Friday, June 25, 2010

Mercury News gets around to launching mobile app

You would think that a daily newspaper that covered cities that housed Apple and Google would be among the first to launch mobile applications, but the San Jose Mercury News today finally got around to launching its own branded mobile app.
The Mercury News Bay Area app is a bit like the Sports Illustrated iPad app released yesterday in that it is an example of where media app development is today -- it has all the usual navigation and content, but breaks no new ground, and in the end, is disappointing because one would have expected more from the daily newspaper of Silicon Valley.

{First, a bit of disclosure content: I was a former advertising manager in the Bay Area, and while the Mercury News was not a direct competitor with the newspapers I worked for, was nonetheless the giant of the Bay Area. Its classified section was absolutely incredible -- every Sunday the classified section was as large and packed with ads as any complete Thanksgiving edition of another metro daily. The paper was also the newspaper voice of the tech industry -- quoted elsewhere on a regular basis, breaking stories and embarrassing the San Francisco papers with its news coverage. But that was the late eighties into the nineties -- a long time ago.}

This new Mercury News app, if released back in June of 2008 when Apple first launched its app store for the iPhone, would have been revolutionary. Instead, it is a very good news app that local residents will no doubt find of use.

In addition to its main news section, the app features Bay Area, Business, California, Entertainment, High School Sports and other news sections hidden behind its "More" navigation button. It is, of course, simply an RSS Reader.

I suppose there is nothing wrong for a daily newspaper to release an RSS reader styled iPhone app in June of 2010 -- many newspapers are still to launch its first mobile apps. But this is the daily newspaper of Silicon Valley and I just can't help but shake my head and wonder why a newspaper like the Mercury News couldn't have partnered with tech company to develop a serious application.

The laundry list of things missing from this app is extensive. First, there is no advertising -- none. That would be fine if there was a nominal charge for the app -- the marketing department could have advertised the app as ad free. Is this app waiting for iAds? It's possible, and would make sense. We'll see on July 1 when Apple launches its mobile ad network.

Also missing is anything to do with maps and location aware technology. Is there no traffic in the Bay Area? I lived in the Bay Area for eight years and I seem to remember traffic, lots of traffic, ungodly traffic. Have the bridges been torn down and the highways quadrupled in size? All the DoApp news apps incorporate traffic maps in their apps, surely the Merc could have included this, as well.

Classified: yikes, when will a news app incorporate classified advertising?

OK, enough of the complaints. Yes, this is nice app. If it came from a small daily somewhere in the Midwest I would be impressed. But . . .

I might add this is the only mobile app currently available from MediaNews Group. I find that incredible, but somehow not surprising.

Left: the main news area; Middle: a typical article;
Right: what's hidden under "More".

Unless something occurs today that fancies my interest this will be my last post on Talking News Media. The past six months have been both a lot of work and a bit of fun. I've certainly learned the limitations of Blogger -- WordPress for me from now on unless the templates for Blogger get more complex and interesting.

I've also enjoyed speaking to so many app developers, many of the interviews can be found by following the links on the right side of the page about mid way down. About a week or so ago I spoke with James Sweeney the editor of the iPad-only magazine Sideways, unfortunately it doesn't look like that story will be completed, sorry.

What I'll miss covering is what I expect to see in the second half of this year and early next: Android tablets; the new branded app from Sporting News that will incorporate sports video highlights; the New York Times metered paywall; the first iPad apps with serious HTML5 animation; the first iPhone news apps that use location aware capabilities combined with directories of local businesses or classified ads; news apps that allow calling from within apps; the first real attempts by a B2B publisher to launch iPad magazines and to use mobile media in any serious manner; a VC that understands that the future of media is content-everywhere mediums and not simply more cost reductions and layoffs -- OK, that last one simply won't happen.

I'll spend the next two weeks deciding what the next website will look like and then launch again. But in the meantime, if anyone is looking for a New Media advocate, someone with a ton of experience in media, and now a fair amount of knowledge of web, mobile and tablet publishing give me a call I'm still here and available.

Last e-newsletter: thank you for subscribing

With Talking New Media shutting down this week, this will be the last e-mail newsletter. Thank you for subscribing!

