Friday, September 3, 2010

Mac|Life releases killer tablet edition; iPad app includes live Twitter feed, commenting; built by B3 Publishing

What was old will be new again. I will try and remember that as the years go by and tablet publishing really takes off.
Swamped with interviews, reviews, errands, personnel business and more, I have avoided the iTunes store the past couple of days, instead depending on other sites to learn what new media apps have been released. A couple of days ago the first iPad app from Mac|Life, the Future US owned magazine, debuted in the iTunes store. Finally getting around to downloading it yesterday I noticed that it had shot up to number one in its category -- pretty impressive, something must be going on.

Then I opened the app and immediately said to myself "hold on there".

Ever have that feeling of deja vu, or feeling like you immediately know something you shouldn't? That hit me like a ton of bricks.

I quickly did a search to see if could learn more and found a video on YouTube -- you can see it below. The video was posted by Ken Balthaser, and if that name rings a bell it may be because you grew up in this business around the same time I did.

Balthaser Studios was launched in 1998 and it created a legendary Flash site that took hours (it seemed) to load using the then-standard dial-up Internet connection. But once it starting playing the site was a revelation.

(The original site is still online to see -- here -- but I think the original sense of discovery is lost in this modern era of web animation and broadband Internet speeds. I wrote about this all back in April when discussing the death of Flyp Media.)

One of the brand names associated today with Balthaser is B3 Publishing, and this Mac|Life app shows they still are producing interesting things. (The company is also working with Zinio, according to its website.)

The Mac|Life Tablet Edition is a free app that has already been downloaded 63,000 times by iPad users in the first week of its release, according to Kate Byrne, Vice President of Technology and Active Groups, Future US, who is also the publisher.

{Background: Mac|Life's latest BPA shows a bit more than 136,000 copies are in distribution, with a rate base of 130,000.  The magazine changed its name from MacAddict to Mac|Life in early 2007.}

Editor's Letter page with embedded video.
Left: Kate Byrne, publisher
Right: Paul Curthoys, editor-in-chief

The new app is also enjoying considerable promotion from Apple: it is currently the first app displayed in the New & Newsworthy section of the iTunes app store. It is also still showing up on the first page of new free apps in the News category, though by the end of this weekend it will probably fall off that first page.

There is no question that this app deserves its success. It contains some nice animation (that I'm afraid is hard to capture for you), as well as incorporating live Twitter feeds. The tablet edition also allows readers to provide feedback throughout, encouraging readers to give their feedback to the editors and writers, and to give their own ratings of products seen inside the tablet edition.

User feedback inside iTunes has been very positive. "This is how you make a Magazine App,' wrote Steve Gary inside iTunes. "What a wonderful revolutionary way to experience the magazines. Well done guys, and keep them coming!" wrote Preston McClay.

"Reading some of those reviews puts a smile on my face," Byrne said yesterday. They would make me blush.
"This is only just the beginning," Ken Balthaser wrote me late yesterday. "Once they develop the technology to 'build once and publish everywhere', you will start to see a lot more custom curated digital content and not just print replication -- more evolved Lean in/Lean back and depth/density of information in a Rich digital experience."

"We wanted to do something different with this version of Mac|Life than what other applications are doing," Neil Balthaser, interactive director at Balthaser Studios and B3 Publishing, is heard to say in the YouTube video. "We wanted to do something that recognizes that the iPad both can grab and send information, and we wanted to mix the strength of the Mac|Life print magazine with what the modern Internet today does very well which is to provide for interactivity, participation, and immediacy."

The tablet edition is being promoted as a special edition, and appears to be being sold that way. "We’re calling this initial free app “Issue Zero” and we’re asking you, loyal readers and curious newcomers alike, to take this app for a spin and tell us what you think," the magazine states in its iTunes description.

Before talking more about advertising (after the break), here is the video from Ken Balthaser:

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Later this morning: a look at the new Mac|LIfe iPad app, and then it's off for the Labor Day holiday weekend

Preview: first thing tomorrow this morning I'll have a post that looks at Future US's very nice iPad app for Mac|Life. Mac|Life Tablet Edition is a free special edition app that incorporates commenting and live Twitter feeds. It currently tops the charts of free news apps.

