Saturday, May 8, 2010

Week in Review

Short reads on a Saturday morning:
• Not much to report this week, other than a near complete meltdown of the financial system. Oh well. If you missed the excitement of Thursday's near collapse of the stock market you can get a feel for the drama with my afternoon post from that day.

• The Washington Post announced that they were putting Newsweek up for sale. You can see a video from "The Daily Show" of an interview with Jon Meacham to the right. (That's → way.)

I wrote several posts this week about the sale and my own experiences with the Washington Post Company, specifically its old PostNewsweek Tech Media division. I deleted them all because I think few people would have believed the crazy stories and would think I made them up. Let's just say that my experiences with the company were enough to make me think that a move to Washington DC would be a very bad idea. In 2006, the Post decided to sell off that division, and now Newsweek is on the blocks. Next should be the Post itself. But I'll leave that subject for another day.

• TNM posted an interview with new Sporting News publisher Jeff Price and his plans for his publication. Price is the former head of digital for Sports Illustrated and now gets a chance to guide the fate of one of the nation's oldest publications.
One of the first changes Price implemented was converting his web-only Sporting News Today daily news product from a free service to a paid subscription. He also brought in digital magazine company Zinio to manage the web product, as well as using Zinio to distribute the product for the iPad (seen here at right).

Some time this summer they will launch a separate dedicated, co-branded app that will be able to take advantage of another of Price's moves -- partnering with CineSport, a syndicated sports video company to bring highlights and team specific multimedia to the Sporting News' electronic media products.

• The week ended with no word from RBI about the fate of the remaining closed B2B magazine -- specifically the remaining construction titles. The thought is that they will also go to the former management teams in an attempt to keep them out of the hands of other, more well funded competitors.

• Speaking of B2Bs: Canon Communications bought a blog. Pharmalot, and more specifically, its owner Ed Silverman, will be joining the trade magazine publisher. Silverman will continue to manage the blog, but will now contribute to the company's other properties as Editor-at-Large, and will be "helping spearhead further development of Canon’s digital assets, including webcasts and podcasts." A good move by Canon Communications parent Apprise Media.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Photoblogging Friday - 18

It's Friday and I'm certainly glad to see it end.   The Dow ended the day only down 140 points, and everybody seems to think that is good news.

But Friday also means another edition of Photoblogging Friday. Our contributor, Dean Brierly, sent this entry to TNM early this week -- a tribute to the British writer Alan Sillitoe:


Portrait of writer Alan Sillitoe
by Monire Childs

Last week Photoblogging Friday noted the April 17 passing of Life photographer Myron Davis. Not to establish a morbid trend here, but I thought it fitting to pay tribute this week to the British writer Alan Sillitoe, who died April 25 aged 82.

Sillitoe arrived on the literary scene with the landmark novel Saturday Night and Sunday Morning, which presented a bracingly unsentimental view of British working-class life. His follow-up collection of short stories, The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Runner, validated the brilliance of his first novel and placed him solidly in the ranks of the era’s “angry young men” literary movement. (Both books were made into critically and commercially acclaimed films.) Yet Sillitoe always resisted facile labels, and his subsequent output varied widely in tone and content. He was a staunch atheist and critic of political and societal complacency, and remained true to his convictions and his highly personal muse until the end of his life.

Monire Childs’ portrait of Sillitoe is full of evocative detail—the book-lined den, the ever-present pipe, the ink pen with which he wrote his first drafts in longhand. The image is direct, telling and unpretentious, just like its subject. You can find a full obituary of Alan Sillitoe at The Guardian.

You can read more interviews with photographers at Dean Brierly's website, Photographers Speak.

New Sporting News publisher, Jeff Price, partners with Zinio on paid daily iPad and web-based news products

It hasn't taken the new President and Publisher of Sporting News long to make a big impact on the venerable brand: developing partnerships, transforming free products to paid, launching apps. For Jeff Price, the former head of digital for Sports Illustrated, it is all about building the brand and extending the reach of the publication.
Price comes to the 124-year-old Sporting News with a marketing and sports background and sees his role more as brand champion than publisher. But for a publication that was last the dominate when John McGraw still managed the Giants (OK, slight exaggeration) the challenges of transforming the title into a major player in both electronic and print media will be great.