With readership at such low levels it no longer makes sense to continue TNM as a daily activity. In the six months since the site was launched TNM has served its purpose of keeping me informed of activities in the new media world, developments in mobile and tablet publishing, and publishing, in general. But its time to move on.

I appreciate those that subscribed to the RSS feed, the e-newsletter and also my Twitter feed -- the number of people subscribing to those social networking tools continues to grow. But the readership numbers for the main site are simply too low to continue TNM as a viable website.

Thanks again!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Sports Illustrated releases its long-anticipated iPad app

Update: I see "Rik" has written that I said that activating notifications sends you an e-mail -- that is not what I said at all, only that this will lead to you being spammed by the developer. This must have hit a hot button because I received another comment along the same lines.

Let's spell it out: developers are using the push notifications to become spammers and if this continues will lead to iPhone and iPad users turning notifications off -- not a bad idea really.

So "Rik" if you are one of those developers here is a suggestion: go away.

The very first post on Talking New Media was this one which featured the famous Time Inc. preview of their vision of tablet publishing. It showed how it felt an issue of Sports Illustrated would look on a some future tablet. The video demo came out just as rumors that Apple would soon announce that they would launch a tablet had made it into the press. I wrote at the time that "This is certainly a major step ahead of the traditional "flipbook" solution."
Now that I've announced that TNM will be shuttered it seems appropriate that Sports Illustrated should release its first iPad app.

The app may be free but the company has decided to follow the model established with Time magazine by charging $4.99 per issue. That decision to not discount tablet editions has proved to be unpopular, to say the least -- 85 percent of reviews in iTunes are negative. A typical review: "This app is brilliant. Only $260 a year to get content freely available on the web or delivered to your door in print for a fifth of that. Idiots."

But that has not stopped Time Inc. from repeating itself again.

The app, when opened, immediately asks if it can send you push notifications, those annoying e-mails that too many companies are abusing. Some apps have been launched to take advantage of the notification process to act like a spam machine. I'm sure that in this case the notification process is being used to tell iPad owners that a new edition of SI is available, but it would be interesting to know how many iPad owners say "yes" today, and how many later on say "oops, should have said no".

The app gives the users two options: downloading the latest issue at $4.99 or viewing a sample issue that Terry McDonell, the editor, says demonstrates "the new functionality and enhancements that will make SI on the iPad everything you've come to expect from the magazine plus the best of" So off to the sample issue we go.

Well, could they have created a more ugly and less appropriate cover? It's June and the U.S. Open concluded on Sunday and the World Cup is ongoing, and they have football on the cover? On top of that its not even an interesting shot! Now compare their actual iPad app with what they envisioned back in December:

It must have been incredibly disappointing for the SI team to have to release an actual app that was so far away from the original vision. In the end, the actual magazine the app delivers is not far away from a flipbook, with only a minimal amount of programming inside.

“When we released a video demo last November of what SI might be on the iPad, we knew expectations would be very high,” McDonnell said in the company's press release for the app launch. “Hopefully we have exceeded those expectations.”
The app gives you a quick lesson in navigation, which works fine. But unlike the Vanity Fair app, the Sports Illustrated app does not try and give you two different editions of the issue -- one portrait and one landscape -- and that is fair enough knowing that the magazine will have to create new iPad editions on a weekly basis.

The app is a pretty good example of where the major media companies are today in regard to app development. The app gives you article sharing features, portrait and landscape reading, some video embedded.

What the app lacks is complicated animation.
But the fact that Apple's has made it impossible to use Flash has been a huge setback for app developer looking to fulfill the SI vision. Magazine and web designers are just not ready to use HTML5 to animate their iPad editions in any complicated fashion. So SI has kept it simple, using animation in spots and keeping it simple.

What the app does have is a "News & Scores" feature that opens up a new window to allow the user to view up-to-date news from the website.

The actual new edition of the magazine contains ads from AT&T, Gatorade, Lexus, Got Milk?, Nissan, Sprint and Toyota. But the fact that iPad owners will have to pony up $4.99 per issue makes me wonder how successful SI will be with this app. Had this app launched back in April along side the iPad itself, users may have happily spent the money to experiment with the medium the way they did with Time magazine's app. But my gut tells me that iPad owners will be disappointed in this app: at first because it is so far from wild vision seen in the demo video, but later simply because the pricing and execution of the app seems very old school.

