Friday, March 4, 2011

End of the week odds and ends: Gannett launches corporate branding campaign; Turkish journalists take to the streets to protest detentions; CBS buys Clicker Media, names Jim Lanzone the new head of CBS Interactive

On Monday Gannett will launch a corporate branding campaign which CEO Craig Dubow calles "a reset". With the marketing effort comes a new logo (gotta have one of those).
According to the post on USA Today's website the "goal is to communicate that the company — long identified as the nation's largest newspaper publisher and a major owner of TV stations — has evolved into a forward-looking digital power."

Ads will appear in Gannett newspapers and on its 23 television stations, but as its own article says there is no word if any actual marketing money will be spent outside of Gannett properties to promote the company.

Agence France-Presse (AFP) reports that Turkish journalists were in the streets of Istanbul today protesting the detention of their colleagues involved in "a controversial coup probe".

The issue at hand revolves around a government proble of the possible secret network called Ergenekon that has been accused of trying to destabilize the AKP run government and lead to a military coup.

"Critics charge the investigation, afoot since 2007, has degenerated into a campaign to bully critical media and the opposition," Safak Timur writes for the AFP.

CBS announced it has acquired Clicker Media, a web guide to broadcast programming, and has named its co-founder, Jim Lanzone, as the new head of CBS Interactive.

In just over a year, Jim has created one of the leading navigation and discovery tools for video programming on the Internet," said Leslie Moonves, President and CEO of CBS. "Clicker's products and proprietary technologies add firepower to our existing portfolio of entertainment properties, and if we can help grow Clicker to its full potential in the years ahead, the strategic value could be tremendous."

Lanzone will succed Neil Ashe, who has served as head of CBS Interactive since CBS acquired CNET networks in June of 2008.

PennWell's first B2B iPad app gets promoted by Apple

It was interesting to see the new apps Apple was promoting in the News section of the App Store. One of the featured apps under New & Noteworthy was the recently released app from PennWell for Fire Engineering (link to the TNM post on its release).
For those who have accused Apple of being all about the money, it should be noted that a B2B media app would, by definition, be of limited interest to the general public. Additionally, the app is free.

Also promoted today was the new app from Consumer Reports showing, I suppose, that there is no hard feelings on the part of Apple for trashing the iPhone 4, twice.

Condé Nast's tablet app transition will test its new pricing strategy, as well as the loyalty of its current customers

Starting next week, and continuing throughout this month, Condé Nast will roll out all new apps for its titles currently found in the iTunes App Store. The move will force its current customers to download all new apps, while keeping the old apps to house previously bought issues.
The move is necessitated by the publisher's decision to go with the Adobe Digital Publishing Suite rather continue on its own native app development path. The first app to appear will be Glamour early next week. According Peter Kafka of the WSJ, Condé Nast will be pricing the app at a discount, 99 cents, in order to try and attract downloads.

Much has been made of the pricing strategy being employed by Condé Nast, now raising single copy prices to match those of print, but this will be an ongoing debate -- are single issues sales of tablet editions that same as single issue sales of print? Is there a legitimate reason to discount tablet edition single copy sales when the publisher is getting dinged 30 percent by Apple?

The feedback from the market may be confusing some publishers. After the initial launch of the iPad in April of last year there was real enthusiasm voiced by iPad owners for new magazine and newspaper offerings. Some publishers enjoyed initially good sales -- Wired, for instance.

But the question in the back of my mind was "are these new readers really going to turn into long term customers?" I didn't think so, but also knew that until the iPad, and other tablets, had sufficient penetration of the reading public, this was the audience that exists today and there was not much publishers could do about it.
And what was (is) that audience? Younger, mostly male, early tech adopters, etc. The perfect audience for Vanity Fair?

But now we are almost a year into the tablet era and the market is slowly maturing. The people I see checking out iPad at retail outlets are more a cross-section of the consuming public -- a bit less tech-savvy, that's for sure, but probably the more typical newspaper or magazine customer.

A couple of weeks ago Condé Nast released an iPad app for Vogue. Priced at 99 cents, the app is actually just a specialty publication, not a complete issue, but its subject (Lady Gaga) and its low price has led to overwhelmingly good reviews in the App Store. Soon we'll see if an all-new, app, built using the Adobe Digital Publishing Suite, and priced like a newsstand bought print edition will get the same reviews -- I doubt it seriously. But that alone won't be a sign that the strategy is a failure, Condé Nast will have to look at the sales numbers and judge for themselves.

