Friday, January 21, 2011

Major iOS media app updates as week ends; USA Today, NYTimes iPhone, Guardian Eyewitness apps updated

As this week draws to an end there have been a slew of news app updates released into the iTunes App Store. The timing is probably pretty good to release an app update as we are probably still a few weeks away from the release of the next update to Apple's iOS.
This week saw the release to developers of the second beta for iOS 4.3. (I saw no reason to download it myself as I have no devices dedicated to development at this point.) That would mean that we are at least a couple of weeks away from the release of the update to the public. My own guess would be that it would come as part of an iPad 2 announcement event, or on the same day that News Corp. unveils The Daily.

One of the apps updated today was from Gannett's USA Today. The newly updated app adds Tech and Travel content, as well as multitasking support and some bug fixes.

The New York Times updated its iPhone app which simply fixed bugs.

Meanwhile, The Guardian Eyewitness app was updated to fix some bugs and add steaming "behaviour when the app is in slideshow mode" -- but I don't notice a way to actually stream the slideshow. This may be because the ability to use AirPlay to stream directly from this app won't come until the iOS 4.3 update when developers will be allowed to add AirPlay streaming to their apps. But developer may have already added this in this update -- again, just a guess.
ABC Digital, which is releasing some really good apps for its local television properties before Christmas, has updated its own ABC Player iPad app. The app was one of the first released for Apple's new tablet and because of this has been one of the iPad's most popular media apps.

But judging from the reviews inside the App Store, this update has some issues. "How hard can it be to stream video?" one user asks. Apparently video content freezes and has buffer issues. It could be that this is not really an app issue but a server issue. In any case, one users sums the whole problem up by saying "ABC is technologically challenged!!" -- though I doubt this is the case.

Finally, Pandora (you use Pandora, right?) has issued an update. Along with the usual bug fixes, the app adds connectivity with two automobile sound systems -- the MINI Connected infotainment systems and the Ford SYNC AppLink. The app description refers the user to the mini usa website to learn more, but it looks like the automaker hasn't updated its own site yet to include information on its mini-Pandora system (they were probably waiting for this app update before saying anything on its website).

Verizon releases its first ad for the iPhone 4

Well, that didn't take long: the first ad from Verizon promoting the iPhone 4. You had to think that in order to keep things secret that they haven't been working on advertising too far in advance of the introduction event -- hence this rather simple, but effective first ad:

Morning Brief: local effort to by Globe gets some backing; BBC's Good Food Magazine releases iPad edition

Chicago, Illinois: It is six degrees below zero outside this morning. The good news is that it is -13 in Winnipeg -- it should always be colder in Winnipeg than where ever you are at, don't you think?

The Boston Globe reports this morning that the efforts of Aaron Kushner, a local entrepreneur and current CEO at The 2100 Trust, has gotten the backing of two members of the Taylor family. The Taylors, which for generations owned the daily newspaper, were unsuccessful in their bid for the Globe a couple of years back.

Does anyone else think that the idea of the NYT selling the Globe is a very bad idea -- kind of like selling Babe Ruth to the Yankees. OK, maybe not like that.

Back in March of last year, as the Tories were about to take power in the UK, talk was of trimming back the BBC including stopping the autonomous public service broadcaster from building and launching mobile applications. Well, that all got worked out -- though the Beeb will be divesting some print properties -- and the 1922-founded broadcaster will continue to develop for mobile and tablets.

One product recently released is an iPad edition of their magazine Good Food -- ironically one of the magazines that may be divested.

The app itself is free and comes with a preview issue -- a modified version of the November 2010 edition. If you want to buy the January edition it will cost $2.99. The app description says that the price is £1.79 for the first three months.
PhotobucketInterestingly, the app allows print subscribers to sign-in and access the content for free. "Already subscribe to the print edition? Access to this interactive issue is absolutely FREE – just download the app and sign in with your subscriber details."

Isn't this precisely what some publishers have been wanting to do, but claiming Apple won't let them. Maybe the issue is that it all takes place within the app, I don't know, though it may have to do with the fact that none of this involves access to the website.

You had to figure this was coming: Andy Coulson, the former editor at Murdoch's News of the World, has resigned his positions as director of communications for the Tory government. "When the spokesman needs a spokesman, it's time to move on," Coulson was quoted as saying by The Guardian.

