Friday, October 29, 2010

What's a DC rally without its own app?

Now-a-days you can't do anything without an app, right? So if you are putting on a giant rally in Washington DC, and especially if its two main protagonists are comedians, the event needs its own iPhone app.
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So in the spirit of the age, MTV Networks, the parent of Comedy Central, have released an iPhone app just in time for tomorrow's Rally to Restore Sanity And/Or Fear -- starring, of course, Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert.

(What? No Android app! Sounds like a political statement to me -- or maybe not.)

The rally, which is expected to draw upwards of three billion people (DC police estimate), will no doubt be a rousing success thanks to the Huffington Post requisitioning all school busses east of the Mississippi. Fox News promises full coverage which will be easy since they use the same footage in every rally report.

By the way, this is the 50th iPhone app released by MTV Networks. They also have six iPad apps, as well.

City/Regional magazine publishers enter the mobile era, though not very well; clunky apps leave a lot to be desired

The city/regional magazine business is a bit of a world on to itself. It has its own trade association, and the industry straddles a line between specialty publishing and consumer publishing.
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Because regional publishers must generally go after local advertising, rates are fairly low, as are budgets. Most city/regional publications can not afford to have a long list of vendors they are paying -- like one that helps them with their website and one that develops mobile and tablet apps for them.

So as much as I am an advocate for mobile and tablet publishing, I am not someone who would ever tell a publisher "just do something, anything". Every magazine is a brand, and doing something may end up lowering the perceived value of that brand.

I think you know where this post is going.



Godengo, a website developer out of Emeryville, California that specializes in building websites for city/regional magazines, has been releasing apps in the App Store for their clients -- seven so far. I looked at a few of their sites and was impressed: they appear to be well designed, modern in appearance. Now the company has begun launching universal apps in iTunes: serviceable iPhone apps, but deadly-dull tablet editions.

Yesterday two new apps hit iTunes, one for Honolulu Magazine, another for New Orleans Magazine.

But releasing these universal apps was a big mistake, I believe. As iPhone apps, these apps are so-so: they offer text versions of magazine stories and a database of restaurants (probably their best feature).

Why I'd want to read some feature article from a regional magazine on my phone is a question some publishers seem not to want to ask. Breaking news, maps, directories -- yes; long form feature articles -- doubt it.
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Because of this, the directories of restaurants found in most of these apps are very useful. Using the smartphone's built-in ability to link an address with a map, users can tap the address of any restaurant immediately go to a map. The NYT's The Scoop is the most innovative app in how it handles the restaurant category, combining stories, maps and search.

OK, these iPhone apps are fine (I suppose), but as iPad apps they are a disaster. Opening up the Honolulu or Diable app brings you to the same text driven menu found in the iPhone version -- seemingly at the same size! The entire canvas is wasted. The articles use the same RSS driven iPhone layouts, but where the large picture followed by text works fine on a phone because the screen is so small, the enormous picture seems absurd on a tablet. The magazine art directors must be holding their heads in their hands, if not outright crying. (And what is that microscopic ad on the bottom of the menu page doing there?)

Honestly, 'nuff said.



I would think that publishers would be beyond having to ask themselves 'should we develop mobile media and tablet publications?'

Unfortunately, we continue to get articles being written such as this one written by Khoi Vinh.
He writes: "The fact of the matter is that the mode of reading that a magazine represents is a mode that people are decreasingly interested in, that is making less and less sense as we forge further into this century, and that makes almost no sense on a tablet." Hear that? Do you understand where the guy is coming from? Do you agree that the magazine form is now a dead end? I don't.

After I had read the article I knew immediately that the mobile media writer at Poynter would link to it as soon as he discovered it. Face it, our most visible media writers don't seem to like mobile media and tablets themselves -- do you see a mobile app from any of the media trade journals in the U.S.? (Compare this track record with what this Swiss trade journal has created.)

Magazine publishers with vision will have to develop these new platforms without much help from their trade journals and media critics (cripes, a few have come right out and said "don't do it" and even came right out and said they are returning their iPad), but they will have to ask the same kinds of questions that are asked when a new publication is launched: who is the reader? what will the reader want? what is the best way to deliver it to them?

Instead, too many publishers (or media executives) are being sold solutions because they are easy. Think about it: what is the number one reason given by vendors for creating flipbooks? Ease of creation.