You knew it would lead to this: Democratic representative tackled by police as he tries to enter the Capitol Building

The Republicans had promised they would escalate the threats of violence against both Democratic legislators and the protesters opposed to the attempts of the governor to eliminate collective bargaining rights for state workers.

Two days ago Republicans passed a resolution authorizing the use of force against absent Democratic legislators, though there are doubts about the constitutionality of the resolution, as well as the ability of Wisconsin state troopers to enforce it when the legislators in question are hiding out in Illinois.

Now it has begun: WKOW captured this scene at the Capitol last night as police tackled Representative Nick Milroy (D-South Range) as he attempted to enter the building.

And so it begins.

Morning Brief: Economy adds jobs, as legislators warn of layoffs; Trinity Mirror to launch apps, but no paywall

Some decent news this morning on the economic front as the US economy added 192,000 jobs in February. Job gains, according to the report, occurred in manufacturing, construction, professional and business services, health care, and transportation and warehousing.

The unemployment rate ticked down to 8.9 percent, though the civilian labor force participation numbers were unchanged in February, with 13.7 million Americans still out of work.

The "official" unemployment rate represents the U-3, total unemployed, as a percent of the civilian labor force. One year ago the seasonally adjusted U-3 stood at 9.7. The broader measure of unemployment, knows as the U-6, has been declining, as well. The government reports that last month that number was 15.9 percent, versus 16.8 a year ago.

Sensing improving job numbers, Paul Krugman, the NYT columnist and winner of the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics, wrote this morning of his concerns that Republican legislators are working to slow the economy through their demands for severe budget cuts.
Krugman wrote this morning that the "clear and present danger to recovery, however, comes from politics — specifically, the demand from House Republicans that the government immediately slash spending on infant nutrition, disease control, clean water and more. Quite aside from their negative long-run consequences, these cuts would lead, directly and indirectly, to the elimination of hundreds of thousands of jobs — and this could short-circuit the virtuous circle of rising incomes and improving finances."

As if trying to prove Krugman write, Wisconsin governor Scott Walker told reporters that he was prepared to layoff 1,500 state workers unless the 14 state senate Democrats do not return to the state so that Walker can pass his bill which would eliminate collective bargaining rights for most state workers.

The governor, who wants to cut government spending, employment, and regulation anyway, desires to shift the blame for the impasse away from the Republicans who have so far showed no desire to compromise on their goal to end union rights in the state. Earlier the Assembly passed the "budget repair bill" by voice vote. The vote took was so short, approximately 17 seconds, that many representatives could not register their votes through the electronic voting system.

An even more draconian version of the union-busting bill is speeding its way through the Ohio state legislature.

Trinity Mirror plc chief executive Sly Bailey told The Guardian that the newspaper company has will be launching its first paid media apps for tablets soon, but will not be pursuing a web paywall strategy.

"Consumers are showing pretty much zero propensity for [paying for] general news content on the web, on a national or regional basis," Bailey told The Guardian's Mark Sweney. "We have no plans to introduce paywalls on our sites".

Trinity Mirror publishes three national magazines for Britain, and two for Scotland, as well as free and paid regional publications.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Verizon, AT&T, Best Buy, Walmart retail store personnel completely in the dark concerning iPad 2 and iOS 4.3

I did a bit of personal research today, visiting my local Verizon, AT&T, Best Buy and Walmart stores to see if I could some basic answers concerning their plans to roll out the iPad 2 and to prepare for iOS 4.3. Not surprisingly, very few retail store employees knew much, if anything, of value.

This doesn't surprise me, after all, Apple is notoriously secretive, to point of clinical paranoia. But there were a couple questions I thought I might get answers to: one, how much is it going to cost me to use the new Personal Hotspot feature found in iOS 4.3 (answer, "what Personal Hotspot" feature?); and two, what has store management told you about the roll out of the iPad 2 (answer, "I don't think my manager knows much more than I do, which is nothing").
The most knowledgable retail store employees were to be found at Best Buy (I did not go to an Apple store). Just a year or so ago, I used to have to worst experiences with Apple products at Best Buy. Worse, I just couldn't figure out why Apple kept Best Buy as a retail partner.

