Saturday, June 12, 2010

Week in Review

Short reads on a Saturday morning:

• U.S. retailer Best Buy has entered in a partnership with Future US to produce a new gaming magazine, @Gamer. The magazine will be available by subscription and also at all Best Buy store locations by the end of June.
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The venture is definitely not a promotional piece as the magazine will cost you $5.99 even in the store.

William O'Neal and Andy Eddy will lead the editorial team as Editor-in-Chief and Executive Editor.

"By developing @Gamer, with its compelling content and exclusive offers, we hope to create a trusted go-to resource for gamers," said Chris Homeister, senior vice president and general manager for the home entertainment group at Best Buy in a release.

• Trinity Mirror plc is facing a strike by its editorial staff following the sacking of 200 staffers. The company's in-house union, the British Association of Journalists, seeks better terms for the terminated, and may call for the cancellation of the the company's chief executive, Sly Bailey's 66 percent increase in her pay package. In 2008, Bailey earned £1 million, her 2009 package was £1.68 million.
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• Sideways LLC, a software company that is developing digital publishing platforms for the iPad and mobile media, launched its own iPad-only magazine on Thursday -- Sideways 10.06. Founded by Charles Stack, the founder of Books.com, Sideways wants to experiment with the iPad format as a way of gaining knowledge of the new medium that can be taken advantage of by their future publishing clients.

On Friday I posted three stories on the company, its magazine and the business model of iPad publishing. I plan to speak to the magazine's editor, James Sweeney, early this next week.

• Reed Construction Data (RCD) and Hanley Wood formed a new publishing alliance that will deliver enhanced product directories for the construction industry, effectively freezing out the recently divested construction publications previous published under the RBI umbrella.

Apparently believing that the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence, RCD is lining up on the side of the competitors to Reed's old titles Building Design+Construction, Construction Bulletin, Construction Equipment, Professional Builder, Professional Remodeler and Consulting-Specifying Engineer.

• The Pulse News Reader iPad app was briefly pulled from the iTunes app store by Apple after lawyers from the New York Times complained that the paid news reader app used the Times' RSS feeds in a way that violated the user agreement.

On further review, however, the call was overturned and the app reappeared in iTunes. Later still the app was quietly updated and everyone seemed to want to forget the whole thing.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Photoblogging Friday - 23

It's Friday that means two things: today is the start of the World Cup and it is Photoblogging Friday -- I wonder which has the world on edge?

Mexico and the hosts South Africa have already played to a tie, as have France and Uruguay (that's futbol for you). The U.S. plays its first match tomorrow against England and it could get ugly if the Brits play their game. If not, and the U.S. gets a result, we'll be hearing about it for the next 60 years -- just like the last time.

Dean Brierly, our contributor for PbF, has a preview of his latest interview for his site Photographers Speak.

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Bob Witkowski: "Rust Macro 6, Missouri, 1974"


Bob Witkowski: Rust Never Sleeps
“Straight” or “realistic” photography in some way or another usually points to the passage of time, either subtly or overtly. Not so with abstract photography, which generally has little connection to the real world. This is just fine with Bob Witkowski, who has a passion for shooting macro images of rusting junkyard automobiles that evoke both physical and metaphysical metamorphoses. A one-time law student and Yale graduate, Witkowski also studied at the University of Missouri School of Journalism, and began taking photographs in the early seventies.

A chance opportunity to photograph an oil refinery led to a flourishing freelance career, during which he has worked for major news magazines, film studios, television networks, tourist
boards, corporations and record labels. As fulfilling as this work continues to be, his real joy is making personal images where the only client he has to satisfy is himself.



You can read the full interview with Witkowski at Dean Brierly's website, Photographers Speak.

Sideways (3): Business models for tablet publishing

This is the third of three posts concerning Sideways 10.06.

In my first post I mentioned that months ago I speculated that the most interesting tablet publications might come from start-ups, and that traditional print publishers would be making a mistake to simply port over their print products into mobile media. But I also was pretty sure that the first tablet publishing efforts may come from start-ups or tech companies who are usually aggressive in adopting new technology and platforms.
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I may have been wrong about that last point: traditional media companies have been early adopters of Apple's iPad -- generally through the work of such companies such as Zinio and Exact Editions Ltd., but also through technology partnerships such as the one between Adobe and Condé Nast. But efforts have been generally unimaginative.

That is why I was pleased to see the rise of Sideways LLC, a company that that is developing its own digital platform for use on tablets and mobile devices, and has now launched its own iPad magazine as a way of experimenting with the form, as a capabilities showcase, and possibly as a profitable business. It is this last point that is at the center of this third and final post.



For media properties such as Time and Wired, it is possible to create an iPad app, put a price on it equal its print cover price and then sit back and see what kind of sales it can generate. Wired's editor Chris Anderson wrote via Twitter last weekend that the new Wired iPad app had sold 73,000 downloads in its first nine days in iTunes. That is close to the normal level of newsstand sales -- and $4.99 per app, that translates into $364,270 in sales, of which it gets to keep 70 percent.

In essence, popular magazine brands can use their tablet products as extensions of the newsstand, possibly raising their base rates and therefore their ad rates to profit from the venture. Then when some enhanced ads are sold into the tablet version this is pretty much gravy.

But for an app like Sideways 10.06 which is selling for $3.99 a copy, but has no established brand name, what is the amount of sales they can expect? No one knows, but I would guess that 10,000 copies would a wild success -- a very wild success. But even giving a start-up magazine 10,000 in sales for an app would mean that the magazine would only clear $27,930.

In the case of Sideways, selling only a handful of apps may be worthwhile of experience gathered and the ability to use the app as a showcase for their clients. But start-ups that will not have software businesses supporting them, there will be a need to either sell enough apps to survive, or to monetize the app through advertising sales.

"We will definitely experiment with advertising, and transactions, and serialization, and price model" said CEO Charles Stack told me this morning when discussing monetizing both periodical and book publishing projects. "I think they are all open to experimentation."



