Friday, November 5, 2010

Short takes on a Friday afternoon: Skyfire returns to App Store on a metered basis; McClatchy takes baby steps; Rosetta launches first language mobile app for French

Good Friday afternoon. Let's end the week with some app updates.

Skyfire has reentered the iTunes App Store, but who knows how long the app will remain there.
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The Skyfire app brings Flash video content to the iPhone by encoding Flash video on the fly and playing it back as HTML5. The key is the abilities of the Skyfire Labs servers to do all this quickly and smoothly. And therein lies the problem: demand of the $2.99 app was so high that the Skyfire system could not cope, so the developer quickly pulled the app to limit the amount of users.

Now, as you can see at right, the app is back, but comes with a warning page that performance might be less than optimal. (No link because it might be dead before you know it.)

"We are going to open batches of downloads for new users over the coming days. The first batch will be in a few minutes on the Apple App Store. It will be first come, first serve," CEO Jeff Glueck wrote on the company's blog. "Please note that there may be some initial congestion as a flood of new users simultaneously try to use the service, but try again an hour later and things should smooth out."


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McClatchy released an iPhone app for another of its newspapers -- this time for the Anchorage Daily News. This is the ninth iPhone app for McClatchy, all developed with the assistance of Verve Wireless.

The latest news app offers lots of content, and is definitely based on the unique news needs of the audience: Fishing, Wildlife, Military and other news categories are on the Anchorage Daily News app.

There is one banner ad spot repeated throughout and the first advertiser is, indeed, from an Alaska firm, not some network ad from the lower 48.

McClatchy is certainly behind other newspaper chains. They have no tablet editions yet, and are apparently satisfied to outsource their mobile efforts rather than invest in the future. It's a bit disappointing, but ...


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Now for something a little different: the first mobile app from Rosetta -- the language education people. If you've ever investigated spending money on using Rosetta to learn another language you know how expensive it can be.

Now they have released their first mobile language education app, Discover French, which will cost the user $9.99. One would guess that this will merely give the user a flavor of Rosetta, with added costs down the line. But frankly, I'll have to explore the app more to know for sure.

One interest thing about the app is that they decided to do it completely in landscape mode. Exploring the app further might give a clue to this choice.

Students, parents, developers help high schools enter the mobile age; but district administrators still lag far behind

Back in April Abilene Christian University became the first college to launch its own iPad app, and since then other colleges have begun launch apps, as well. By the time this semester (or quarter) is over, I expect to see a flood of new apps thanks to college course work.
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The iPhone, of course, is no stranger to apps from educational institutions. Do a search for "Stanford" and you'll find quite a few, as you'd expect -- there's even one called SEP, for Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, put out by the Metaphysics Research Lab.

The Dallas Morning News now points to an app put out by a local area high school. The Highland Park High School's iPhone app contains news from the school's media department, as well as a calendar of events. The app is free to download, but access to the content requires a password provided by the school.

Credit for the app should probably go to Kelly Snowden, the advisor for the school’s broadcast and newspaper staff. "I was looking for extra things for my kids to do. We started brainstorming ideas, first for a website and then the app," Snowden is quoted as saying by the Dallas Morning News.
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Highland Park High School was then approached by Allan Restrepo, owner of YOUniversal Ideas. That company currently has 49 iPhone apps listed in iTunes (for a developer this company is seriously under the radar -- take a look at their website). The app itself was then launched on September 3 and according to the DMN story has been downloaded over 1500 times (plus one more this morning by me).

Updating the content on the app is an activity fully integrated into the school work of the high school's media students. “The content is updated daily,” Snowden is quoted as saying. “Each broadcast student is required to produce a new package every two weeks. Newspaper students work the beat system and each is required to turn in one story a week.”

Great work -- and a good story by the Dallas Morning News which is worth reading in full here.



I've spoken twice to students at the local area high school. Each time I recommended that they seriously consider launching a website to support their media efforts. The second time I mentioned mobile applications. Unfortunately, the local high school seems to be doing a very good job of lowering the expectations of the students than expanding them.

Kelly Snowden, and the staff and parent supporters, at Highland Park High School deserve some credit for pushing this project and seeing it through.



A search for the term "high school" in the iTunes App Store does not bring up a lot of apps directly tied to high schools. One app, sold by Vicinity Live, is for Westlake High School in Texas -- specifically, for its football team. It, too, must have been a labor of love based on the developer's website (or lack thereof).