If you haven't been following this, this whole mess involves phone hacking that took place at the tabloid newspaper. The paper was reported to have used private investigators to gain access to the mobile phone accounts of persons of interest to the paper.

If you think it odd that an editor of a Murdoch paper embroiled in scandal could become communications director at Downing Street, you should remind yourself that most of the prospective Republican candidates for president are currently on the payroll of News Corp. Fun times ahead.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Late afternoon briefs: launch app, rake it dough; apps prove as insecure as web; Wonkette and the WaPo

Lot's of strange, and sometimes fun, little stories out there today:

MobileCrunch: SkyFire Pulls In Another Million Bucks With SkyFire For iPad -- You know I downloaded this app's iPhone version and absolutely never use it. The idea behind Skyfire is that it is a browser that will convert a site's Flash video on the fly for viewing on your iOS device. Guess there is just not a lot of Flash content I really want to see that badly. Oh well, the developer's here sure hit a home run so deserve
Mashable: 10 Million user accounts compromised in Trapster app attack -- Here's one app I'm glad I didn't download and install. The company, Trapster, has noticed its users, all 10 million of them, that their accounts have been hacked into and their user name and passwords are, well, out there.

Reuters: Giffords standing up and using iPad -- OK, can the news get any better for Apple? First the earnings report, then last week's number one news story turns into an ad for the iPad. And by the way, a big round of applause to all those analysts on the earnings conference call this week. No one wasted anyone's time asking about the health of CEO Steve Jobs -- they knew they wouldn't get an answer anyways.

NYT: F.B.I. and police arrest more than 100 in mob sweep -- I don't know what thoughts crossed your mind when you read this headline this morning, but what I thought was "oh, oh". Seems something bad always happens shortly after the mob get hit like this. Keep your head down.

Reuters: First Melinda Gates, now Warren Buffett exit Washington Post board -- The story says that "Buffett has been dialing back on his board commitments, choosing to devote more time to Berkshire Hathaway." But it also says that in 2009 Buffett "told investors that the newspaper industry had the possibility of 'unending losses' and that Berkshire would not buy most newspapers in the U.S. at any price."

Finally, we have Wonkette, a site that I used to seek a peek at when Ana Marie Cox was writing the posts. Today it is hard to say which headline to post here. Is it National Enquirer Says Todd Palin Bangs Hookers? Or Michelle Obama’s Hatred of Fatsos Killing Pedestrians? No, it's this one:

Wonkette: WaPo Newsroom Upset Because Black Lady With Boobs Hosts WaPo Webcast -- Got to admit, it's a classic. But the story is better yet. In one long, four sentence paragraph, Ken Layne demolishes the Washington Post in a tour de force performance. Enjoy.

Head of Flemish Newspaper Association lashes out at Apple, protesting the 30% commission and access to data

The CEO of the Flemish Newspaper Association, Patrick Lacroix, recently penned a provocative blog posting on that criticizes Apple and its relations with newspaper publishers. In his post, Lacxroix says that Apple is not cooperating with Belgian and Dutch publishers and pleads with the tech giant to be more accommodating.

The two biggest complaints from Lacroix have been heard before: that Apple is not willing to share user data with publishers, and that the commission charged by Apple is excessive.

"30 % is neither a reasonable nor a suitable remuneration for the distributor who only adds a limited value. If Apple wants to take part in the conversation about subscriptions it will have to be at least ten times less that percentage," Lacroix writes.
The tone of Lacroix's post is rather defiant, and his take on the newspaper industry is almost as if from another world. "A newspaper publisher is as free as a bird. The more you want to cage him, the more he will want to fly away," Lacroix writes.

(It should be pointed out that the post appears in both English and Dutch and the translation of the Dutch via Google is a bit different.)

The Lecroix post may be a reaction to Dutch newspaper stories from last week that told of the complaints of William De Nolf, director of new media at Roularta. De Nolf, like many others in the publishing business, would like to offer print subscribers free access to their iPad editions, while charging new readers. But Apple has held firm that it wants purchases to go through the iTunes store, and that they do not want iPad owners to be charged for content that is otherwise free for others. In other words, you can't save your print business on our backs. Clearly some publishers see it differently.

