Friday, July 16, 2010

Short takes: Virgin to launch own tablet magazine; Apple press conference to address iPhone 4 reception issue

Sir Richard Branson, the British mogul who got his start setting "cut-out" records from the boot of his car in 1970, is now old enough to have a 29-year-old daughter that needs something to do. Why not start up a magazine?

So, according to Ad Age, Holly Branson will be the executive of a new magazine that will talk about technology, film and design.

Most importantly, the magazine will be tablet-only, available for download to your iPad some time in October.

The iPad application will be developed by Seven Squared, a company that is also working with The Guardian.

By the time the Branson magazine appears in iTunes there will be quite a collection of iPad-only magazine to read. TNM has talked about a few of them, including Letter to Jane and Sideways, which are indie zines. Other examples have promoted auto manufacturers such as Volkswagen's Das and Infiniti's Adeyaka.

As I predicted, traditional publishers are allowing entrepreneurs and developers to jump into tablet publishing while they remain cautious and often skeptical. As one media owner told me in 1995 "the Internet is a fad, we won't even be talking about it in a year or two". That same company, not surprisingly, still backwards in its Internet publishing efforts.

Apple will be holding a presser at noon today (EDT) where it will either 1) announce a recall of its iPhone 4; 2) say the reception issue is no big deal; or 3) blame it all on Gizmodo.

Because of travel today I won't be able to report on the presser myself, but suggest you check out AppleInsider for any news.

You may have noticed that I am again posting here at TNM. My plan at this point is to post occasionally here while I continue to work on another site to launch in the Fall. I decided to cat back on work here simply because the traffic numbers had stalled. Wednesday, however, was a record day for traffic here -- go figure.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Meredith deepens relationship with advertisers through app development; Kraft app promotes smart eating habits

The relationship between Kraft and Meredith Integrated Marketing (MIM), the media firm's marketing services division, is deep and long established. One product of this relationship is the new iPad app built for the food manufacturer called Big Fork Little Fork, a food application that hopes to promote smart eating habits and a deeper appreciation of good food.
The new app was created by MIM and The Hyperfactory, the mobile marketing agency that also helped with the development of the iPhone app iFood Assistant by KRAFT. The iPad app costs $1.99 to download and contains 300 recipe ideas, tips, interactive games and how-to videos.

“Big Fork Little Fork is one of the most groundbreaking experiences to have been unleashed on the iPad,” said Derek Handley Co-Founder and CEO of The Hyperfactory in a release. “It illustrates the creativity with which this device can change the game for brands wanting to innovate how they interact with consumers.”

To TNM, the app illustrates once again the value of electronic custom publishing, and developing publishing capabilities such as app development that can not only be used for a publisher's print brands, but also can be promoted to customers. Here, MIM's strong relationship with Kraft has allowed the marketing services company to develop a new media product for Kraft that is consistent with gthe company's marketing goals, and is innovative and creative at the same time.

"Kraft Foods understands that parents are hungry for food ideas that their kids will enjoy,” Kraft's Ed Kaczmarek, Director of Innovation, Consumer Experiences is quoted as stating in the release. “Our Big Fork Little Fork app is specifically designed to answer that need and is set to transform how families approach cooking and eating together. We see the iPad as the ideal device to host our newly developed content – it’s a highly interactive way for parents to engage with the app both in the kitchen and around the home.”

Because Big Fork Little Fork is not a media app there is no reason to closely examine the app as a media product. Instead, the real message here is that Meredith's marketing services division has successfully produced for their customer a tablet app that is also part of the brand's marketing and advertising -- this is essentially custom electronic publishing, an area most media companies have failed to exploit. As a result many new apps are being created by third party developers. The Infiniti automotive magazine that TNM wrote about a week ago is a very good example, and a wonderful iPad magazine. Less successful examples would include the horrible Pottery Barn catalog app that is doing the brand more harm than good.
Here, Kraft has picked good partners and should benefit from the decision to build this app.

Unfortunately, Meredith's marketing services division appears to be far more innovative and aggressive than Meredith's publishing arm which has not produced apps for mobile media.

One might say that Meredith's publishing brands are definitely traditional and do not lend themselves to the iPad or mobile media -- but this would be old think in the extreme.

If Kraft's new iPad app is good brand marketing then why would a magazine app also not be good marketing? The Kraft app is not an app directly promoting Miracle Whip, for instance, but is part of an overall marketing strategy. Surely there would be a similar marketing value to an app that bares the name of Family Circle or Midwest Living -- it would not have to be a straight conversion of the print magazine (though I would build that app as well). If the editors and publishers are too old school to understand where publishing is going then it will be up to the magazine marketing people to lead the way. Clearly Meredith has built up their capabilities in this area, it would be a shame if the only ones that take advantage of this are the advertisers.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Short takes (and double takes)

Headline: RBI offers web production training to staff

No, this isn't a trip down memory lane, some headline pulled from the past. This is the headline appearing today on the website.