But apps for high school football are sadly far more common than apps for the high school's themselves. But there are some exceptions which is really nice to see. Wayland High School from Massachusetss used the service AppsForUsAll to launch an iPhone app. There is also an app from Stephen T. Badin High School, from the Cincinnati suburbs -- nice logo, too.

There is also an app for Plum High School, put out by Kevin Schaefer. The app is careful to say that the app is not endorsed or supported by the Plum Borough School District (Pittsburgh, Penn.). Kevin is a student at the school and is apparently a tech wiz -- this story I found mentions his use of UStream. I hope he at least got some extra credit for the app!

I also found two apps from England: one from Seven Kings High School, and one from Epsom and Ewell High School. These schools are not the exact equivalent of U.S. high schools, but are worth mentioning since this site gets a fair amount of non-US traffic.

Other high schools that deserve shout outs are East Meadow High School in Westbury, NY, an app from Columbus North High School (Indiana), and probably a couple of others that I missed.

I wish I could report that school administrators are going mobile. But when so many media executives are slow to move into mobile I suppose it would be unfair to point the finger at school districts that often have serious funding issues to contend with.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

A nice start for self-published Touch Gaming magazine; newspaper app update points to iPad storage issues

I could see it coming a mile away: the launch of the iPad would encourage self-publishers to take advantage of the new tablet and iTunes App Store the way garage bands take advantage of iTunes music downloads.
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The very first self-published magazine created for the iPad that I looked at here was a modest little effort called Letter to Jane which came out in early May. But this photo magazine appears to have been a dead end as Issue number two never has appeared in iTunes.

On Monday another self-published title was launched in the iTunes App Store and it will be interesting to see if the publisher can keep this one going.

Touch Gaming Magazine is a paid app (only 99 cents) that is sharply focused on gaming apps for Apple iOS devices. Edited by Patrick Rijnders, who has worked in the publishing business in the Netherlands for about 15 years. Based on his Linkedin profile, I believe he has been editing and translating for a Dutch publishers these past seven years before striking out on his own to create this first iPad magazine. (His website for the magazine is here.)
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Alfred Rijnders is listed as the app programmer, so this is definitely a small publishing effort, but I think however modest this app may appear there is no doubting that it works and can be duplicated.

The app contains no special animation or embedded video. Instead, Touch Gaming is simply a collection of interviews and app reviews. The typography leaves a bit to be desired, but so what. The app simply works, which is more than can be said for some other efforts (compare this one to the app for Ars Technica from Condé Nast).
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This app utilizes pinch to zoom, swiping and pull down menus to create a good user experience. And instead of embedding video, this one uses a menu option that takes you outside the app to visit the game developer's website or YouTube demo video. Taking you outside the app to see video is not a great solution but it works for now. Once Apple updates the iPad's OS later this month to bring multitasking to the tablet, developers will be able to come up with better solutions that this one.

I should also add that layouts are in both portrait and landscape. Additionally, the app weighs in at 17.1MB due to not having embedded video -- another good reason to have the video housed outside of the app.

Well done.



Two weeks ago I wrote about the launch of an iPad app for The Oklahoman, a pretty good first effort from the newspaper that was created along the lines of the New York Times and Financial Times model.

Yesterday the paper updated its iPad app and I found it interesting what the description in iTunes had to say:
Edition updates: If we publish an update to an edition, a refresh button next to that edition will allow you to download it again
> * Warns you if you don't have enough space on your device to download an edition
> * Fixed a bug where the app would try to download multiple editions simultaneously
> * Improved graphics
> * Various performance improvements and bug fixes
The fixing of bugs in an update is pretty normal, but the other enhancements grabbed my attention -- especially the part about warning the user about space.

This "space" issue is becoming more important as time goes on. When I ordered my own iPad back in March I decided to spend $100 more and buy the 32 gig model thinking that I might need the extra 16 gigs for movies and games. It turns out that I needed the space for books, magazines and newspaper. Who would have guessed?

The huge size of iPad publications is not only causing users to run out of storage (and therefore in need of a storage warning) but is also causing distress whenever users plug their iPads into their computers. iTunes automatically opens and begins to back-up the iPad when plugged into a computer. The more new publications you've downloaded the slower the back-up. A lot of iPad owners have thought there was something wrong with their tablets until told that subscribing to newspapers and magazines will slow down their back-ups.