It was created with the assistance of B3 Publishing. Yes, the Balthaser boys are back with a vengeance.

Then it will be off for the Labor Day holiday weekend. But check back occasionally as I'll probably post something this weekend or Monday.

Android-based Samsung Galaxy Tab gets a European launch date of mid-September, in Asia and the U.S. later

Waiting around for an Android-based tablet that can compete with Apple's iPad has been a frustrating experience as manufacturers tout their hypothetical products but never reveal an actual release date. Samsung put an end to all that by previewing their new tablet at IFA 2010 in Berlin yesterday.
Even iPad owners have been eagerly awaiting real competition for the iPad knowing that the only way they will get improvements to their tablets -- things like a front-facing camera to use FaceTime, for instance -- is if a real competitor arrives on the scene.

That time, at least for Europeans, will be mid-September, the time D.H. Lee, head of Samsung Mobile global sales says the manufacturer will appear there. Buyers in Asia and the U.S. will apparently have to cool their jets a while longer, though I can't imagine Samsung would want to miss the holiday season with this new device.

For a good rundown of the specs I would recommend this post, but the basics are that the seven inch screened device will run Android 2.2 (Froyo) for now, but will be upgraded to 3.0 in due time. The tablet will have a front-facing camera, as well as a 3 meg rear camera. The device is lighter and smaller than Apple's iPad, which means users may well use that rear camera, though frankly the fact that every cell phone now comes with a camera makes having one on your tablet less necessary -- though it could be useful in some video chat scenarios.

Spec-wise, Samsung seems to have built a competitive package, that is for sure. Its weakness, though, may end up being its sales strategy. Samsung's carrier partners will be the ones selling the device, whereas Apple depended on its web store and own retail stores (along with Best Buy) to conduct sales. Because of this strategy, pricing is currently unavailable. (Does this mean that this will be a subsidized product -- that is, a cheap to buy tablet that will require a data plan? The Guardian article on the preview speculates that the tablet may use a "two SIM" solution where the tablet will share a SIM card with a cell phone. Not a bad solution, assuming one wants to buy a cell phone from that carrier -- plus, this could limit any discounting of the tablet since the cell phone would get the discount.)

It appears unlikely that Apple will introduce an updated version of its orignal iPad until next spring, though there have been rumors -- so far with little evidence -- that a smaller seven inch model may be launched. So far most of the Android competition rumored or previewed has been at this small size. While consumers may like the smaller size for portability and game playing, media professionals, I would think, would prefer a larger pallet to work with. Desiging for a nearly ten inch screen has to beat designing for a small screen. On the other hand, since there is currently no competitive Android tablet attracting the attention of media app developers, moving from the smartphone screen to a seven inch screen might mean some developers simply develop one Android app for both.

The obligatory video demo:

TNM navel gazing

Here are a few website stats web publishers might find interesting;

1) Readers of this site are almost evenly split in their browser use: Firefox accounts for about 28 percent of all readers, while Safari comes in second at just under 27 percent. Internet Explorer, which used to be the dominate browser a few years ago is used by just over 21 percent of TNM readers, and Google's new Chrome browser now accounts for just under 21 percent.

My guess is that Safari accounts for this high a percentage because it is the browser found on both the iPhone and iPad, as well as Macs. I am also pretty sure that the amount of iPhone and iPad app reviews here has some influence over that number. If I owned an Android cell phone and only wrote about apps found on that platform I'm sure the numbers would be different.

2) But this site definitely does attract a disproportional number of Mac users -- 35 percent of TNM readers are using the Mac OS. A further 11 percent are reading TNM from their iPads or iPhones.

I find the iPad number pretty impressive -- almost 8 percent of all readers find TNM through their iPads.

But overall, TNM's readership numbers are nothing to brag about. This site was condemned to being one of many websites hidden from view thanks to a decision Google made many months ago when they decided not to categorize this site as a news site. It was a silly decision then, and it still is based on the interviews and stories written here. But no matter, this site was clearly never going to be a commercial venture.