With the help of one of his new media partners, Zinio, I talked to Price about his New Media plans and the ground already covered since the announcement of his appointment in February by the owner of the Sporting News, American City Business Journal, a unit of Advance Publications Inc.

Price moved immediately to make some hard decisions at Sporting News. These included ending the title's fantasy games operation, the source of some of the title's best web traffic. "The fantasy industry is changing, and we feel it's best to devote our resources to providing the best fantasy content and advice on the Internet, and beyond," Price wrote in a letter to customers.

Price had made the same move at Sports Illustrated, where he was head of digital, said before relaunching the service. Price said he will be doing the same thing at Sporting News, launching a new fantasy games service in time for football season, this time with an unannounced, major new media partner.

Creating partnerships is part of Price's M.O., as this was part of the job description for Price at previous stops at Millsport, Trakus, MasterCard and USA Sports.

SN's first iPad presence through Zinio is for its daily news product, Sporting News Today.

One of the most important new partnerships Price established was with Zinio, the San Francisco headquartered digital magazine and book company. One of Price's first decisions was to work with his new partner on Sporting News Today, the publication's daily web-based newspaper, rather than the main biweekly Sporting News magazine.

"Part of the struggle that's going on right now in the industry is trying to force fit what your current business model is into this new platform," Price told TNM. "If we were taking that approach we would have started with Sporting News magazine and said 'OK, we're going to put all our energy behind Sporting News magazine and we're going to translate that over to the iPad.'"

So rather than have Zinio port over their bi-weekly magazine, Price would have his new partner bring the previously free Sporting News Today daily to the iPad, as well as other mobile formats through Zinio's digital newsstand. Now, a reader can subscribe to the daily product and read their news on their iPad, or on the web, and just pay once -- currently 99 cents an issue, or $2.99 a month.

So, for now, readers of Sporting News, the magazine, will have to wait for an iPad solution. "We've honestly put that on the shelf for now and we'll come back to that and find a way to make sure that its available for those folks who'd want to engage with the magazine from a digital content perspective."

One advantage of starting with the daily product was that it was already a digital-only product. The other reason was that Price saw that the product filled an important need for consumers. Sporting News Today "was providing packaged content on a daily basis, 365 days a year, really giving a comprehensive review of what happened yesterday in sports and being ready for consumers and business travelers at 6 am in the morning --- we really looked at the opportunity that we had was to fill a void that folks in the newspaper sector are certainly trying to do."

Working with Zinio provided Sporting News the opportunity to have first mover advantage. Price had seen that, on the iPhone and Android, app developers had leaped into the field -- apps like Sportacular and SportsTap were "thinking like start-ups" by providing readers the sports information they wanted on their mobile devices -- they took advantage of the opening created when publishers failed to step up and rethink their products.


Why one plus one plus one doesn't equal three when talking about media fragmentation

Some of my publisher friends have begun to wonder why advertising remains so weak, while at the same time some publications appear to be recovering with gusto. The inevitable question is always "when will the recovery hit us, too?"

Leaving aside the issue of economic recovery (since one look at the events of yesterday regarding stocks, Greece or the UK might make you wonder if a recovery is on the horizon), the chances that advertising will rebound across the board is very small. Each downturn in the economy leads to reductions in advertising, of course. But it also leads to advertisers attempting to find new ways to market outside the world of B2B and consumer magazines, newspapers, etc.

Combined with the increasing fragmentation of media, this is leading to many media properties being edged out of budgets permanently. Further, those properties that are getting new schedules are finding that they have to offer more and more options themselves, or else have a piece of their schedule reallocated.

Take a simple marketing tool like e-mail and e-mail newsletters. Any small advertiser that finds their budget cut can very affordably begin their own e-mail marketing campaigns through widely available companies that have sprung up over the last decade. A return to healthier budgets simply won't stop this approach, though often publishers can win back some of the business by promising to take on those responsibilities themselves as a added-value item on the schedule.

