compete going forward in electronic publishing unless the company decides to create a New Media division.

In September of last year Advanstar reached an agreement with its lenders to lighten its debt burden, shedding $385 million. The company is another B2B owned by Veronis Suhler Stevenson -- this time in partnership with hedge fund firm Anchorage Advisors. CEO Joe Loggia joined Advanstar when his company, MAGIC trade shows, was acquired. He became CEO in 2004.

Ferrets as a solution to broadband woes

The Telegraph today reports that "(S)pecially trained ferrets are being used to deliver broadband to rural areas following groundbreaking techniques used by an internet provider." Virgin Media, it appears, has been using the animals for years to lay cables for its broadband services.
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"The ferrets wear jackets fitted with a microchip which is able to analyse any breaks or damage in the underground network." reports the Telegraph.

"For hundreds of years, ferrets have helped humans in various jobs," said Jon James, director of broadband for Virgin Media. "Our decision to use them is due to their strong nesting instinct, their long, lean build and inquisitive nature, and for their ability to get down holes. We initially kept the trial low-key as we wanted to assess how well the ferrets fitted into our operations before revealing this enterprising scheme," the Telegraph reported James as saying on April Fool's Day.

First iPad Reviews: consumer-oriented reviews only lightly touch on the device's impact on publishing industry

OK, the first reviews are in, so what have we learned. Not much, other than reviewers love the term "laptop killer" (or some variation of the same). The fact is that the early reviews from people like David Pogue and Walt Mossberg are positive, but pretty much useful when considered from the perspective of a publishing executive trying to decide whether to go all-in when it comes to tablet publishing.

From a consumer's perpective, the reviews have been wildly positive so I suppose that says something about the chances the device will be a hit. The only terribly negative comments I've read have come from the comments area from those who really have something against Apple -- and who, of course, did not receive an iPad to test.

Well, I'm sad to say, neither did I. Despite being an Apple customer since early 1983, Steve Jobs did not see fit to send me an iPad (I'm shocked I say, shocked). So here are some of the early reviews for you to read. This list will be updated with reviews that appear from time to time, and will be included here only if there is some relevance to publishing (for instance, it talks about the iPad as a reader of newspapers, magazines or books in some sort of meaningful way):

Andy Ihnatiko, Sun-Times: iPad is pure innovation - one of best computers ever
A quick overview, very positive. First in a series.

Andy IhnatikoSun-TimesiBooks is worth the price alone for iPad as ebook reader
Another in his series of reviews, this time concentrating on iBooks and the reading experience. "Apple got it right. I can’t think of anything exceptional that they’ve added to the reading experience but do you really want the reading experience to be anything other than “read page, turn page, repeat”?"

Steven Levy, Wired: Apple's iPad: One Small Step for Tablets, One Giant Leap for Personal Computers
"Until you actually hold it and interact with it, you can't appreciate how its scale makes the iPad a different animal from the iPhone and the Touch. There's something about the size and interface that engages you almost primally in reading, viewing video, web browsing, playing Scrabble and other activities."

David Pogue, NYT: State of the Art: Looking at the iPad From Two Angles
Positive, but damning with faint praise. Very negative about iPad as a reader.

Walt Mossberg, WSJ: Apple iPad Review: Laptop Killer? Pretty Close
Very positive, but approaches iPad as a notebook replacement. Enthusiastic about the iPad as a reader.
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Guess I shouldn't leave out this one from actor/writer/comedian Stephen Fry:

Stephen Fry, Time: The iPad Launch: Can Steve Jobs Do It Again?
Steve Jobs makes the cover of Time magazine for the launch. Fry writes "Douglas Adams is not alive to see the closest thing to his Hitchhiker's Guide that humankind has yet devised."

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Big Two weigh in on the iPad: WSJ's Mossberg compares iPad to laptop; Pogue says 'it’s not going to rescue the newspaper and book industries', great for games

The Wall Street Journal's Walt Mossberg is the first of the big tech writers at mass market news organizations to post their review of the iPad online.

The review, however, is obsessed with the idea that the iPad is designed to be a competitor to low costs netbooks. The review raves about the iPad's ability to surf the web, do e-mail, play games, etc. Were it not for the hype surrounding the device one would think Mossberg would have simply reviewed the iPad along side netbooks.

Mossberg barely discusses the iPad as a reader -- though he does say he prefers the iPad to the Kindle because of the color screen, sharpness.

For David Pogue, the New York Times technology writer, the iPad is "not a laptop", but a 'gigantic iPod touch'. Pogue completely pans the device as a reader stating that "but it’s not going to rescue the newspaper and book industries (sorry, media pundits)." (Guess that's me, right?)