Most magazines and newspapers who have brought their content over onto the iPad have taken one of three approaches: leaving the ads in unchanged or enhanced; pulling the ads out completely; or have gone to a single-sponsor model. The single-sponsor model has a lot of merit when buying time to educate the sales team and making it to fall planning. The New York Times single-sponsored app, NYT Editor's Choice, has always felt like a temporary solution while the company decides what to include in a final, paid version.
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The NYT Editor's Choice app has a single-sponsor.

For B2Bs, the single-sponsor model seems like a natural as trade publishers work with their biggest clients to finance their first tablet efforts. But for a B2B start-up, tablet publishing may be an effective way to limit costs and effectively under cut their print counterparts. While there has been some complaining about Apple's data sharing policies, the fact is that many new apps now include registration mechanisms that are even more effective than reader qualification cards as they are 100 percent electronic and can include much more information than some B2Bs currently gather.



A more detailed discussion of business models for tablet publishing will have to be left for a time when more app sales and readership data can be gathered. But Sideways LLC is leading the charge, apparently strongly committed to the form, so no doubt more will be learned over the next few months.

Sideways (2): The iPad magazine

This is the second of three posts concerning Sideways 10.06.

While its new magazine will not be the first magazine to appear on the iPad, Sideways LLC's new iPad app may well be the first magazine exclusively designed and written for the iPad -- certainly that is the magazine's claim.
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Edited by James Sweeney, formerly an editor with trade publisher Advanstar, Sideways 10.06 promises to publish monthly, I assume by issuing a new app each month. The app costs $3.99 to download, a modest amount for a magazine containing no advertising. But as mentioned in my previous post, the company has multiple reasons for publishing this first magazine.

Being a software company first, and a publishing company second, means that the company will be dependent on its editor, as well as its new COO, Eliza Wing, formerly president and CEO of cleveland.com, to drive the content direction. In the meanwhile,  the tech and graphics teams will experiment with the form and capabilities inherent in the iPad.

Possibly because is not coming from print, the magazine does not launch in the traditional way. Instead, the app opens onto the first article, as well as a content index bar, instead of a cover. This avoids having to wow the reader with eye-candy, but misses the opportunity to emphasis the major stories in the edition. By launching to what is essentially the TOC (if in landscape mode) the app makes all the stories in the edition of equal importance. In portrait mode the situation is worse as the app opens to Sweeney's review of iPhone apps released that have tie-ins to the World Cup (which opened today), with only a small button in the upper left-hand corner that brings in the contents index. If you are going to open a magazine directly into an article that article better blow you away.
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The landscape versus portrait mode shows that each article if formatted once, with the column width exactly fitting the portrait mode, but when turned the added space on the left then fills with the content index. In other words, rather than having two layers of content, the app sticks to one layer. (In contrast, the Wired app, with two layers, brings up different layouts depending on whether you are in portrait or landscape mode. Some users have complained about the huge size of the Wired app, but when you consider that the download contains multiple layouts, plus all the rich media already downloaded so that offline reading is possible, you can see that the file size would have to be very large. In contrast, the Sideways app is only 2.7 MB in size.)

The article itself brings up some interesting points. The article reviews five World Cup apps, written and formatted very much like I would do here at TNM -- with screenshots from the iPhone apps. But the app does not hard set the copy, meaning that the user must have an Internet connection to read the magazine. Turning off my Wi-Fi, then opening the app reveals a blank shell. I find this a strange choice -- after all, this app won't be updated with a new issue, why not allow for offline reading? That also means that this is essentially a news reader app, bringing in content from the server when opened. That would allow for corrections and additions. This would allow, for instance, a change to this first story to include the Handmark app for Goal.com (previewed here) as well as the 14 paid soccer apps, and the eight free apps released since the Sideways app appeared in iTunes yesterday (by the time you read this post there will probably be even more).
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Thus the dangers of hard setting iPad copy in a news app, it will quickly be as outdated as print. But since this is bringing in copy from the server does that mean that it can and will be updated like a website? (I'm not speaking necessarily about this particular app, but iPad news apps in general).

The Financial Times app may provide a good model: at open the app brings in the latest edition of the website. A button, however, allows you to download the edition as it currently exists for easy offline reading -- great for business travelers on a flight or on the subway. When you have an Internet connection again, the app allows you to refresh the content. Obviously I love the solution -- it allows an iPad to act like a website when it can, and like a print product when it needs to. It means that the video content can only be viewed when connected, but everything else still works offline.

Update: I thank Jim Sweeney for writing me after reading this post. He informs me that an update of the Sideways 10.06 app will move all the content directly into the app, with the exception of the videos and interactive maps. This will make the app much more like the Financial Times app in that offline reading will possible. I hope to speak to Sweeney next week to discuss his experiences so far, how he sees his magazine evolving, and what he thinks he has learned so far that would have relevance for both B2B publishers and newspapers.



Editorially, Sideways leans towards young males with its sports, music and games content -- but that is really not the domain of TNM.

Layout-wise, however, the magazine is locked into a fairly strict formula -- much as a blog site like this one would be. The main column is always the same size, and whole the articles can be scrolled, there is not paging swiping, no matter whether in portrait or landscape mode. This may be my biggest criticism of the app: it is too conservative. The canvas that is the iPad is not explored for its ability to be interactive, movable, animated, etc.
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There may be two explanations for this: well, it is the first issue, right?; and the magazine may lack an art director. In the Welcome to Sideways video, a graphic designer introduces the magazine. But I'm sure an art director with publishing experience would have wanted a introductory cover as well as more creative layouts.

In this end, this iPad magazine could easily move online and become a blog since all the layouts could fit inside a Blogspot template. That is, until you find the more interactive features such as the map for World Cup games. These layouts are freed from the strict layouts of the other features because they pull up new windows.



I couldn't help but think that the launch of the Sideways iPad magazine is very much like my decision to launch Talking New Media: it is an educational experience. "We're looking to figure this out," Sideways CEO Charles Stack told me. "If someone says they know already where this is heading I'm not going to think too highly of them."

The first issue of Sideways may be a work in progress, but it shows great promise. Just as importantly, Sideways is very committed to the platform.