NYT magazine story gets inventive online treatment

Here's a heads-up for TNM readers: the NYT home page is currently featuring a very well done web feature produced to help preview a story that will appear in this weekend's New York Times Magazine.
The story, The White House looks for work, needed illustrations, and that led to sending a team to Rockford, Illinois to talk to residents there who were still working to ask how secure they felt in their jobs. This led to the online feature Portraits From a Job-Starved City. Seen in the screenshot here, the image and audio feature which is exceptionally well done, and a good example of marrying different mediums to create an unique feature. (Wouldn't this work nicely in a tablet edition?)

The photographs here were by Alec Soth, the interviews conducted by Michael Catano. Assistant Dan Christian completed the team that produced the story. The photographic tour lists Stacey Baker, Miki Meek and Sarah Kramer as producers.

Morning Brief: Looking at magazine ad performance; ESPN releases commemorative app for BCS champs

The numbers are pretty much in and it turns out that 2010 magazine performance was pretty much what I expected: some magazine showed a good bounce back, while many others either showed continued declines, or a flatting out.

Both the consumer and B2B magazines saw ad pages sold at about the same level as 2009. While it is good to see the declines end, it needs to be remembered that 2009 was a disaster. So if 2010 pretty much equals 2009, and 2009 was a disaster, that would mean 2010 was a bad year, right?

Elle D├ęcor was one of the best performing magazines
in 2010 with ad pages up over 35%.

Well, it certainly did not feel that way to many publishers. As MediaPost recounts in their thorough look at consumer magazines, there were quite a number of titles that enjoyed strong bounces in their numbers. While each magazine has its own individual story to tell, the 2010 results simply confirm what I predicted a year ago: good titles that are well positioned and well managed and staffed will see good growth in 2010, while the weaker titles, or in some cases, the poorly positioned or managed titles will continue to struggle. What is important to keep in mind, though, is not the percentages of growth or decline experienced in 2010, but the health of the magazine going into the year.

In B2B, where many more magazines were on the edge going into 2010, the year proved to be another kick-the-can-down-the-road kind of year for many publishers as they did just about anything to stay alive -- except recognize that their publishing strategies were not working. As a result, many magazines had their BPA audits stopped, staffs continue to be reduced, etc.

I really have no predictions for magazines in 2011 other than the obvious: things will continue to be tough for magazines that have been weakened by reduced editorial and sales teams, while others will continue to see a rebound. Overall, 2011 should be a stronger year, but weak titles are still hanging by a thread and no rebound in the economy will save a poorly managed book -- this is not the late nineties, sorry.

AdAge's Nat Ives looks at the decline in magazine newsstands and says that magazines "had better hope they get a nice prominent digital newsstand on the tablets flooding the market, because their bricks-and-mortar retail outlets are continuing to disappear." 'Nuff said, but Ives has the ugly numbers.

Ever notice that only days after the conclusion of the World Series or Super Bowl Sports Illustrated will be on the air promoting a commemorative edition of the magazine that celebrates the victors? Maybe with the price of the commemorative edition you get a cap or T-shirt or something.

Well, now ESPN has done the same thing with an app! ESPN Presents: BCS Champs capitalizes on the victory of the Auburn Tigers over the University of Oregon in the final college bowl game of the 2010 season. This iPad app costs $4.99 and features a replay of the actual game (the rather modestly named Tostitos BCS National Championship Game), video highlights from ESPN, and interviews with and features on the Auburn players and coaches. Then there is Mel Kiper Jr., ESPN's NFL draft guru -- God only knows why he's there.

As silly as all this may sound, an iPad app that features a replay of the actual game seems like a pretty cool idea even if the prospects for such a product is just the winning side. But I guess very few fans of Oregon would be up for an app that says "watch your team lose again!"

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Dallas Morning News releases new iPad app; part of new digital strategy that includes charging for some content

The Dallas Morning News put into place the last piece of the puzzle to its new digital media strategy. The Belo-owned newspaper's new iPad app uses the NYT's licensed Press Engine to create a tablet edition that mirrors that of the Times and other similar iPad editions.
The Dallas Morning News HD is a free app in the iTunes App Store. At only 5 MB the app brings in content via feeds into a now familiar layout. Controls and social networking features are minimal: one can adjust the font size, save articles into a Favorites section, and e-mail articles found in the tablet edition to friends and family. There is no built in Twitter or other social network linking in this first edition (as far as I can see).