Pogue goes on to say that "you can’t read well in direct sunlight. At 1.5 pounds, the iPad gets heavy in your hand after awhile (the Kindle is 10 ounces)." He also laments the lack of Flash and multitasking.

As a gamer, however, Pogue seems to love it. "But the real fun begins when you try the apps that were specially designed for the iPad’s bigger screen," Pogue writes.

For me, Mossberg's review misses the mark. A better notebook computer would have no impact on publishing. But Pogue says that the iPad is a horrible laptop and that it is really a game and entertainment machine. Did these two guys get the same device mailed to them by Apple?

These two early reviews are a concern for me: is Apple really gearing the iPad towards the netbook market as the WSJ's Mossberg seems to suggest? Or is Apple creating a new mobile entertainment device, something that is a lot of fun, but pretty much useless as reader or computing device?

I have never seen the iPad as either a netbook or a gaming machine, but a mobile reader that also provides entertainment and basic computing as an added bonus. It seems, so far, that writers (including myself, I suppose) have such different expectations, caused perhaps by Apple's promises that the device can do it all.

Update: Watch for Andy Ihnatko's stories for the Sun-Times. He promises a whole series of stories about the device that promise to be thoughtful and thorough. I know I will be reading them to see has caught his attention. Here is his first column.

Avantar introduces Yellow Pages app for iPad

Avantar, sister company to Yellow Pages Directories, announced the release of a Yellow Pages app for Apple’s iPad set to debut on Saturday.

“We have great expectations of this innovative iPad computer and Apple’s ability to capture this new mobile niche in the market place, grow it, and lead the industry for years to come.” explained Adrian Ochoa, President of Avantar. "The new iPad design and usability are delicious to look at and navigate. We put a lot of time into it and believe it will be received well.”
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Avantar currently has apps for the iPhone and Android platforms. According to the company, its iPad app has yet to be approved by Apple, but the expect to be in the app store on Day One.

The app will be free, and company implies that they will update their apps to include social network features in the future.

Newser's Michael Wolff talks about 'Rupert'

Quote of the day, taken from Steve Rosenbaum's post on Hufffington Post:

Michael Wolff of "Rupert is looking at his world disappearing, and he never thought this would this would happen. So here he is in the, his last act and what he's looking at is the business that that he grew up in, that his father grew up in, that he hoped his children would grow up in, the business which is really the only thing that he has, that he thinks about and has ever thought about. He sees this business at being absolutely imperiled."
Of course, Wolff is talking about the changing world of media and Rupert Murdoch's reactions to it -- constructing paywalls, lashing out at search engines, and the like.

More mobile device and advertising news

IntoMobile calls it the most expensive sheet music reader ever -- pretty funny, if you ask me. In any case, here is more proof that publishers will find new ways to utilize the iPad: forScore brings sheet music to tablets. This looks like the developers first mobile effort.

The trend though is clear: because of the ease in writing new apps for both the iPhone and iPad, the two devices are becoming default reading utilities -- I assume the same will happen for those devices running the Android platform. That's great news for publishers trying to hire developers as their should be quite a few people out there with the necessary experience.

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Seton Hill University, not to be mistaken for Seton Hall, is giving each student an iPad this fall. I suppose a total enrollment of around 2,100 helps makes this possible (or a generous alumnus).

The program is part of the school's Griffin Technology Advantage, their pledge to "provide students with the best in technology and collaborative learning tools." As the name suggestions, the teams at Seton Hill are known as the Griffins.

Greystripe, a mobile advertising network, announced that it is bringing Flash ad units to the iPad, calling their product iFlash (enough already!).

What Greystripe is doing, of course, is converting an advertisers Flash ads and re-encoding them for use on the iPhone and iPad, not actually making the devices run Flash.

The company's release states that they are working with such companies as Burger King, HP, LeapFrog and others already. “We’re committed to making it easy for advertisers to achieve results in mobile by removing barriers to execution and offering the engaging power of Flash-authored creatives on the iPhone and iPad,” said Michael Chang, CEO for Greystripe.

Greystripe has received backing from Steamboat Ventures, Incubic Venture Capital, and Monitor Ventures, as well as the Peacock Equity Fund, a joint venture fund co-founded by GE and its NBC Universal unit.

TBI Research: don't look to iPad to save the magazine industry; report misses the mark in several key areas

Four days before the launch of the iPad TBI Research's Rory Maher writes about the prospects for the device as a savior of the magazine industry. I've linked to, and wrote about, some of the data they have produced (here and here and here), so while I disagree with much of what this column states, it would be only fair to bring it to the attention of TNM readers.

Maher writes that the iPad can not make up for lost magazine revenue due to three factors: 1) mobile ad revenue will take years to become significant; 2) magazines need to look to subscriptions to drive profits; and 3) even if iPad sales "wildly exceed" expectations, the number of iPad users will still be low to compensate for lost revenue. It's a pessimistic picture, but is off the mark, nonetheless.

