Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas! Back with posts Monday.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Yo ho, my boys! No more work to-night!

"Yo ho, my boys!" said Fezziwig. "No more work to-night. Christmas Eve, Dick. Christmas, Ebenezer. Let's have the shutters up," cried old Fezziwig, with a sharp clap of his hands, "before a man can say Jack Robinson."

You wouldn't believe how those two fellows went at it. They charged into the street with the shutters -- one, two, three -- had them up in their places -- four, five, six -- barred them and pinned then -- seven, eight, nine -- and came back before you could have got to twelve, panting like race-horses.

"Hilli-ho!" cried old Fezziwig, skipping down from the high desk, with wonderful agility. "Clear away, my lads, and let's have lots of room here. Hilli-ho, Dick! Chirrup, Ebenezer."

Clear away! There was nothing they wouldn't have cleared away, or couldn't have cleared away, with old Fezziwig looking on. It was done in a minute. Every movable was packed off, as if it were dismissed from public life for evermore; the floor was swept and watered, the lamps were trimmed, fuel was heaped upon the fire; and the warehouse was as snug, and warm, and dry, and bright a ball-room, as you would desire to see upon a winter's night.

Charles Dickens - A Christmas Carol

Wrap-Up: Virgin's 'Project' goes free for the holidays; more updates for media and technology apps

A few short items to read before we shut down TNM for the holiday weekend.

The iPad magazine 'Project' from Virgin Digital Publishing has gone free for the holidays. The app was always a free download, but once installed the reader could access a sample of the issue for free, but was required to pay for full access. It was probably a good idea to open this up for a limited time to entice new readers.
One of the biggest complaints about 'Project' was slow issue download speeds. I didn't find it too much of a problem myself, but my broadband connection is pretty fast. But Virgin has decided to take no chances and have reduced the size of the issue by a third to assist in downloads. They have also made the issue compliant with iOS 3.2, as well. (Come on guys, update your iPads!)

If you missed TNM's original look at 'Project" you can see it here.

More updates: The Globe and Mail has had its iPad app updated by Spreed, its developer. This makes this version 1.4 -- and I see this as a good thing. Frequent updates is not necessarily a sign of trouble. Better an update than letting an app go too long with problems.

I enjoy reading The Globe and Mail on my iPad, but must admit that the layout of the tablet edition forces a spot on most stories for a photo -- and when there is no photo to go with the story a red maple leaf is inserted. As you might guess, some times the front page ends up looking a bit strange.
Another update comes from Apple for its Remote app, and this much appreciated. The update brings AirPlay video support to the app, as well as Internet radio control. For those people owning an iPhone or iPad (or both) and an Apple TV, this is a very welcome update.

To my surprise, I've found that I'm glad I've purchased an Apple TV. The old Apple TV didn't appeal to me, and seemed over priced. The new version only costs $99 and I've found that I've been using it more than I thought -- streaming photos to my TV, watching Netflix, and looking at Flickr slideshows while simultaneously listening to Christmas music through Pandora by streaming Pandora from my phone to the Apple TV.

Morning Brief: B2B gets a shake-up and a launch (of sorts); HP disses Android and goes its own way

My first gig in B2B publishing was with the Construction Information Group at McGraw-Hill publishing a daily newspaper for the construction industry of Northern California. It was a great group, for a while, with an amazing group of publishers.
One of the last great moves made by leaders of the group was the securing of the AIA contract in 1997. It was a deft act that stole away the title of "official" magazine of the association from Architecture, then owned by BPI Communications. Some saw McGraw-Hill's move at the time as simply buying the market, but the move catapulted Architectural Record from third in the field, behind both Architecture and Progressive Architecture, to first.

Actually, BPI had bought already Progressive Architecture from Penton and shut it down, clearing a bit of room in a field where editorial and production costs can be a bit higher than other markets. The move back fired on BPI when McGraw-Hill secured the AIA contract and at least two publishers lost their jobs over the moves.