"The iPad and other new devices from Apple, Google and Microsoft will totally transform the existing media landscape. This disruption will be on a scale with that brought on by the Internet in the 1990's. Sideways will lead that transformation with innovative technology, extensive partnerships, and compelling new content," Stack said in a statement announcing the appointment of Eliza Wing as COO.

"It's the first magazine designed specifically for the iPad, with features and columns that entertain readers and enhance their enjoyment of the device," editor James Sweeney is quoted as saying in the magazine launch press release. "Each monthly issue will experiment with and evolve this new form."

It is good that Sideways is taking on this task. Cleveland, in particular, has several companies lagging way behind in mobile media, let alone tablet publishing. If I were Questex, Penton or Advanstar I would be knocking on the doors of Sideways LLC and asking if they would partner with them on their own first tablet publishing efforts.



In the third of three posts, I will look at the business model issues of iPad publishing.

Sideways (1): Publishing direct to tablet, Sideways LLC launches monthly digital magazine for the iPad

When I first launched Talking New Media and word came out that Apple would be announcing a new tablet, I speculated about the medium. I warned that, like all new mediums, it would be best dealt with on its own -- that if publishers simply ported their content over they would be making a major mistake -- the same mistake many made with their first web efforts.

I also remember thinking (and possibly writing) that the best new magazines and newspapers would probably come from start-ups -- technology companies that would arise to experiment with the form.
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Probably the first tablet-only magazine to appear on the iPad, Sideways 10.06, was released yesterday, the product of a Cleveland area start-up Sideways LLC.

This is the first of three posts today that will look at the company, its initial magazine effort, and the business model implications for publishers who wish to launch iPad-only publications.



Sideways LLC is the product of Charles Stack, the founder of Books.com (sold eventually to Barnes & Nobel). Eliza Wing, formerly president of CEO of cleveland.com was brought in to be president and COO last month. The combination of books and newspapers explains a bit about where the company is going. While the new iPad magazine release may be grabbing out attention today, other activities proceed on the book publishing side.

Sideways bills itself as a software company first, one that is developing publishing platforms specifically for the iPhone OS. Currently Sideways is listed as having four iPhone apps in iTunes, including on for BookExpo America, and two for what appears to be their first two publishing clients.
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Early in May, the company also launched a iPhone-only magazine, TapTilt, with former Advanstar and Plain Dealer editor James Sweeney guiding the effort.

While flipbook vendors see their role as to provide a monthly service for publishers, Sideways is taking a bit of a different approach, planning to license their new platform to other publishers.

I asked founder Charles Stack if the reason the company has now launched their iPad magazine was to demonstrate their services, the same way VIVmag serves to showcase the capabilities of Zinio.

"Well, you know, it's never as simple as that," Stack told me this morning. "But that is certainly in the top three reasons."

"We're really interested in experimenting with the form, what this medium wants to be when it grows up," Stack said.  "The iPad medium wants to be something, like when sculptures talk about letting the sculpture out of the wood. It's the same kind of model,  we're trying to figure out what this hardware platform is really good at, or best at."

Because of this desire to experiment with the form, Stack wants to see the new magazine evolve, issue-to-issue. "I would hope that every issue we publish is as different from the one before it as we can possibly make it," Stack said.

Besides experimentation for their own knowledge, though, Sideways will be want to show their clients -- those that will be licensing their magazine and book publishing platform solution -- what the platform is capable of doing.

The third reason for launching a magazine? "You know, one day might make some money at it," Stack said in a hopeful tone.

Stack said that when or if an Android tablet appears in the market that his company will adapt to support that platform, as well. But Stack seems firmly committed to the iPhone OS, and especially Apple's iPad tablet.



In the second of three posts, I will look at the iPad magazine itself -- its features, navigation, etc.

In the meantime, here is a demonstration video posted by the company itself:

Thursday, June 10, 2010

The Huffington Post launches iPad app; tablet version duplicates website, but no offline viewing option

The Huffington Post has no print edition to bring to the iPad, being a pure play, so what will the political news site have to offer tablet owners that it doesn't offer online readers?
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I guess they are still searching for that answer themselves. The free Huffington Post app released today in the iTunes app store functions well as a reader, but app is an earlier effort at duplicating the HP website, not really an enhanced or alternative version of the site.

As an app it functions very well, having both portrait and landscape layouts. But as you can see here, the landscape layouts appear to be exact translations that sometimes do not work.
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Some layouts (and headlines) don't work well in landscape.


Navigation is also a bit hard to get used to simply because the app duplicates web behavior, rather than giving iPad owners new navigation arrows and buttons. But once the reader understands that this is an almost exact copy of the website, without new navigation tools (you can swipe your finger to advance pages in certain areas) the reader adjusts.

For a few minutes I thought about what the purpose of an app like might be. There is no added content like video like a print product might add. Suddenly I got it: it must be about offline reading. So I refreshed the page (a built-in icon in the upper right-hand corner) then turned off the iPad's Wi-Fi. Bet all the content will be there, I thought. Nope.

So I'm still a bit confused by this app. I suppose if I were a loyal reader of Arianna Huffington's site I might appreciate getting an app version, though it certainly can be better viewed using the iPad's Safari browser. I suppose we'll have to wait and see if the HP updates this app in the future.


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Left: some layouts work well in landscape, others don't; Right: one of the few new navigation tools added to the minimally designed app.

Reed Construction Data and Hanley Wood form new alliance to deliver product directories

With the construction trade publications sold off, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Reed Elsevier, Reed Construction Data (RCD) has announced that it has entered into an alliance with former arch-rival Hanley Wood to create and deliver enhanced product directories.

“With this agreement we’re embracing an integrated strategy that will leverage core information assets of our respective entities to benefit a broad array of construction industry professionals,” said Reed Construction Data CEO Iain Melville in a statement.
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The new alliance will take content from RCD's SmartBuilding Index, a construction product directory, and merge it with information from Hanley Wood.