Mobile ad revenue will certainly take some time to grow to become a significant market. Growth forecasts, like all other predictions, are all over the board. In January 2008, Sterling Market Intelligence produced a study that said mobile advertising would reach $5.08 billion in North America by 2012. A few months later Heavy Reading said that mobile advertising would hit $10 billion by 2013 (from $1.4 billion in 2007).
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Those that think the iPad alone won't save the magazine industry may be right. But the device is part of the e-publishing universe. It may even have a positive effect on online publishing, as well.  →

Revenue numbers are often exaggerated, and difficult to forecast. IDC's last forecast for 2009 U.S. mobile ad revenue was $287 million -- a lot of money, but still a relatively small market.

There is no doubt that mobile ads represent a sliver of the market, and will continue to do so for a while. But where is this market going? Isn't both Google and Apple betting big time on mobile? Just as importantly, does one dollar of mobile ad revenue equal one dollar of print revenue? (The answer, of course, is no because of the different cost structures.)

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Jetcast introduces streaming radio barter program; streaming costs can be reduced through trading inventory

Jetcast has announced today that they are instituting a barter program for Internet radio broadcasters participating in their ReplaceAds program.
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Jetcast introduced their ReplaceAds mobile advertising platform two weeks ago, and according to the company ReplaceAds will have 250 million mobile ad impressions per month to offer advertisers. Now, according to Jetcast, they are offering their customers the ability to cut streaming costs in exchange for a small portion of that space.

“Most stations can be profitable from day one because Jetcast will purchase all of the pre-roll and display inventory generated by the station’s broadcast each month just for using Jetcast products,” said John Williams, CEO of Jetcast. “As we like to say, “If you are paying for your online radio streaming, you are paying too much.”

Jetcast also said that they will allow "any broadcaster to use its barter program to eliminate the expense traditionally associated with high bit rate streams, even if the station uses another provider for its low bit rate streams."

Sling Media commits to the iPad; devices stream TV to mobile devices; day one launch not happening, though

They may have had difficulties launching their services on the iPhone due to 3G restrictions, but now Sling Media says they are getting ready for the iPad.

Dave Zatz, publisher of Zatz Not Funny, quotes a Sling Media marketing manager as saying “the iPad is a good example of a device where we are hard at work on this, but unfortunately it won’t be there at the April launch.”

The company's Sling Box products are wildly popular with owners (though some complain about support) but fly under the radar with the general public. Owner EchoStar, which bought the company in 2007, has not been a big promoter of the devices.

A Slingbox, for those not familiar with the product, is hooked up to your cable or satellite box. After setup it then can stream your television programming, through the Internet, to other devices such as a laptop, iPhone, or potentially, an iPad. Because of the high bandwidth required, initially the Slingbox could only stream to the iPhone through WiFi, but later the company was able to get AT&T to agree to 3G streaming, as well. This moving of media from one device to another is called placeshifting.

Streaming television from devices such as your computer to your television is becoming popular as television and BluRay manufacturers begin adding some Internet connectivity to their products. But Sling Media continues to lead when the streaming goes the other way.

The importance to media companies? Every company like Sling Media that commits to supporting tablets furthers the use of those products for media consumption -- a good thing for publishers who are worried about whether their development costs can be justified.

(Sling Media's web sites seem to be down this afternoon. I find that a bit worrisome for a company that uses the net to stream media.)

WoodWing offers cross-media publishing webinars

A few days ago I posted a video from publishing solutions company WoodWing. The company had posted a video preview of their iPad Tools for magazine production. This must have gotten me on their press list.
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So this morning I received a notice of upcoming webinars for both book and magazine cross-media publishing. I thought I'd pass along the information since many times those in the best position to push for innovation are art directors and production folk. Find the schedule here.

Mobile demands more from B2Bs; offers huge opportunities to reclaim readers and advertisers

From inserts to CDs, publishers have often used giveaways to entice readers. The practice, though, has not translated to mobile media because few publishers are also developers and thus are dependent on the ad community -- another group trying to catch up with the fast growth of mobile media -- to bring them new ideas and products.

Whether it is smart phones or tablet readers, mobile media allows readers to carry their media with them, allowing them not only to read the content on the go, but to access other information and applications, as well (obvious, I know). Because of this, media companies, especially B2Bs need to stop thinking of their products as only a series of articles, but incorporate other information and services into their mobile editions.
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← An app from Creamer Media's Engineering News,
a South African B2B weekly news magazine.