"The training on offer represents new thinking at the publisher about the role of the production desk and sub-editor in the modern newsroom, Karl Schneider, head of editorial development at RBI, told" I have no doubt.

If you compete against RBI I have one piece of advice: don't wake them up and tell them it is 2010. Just let them be.

Another headline: "Will shoddy products tarnish the cult of Steve Jobs?"

Suggestion: Why doesn't Apple help out ZDNet by going into their offices and pulling every Mac, iPhone and iPad?

CNET asks "Who's more annoying: Android or iPhone fanboys?"

Answer: both are annoying.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

WoodWing Software launches its first app under its own developer account for Belgian city/regional magazine

You want to prove that you can provide software solutions for publishers? What better way than to launch apps under your own name. The risk, of course, is that the publication will be less than impressive; the reward is you can showcase your company's capabilities.
WoodWing Software is already a leading provider of publishing solutions for the iPad having its Digital Magazine tools used in the creation of the Sports Illustrated iPad app. Now a new magazine app has hit the iTunes app store, and this one lists WoodWing itself as the developer -- the first iPad app in iTunes that directly credits WoodWing. (WoodWing has its own app in iTunes, as well as a couple of iPhone apps.)

The app is for KH Magazine, a city/regional quarterly for the Knokke-Heist area of Belgium on the North Sea. The print magazine has a circulation of 60,000 and is printed in Dutch and French, though this iPad app is in Dutch.

The immediate question I had was would this app baring WoodWing's name be impressive, or would it merely be a flipbook styled app like so many other third party magazine apps? WoodWing, after all, promotes its publishing solutions as providing easy conversions from InDesign. So many third party apps just provide iPad owners with electronic versions not much different than PDFs.
My first concern was navigation. The bottom navigation tools seemed to make things fly by very quickly, and at first I thought the app buggy. But this was not the case. Once I got used to it all was fine.

My next concern was that this would be a simple conversion of the printed magazine. No, this app is the real deal. Layouts are in both portrait and landscape. Some layouts utilize the display differently, like one article -- not seen here -- that uses animated buttons along the bottom of the page to bring in copy, but in portrait mode shows all the copy in a slightly different manner.


Above you will see some examples of how the editors and developers dealt with layouts -- all these are portrait examples.

In the article on classic cars you will find an arrow in the bottom right of the page indicating that there is copy below -- in this case pictures and text on various classic cars. In the article show in the middle screenshot, the arrow is at the bottom in the middle. To the left, though, is another icon, which when touched brings in some text -- which you can see in the right hand screenshot.
What is kind of fun to see in KH Magazine is that the success of the iPad app is not dependent on video or audio. The interactivity of the layouts is enough to make it entertaining -- and functional.

As you can see at right, the advertising works in both portrait and landscape mode -- some better than others, but it does work. Of course, ad reps will cringe at the idea of having to get their agencies and direct advertisers to provide two sets of ad materials so that their ads can be viewed in both portrait and landscape mode!
If WoodWing wanted a showcase app to show publishers what their software solutions could accomplish, this app for KH Magazine does the trick -- even better than the app from Sports Illustrated, in my view.

I would be curious to know how closely WoodWing worked with the staff of KH Magazine to produce this app -- my guess, very closely. But this app is very well done and puts most other magazine apps to shame. The magazine is free to download, by the way. I think anyone who wants to see what can be done without having to resort to web-based video and other kinds of rich media would be smart to look closely at this iPad app.

LMU launches iPad application for its college magazine; Apps everywhere, but is volume better than quality?

Back in the early days of the iPad -- OK, I mean a couple of months ago -- a team of developers and journalism students at Abilene Christian University worked to create and launch their own iPad app for their college newspaper as a project. The ACU team missed the launch date of April 3rd by a couple of days, but were nonetheless successful at launching the first college newspaper app for the iPad.
At the time the team was already thinking about upgrading their app and adding new features, but college work, including finals, intervened and the app has not been updated since its launch on April 6th. (You can find the app in iTunes here.)

It may be summer but some other colleges are no doubt looking to use Apple's tablet as another way to spread the word about their universities.

Loyola Marymount University has just launched an iPad app for its magazine, and to promote the app is giving away an iPad as a prize. 3,000 people will be allowed to register to win an iPad with the LMU app pre-loaded. (I hope the contest is

The LMU magazine includes web addresses for video content, but the app itself does not provide a live link.