Now Hanley-Wood will be taking over the AIA contract at the beginning of the year for its magazine Architect, having previously purchased and shut down Architecture. Meanwhile, the editor of ArchRecord, Robert Ivy, will be leaving McGraw-Hill to become head of the AIA. Ironic, no? But it all looks like shuffling chairs on the Titanic as McGraw-Hill continues to lessen its presence in trade publishing, and the association for architects tries to stay relavant in its industry.

Speaking of B2B and construction: Cygnus Business Media released a press release announcing that they will be launching a quarterly magazine next year called Sustainable Construction. Reading through the release one sees that the quarterly will be created in partnership with Caterpillar -- though they don't use the term "partnership".

The last paragraph of the press release is a bit confusing:
Sustainable Construction, a quarterly publication slated for late-Summer of 2011, features three digital publications -imbedded video, audio and other rich media tools- and a print product (produced with soy ink on recycled paper).
I suppose they mean "embedded" video, but no matter. What are these three "digital publications". And "late summer"? Who puts out a release about a launch no one will see for eight to nine months?

The WSJ posted an interesting interview with HP's head of mobile Jon Rubinstein yesterday. Rubinstein used to be the CEO at Palm. No wonder then that the interview gives on the distinct impression that HP will be be pushing its own WebOS in competition to Apple's iOS and Google's Android.

I guess I see HP as a low priced manufacturer of bland, workable devices, not as the creator of a new platform. I would have expected that HP, if it wanted to continue to develop WebOS, would also produce Android or Windows based tablets. HP seems to be the kind of company that would want to flood the market with different kinds of tablets, rather than focus only on its own platform.

But who knows, maybe this is a change in direction that will make sense as we get into 2011.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

All I want for Christmas is a media app: a look at some newly released media apps for iPad and Android tablets

I couldn't believe how busy yesterday afternoon got. Here we are in the days before Christmas and suddenly I'm getting e-mails about new media apps left and right. It was kind of nice to be that busy looking at new media products, while waiting anxiously to see if UPS and FedEx will be delivering the presents I bought online in time for Christmas morning. (Looking at the tracking reports it looks like it will be a close call.)
Amanda at Bonnier sent me a note to tell me that their magazine Popular Science has launched an Android app exclusively for the Samsung Galaxy Tab. Their press release had the oddest collection of upper case and lower case I've ever seen, but being someone who owns an iPad, maybe this is common in the world of Android. In any case, I appreciate hearing about any new apps for Android since I don't currently have an Android tab. Thanks Amanda.

“One of the great opportunities in this project was the chance to advance our own learnings about creating the best user experience for this new screen size,” Mike Haney, editorial director, Bonnier R&D is quoted in the release. “Although the smaller space requires more simplified layouts, we found that the horizontal orientation of the widescreen display gave us the best canvas for easy-to-read, flowing text and big, beautiful images without the screen ever feeling cluttered—preserving that immersive, relaxing magazine experience. The issue feels like it was made for this device—because it was.”

Interesting point about the "simplified layouts", don't you think?

Yesterday I wrote about different strategies for B2B publishers, and one of those strategies was publishing special editions for tablets. It looks like the folks at Nature Publishing Group had that same idea.

First thing this morning the publishers new iPad app for their magazine Scientific American has been launched. The app is a special edition called Origins and Endings: Scientific American.

The app costs $3.99 to download and weighs in at 384 MB. "For our debut on the iPad we curated some of our favorite articles from two single-topic issues, "Origins" and "The End," and added interactive informational graphics that show how things work as well as slide shows, audio interviews with scientists and video supplements," reads the app description.

I love reading these types of magazines. Anybody want to put a promo code in my Christmas stocking?