Two weeks ago the editors of the DMN announced a digital media strategy that includes a newly designed website, along with new mobile and iPad applications. The most important part was the announced move to a pay model where readers would be charged $16.95 per month for full digital access. Print and digital would cost $33.95 according to the announcement.

Currently the DMN still only offers combined print and digital subscriptions -- actually you get a one penny discount for opting out of digital -- but the company says it plans to introduce its digital only subscription package starting on February 15. (Do they know something we don't know, like that the new iOS update will have been released by them? Just guessing.)


Top Left: the splash page: Top Right: the iPad Subscriber Content page.
Bottom Left: standard story layout; Bottom Right: the website Member Center where subscribers can sign-in and new readers register.

The majority of the DMN's news content is still free of charge to access -- both online and in the app. Subscriber Content is designated with a small "D" icon next to the story. Accessing the story leads to sign-in page seen in the Bottom Right screenshot above. Breaking news will remain in front of the paywall, though it is clear that the paper will keep much of its sports content behind its new Subscriber Content paywall.

At least for now, the delineation between free and paid content seems pretty arbitrary. In the video section of the iPad app, half the content is free, half requires you be a subscriber. The video quality looks pretty good, and, yes, it can be streamed to your Apple TV.

AirView lets you stream content between iOS devices; app is one small step towards total streaming of content

Little apps like AirView get me really excited. Yes, I know, I'm sick but hear me out as this will all get a little techie:
A buggy new app called AirView allows you stream videos from one iOS device to another. Yes, it's a small thing, after all, you have to have either a couple iOS devices or at least a Mac and an iPhone or iPad. (The photo at right shows video streaming to an iPad from a Mac.)

Well, I think these little apps are a big deal because they show us the future of these mobile devices and where Apple and other OS developers want to take the platform -- and hence, where alert media developers will take their apps.

With AirView you can take a video that you have on your iPhone, say a YouTube video, and by turning on AirView on your iPad you can steam the content from your iPhone to your iPad.

Unfortunately, AirView is a bit buggy, it worked great for me at first, then I ran into a few problems. But the point is that soon more and more apps will have the ability to stream its contents from device to device, or from a device to your television (assuming you have all the apps, etc. etc.)

Suddenly, your newspaper or magazine app with a photo slideshow can be seen on your reader's television for better viewing, as might your video podcast and other video content. I find that streaming technology like this has great potential, though I know we are still years (not months) away from it being fully developed and utilized.

The good news is that some of the parts needed to create this new streaming environment will come together this year. One of the biggest might be those Hotspots mentioned in the Verizon iPhone introduction because in order to stream from one device to another you have to be on the same network. The easiest way to do this in the wild -- rather than in your own living room or office -- is to create a WiFi hotspot with one device and have the other device connect to it. Now you are on the same network and can start streaming content. Another major step will occur with the next update of iOS. iOS 4.3 will open up AirPlay to third party developers. You are sure to see another wave of app updates as developers add AirPlay to their apps.

New iPhone apps from The Guardian have split personality whether you are in the UK or US

Over the last week The Guardian has released two new iPhone apps, one was released last week for the US market, and one for the UK and elsewhere. It's an interesting approach which may infuriate readers of the newspaper that do not reside in the States.
The new Guardian app in the US App Store is not terribly different than their previous iPhone app -- which still works, by the way. The new app is free to download and continues to give free access to the content. It now includes ads using Apple's iAd platform. This morning I saw ads from Walgreens, Progressive Insurance and

There are some content changes, as well, which enhance the app and definitely make it worth a download.

The new UK app, which I also found in most other App Stores (though it would be impossible to check them all out) is also free, but requires a subscription be paid to access the content. The good news for UK readers is that the charge is nominal: £2.99 for six month subscription, and £3.99 for a full year of access.

I suppose since The Guardian has placed itself firmly in the no-paywall camp, this may be looked upon as hypocritical of them to charge, but it makes good business sense as far as I'm concerned. In fact, at such low rates it would have made sense to charge in the US, as well, though I understand their motives here.

