Friday, October 8, 2010

Esquire works with ScrollMotion to create its first tablet edition; Hearst's second paid iPad magazine app to date

I learned that Hearst's Esquire magazine had released its first iPad app this morning by reading the story on Mashable. There, Esquire's editor-in-chief David Granger told the site that “no medium will ever be as satisfying as print.” Not a very good introduction to the magazine's tablet edition, is it? Kind of makes you wonder why they bothered.

But the magazine editor's attitude aside, this paid app from Hearst should proive popular with iPad owners.
By working with ScrollMotion one knows immediately that this effort will be a porting over of the content, not the creation of a whole new product. OK, that's fine, but will the new iPad edition be a replica edition or something that feels native to the device?

What's the difference? A lot. A replica edition attempts to duplicate the experience of print, transforming the Apple iPad from an electronic publishing device to a two-dimensional substitute for print. A native application, however, works with the tablet palette using the text, graphics and multimedia elements to attempt to create a whole new media product.

Esquire's tablet edition does a little of both, and succeeds in producing an interesting and engaging publishing product.
First, some details: the Esquire app is priced at $4.99, fast becoming the default price for well-made tablet editions from major publishers. At this point, there is no way to subscribe to the magazine from within the app -- individual issues will have to be handled through new apps, or a major update that will then require the reader to buy the next edition through an in-app purchase.

The app weighs in a only 88.9 MB far less than some of the Condé Nast apps due to limited video and animation. Both elements are there, just limited -- which is fine.

The app opens with a little video of Javier Bardem (No Country for Old Men) introducing the magazine. This is nice, but probably a mistake. The video played without a hitch the first time I opened the app, but led to several crashes later on. This was the only programming issue I encountered, but I bet there will be complaints in iTunes about crashes.

After that, the app is all about navigation, as you'd expect from an app developed with ScrollMotion. There is no table of contents, per se, but a left side navigation bar for departments, and a bottom scrolling window that takes you to individual articles. In some ways, you could almost think of this as a more sophisticated RSS reader, had it been built using that device.

The bad news is that the app only offers a landscape mode when viewing embedded pictures. Also, there is no pinch-to-zoom or way to increase the font size here. Because of this, the magazine almost feels like a replica edition at first, and was very disappointing. The editor's note, A Letter from the Editor, felt as old fashioned as the editor's own attitude towards publishing. But things quickly improve once past his introductory column.

But the developers have included plenty of HTML5-based coding here to keep iPad readers entertained and impressed -- but they don't overwhelm the experience. In this way, I don't see how anyone could possibly believe the print experience is more 'satisfying'. But then again, there were silent film directors who just see the point of adding sound to film, right?

Left: A short video opens the tablet edition; Middle: A conservative start; Right: one of the drop down menus reveals the app's multimedia content.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

An impressive portfolio of media apps from Jacobs Media; consultants offer clients insights as well as development

Paul Jacobs, general manager of radio consulting company Jacobs Media, reminded me that it has been just over two years -- 27 months, to be exact -- since the Apple introduced third party apps to its iPhone platform, and already we can talk about "old" apps (with a bit of a chuckle, recognizing the irony).
I had called Jacobs Media because I finally got around to investigating the apps that were showing up in the iTunes App Store under their name. And there are quite a number of them! A search of iTunes pulls up 239 apps -- and a number of other apps are there under the names of the broadcasters and other developers the company works with.

Jacobs Media brands itself as "the largest radio consulting firm in the United States specializing in Rock formats", and Paul Jacobs quickly reminded me that they were the ones who created the 'classic rock' format back in the eighties.

← The app for C-Span was released late in 2009
and is of a more standard design.

I do not mind admitting that my knowledge of the modern radio industry is limited compared to print and electronic publishing. But the large number of apps in iTunes, combined with the variety of offerings amazed me. Sure, Jacobs Media offers its broadcast clients an off-the-shelf app solution -- for Apple's iOS, and also Android and Blackberry -- but looking through the numerous apps released it is clear that there is also a fair amount of customization going on.

The Jacobs clan -- Fred Jacobs is president, Bill Jacobs is listed as consultant -- all attended Michigan State University at one time or another, though Fred Jacobs got his Bachelor’s degree from the University of Michigan (I wonder if that causes troubles). The consulting firm, located in Southfield, Michigan, has been around since 1983, but their app division (jacAPPS) is obviously new.

The app for the Spartan Sports Network must have been
a labor of love for the MSU grads at Jacobs Media.