Additionally, the growth in alternative forms of media -- now mobile, then Internet -- means that adding a new form of marketing to the budget doesn't necessarily mean a growth in actual dollars spent, or the addition of a new media outlet. In other words, one plus one equals two -- but adding another one simply might mean one of the old media outlets will be left behind.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Don't look now but something just laid an egg

2:45 PM: Tell me that this is just a typo: Dow down 413 point.

My day has not been the very good, I hope you are doing better. For the second time in as many weeks I've had to throw away hours worth of work after I discovered that the company I was profiling was failing to deliver a workable product. It happens, I suppose. But it is doubly frustrating when you know that a lot of publishers are depending on these third party developers to help them out in their mobile media projects and are instead not getting very good results.
Last week one of these companies responded to a story I wrote and wanted to set the record straight. I responded that I would happy to talk to them, but alas they never called. No wonder, their apps are just plain bad. Users write one star reviews of the apps, but the company continues to spit them out week after week.
2:50 PM: a few minutes later and the Dow is down 789 points. Make it stop.

2:52 PM: Headline on New York Times website: Dow Plummets 900 Points on Concerns Over Greece but their ticker says down 580, it can't keep up. Click through to story and headline reads down 700. Refresh and it says down 500.

I promise to keep refreshing until it says Dow closes mixed.

The market, of course, was in free fall over concerns that the debt crisis in Greece would spill over into the rest of Europe, particularly in Spain, Portugal and Britain. This would have the same sort of domino effect that occurred when the Austrian bank Credit Anstalt went bankrupt after failing to secure loans to the government of Austria that would have propped it up. The loans were not made due to the internal politics of countries like France. Today, there are those in Europe opposing a bailout for Greece, using the same arguments.

3:05 PM: down only 324 points. Those that jumped off the ledge are starting to have regrets.

3:20 PM: I've gone back into this story to correct some of the typos that were caused by frantic typing.
4:00 PM: The markets are closed and the final body count is in -- down 347.80. The Times has their story up and quotes Peter Cardillo of Avalon Partners as saying "“what really happened here, gold was going through the roof and the euro went down to 1.25. There was a lot of panic selling that came in and the market fell apart.”

Jake Dollarhide, chief executive of Longbow Asset Management, said it best, though: “This is a terrible, terrible day.” No kidding.

4:40 PM: The Guardian is reporting that it "looks like the panic may have been triggered by one or more rogue trades." I've not heard that elsewhere yet, but Britain is very jittery right now as the country went to the polls today and there are fears of a hung parliament (the Tories are expected by many to win tonight).

Synapse Multimedia enters the mobile app business for local broadcasters; iPad applications on the horizon

The application development field is getting more crowded as third party developers begin to add iPhone and iPad application development to the list of services they offer. One such company that has started uploading iPhone apps to iTunes for their customers is Shreveport, Louisiana based Synapse Multimedia.
The company, started by Randall and Audrey Ache, works with a variety of customers ranging from Zocolo Neighborhood Eatery, a local Shreveport restaurant, to Arizona broadcaster KVOA. Recently, they started supporting their customers by creating iPhone apps, their first one appearing in December for LEX18, a Central Kentucky NBC affiliate.

As of today, Synapse has five iPhone apps in iTunes, the last four appearing within the past two weeks.

The latest app is for KSBY, the Santa Barbara NBC affiliate. Each app is identical in that it contains the same navigation: Home, Video, News, Weather, and More (which allows for some customization of content). The video is handled directly, that is, not through a service like YouTube.

The next step for Synapse appears to be iPad development. Randall Ache, writing on his company blog, appears to be a fan: "Finally we are starting to see mobile devices that can really change the way users interact with content. The iPhone is a great device, the best for its size but it did not give me the feeling I was interacting with a true digital interactive magazine or website with my hands and the iPad does this well. Over the next couple months I am really looking forward to the new iPad applications that will be coming out."