But the situation is much improved. A dedicated Apple person is now on staff, and this has dramatically raised the level of produce knowledge throughout the store. I know longer hear, for instance, that if you buy a Mac you'll need to buy special sound speakers direct from Apple because Macs don't come with the normal sound out hardware. (I once heard a sales person tell a customer that if they buy an iMac they would have to buy a PC desktop to go along with it because the iMac is only a display and keyboard accessory.)

The Best Buy team was pretty knowledgable about what Apple had announced. They knew the new models and figured to get their shipment of iPads late Thursday night or first thing Friday (March 11).

Apple's innovative new cover for the iPad 2

The Verizon folk were completely in the dark. This may have been because this is all so new to them. The whole iPad sales scheme is strange at Verizon anyway. Since the original iPad didn't come with the CDMA channel access necessary to work on Verizon's network, the retail stores have been forced to sell WiFi only models combined with Verizon's own MiFi. They will also just sell you the WiFi iPad without MiFi, so in the end, the options all cost the same as at the Apple or AT&T stores -- it just seems weird.

But now Verizon is getting its own iPad 2s with 3G, but I certainly wouldn't have learned that at the store. When I informed the Verizon staffer, then proved it by going to the Apple website, he was pretty excited. "No wonder we haven't been getting any MiFi shipments lately. We are always having to read the tea leaves around here."

Of course, there is a reason retail management likes to keep their employees in the dark: it helps them sell the inventory currently found on the floor. How do you sell a first generation iPad knowing that iPad 2 is just eight days away? Easy, don't tell 'em.

Local retail: Outspring develops and launches iOS apps for local restaurateurs in the California wine country

In my newspaper days as an advertising director, one of my biggest frustrations with management was their willingness to let business opportunities escape them. This was (and still is) especially true when it comes to local retail: if it isn't a quarter page print ad, then it's just not worth the time of the reps to sell it. As a result, new competitors keep stealing the business.

One of the reasons for this is basic misunderstanding about where the marketing money for local retails is spent -- not everyone has a separate print advertising, digital advertising, and marketing budget. Most often it is just one lump sum, spent however the retailer sees fit.

In the eighties, the "new competition" was coming from tabloid publications of real estate and autos. It also included direct and marriage mail. Today, of course, some of the new competition comes for hyper local websites, though most are driven by a content strategy that precludes much of an aggressive advertising effort.

New iPhone/iPad restaurant apps from the developer Outspring

My frustration, and one of the reasons I was lured to McGraw-Hill and out of the mainstream newspaper business, was an unwillingness on the part of the newspaper industry to compete head-on with these new competitors. Some newspapers started their own mail programs, which was wise. But most felt that getting into the auto or real estate publication business would dilute their classified sections. I guess last Sunday's half-dozen paged classified section in the Chicago Tribune is proof enough of the success of this strategy.

The other option is to partner with some of these new "competitors", and this is where app developers might come in.

All this is a long way of explaining why I am highlighting some restaurant apps. The developer, a Santa Rosa, California-based Outspring, currently has about a dozen and half apps in the iTunes App Store, the majority of which are for local restaurants. The apps, for such well-known (at least to me) restaurants as Bouchon, ad hoc and Zazu, work on both the iPhone and iPad, and while identical, take advantage of each device's strengths. For instance, the menus look beautiful on the iPad's display, while the reservation and map features are perfect for a mobile device like the iPhone.
Outspring has its own platform called Outbound that is specifically designed for the restaurant trade. The free apps serve as both marketing pieces for the restaurants, as well as direct drivers of new business through their in-app reservations capability, maps, contact information, etc. These well-made apps are, no doubt, the tip of the iceberg of what is possible in this area.

Jeff Baudin, president of Outspring, says the platform will allow his company to serve other retail segments in addition to restaurants, such as nightclubs and wineries. The key here is that Baudin's company is working to serve the marketing needs of local businesses and one has to wonder where this money will come from, and who will be losing business now.

This is why I said early in the life of TNM that a smart publisher, if unable to build their own app development teams, would be wise to find a good developer to partner with. A company like Outspring is but one example, but a pretty good example if you ask me.

Colbert wonders why those palm trees were trucked into Wisconsin -- must be a plot by those violent janitors

We'll let Stephen Colbert provide TNM readers with a little levity this morning. But his point is actually a serious one: if the teachers, janitors, policemen and firefighters are as violent as Fox News says they are, then maybe there would be some news about, you know, violence.