Talking an old fashioned approach to New Media, newspapers remain hesitant to announce new apps

Back in the days when print newspapers used to compete head-on with another local newspaper, publishers were always tight lipped about their plans to launch new sections, or new features. But they word would get out anyway because their sales teams would be all over town spreading the word, selling ads.

Today, most newspaper staff members have no clue when their own paper will launch a new mobile or tablet app. Tight lipped execs apparently think that letting the competition know they are about to launch an app will somehow be self-defeating. It is a hilarious remnant of a by-gone era -- as if it were possible for a paper to get wind of another's plan for an app and then would be able to quickly develop their own.

This story, written by Michael Calderone, as well as interviews I've conducted with several newspaper managers brought this to the forefront. According to the Calderone story, the Washington Post is set to launch an iPad app in "the coming weeks". The app is described as "highly anticipated" (his quotes are in the original). I don't know if Calderone was being snarky or not, but describing anything the Post does in mobile of tablet as "highly anticipated" would have to be satire.

The Washington Post company has been late to the mobile game, having released its first iPhone app in early March of this year, and no iPad app appeared for Newsweek until the property was about to be sold.

But the real issue here is that just like the web, much of the early efforts in mobile and tablet magazines are being done in the dark, without the full participate of the staffs -- editorial and sales.

One reason for this is fear -- fear that advertisers have lost interest in their products. I know from experience that it used to be the case that either I, or when I was in management, one of my reps were go out and talk to advertisers about new products. If the advertiser was excited the rep might get a commitment to participate right there and then. Then the rep would report back and the project would get going in earnest, knowing that there would be ad support. What used to be the best way to create a new section? Sell out the back page position right at the start.

Now apps are created without ads, and without the staff even knowing the thing is coming down the pike. I just don't see the business strategy of this approach.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Little in Apple event to get publishers excited; Apple TV will be running iOS, but no new app store on the horizon

For publishers just trying to get their heads around mobile media applications, let alone tablet applications, the thought that Apple might introduce a new TV product that will accept media apps must have been a scary thought. But Steve Jobs, while introducing a new Apple TV, never mentioned applications for the big screen, and so media app developers can rest easy knowing that, for now, the iPhone and iPad will keep them busy enough.
Today's Apple media event centered on introducing a complete refresh of the iPod product line in time for the holiday shopping season. Apple CEO Steve Jobs did not disappoint in this area, introducing three new versions of the iPod shuffle, iPode nano, and iPod touch. Each has either a new design or feature set. For publishers, the iPod touch is the most important product because users can download apps from the iTunes app store. The new iPod touch will have a front facing camera in order to take advantage of Apple's new FaceTime feature, extending WiFi based calling even further. It is now only a matter of time before the iPad gets the same front-facing camera, as well.

Developers now have a date when the iPad will get its operating system update: November. It is then that the popular tablet will get multi-tasking, folders and (something new) wireless printing. Of course, thanks to Epson, both my iPhone and iPad already can print wirelessly, but it's good to see Apple will build this right into the OS. One thing Jobs didn't mention was whether the user would need a printer capable of doing, or if the device would interface with a home computer.

The Boston Globe goes mobile with release of its own real estate app and first iPad app -- more on the way

With the release of its own iPhone real estate app, as well as its first paid app for the iPad, this is a good time to speak to Lisa DeSisto, general manager of and chief advertising officer for The Boston Globe, about the paper's mobile strategy.

Released two weeks ago, the iPhone app Real Estate got an update this morning, as the developers added iAd support. Similar to the New York Times' real estate app released earlier this year, this app delivers searchable home listings, allows users to browse listings by neighborhood, and helps buyers find homes nearby that are for sale, using the iPhone's location-aware technologies. The app also includes the real estate RSS feed, bringing in articles and slideshows
"When the New York Times is your parent company you get access to a lot of their people and technology, so it made it easy for us to launch it here," says Lisa DeSisto.

Because this is the second iteration of this particular application, users will find the free app stable, easy to use, and quite functional. The original NYT app got it right the first time, so this one is just as useful.

"The business strategy behind the app is two-fold: the first one is about the realtors who have their listings on -- hundreds of realtors have their listings on -- so for us, this was just another distribution channel for them," DeSisto said in an interview yesterday afternoon.