Ache goes on to say that Synapse has started developing for an app for the iPad that will be able to take advantage of the video content from their CMS.


Morning Briefs: Newsweek on the blocks; crisis in Greece heats up; a big thumbs up for mobile app Dropbox

I wrote a bunch of posts about the news that Newsweek has been put on the blocks by its parent the Washington Post Co. -- each was a bit more bitchy than the next. I deleted them all.

Let me simply say this: Newsweek is a mess -- paidContent's nice 10K review is proof enough; and, who reads these news weeklies anymore?

Nuff said.

Jeffrey Goldberg from The Atlantic writes that if "the Washington Post Company published fifteen magazines, it could float Newsweek. But it doesn't publish 15 magazines." True. But the Post used to publish other magazines as part of group called PostNewsweek Tech Media but sold off that group in 2006. I can tell you from personal experience . . . well, let's just say that it was a mess.

If you haven't been following the crisis in Greece you should be.

Yesterday, the President, Karolos Papoulias, warned that his country is "on the brink of the abyss".

"We are all responsible so that it does not take the step into the void," the president said in a statement according to the BBC. This warning follows several days of violent protests including the setting fire to a bank, killing three employees. The protests are the result of announcement of austerity measures forced on the government as part of a deal to secure new loans.

On Tuesday, stock markets fell in the U.S. and elsewhere as investors feared the debt crisis in Greece would be replicated in other European countries -- in particular, Spain and Portugal.

More newspaper bad news: the Oklahoman announced it will lay off 57 people, or seven percent of the workforce, citing "a struggling advertising environment."

Nick Bilton asks "Has Apple lost its cool?" on his NYT Bits blog. The answer, of course, is yes, Apple is having a PR nightmare of a month.

I downloaded Dropbox the other day and can tell you that it is definitely a worthwhile app if you have an iPhone or iPad (or both). The app allows you to have access to files across devices. Here is a story from about Dropbox and its API.

This seems, however, like the kind of thing that should be built into both the iPhone and iPad. Apple already has MobileMe to assist with some syncing and file storage, but Dropbox is a much more elegant way to handle files across devices.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

New Freedom CEO talks of "right-sizing" the organization, but also of being "platform agnostic" going forward

New Freedom Communications chairman James D. Dunning Jr. used some frightening words to describe his mission, but also expressed some views that may be encouraging at the same time.

In an interview with Freedom's own Orange County Register, Dunning said “Our first task is right-sizing the organization for the business of the future. I don’t mean lean and mean, but right-sized for the issues of running the business in the future. We are in a talent evaluation mode."

Having been involved in re-engineering, as well as right-sizing as a publisher, these are usually words that strike fear in the minds of staffers when voiced.

On the other hand, Dunning said he wants the company's products to be "platform agnostic" -- usually a good sign for those promoting web, mobile and tablet publishing.

“I want to focus on being the biggest, best local provider of what I call the three ‘Cs’ — content, community and circulation," Dunning said. "We’re going to capture the local share of the ad market and not just be victims of trends. We will be platform agnostic. Our leverage and advantage is that we have newspapers. I want us to be great and a winner in our space.”

Freedom Communications emerged from bankruptcy last week, shedding a large chunk of debt, but leaving the company in the hands of the private equity firms, ending the ownership of the Hoiles family.

Background: Freedom's new chairman is a leveraged buyout pro who has swung many media deals in the past. Dunning graduated from the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania in 1970 with a B.S. in Economics, and was an investment banker at Thomson McKinnon Securities, Inc. from 1982 to 1985. After that his stays at any one place usually involve major acquisitions or sales. He was part of the management buyout at Peterson Publishing and later was involved in the Willis-Stein back purchase of Ziff Davis in December 1999. Dunning served as CEO at Ziff before being removed by Willis-Stein. He worked for a hedge fund for a while before serving as chairman of Doubledown Media, a company that was filed for Chapter 7 in 2009. Dunning made it into the gossip pages of the NY Post when it was revealed that he took a six figure payment described as "interest on loan." Dunning supposedly had invested up to $7 million in the company before it imploded.