Ultimately, this may be the factor that forces publishers to avoid creating these massive editions. To avoid this, publishers may decide to keep video content off their apps, and on their own servers. Not a great solution if you want readers to have full access to content when offline, however.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Update: Skyfire app pulled due to huge demand

This is a first: a developer has pulled its app from the iTunes store because it could not cope with the demand. The developer involved is Skyfire Labs, which I wrote about this afternoon.

Writing on its own company blog, Robert Oberhofer wrote that its new Flash conversion browser app for the iPhone was pulled early this evening (word was that the app would launch tomorrow -- guess not). You can read the original post with the demo video here.

"Despite our best attempts and predictions, the demand far exceeds our initial projections," Oberhofer wrote. "The user experience was performing well for the first few hours, but as the surge continued, the peak load on our servers and bandwidth caused the video experience to degrade."

The problem, of course, is that the system they have designed re-encodes Flash video to HTML5 -- essentially, they will be encoding video on the fly. In order to continue to do this they apparently must have a limited number of users. Oops, flaw in the business plan.

Skyfire to bring Flash video to the iPhone and iPad by transcoding to HTML5; app set to launch tomorrow

Ithought I should pass on this little tid bit, first reported yesterday by CNN: a developer has come with a nice little work around that will bring Flash video content to Apple's iOS devices. Skyfire will apparently launch a new app tomorrow morning that it says will bring Flash video content to the iPhone and iPad.

The Skyfire app works on top of the existing built-in Safari web browser found on all iPhone, iPad and iPod touch devices. It recognizes Flash content on a web page and immediately begins to recode the content for viewing in a new window in HTML5. The demo video below demonstrates this pretty nicely. This solution, though, will only work with video content, not games and advertising.



I imagine the way I would use this app would be when I encounter a site with video I want to watch, I would copy the URL, fire up Skyfire and then paste in the URL.

For publishers, this is a small, but interesting step towards Flash on Apple mobile devices. If you only use Flash for video content this will allow your video content to be seen on more devices. It's not a great solution for most major publishers who would probably go the route of the NYT and go ahead and encode all their video of HTML5 viewing. But for small publishers, if this app is widely downloaded (it will cost users $2.99) this is at least a stop gap solution.

Media executives, analysts continue the paywall debate

While we in the U.S. are waiting for the New York Times to launch its own version of a metered paywall, Rupert Murdoch's The Times in the UK has been behind a paywall now for a few months and will most likely brag about their results in today's earning conference call.

Has The Times paywall proved to be a success? I don't know, it's all a matter of perspective, I think. The company line, of course, is that things are going swimmingly: “These figures very clearly show that large numbers of people are willing to pay for quality journalism in digital formats,” according to News International chief Rebekah Wade.

Jeff Bercovici, writing for Forbes, that the "large" numbers being discussed are "just a tiny sliver of the 20 million monthly unique visitors the Times was attracting before the paywall’s advent. News Corp. can put a brave face on it . . . but unless the conversion rate goes way, way up, it’s hard to see how the company comes out ahead in the bargain."
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Not surprisingly, neither the Independent nor the Guardian are writing positively about The Times paywall -- both having bet on an open web strategy.

"Faced with a collapse in traffic to thetimes.co.uk, some advertisers have simply abandoned the site," Ian Burrell wrote on The Independent's website when the paywall first went up.

Exactly two months later, Burrell hasn't changed his mind. "The verdict, according to industry feedback I’m receiving this morning, is a thumbs down," Burrell wrote today.

Robert Andrews, writing for the Guardian owned site paidContent, says that "just 0.25 percent of The Times’ online audience have become regular customers," and then does a pretty good job of explaining News Corps's rationale.



As a matter of strategy, one imagines that many newspapers have made their decisions with a certain bias that comes from the background of the decision makers. Editors like to believe that editorial content should be of value, and therefore, should not be given away free.

New Media professionals generally believe the web is a free access medium and putting a price tag at the door is counter to the nature of the medium. Advertising people believe that reaching as many eyes as possible is the goal, something that can be sold.

I sympathize with all these points of view, but come at things a bit differently. How does the publisher feel about their ad sales organization? Most have little confidence with their ad teams, having seen the actual numbers being produced since the web became almost de rigueur. But most sales teams are still organized as if it were still the eighties -- classified teams being cut down to size to reflect lower volume, but few other changes other than a few experiments with web-only sales teams.

The goal remains the same as it always was: monetize web efforts. Because of this, I think we are still at an early stage of experimenting with paywalls. I believe it is a proven fact that paywalls work when the product is financial in nature. If gainly access to information makes me money I am willing to pay for it. But gaining access to the latest football score is not worth me paying a high price -- and besides, that information is easily accessed elsewhere. So for most newspapers, a paywall is an iffy proposition.