Users will be able to find open homes near their present location, and preview homes in advance to see if they wish to actually visit them. The hope is that realtors will see this new app as a great marketing tool -- a way of making their listings work harder.

For home buyers, a mobile real estate device can be used 'on the road', of course. "You don't necessarily have to be tethered to your computer, you can do it on your phone," DeSisto said.

Left: Listings found in a search for Boston homes; Middle: the app shows the found listings on a Google map; Right: the satellite view lets users see the neighborhood where the home for sale can be found.

The second part of the business strategy, DeSisto told me, is to sell display advertising -- "discrete display advertising, we don't want to overpower your search experience," DeSisto said, "because the primary reason for the app is to put the listings in front of people -- but for businesses who want to reach prospective home seekers (lending institutions, banks, mortgage brokers) it's a great place for them to advertise. So we're actively looking for sponsors for the app."

The app does not currently contain paid advertising, but the addition iAd support to the app does not change the company's ad strategy. “We intend to sell advertising/sponsorship directly," DeSisto said this morning in response to my inquiry, "but also will use networks to fill any inventory that is unsold.”

(As an aside: The app was that since the app uses Google Maps to plot the homes, and so offers a satellite view, as well as the map view. But pins that show the property do not offer a street view, that could be extremely helpful to the home buyer. For instance, putting in the address of the home used as an example above into Google maps shows the user the buildings next to the condo, as well as the rest of the neighborhood. Of course, the listing itself can contain many of these pictures -- just a thought.)

This real estate app is not the only app released recently by, and the company has plans for much more.
"We have a plan to introduce, I guess you could call them 'flagship apps', that would be focused more on news content. Then we also want to do some niche apps. So one of the paid apps that we just completed is for The Big Picture which is a photojournalistic blog."

The Big Picture from was released on August 25 and costs the user $2.99. It is a revised version of the iPhone app that was originally released back in May, and originally priced at $1.99.

The application takes advantage of the iPad's display size to render the photographs attractively, and I think makes for a better reading experience than the popular web feature. For one thing, since the iPad is more of a leisure-time reading device than the web is, the user will be free to linger over the photographs. The captions are handled a bit differently, as well. On the web, the captions are placed under the photo in a more-or-less traditional way. Here a tap of the finger removes the caption so the photo can be enjoyed without text.

Left: A photograph with caption; Right: then a tap of the finger removes the caption.

The application is somewhat similar to the Guardian's own photojournalism app, The Guardian Eyewitness. The Guardian app handles captions inventively and the app, while free, has a single-sponsor -- Canon. (You can read more about the Guardian's app here.)

The Big Picture, however, is more like a blog. Created by Alan Taylor, the blog/app organizes pictures around a central theme. In this way it is more like photoJ, the photojournalism app from The Mainichi Newspapers in Japan.

Interestingly, the question of "why pay" will be asked by some iPad users as the Internet version of The Big Picture remains free online while the app version will cost you $2.99 -- once again free access online may undercut a paid product.

But the iPad version, in my opinion, is a superior reading experience -- and even though you could use the iPad's Safari browser to access the online version for free, it is still not as easy to navigate and enjoy as the app version.

DeSisto appears to share my objections to replica edition apps believing that the media app has to fit the device.

"When you develop your products," DeSisto said, "they have to be developed for the device, so instead of just throwing it (the print product) onto mobile phones we said 'let's take advantage of the kinds of functionality and the kind of experience you have when you are in the mobile world'."

This approach will serve well as they continue to release apps for both mobile phones and tablets. And consistent with the idea that content should follow the reader, the company will be releasing Android versions of their apps at some point, as well.

Surprise -- Apple to provide live streaming of event

I can't remember the last time they provided a live stream of one of their events (it was in 2005), but tomorrow Apple will give consumers a look in at their product event in San Francisco.

Of course, there are a few caveats: you have to go to and supposedly have to be on a Mac running 10.6, or an iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch.

"Hey, can anyone get a WiFi connection in here?"

AppleInsider speculates that Apple may be doing this following a WiFi hiccup at its last event where CEO Steve Jobs could not get enough bandwidth in the hall due to all the attendees live blogging the event. This seems like a reasonable move forward.