Speaking to Paul Jacobs yesterday, we discussed mobile apps for his radio clients and it was obvious that as a consulting company, rather than purely a developer, they approach things a bit differently. Consultants want to know what the goal is, how things will be monetized, what content is important. As a result, some of the radio apps for music stations tend to me players first, content distributors last; others, such as for news radio stations, have lots of content that can be included in the application.

Many of the apps I've seen for local radio stations have come from developers who also do mobile apps for print publishers. As a result, these apps tend to be RSS readers just like their newspaper cousins. Additionally, a motivating factor behind the apps is that the developers are trying to create a mobile ad network comprised of their publishing clients.
A selection radio apps from Jacobs Media
Car Talk: Programming
98.9 The Rock! (KC): Rock
WOWO: News
AM950 KTNF: Talk Radio
WEEI: Sports
Spartan Sports Network: MSU

Paul Jacobs told me that they they looked at this issue -- creating an ad network -- and decided to pass, concentrating instead on serving the needs of their clients rather than pushing a product (more my words than his, I admit).

The result: a whole portfolio of interesting apps for a variety of different clients representing different formats. I would highly recommend doing a search in iTunes for "Jacobs Media" and browsing the large number of apps.

WSJ reinforces earlier story: iPhone is coming to Verizon

This revision of its original story seems to be the final word on the subject: the iPhone is coming to Verizon, according to the WSJ.

For those who care about such things as cell phone market share, and the like, this is probably a big deal. But for publishers, this simply will reinforce the notion that developing for the iPhone and iPad was a good idea, and for those who have delayed or simply refused to develop for mobile, future proof that being conservative in this area was a mistake.
This involved with adding Verizon, of course, centers on the fact that the cell carrier uses a different standard for its network, CDMA, than Cingular (the company Apple originally signed with, before transition to AT&T Wireless).

AT&T, which currently has a monopoly on the iPhone in the U.S., uses as it standard for mobile telephony GSM (Groupe Spécial Mobile). Apple went with this standard simply because if is the dominant network standard in the world.

It is important to note for American media folk who may not be aware, the iPhone is often available through multiple carriers overseas. That means its market share of the smartphone business is often higher than what is seen in the U.S., where both the Android platform and others such as Blackberry are sold by many carriers.

For developers this is probably good news as it means that they can continue to focus on Apple's iOS while they continue to grow their Android offerings -- and wait for the first Android-based tablets to appear.

Morning Brief: Digital media start-up Ongo raises $12M from old media giants; building new lists through apps

The new venture from former Skype and e-Bay executive Alex Kazim is off to a rip-roaring start: Ongo has raised $12 million from old media giants the New York Times Company, the Washington Post and Gannett. Each company will be represented on the board of the new company.

The Cupertino-based start-up is flying under the radar for now, but with all that dough you can expect a big launch when the company is ready. The AP quotes Kazim as saying that Ongo will "reflect the many ways consumers prefer to read, organize and share digital news."

OK, that's pretty vague. Robin Pence, a spokeswoman for Gannett, adds "it's an opportunity to work with two very high-quality media partners and an excellent and experienced technology group." $4 million a piece is a pretty high price for something that could have been accomplished through eHarmony, no?

An e-mail I received this morning reinforces in my mind a big reason why publishers need to get serious about their tablet publishing efforts -- build those lists.

This e-newsletter arrived from the Financial Times and is the direct result of their iPad app. During the process of downloading and installing their news app onto my tablet, the FT asked that I register to gain access to their content which was free of charge for a limited time. Now the FT has a nice list to use for its e-newsletter -- a newsletter, by the way, that contains an ad from HSBC (though it is 'below the fold' and can't be seen in this screenshot).

Now that the Tories are in power the BBC must be trimmed back if ideology is to be served. So first to go will be the Beeb's portfolio of magazines led by the venerable Radio Times and the popular auto book Top Gear. For US readers, it is important to know that these are not the equivalent of thin rags produced by your local public radio station. Because of that, big publishers like Hachette Filipacchi and Hearst are seriously interested, according to a post at Mediaweek (UK).

BBC Magazines has been a profitable entity, bringing in £18m in profit for the 12 months ending in March of this year, according to Mediaweek. So we ask 'who benefits from a weakened BBC?' (That's an easy one.)

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Man, that's gotta hurt! Montreal man fined $1 billion for spamming Facebook users with ads on member walls

I don't think the odds are good that Adam Guerbuez will pay his fine, but the $1 billion fine imposed on the Montreal man is only minimally easier to take knowing the fine is in Canadian dollars.