Just because someone can turn your RSS feeds into a mobile app is not a good reason to actually do so. One has to begin asking intelligent questions: what will the users of this app want? what can a mobile app (or tablet edition) do that our print edition does not? will the users want the same print content, or will they be looking for new content? does it enhance our brand or diminish it?

And finally: what is the business model? how do we price this? sell this?

Morning Brief: Fox battles Cablevision, as Fox ratings dive

News Corp. picked a strange time to pick a fight with Cablevision (or was it the other way around?), what with Fox broadcasting the World Series this week. But since the NY Yankees burned out and missed the fall classic the pressure on both the media giant and cable company to reach agreement is far less than it would have been had the Yankees beaten the Rangers.

While the rest of the country enjoys a match-up between two teams and cities eager to win their first baseball championships, New York is blacked out because of the stalemate between the two companies. For now Cablevision customers are being redirected by the company to alternatives to Fox:

"With a simple antenna and Internet streaming capacity, a governmental entity or non-profit organization could do a tremendous public service and extend the reach of this broadcast programming — just as Congress intended when it enacted 11 (a) (5)."

News Corp is not happy about it:

We've been alerted by Cablevision customers that Cablevision is directing their subscribers to illegal sites to view Fox shows, as well as our coverage of NFL games, and Major League Baseball's playoffs - all copyrighted content. We find this absolutely appalling," Fox officials said in a statement.



Much will be made of the huge dropoff in ratings for this World Series, but as a west coast guy I can remember that this is what was said during the 1989 WS -- remembered as the earthquake series. I also can remember that the people of the Bay Area didn't care what the east coast folk said.

I'm sure the fans in Texas feel the same way this time: who cares what the ratings are, if east coast baseball fans aren't interested in the series then you know how the rest of the country feels when they think of a Yankees-Phillies match-up.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

The Financial Times says it will have app ready for the Samsung Galaxy Tab by the first of November

The Financial Times announced on their website that they will be ready to launch an app for the Samsung Galaxy Tab by November 1. The new Samsung seven inch tablet runs Google's Android operating system (Android 2.2, nicknamed Froyo).
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The application appears to be built off the same design employed for its iPad app: offline reading, updated news content, etc.

Content will be available for free through December 1, though users will have to register on the FT website to gain access.

The time limitation for the app, though, is rather strange. According to the Samsung website, the new tablet will be available in teh U.S. though Verizon on November 11, and through Sprint on the 14th. The tablet will be launched officially in the UK on November 1st, but sales are will most not likely be as brisk as those of the iPad's launch. Because of this, why not give new readers a full 30 from the day they install the app to access content?

The new tablet is currently available on Amazon.co.uk for £529.99, a 34 percent discount over the regular price.

Tablet app updates; Australian Women's Weekly releases first iPad app; iPad OS upgrade right around the corner

A batch of media app updates hit iTunes this morning, including updates for the Financial Times, NPR, the Telegraph and ABC News.
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Most of the updates simply fixed bugs found in earlier versions. The ABC News app, known for its unique globe design, added an interactive feature tied to the mid-term elections in the U.S. upcoming next Tuesday. The "What If" feature is a "game where users interact with a map of the US, tapping on States or Congressional Districts to turn them red or blue, and watching how their guesses impact the balance of power," according to the App Store description -- you can see it at right.



The Australian Women's Weekly, an ACP Magazines publication, has released its first tablet edition. The free app employs a shell approach where the app itself is relatively small but the user then downloads individual issues. The app description wisely warns users that each edition will weigh in at between 200MB and 300MB in size.
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The application was developed using Mogeneration's Oomph publishing platform. Mogeneration is an Australia based company that produces flipbooks and other digital publishing products -- in other words, this app produces a replica edition.

"We are excited to bring the iconic Australian Woman's Weekly to what is surely a future icon, the Apple iPad," Keith Ahern, CEO of Mogeneration said in their release. "iPad Magazines make sense. Everything that's great about a print magazine, the layout, the content, the contextual advertisements and the size translate wonderfully to the iPad - then you add the Internet, multimedia, personalisation and online advertising. iPad Ads regularly show higher click through rates than the web. This is the future of magazines, in your hands, right now."