The app itself is functional -- I suppose that is my way of saying that it works (does not crash) but doesn't offer any real native features. For instance, the print magazine lists web addresses for video content, but the app does not even include live links to the web content. Clearly this is a PDF reader, but were the developers aware that PDFs have allowed for live links for ages? Oh well.

I applaud LMU for the effort, though I hope the Fall session will see another class take this app to the next level.

The quality of an industry can be judged by the quality of its "gurus" -- and the newspaper industry surely has the most embarrassing group of thought-leaders around.

A good example can be found when discussing the news that Google has created a software package that allows "anyone" to build their own Android app. The video Google produced shows a young lady building an app for here phone that includes a button, a picture of her cat, and sound file -- push the button and the phone app produces a meow. Wow, now that is programming.

One media blogger called it the equivalent of Quark -- now anyone can build an app. Nice thought. But I wonder if the writer himself knows Quark. I do, but in all my time as a publisher I never met another publisher who knew their way around Quark -- let alone Photoshop. Am I wrong, does everyone who works at a newspaper now know Quark or InDesign?

But fawning over Google's do-it-yourself app creator was not limited to those outside of tech. A quick search finds dozens of stories that fall over themselves proclaiming a bright new day -- and showing their political sympathies, the end of Apple's hegemony of application development.

I won't link to the worst offenders -- there are many.

But this story from LinuxInsider is probably one of the better stories, however. It looks at Google's App Inventor and states the obvious:
On the one hand, putting development capabilities in the hands of the masses could dramatically accelerate the growth rate of the Android Market, making it more competitive with Apple's App Store; that, in turn, could serve to increase consumer interest in the Android platform and enlarge the potential audience for all the apps created by real developers.

On the other hand, there's the potential that the technology's do-it-yourself approach could "dumb down" Android apps and flood the Android Market with inferior offerings.
Later it quotes on editor: "Do we really need more soundboards, cat photos and 'Twilight' wallpaper apps?" Indeed.

Just as a newspaper or magazine has needed good art direction, and those art directors have needed good technical skills, media companies need to understand that they need to embrace professional application development. Either outsource app development, or create internal capabilities, but look for a cheap solution.

Creating a meowing cat app is not good application development. It may be a nice feature for the consumer market, but taking short cuts won't bring newspapers into the age of mobile media.

Community: one of the big reasons newspapers are at death's door (but not the only reason)

I wish Judy Sims would write more on her blog, I really like what she writes and her perspective on the newspaper industry.

Sims is a digital media consultant and former veep of digital media for the Toronto Star Media Group. Her blog is here and is worth checking out.

In her latest post Sims says there are two reasons why newspapers are failing: a failure to recognize the necessity of "Community", and a failure to focus on ROI.

I personally believe there is a laundry list of reasons, but these two would definitely be on my list. Anyone who has worked with me will report that I harp on "community".

Sims writes: "If a newspaper’s job is to reflect, affect and connect the community it serves, trust and relevance are what get the job done. It’s amazing to me how at this time, with more tools available than ever to fulfill these objectives, newspapers are turning away from what made them great brands in the first place. By refusing to listen to and engage their readers by ignoring social media, limiting comments and erecting pay walls, they are destroying trust and hastening their irrelevance."

Sims perspective is very digital. I think the problem goes deeper and effects all areas of the newspaper business including print -- from the loss of local and classified advertising (the classified section itself is a form of community -- but what would you expect a former CAM to say?), to the decrease in local interest special sections -- newspapers have lost touch with their readers both in print and online.

In her next post Sims will be talking about ROI. I'll be there.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Zinio teams up with NACS Media Solutions to create digital newsstand for the college market

Digital newsstand provider Zinio announced today that they had entered into a partnership with NACS Media Solutions (NMS), a subsidiary of the National Association of College Stores, to create a digital newsstand targeting the college market. The newsstand will feature more than 3,000 books and magazines that is says are "suitable" for reading through Zinio's digital platform.

The newsstand will reside online at beginning in August. The releases did mention mobile media alternatives to the website such as an iPad app.

The NMS and Zinio agreement includes a revenue-sharing arrangement.

"In today's world, digital is increasingly the format of choice for college students. The NACS digital newsstand is an exciting development that we believe will acquaint, or reacquaint, students with an amazing selection of content," said Ed Schlichenmayer, President of NACS Media Solutions.

Although new digital publishing alternatives targeting the education market continue to appear, the problem for most students remains the very high cost of books and materials. Digital publishing alternatives, including app-based solutions such as from CourseSmart, have been poorly received either because the app is not well designed or the price for textbooks continue to be high. A new solution from Zinio promises better programming, but whether a digital newsstand will provide relief for students is doubtful.