Dunning's presence on the board is either a sign that the goal of the Freedom Communications' creditors is to fatten up the company for an eventual sale, the result of an investment, or else an attempt to find investment -- we'll know within a couple of years.

In the meantime, Burl Osborne who served as Interim President & CEO at Freedom during the period of the bankruptcy proceedings, will stay on until a new CEO is named. Osborne, 72, was previously president of the publishing division at A.H. Belo before retiring in 2001. He had served on the Freedom Communications board since May of 2004.

Reed Business Information looks to off load titles to former publishers before considering third party sales

The trade pub Folio: has confirmed what I wrote last week, that RBI is looking to swing deals with the former publishers of their publications.

Folio: quotes RBI CFO John Poulin as stating in an e-mail that the company will close some deals this week and if there are any properties left third party bids will be considered after May 10th.

By closing the properties, then selling off assets, Reed is probably getting some tax benefits. Deals such as these usually involve little cash but also include profit sharing deals going forward. Often they include production and facility sharing elements, as well, though it may be unlikely here.

I expect the construction group to go this week but complicating any deal may be that the group was consolidated into one group from two recently: housing and commercial construction combined under one manager. This involved the demotion of some publishers, as well as the elimination of important positions. Any new owner will have to rebuild the resources and sales power of the brands in order to succeed -- not to mention create new interactive teams where none existed in the past.

Belo losses continue as advertising revenue falls 19 percent; company announces its "pleased" with results

Reporting its first quarter financial reports last night, A.H. Belo announced that it lost $9.1 million during Q1 as advertising revenue fell a further 19 percent, far more than other newspaper companies have reported.
"A. H. Belo's board of directors and management committee are pleased with the company's first-quarter results," said Robert W. Decherd, A. H. Belo's chairman, president and chief executive.

The Dallas Morning News, a A.H. Belo property, said that despite the results the company remains debt-free.

"They are struggling some more than some other newspaper companies," Edward Atorino, a media analyst at Benchmark Co. told the Morning News. "But they've got no debt, which is wonderful."

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Canon Communications buys a blog; Pharmalot blog editor will continue and contribute to other properties

Good news for blogger: you, too, can be bought out! Cannon Communications announced in a release that it was acquiring a well-known blog that covers the drug industry, Pharmalot.
Pharmalot’s owner, Ed Silverman, will join Canon as an Editor-at-Large in the Pharmaceutical Media Group and will continue as Pharmalot’s Editor. Silverman will be "helping spearhead further development of Canon’s digital assets, including webcasts and podcasts."

“Ed is an original voice within the pharmaceutical industry with an outstanding career as a journalist covering the major issues affecting the industry’s growth,” said Patricia Spinner, Canon’s Sr. Group Publisher, Pharmaceutical Media Group. “He is also a great addition to our digital media team, and we look forward to working with Ed as we continue to expand our digital offerings across all of the industries we serve.”

For reasons I continue not to grasp, B2Bs struggle with blogs. One reason, of course, is that editors, already busy trying to edit their magazines and websites, are often the ones called upon to launch blogs for their websites.

But my experience also shows that editors fail to recruit bloggers to add content to their sites, or to launch separate blog-based websites. This is really a failure of imagination. Blogs are not only part of the mainstream now (yes, TNM is doing nothing special), but are an incredible marketing opportunity and traffic promotion opportunity for B2Bs. Specially branded blogs can extend and enhance the reach of a B2B brand, while creating more inventory and impressions for those selling web advertising.

One of the biggest obstacles to blog creation at B2Bs and other media forms is the political nature of web development and maintenance. Specialty blogs, created and maintained on Blogger and WordPress are rarely allowed by publishers intent on handing out web duties as some sort of reward for corporate obedience. Worse, websites created on overly complicated, inflexible content management systems prevent publishers and editors from experimenting with the form, or creating new web properties on the fly.

The same approach can work for newspapers, as well. It always amazes me that local papers feel that having one URL is a good thing. Separate URLs for blogs that cover local sports, local government, and the like should be, by now, a normal practice for publications that claim to be committed to electronic media.