An example would be Buyer's Guides. Once upon a time these annual issues were like Black Friday for retailers: the issue that made the year. Some believed that bringing these products online would be hugely profitable but it hasn't turned out that way. The reason for this is that consumers now have many search options, a print buyer's guide is just one of them.

One of my browsers, Chrome has done away with the search box -- just type in your search into the address line and Google provides the search results (Google makes the Chrome browser). The point being that it is even easier to type in "skid steer dealer" "Chicago" in a browser address bar than to go to the Construction Equipment web site and navigate their online directory.

But on my iPhone which is easier: opening a browser and typing in my search into the Google bar? or pressing an app with a built-in buyer's guide? I don't know if the app approach is clearly easier, but it is at least on a level playing field again. (A search of the iTunes app stores shows no Construction Equipment app, maybe this will come from the magazine's new owner.)

Monday, March 29, 2010

Ooyala the latest to announce iPad support; company provides publishers with video platform services

Ooyala, a provider of video platform applications and services for publishers, has announced that it will be providing support for the iPad platform. The Mountain View company already provides video services that allow publishers to deliver video directly to iPod touch, iPhones and other connected devices.
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Publishers who are already streaming video to iPhone will be able to deliver video immediately to iPad, the company said.

"The iPad is more than just another connected device," says Bismarck Lepe, Ooyala's President of Product. "It's an innovation that will drive new ideas in portability and personalized media. We've supported native delivery of video to the iPhone for over a year now, and in that year we've seen huge growth in the amount of video consumed on the device. We expect that starting April 3rd, iPad will build on the success of iPhone and be another important online video device."

Current Ooyala's customers include Telegraph Media Group, Vice magazine, Johnson & Johnson, General Mills, The Glam Network and Electronic Arts.

BBC Trust delays launch of the BBC's mobile media apps after British newspaper association cries foul

The UK's Newspaper Publishers Association gets its way: the BBC won't release its Apple iPhone applications, at least for now.
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The British newspaper group had asked the BBC Trust, the broadcaster's governing body, to rethink the release of their news and sports apps, claiming that the apps would amount to unfair competition from the publicly funded broadcaster.

"It is vital that these proposals are scrutinized properly to avoid any adverse impact on commercial media organizations," the NPA's director, David Newell, Reuters reported. "We are pleased that the BBC Trust has listened to the industry's concerns and acted to delay the planned April launch."

The BBC's apps were shown off at last month's Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, and like most media apps are essentially repackaged content from the BBC's web sites.

Why the Beeb's regular broadcasting would not fall under this same objection I do not know. But it is no surprise that one of the biggest critics to the BBC mobile plans was James Murdoch, heir to the throne of his father's News Corp. empire.

Monday morning briefs: media readies iPad products

Finally, the end of the hype cycle is in view. Depending on the reliability of FedEx, those that pre-ordered their iPads, or those willing to storm their local Apple Store or Best Buy, will finally get their hands on the tablet devices. The reviews will come in and the device will stop being either the savior of print media, or an overgrown iPod, and will simply become another product out in the marketplace.

• Apple confirmed they are set for their launch, sending out a press release this morning. “iPad connects users with their apps and content in a far more intimate and fun way than ever before,” said Steve Jobs, Apple’s CEO in the release. “We can’t wait for users to get their hands and fingers on it this weekend.”

Apple retail stores will offer a free Personal Setup service to every customer who buys an iPad at the store, helping them customize their new iPad by setting up their email, loading their favorite apps from the App Store, and more. Also beginning Saturday morning, all US Apple retail stores will host special iPad workshops to help customers learn more about this magical new product.
The Times today has a story about iPad hype quoting a series of analysts. One word of advice: discount any story containing quotes by analysts. Each quote sounds like a press release: well said drivel.
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NYT on the iPad's Safari browser.  

• Rumors of apps that will be available have begun to pick up steam. But the media world has been pretty much silent. One expects that the New York Times and WSJ will both have their apps available from day one.

One assumption I have is that media companies will employ one of three models: free app, free content; free app, paid subscription; paid app, free content. The first option -- free, free -- is what the Times uses for its iPhone app now. They may decide to go this route if their iPad app is simply a blown-up version of their iPhone app. But if their developers have come up with a more interactive product they may decide to charge a subscription price.
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Many media companies may go this route: free app, with an in-app subscription charge. The Financial Times does this now on the iPhone. this morning reports that The Spectator, a British news magazine will be using their Exact Editions flip books as their app content.  This gets the magazine onto the iPad, but does not demonstrate a serious commitment to the format. Nonetheless, I expect that the vast majority of publications will use this method to make their content available rather than building development and production teams to create new versions of their publications specifically for the tablet. The Spectator will reportedly not charge for its iPad app, then will use Apple's in-app purchasing capability to charge the reader for access to the content itself.