We'll see if the Zinio developed app being created for Sporting News, which publisher Jeff Price promises for later this summer, will bring a different vision of tablet publishing to readers.

WoodWing Software, which worked with Sports Illustrated on the app, has released a press release on launch day. They, as you can imagine, are calling the app an "an exhilarating experience."

WoodWing's Digital Magazine Tools works with the designer's InDesign files to help create the iPad editions. But even the software company admits that there is still a long way to go when it comes to tablet publishing.

"We still have plenty of features on our wish list and under development at the moment, but I think the iPad apps available today clearly show that we're offering a versatile and mature solution," said Erik Schut, President of WoodWing Software.

Appcelerator releases Mobile Developer Survey; iOS and Android dominate other mobile platforms

An incredibly useful survey of application developers has been released by the website Appcelerator that shows the continued dominance of Apple's iOS and Google's Android platforms against other systems such as RIM's Blackberry and Microsoft's Windows Phone 7. The entire survey is available as a PDF here.

The key finding is that developers of media applications need to continue to focus on Apple's iOS platform while then making sure their products are available on Android phones, as well as any Android tablets that are introduced in the future.
While the iPhone and Android phones are considered almost of equal interest to developers, Apple's iTunes app store is considered miles ahead of the competition as 89 percent of developers said that Apple's store is superior, with 10 percent percent preferring the Android stores. Even that result might be skewed by the fact that some developers have run into trouble with Apple's store or disagree with some of Apple's practices. This is borne out by the fact that 86 percent of developers said that the Android platform was more "open" than Apple's platform.

While most developers consider Apple the dominate player now -- 78 percent stating that Apple's OS has the best short-term outlook -- a majority of those surveyed are betting on Google in the long run. 54 percent of the survey respondents said that the Android OS would eventually dominate, while only 40 percent sided with Apple.

The important finding here, however, is not whether it will be Apple or Google that will be the eventual winner, but that developers right now do not see any of these company's competitors as being serious players.

Fighting it out on iPhones and iPads: Republicans and Democrats create political apps for a divided nation

The same ugliness that is visible on the airwaves can be seen on mobile apps. iTunes is stuffed with apps from talk radio stations, politicians and individuals with an axe to grind, but until recently neither party launched official apps for either smartphones or the iPad.
The iTunes store is packed with political ads, most of which have been developed by individuals with their own agendas. But many are just written by developers looking to make a few bucks. iRightWing sells for 99 cents and was written by the same developer that is selling iLeftWing for 99 cents. The same developer, Schatzisoft, that is selling Proud Democrat for 99 cents is selling Proud Republican for the same price.

Other developers clearly know where to make a buck. Tea Party Talk Radio asks "Are you tired of liberal talk radio dominating the airwaves?", then asks iPhone owners to cough up $1.99 to download the app. That same developer, Sortuva Company, though has a number of other radio apps including LBGT Radio.
The quality of the apps are not the highest, however. ScrollMotion, for instance, has released an app named Liberty and Tyrrany (sic): A Conservative Manifesto by Mark R. Levin that sells for $24.99. None of the reviews in iTunes point out the obvious typo. But as one reviewer on Amazon says "This is the best source to understand why HUMANS can not succesfuly implement the "good idea" of communisum. And how Liberals are trying to in this country."

The Drudge Report must have a dozen iPhone apps in iTunes, though only one is called the "Official" app -- and that one is one of the few to also have something for the iPad. The Official Drudge Report app is available for both the iPhone and iPad and is frankly the app doesn't do much to improve on what is undoubtedly the web's ugliest designed site.
Until recently neither the RNC nor DNC had released official apps. But this morning the Democrats struck first releasing two apps, The Democratic Party and Barack Obama|Organizing for America. Both apps are universal, and are free (though the apps have a prominent Donate button, of course). As you might expect for an official organization, the apps are a leap ahead design-wise, with the Obama app containing video clips.

It used to be assumed that Apple customers were, by and large, a more liberal group than PC owners. Mac users tended to live in blue states like California and New York, while Red states like Mississippi and Alabama had a far lower concentration of Mac users versus PC users. In fact, the 2004 election map almost exactly duplicated the Mac versus PC map.