One last point, the fact that we see very few paywalls in B2B media is a sure sign that most trade publishing executives realize that they have degraded their editorial content to such a degree that it is virtually worthless. (As an example, the place holder put up by the editorial team at Construction Equipment did not mince words: send us your press releases. Now they have a new website up -- a place where press releases go to die.)

Where editorial content has no value, drawing advertising ends up being the goal. But without quality editorial, it is impossible to drive page views. So website become places where advertisers get spiffed for their print ad pages -- a horrible circle that leads nowhere.

Morning Brief: NYT bombards iPad owners with news alerts; the web still proves to be the best medium for election results; News Corp. reports earnings today

America went to the polls yesterday to vote in mid-term elections with the results pretty much as expected: the Republicans retook control of the House of Representatives, but the Democrats hung onto control of the Senate. The results portend gridlock and danger.
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During the evening, the New York Times too advantage of the notifications feature in the iPad to bombard its iPad app owners with election updates -- lots of them. For a while, iPad owners were receiving election updates every few minutes whether the races in question were of national or local interest.

I struggled to find a way to turn off the feature, but attempts to get the NYT app to stop pinging me were in vain.



For the most part, mobile media is still a bit too young a medium to have usurped the web. Newspaper and government websites remained the outlets of choice for those trying to get detailed information about races. While some apps brought in RSS feeds that gave basic story lines, newspaper websites remained the place to get actual vote counts.



News Corp. will report its Q1 earnings today and it will be interesting to see its newspaper performance. Thanks to the Citizens United ruling, election spending soared this cycle, but did newspapers benefit? I know my mailbox was filled with election advertising like never before, and the web sure seemed full of political ads. But did newspapers get their share in print? or online?

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Help-wanted and mobile: new media looks old now

Once upon a time there was a great job board called Headhunter. It allowed users to post resumes and to actually look at the resumes of other users for free -- something that would be unthinkable now (and probably just as well). And back in the early days of the web explosion, it was Monster.com and its first Super Bowl ads that announced the arrival of a new day in media.

But now the web firms that has been credited with destroying the classified sections of so many newspapers are themselves falling behind in this age of mobile and tablet media.
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Classified advertising is near and dear to me. In order to stay in L.A. after getting my "J" degree in Michigan I was hired in the phone room of the local Hearst paper. Later I was moved to outside sales and eventually became a CAM. Classified used to pay the bills, and the willingness of newspapers to throw it all away is one of the reasons I left the newspaper business for McGraw-Hill and magazines.

Now, the shoe is on the other foot. Take Careerbuilder, Gannett,, Tribune Company, McClatchy and Microsoft owned job board. It's iPhone app is being blasted insider iTunes because the app is considered buggy and the geolocation search simply does not work -- frankly, it's useless.

Worse, once the user syncs with their online account their resumes are pulled into the app -- and duplicated, and duplicated, and duplicated. I ended up with 28 resumes in total.

Not surprisingly, CareerBuilder does not have an iPad app, but that is not stopping independent developers from stepping into the void. Job Updates for iPad, released today, is a typical third party app that tries to take advantage of the poor performance of old media companies (including new media companies acting like old media companies). Its 99 cent app is a simple RSS reader app that pulls in jobs from other sources.

Monster.com also has an iPhone app and it, too, is getting hammered by users in iTunes with more than 70 percent of reviewers giving the app only one star.

The New York Times Company has released real estate apps for both its NY and Boston papers, a good start. But most newspapers have been concentrating on "content", meaning editorial, when they should be concentrating on "content", which to this ex-CAM also means classified advertising.

(I shouldn't forget to mention that Cars.com has an iPhone app, but an iPad app would seem like a natural since the iPad's display would be great for used car photos. Also, I see nothing from the auto trader magazines inside iTunes -- something that I find shocking, though I may be missing an app hiding in the iTunes App Store.)

World Series wrap: a look at old and new media, and how modern media handles big events (like a Giants victory!)

Last night as a bit of a late night. A very late night, actually. OK, a very, very late night.
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As a diehard Giants fan, another of those always suffering, always hoping Giants fans, I soaked in the events and emotions of last night's final game (as it turned out) of the World Series.