Each issue will cost readers $5.99, a slight discount off the $6.90 cover price. And by the way, for those not familiar with this magazine, Australian Women's Weekly is a magazine founded in 1933 and was for a long time an actual weekly, but it converted to a monthly in late 1982 but retained its name.



Since we are talking about an app from Australia this is a good time to look inside iTunes at the App Store there. For the iPad the leading paid news app is from The Australian -- no surprise. But just like most other app stores, the top ten also includes the Pulse News Reader and Instapaper apps.

The top free iPad news app is from ABC -- which in this case means the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. But the second and third most popular apps come from outside Australia: the New York Times and BBC News.



The long awaited operating system upgrade for the iPad is right around the corner, probably a few weeks away. The upgrade to iOS 4.2 will bring folders and multitasking to the iPad, features that have been enjoyed by iPhone users for a while now.

Because of this, it is an interesting time to be releasing first apps -- do you wait until after the upgrade or go ahead and release your apps?

For newspaper and magazine companies it is probably wise to just go ahead and release the app. Multitasking doesn't effect a "print" product on the tablet that much. But for radio apps multitasking allows the user to keep the content flowing even if the user switches to another app.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Use of HTML5 video has doubled in the past five months; Flash still dominates desktop, but mobile drives HTML5

A few months ago THE big story in tech concerned Apple's rather obstinate refusal to allow Flash on its iOS devices and the war of words (and occasional threats) that followed.

The answer to Flash was supposed to be HTML5, but many people, myself included, doubted that much video would get ported over to HTML5 immediately. Wrong.

But a great post on MeFeedia shows that 54 percent of all video online is now available in HTML5, a doubling of content in just five months.
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The conclusion reached here is that mobile users are driving this because while Flash still dominates the desktop mobile devices are driving HTML5 video adoption.

The real drivers of this movement have been the video services such as YouTube and Vimeo -- their enormous catalog of content probably makes up the lion's share of the video that has been ported over. "Embeds are now using the iFrame tag instead of the standard “object” tag. By providing this new code, the source can serve a video format that is supported and optimized for each device," according to the post on the MeFeedia blog.

Update: the top iPhone news apps in North America

It shouldn't come as a surprise that when comparing the top iPhone news apps in the U.S., Canadian and Mexican iTunes stores language is a major determining factor when looking at the top apps. But politics seems to be a big factor, as well.
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With the launch of the iPad, much of the attention has shifted to tablet development, but smartphone apps still far outpace iPad apps. Comparing iOS apps is, of course, much easier than Android apps because there is not just one centralized app store.

And while Apple now has iTunes stores for 90 different countries (not all of them include app stores), let's just look at North America.

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The top paid iPhone news app in the iTunes App Store in the U.S. is from CNN. The app will cost you $1.99, but it available for free in the Canadian app store. (But just to let you know, you can only buy apps in the store of your own country, though you can easily switch from one app store to the other within iTunes.)

In the past, many of the top news apps in the Canadian store were the same as those in the U.S. store -- but that has changes.

The Globe and Mail tops the free news apps in Canada. Right below it is the CBC Radio app -- a great app, by the way, and one that is available in the U.S. store, as well. The free version of the CNN app ranks fifth.

The paid news aggregation app, Pulse News Mini makes the top five in the U.S., Canadian and Mexico app stores., and Instapaper appears in the U.S. and Canadian top five. But those two apps are the only apps that are popular in the U.S. and Canada that also make the top five in Mexico -- language is obviously the key as Spanish language news apps dominate both the paid and free categories.

Besides language, what else differentiates the stores? Politics. Both the Drudge Report and FOX News are top apps in the U.S. but do not appear in any other list of top apps. Maybe something is lost in translation.

Morning Brief: Barnes & Noble unveils new color Nook; politicians aren't the only ways talking out of both sides

This morning Barnes & Noble unveiled its new color Nook e-reader. Priced at only $249, this Android driven device provides an interesting addition to the line-up of new tablets.

"With Nook Color, we've combined the functionality and convenience of a seven-inch portable wireless tablet with the reader-centricity of a dedicated e-reader," Barnes & Noble chief executive William Lynch said in a statement.
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"Nook Color enables Web browsing over Wi-Fi, music, games and much more, but reading anything and everything in brilliant color is the killer app and squarely the product's focus."