But things have changed since Apple introduced the iPhone. By introducing a winning consumer product that has a larger market share, Apple users now more closely resemble the general population. (I'm sure the same could be said of iPod owners, as well). No surprise then that developers on both sides of the political divide are taking advantage of the large audiences available to them and are building apps for both sides of the aisle.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Big victory for YouTube in Viacom case

In a decision that could have had a dampening effect on the growth of similar sites, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York today ruled that YouTube is protected from claims of copyright infringement against it because of their swift actions to take down offending material.
The ruling is a defeat for Viacom, the plaintiffs in the case. Lawyers for YouTube and Google moved for a summary judgement claiming that the Digital Millennium Copyright Act provides "safe harbor" protection against the claims against them.

"In this case, it is uncontroverted that when YouTube was given the notices, it removed the material. It is thus protected “from liability for all monetary relief for direct, vicarious and contributory infringement” subject to the specific provisions of the DMCA. Senate Report at 40, House Report at 50," the court wrote in its judgement.

Google reacted immediately, proclaiming the ruling a victory for its customers.

"This is an important victory not just for us, but also for the billions of people around the world who use the web to communicate and share experiences with each other. We’re excited about this decision and look forward to renewing our focus on supporting the incredible variety of ideas and expression that billions of people post and watch on YouTube every day around the world," wrote Kent Walker, Vice President and General Counsel for Google, on its YouTube blog page.

What to bet against tablets, download Pickup!

This is the perfect app for me to look at: I don't like the music, I'm not Chinese, and I'm not a practitioner of body art. So this app has to be looked at for what it is. And what it is . . . is the future, like it or not.
Kooworx Studio which has a number of iPhone and iPad apps in the app store, has released what it calls the "very first music e-zine for iPad!" The modifier "music" is important since e-zines are coming fast and furiously to the tablet now as citizen publishers filled the needs of consumers because of the failure of traditional media companies to aggressively move into development.
Pickup! is clearly meant for a Chinese reading audience, though I suppose anyone who enjoys this music will be interested -- and there are a number of reviews of the app from U.S. iPad owners. But the app has everything going for it: video, lots of audio, good navigation, and interactivity.

Since this is in Chinese, is not about jazz, and is targeted at an audience that is, let's just say, somewhat younger than I am, I will withhold any judgement about the actual content. But seeing these kinds of apps being developed can only mean that the days of media launches is back again -- though they will remain under the radar of the contrarians.

Landscape view of a band page,
complete with audio. 

I will admit that when this site shuts down next week I will miss downloading and writing about apps like this one -- this blows away all those flipbook apps publishers seem to love, and iPad owners vocally proclaim that they hate.

There will always be those that bet on the horse

This report from Forrester is generating a few snickers in the tech community. Essentially Forrester is betting the farm that iPad sales will diminish, even stop almost completely, and sell only about 3.5 million units this year -- despite the fact that Apple has announced it has already sold 3 million.

While I'll let tech writers debate the sales projections, what does amuse me is the whole horse versus car approach so many media (and tech) writers seem to be embracing. If you don't understand the analogy let me explain it. It was common back almost a century ago for people to race horses against cars in some sort of effort to promote one or the other. The horse, of course, often won early on but inevitably cars got stronger engines and that was that. That didn't prevent old souls from betting on the horse -- after all, their whole lives horses had been the fastest way to go from one place to another.

Now we have the inevitable contrarians who just can't believe that tablets are anything other than stripped down netbooks, and certainly won't have an impact on media. Some of these critics even hold mobile media titles and write for major publications and websites.

No matter. Just like the horse versus car scenario all you will have to do is wait for the data to come in. And in some cases it already is -- the Wired app sales numbers, the number of European news apps hitting iTunes, etc.

In the meantime, if you want to makes some easy money I suggest you find the people at Forrester and place a few bets.

Miscellaneous items while waiting for afternoon matches

A quick look at the traffic numbers tell the tale -- it's time to move on. So for those who have been receiving my morning e-newsletter -- thank you, by the way, for subscribing -- this Saturday's newsletter will be the last.

I will continue posting until the end of the month and then simply stop. I'll leave the blog up for a few weeks to inform those who have been reading and subscribing to the RSS feed. A new site on a completely different subject will launch in a month or two -- I'll make sure to post something here when I am ready to go.