Products expected to be introduced include a new Apple TV box top that will run iOS, and new iPods. The hope is that there wil be some surprises such as a date for an OS update for the iPad which will add multitasking, folders and the like, a new version of iLife that will add new functionality, and a new business model for the newspaper industry (OK, maybe not the last item).

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Short takes: Deseret News to severely cut back newsroom; UK music magazine The Wire releases app

The Deseret News, the 72,000 circulation daily newspaper owned by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, announced today that it was cutting 58 full-time and 29 part-time positions, representing nearly half of the current newsroom staff.

The move was blamed on, drum roll please, the Internet.
Writing on the newspaper's website, Jay Evensen, the editorial page editor, writes that "the problem is the Internet has sapped ad sales. It has put a big dent in the business model that has sustained newspapers for more than two centuries, and that's a permanent change."

"As tough as it is to say goodbye to good people, the truth is the newspaper faced a choice familiar to papers everywhere — either cut people and reinvent yourself or cease to exist. And this paper definitely intends to exist, and thrive, for a long time. It's also reinventing itself unlike any other paper," Evensen wrote.

The newspaper said it was establishing a five-part plan to cope with the changing reality of newspaper publishing. Part of the plan includes integrating its newsroom with its broadcast property KSL, moving its news staff to Triad Center "to promote greater synergy in coverage and operations," said Clark Gilbert, Deseret News CEO and president.

The second item, written without a sense of irony, was that the newspaper would concentrate writing "on relevant issues audiences care most about." (It's hard to believe that one made it by the editors.) The third item, in line with this editorial change, will be to create a new editorial advisory board.

The paper will also begin begin an aggregation and curation strategy, what the paper is calling Deseret Connect, where outside writers are brought on board to provide copy and expertise.

Finally, the paper promises to create a "cutting edge digital team", though no details were revealed.

Deseret Digital Media currently has three iPhone app in the iTunes app store, none for the Deseret News, and the company has yet to release a tablet app.

One should add that while the staff reductions were blamed on sagging ad sales caused by the Internet, no changes in advertising staffing or strategy were announced today, probably the result of its JOA -- though I would think that Deseret Digital Media lies outside the JOA's area of influence.

Update: Publisher Jim Wall has stepped down, the paper announced at 2PM MDT. Two minutes before that the paper announced that the editor, Joe Cannon, would be leaving, as well.

The Wire, the London based music magazine, has partnered with Exact Editions to release a replica edition of its magazine. The app is universal.

Exact Editions, the developer, does what it likes to call freemium apps, apps that are free to download and offer the read a sample of the magazine before requiring the reader to purchase full access to the issue.
The Wire comes with a £4 cover price, and the app offers readers no discount, costing U.S. buyers $5.99 for full access.
My guess is that some readers will be very happy to have access to the magazine, in whatever form it takes. As usual, as someone who does not like replica editions, my complaint is that reading a replica edition is a very un-tablet experience. Besides the lack of interactive content, the app does not offer separate portrait and landscape layouts, expect (ironically) on the purchase page.

Posts will be light for the next two days while I conduct several interviews with digital personnel at several newspaper companies. Should be interesting conversations.

AutoCAD for Mac reappears after 18 year hiatus; along with it comes apps for the iPad and iPhone, as well

The announcement from Autodesk that it will once again offer its AutoCAD design software for Apple's Mac platform begs a chicken or egg type of question: is Autodesk returning to the Mac platform because they can also offer applications for Apple's iOS mobile platform, or are they offering the mobile applications because they are returning to Mac?
For Apple, this is a return to the good old days of early computing. “Apple is thrilled that Autodesk is bringing AutoCAD back to the Mac and we think it's the perfect combination for millions of design and engineering professionals,” said Philip Schiller, Apple’s senior vice president of Worldwide Product Marketing in the Autodesk release.

The new AutoCAD for Mac will be available in the fall, around the same time, I suppose, that the first applications for the iPhone and iPad will appear. Autodesk promises that the new mobile products will allow users to edit and share AutoCAD files in order to facilitate real-time collaboration.

