Friday, December 30, 2011

TNM's Year in Review: Q4

Here is the conclusion of the year in review series: part one of this series can be found here, part two here, with part three here.

Next week marks the two year anniversary of Talking New Media, a website launched a little over three months before Apple shipped its first iPads, but more than a decade after the first newspaper and magazine websites appeared online.

2011 was a very eventful year in world news, but in some ways it was a simply a continuation of 2010 where media critics continued to debate the paid content versus advertising strategies, and where the gurus of aggregation and layoffs, disguised as 'digital first' proponents, continued to hold sway – despite any evidence that their philosophy could translated into profit publishing models.

October:

News:
Microsoft kills off the Zune
Apple unveils the iPhone 4S, critics disappointed, sales break records
Craig Dubow steps down as Gannett CEO, gets massive payout
Apple issues simultaneous updates, Internet traffic explodes
Apple's Newsstand leads to 2 million app downloads for Future Publishing
McClatchy reports earnings down 21%, revenue down an additional 8%
Libyan strongman Muammar Gaddafi has died of wounds suffered when he was captured
Ziff Davis Enterprise says it is abandoning print for digital

The quarter started with an announcement from Dutch digital publishing solutions provider WoodWing that they would begin selling the Adobe Digital Publishing Suite, kill off its own file formats, and that it would begin concentrating its efforts on editorial workflow solutions.

"This is the right time for WoodWing to fully focus on its core activities, which is to streamline and optimize the editorial workflow," said Erik Schut, President of WoodWing Software.
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Apple's own website tribute to its co-founder, Steve Jobs.


Apple announced the passing of CEO and co-founder Steve Jobs on October 5. His death, while not unexpected, was still met with shock and regret. Many media writers who otherwise were strong critics of Apple wrote with passion about the leadership and record of innovation of Apple under Job's management.

Even today, however, it is hard not to write about those piranhas who have made a living telling media executives to avoid developing for the iPad but who, at the death of Jobs, suddenly become available for interviews proclaiming the great deeds of the Apple CEO.

Later in the month Apple reported its Q4 earnings. The actual earnings reported showed that Apple sold 11.1 million iPads in the quarter, had $28.3 billion in revenue (up from $20.3 the year before) and earned record profits. But because some websites had previously reported the wild forecasts of some crazed analyst, many reports said that Apple had actually had a disappointing quarter.

One week later The Guardian finally previewed its long awaited iPad edition which launched later that same week. "We looked at some of the beautiful, early experiments that people did as newspapers on the iPad – and they were beautiful but they were recreating the newspaper on the iPad," said Rusbridger in the promotional video produced for the preview.

David Carr, the NYT's media writer got on his soapbox near the end of the month to deliver a mighty sermon under the headline Why Not Occupy Newsrooms? The column followed reports of the the huge retirement package given to outgoing Gannett CEO Craig Dubow.

"Forget about occupying Wall Street; maybe it’s time to start occupying Main Street, a place Gannett has bled dry by offering less and less news while dumping and furloughing journalists in seemingly every quarter," Carr wrote.

November:

News:
Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou resigned, replaced by banker
Adobe kills off mobile Flash
USPS says it will lose $5.1 billion in 2011
Mag+ launches its own single issue tablet publishing solution

TNM ran a two-page interview with Mag+'s Mike Haney on Halloween and November 1.

The always navel gazing world of journalism got its own soap opera story to report, as Poynter's Julie Moos accused its blogger Jim Romenesko of "a pattern of incomplete attribution." The spat was started by an inquiry from Erika Fry, an assistant editor at the Columbia Journalism Review, who talked to Moos about Romenesko's blog and inconsistencies in the way he used quotes from the stories he was aggregating.

In the end Jim Romenesko was gone, launching his own media website later in the quarter, and Poynter ended up looking foolish and isolated as few media writers backed Moos and Poynter.

In mid-November Amazon began shipping its 7-inch tablet, the Kindle Fire. The tablet has reported sold very well, though tech writers have been less enthusiastic about the actual product. TNM's look at the Kindle Fire came on the 21st, and my thoughts on the tablet haven't changed much: nice price, too small for serious newspaper or magazine app development.

The launch of the tablet, though, continued the further fragmentation of Android, a huge factor in developers continued preference for iOS.

The month ended with the surprise announcement that Time Inc. had turned to Laura Land, the head of Digitas, a digital ad agency, to run its magazine division.

Lang's previous work has all been on the client and agency side, so her lack of publishing experience quickly was noticed by media writers (though all seemed to admit that her digital advertising experience would be hugely beneficial to Time.)

TNM's own report on the hiring was a mess thanks to it being written on my iPhone, as autocorrect changed all the references to "Digitas" to "Digital" – not one of TNM's best moments in 2011.

December:

News:
Google launches Google Currents, is own tablet publishing app
The BBC updates its iPlayer app, promises Android version (as well as a US version)
Attack in Li├Ęge: Belgian dailies launch live blogs to keep readers informed of events, death toll
Apple's Newsstand reaches the 1,000 mark (iPad)
North Korean leader Kim Jong-il dies
House Republicans decide to pass tax cut extension rather than face voter's wrath

Rumors of an Apple TV, an actual television set, began in earnest, though most writers failed to take into account that falling price of TV sets.
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The election season started to heat up in preparation for the Iowa caucuses on January 3. The New York Times launched its own iPhone app, NYTImes Election 2012, in preparation for the silly season.

The app requires a paid digital subscription, though those who already are subscribing to a NYT product get free access as part of their existing subscription package.

Time Magazine picked "The Protester" as its Person of the Year.

The NYT admitted in mid-December that it was in talks with Halifax Media Holdings to sell its Regional Media Group. The group includes mid-sized dailies such as The Press Democrat in Santa Rosa, Calif., The Gainesville Sun in Gainesville, Fla., and The Tuscaloosa News in Tuscaloosa, Ala.

One week later the sale was announced for the rock bottom price of $143 million.

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