But then the damn morning came and it was back to work. And while it seemed the smart thing to do to ignore the Giants this morning I suddenly realized that that would be the wrong approach. In fact, looking at the coverage of the Giants this morning makes a lot of sense when trying to understand the role of New Media today. So here goes.
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The newspaper front page is the traditional souvenir of sports fans and here is this morning's Chronicle as found on the Newseum website. I still have front pages from events such as the Loma Prieta earthquake, newspapers experiments from the Los Angeles Herald Examiner during my Hearst Newspaper days, not to mention papers I edited in high school and college. Newspapers are still the most desired permanent relic -- proof it really happened.

In the old days, that is, when I lived in the Bay Area, the Chronicle used to print its sports section on green paper. It was a silly tradition because the SF Newspaper Agency's presses were so old that it was hard to read the paper, even on regular stock, but green stock made it almost impossible. Eventually they decided to bag it, but they still called the sports section The Sporting Green.

So to commemorate the Giants first World Series victory ever in San Francisco the newspaper went with the team's color -- orange.


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Besides television and radio, outside the area of interest for TNM, it is the web that dominates news readership today. Sadly for Bay Area residents, the newspaper website for the Chronicle -- named SFGate -- is not up to the standards set by other big city newspapers. For a city known for its tech community, I've never understood why the Chronicle hadn't built a better site. Oh well.

Locked into its formats, the SFGate.com site simply can not reflect the importance of major events. Headlines remain the same size, they don't seem to have the flexibility to redesign its site on the fly. So this morning about the best it could do was to drop in a new background on its home page.

The Sports section, though, remains exactly as it looks on any other Tuesday morning. Compare this page on SFGate, the sports section, to the MLB homepage on ESPN.

If you are a newspaper editor or publisher you need to think about what you could do in the same situation -- would you be locked into your old look, as well?

(For the record, The Dallas Morning News appears in the same boat with its website. But between last night's final loss for the Rangers, and the plight of the Cowboys, it seems impolite to talk about that paper's new media woes.)


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As I wrote last week, the Chronicle launched its first iPhone in time for the World Series -- a pretty embarrassing little app that simply brings in one RSS feed's worth of content.

A couple of days ago the newspaper updated its app adding blog content (whoopee), it also said that "Authors’ names now appear correctly on each article." Wow, just wow.

While a Giants World Series victory may have been 53 years in the making, it appears that the City's major daily newspaper just wasn't in the ballgame -- at least as far as New Media is concerned.

On the tablet edition side of things, Sporting News Today, the daily iPad edition from the Sporting News remains pretty much the only game in town. The Zinio produced app is a continuation of a similar product that used to be online. The iPad is the proper place for the product, though, and its move to the iPad allowed the Sporting News editors to update the publication's website.
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But the daily tablet edition suffers from one major flaw: it is a tablet product that wants to be a print product. Designed to duplicate a print product that doesn't exist, the Sporting News Today is like a car that comes with a buggy whip. Additionally, the Sporting News continues to have video content problems that have not been solved with its CineSports deal.

Again, the comparison has to be made with the ESPN website. Sure it has great video content because it is a television network, but its blog videos like these from Jayson Stark and Jim Caple, show how you can do informal videos that work (at least, I think they work).

Monday, November 1, 2010

Shout-out to new NYT web feature: Disunion

Whether the Times is really just seeking a way to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the start of the Civil War, or whether this is a statement of the current state of the union, the New York Times has began a new web-exclusive feature this weekend. DISUNION is a web blog in the truest sense of the term: a weekly look (daily the first week) at the events leading up to the start of the Civil War, and I suppose, the war itself.
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The feature will be edited by Jamie Malanowski with additional contributions from other writers as time goes on -- Adam Goodheart, the author of the upcoming book “1861: The Civil War Awakening”, contributes the second installment appearing today.

The entire weblog is appearing under the Opinionator banner, a strange choice, though it may have been the best option available to the editors.

Time Inc. and Condé Nast release new iPad apps for very different products; one works, one is buggy and doesn't

Two major media companies released iPad apps for their properties this morning: Time Inc. released a fee photo app for Life, while Condé Nast released an iPad app for its Ars Technica web product.
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LIFE for iPad is essentially an app that takes advantage of the titles huge photo library. The free app can be used in both landscape and portrait -- a good thing since photographs come in both orientations.

One wonders if readers will return often to this app as it lacks the urgency of a news app, or the frequency of a regularly issued magazine. But the app is well done and certainly takes advantage of the iPad's display.
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This is a good example of a tablet app that simply would not be as wonderful on a smaller, seven inch display of some of the newer tablets being released. As I've said in the past, media products will work better on the iPad's 9.7 inch display than on smaller displays (though I can certainly see some advantages to the smaller form -- gaming, for instance).