Although developments like this one have little to do with media directly, it is another sign of the growth of the iPad, and reinforces the notion that the device will be used for functions besides just games and videos.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Developers continue to release iPad RSS news reader apps to fill the void left by hesitant publishers

They say power abhors a vacuum, and I guess that saying goes for app developers, as well -- when they see an opening they'll march right in with an app that fills the need. RSS readers are the latest trend in apps as developers fill up Apple's iTunes app store with paid RSS readers, few much better or unique than the others.
This new app called ChicagoSportsFeeds is a good example - a basic reader that grabs feeds from the Chicago Tribune and Sun-Times, Fox Sports Chicago, Comcast Sports Net, ESPN and others. Because it is a paid app, it is questionable whether the app is actually legal -- my guess is that many of these media firms have legal language that prevents the use of the RSS feed for commercial purposes. Recently the Pulse news reader, one of the most popular and well designed readers available, was pulled following a complaint by lawyers from the New York Times, only to reappear within hours.

Paid RSS feed apps that preload different feeds and reformat the content are stretching the limits of what can be considered fair use. But interestingly media firms don't appear eager to challenge these developers. For one thing, assuming the content links back to the original site then they are good traffic drivers for the publishers.

Apple continues to approve these apps regardless of their merit, or their legal right to be created in the first place -- though in the case of news readers there should be a question about their legality, in general. A few weeks ago a series of apps hit the iTune store that seemed to me to be clear violations of trademarks. Nothing much was said about it until TNM asked the publishers if they had a problem with their brand names and content being reused by the developer. The apps are now no longer in iTunes.

But the reason these apps exist in the first place is simply that publishers are not filling the need created by the growth in mobile devices and now the iPad.

The good news for publishers is that these reader apps are generally horribly designed and not very valuable -- they can be replaced pretty easily by a genuine media app from the original publisher. But the better apps are today replacing your websites and print publications because they offer good layouts and are natively designed for the tablet.

Ouch: Modern Luxury, bought 3 years ago for $243 million, reportedly sold for a bit more than $20 million

Modern Luxury, on the blocks since April has reportedly found a buyer, Dickey Publishing, owners of Jezebel Magazine and Atlanta Sports & Fitness Magazine. The chain of upscale, photo heavy magazines was sold of "just north of $20 million according to the NY Post, have been purchased for $243 million just three years ago.

The chain was sold by their lenders, led by General Electric Financial Services and New Star Financial. The new owners will also have to deal with debt, having brought in Macquarie Capital as part of the deal.
"Dickey Publishing distinguished themselves in a number of respects, by placing the greatest value on Modern Luxury, our team, our brands, and each of our markets. We believe they will be a superb steward of the business going forward," said Bill Cobert, CEO of Modern Luxury in a release announcing the sale.

Berkery, Noyes & Co, LLC represented Modern Luxury in the sale, though the press release fails to mention the financial terms for obvious reasons.

Modern Luxury has been regularly releasing iPhone and iPad apps through the sale, the result of its relationship with app builder Blue Toad. The apps have all been replica editions and hence generally been down rated in iTunes.

Talking through the many iPad subscription issues with Apple; industry struggles to represent its interests

It is hard to say whether the magazine subscription problems that are much discussed in the publishing world are as big a problem as advertised, or a convenient excuse on the part of publishers who are struggling with tablet publishing just as they have this past decade or so with web publishing.

So rather than continuing to discuss this from the perspective of the tablet maker (because the tech sites have done a much better job discussing this issue than have the media sites) let's instead look at this from the perspective of the magazines, and specifically the circulation departments.
First, what do publishers really want? If you were to listen to those represented so far you would think that publishers fear getting locked out. That is, if Apple gets its way they, and not the publishers, will have all the customer data and publishers will be working in the dark.

This is partially true: by having Apple handle the sales transaction, Apple will be the ones getting the buyer's information, including credit card number, etc. But let's not exaggerate the situation here. Most consumer magazines only know the names and addresses of many of their customers now, having to learn more through research.