For these reasons alone, along with a million other reasons I won't bore you with (today) I applaud Charles McCurdy, the CEO of Apprise Media, Canon's parent company. And if this wasn't McCurdy's idea then whoever made this deal happen deserves a raise!

Congressman releases draft legislation concerning privacy of information both on the Internet and offline

The Chairman of the Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, and the Internet, Rep. Rick Boucher (D-VA) released a draft of legislation designed to assure the privacy of information of web users.

“Our legislation confers privacy rights on individuals, informing them of the personal information that is collected and shared about them and giving them greater control over the collection, use and sharing of that information,” said Rep. Boucher in a communique.

"Our goal is to encourage greater levels of electronic commerce by providing to Internet users the assurance that their experience online will be more secure. That greater sense of privacy protection will be particularly important in encouraging the trend toward the cloud computing."

The draft legislation would require companies to clearly explain their privacy policies, provide an opt-out option for uses, and force companies to allow users to opt-out from having their information share with unaffiliated third parties such as ad networks.

Google announces it will launch digital book service by summer; FTC may oppose Google and Apple moves

The WSJ is reporting that Google is getting into the book sales business starting this summer. The announcement, by Chris Palma, Strategic Partner Development Manager for Google, was made at an event held at the offices of Random House called "The Book on Google: Is the Future of Publishing in the Cloud?"

(Random House is one of the few major book publishers who have so far not inked a deal with Apple to appear in the company's iBooks store.)
The new service will be called Google Editions and will allow users to buy digital editions of the books they find in its search service -- even if that book comes from a retailer of independent shop.

The idea may sound new to some, but this is an old story of creating an online service that allows the publisher to take a cut of the transactions that take place through that site. The idea was that the mere creation of the online site would facilitate sales, and the owner of the site would take a percentage.

Here, Google is saying that they will create a search marketplace for books and that sales can be directly transacting at the search results -- with Google taking its piece of the revenue.

The question is why books? Certainly the same principal at play here would apply across the board. One answer to that question may be Google's desire to win the right to distribute the millions of out-of-print books. A case currently resides in a Manhattan federal court where U.S. District Judge Denny Chin is set to rule on whether Google can proceed with digitizing millions of books for its Google Book Search -- it has already scanned over seven million books.

For more background on the legal case involving Google, orphan works, and the ramifications of the battle over public domain works, read this FAQ at Wired.

Word is that the FTC may end up opposing Google's acquisition of AdMob. Dan Frommer writes a compelling column arguing for approval but cries of monopoly! are increasingly being heard in regard to Google.

Many think Apple's acquisition of Quattro Wireless and the creation of its iAd platform would smooth the way for Apple. But instead Apple faces its own scrutiny over both its mobile ad plans as well as its software development agreements.

iPhone OS and Android continue to be the path for mobile media; H-P, however, may push hard for WebOS

As publishers continue to mull over their mobile media strategies, many continue to ask themselves "what do we do first?"

The iTunes app store continues to beckon publishers for two reasons: its a central marketplace, easy to enter (as long as you are not a Pulitizer Prized winning cartoonist, that is) and easy to monitor. A quick review this morning, for instance, reveals no new iPad news apps, and a couple independent news apps for the iPhone.

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer showing off a tablet running Windows, the least likely choice of OS for most tablet makers. Source: AFP

But new tablets are on the horizon and none will be using Apple's iPhone OS.  With the Android market exploding, any publisher wishing to reach their audience through mobile devices, especially cell phones, need to demand Android apps from their development staff or development partners. (That is why it was interesting to find out that IDG's developer for their Gamestar mobile app develops for the iPhone exclusively.)

The very recent purchase of Palm by Hewlett-Package opens up the possibility that a third mobile OS could be aggressively pushed. H-P is the one company out there capable of building a mass market for a third mobile operating system. While it is most likely that H-P will concentrate in the tablet area, most likely building bulky, slow tablets, just as they do laptops, they will also probably price them low and sell millions of them.