OK, this one isn't actually a magazine, but I think it is interesting to look at, nonetheless. It is Avenue Montaigne Guide for iPad. Now anybody who knows me knows how much I love Paris, and although shopping on the Avenue Montaigne is a bit ritzy for me, you should check this one, nonetheless. Especially if you have international editions.
Yes, you can drool at the Haute Couture, but what got my attention here is that the app offers French copy while in portrait mode, and English in landscape mode. Until tablets come with automatic translating -- and I think they will one day -- this is the way to go when trying to reach two different audiences.

This is the seventh edition of their print publication and is the Fall issue. The developer promises a new tablet edition in early April of next year. (The developer is listed as Société Emeraude Diffusion France and the link on the app description page takes you to an interesting video.)

Hoodgrown Magazine relaunches as an tablet magazine, complete with video, audio and a sense of adventure

It took awhile, but I was finally able to download the first issue of Hoodgrown, the tablet magazine from Christopher English -- ah um, I mean Chris "Cartel" English. Better known around these parts by his commenter name Tablazines. Mr. English has been a frequent commenter here, which I very much appreciate.

Hoodgrown is an ad supported tablet magazine, free to download in iTunes. And while readers are discovering that it takes a long time to download issues, once the app is installed the app itself has lots to offer lovers of "urban music".
(English's editor's column points out that the original tagline of the print magazine was "A Different Kind of Hip Hop Magazine" -- the new tagline of the tablet magazine is "The Magazine of Urban Music & Lifestyles".)

Hoodgrown Magazine was started in 2004 and only lasted three issues. The introduction of the iPad appears to a good opportunity to relaunch the magazine into a market that until now has been a bit nerdy and stale. Welcome back Hoodgrown.

Hoodgrown is not the product of some corporate entity -- you know that right away just looking at the app description. The name of the damn magazine is both Hoodgrown and Hood Grown. The Editor's Column proudly blares out "Damn, I'm Da Man". Good, it's about time we got some tablet magazines with some attitude. Let's dig in.
The app itself was developed with the help of Alligator Digital Magazines. English, that is Tablazines, commented on that story "Thanks to this site we will now be utlizing Alligator Digital Magazines for our iPad Publications!" and adding "Of course you'll be the first to know when we launch." I gotta tell you, that feels good.

The app can be a bit sluggish at times when in landscape mode, but I noticed no major problems such as crashing. The magazine app has what you'd want from a music magazine: lots of video and audio, as well as a little bit of animation. As mentioned, it works in both portrait and landscape modes, which I really think is vital for most magazine apps.

What it doesn't have it doesn't really need. All that social network article sharing is hot right now, but is it really necessary?

You can tell that this tablet magazine is not "native" -- that is, was created as a tablet publication without any history of print editions. The layouts feel like print which will make most readers feel comfortable. I am not convinced that the magazine form is dead, so there is no need to completely reinvent the form -- though I know a few people who feel otherwise.

Morning Brief: Triumph of the tablets as study shows tremendous growth potential; Palm tablet on the horizon; Apple's app policies begin to worry even supporters

Good morning. Following today's Morning Brief I will finally post my look at the new tablet edition of Hoodgrown Magazine. After that a few words about some new media apps to be found in iTunes. Otherwise today is a travel day for me.

Considering that the first commercially viable tablet media device (as opposed to computer) only appeared nine months ago, it is remarkable how the public has embraced the form factor. This impression is reinforced by a study released yesterday, The study from Harris Interactive, and sponsored by Fuze Box, showed that one in five Americans plan to own a tablet by 2014. I think these numbers may actually be low.

The reason they may be low is simply that there are few decent tablets currently available in the market. Besides the iPad, the Samsung Galaxy Tab is about the only thing currently available that would entice buyers -- who otherwise are still looking at e-readers such as the Kindle or Nook.

"Since before the iPad launched in April, we’ve persisted that tablets would soon become a widely used business tool,” Jeff Cavins, CEO of Fuze Box, said in the company's release. “With 2 in 5 tablet owners using their device for business by 2014, we have officially entered the post PC era and the potential is there to reinvent the business environment for collaboration with portable and tactile computing devices, complete with cameras, document sharing, cloud computing, and storage.”