This new alliance appears to push to the side the new companies formed by Reed's massive divestiture -- specifically, the MB Media which now owns the Building Design+Construction, Construction Bulletin, Construction Equipment, Professional Builder, Professional Remodeler and Spec Check titles, and new company formed by Steve Rourke and Jim Langhenry who acquired Consulting-Specifying Engineer.

Cahners Business Information acquired Atlanta-based CMD Group for $299.5 million in 2000. Meanwhile, the construction group was headquartered in Des Plaines, IL (later Oak Brook) and the two groups never effectively interacted or took advantage of their combined capabilities. At the time, many of Cahners (later RBI) construction titles were number on in their field. The regional construction magazines that came along with the deal -- magazines such as California Builder & Engineer, Construction, Dixie Contractor, New England Construction and Pacific Builder & Engineer -- were likewise kept separate for the most part, with on-and-off efforts to better integrate them into the new company.

(Disclosure: I worked for McGraw-Hill's Construction Information Group and later was publisher of SGC's Roads & Bridges, all competitors of Cahners/RBI's construction group. Later I worked at RBI, but not in the construction groups.)

Retweet: a talk with Instapaper's Marco Armenti

Retweet: Great little article on Instapaper over at Technology Review -- actually a guest blog post. The post discusses the news reader app and why it may be avoiding the same issues that have recently plagued the Pulse News Reader.

Christopher Mims spoke to the developer of Instapaper, Marco Armenti, who speculates that since the reader visits the news source's website before activating Instapaper, then the reader will see the ads that are to be found on the publisher's page.

Armenti also believes, as I speculated yesterday, that the whole Pulse controversy may have been a bit of a mistake.

"It wouldn't surprise me if this decision was made in isolation, without consulting with other departments, and without regard to whether it's consistent with the NYT's overall strategy," Armenti told Mims.

Another black eye for AT&T as security breach reveals the e-mail addresses of over 100,000 iPad 3G customers

Another reason to dump AT&T: a security breach at the mobile carrier that reveals the e-mail addresses of early purchasers of the Apple iPad was discovered by Goatse Security a group that specializes in exposing security vulnerabilities. Originally reported by Gawker, who rather cynically put the blame on Apple, the data is actually the responsibility of AT&T.

(Gawker, and its site Gizmodo, if you recall, had a bit of a run-in with Apple over the new iPhone 4. Placing the blame of a security leak at AT&T is an amazing case of immaturity and journalistic incompetence. ZDNet does a better job with the story, following up with AT&T and getting their reactions.)

The issue involves the 3G model of the iPad only and involves exposure of customer iPad ICC IDS, revealing the e-mail addresses of the owner. Since only 3G models interface with AT&T owners of Wi-Fi only models are not effected.

Times Media Decoder looks at the new website feature A/X Stylepad; 'our take on iPad interactivity'

Retweet: The New York Times Media Decoder has a feature this morning on a new website feature at armaniexchange.com called A/X Stylepad. “It’s our take on iPad interactivity,” Tom Jarrold, chief marketing officer at A/X Armani Exchange told the Times.
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A/X StylePad may be web-only, but it looks like it was designed for the iPad.


But what a strange article. Stuart Elliott, who wrote the piece, fails to ask the simple questions: why is the website feature designed to look like it is an iPad app built into the web? And why isn't the feature itself available on the iPad? Was this, as the quote above suggests, merely inspired by the iPad, or actually intended for it, but repurposed for the web?

One possible answer to the iPad questions may simply be that the entire feature is built in Flash -- something that is not supported on Apple's iPad. (Another question might be "Is this why the feature is located on the web? Is there an HTML5 version in the works that can be used on the iPad?)

The website feature was created by San Francisco agency Clickthrough and can be found here. The campaign is well done and worth checking out. Jarrold is quoted at the end of the story as stating that the campaign is part of “a big digital initiative,” but costs “significantly less than the cost of a photo shoot.” Art directors and designers know that all too well.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Tech giants struggle with the rules of the game: Google goes after Apple over what it sees as 'artificial barriers'

Imagine one newspaper publisher criticizing another crosstown publisher because their column widths are different and therefore require advertisers to create whole new ads if they are going to advertise in both papers.

That is essentially AdMob's complaint about Apple's development rules for the iPhone and iPad. According to AdMob Chief Executive Omar Hamoui, "Apple proposed new developer terms on Monday that, if enforced as written, would prohibit app developers from using AdMob and Google’s advertising solutions on the iPhone."
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AdMob's website shows new ads that it claims complies with the new iPhone OS SDK. →


Writing on the AdMob blog, Hamoui seemed continued: "Let’s be clear. This change is not in the best interests of users or developers. In the history of technology and innovation, it’s clear that competition delivers the best outcome. Artificial barriers to competition hurt users and developers and, in the long run, stall technological progress."

Cry me a river. Competing media companies put up "artificial barriers" all the time -- it's called competition. But as you can see from this screenshot of AdMob's own website, it doesn't appear to to that much of a barrier.

What the head of AdMob, now owned by Google, is really complaining about is that Apple itself is, like Google, now a media company. Because of this, AdMob which has benefited from the growth of mobile media advertising -- especially on the iPhone -- suddenly finds that they are not a "partner" anymore but a competitor.

Yes, the rules have changed. At any time during the day it is possible that a rep from Google will be calling on the same agency as a rep from Apple. If you expect everyone to play nice in the sandbox you are really naive.

Welcome to the world of media ad sales. It's not always pretty.

Ad-block, Flash-block, the web may become less accommodating to advertising as the browser evolves

It may have started with pop-up blockers, but the browser continues to evolve in ways that publishers may not like as users become able to block the ads that make news sites worth publishing.

Yesterday, Apple introduced a new version of its web-kit based browser, Safari. Already bloggers and tech writers are noticing some of the changes integrated into the new version and remarking on the consequences. The biggest change is what Apple is calling Safari Reader, and publishers had best pay attention.

"Safari Reader removes annoying ads and other visual distractions from online articles. So you get the whole story and nothing but the story," the Apple website reads.


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Left: an article on the NYT site as seen normally using Safari;
Right: Safari Reader creates a text overlay, without ads.