"The App Store has come a long way over the past 12 months and now forms a major part of the way we deliver content to our mobile audience, whose expectations are, rightly, rising," said Jonathon Moore, the Guardian's product manager in their own story on the new app.

""With the new app we'll be launching more frequent updates, offering a broader range of content and bringing you a better experience. This means ensuring we can meet the associated development costs. The best way to provide this in the longer term, we believe, is to move to a subscription model – and at £2.99 for six months and £3.99 for 12 months, we believe the new app represents excellent value for money," Moore said.

Still to come is a new Android mobile app, as well as the long awaited iPad app. My guess: expect the iPad app after Apple releases iOS 4.3 -- unless The Guardian intends to not charge for content, in which case it could come out at any time.

Left: The new Gallery feature; Middle: Audio content; Right: "More".

Morning Briefs: WSJ says MediaNews Group eyes mergers; minonline looks at a B2B magazine's iPad app

The WSJ's Russell Adams reported late last night that the investment firm now controlling MediaNews Group is eyeing merger opportunities with other media properties such as Freedom Communications.

MediaNews is the owner of the Denver Post, Salt Lake Tribune, as well as Bay Area newspapers including the San Jose Mercury News and the Oakland Tribune.
Alden Global Capital and other financial firms now controlling the company formed by Dean Singleton is looking at the idea of merging their properties with other media entities also controlled by investors. This consolidation mirrors the ownership structure of the B2B media landscape that developed in the nineties and into the present time. In this case, Alden also owns stakes in the Philadelphia newspapers which recently were auctioned off, as well as a stake in Journal Register Co.

Yesterday MediaNews announced that Dean Singleton will step down as CEO and become executive chairman of the company as representatives of the investment firm take seats on the board. "In light of the significant opportunities and challenges we and the industry are facing, our company is best served by having separate executives focus their full efforts on both the strategic landscape, and on implementing an effective plan to expand our revenue streams," Singleton, said in the company's statement.

Gordon Paris, a director at the company, will serve as Interim President while the owners conduct a search for Singleton's replacement. Paris has experience as "interim" CEO, having served in that role at Hollinger International for a while during the Conrad Black mess -- and making news for his $2 million plus compensation.

(Disclosure: I have worked for several newspapers that are now owned by MediaNews, though they were then a competitor at the time I worked there.) has a post about the B2B magazine Pharmacy Times and its iPad app. It's an honest look at the app, saying that the app is "is ambitious in its custom design, it also suffers some buggy and halting behavior," min's Steve Smith writes. "We experienced several crashes. The navigation rails are temperamental and too often pop into view without rhyme or reason. They are thick enough to block the content at times. All of the page loads are sluggish, so the actual experience of thumbing through the magazine app is less than smooth. There is an RSS reader embedded in the app, but much of the news in the feed seems rather old."

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Apple sold 7.33 million iPads in last quarter of 2010

The earnings conference call has not yet begun, but the number I was most interested in has been released: Apple sold 7.331 million iPads in Q1 of 2011 (calendar wise that's the fourth quarter of last year). This represents a 75 percent growth of the previous quarter when the company sold 4.188 million units.

Most followers of Apple in the financial community will no doubt focus on the amazing earnings performance of the company: over 16 million iPhones sold, $26.7B in total revenue, a gross margin of 38.5 percent, etc. There is no question that these are amazing numbers.

But for me, as someone who has been writing about iPad news apps since April, this is confirmation that the public has looked at the iPad and been sold -- even while many of our media gurus wrote about reboxing their tablets and sending them back to Apple.

“We had a phenomenal holiday quarter with record Mac, iPhone and iPad sales,” Apple CEO Steve Jobs is quoted in the press release. “We are firing on all cylinders and we’ve got some exciting things in the pipeline for this year including iPhone 4 on Verizon which customers can’t wait to get their hands on.”

Now comes the conference call, which I am sure will focus on the health of Steve Jobs.

Update: Turns out that the analysts have stayed away from asking questions about the health of the CEO -- they are money people, after all. And I'm sure forward guidance of 63 percent revenue growth year over year kind of got their attention.