Instead, those on the ground in Madison are in total agreement, Fox News notwithstanding, no one can remember a protest less violent, with so few arrests, and with the police and the protesters apparently, and justifiably, on the same side of the argument. (I was there a week ago and could see no signs of violence, and that was despite the presence of about 2,000 bussed in Tea Party activists.)

Any way, here you go, a little Colbert Report:

Morning Brief: Mention the Swimsuit Issue, drive traffic; print and digital ad gains reported at the Toronto Star

Earlier this I did a post about WoodWing's work with Time Inc. on a Chrome browser version of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issue. I thought the concept was rather interesting, browser based editions of print products, so I did a short post on it and included a few screenshots of both the Chrome app and the equivalent iOS apps.

The next day, first thing in the morning I checked my traffic numbers and found that Monday TNM traffic close to tripled. At first I did not put two and two together. Maybe this was the result of the change in Google's algorithm, now sites are completing head-on with content farms. Tuesday traffic was still unusually high, but definitely lower than Monday. Wednesday the downward trend towards continued and I finally looked a little deeper to see that one story was driving the whole phenomenon: and you can guess which story.

Blatant traffic bait.

I suppose this is precisely what other websites do all the time, but strangely it never crossed my mind that a story about a media app would have that kind of effect, and frankly it is a bit disheartening knowing that for many sites, driving worthless traffic in pursuit of uniques is a way of life. Seems a pretty slimy way to make a living, but c'est la vie.

So, let's have a little fun at the expense of all those hormone-driven teenage boys: Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issue, Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issue, Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issue -- there, that should do it.

The Montreal Gazette had a story this morning that reports some good news in the newspaper industry -- yeah, I know, hard to believe.

The story by Jamie Sturgeon of Postmedia News reports that his own company, Postmedia Network, which released ten media apps a couple of weeks before Christmas, has had its Standard & Poor's debt rating raised. We'll see if the ratings agency's faith in the future is justified.

Probably more importantly is the other news found in the story that the Toronto Star reported "better-than-expected profit for the fourth quarter led by a rise in advertising spending" -- an actual increase in revenue performance is always real good news.

"There's a couple of weak spots in there, specifically retail advertising, but overall the tone of the guidance is sequentially better," Drew McReynolds, analyst at RBC Capital Markets, is quoted as telling The Gazette.

While retail revenue may not have grown, other ad categories, including digital resulted in the revenue gains at Star Media.

Yesterday's Apple event yesterday was followed by the usual media stories about the sales prospects of the new iPad 2, along with some really strange reviews like this one by Preston Gralla of Computerworld.

But some of the stories could have predicted based on the original iPad stories from April of last year. For instance, UK writers tend to be automatically negative about new products like the iPad. Jemima Kiss, of The Guardian led her story with this line: "It's not hard to read Steve Jobs' surprise appearance at Wednesday's iPad 2 unveiling as a mark of desperation."

For the record, Apple's stock price stands this morning at 352.12. Now that is desperation. But come on editors, did you really have to let Kiss hang herself, or was this the kind of article you let run in order to point to it later as a reason for her dismissal?

But The Telegraph, which ran some fun "claim chowder" last year when the first iPad was released seems to have thrown in the towel. The Telegraph has a half dozen little stories about the iPad 2 this morning.

The best one, though, takes a quote from The Guardian's analyst round-up by Charles Arthur. He gets this remark from Carolina Milanesi, vp of research in consumer technologies at Gartner:

"Competitors are making the same mistake that mobile vendors made with their response to iPhone: they are making the battle about hardware, and with tablets this is even less the case than it was for smartphones. What you are empowered to do with your tablet makes the difference."


Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Remember that big gap between the Internet users and non-users? Well, the same gap may be appearing again

Nothing used to be more frustrating to me than trying to explain "The Internet" to some of my media bosses back in the middle-nineties. I think we didn't even use the word "Internet", instead we talked about "online" versus "offline".

Now I sense the same divide occurring with media executives, and especially with some media consultants. I just turned off an online video chat with some tech writers and a media guy which was sadly disheartening. The two folks representing tech were going on and on about the new iPad 2, the magnetic cover, while the the media guy really had nothing to contribute to the conversation. But worse, it was clear he didn't know a damn thing about iPads and iOS -- and this guy is giving advice to newspaper companies! Yikes.
Back in 1995 I remember trying to explain the concept of search engines, and the size of the web. Coming from San Francisco I was a huge advocate for online (and obviously still am), but trying to explain incredible growth of the web was hard when the entire concept seemed foreign. What does it mean that there are hundreds, then thousands, then millions of page of web content on a certain subject when the other person has never even seen a web page?