All we need now are more tablets . . .

Fox News (I know) is reporting that HP owned Palm is set to introduce three models of the PalmPad at the Consumer Electronic Show in early January. According to the fair and balanced™ report, the PalmPad will run on a new version of WebOS and will run on Sprint's 4G network.

Supposedly the three devices will have displays of a similar size to the iPad's 9.7 inch screens -- an important point if newspapers and magazines are to be read on these devices.

No word on whether it will be the official policy of Fox News to promote these devices -- we'll keep our eye on MediaMatters to see if they can get the memos.

Most people think competition in the tablet arena will be good if only to advance the use of these devices as media consumption tools -- an alternative to print, but also a good companion to print. With Apple dominating the platform so far, some have expressed concerns about Apple and its app approval process, as well as its inability to understand the needs of publishers. Some have even accused the company of being an evil empire with nefarious intentions and instincts.

I've often defended the company because I felt it had entered into areas that were new to them. They have always been a company that has had to defend itself from larger competitors, and the Windows crowd has never been kind to its little brother. It's "Think Different" campaign captured the mood perfectly: stop being being a conformist, be creative, stretch the possible, think different.

But an incident yesterday has me really concerned.

Yesterday it was reported that Apple had pulled an app from an independent developer called WikiLeaks App. The action caused a minor uproar on the Internet as many people were quick to scream "censorship!". But I looked into the app, its developer, and wrote last morning about this.

I defended Apple because I saw that this seemed like the right move: here we have an independent developer taking the content of another entity that is available free online and trying to monetize it through a paid app. Plus, they were using the name of the other entity without their permission. It seemed to me a clear case of both violating trademark and piracy.

I thought "let's look at this from another perspective". What if the app was called "New York Times App", and all the content was derived from the NYT website. The developer then produced the app with the NYT name and charged readers for access to the content. Shouldn't that app be pulled from the App Store?

But it may turn out that Apple didn't pull the app to defend a media entities name or content. Late yesterday a representative of Apple reportedly contacted Business Insider and said "We removed WikiLeaks because it violated developer guidelines. An app must comply with all local laws. It may not put an individual or target group in harms way."

This is doubly bad, if true.

First, no reference is made in this response to the stolen content and brand name -- in other words, my own defense of Apple is wrong. According to the statement, Apple didn't protect either the content or brand name of the firm involved.

Second, if this statement is an accurate reflection of Apple's thinking, then Apple has joined PayPal and Amazon on the dark side. I hope to God this is not true.

No matter what you think of WikiLeaks and the whole controversy surrounding the leaked diplomatic cables, the idea of a private corporation joining with the government to suppress another entity, all outside the judicial system, is chilling, frightening.

Let's hope the "representative" from Apple simply got it wrong. It's definitely one of my Christmas wishes.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Sideways' Buddy Reading allows parents to read books to children remotely using their iPhones and the iPad

Here is an ingenious and fun use of Apple's new mobile devices, as well as software solutions, combined with some original additions from the Cleveland based software company Sideways LLC. The Sideways' Buddy Edition allows two people to read aloud together using their iPad and either an iPhone or iPod touch. The first app featuring this has just been released: the Peter Rabbit: Buddy Edition of the Beatrix Potter classic.
This $1.99 app is for iOS devices, but to take full advantage of all the app offers you need two separate devices -- one iPhone or iPod touch, and an iPad. Once the app is downloaded and installed (it only weighs in at a modest 93.7 MB), children can read the book themselves or have it read to them by the app itself. There is also a "Learn to Read" function that allows children to touch objects in the books and see and hear the words.

The app also features a built-in coloring book with line drawings from Beatrix Potter’s first version of the book -- which thankfully comes with an eraser for people like me!