An amazing U.S. - Algeria match this morning. Frustrating, exhausting, and ultimately satisfying. If you missed it don't worry, it will make its way to ESPN Classic and be shown over and over again.

SkypeKit may bring calling to both devices and apps

Two developments occurred recently that are clear signs of where telecommunications is going: Google announced that Google Voice would be available across the U.S., and Skype announced that it was testing SkypeKit, a beta program that would allow developers to include Skype calling within other products and applications.

Google Voice, of course, is Google's free phone service which allows users to forward calls to multiple phones, manage voicemail on their computers, etc. The service is free but still requires another phone to work. In other words, Google Voice is not yet Vonage or Skype. But for many people who are considering dumping their landlines and going completely mobile Google Voice can push them the rest of the way.
SkypeKit, on the other hand, is a fascinating idea that I immediately felt had great media use potential: "a collection of software and APIs that allows Internet-connected devices or applications to offer Skype voice and video calls." In other words, by using Skype's API one could, in theory, build into your device or app the ability to call.

A simple example that seems obvious is linking phone numbers that appear in ads to Skype. Just as it is possible to touch a web address that appears in an ad that appears in an iPad magazine and allow the reader to go directly to the advertisers website, it might be possible to have phone numbers be live links to Skype. Any publisher that is first to offer live calling directly from newspaper or magazine ads will be at a distinct advantage.

Starting today developers can register for an invitation to take part in Skype's Beta Program.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Gourmet will get new life as an iPad app

Killed off by Condé Nast last fall, Gourmet is being revived as an iPad app, scheduled to launch about a year after the decision to close the print edition. The app will be called Gourmet Live.

Here is a preview:

The decision to close Gourmet was a bit controversial at the time, as Condé Nast chose to support its Bon Appétit brand during an especially rough advertising environment. But since that time Apple has introduced the iPad and tablet publishing has become another option for publishers wondering about the viability of some of their brands.

While Condé Nast currently has tablet apps for Wired, Vanity Fair and GQ, its Epicurious app may be the better model for Gourmet Live, as the iPad is capable of being used as a recipe book, as well as video demonstration device.

To develop the concept behind Gourmet Live Condé Nast partnered with Activate, a start-up consultancy founded by Anil Dash and Michael Wolf, a company whose goal is to "take advantage of the changes in culture that are happening because of technology", according to Dash's own blog.

Update: Press reports of the media event held today say the app is to be released in the fourth quarter, while the Gourmet website states "fall". That would mean October or early November, right?

Last point, the chances that this will represent the revival of the old Gourmet are nil. Gourmet was a more literary magazine than Bon Appétit, which was originally owned by Pillsbury & Co. More than likely Condé Nast will take advantage of the Gourmet brand name to create something new, something that would appeal to a somewhat younger audience -- in other words, iPad owners.

Getty Images releases iPad app of stock photos for designed for creative and media professionals

More and more tools for the professional are coming to the iPad. One that many might find very useful was released recently by Getty Images. The stock photography app brings the whole array of Getty Images to the tablet and will be of use for those who begin to use the tablet while travelling and while out on assignment.
The app can be used without an account, though that would seem rather silly since photos are watermarked until you sign into your Getty Images account. But I imagine having access to so much fine work will encourage quite a number of civilians (so to speak) to register with the company.

The app is well designed and easy to navigate. Pros will to search for exactly what they need, of course, but the developers have built-in a "shake" function for random viewing of search results -- and obvious nod to consumers. Pros will also be able to share lightboxes and images while on the go. For agency pros the app may be a good way to work through lunch in search of just the right image.

Left: the search page with its three categories of Editorial, Creative and Archival; Right: thumbnail view of images will expand to fullscreen shots.
The app can used in both portrait and landscape mode for easier viewing.

Cygnus says it has 'reinvented" B2B media

According to a statement released by Cygnus Business Information, the company has reinvented B2B media, really.

The release, Cygnus Business Media Reinvents B2B Media with Award-Winning Designer J-C Suares, states that the company's solution to the decline in trade media ad pages and endless staff reductions is --wait for it -- better covers. So the company has brought on J-C Suares as a consultant. Suares has designed book covers for The Indispensable Cat and The Art of Gone with the Wind, and designed single issue covers for Organic Cooking Made Easy and 100 Greatest War Movies.