In essence, Apple's integration of reader code is nothing more than an add-on like that seen on many news sites where the user is given the opportunity to create a text-only page for printing -- though it should be said that many of those printer versions also contain ads.

But this change is part of a bigger movement to allow web users to customize the format of the website they are reading. I, for instance, use a Flash-blocker on my browser simply to load the pages quicker and to allow me to concentrate on the text on a page without being distracted by the Flash animations usually found in advertising. (A quick click exposes the Flash element, so the blocker never eliminates the content only hides it.)

Safari is hardly the only browser that allows this kind of customization. In fact, Apple is a bit late to the party. Google's Chrome browser, as well as Firefox, allow add-ons and other customizable elements.

But the impact on publishers today is negligible, but will become significant if click-through rates start to decline because of reader add-ons and Flash blocking. The alternative, of course, is to concentrate publishing efforts in more controllable environments -- print, mobile, tablets -- rather that the web. But it is more likely that web publishing will also evolve to compensate as the browser itself evolves.

Pulse app is quietly updated; Times, Apple remain quiet

Yesterday there was much commotion about the actions of Times lawyers as they tried, and briefly succeeded in having Apple pull the Pulse News Reader from the iTunes app store. But the app is back, including a new update, and everyone is being pretty quiet about the incident. ("It never happened.")
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So what's going on? Who knows, but here are some guesses:

1) The lawyers did what lawyers do, protect the property of the parent company. I used to work for McGraw-Hill, and the legal team there was like having a big brother. Any time there was a dispute with a customer or an outside entity they would pick up the phone, ask some really smart questions, and handle things. One time while I was a publisher in the San Francisco office they called about an incident, asked me a series of questions, and then told me not to worry about it. When I got off the phone I remember saying to myself that "I'm glad I'm not the other guy." They handled things.

In this case, it is possible that they were doing what seemed like the right thing, protecting the property rights of the Times. But RSS feeds are the creation of the publisher, of course. And they are created for one big reason: they drive traffic to the website. Without those feeds how many less readers would end up at the Times site, and how much less money would be generated. It's possible that someone told the legal guys "let it go".

2) The developer agreed to comply by deleting the Times feed. This would be simple enough. And lo-and-behold there is an updated app in iTunes today. The supposed reason for the update is performance issues, and since I have downloaded the app (guess I'm cheap) I don't know if there are any feed changes. But since users can delete and add feeds at the pleasure, the whole feed issue seems crazy anyway.

(To be clear, it was the intention of the developers to delete the Times feed and resubmit the app, but the app reappeared in iTunes before the update could be made -- thus the mystery.)

3) Apple said back off. Not likely though. If Apple didn't like bad publicity they wouldn't have pulled the app in the first place.

4) Apple reacted too quickly and realized they made a mistake. Possible, but also unlikely. But if you combine #1 with #4 that might be closer to the truth.
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Since the Pulse News Reader incident occurred additional paid news reader apps have appeared in the app store including one called Custom News for iPad (see left) which promises content from the Chicago Tribune, Dallas Morning News and other newspapers (but definitely not the NYT!). Unfortunately, in their push for more and more apps to offer, Apple has created a chaotic marketplace for media companies. It will be hard, though, to put the genie back in the bottle.

Interactive Advertising Bureau forms Tablet Task Force; goal is to create infrastructure to support rich media

The Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) yesterday announced it has formed the Tablet Task Force tasked with creating the infrastructure necessary for supporting rich media advertising for tablets and e-readers. The task force is another sign of the growing importance of Apple's new tablet, the iPad, as well as an acknowledgement that new tablets will be coming soon.
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“The Tablet Task Force launches an important conversation about what should happen to drive sustainable advertising growth for tablets and e-readers, and it taps into the combined experience and expertise of respected industry leaders,” Randall Rothenberg, President and CEO of the IAB said.

“The ad market is developing for tablets and e-readers as the excitement builds for those devices.” Bob Carrigan, CEO, IDG Communications Inc., Co-Chair of the Tablet Task Force is quoted as saying on the IAB website. “Their growth will create new revenue for media companies, agencies and technology companies and new experiences for users.”

The work of the task force will be complicated by other forces working to shape the future of tablet advertising. Among these are Apple's own iAd platform development, as well as the work of the ePub Working Group instructed with looking at and expanding that platform's capabilities.

Morning Brief: WoodWing working with SI on app launch

WoodWing Software, a cross-media publishing solutions company, said they currently have 10 iPad titles live in iTunes that are using their digital platform, and will are working with Sports Illustrated on their upcoming iPad app.

The company also reinforced that they are working closely with Adobe Systems so that the company's digital publishing solution will work with Adobe's recently announced viewer.

"Adobe recently announced its digital viewer technology, and we've been working closely together with them to leverage our iPad experience and ensure that WoodWing's efficient tablet creation tools and workflow can also be used to publish to the Adobe viewer when it arrives later this year," said Erik Schut, President of WoodWing Software in a release this morning.


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Wired magazine's Editor-in-Chief Chris Anderson is upbeat about their iPad app sales, stating in a Tweet that their initial iPad app sold 73,000 copies in the first nine days, according to the NY Daily News. That means that Wired's first iPad edition will sell more tablet versions of the magazine than print newsstand copies, which usually average in the mid-80's according to the Tweet.

My guess is that this number may fall as more magazines launch their own iPad apps, and the novelty of reading Wired on the iPad fades for those who normally wouldn't pick up the magazine. Nonetheless, since many media folk are still debating the merits of smartphone apps, let alone tablet publishing, it is a good bet that publishers who jumped on the bandwagon early with branded apps will continue to benefit from their early adopter status. To be clear, though, this would only apply to those who developed native iPad apps, not necessarily those who went the route of launching flipbook versions -- these apps are not performing as will as the native iPad editions -- though even those efforts appear to be selling fairly well.



Twitter will soon introduce its own link shortener, the company said on its own blog. This is a commonsense service upgrade as it makes it easier for Twitter users to write their tweets without having to go to a third party site to shorten an URL. But I'm sure sites like bit.ly and Tinyurl won't be pleased.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Apple and Toshiba commercials take different approaches to branding and connecting with consumers

This post is almost a ripoff of a similar post at Smartware -- I hope that Gina Trapani who publishes that site (I prefer that term to "blogger") doesn't mind too much.