Opinion on the web is pretty divided about the new Nook's chances of success. Ignoring the Apple haters who will applaud anything without an apple logo on it, there is quite a bit of disagreement about this new Nook. The Atlantic's Alexis Madrigal appears to like it, while Forbes' Brian Caulfield thinks this new Nook is really more a competitor for the iPod touch (guys, the "t" isn't capitalized -- this stuff must drive brand managers crazy).

Here are my thoughts on the new Nook: a seven inch tablet is too small for direct competition for a 9.7 inch display -- view identical magazines on the two devices and you'll see what I mean. Many people apparently think that the Nook, because of its Android OS and color display, will not compete against the Kindle at all -- wrong. Again, journalists are completely ignoring the reading experience.

I was on a plane last week reading my newspapers and magazines on my iPad next to a woman who was reading a book on her Kindle. We talked about both devices at length and I stressed the advantages of both devices, in no way did I sell her on an iPad. But after about an hour of using my iPad (it was a three hour flight) she told me straight out that she was going to buy an iPad. The selling point: larger display allows for easier consumption of multimedia. Yes, her Kindle was great for reading books, but if the device also allowed her to view videos, play games (interesting, in that she was over 60), and listen to music then that was the device for her -- though the price was a concern.

This new Nook, I think, will appear to a lot of people who want to read color magazines on it, play Android games, and the like. But it isn't an iPad and it isn't a Kindle -- and that is OK.

So, will it succeed? That's hard to tell because I don't shop at Barnes & Noble -- I find their book prices uncompetitive, and I prefer the online experience of Amazon by a wide margin. In other words, the Nook might struggle more because it is being sold by B&N than because the device itself is some how faulty (though early word is that the device is a bit "laggy" and the screen is not very sharp).

Well, we said the Android tabs were coming, and here is a real, honest-to-goodness Android tab (kind of). Get developing.



Quick thought: where were all these journalists who are complaining about the firing of Juan Williams the past few years? There have been calls for his firing for a long time -- and the same voices have complained about Mara Liasson, as well. The issue is not journalists speaking their minds on Fox News, it is journalists who pretend to be serious about their craft on one network and who then go over to Fox and act like Bill O'Reilly.


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Back to the Nook: assuming Android tabs catch on it seems to me that the biggest issue faced by designers for tablets won't be Android versus iOS -- they will have to develop for both -- but small screen versus larger screen.

I think readers, especially younger readers, will like the smaller form factor. But older readers have a hard enough time now with magazines, a seven inch screen only makes things harder unless the screen is all text (think Kindle). This means that developing for smaller screens will require developers to include text-only options with their page designs, something that does not feel like a requirement for the iPad.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Amazon launches its second dedicated iPad app, Windowshop is 'complete rewrite' of popular website

Learning from its first effort to create a dedicated app for the iPad, Amazon has today launched a whole new app, Windowshop.
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“Amazon Windowshop is a top-to-bottom rewrite of Amazon.com – designed and built without compromise just for iPad,” said Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of Amazon.com.

The new app is a great example of a company learning from its past efforts and adapting its approach for the new platform. Like some of the latest newspaper apps seen in iTunes, this app tries to make adjustments to its e-commerce website to fit the new platform. The results are interesting and users will have to live with the app for a while to see if it is an improvement over just using the Amazon website. So far, at least, the early reviews in iTunes are very positive.


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Left: the drop down "Browse" menu;
Right: the pop-up window that appears when you tap a product.


The free app is to be used in landscape mode only and features a tables look. Tapping a product pulls up a new embedded window that shows the product in more detail. If there is a problem that I can see it would be that often duplicate products are seen under their category. For instance, the new Keith Richards biography is seen twice -- once in hardbound and once in another format. This is a waste of real estate and is probably caused the way the products are pulled into the app (popularity?).

Nonetheless, I've always thought that Amazon had a great attitude about its competitor to its own Kindle. Amazon knows that Apple's tablet will sell lots of Kindle editions, and can be used to see other products, as well.

Comcast moves one step closer to 'content-everywhere'

Comcast announced today that it is making "nearly 150,000 video choices online, including hit shows, blockbuster movies, kids’ content, independent films, ethnic programming, clips and movie trailers" available to its digital customers through its Xfinity product.
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“Bolstered by the best content from top programmers and rich tools to help personalize your TV viewing experience, we’ve created a destination that enables customers to watch, find and manage their favorite shows and movies anytime, anywhere,” Matt Strauss, Senior Vice President and General Manager, Comcast Interactive Media said in the announcement. “But we’re not stopping there – in the coming weeks, Comcast will bring even more content, functionality and ease-of-use into Xfinity TV.”

