Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving to all TNM readers. TNM will be back live starting on Monday.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

De Persgroep releases iPad app for their Flemish and French language newspapers in Belgium

The media company owned by the Van Thillo family, De Persgroep NV, has released its first two iPad media apps for its Belgian properties. L'Echo is the French language newspaper, while De Tijd is a financial paper written in Dutch.
Both apps are free to down and offer the reader a text only version of news as well as a replica copy of the print edition.

"In the paper version, you navigate quickly through the entire newspaper with the banner at the bottom of the PDF page" (Google translation).

I know, I know, they simply don't get it, do they?

I was hoping that those publishers who simply want to get an iPad out there would have done so by now, leaving the field for those who actually want to explore the new medium. But no, I think we are going to see more of these "me-too" apps for a while still. (Give it time, he says to himself.)

Media Briefs: Murdoch tab produces future claim chowder; Acer to release 2 Android and 1 Windows tablet in 2011

Normally, this feature is called Morning Briefs, but this will probably be my only post today as I do a bit of travelling related to tomorrow's Thanksgiving Day holiday.

John Gruber calls it claim chowder: a prediction made with certainly that turns out to be, well, very wrong. When it comes to Apple's iPad and the future of tablet publishing there has already been a fair amount of this. (See this one and file it aways for future amusement.)
What are my thoughts on Murdoch's soon-to-appear daily tablet newspaper? I think I'll wait until it appears. But if I were in his shoes I'd spend the same $30 million he is reportedly spending, in the exactly the same way. After all, what is $30 million to a media man used to spending big bucks backing the latest James Cameron movie?

Of course, there are others who probably think the iPad is still a "Bizarro Trojan Horse" and would advise Murdoch to spend his money elsewhere.

Acer announced last night that it will be launching three new tablets: one 7-inch model and a 10.1-inch model that will run Google's Android OS, and another the same 10.1-inch model, this time running Windows.

The Windows machine will arrive first, in February, with the Android arriving in April -- around the time people think the second generation iPad will be launched.

Like other Acer products, these will be on the low end of the price scale -- $299 to $699.

Strange how all these manufacturers want to make these announcements so far in advance. Is Acer trying to tell customers not to buy an iPad for Christmas because an Acer is coming down the road?

Want a Kindle? How about a Kindle for $89? That apparently is the Black Friday deal being offered up by Amazon for a last-generation model.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Retweet: Next iOS update may be released in time for Murdoch's iPad daily and include recurring subscriptions

An interesting rumor was reported on today by MacStories and can be read in full here.

The skinny is that the next iOS update may be released by Apple in mid-December and would include the ability of iOS device owners -- that is, those that own an iPad, iPhone or iPod touch -- to buy recurring subscriptions. This would be of vital importance to publishers who want to sell self-renewing annual (or some other regular interval) subscriptions.

Supposedly this feature would help News Corp.'s upcoming daily iPad newspaper, but in reality a lot of publishers are looking for this.

Publishers involved in mobile and tablet media find, to their dismay, they are now in the software business

Some publishing executives entered their businesses because they thought it was all about printing money -- they've learned better since then. Others entered it because they actually love the publishing business. My guess is that it is this second group that are embracing mobile media and tablet publishing. The first group is probably just plain annoyed at how complicated the media business is becoming.

It is complicated because the growth of the web meant they now had to become familiar with web publishing, servers, html, content management systems -- yuck. To them this was annoyance. To the group who actually loved publishing, this was a new area to explore, to conquer.

Now along comes mobile media, tablet publishing, apps . . . you can imagine how that first group feels about all this.

Launching an app for the iPhone or iPad (Android, BlackBerry, etc. etc.) means that you are now in the software business. Every time Apple updates its mobile operating system, like it did yesterday, it could potentially cause havoc with your product. This is a new experience for many publishers, and it no doubt is frustrating.