Now we have executives that may know that the iPad, or iOS or Android exists, but having never opened a media app up for themselves find it hard to understand how the new technology is changing the reading habits of their own, and soon to be former, readers.

Ultimately, having been at both newspaper and magazine companies, as well as at new media start-ups, the gap between in knowledge between both segments is often enormous -- but the same is true for the people these executives listen to. If you are unfamiliar with the app approval process, having never used the NYTimes or The Daily app yourself, and the person you listen to for advice doesn't own any tablet, what will your reaction be when your advisor says about app development "some day, some day, but you can wait"?

With the iPad 2, Apple wants to solidify its position as the number one digital media consumption device

As the hype of the latest Apple event dies down, most talk will be about the changes the Apple iPad 2 bring to consumers, and what may be missing (they will continue to mention Flash, of course). But now is a good time to think a bit about what this all means for publishers and others in the media business.

First let's go through the many changes to the iPad that you will see March 11 when iPad 2 launches:

The new Apple tablet will be faster, both in terms of processing speed, and in its ability to render graphics. Its dual core A5 processor means the iPad will not fall behind the new tablets recently launched, or those expected to be launched this summer.
The iPad 2 will be incredibly thin. At 8.8 mm thin, it is even thinner than the iPhone 4 (9.3mm). I already can see an ad using the iPad 2 to chop onions ("but wait, there's more. If you order now we'll throw in a set of Ginsu iPads for all your cutting needs").

The new iPad will have two cameras for use with FaceTime, as well as a new cable with will allow for HDMI-out -- more on this later.

This is all great, but media professionals who paid attention today really should have gotten excited by the changes that are coming in iOS 4.3, and how they will effect their future app development plans.
As expected, the new iOS 4.3, which will also be released March 11, brings with it the ability of apps to stream video content using AirPlay to Apple TVs. This is great, but not everyone owns an Apple TV. Well, Apple has done something that I find courageous: they are allowing apps, and everything else for that matter to be mirrored through the HDMI-out cable. In other words, your tablet edition is now ready for the big screen -- or at least, that HDTV in your family room.

(An aside: back in my Hearst days in Los Angeles, our advertising director left to join a start-up. This start-up, Silent Radio, brought those ticker-tape like displays into bars and restaurants where you could follow the latest news. The vision, long term, was that eventually people would "read" the news on their televisions and other devices. It didn't happen, of course, but the idea was that print media could somehow migrate to television. Now it can, even though what publishers will want to give consumers shouldn't be long form print, but video and other interactive content.)

Today's Apple event, in my opinion, absolutely blew away the original iPad event, which I found disappointing. While I didn't adopt that "it's just a giant iPhone" meme, it still didn't seem to work for me.

But today's event, realizing all the developments that have occurred in the past ten months, really adds up to something: I'm actually pretty excited about this new iPad, and I find that surprising. (My favorite tweet so far is this one: "Apple has such a special way of making me feel like a douche for buying the first model of their product."
Today's event had far emotion, at least initially, than I would have thought. First there was the surprise presence of Steve Jobs, looking pretty damn good. That got things rolling. Then there was this long, and almost over the top recounting of where Apple is with its tablet. As Jobs talked about the use of the iPad for medical uses, and its effect on autistic children, Joshua Topolsky of Engadget blogged "Man this is actually really emotional...Damn you Apple for making everyone here cry about the iPad."

The event bogged down a bit as Apple unveiled its two new apps for the iPad, iMovie and GarageBand, but this will answer many of those critics who say the tablet is not for creating content, only consuming it -- tell that to all those bands out there who will be using Garageband to cut demos.

Updated: Do you know what's on your website this morning? Vanity Fair goes 'birther' with blog headline

Has Vanity Fair gone birther? You'd think so from the headline on VF Daily this morning: Obama's Hawaiian Birth Certificate Is Probably a Forgery.
The collection of random items does not include any story that makes the claim, but rather leads with a link to an MSNBC story about 11 state legislatures, all led by Republicans, that want the government to look into the matter of the President's birth certificate -- in other words, the story is about birthers on the state level.