Quebec Superior Court Justice Lise Fournier imposed the fine on Guerbuez for placing 4,366,386 spam messages on the walls of Facebook users between March and April of 2008 -- that's 100 bucks per spam for a total of $1,068,928,721. (Worse yet, he is prevented from opening a new Facebook account -- oh, the horror!)

According to QMI Agency, Facebook will find it hard to collect the hefty fine: Guerbuez has filed for bankruptcy.

Tech companies announce new tablet publishing solutions for magazines and book publishers at Frankfort Book Fair

If you are a newspaper, magazine or book publisher it is only a matter of time before will be approached about your tablet publishing plans. Many publishers, who never even considered the idea of publishing a flipbook of their publications online did so after being called on by a representative of a digital publishing solutions company.

Two companies today announced new digital publishing solutions for the iPad at the Frankfort Book Fair.

Alligator Digital Magazines, a product from Berlin based Golden Alligator, promises an easy production solution for porting text and photo content for tablets.
Here is their promotional video at right (link brings up new window).

According to the company, "journalists need only input text and photo content, the rest is managed by the app. Plain text becomes a stylish and publication-ready magazine."

Golden Alligator has an L.A. contact for U.S. media firms -- find contact information on the bottom of this press release.

Impelsys, a Bangalore, India based electronic content delivery solutions provider, is promoting its iPublishCentral book publishing product at the Frankfort Book Fair. iPublishCentral is designed to create customized iPad and mobile apps (screenshot of widget below).
"The launch of the iPad was an exciting event for the publisher community," said Sameer Shariff, CEO, Impelsys in a release. "With the incredible success of the iPad, publishers were keen to capitalize on this demand and have a content delivery strategy for this device. We spotted this opportunity and built this module for iPublishCentral so that all our customers can make full use of the market demand and get their content out to millions of iPad users."

"With our iPad module, publishers can take full advantage of their content with customized iPad apps, as well as, create enhanced eBooks for the iPad, where words, pictures, audio, and video come together on a single page," Sameer is quoted as saying.

I don't normally point to press releases, but with new mobile and tablet publishing solutions appearing it is hard to evaluate specific products without first hand knowledge. So passing along releases is about the only way to give publishers a 'heads-up' concerning these new companies or products.

The NYT looks at the Tribune Company; but is this example of media ownership the exception or the rule?

The New York Times' David Carr has a lengthy story this morning on the new ownership of the Tribune Company. It would be fair to say that the story does not produce a pretty picture of the management style of the new gang in Chicago.

But, sadly, I can not say I am at all surprised based on my own experiences. Anybody who has been in this industry (newspapers and magazines) for the past twenty years or so have their own tales to tell about management run amok or management incompetence. The media business is no different from any other business, after all, and each owner or executive manager has their own reasons why they are in this field.

Since McGraw-Hill, a company I have great respect for, I have worked at a number of companies that were run by people with an agenda that, while different than that described in Carr's article, was nonetheless disastrous for the media properties. Irregardless of gender or age of owner, a media company can be compromised by the hidden, personal motivations of its ownership team.

But I've found one rule that seems to work pretty well: if the owner/manager has never penned a story for print or online publication, they are not qualified; or, if the owner/manager has never sold an ad directly to a client and worked under the pressures of a sales quota, they are not qualified. For me, there are no exceptions to this rule.

For years the media world, and much of the business world, has been under the impression that the "business" types could do a better job of running media properties. In the late nineties it was fashionable to believe that only if the manager had an MBA were they qualified for upper management. And what did the MBAs give us? First reengineering (layoffs), then right-sizing (layoffs), and finally doing more with less (layoffs).

But many still believe that someone who has 'business' experience can run a media firm better than the media professionals -- it's just business, after all.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

NewBay Media puts its two acquired titles behind paywalls; publisher tries to protect paid weekly products

MediaPost reported yesterday that NewBay Media, LLC will be putting its two titles it acquired from RBI behind paywalls. Both Multichannel News and Broadcasting & Cable will now require its web readers to buy a $199 subscription to the print product in order to continue to get total access to the websites.
This approach makes sense for those B2B titles that charge for their print products. Since greater audience numbers are a bit less important that penetration of an industry, the idea that the publisher would charge for content makes some sense . . . kinda.

The problem is that most B2B magazines do not have dedicated web staffs that are capable of producing an interesting web product separate from their print products. As a result, most of the content than makes it online is identical to the print product. As a result, publishers feel their print products are threatened by the web. And they are!

The fact is that a weekly product that thinks it makes sense to have the same copy online is truly at risk from the web. Putting that content behind a paywall will only cover up the problem, however. The fact is that print readers know when they are reading stale copy and will continue to migrate online if they can find the same news there.