On Smarterware, Trapani compares the latest ad from Apple promoting the company's new FaceTime video calling feature on iPhone 4 with an Droid ad and finds the Droid ad wanting.

I was shocked to see the post because last night I was sitting in the family room watching TV with my mother-in-law (really) when an ad came on for . . . well, let's hold off on that for a moment. My mother-in-law loved the commercial, I'll admit that it was incredibly cute. But I knew immediately there was a problem. So i asked her "what was the product being advertised?" Her answer was "dog food, right?"

Here is the ad:


The reason I didn't post something was that I needed another commercial to compare this one too -- Trapani's post provided it.

Yesterday Steve Jobs gave his keynote at WWDC and introduced the new iPhone. One of the new features of the phone is video calling -- what Apple is calling FaceTime. But since I did not attend the actual keynote I was forced to watch it via live blogging via ars technica (where Jacqui Cheng did a fantastic job.)

During the segment where Jobs demoed FaceTime he played a video -- of course all I got was "now we're watching the demo video..."

But now the video, which is actually a commercial is on YouTube and you can compare it to the one above:



My point: show the damn product! and show what it can do and how it can be used. The Toshiba commercial is damn cute, but I'm not a monkey (really) and I'm not fascinated with bananas (really), so I can't relate to anything other than the fact that I love dogs.

But then there is the Apple commercial. Just like Trapani, I have my doubts about video calling.

"Then I watched the FaceTime video from Apple, which features babies, people in love, grandparents seeing their grandkid in a cap and gown on graduation day, girlfriends showing off new boots, deaf people signing to one another, and the one killer scene that sold me," Trapani writes. "A soldier, presumably in Iraq or Afghanistan, sits on the edge of his bunk, holding out his iPhone, video-chatting with his pregnant wife/girlfriend at the hospital back home, who is getting an ultrasound. His eyes well up when he sees his kid for the first time."

Bingo. Trapani goes on to contrast that with an Droid ad -- my inspiration was the Toshiba laptop commercial. But Trapani beat me to it so she deserves all the credit: great post, and thanks.

But, in short, show the product, show what it does, and show people using it -- then you can get cute.

Mobile media offerings (3): Thrillist mobile app extends its e-newsletter brands, builds its audience

Thrillist, the web and e-newsletter media company that targets a young and mostly male audience with food, drink and entertainment news/information has released an iPhone app that extends its brand and serves as a great example of the promotional power of mobile media for publishers.
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Thrillist is a media firm that specializes in daily e-newsletters sent free daily to registered members. The newsletters contain what Thrillist calls under-the-radar goodness. "We're talking absinthe-only cocktail spots, eateries that dish up BBQ Rattlesnake Salad and Reindeer in Bourbon Sauce, and ATMs whose currency is marijuana -- handy, although after making a withdrawal, you'll feel even more paranoid about the stocking repercussions of consuming Santa's only friend."

The company maintains fifteen editions, each covering a U.S. city's social life (plus London, England), and will launch coverage for San Diego and Denver soon, according to its website.

The app is free to download and immediately requires the user to register with the site so that content can be customized.

The upside for the publisher is growing those lists. It's such a simple concept, but B2B media firms would rather, I suppose, spend thousands on those overseas phone rooms and mass mailings, right? Now Thrillist is not a B2B, of course -- but that is what I thought about after launching the Thrillist app for the first time. Surely the gathering of all that information is valuable?


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Left: Registration page; Middle: map content; Right: monetize it, guys!


The other thing about the app that struck me as that ad -- love it. But then again, as a former publisher, advertising has not become the dirty word that it has for many. It's still way to early to judge how users are reacting, but the four early reviews are all positive. This one was very thoughtful:

"This app is a good compliment to other restaurant/city apps. It generally gives good suggestions on restaurants and bars and when I'm looking for something near me, but don't have anything specific in mind, it's the first app I check out. I've been happy with the information on the Thrillist app. The little blurbs are informative and tend to cut to the important info. I also like how the blurbs are dated, so you know the info isn't old."

Apple takes down popular news reader Pulse after Times lawyers send letter protesting RSS feed use

Update: Macworld.co.uk reported that Apple has demanded cuts from the iPad app version of Robert Berry's adaption of James Joyce's epic novel Ulysses, called Ulysses Seen, in order to get approval. Apple apparently has a real problem with nudity -- even cartoon nudity.



My first post of the day contained a short rant about Steve Jobs' keynote yesterday where he listed three reasons why an app gets rejected -- all them essentially technical. I called BS.

Right on cue, Apple this morning pulled the popular Pulse News Reader app after Apple received a letter from lawyers representing the New York Times. According to the Wall Street Journal, Apple sent the developers of the app a notice that read “The New York Times Company believes your application named ‘Pulse News Reader’ infringes The New York Times Company’s rights.”
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The WSJ and Wired are pointing out the irony of the situation. Just yesterday Steve Jobs used the app in his keynote address at WWDC. And Times writer Brad Stone wrote a glowing review of the app on the Bits blog: "Pulse is a stylish and easy-to-use news aggregator."

For me, however, it is not the fact that both Apple and the Times seemed fine with the app before the lawyers got involved that bothers me, it is the fact that Apple's app store is filled with RSS readers. Most, of course, are designed for publishers who are using their own RSS feeds. But many, a great many, RSS readers are in the iTunes store for both the iPhone and iPad.

As I've written before, the problem with Apple's approach to media apps is that there seems to be no one at Apple who understands the media business who is working the app review teams. Each category of apps, not just the News category, needs a category manager. (Apple may have these in place -- I know that Apple recently brought on board long-time IGN editor Matt Casamassina to help manage the App Store’s games section. Is there a "News" manager?)

If Apple is now concerned about fair use issues involved with the Pulse News Reader it is way too late for that. It was clear almost immediately that developers were creating apps that took the RSS feeds of major media companies and were building apps around their content. I couldn't understand why the Times and other media companies weren't crying foul before. But Apple was creating the rules -- apparently in the dark. (Here is but one example.)