The story was posted early this morning, but now that it is past 9:00 ET one would have thought someone at Vanity Fair would have noticed. Maybe this is the sign of a change in editorial direction at the monthly magazine? (Probably not.)

Updated: It's been changed. Someone got their cup of coffee and almost chocked, I bet, when they read their own website. The headline now reads: Legislators in Georgia Actually Believe That Obama's Hawaiian Birth Certificate Might Be a Forgery -- pretty wordy if you ask me. But take a look at the URL. It still shows the original headline.

This is reminiscent of the headline one used to see all the time in the old days of hot type. Someone would get cute and put a crazy headline into the newspaper for the editors to see and take out. Sometimes the headline would simply read: Headline Here. But, of course, sometimes the tired editors would let it go through.

But today many content management systems create URLs based on the original headline written. For instance, I might type in the headline for this story as "Headline Here" then press publish. Then, checking my work, I would see that I've made a mistake and write a new headline. While the headline would go live, the URL would remain the same -- something like

The only way to correct the URL, or course, would be to delete the story completely out of the system and post a new one.

Morning Brief: Mashable's Cashmore shows off the new in-house sales team; city magazine launches tablet edition

It makes a publisher smile to see someone proudly showing off their new in-house sales team. That is CEO Pete Cashmore did late yesterday afternoon on his website Mashable as he announced the hiring of industry vet Ken Detlet to the Mashable sales team.

Detlet, formerly veep of sales at Ziff Davis and head of national sales at Gannett Digital, will lead the new sales operation at the social and digital media news site.

Prior to building out their own sales team, Mashable worked with Federated Media, which will still work with Mashable on a limited basis until the summer. Then, presumably, all sales will be handled in-house. (Visualize me applauding.)

Other members of the team mentioned in the Cashmore post were Lauren Rubin, global director of sales, Andrew Reedman, U.S. director of sales, Tamar Weinberg, community support and advertising manager, and Brie Manakul, ad ops manager. Cashmore ends his post with mentioning that Mashable is hiring regional sales reps for New York and San Francisco -- go for it.

(AdAge's Irina Slutsky wrote about the move on Monday. Cashmore is quoted in their story as saying "We want to stand on our own two feet and we have the critical mass that we need to stand alone. We've reached scale and got the editorial up to a quality and a structure that we wanted."

Mobile and tablet media apps get released all the time, of course, and while I try to post about the new launches from major US media companies, that means that many other apps sometimes get downloaded and installed, but posts are never written (is that a run-on sentence?).

Take this city magazine, for instance. Barcelona deluxe magazine is a replica copy from VIP Media Press (also known as Le CITY deluxe -- it's all rather confusing).

This free, one assumes, will be the first in a series of tablet editions as the publisher produces similar magazines for other cities such as Madrid, Moscow, St. Petersburg, etc.
These are magazines about and for the rich. The Le CITY deluxe website pretty much shows you want is on their minds: diamond encrusted iPhone cases, Academy Awards red carpet shots, perfume, liquor, etc. It's all rather trite, and with the active war the wealthy seem to be engaging in against the middle class, rather disturbing.

I suppose the point of interest here is that the magazine is half in English, half in Spanish, allowing interested readers from Beverly Hills or Lake Forest to plan their next excursions.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Afternoon Media Briefs: Memo outlines plans to merge HuffPost sales team to be into AOL; Comcast launches their Xfinity TV app in Android Market

The WSJ's Peter Kafka got a hold of another of those epic memos from an AOL exec -- this one from Jeff Levick, President, Global Advertising and Strategy.

The memo announces that Mark Ellis, North American ad chief for AOL is out, as in out of the company (and apparently headed to Silicon Valley, where he will head up sales at Yahoo). "In" is the Huffington Post sales team which has produced pretty impressive results over the past year or so.

I’m very happy to announce that over the next 90 days, we will be integrating The Huffington Post sellers into our regional teams and expanding the roles of three of our star field generals – Tim Richards, Wendy McGregor, and Tim Castelli. Wendy, Tim, and Tim will lead the sales for AOL and Huffington Post Media Group and report directly to me, moving them into a more central role in AOL’s revenue strategies and management.

We've written about the Comcast Xfinity app for iOS devices, so to be fair it good to mention that today Comcast has released an Android version of its TV app. The Xfinity TV app showed up today in the Android Market, but it is clearly a phone version, rather than optimized for any of the new Android driven tablets.