Earlier today the company announced that it had brought onboard Tom Kohn to head digital efforts.  If better print covers is reinventing B2B media who knows what the consequences of launching better websites would be.

New tool for travelling journalists

A nice catch from Daring Fireball: Apple Bluetooth keyboards now will work with iPhones that have been updated to iOS 4.
A few weeks ago I travelled for the first time with just my iPad -- no laptop. I also took along my Bluetooth keyboard and things worked out . . . well, OK. Now you could do the same thing with an iPhone instead of an iPad. The advantage is that my iPad is Wi-Fi-only, while the iPhone can always get online via either 3G or EDGE.

Mobile phone is becoming an 'always on' device for media consumption; constant communication with customers

A new report by media agency Initiative may have a profound effect on the way media companies look at mobile media. Its conclusion, that because of way consumers use their new mobile devices, consumers are constantly connected to the Internet, and therefore constantly in communications with media.

Always On use of mobile devices opens up
new ways to constantly communicate with customers.

According to the new report, 49 percent of U.S. smartphone owners start their day online, and slightly more than that end their day that way. That means that those who have downloaded media apps with push notification built-in are in constant touch with their media apps. While the obviously impact would involve major news apps that push major news stories, the same could be said of B2B apps that are capable of pushing bid news, pricing information, and other vital data of use to business people.

Data driven business would seem the most to gain from using mobile apps to drive what I would call connectiveness (no such word, but so what?). Using this'always on' trait to push minor news updates would probably be unproductive. Location aware bidding, in particular, would seem a natural development.

Developers scramble to update apps on eve of new iPhone launch; new phone increases resolution, etc.

It has been a very busy year already for mobile application developers, what with the launch of the iPad and Android's accelerating growth. But now that Apple's new iOS has arrived developers realize they have some updating to do.
For most apps the two big changes to the operating system are the higher resolution display of the new iPhone, called Retina Display, and the addition of multitasking. Older versions of the iPhone, such as the iPhone GS I own, will not be able to utilize the higher resolution but will get the other new features in the software update.

Popular apps such as Pandora have already updated their app, adding background audio features will will allow the user to continue to stream music even as they are checking their e-mail or reading the Times.

And speaking of the Times, the paper updated their app this weekend, making it compatible with the new OS. The main improvement of the new app is making sure fast app switching is supported.

Cygnus Business Media brings on new EVP of Digital; AOL vet Tom Kohn will be based out of Maryland

Struggling B2B media firm Cygnus Business Media has brought on a digital veteran to try and jump start its digital efforts. Tom Kohn, formerly of AOL, USA Today and The Motley Fool will work out of the company's Beltsville, Maryland office and will report to the company's CEO John French.

“I’m excited to work with Cygnus’ advertisers and our extremely loyal B2B users and to find products and functionality to engage our users so that they use our platforms multiple times a day, whether we pull them back to our platforms or push information to their platform of choice,” Kohn said in a statement.

Cygnus is trying to recover from a series of downsizings and the company's filing of Chapter 11 in August of last year. In 2000 the company was acquired by CommerceConnect Media LLC., a partnership of CEO Paul Mackler and Boston-based investment firm ABRY Partners. But despite a string of acquisitions, total revenue last year was estimated to be only around $71 million.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Amazon matches Nook price

A quick update on the story from this morning about the launch of a Wi-Fi-only version of the Nook. Barnes & Noble priced their new model at $149 and cut the price of their 3G model to $199 from $259.

Reacting to the B&N launch Amazon has decided to cut the price of its Kindle to $189.

As I mentioned this morning, the market for b&w e-readers is a tad crowded. In the meantime, Apple must be enjoying its position right now while it waits on H-P and others to launch their own color tablets running mobile operating systems.