Even in B2B, where most magazines are free and the customer has to fill out a card in order to subscribe, many publishers have cut way back on the information they are gathering as 16 page BPA audits shrink down to four pagers. Worse, many publishers are dropping their audits altogether as a way of hiding the lack of qualified readers.

A few years ago I discovered to my horror that one of the magazines that had my name listed as publisher essentially had zero qualified readers, so degraded had the circulation director allowed the list to become that the magazine now was essentially reaching no one of value -- or at least we couldn't prove it was. The circulation director was horrified to find out that I had learned the actual condition of the reader file, having worked so hard to keep the truth from the publishers.

Much of this situation can be solved through a registration process -- one that is either required or incentivized through various means. This would have to be negotiated through Apple, but more on that later.

Second, let's be honest about subscription revenues. Here is where much of the talk on the tech sites is misinformed. Many magazine readers seem to think that the price they pay for a print subscription actually covers much of the costs expended to produce the magazine. (The same probably holds true for newspaper readers.)

This position is probably arrived at when one looks at the cover prices of newsstand magazines. iPad owners complain that it should cost them $4.99 to buy an e-edition if that is the same cost of a print edition -- after all, they guess, isn't the expense of the e-edition less than that of the print edition?

Well, yes, e-editions do cost less (theoretically) to produce than print editions. But the cost the reader sees on the cover, and the lower cost the reader pays for an annual subscription has no relationship to actual print and distribution costs. Most publishers understand that, so there is not much need to explain it much further.

But for the sake of non-media folk reading this site, here is a very brief (extremely brief) tutorial on circulation: most magazines derive the vast majority of their revenue from advertising. Money brought in from newsstand copies and subscriptions then simply needs to cover the cost of distributing the print copies, plus the overhead costs of the circulation department and services, etc. (Remember, I'm simplifying.)  If newsstand and subscription revenue actually generate a profit then oh happy days.

In B2B the situation is extreme: revenue derived from circulation generally is far less than one percent of total revenue (for controlled circulation magazines). And when you include revenue from services often handled by the non-advertising departments, like reprints, list rentals and the like, total revenue might reach five to ten percent. (We'll leave other revenue lines out like events, and the like.)

At consumer titles, especially those that are highly successful, circulation revenue can add up to much more -- but the point remains the same, money brought in when readers buy those individual copies and subscription do not keep the lights on for the whole magazine. (That's why circulation directors fight to control other revenue streams - it's a survival instinct.)

So Apple's 30 percent cut of app sales is, in the end, 30 percent of a relatively small number, and the cost savings enjoyed in the areas of distribution and finance probably easily justify the fee (and Apple knows this).

In the end, the issue is information sharing and here publishers have a legitimate beef -- but a The legitimate beef comes in there not being an easy, built-in way to get customer information to the publishers without Apple giving it away.

Think of Apple as your local newsstand. If a person walks up and buys an issue of Newsweek (rare, I know) what does the newsstand guy do? He asks for the money and that is it -- the publisher gets a sale, but no information on the buyer. That is a typical app sales in a nutshell.

So the issue shouldn't be those one time sales, it is in the subscription process. Here is where a registration process needs to occur.

There are three factors at play today that are effecting the relationship between Apple and publishers.

The first, which I have written about countless times, is that Apple does not seem to have good category managers in the area of media. The app approval process has been an embarrassment, which apps rejected because of their editorial content leading to cries of "censorship" and "Apple is the new Taliban". Apple needs to bring in industry professionals to manage the customer relations side of the media industry -- a media advocate, if you will.

Second, without strong competition from another tablet platform Apple has the game to themselves. If Apple were forced to compete to attract publishers then the playing field would be leveled and both sides would have to work together better. Right now if you want to have your magazine read on a tablet Apple is essentially the only game in town.

Finally, publishers themselves are a disorganized lot. Yes, there is the ABM and MPA, but both are geared up to lobby more on the east coast than the west coast.

This is changing, of course. The MPA recently named Christopher Kevorkian as their executive vice president for digital. Kevorkian used to be publisher of Sunset magazine, so he obviously gets the publisher angle. I see that Kevorkian graduated from UC-Davis -- let's hope he spends a lot of time in the Bay Area talking to both Apple and Google, this is where the action will be.