Fast Thinking releases its first tablet edition; iPad app created by Bonobo Labs uses simple, logical navigation

The Australian developer Bonobo Labs has released its first iPad app under its name for a publisher, the magazine Fast Thinking. Both the app and the first issue are free of charge.
Fast Thinking is published by ETN Communications, located just north of Sydney, Australia. The magazine is a bit hard to describe as it covers a lot of ground. It's cover motto is How Innovation Works. It then lists the subjects it will cover under the flag: business, management, science & technology, education, politics, people, life -- that just about covers everything, doesn't it?

As for the app, it employs a shell format where the user, after installing and opening the app, downloads the issues. The first only weighs in a just under 30 MB, pretty small considering that the tablet edition employs both portrait and landscape layouts. But the reason for the small size is that this is a modified replica edition -- no multimedia content, though the developers have used native iPad navigation and linking techniques. The result is that the app is able to bridge the divide between apps that are basically practically (though not really) PDF versions of the print product and native apps that go wild with animation and video content.
As a result, this more modest tablet edition makes for a good reading experience. The quickly becoming standard practice of swiping to move from story to story, and scrolling to read multiple pages within a story, is employed throughout. I find it natural and easy to understand. The first feature (actually a "department") one encounters is "Toyz N Tek" and it does use an animation gimmick to transition to different pages -- buttons numbered one through five -- but it is the only example of this.

At the end of the tablet edition there is a house ad which promotes the contents of the next issue, and promises that there will be video, audio and animation content. It may be at that time that the app will begin to offer paid subscriptions -- by then the iOS 4.3 update will probably have become available, as well.

Amazon promotes its new 'Kindle for Android' newsstand; 14-day free trials of all newspapers and magazines

Amazon this morning is promoting its Kindle for Android mobile app on its online store home page by stating that owners of the app can now subscribe to "over 100 newspapers and magazines in color" -- emphasis on the word color (their own Kindle e-readers are black and white devices). All the magazine and newspaper subscription offers include a 14-day free trial of the publication to entice Android device owners.
Magazines available include The Economist at $10.49 per month, slightly more than the price of $110 annually on the iPad. But The Atlantic is priced at $1.99, versus $4.99 if one bought the iPad edition. In the newspaper category, the New York Times is offered as a monthly subscription at $19.99, the Boston Globe is $14.99 per month, while both the Globe and Mail and LA Times are priced at $9.99 per month. (Right now the Globe and Mail is letting iPad owners access its RSS driven iPad app free of charge.)

But these are Kindle editions, of course. That means that they are neither exactly the same as the print edition, nor contain all the multimedia content of tablet editions designed specifically for the iPad.

But in many cases these Kindle editions will be less expensive for consumers and less expensive to create for publishers.

NY Times story says metered paywalls have little effect on traffic; sample was small, and paywalls loosely applied

What a bizarre story Jeremy Peters has written for the NYT. It is a little bit of unpaid promotion for Steve Brill's Journalism Online and the idea that metered paywalls can work for publishers.

It is bizarre because in the end the story admits that whatever good news is to be found in the claim that traffic does not dramatically after instituting one of these metered paywalls, the story goes on to say that, well, the traffic did go down a bit, the newspapers who implemented the strategy were small to mid-sized papers, and the sample size was only about two dozen in size.

This morning's story was one of those where I instinctively tilted my head in confusion, much like a dog that hears a voice on the television. What's this all about?
You'd like to think that this was one of those stories that is simply a modified press release for Journalism Online, though it could be an attempt to preempt the critics that are bound to come out once the NYT itself puts up its own version of a paywall -- and it is coming pretty soon.

I've been fairly neutral about the paywall issue. I am against them, in general, except where financial and some other B2B properties are concerned. But I'm willing to be persuaded by evidence that paywalls can succeed in the consumer space. To me, the biggest test so far has been in the UK where Rupert Murdoch's papers are behind the paywall. There, it appears traffic has indeed cratered, though the company itself is claiming that things are going along swimmingly.

A metered paywall is something that is truly hard to test fairly. The reason is that if traffic falls too far one can always argue that the paywall was put on too tightly -- that is, the reader was not allowed to read enough material for free to entice them to come back often. On the other hand, if traffic stays about the same, the only real measure would be whether lots of revenue is generated -- and if not, some would argue that the paywall should have been tighter.