Tribune Interactive releases new L.A. Times app

The Tribune Company has not been exactly what you would call an early adopter of mobile media. The company has yet to release its first app for the iPad, and its iPhone efforts have been lackluster.
Today, however, the company has released a new L.A. Times app which is a small step in the right direction. The app allows users to share stories through social networking tools, and also allows for offline reading. The app also uses better navigation by allowing users to swipe to new pages rather than the usual hunt and peck of most news apps for phones.
These additions to the app, plus some U.I. changes make the app more attractive. It comes with a price tag, of course, in this case $1.99, but there are no subscription costs, though the app does encourage the user to register with the L.A. Times, though it does not require it. The app, though, is still just an RSS reader, bringing in news and photography from feeds without introducing any new features that take advantage of the smartphones mapping and citizen journalism capabilities.
News apps for smartphones are already feeling tired. The repurposing of content seems to be the solution-du-jour for most newspaper publishers. Even the new NYT app, The Scoop, is essentially repurposing of copy -- but at least the app is both entertaining and useful.

So what is missing from most local newspaper phone apps? Classified, for one thing. Local listings, for another. Merging a news app with a directory app seems like a nature to me. For now, I suppose, a better app from the Tribune Company is at least a step in the right direction.

App developers begin getting ready for iAd

The first apps developed with iAd in mind are beginning to appear in the Apple iTunes app store, with a few screenshots appearing on the Internet showing placeholders where the ads will appear. The first iAd mobiles apps should be live on July 1, according to Apple.

Screenshot of OneTap Movies app, courtesy of iLounge, showing an iAd banner ad placeholder.

iLounge found the first iAds showing up on Avantar LLC developed ads for OneTap Movies and Yellow Pages apps. Their website shows a placeholder banner ad. Tapping the ad opens up a new window with another placeholder ad. The advantage of the iAd system, according to Apple, is that while the ad opens up a new window, the original app will stay open making it more user friendly.

Same app with the banner now missing - TNM screenshot. →

I downloaded the OneTap Movies app and the banner ads have been replaced with blank space, but it is apparent that once the new Apple ad serving goes live the space will be replaced with iAd mobile ads.

The iAd mobile ad platform was introduced by Steve Jobs as part of the iPhone OS update event on April 8. The new OS, now called iOS by Apple, is scheduled to appear in iTunes today, in time for the new iPhones to appear later this week. The new iPhone OS is free to download for iPhone owners, but will not work on original iPhones, and will have some functions missing on the older iPhone 3G. The new OS will bring multitasking to the iPhone, as well as folders, enhanced e-mail, iBooks for iPhone, certain enterprise changes and a game center. The latest version of iOS will be available for the iPad in the Fall.

Commerce International tablet edition among first iPad news apps released by French developer Forecomm

It is frustrating for someone like myself who has been in the newspaper and magazine publishing industries for the past 30 years to watch as foreign publishers eagerly adopt tablet and mobile media while their American cousins continue to lag behind.
Having said that, however, it doesn't mean that foreign developers are producing innovative apps. Take, for instance, the first couple apps released by French developer Forecomm. Launched in 2007 by Jean Mathieu and Luc Gemo, Forecomm has 145 iPhones app currently in the iTunes store, all but but the latest two are comic books available at a couple bucks a piece.

Now, however, the company has begun releasing free news apps for its clients. The first was a universal for the French magazine Sport. The latest is for Commerce International, a bilingual magazine of business news from Chambers of Commerce from around the world.

The free app delivers a PDF version of the magazine without any interactivity. The app is properly developed as the pages can be swiped and the reader can view the pages in both portrait and landscape. But otherwise the app is a simple flipbook version of the magazine.

The app allows the user to download the latest issue of the magazine, thus allowing offline reading -- though I might add that downloading is extremely slow.

The fault is not the developer, of course, but is once again a result of the lack of imagination of the publisher.

Left: French language version of an article; Right: the English language version of the same article with an ad on the right page.

Barnes & Noble launches Wi-Fi only Nook; cuts price of 3G model; will begin broadcast advertising campaign

Image and video hosting by TinyPicIn an increasingly crowded market for black & white e-readers, Barnes & Noble made its move by introducing a low priced Wi-Fi-only model of its Nook reader, while slashing the price of its existing 3G model.

The new Wi-Fi model is priced at $149.00, while the 3G model went from $259 to $199. In comparison, Amazon's Kindle is priced at $259 for its 6 inch model, while the larger Kindle DX is priced at $489.

Dow Jones also reports that the book chain will begin broadcast advertising for the first time in 14 years.