It is time for Apple -- and the other app stores being created -- to bring in category managers who understand media and will work with the media companies and the industry, in general, to create sane, sensible rules of the media app approval process.

As for the Times demand that Pulse is violating their RSS use agreement I must say that I would probably do the same in their shoes.  The creation of new commercial products (emphasis on commercial) built solely around the content of others, but with new layouts, is problematic. But what if Pulse included no RSS feeds when the user originally launches the app, but instead gave the user an easy way to add the feeds later?

You can see that any reader product that simply reformats the content can come into conflict with the Times' agreement, couldn't it? Ultimately this is the issue with aggregation of web content, and also the issue with creating RSS feeds, in general.

For now, it appears that the developer will simply eliminate the Times feed from the product. (The app is back in iTunes this afternoon.)  But since the user can add in feeds themselves . . .

Mobile media offerings (2): In time for the World Cup, Goal.com releases mobile app for multiple devices

Friday is the first day of the World Cup in South Africa, and if you have trouble identifying Ronaldo from Robinho you'd best download the mobile app from Goal.com.
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Developed by Handmark, the app (iTunes link) will provide you will the latest news from the World Cup, match schedules (that's fixtures, for the uninitiated), and group standings. And while the app appears to be geared towards the World Cup, the fact is that there is much more information there for lovers of soccer.

The app supports English, Spanish, French, and Italian, and different editions can be accessed through the Settings. Once the World Cup is over this app will be ready of the Fall seasons in Europe, as well as continued coverage of MLS.
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In addition to supporting the iPhone, the app is available for download for Nokia (S60 5th edition), BlackBerry, Android and Windows Mobile smartphones, and can be downloaded from Nokia's Ovi Store, the BlackBerry App World, and Apple's App Store, as well as directly from Handmark.

Now what do you think the chances are of the U.S. getting out of the group stage and into the knockout stage?

Martini Media Network closes $6 million in funding from a very unlikely source: Reed Elsevier Ventures

The irony must make former RBI employees positively sick: Reed Elsevier Ventures has teamed up with Granite Ventures and Venrock to extend $6 million of Series B financing to Martini Media Network, an online media company targeting young, affluent consumers.
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From the press release:

"We're thrilled that these investors recognized the power behind our business: reaching high-value, high-influence audiences online, at work and at play," said Skip Brand, Martini's CEO. "We've seen great success in connecting premium brands with affluent consumers, the top 25 percent of the online population who do a majority of all spending – we're incredibly excited about our opportunities to expand in the U.S. and internationally."

"Martini is a very compelling investment opportunity for Reed Elsevier Ventures. The company's approach to this market segment is highly differentiated," said Kevin Brown, partner at Reed Elsevier Ventures.

Former publishers and employees of RBI, many of who are currently working on redesigning and updating weak web properties, or creating initial mobile media products, must be shaking their heads right now.

But Reed Elsevier Ventures, which is, after all, merely a division of the giant parent company, may have seen this as an investment less in New Media and more in a company with an attractive target audience.

"By targeting the affluent at work and at play, they're (Martini) seeing very strong consumer engagement which is leading to excellent results for advertisers," said Brian Ascher, partner at Venrock. "We expect continued growth from the Martini team, and are excited to see the results as they expand from the web and email to video, social media, and mobile."

(Disclosure: I am a former RBI group publisher -- though that was ten years ago.)

Mobile media offerings (1): TV HD (and a rant)

Since yesterday was the first day of WWDC and the day Steve Jobs formally introduced the new iPhone, today might be a good day to look over the latest media offerings. This is the first of three posts.

If publishers are blown away by the lightning fast pace of change in publishing brought on by first mobile media, and secondly the iPad, television broadcasters must be even more astounded.
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The move to television everywhere is developing quickly. One of the best examples so far has been ABC's iPad app with its access to prime time programming. Some moves are small, however.

One new TV app that appeared yesterday is from logiware gmbh, a developer with a number of unique (read: strange) apps in iTunes including iDateMe that looks like a porn app but is really a way of locating your lost iPhone (doesn't Apple offer that through MobileMe?).
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Their newest app is TV HD which promises to deliver news, sports, business, entertainment, chrildren (sic) und weather (also sic) television to your iPhone or iPad. It doesn't. Instead it is a collection of links to YouTube and other video content found on the web.

What the app does do very well is crash, which reminded me of something Steve Jobs said yesterday that made me a bit mad -- see rant below.

I suppose there will be some who will appreciate the developer organizing the links in this fashion, but personally don't see much of a need for viewing news in this way knowing that any video available will be pretty much stale by the time it gets onto YouTube.



Yesterday Steve Jobs said something in reaction to some of the criticism Apple has received about its app approval process. Jobs gave three reasons why an app might be rejected: 1) the app doesn't function as claimed; 2) the app uses a private API; and 3) the app crashes.

These are all good reasons for rejecting an app, and if Apple really were evaluating apps based of this criteria it might be a good thing. But the statement was absolutely false and making it seemed either an attempt to create an alternative reality, or (hopefully) a message to the company itself stating a new position.

The fact is that apps are and have been rejected for reasons much different than the three reasons stated. Whether it is Apple's new found Puritanism, or its outright suppression of political speech, Apple has shown itself quite willing to reject apps for non-technical reasons. Jobs has in the past given his company an out by stating that the company sometimes makes mistakes, but to state that there are only three reasons why Apple rejects apps seemed to me to be less than honest.

Let's hope that Jobs was actually stating a new company policy rather than really defending past practices.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Quad/Graphics partners with YUDU Media to offer branded iPad apps for print customers

Wsconsin-based Quad/Graphics announced today that they will be offering their mgazines, catalogs and retail advertising customers the ability to launch branded iPad apps. The Quad/Graphics Digital Edition platform will be offering the iPad option through its partnership with YUDU Media.
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Our new Quad/Graphics iPad App solution is all about creating value for our clients and helping them engage and connect with customers in new ways, as well as generate revenue by enhancing print communications,” said Joel Quadracci, Quad/Graphics Chairman, President & CEO in a company release.