It is incredibly frustrating to many publishers that only the WSJ (and a few other sites) have been able to lock down a reasonable amount of their content and still generate significant revenue. But then again, few publishers will admit that their own products are not unique and that readers will find that they can live without it. It may be a big lie, but it helps them sleep at night.

The reality is that we all continue to seek those magic bullets that when fired will solve our fundamental problems of decreasing readership and declining ad sales. It would be terribly frustrating to find out that the only solution was better content and stronger ad team -- how old school is that.

Morning Brief: NYT looks at Patch and hyperlocal news; even today, few reporters understand Apple's strategy

Well, they say bad press and better than no press at all. That would have to be the conclusion of executives at AOL following the article in the New York Times that looked at the company's effort to create a hyperlocal news empire called Patch.
Written by Verne G. Kopytoff, the article points to Patch's ability to "set up shop in nearly 800 towns", while also pointing out that traffic numbers remain extremely low. It's a pretty even handed look at the AOL venture that will cost the company upwards of $50 million. But the article lacks the nostalgia I would have expected from an article with a "San Francisco" byline. Veterans of the Internet boom will have vivid memories of the many companies whose motto could well have been "build it and they will come" -- or alternately, "build it, and we'll come up with a business plan for it later". That's the way I've always look at Patch.

There is no doubt that with the sad state of the newspaper industry there are plenty of journalists who will be willing to accept a much lower paying position with AOL in hopes that Patch will be a success -- who can blame them? But looking at the Patch sites launched so far hasn't anyone asked the rather obvious question "what's the end game?". Eight hundred local news sites might appear to be an accomplishment, but certainly finding somebody to pony up $50 million was the real achievement. Now, how about someone selling an ad?

The news that Steve Jobs was back on medical leave dominated the domestic news cycle yesterday. The articles written about this, though, tended to stress two points: oh my, the stock price may fall, and what about Apple's market share against Android?

If there is one thing I love about Apple, it is the knowledge that the company could care less about either item. Sure, quite a number of executives at the company are benefiting mightily from the ridiculously high price of the company's stock, but the corporate memory is long -- six years ago this company's stock sold for under $20, five years ago it was at $55, and two years ago it was under $100. It is now around $350.

And what about Android -- surely Google is going to eat Apple's lunch and the whole deck of cards will finally fall down, right? The WSJ seems to think so: Apple should be paranoid about Android, it writes this morning (actually, last night).

Yeah, and Apple really cares about market share. This is company which has built its Mac market share all the way up to nine percent -- whoopee. Neither Mac owners, nor Apple, care one bit about market share. As long as . . .

As long as both profit and quality are retain. That's the key. Make your profit numbers, and keep your customer's satisfied. Why is that so hard to understand?

Monday, January 17, 2011

National Post releases first tablet edition of its Financial Post Magazine; IBM is the single sponsor

The Canadian media firm Postmedia Network, the new media company spun off of Canwest, has as one of its properties the national newspaper the National Post. That property now has released over the weekend in the App Store a tablet edition of the Financial Post Magazine. The free app is for the iPad and contains an enhanced version of the November issue -- their CEO issue.
The iPad version of the magazine contains a single sponsor, IBM, which has a couple of ads in the issue, though none seem to be designed specifically for the tablet edition since there is no embedded animation or video in the ads.

The tablet version comes in a modest shell app, less than one meg in size. Once the app installed and launched the app begins to download a majority of the content. Video content is left off the app until the reader encounters the page with the video, then it can be downloaded. The advantage of this is that there is streaming of video, so it plays without stuttering. Also, I see that the video can take advantage of streaming to an Apple TV for viewing on your large HDTV.

A post online Saturday told readers that future issues of Financial Post Magazine will be available as a free in-app download when they become available. For now, at least, this app appears to be designed to simply extend the reach of the publication, rather than create a new profit center. Maybe that will come down the road.

Update: The developer of the FPM app is Made with Magnolia, a company created by Dayton Pereira and Michael Yokota. The developers are based in Toronto and also develop iPhone apps under the Indusblue name.

Left: once installed and opened, the app begins to download the issue's content; Middle: to navigate, the reader scrolls down to read the second page of a story, swipes to go to the next story; Right: embedded video can be streamed to another iOS device such as an Apple TV.