Even a developer like Marco Arment, the developer behind Instapaper, has to struggle with these issues. His latest update has an usual warning on it:
IPAD USERS: PLEASE DO NOT INSTALL THIS UPDATE unless you have installed the new iOS 4.2.1. IT CRASHES ON IPADS RUNNING 3.2. I'm VERY sorry about this.
Imagine the reaction of a small publisher when they discover that users can no longer read their magazine because an OS update has suddenly messed with their app.

Well, it happens, and will continue to happen.

Obviously, one solution will be to use a third party vendor to create and manage your mobile and tablet apps -- most publishers are going in this direction. But whether you handle app development internally or externally, these types of situations will simply have to be dealt with.

When a printer informs you that the book stock you have been using will no longer be available and that you have some choices to make, how do you react? If you are annoyed and shout at your printer you are probably in that first group of publishers. If you start asking questions, requesting samples, and start negotiating, you are probably in that second group of publishers who pride themselves in their ability to talk paper stocks, postal regulations, and now mobile operating systems.

Light posting ahead

This Thursday is Thanksgiving in the U.S. and so posting will be light today and tomorrow, and probably nonexistent after that until next Monday. But I'll still be here occasionally looking at whatever new apps are released this week, updating the news in the Short Takes section, and occasionally commenting on media events (if there are any).

If follow me on Twitter you can get a short excerpt and the link to any new stories posted here.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Retweet: Tablet newspapers need their Orson Welles

Horface Dediu, founder and managing director of Asymco, has an interesting take on iPad publications and newspapers, in particular. He argues that the medium (tablet newspapers) "needs its Orson Welles" -- a reference to the dramatically new way at looking at film and story telling by the young director when he made Citizen Kane.

You can read the whole post here.

But I'd like to point out one very minor thing said and highlight it. Dediu repeats the oft said opinion that Craig's List has killed off classified advertising for newspapers. I am an former CAM (classified advertising manager) and have always contended that no entity could kill off a whole category, that it would take an industry wide screw-up to accomplish such a thing -- and that is precisely what the newspaper industry did.

Between uncompetitive pricing, failing to combat specialty print products (think 'auto traders' and real estate tabloids), a failure to move their classifieds to the web themselves, and then giving up and buying other web properties (and staffing them with people who did not get either the web or classified advertising), newspapers accomplished the seemingly impossible: they threw away a major portion of their revenue.

But Craig's List isn't the end of classified advertising. Take a look at the sites -- they are holdovers from the late nineties. Classified advertising isn't as dead as everyone makes it out to be. And the rise of the tablet publication could be a great opportunity to rethink the whole category.

Apple iOS device owners are informed that their update is now ready; update brings wealth of features to the iPad

The long (very long) awaited iOS update has been released, and with it iPad owners can now enjoy many of the features iPhone owners have enjoyed for months -- multitasking, folders and Game Center, for instance.

In addition to these features now available for the iPad, other features like AirPlay and AirPrint will be available to all iOS device owners for the first time. AirPlay allows for streaming music, video and photos wirelessly from an iOS device (iPhone, iPad or iPod touch) to Apple TV, or streaming audio to an Airport Express. AirPrint is a wireless printing system that will be available to a limited number of printers at first, then rolled out to other printers over time.
“iOS 4.2 makes the iPad a completely new product, just in time for the holiday season,” Apple's CEO Steve Jobs is quoted as saying (yeah right*). “Once again, the iPad with iOS 4.2 will define the target that other tablets will aspire to, but very few, if any, will ever be able to hit.”

The update means that media app developers should make sure their apps are up-to-date to allow users to use them while also having other apps open. This will be especially important to radio apps, but may be important for those few newspaper apps that have incorporated streaming audio such as The Economist app which includes a choice to have the stories read to them by professional news readers, and others such as El PaĆ­s and Les Echos, which include embedded radio stations.

* Don't you love the quotes PR people make up for their press releases?!

Improved mobile technology and photojournalism

The promise of cellphone photography for newspapers and magazines has not always been fulfilled. Photographs taken with a cellphone have often been pixelated, fuzzy, distorted. But the improvement seen in many smartphones today is changing things.