Comcast digital customers can visit the Xfinity TV website, sign in and then watch network programming and other entertainment through their web browser. Customers can also now share the video content they are watching via popular social media networks.
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The video player is Flash based meaning iPhone and iPad users ar shut out for now. It is possible that rather than creating a browser based alternative that Comcast could decide to go the app direction -- if so, they will still have to convert the content to an HTML5 player. (They could, of course, use a 'sniffer' to detect browsers on iOS devices.)

Comcast announced back in May plans to develop an iPad app that could manage programming and offer provide subscribers with other functions including social networking of programming. Though that app has yet to appear Multichannel News (subscription required) is reporting that the app will launch in mid-November.

World Series comes to SF and Dallas where the metro dailies lag behind in mobile and tablet publishing efforts

Tomorrow the World Series begins, that arrogantly named annual event that usually pits the New York Yankees against . . . somebody else. But this year the San Francisco Giants and Texas Rangers have upset the common wisdom and made it to the big show. As a Giants fan I'm thrilled, if a little leery of what is to follow.
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This gives me a good excuse, though, to rag on the two daily newspapers that represent and report on the teams involved in this year's fall classic.

The San Francisco Chronicle, that newspaper that has made a tradition out of producing one of the worst newspaper websites in the country is also a newspaper that, until recently, was without an iPhone or iPad app. But the paper finally released its first iPhone app on October 19th -- and how do you like that title -- SFGate.com - Complete 2010 San Francisco Giants postseason coverage -- rolls right off your tongue, doesn't it?

Oh, and let's repeat that release date: October 19. The Giants and the Braves were the last two teams to play their first postseason game -- October 7. You do the math.

The app itself was probably the result of a high school computer project: a single RSS feed drives all the content, no menu, no photo gallery, no video, no way to share stories. On the bright side, the app is free to download, so you get what you pay for. But it is also free of advertising, you know that doesn't sit well with TNM. Frankly, when it comes to mobile apps from metro dailies it doesn't get much more embarrassing than this.

The "Seller" of this SF Giants apps is listed as Hearst Newspapers -- it is the only app to be found under that name. To see if other Hearst papers have mobile apps you have to search each individual name, meaning that despite the fact that the media company has its own senior vice president for digital media they do not have a corporate digital media development effort that is showing results.

A quick search of what is going on at other Hearst newspapers shows that the Albany Times Union has a mobile app, developed by "White Directory Publishers" which is a Hearst owned 'yellow pages' publisher. But searches for other Hearst owned papers like Beaumont, Bridgeport and other cities did not generate a hit -- even the Houston Chronicle appears not to have entered the modern publishing era. (I did not search for all the newspapers as I gave up after Houston -- after all, if you won't release apps for San Francisco or Houston you are pretty much telling the world your position vis-a-vis mobile and tablet media, right?)

But what about Belo, besides the Dallas Morning News they also own other papers, of course.
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Inside iTunes: zip, nada.

OK, baseball is kind of an old fashioned sport, with years of rich tradition; it is often accused of being old fashioned and reluctant to change. Kind of like the newspaper industry, I suppose. But if the World Series were held between the Yankees and the Dodgers I could have written about all the mobile and tablet efforts going on at the Tribune Company and the Times. But instead we are have the Giants and the Rangers. Guess I'll boot up my iPad and open up the Sporting News Today app to read up on the series.

Disclosure: back in the day I worked for Hearst Newspapers at the Los Angeles Herald Examiner.



A quick follow-up: a quick search for "Rangers" in iTunes pulls up a few apps that attempt to capitalize on the Texas Rangers. Also, the McClatchy owned Fort Worth Star-Telegram shows up with an iPhone app, as well. A search for "Giants" reveals an RSS feed driven app for the baseball clue from developer LucidOne Communications which pulls in feeds from nine different news outlets.

It should be also added that both the Bay Area and the Dallas/Fort Worth area are represented in iTunes by mobile apps from the local radio and television affiliates.