For the next 12 months, however, the game will continue to be played in Apple's home court, with Google's Android growing and with Android based tablets possibly appearing (make that, most likely appearing).

Why the emphasis on the mobile OS? The short answer to battery life. The days of getting two hours of battery life on your laptop is over. My iPad's battery level has never been below 60 percent, and that was after six or seven hours of continuous use. The whole definition of a mobile computing device is evolving. A laptop is being recognized for what it always was: a portable desktop -- that is, a powerful computing device that can breathe out of the water for a few minutes (unplugged) but must return to the water quickly or die.

Netbooks were supposed to be the answer to this battery life problem but the tablet is proving a better solution.

Another reason for the success of the mobile OS is instant-on: the ability to push a button and instantly start surfing the web, read the paper or play a game. Anyone who owns an iPad can tell you what a job it is to read newspapers on the device -- any newspaper in the world, that is. Just as the print newspaper is convenient because it doesn't need to be booted up every morning, neither does the tablet run on a mobile OS.

These may have been the big reasons that H-P decided to shelve its Slate tablet, scheduled to run Windows 7. (The third reason, of course, is the licensing costs of running Windows versus an OS you own yourself.)

This may all seem like inside ball to some publishers but it is the equivalent of discussing paper weights and coating.

Monday, May 3, 2010

iPhone apps: SD Times takes a minimalist approach, while IDG's Gamestar app delivers the goods

You'd think the best mobile media apps would come from the tech community, but many of the big tech players are either still on the sidelines or counting on their flip book vendors to supply them with their mobile solutions.

SD Times, the newspaper for the software development industry, has launched an iPhone app and it is clear that software wizardry was not in the cards. To call the app minimal is to saying too much.

SD Times, taking minimal to a whole new level with their iPhone app.

That's not necessarily a bad thing, mind you. The BZ Media property has given its readers a clean RSS reader I suppose. But wouldn't you think a B2B property called SD Times might know a few, you know, software developers? Maybe not, the company seems to be searching for website designers, as well.

Gamestar, if you are not familiar with it, is an iDG owned PC game magazine published out of Germany. The magazine has a circulation of around 250,000 and is one of Europe's best selling game magazines. A U.S. version of the magazine appeared and disappeared fairly quickly.

Gamestar's new iPhone app much more of what a mobile media app for the iPhone or Android should be. The app was developed by eMotionSoft, a German developer. Vidunan Pirathaparajah is listed on their site as Leitung Entwicklung (Lead Developer). Johnny Arulpragasam is listed as developer, finance and marketing, while Marcel Münchow is the user interface designer. The company's websites states that they built apps exclusively for the iPhone, a bit of a surprising admission.

Even if your German is not the best, it is clear this is a very good mobile app. In addition to the latest stories, complete with graphics, the app also delivers video and a photo gallery, as well as some offline features. The videos are delivered through YouTube which may seem to some like an easy way out but is actually a good solution -- after all, it forces the publisher to create a YouTube channel, something even TNM has. You can find Gamestar's YouTube channel here.

So, in the end, this is a simple RSS reader, too. But one that brings lots of content and multimedia to the smartphone user.


Another new news app is called Czech News. It's 99 cent cost was not what convinced me to pass on buying it. It was its description:

Czech News is a very simple e-news reader for the people of the Czech Republic. This app brings you the latest news from all the top Sweden (sic) news sources.

Wow, top that Wired.

Did Reed lose passion for B2B?

Busy day here so posting will be light. But I wanted to point to the story BtoBOnline ran today which adds a bit to the Reed Business Information divestiture, and asks the question "did Reed lose their passion for B2B?"

Clearly Jordan Edmiston can be partially to blame for the lack of sales of the properties -- but only somewhat. The role of the M&A professional is match-maker. I used to tell my clients that I will bring in the buyer, help them evaluate the bid (or bids) and give them advice about the due diligence process, but that once the winning bid is determined the majority of my work is done. In other words, get a good lawyer.