But the main event is a demonstration of what Sideways is calling 'Buddy Reading'. The process to set up Budding Reading is a bit complicated, but is clearly explained in the app.
Buddy Reading takes advantage of Apple's new Game Center, which was introduced to the iPad through the iOS 4 update. The first thing that must occur is that the user has to register with Game Center if they have not done so already. Both devices used -- the iPhone and iPad, for instance -- must have separate accounts because both users will be accessing Game Center at the same time.

One person then invites the other to become friends through their accounts. One person then opens up the Peter Rabbit: Buddy Edition app; they tap "Read the Book", then "Buddy Reading". The first person chooses the second person to read with, waits for that person to accept, then they hit "Play Now". A security code is then required on both ends.

I told you it was a bit complicated. But Sideways advises walking through the process together the first time before trying to do this remotely. The key is that it works.

“Nothing can take the place of a parent reading a bedtime story to a child. Now with the Buddy Reading technology, it’s possible for traveling parents to keep that intimate, precious connection to their children at home, no matter the distance,” Charles Stack, CEO and co-founder of Sideways is quoted as stating in a release. “The new generation of multi-media devices offers great ways of telling classic stories. We’ve taken the century-old delight experienced when reading Peter Rabbit and respectfully extended it using new technology, which can be efficiently applied to books new and old.”
At two bucks this app is obviously a bargain. But this app is really a demonstration of the Sideways' own publishing solutions. The company is courting authors to use their "Anigraphic Engine" to create interactive books. The company's website lists some of the technology they can offer.

I've written about Sideways on a number of occasions involving their own tablet-only magazine, also called Sideways. Back in June CEO Stack said that the company was working to see what Apple's new tablet could be when it grows up (my words).

"We're really interested in experimenting with the form, what this medium wants to be when it grows up," Stack said in June. "The iPad medium wants to be something, like when sculptures talk about letting the sculpture out of the wood. It's the same kind of model, we're trying to figure out what this hardware platform is really good at, or best at."

Both the company and the tablet has already come a long way. It will be fun to see this technology continue to be pushed and developed.

Here is the company's own promotional video for their new book app:

The Guardian brags up its web numbers, compares UK news sites, news sites behind paywalls noticeably missing

I like it when media companies brag about their numbers, they should do it more often. Today, The Guardian bragged that its "average daily browsers" had increased by nearly 12 percent in the month of November, as compared to the previous month, and over 20 percent year-over-year.

According to The Guardian, the Mail Online, the website for the Daily Mail, remains the number one news site in the UK at 2,939,799 "daily browsers" (visitors, as opposed to unique users). The Guardian ranked second, while the Telegraph's website at ranked third with 1,724,153 "daily browsers". Both the Independent and Mirror Group trailed with just over one-half million.

Missing from the figures, of course, was the Times website which has been behind a paywall for about half a year. According to one "leaked" memo, the Guardian estimates that only 54,000 readers access each month. News Corp., however, has said that about 50,000 readers are using the pay-as-you-go method of accessing Times content, while 100,000 print readers have activated their bundled online subscriptions to access the site's content.

American City & County releases Handmark developed mobile apps for Android, BlackBerry and iPad

The Penton Media owned trade magazine American City & County has released a series of mobile apps for the various mobile OS platforms, including a rather awful tablet edition that should have been launched for the iPhone instead.
The apps, developed by Handmark, are the usual RSS feed driven apps, but in this case produced by a B2B that really doesn't need a mobile app because of the lack of new content its editorial team produces. Articles in the app show that only one new story has been generated in the past 24 hours, with most of the stories at least a week old. A weekly e-newsletter would probably be a better fit.

The apps take their content from a single RSS feed taken from the "In The News" section of the AC&C website. Because of the way the site is designed the "Top Story" is therefore omitted. Other "sections" of the app are either promotions for other apps the developer has created, or are the readers "Saved" stories.