Witness, for instance, today's New York Times photo essay in its Lens section: Finding the Right Tool to Tell a War Story. All the shots taken by Times photojournalist Damon Winter were taken with his iPhone rather than his standard tool of choice, his Canon EOS 5D Mark II.
According to the story, Winter used his Canon to shoot video as can be seen with the story (click the screencapture to go to the video page).

For small publishers, supplying editors with smartphones is one way to cost effectively supply the tools necessary to not only communicate with the home office, but to take pictures and video, and conduct and record interviews, as well.

Asahi Shimbun launches English language edition for the iPad; technical issues make app extremely difficult to use

An English language version of Asahi Shimbun has been launched for the iPad, and while the app is free to download, a subscription is required to access full content.
AJW (Asahi Japan Watch) brings news from Japan to English language customers who are also iPad owners. The 30-day subscription for access to content is $9.99, rather a steep price unless you have a special business reason to want access to this level of news.

I love the idea of this app -- a specialty product that will really expand the knowledge of those who need to keep up to date with happenings in Japan (or who have a fetish for Japanese baseball). But sadly, this app has two major faults: 1) when the app opens it immediately downloads (slowly) the content for the latest edition, even if you have previously opened the app; and 2) I got error messages occasionally when attempting to open the app, these occurred when the app could not successfully download the content.

To solve these issues, an upgrade should include the ability to download new content after the app has opened to the previous content. This would allow for offline reading. In its current configuration, a user could not access this app on a plane, for instance, unless they were flying on one of the carriers currently offering Wi-Fi service.

Morning Brief: iOS update today; iAds video; Irish crisis continues; NYT writer shows he's a bit spoiled

It appears today will be the day Apple releases its latest iOS update. The latest software, iOS 4.2, will be extremely important to iPad owners as it brings multitasking and folders (as well as a few new features) to their tablets. The OS update will also unify all iOS devices -- that is, all iPhones, iPod touches, and iPads will now be on the same generation of operating system.

The previous rumor had the update coming on Wednesday. But because this was the day before the Thanksgiving holiday, this never made sense to me. Releasing the update today, or waiting untill next Monday makes more sense.

A video on YouTube features a round-up of advertisements created for the new Apple iAd platform. Most YouTube users seem perplexed concerning why people would want to see this, but publishers (good publishers, anyway) will be love seeing all the advertisers building new mobile ads.

Anyway, here it is -- happy selling:

The crisis in Ireland doesn't appear to be subsiding simply because the Irish government has agreed to ask for a massive bailout from the EU and IMF. Apparently backbenchers are seeking to force prime minister Brian Cowen to quit -- at least according to The Guardian.

Actually, The Guardian doesn't call them "backbenchers" but instead said "bankbenchers" -- nice typo, or was it on purpose?

The New York Times's David Carr wrote about the upcoming tablet-only newspaper being developed by Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. The $30 million project will result in a paid iPad newspaper, produced by a staff of 100.
Leaving aside some elephant-size editorial questions — how do you put out an original national newspaper every day with a staff of only 100? — there’s an argument to be made for the News Corporation’s app-centric approach. Newspapers have been so busy trying to come to grips with the Web, but there may be a better opportunity on tablets and other mobile devices on which consumers are used to paying for at least some content.
I loved the part where he asks "how do you put out an original national newspaper every day with a staff of only 100?" Maybe Carr should work in B2B publishing a while. Maybe then he'd rewrite the line to read "how do you put together two magazines with one editor?"

But the second part of the quote echos my own thoughts.

I included a link a week ago in the Short Takes section to a story about a growing backlash to TSA security measures. Since the backlash seemed to be centered on the Internet, I sensed that this was one story that wasn't going away. Now there is this story about a video that is going viral on the web about a kid being patted down by TSA.

As I said then, this story isn't going away quietly.

Note: The TSA part of this post was moved to the bottom to make room for the iOS news.