The mystery here, though, is the business model: no ads, free app. Am I missing something?


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Condé Nast Digital has also released a new iPad app this morning, this one for Ars Technica. But this app has some serious programming issues and probably should have been better tested before being released.

First, the app has scrolling issues -- it is as sticky as a New York sidewalk. Second, there is no landscape mode, meaning that the web property is suddenly stuck in portrait, a bid awkward.

It's hard to see why this app would be a superior experience to the website, which, of course, can easily be navigated on the iPad using the built-in Safari browser. I guess the best feature would be that you can access the content then go offline for reading while travelling.

In fact, Clint Ecker, writing on the Ars Technica website introducing their iPad app says "You can already read Ars on your iPad via Safari, so why bake an iPad version? First, we think tablets are very cool and afford some innovative design choices."

The rest of the post will certainly be of interest to techies as it goes into the programming of the app itself. A later update admits to some scrolling issues and also promises the add landscape mode to the next version. More importantly, they try, as best as they can, to give a sound reason for the app itself:
Why an App for a tablet? A: A browser is still a point-and-click interface that’s run on a PC of some sort, most of the time. We believe that the tablet reading experience is different, and wanted to experiment. Most of the Ars staff that have tablets are converts to tablet-based reading.

More on Callaway Digital Arts, publisher of MSL iPad app

A bit more about that app I mentioned earlier this morning, Martha Stewart Makes Cookies. As I mentioned, it was released this morning by Callaway Digital Arts. Venture Beat reports today that the company is Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers is leading a $6 million round of funding for the app developer, a pretty amazing feat for a developer that until today had released only one other app.
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Callaway Digital Arts, though, has a bit of history behind it. The company is a spin out of Callaway Editions, a company that in the past has produced such books as Irving Penn’s Passage, Georgia O’Keeffe’s One Hundred Flowers, and OBAMA: The Historic Journey.

The company knows how to raise money: prior to the venture funding the company was a recipient of the U.S. Department of Education’s 2010 Ready-to-Learn Grant. Now we'll see if the they can do something with all that support.

Morning Brief: sandwiches and cookies on a Monday morning; thoughts before game five of the World Series

Good morning.

One thought I had back in April of this year, but one I don't think I posted a story about is this: the real sign that tablets will become a successful device won't be seen in the number of news media apps developed for them, but in the number of non-media apps developed. In other words, the iPad needs to become as ubiquitous as the cell phone.
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One way that can happen would be if the device becomes a popular with gamers, but I'm not sure that really helps media companies. But when you see apps like this one for Jimmy John's (right) you have to see that there are companies betting that tablets will become common place and they don't want to be left out.

Another sign that the iPad is that there are new media players eager to jump in. Take this app for Martha Stewart by Callaway Digital Arts. This $7.99 app has been released in time for the holiday baking season -- just as a book publisher would release a new cookbook for Christmas. But this app, Martha Stewart Makes Cookies (I know, bad name) includes video content and is designed specifically for the iPad. I assume that content comes directly from a similar book already released a few years ago, updated with video, but the chance to update the content for the iPad gives the release a new lease on life.


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I grew up in Detroit and one of the few happy sports memories from my childhood was the 1968 World Series victory by the Tigers over the Cardinals, highlighted by the improbable game seven victory by Mickey Lolich over the unbeatable, future hall-of-famer Bob Gibson.

But after graduating with my "J" degree I moved to California and left behind Detroit area sports forever. In Los Angles, my new home, sports fans had the Magic Johnson led Lakers, Fernando Valenzuela and the Dodgers, and Marcus Allen and the Raiders (for a while). It seemed to this newcomer to LA that a local sports team won a championship every year. It was all too easy.

Then I moved to San Francisco and there were the mighty 49ers of Joe Montana and Jerry Rice. But the Giants were a sad story. Unable to win a World Series since moving to the City, and being courted by Tampa Bay executives, it looked like Giants fans might lose their team.

Now the Giants are one win away from winning it all (though I guarantee you no wise Giants fan is celebrating prematurely). And now living here in Chicago and watching Cub fans and the endless torture they endure, it is easy to imagine the pure joy the Bay Area will feel if the team can close the deal.

Speaking of the Cubs: if the Red Sox can win a series, if the White Sox can win one, wouldn't a victory by the Giants be a sign that the Cubs are next?