But when there are no sales, when the company ends up negotiating with their managers, that doesn't speak well of the sales agents.

In the case of the RBI properties, however, I don't think it makes a big difference. Whether the B2B magazine get bought by a PE firm, a PE backed B2B, or are picked up by new management-created firms, the results are usually the same: tightly run trade media properties with very little room to maneuver.

The best result would be that new start-ups are created that are run like, well, start-ups. In other words, use the properties as spring boards into electronic media companies. They would need to be run like start-ups because there would have to be some staff hires that are in non-traditional areas: application development, open platform web development, etc.

In the meantime, the magazines can be relaunched but they will surely lose money, or at best break-even in the short run. And the future is not in the print products anyway, but in the products that can be created around the print product, utilizing the circulation and customer lists.

Morning Brief: Apple announces its sold one million iPads; Church to sell Washington Times; a weekend of Tribunes

Apple announced this morning that it has sold one million iPads.

“One million iPads in 28 days—that’s less than half of the 74 days it took to achieve this milestone with iPhone,” said Steve Jobs, Apple’s CEO in an Apple statement. “Demand continues to exceed supply and we’re working hard to get this magical product into the hands of even more customers.”

Chitika Labs estimate of Apple iPad sales probably remains too high.

While Apple's accomplishment would be important in its own right, combining this with last week's revelation that H-P was delaying its Slate tablet launch, and the Microsoft is scrapping plans for the Courier, this leaves the field wide open for Apple.

More importantly, this makes the decision making process for publishers easier: the iPhone OS (and Android) is where its at right now.

Speaking of Microsoft: Microsoft has committed itself to HTML5, and with that has come down hard on the side of Apple in the Apple-Adobe war over Flash. Writing on the IEBlog, Dean Hachamovitch, General Manager, Internet Explorer, writes "The future of the web is HTML5."

"Today, video on the web is predominantly Flash-based," Hachamovitch wrote. "While video may be available in other formats, the ease of accessing video using just a browser on a particular website without using Flash is a challenge for typical consumers. Flash does have some issues, particularly around reliability, security, and performance. We work closely with engineers at Adobe, sharing information about the issues we know of in ongoing technical discussions. Despite these issues, Flash remains an important part of delivering a good consumer experience on today’s web."

It looks like Rev. Sun Myung Moon’s Unification Church is putting the Washington Times up for sale. The NYT's DealBook thinks former Post reporter, and Times editor, John Solomon may be a potential buyer.

Oncology journals publisher CIG Media Group announced it has made a financial endowment to aid local clinical cancer research, and foundations such as the ThriveWell Cancer Foundation.

CIG Media Group properties include Clinical Lung Cancer; Clinical Colorectal Cancer; Clinical Breast Cancer; Clinical Lymphoma, Myeloma & Leukemia; and Clinical Ovarian Cancer.

Rant: Is the Chicago Tribune America's worst metro daily? It has to be.  For me, this weekend was, as they say, the straw that broke the camel's back. After growing up in a household with two daily newspapers delivered, and having never lived anywhere without getting home delivery of a newspaper, it may be time to end the practice.

Saturday: the Tribune features three stories on its front page. The first about the owner of the Cub and his fight to put up a sign. Really. But most of the front page concerned rhythmic gymnastics. Again, no joke. The was two inches dedicated to the oil spill off the coast of Louisiana.

Sunday: A hard hitting (yes, I'm kidding) feature on judges who the Tribune feels are too lenient on speeders. The majority of the page is made up of a feature on the Trine 2010 all-state academic team. The third story isn't a story, its the Trib's editorial diatribe against state funding. In other words, zero news.

The online Tribune was no better, maybe worse. Not finding any news in the print edition, I went online to find that this was the world according to the Chicago Tribune:

3 dead in double murder-suicide
Toddler dies after SW Side fire
Man killed in W. Rogers Park motorcycle crash
1 dead, 3 wounded in shooting at Zion house party
3 arrests in death of magician from 'Tonight Show'
Bensenville police get 'suspicious package'

Be afraid, be very afraid.