On the other hand, if the print content is more feature oriented, and still works in print, then that copy should never appeared online to begin with -- it's not what web readers want anyway.

Because of this, I'm not against publishers erecting paywalls in principal. It is a tacit admission that their web properties are simply clones of their print products. This is why most publishers who are erecting paywalls, including NewBay Media, are still allowing web readers access to 'breaking news' stories.

Sideways releases October iPad magazine as a free download; readers buy full access from within app

My in-box got flooded with press releases today but none of them really seemed very news worthy. But I thought it was probably a good idea to give a shout-out to the folks in Cleveland at Sideways who, I'm happy to report, continue to produce their iPad-only magazine. Their latest effort can be found in the iTunes App Store now: Sideways 10.10.
The magazine, from the software company of the same name, has changed its business model, most likely to encourage downloads. Past issues, including the first issue which I looked at in a three part post back in June, have cost users $3.99 to download. Now the app is free to download and gives the reader access to some select free content -- then asks them to buy full access to the magazine from within the app for only $1.99.

As part of its press release Sideways included the results of its own survey of readers:

Interested in understanding its audience better, Sideways polled readers of the July issue to find out when and where they use their iPads as well as how they find new apps. Results include the following:

  • 93.3% use the iPad while relaxing
  • 70.5% use the iPad while watching television
  • 60.2% use the iPad while traveling
  • 35.8% use the iPad while eating
  • 18.1% use the iPad while also talking on the phone
  • 78.7% search for apps on the device
  • 19.1% search for apps on laptop or desktop computer
Sideways was founded by Charles Stack and Eliza Wing -- Stack was the founder of before that company was acquired by Barnes & Noble.

Texas governor says 'newspapers are old news'; won't bother meeting with editorial boards to get endorsements

Either this is indicative of how low the standing of newspapers have become, or else it is typical of someone like Texas Governor Rick Perry: the candidate for reelection has decided to forego meeting with the editorial boards of state newspapers in order to secure their endorsements.

Gov. Perry is running against Democrat Bill White who has already secured the endorsement of The Houston Chronicle and the Austin American-Statesman -- though one paper represents the slightly more liberal Austin area (home to the University of Texas) and the other is from Houston, where White has been mayor.

Short takes on a Tuesday morning

At the American Magazine Conference in Chicago yesterday . . .

Mediaweek: In the future, said Jeanniey Mullen, global evp, CMO, digital publisher Zinio, “We’re going to see magazines designing for the device, based on their user base.”
Actually, publishers already do this. The problem is that many only recognize one device as relevant to their products -- the print product. It has always been the case, in my lifetime anyway, that publishers are slow to recognize that readers get information from many different sources, in many different forms: newspapers failed to see the rise of consumer tabloid products, then the web pure plays, for instance.

Mullen, of course, is right that publishers -- successful publishers -- should be creating products to reach their readers irregardless of the platform, and I'm sure this is what she meant in that quote. But I know many media executives who are still stuck in the eighties and can't figure out the web, let alone mobile and tablets. They delegate their web efforts to someone without a clue and then tell their publishers to concentrate on selling print. (I know, its 2010, and it's hard to believe, but I'm afraid it is a sad truth.)

(Zinio deserves a lot of credit for being one of those companies that developed for the iPad right from the beginning, and recognized that the tablet would be an important new platform for publishers. Today, Zinio continues to have its own digital newsstand for the iPad, while also working with publishers to develop a few stand alone branded apps, as well.)

Super Bowl ad. The ad was a sign that Internet pure plays were coming of age. The advertising done by new Internet companies was made possible by the huge investments made by the VC community.

In many ways the development of mobile and tablet publishing is reminiscent of the early days of the web. But today there is one thing missing: the new web pure plays did a lot of consumer marketing to push awareness. The huge amount of advertising dollars spent by tech companies and consumer web properties spurred on the growth of magazines such as The Industry Standard and Business 2.0 and led, ultimately, to million dollar buys during the Super Bowl broadcast. Few publishers could avoid coming to the conclusion that the web would be the new frontier for media (though some took the tech stock bubble bursting as some sort of sign that the web was overrated as a medium and continue, to this day, to downplay the web as a vehicle for serious media efforts).

The day we start seeing ads on television for tablet only publications and other pure-plays . . . well, that would open a few eyes.

This is what happens over there:
NYT: Jérôme Kerviel, the former Société Générale trader whose rogue dealings almost brought about the French bank’s demise, was convicted of breach of trust and other crimes Tuesday and sentenced to at least three years in prison.