Since all controlled circulation magazines depend on advertising to pay the bills one would think that any mobile or tablet efforts would be built around the paid ads found in the latest issues of the magazine. Nope. There is one tiny ad found at the bottom of each page -- obviously designed to be displayed in a smartphone environment, but there in the iPad version, as well.

Man, what a mess.

The basics of the B2B media industry are easy enough to understand. Except for a select group of magazines that charge subscriptions, like AdAge, Engineering News-Record, and others, most B2B magazines are controlled circulation magazines. Since the magazines are, therefore, free to the reader, the way the bills get paid is through the advertising found in the magazines. And in many, maybe most cases, the advertising is as interesting as the stories since so much of the editorial content found in these magazines are PR driven drivel.

OK, that was easy enough. So why should B2Bs who produce controlled circulation magazines be interested in mobile? For the same reasons they are interested in print: to drive revenue -- either through advertising or by now charging for their content.

These are the ground rules. But there are major barriers to success. For one thing, getting a list of those people in an industry or audience segment in order to send a print copy of a magazine is fairly easy -- there are lots of list brokers out there who will sell you a list of manufacturing executives, for instance. When I was in charge of getting a list of top manufacturing executives in the U.S. I simply bought a list that told me the target reader's name, address, title, company name, size of company, etc. Voila, a choice list of future readers.

Ah, but Apple doesn't have this same information for sale, and neither does the various carriers who sell Android and BlackBerry OS smartphones. So targeting readers is impossible, the best a publisher can do right now is to simply launch an app and hope the right people find it.

Are the readers there? Maybe. Take American City & County again. They have a BPA audited circulation of just under 70,000. Say the size of the municipal and country government market is between 50,000 and 200,000 -- remember we want "qualified" readers, not just any old government employee, but those with the authority to buy and specify products and services. Now by my very rough calculations I estimate that there is between 3,500 and 14,000 possible iPad owners that would fit the description of a potential American City & County reader -- not bad really. Then you can add in those that own Android and BlackBerry phones and the market seems viable.

Great, let's go. Right? But what is the product? And where is the business model?

A publisher is either going to make money by selling apps or subscriptions, or by selling advertising. It's one or the other.

An app that will be paid, or only offer full access through a subscription, has to offer valuable (or interesting) content. These publications often have robust websites that generate lots of content. And, no, press releases probably won't qualify.

That means that for most B2Bs, their mobile and tablet efforts have to begin with the notion that they will be advertising driven --- either display ads for their tablet editions, or else display or directory advertising for their mobile efforts.

That leaves two last alternatives: the single-sponsored app, and the special product.

Hoodgrown relaunches as tablet magazine; but technical issues with the app prevent a real look at the magazine

I was really looking forward to examining the new tablet edition of Hoodgrown, the newly launched tablet edition from Christopher English. The free app, developed under the Tablazine name, looks to have promise, but the developers appear to have some server issues making the first edition of the tablet-only magazine currently inaccessible. Bummer.
The magazine is self described as about "urban music in a street oriented, yet intelligent manner." Assuming I am able to download the issue later I will write a new post on the magazine tomorrow. But until then it is worth mentioning a couple of things I've already noticed that the folks Tablazines are doing right.

First, the app opens to a registration page where readers are encouraged to send along their name and e-mail addresses. Declining in no way prevents the reader from accessing the magazine -- their server does that -- but it a gentle way of attempting to get more information from the reader, and hence opens up the possibility of directly getting demographic information down the line.

Second, Hoodgrown says it is free because it is ad driven. Well, many publishers have said the same thing, but the folks at Tablazines seem to be taking this seriously: they already have a media kit online and two sales reps are listed on the website.

Let's assume that the publishers are having server meltdown issues because of all the people downloading their first issues. So to give you a flavor of what the magazine actually looks like here's is their promotional video.