Quad/Graphics became a minority shareholder in YUDU Media in October of last year.

Blogger is back (yeah); old media missed the whole thing

Google was, it appears, trying to upgrade some services on Blogger -- and the results were ugly, a major outage that effecting hundreds (thousands) of websites across the U.S. and Canada.
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Trying to find news about the outage was next to impossible as only Google's own users forum seemed to have any information at all -- and that was just that others were crying out that their sites were unusable.

Had a site like Amazon gone down I'm sure the NYT would have had a story on its front page, but a Blogger outage seems to be only big news for the blogging community and community publishers (it was interesting to see so many people claim that the outage was effecting their news sites). But without that same group live and writing there was no one to document the event. A search of online news turned up zip.

Apple introduces new iPhone and OS, now called iOS4

Note: Google continues to have major problems with Blogger. All new posts are being created via mobile and e-mail methods — limiting things to plain text.

Steve Jobs, CEO of Apple Inc., walked onto the floor of the Moscone Center stage late this morning (Pacific time) to give the keynote for Apple’s developer conference, WWDC. For publishers the iPhone introduction would probably have only been of interest if you were an iPhone owner or really into app development. But publishers in today’s environment need to be as excited about APIs as they have been about coated paper stocks — it is the new nerdiness for publishers.

The new iPhone 4 will be released on June 24 and contains the features much discussed on tech sites: front facing camera, new 5 megapixel back facing camera with LED flash, a higher resolution display, the use of Apple’s A4 chip, etc. The new phone will now have a built-in gyroscope, meaning that this marvel will come with five different sensors built-in.

Some of the features may, in reality, prove to be less valuable in reality than they sound at introduction: the new video calling capability called FaceTime, for instance, will only work via Wi-Fi (for now), and only will work from one iPhone 4 to another iPhone 4. Jobs promises to make the protocols available so that it can become an open standard -- and like printing on the iPad, there are always developers waiting in the wings to create enhancements to the framework Apple creates.

Publishers may have found the section on iAd, Apple’s new mobile advertising platform, far more interesting. Previously previewed by Apple in April, the company will be unleashing iAd on the world starting July 1 and have already sold, Jobs told his audience, $60 million worth of ads. Companies that have already signed up include Nissan, Citi Group, Unilever, AT&T, Chanel, GE, Geico, Campbell’s, Sears, J.C. Penney, Target, Best Buy, DirecTV, TBS and Disney.

Publishers who integrate iAd into their apps get 60% of the revenue generated off of their ads. For mobile publishers, knowing that Apple is going after the cream of the crop may be a good reason to chose Apple’s platform over another mobile advertising plaform such as AdMob, for instance.

If I had to guess, I would think that that the number of apps using iAd on July 1 will be small. But if some of the major third party developers who create media apps integrate iAd we could see quite a number of these new ads very soon. (To recap the merits of iAd: the ad platform creates ads that are interactive, but keep the user within the app. That is, clicking on an iAd opens up a window without shutting down the original app — definitely a better user experience.)

All-in-all, Jobs’ keynote was light on Earth-shattering news for the media world — there was nothing about AppleTV, for instance, or about expanding the iTunes store in any way that might benefit newspaper or magazine publishers. For now, it is steady as she goes. But the developer conference will continue for several days — this was only the beginning, so there may be more news ahead.

Maybe by then Blogger will be working again.
 

NYT updates its iPad app; adds video content

The New York Times updated its NYT Editors’ Choice iPad app this morning, adding a number of new features including video.

The app creates a new video section — though it must be admitted that the section is pretty poorly designed as users just scroll through a very select list of videos. While story content can be downloaded and read offline, video content must have an active Internet connection, just as the Financial Times app requires.

The updated app also now includes Twitter and Facebook sharing, some user interface enhancements and fixes some bugs. I should add that the updated app continuously crashed upon opening for me. To fix the problem I deleted the app and reinstalled it and that fixed the problem.

Whether the Times continues to update this free app, or moves towards a paid model is still unknown. The addition of video is a nice upgrade, but because content is so limited it may be that the Times continues to offer this free app while also launching a more extensive paid version — we’ll see.

(Note: no links or photos in my posts this morning until Google can fix its blogger problems. Unfortunately, the problem appears to be getting worse, not better. For most of this morning I was able to access the Dashboard but was not able to create new posts or edit old ones. Now access to Dashboard is impossible, as well. Posting has been possible only through e-mail and mobile. For those users who have not set up e-mail or mobile posting they are completely locked out.)

Six Apart buys ad network; waiting on Jobs; BP does PR

Short news reads (until blogger is back up):

• Six Apart, the blogging service behind TypePad, Movable Type and Vox announced that they have acquired NaturalPath Media, an online advertising and media network.

“NaturalPath Media is a valuable addition to the Six Apart Media network and strengthens our ability to help marketers reach highly influential green and healthy living consumers while they are engaging with content and conversations that are important to them,” said Chris Alden, CEO and Chairman of Six Apart in a release.

• Steve Jobs will be walking on the stage at Moscone Center at 10 AM PT at WWDC, Apple's developer conference. The obvious announcements revolve around a new iPhone and new iPhone OS, a new version of the Safari browser, and a mystery device that allows you to walk on water while texting.

A number of websites will be live blogging the event -- since I'm not in person you can pretty much figure that TNM will not be one of them. Interestingly (at least to me), Huffington Post will have a live blog.

• BP is about to launch a costly ($50 million) ad campaign that it hopes will makes Americans feel just peachy about the company. The new ads are being created by Purple Strategies, a Washington-based public-affairs firm owned by Republican strategist Alex Castellanos and Democratic consultant Steve McMahon. BP's regular ad agency is Ogilvy & Mather.

Blogger down since Sunday; Google working on a fix

Just in case the e-mail posting system still works, I will try and give readers an update: Google is suffering a major outage this morning, with most Blogspot owners unable to enter new posts, or edit old ones. This is not universal, however — but clearly TNM is being effected this morning.