This may be two weeks late, but is related to the post above:

Postmedia Integrated Advertising, a division of Postmedia Network Inc., announced on January 4th that they had brought on Jennifer Sage to fill the post of vice president, digital sales.

“Jennifer will play a key role in delivering on our digital first strategy, aligning print and digital sales teams and growing digital advertising revenues,” Kirk Allen executive vice president Postmedia Integrated Advertising, said in the company's announcement.

Prior to joining Postmedia, Sage held senior positions with Rogers Digital Media, Rogers Publishing and St. Joseph Media. Postmedia Network and Rogers are both Toronto, Canada based companies.

Was last week's cancellation of The Daily event tied to this morning's announcement by Apple?

This morning Apple released a statement from its CEO Steve Jobs announcing that he would be taking another medical leave of absence. Cue the reporters warning of a fall in the price of Apple's stock. Nice guys.

The announcement, for me, goes a long way in explaining why News Corp.'s event scheduled for Wednesday of this week was pushed back. The event, to be held in San Francisco, was to feature both Rupert Murdoch and Steve Jobs, would have unveiled News Corp.s new iPad-only news product called The Daily.

My original reaction to the postponement was that Apple's next iOS update must not be ready to be released. Without it, my thinking went, Murdoch's new news product might not be able to launched due to needed changes in the way subscriptions could be sold through the App Store.
But this morning's announcement shows that Jobs was probably not going to be able to make the event on Wednesday -- and that would have led to rumors galore. I still think The Daily probably needs the iOS update, but who really knows now.

Tim Cook, Apple's chief operating officer, will probably be the person who leads the next Apple event. While the event has not been publicly announced yet, it will probably occur within the next four or five weeks and will unveil plans for iPad 2.

Rumors of the specs of the latest version of Apple's tablet are pretty uniform at this point: added front and rear cameras, a slightly redesigned form -- flatter, faster processor and more RAM. The wildest rumor so far concerns the resolution of the display.

For media companies developing for the iOS platform, the absence of Jobs from the corporate office may put a freeze on things for a while. That is not good news for those who have been hoping that Apple will change its subscription policies, though it may have been wishful think in any case.

Morning Brief: Apple CEO Steve Jobs to go on medical leave; New Media helps spark Tunisian revolution

Light posting as it is MLK Day here in the states.

Apple issued a statement this morning announcing that CEO Steve Jobs will go on medical leave, though retain his title of CEO:

At my request, the board of directors has granted me a medical leave of absence so I can focus on my health. I will continue as CEO and be involved in major strategic decisions for the company.

I have asked Tim Cook to be responsible for all of Apple’s day to day operations. I have great confidence that Tim and the rest of the executive management team will do a terrific job executing the exciting plans we have in place for 2011.

I love Apple so much and hope to be back as soon as I can. In the meantime, my family and I would deeply appreciate respect for our privacy.
Jobs was on medical leave for an extended time after he underwent treatment for pancreatic cancer, and received a liver transplant. He returned to the Apple campus in June 2009.

The Apple announcement may have been timed to coincide with the MLK holiday as US markets are closed today.

Writing on the English Al Jazeera website, Noureddine Miladi asks if the recent change in government in Tunisia was "a media led revolution?"
Contrary to civil unrests in Tunisia during the last few years, the dramatic death of 26 year old university graduate Mohamed Bouazizi sparked off angry protests in many parts of the country and have attracted international media attention thanks to social media networks...

...In light of the dramatic development of events, on a considerable scale, it has become evident that new media have been playing a key role this time around in keeping the momentum going, and bringing the voices of the disengaged Tunisian youth to the attention of world media, and hence to international public opinion.

Mobile phones, blogs, YouTube, Facebook pages and Twitter feeds have become instrumental in mediating the live coverage of protests and speeches, as well as police brutality in dispersing demonstrations.

The internet in this case has assumed the role of a very effective uncensored news agency from which every broadcaster and news corporation have been able to freely source newsfeeds, raw from the scene.

Such developments have proven very significant in changing the rules of the game, of journalism production and dissemination of information in a country where the government historically keeps tight control on the media and where almost no platform is available for opinions critical of the political elite.