Also, for about two minutes this post mentioned Belo and Seattle for some reason -- that was pulled.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Apple always knows best, except when it doesn't

The Mac blogs are not very happy with a seemingly minor decision Apple has made concerning the iPad: changing the function of the 'orientation' button on the iPad. With the launch of iOS 4.2, the important update that will bring multitasking and folders to the tablet, the 'orientation' button which holds the display in portrait or landscape mode will become a 'mute' switch, just as it is on iPods and the iPhone.
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This is a great example of a company making a move without actually having a clue how its customers are using its product. The iPad is a media consumption device, but in this case, more of a movie and publishing consumption device than a music device (like the iPod or iPhone). Because of this, users want to lock their screens (often to landscape) so that when they are moving the display doesn't jump back and forth between portrait and landscape.

It may seem like a minor thing, but most Apple owners are used to the company creating user friendly products, not acting like Microsoft ("we know better").

Bad move.

Pearson reports the Financial Times reaches 160,000 digital subscribers; advertising revenue up 11 percent

Reporting its latest earnings, Pearson announced today that digital subscriptions to the Financial Times are up over 50 percent to more than 180,000. Advertising revenue at the Pearson owned unit was also up 11 percent.
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Pearson admitted, however, that the print book publishing industry remains "tough", though the unit did report an overall growth in revenue of five percent.

The company was able to brag about its digital editions, however, which now consists of 16,500 eBook titles. "The Fry Chronicles by Stephen Fry became a bestseller in five formats (hardback, ebook, enhanced ebook, app and audio), a publishing first," the company's announcement touted.

Update: Blogger ate my headline -- sorry about that.

The Oklahoman releases iPad app; $9.99 a month subscription price for those not receiving home delivery

Last week The Oklahoman released its first iPad app. Because the paper is independently owned, and located in the middle of the country, I suppose is the reason its release went by without much fanfare. But since I am always looking within iTunes for new apps I found it easily enough.
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I assumed the tablet edition of The Oklahoman would be another replica edition but I am pleased to report this is a very good app designed along the NYT/Financial Times model.

The app is free to download, and once installed will give the user access to one edition of the paper. After that, the reader must pay $4.99 a month if you are a print subscriber, and $9.99 a month if you are not.

I don't know if this is a conscious decision to move subscribers who own iPads over to their tablet edition but I think this would be the choice I would make (I recently cancelled by Tribune subscription and only receive the Sunday edition in print now). While five bucks a month is not a lot of money to spend on a newspaper, it is when you are also paying for the print edition -- iPad owners hate double paying. But $9.99 a month for access is a reasonable price -- though I must say that their price for an annual print home delivery subscription is also quite reasonable, $158.34 a year (who comes up with these odd prices?).
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If you are not familiar with The Oklahoman here is a little background: it is owned by the Gaylord family and was founded back in 1889. It is one of those papers that literally wraps itself in the flag as its iPad app icon points out. Today's edition avoids the unpleasant news to be found in the WikiLeaks story and instead concentrates on local news and sports. Its editorial page today applauds the severe budget cuts proposed by the Tories in the UK and recommends the same 19 percent cuts for the U.S. An editorial cartoon shows President Obama speaking about creating "shovel ready jobs", then shows a grave with the tombstone saying "Capitalism R.I.P." -- in other words, Obama is a socialist. That's The Oklahoman.
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If I had one complaint about the new iPad app itself it would be that the reader can swipe the home page to reach more news, but can not swipe back. I found this strange at first but then found the back arrow at the bottom.

Like many publishers this tablet edition uses the single-sponsor approach -- well, sort of.

The only ad to be found here is for Wimgo Deals, The Oklahoma Publishing Company's own local entity. It always saddens me when these new apps come out without any ads from local merchants -- I could not imagine launching a new product without having an ad from one of our best advertisers in it. Oh well.

Morning Brief: time to pat myself on the back, early review had it right; NYT and CNN disgrace themselves again

That first day of the iPad was pretty damn exciting. Sitting at my computer reading about people getting their devices via UPS while waiting for my own iPad to show up I also started to download apps so that I would be ready to install.

The first tablet edition app I looked at here was, of course, the NYTimes for iPad app. Writing that Saturday, I said that the Times deserved credit for getting their app ready for launch day. But I also said that the app seemed like a temporary solution.