Mr. Kerviel, 33, was also ordered to pay restitution of €4.9 billion, or $6.7 billion — the entire amount the bank lost in unwinding his trades in early 2008.
But here we get . . .
We're still evaluating how we're going to approach the whole issue of interrogations, detentions, and so forth. And obviously we're going to look at past practices. And I don't believe that anybody is above the law. On the other hand, I also have a belief that we need to look forward as opposed to looking backwards.

What she said:
So you end up with a parade of millionaires from the late Tim Russert to Brian Williams to Rick Sanchez to Bill O'Reilly to Glenn Beck doing some variation of Howard Beale on television every night, keeping that segment of resentful, afraid white Americans all riled up, clutching their remote controls, screaming at the television. You can call this "journalism" if you want, but I think we all know that it is something else entirely.

Monday, October 4, 2010

7sky publishing releases two magazine apps for the iPad; but very slow download times kill the user experience

One question publishers are pondering as they develop their first tablet editions is 'should be include the issue with the app, or should we require a download after the app is installed'?
Several of the big media firms have opted to develop apps that include everything up front. As a result, these apps are weighing it at 250 MB or larger and getting a bit of criticism for it. But the advantage of this approach is that once the app is installed the reader can dig right in to the magazine. Additionally, all the video and animation content is right there, as well, allowing for offline reading.

The disadvantage of the "big app" approach is that the user must go through a two-step process where the reader must download individual issues. But if the publisher wants to use just one app for their magazine it is easy to build-in a library approach, similar to what Zinio does with its digital newsstand.

One publisher who has decided to go with smaller apps and have their readers download individual issues from within the app is 7sky publishing, a Swiss media firm. They currently have two apps in the iTunes App Store for the iPad. The newest is for Open Magazine.
I'd like to tell you about their tablet editions but frankly I simply never got passed the download stage. Opening the free app up after installed immediately brings you to an introductory video. At first the video looks like a Flash animation, especially if you are already in landscape mode. In landscape the video looks good and seems appropriate; in portrait mode, however, it is clear that this is simply a poor man's version of a Flash introduction page. Worse, every time you open the app up this same video comes at you.

After the video ends you are taken to a page where you can download the issues. Currently the app offers two separate issues, each available in either French or German -- four options in total. This is where the app completely falls apart. If you can't download the issues there is simply no point, right? Well, after trying for quite a while to download an issue I gave up.

Maybe you'll have more luck than I did. But for now this magazine will remain a mystery. 7sky publishing also has an app for its namesake title, 7sky Magazine. Both apps are free to download, and at least for now the issues are free to download -- assuming you have and luck with downloading an issue.

Monday morning briefs: app confusion; WoodWing says its ready for Android tablets; special editions still alive

An e-mail I received first thing this morning from Supermarket News blared out that Publix had launched a mobile app. Being interested in all things related to apps, advertising and media, I immediately clicked through to read the story. But while the headline talked of an app, the story spoke of a mobile website. Does the writer know the difference?

This is a problem I'm seeing more and more: media writers way behind in their own knowledge of mobile and tablets. I can only speculate why this is -- it's got to be related to the general level of technology many B2B media firms experience in the work place. In several of the publishing firms I've worked at getting up-to-date equipment for the editorial and sales teams was nearly impossible. Too many media firms see investments in modern computer equipment as money down the drain.

I can imagine what these same companies think about supplying their editors with iPhones or iPads.

WoodWing announced today that they are ready for the anticipated flood of new Android-based tablets expected to appear in the next few months. The first of these is the Samsung Galaxy Tab, seen at right.

“Samsung´s GALAXY Tab is the first step into a multi-device tablet publishing world," said Erik Schut, President of WoodWing Software. "The big challenge is not so much in the different underlying operation systems, but the fact that the screen aspect ratios are totally different."
To help publishers port their publications to these new tablets with varying screen ratios and sizes, WoodWing has incorporated multi-screen functionality into their digital publishing solutions.

The Samsung Galaxy Tab will come with a seven inch screen compared to the iPad's 9.7 inch display -- probably not as attractive a size to many publishers, though the size is similar to the smaller model of the Kindle offered by Amazon.

Bay Area sports fans had a torturous weekend: previously undefeated Stanford lost; the Giants, only needing one win to clinch their division, lost on both Friday and Saturday' and then Sunday football was a nightmare as both the 49ers and Raiders showed that they had mastered the art of heartbreaking defeat.

But on Sunday afternoon the Giants finally won and the Chronicle was ready to take advantage. Since the Bay Area is a good mass transportation environment, with many commuters avoiding the bridges by taking BART to work, single copy sales of newspapers should be good, but it will be interesting to see the numbers.