Morning Brief: new magazine tablet apps that take radically different approaches; EU approves News Corp's acquisition of BSkyB; FCC set to vote today on new rules

It's the first day of Winter (officially), so naturally that means that a couple of inches of snow needed to be cleared this morning. Hopefully it's sunny and warm where you are.

Here is a preview of a couple of new apps that have been released in the past 24 hours from two very different sources.
The first we'll look at later this today is from Chris English, under the Tablazine label. Hoodgrown is the rebirth of a previously closed print magazine, now given a new life as a tablet edition. The magazine is ad supported and has its own ad team (yeah), complete with media kit (double yeah). I can not tell you how many magazines have launched with a media kit ready to go and available on the website, probably Hoodgrown is the first I've seen (great job guys).

The second magazine app is from American City & County, the trade magazine for the municipal market that has had more owners lately than Cliff Lee (sorry, baseball reference). Now published under the Penton Media umbrella following the merger with Prism Business Media, the app is another of those RSS driven apps from Handmark. We'll try and keep an open mind, but . . .

Despite much opposition, News Corp. today received approval from the European Commission for its proposed full take over of the British Sky Broadcasting Group, known as BSkyB, the satellite broadcasting company.

"I am confident that this merger will not weaken competition in the United Kingdom. The effects on media plurality are a matter for the UK authorities," The Guardian quotes EU competition commissioner, Joaquin Almunia.

In the US, Comcast still awaits approval from the FTC and the Department of Justice for its proposed merger with NBC Universal. Level 3 Communications has been pushing to have conditions added to any agreement due to its recent run in with the cable company and ISP. "Comcast's recent decision to charge for the delivery of content to Comcast, which has been requested by Comcast's subscribers clearly, has important competitive and public-policy implications," Level 3 CEO James Crowe wrote in a letter to the FTC.

Many believe today is the day many will remember as the day the Internet died, as the FCC is scheduled to vote today on new rules regarding so-called Net Neutrality rules. The reason for the pessimism is because the commissioners seem intent on opening the door to a tiered Internet, or as Timothy Karr wrote yesterday on Huffington Post: "broadband payola - letting phone and cable companies charge steep tolls to favor the content and services of a select group of corporate partners, relegating everyone else to the cyber-equivalent of a winding dirt road."

Publishers have been noticeably missing from the discussion. They remind me of some of the construction executives I used to talk with in Washington who were pushing hard for more trade with China in order to grow their businesses, but are now complaining that China is taking their technology and becoming competitors. These executives simply were not thinking through the consequences of their positions. Likewise, media executives seem naturally inclined to want to support the ISPs without understanding that a multi-tiered Internet may result in higher fees or lower bandwidth for their own products -- not everyone will be viewed as important to a company like Comcast or AT&T as their own media properties.

Apple has pulled the WikiLeaks App, and because of this is getting a fair amount of bad press this morning. But because the app is missing many people will not see that the app was not actually from WikiLeaks at all, but from Igor Barinov publishing under the "Hint Solutions" name.

The app was charging $1.99 for access to the same content available for free online, a clear violation of Apple's terms, and a rip off to boot. Of course, that won't stop some from screaming "censorship". And that's too bad, because it will confuse the real issue here: Apple's continued poor judgement concerning media apps. This app shouldn't have been pulled because it should not have been approved to begin with as it does two things that should be a plain violation of the rules: it charges for content that is free on the web, and it uses the name of another entity without that entity's approval. Had this app been called the NYTimes and then was pulled no one would have been surprised.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Motorola hypes, but does not reveal, its own tablet

This site launched a few weeks before the Apple event that unveiled the iPad, now we are coming full circle as the Consumer Electronics Show approaches. Set for January 6-9, 2011, the show will no doubt be a good place to preview new tablets that run Android or some other OS (other than iOS, that is).

So here we have Motorola hyping its own (see video below). In case you don't get it, the bee at the end refers to Honeycomb, the next generation of Google's Android software.