SATURDAY, APRIL 3, 2010:
But the Times app gives you the impression that this is an interim solution. By posting a free app that gives readers access to some content, they may be paving the way for a paid app, or a paid subscription app. In many ways, this limited content approach mirrors the Times news reader for the iPhone.
Whether the Times felt their app was a temporary solution is hard to know for sure, but it certainly turned out that way. The app was updated last week, a little more than six months after being launched, and now includes more content, more sections, and just about everything (but not quite everything) readers have been demanding. Most people assume it is only a matter of time before the newspaper begins charging for at least some content access.

Like the Men's Health app mentioned earlier this morning, the Times has gotten its share of bad reviews inside iTunes, but recent reviews are better and complaints now mainly concern crashes -- something that happens sometimes with app updates (users need to reboot their tablets occasionally, and sometimes need to delete the old app and reinstall to solve app issues).



It is painful to write these words, but they are the truth, nonetheless: the New York Times remains a disgrace -- the Judith Miller episode has taught this paper nothing about how dutifully acting as the administration's mouthpiece will cause it to lose credibility, and eventually readers.

I do not cover the state of American journalism on this site, instead TNM concentrates on the business side of the media world. There are lots of other sites out there that talk about journalism, but I must admit that the vast majority of them do so with their heads in the sand. How can journalists pretend to offer advice concerning the future of the media business when they will not be honest about the state of their profession -- a profession that is about doing the bidding of their owners and sources, of dutifully hiding the truth to protect whatever administration is in office, the military, media owners, and the like.

If you are not familiar with the actions of CNN and the Times this weekend I suggest a few Google searches, this site does not want to revisit yet another embarrassing series of examples of the state of journalism in the U.S. -- it is too painful for me to revisit here. But let me add, when designing a business plan for a media company I don't think the first actionable item I would recommend would be "lose the trust of your readers".

Retweet: AdAge report on consumer magazine sales on the iPad should take into account app quality, approach

On Friday AdAge posted a story that looks at the sales figures of a group of consumer magazines that have acted as early experiments at tablet publishing and attempts to make sense of the early returns.

In the story Nat Ives talks about some of the sale figures of early magazine apps, specifically looking at the early single copy sales of Wired, Popular Science, People, Men's Health and Vanity Fair. So far, sales figures vary widely, with some magazines showing sales that are equivalent to 37 percent of the same issue's newsstand single copy sales, to less than one percent for Men's Health.

I think the story is worth reading in full -- go here.
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I'd like to add one thing to think about, however. The magazines looked at generally performed fairly well. Growing single copy sales by 20 or 30 percent or more is an impressive accomplishment for a platform that did not even exist before April 3 of this year. But it should be remembered that each of the magazines looked at have pretty decent magazine apps -- all except one.

That one magazine, Men's Health, is the one magazine that is also performing the worst, sales-wise. Don't take me word for it, look inside iTunes and see the reviews and star ratings. Of 5,804 ratings, over 80 percent of the ratings are one or two stars, and truly horrible judgement by iPad owners.

The reviews are pretty consistent, but this one probably sums it up best:

5 bucks for a PDF viewer
I bought the first magazine (April) to show support because I love the concept of magazines for the iPad, it was buggy, just a PDF and had awkward controls . . .

Back in June I wrote that Rodale was advertising for an in-house developer and that I felt this was a great move citing their poor app reviews inside iTunes. But, unfortunately, things are not much different and so the publisher can not expect sales to improve until their app improves. While I applaud the fact that they were able to make their magazine available at the time of the iPad's launch, their approach proved to be wrong -- time to change it.



If there is one thing magazine publishers should have learned in the almost seven months since the launch of the iPad it is that app quality is important -- as is app philosophy (native app versus replica edition). If you are a consumer magazine, and you want to attract a large audience you will have to take the platform seriously. Simply launching an app that is a replica edition will not satisfy most early tablet owners (maybe this will change over time, we'll see).

Things may be different for newspapers where a large number of readers may be satisfied with a replica of their old print newspapers, but I doubt it. I have consistently advocated this simple position: it is a mistake to believe that one product that was specifically designed for the print format can successfully be converted to the tablet platform without significant changes that take into account the inherent features of the tablet. That is why the best "replica editions" offer serious feature upgrades and are not just "PDF readers".