It's taken awhile, but maybe by early next year there will be some another viable tablet platform for publishers to deal with -- we'll see.

Arkansas Democrat-Gazette releases tablet edition; iPad app is a cross between a replica edition and a native app

The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette has released its first tablet edition, a free app for the iPad which is an interesting cross between a replica edition and a native app.
Arkansas Online - The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette app offers up a replica edition of that morning's newspaper but embeds links in the headlines that take the reader to versions of the stories laid out in a more native tablet format. This allows for the insertion of advertising, though at this it does not look like the developers and the sales team are on the same page yet as the only ad I saw was for ePillow, an iPad accessory.

The use of a replica edition design may be used to make regular newspaper subscribers more comfortable with the tablet edition, but it is not necessary. iPad owners are familiar by now with what newspapers look like on their tablets, disguising the tablet edition as a print edition is probably not necessary. Besides, it locks down the front page which makes the app less useful when breaking news occurs throughout the day.

To compensate for this weakness, the app includes a link to an RSS feed driven version of the website (not seen in these screenshots). Unfortunately, because the newspaper uses a slideshow on its front page which shows the more important stories, these major stories are not as visible on the tablet version. As a result, the tablet edition ends up being a compromise between print and web -- and probably not as useful as either, though if a reader prefers the tablet experience this can be a good substitute for the print edition. (Also, the app crashed for me a couple of times, I'm sure they will want to address this in future updates.)

Left: The front page of this morning's edition with embedded links visible; Middle: The library where readers can 'order' issues, though the first two are complimentary; Right: links lead to articles in a more 'native' layout.

Readers who download the app get two complimentary issues, while subscribers can sign in to continue to have full access. It was not immediately apparent how much the paper is charging for a subscription, though it appears to be $9.99 online.

The newspaper also has an iPhone app in the iTunes App Store. The free mobile app was developed by Handmark which has been starting to release some iPad apps, as well -- though none, at this point, that offer native tablet designs.

Morning Brief: Holiday schedule; NY Post releases paid iPhone app; the holiday season and media launches

Light posting ahead as the holiday nears. Between travel and typical holiday activities, TNM will slow to crawl before just plain stopping for the holidays.
The New York Post launched a new mobile app this morning. The app costs $1.99, the same price as their iPad app. Unlike the tablet version, this is a one-time fee.

The thing I noticed right away was the carrier used in the screenshots: Gol Mobile -- a Brazilian copy. Very strange.

Nonetheless, the new iPhone app continues News Corp.'s philosophy of paid apps and paid content. The true test for the company is coming up, of course, when News Corp. launches The Daily. According to Peter Kafka of the WSJ, the tablet-only newspaper is set for launch on January 17.

Somewhere that date and the end of the month I would expect that Apple will hold a media event to announce new products including iPad2. Remember, Apple used to make a string of announcements as part of Steve Jobs's keynote address at MacWorld. But now Apple sticks to its own events. Whether Apple would want to time its own event around the launch of Murdoch's daily tablet newspaper is doubtful, though not completely out of the question.

Publishers generally don't make that big a deal over the Christmas holiday season -- that is, most publishers simply continue producing the same type of product (daily newspaper, for instance) and leave it to the editors whether the holidays should get a mention.

Many newspapers continue to produce special local Christmas sections, of course, hoping to attract local advertisers, possibly writing about special holiday events such as the one millionth performance of The Nutcracker. But rarely do publishers actually produce a new product for the holidays.

The app game, it seems to me, would be a good way to change this behavior. Many game manufacturers, as you would imagine, like to make sure their new games are available in time for Christmas. This is true even if the game manufacturer depends on a device -- like the XBox or Wii -- to be played.

I would think that a smart publisher might realize that a lot of new iPads and smartphones will be sold during the holidays and a large number of potential customers will be downloading apps after the holidays -- what a good time to launch a new app, a specialty app, or a sample content app, no?