The app allows subscribers to Comcast's cable TV services to use the app as a remote control, schedule DVR recordings, browse TV listings and On Demand content. What it can't do is be used to watch Comcast's new streaming programming -- which, it must be admitted, is pretty limited.

This is why TNM does not do predictions: today the House voted to pass a temporary spending measure, thus averting a government shutdown. Only 91 representatives voted against the measure -- so much for the promises of many of the newer members of the Congress.

In any case, no government shutdown -- at least for now.

Now the protests have come to the Ohio state capital as that state looks to take away collective bargaining rights from its state workers, including police and firefighters. The Columbus Dispatch reports now that there are "an estimated 8,500 protesters demonstrated against the bill on the west lawn of the Statehouse".

As other papers have discovered, stories about unions and protesters are sure to drive comments. So far the main story about the protests have generated over 400 comments -- that number is sure to grow.

Pennwell launches tablet edition for Fire Engineering

The business-to-business media company PennWell has released its first tablet edition for one of its trade titles. Fire Engineering, a paid circulation, monthly magazine for fire and emergency services personnel, now has an iPad app.
The app's name is probably a mistake by the development team: Fire Engineering: Fire Service & Rescue News an... -- I would think that might get fixed soon.

Unlike the magazine, and like the website, the app and its content is free. According to the Fire Engineering website, a one year print subscription costs $29. This continues a trend of publishers launching apps that don't seem to have any business plans behind them -- a common mistake being made by print publishers, especially those in B2B. The article layouts hint at the possibility of an ad position in them, currently being taken up by a house ad. The size choice was wise, however, a medium rectangle.
The app itself is an RSS reader in three parts: Latest News, Most Viewed, and Videos. I am struggling to figure out if the editorial team has created new feeds to bring into their iPad, and previously released iPhone apps, or whether they are coming for a section of the website -- my guess it that they are new mobile feeds since the content is identical on the iPhone and iPad apps.

The good news here is that this is not a replica app, forced down the throat of the publisher by a flipbook vendor (I didn't mean that sentence to sound so harsh, but then again, I've decided to go with it.) The app allows the reader to share stories through Facebook, Twitter and e-mail, and there is a font size adjustment, eliminating the need for pinch-to-zoom.

The bad news remains the business model: since the app and its content is free, you would think that there might be a page offering a way for advertisers to participate or contact the sales staff -- I noticed the same thing on the website. When B2Bs decided they weren't in it for the money, I don't know.

In the competitive world of B2B, having both a mobile media and tablet edition is certainly an advantage. Fire Engineering's competitor, the Cygnus Business Media monthly Firehouse, is a controlled circulation, free magazine (compared to Fire Engineering, which is paid and ABC audited). Cygnus is remains nowhere with mobile and tablet media.

Most of the US B2B magazines found inside the App Store are replica editions produced by either Texterity or RR Donnelley. Even European B2Bs are struggling with their strategy, though they were the first to move onto the iPad -- the app for Publisher, the Swiss media B2B, which I raved about last September, hasn't been updated since it was first released, making it seriously out-of-date.

While their apps still feel like a stopgap measure rather than a full blown strategy, PennWell is at least in the game. Like digital flipbooks, these iOS apps (there are no Android apps that I could find in the Android Market) are a ineffective solution to a complex problem: how to make money through digital publishing. Fire Engineering, being at the top of its class, should find itself in a better position to buy time while the company modifies and improves its mobile and tablet media offerings.

A few new features I'd like to see included on the iPad 2; Best Buy inventory system hows first gen iPad 'deleted'

Tomorrow Apple's COO Tim Cook will unveil to the world the second generation of the company's popular tablet, the iPad. As I've already written in today's Morning Brief, there are not expected to be too many surprises. But if there are a few, as a media guy this is what I would want them to be:

Media = sound

One smart move by Motorola was to include stereo speakers with their first generation XOOM. By building their tablet to be more at home in landscape, and with the inclusion of stereo speakers, Motorola was basically saying that their tablet is perfect for watching media, especially modern films. They are right, though the included speakers are nothing to write home about.
Apple includes decent speakers on its iOS products. Knowing that most users listen to music using either the headphone jack, through streaming or the dock connector port, the speaker is almost an after thought. But Apple has has made sure that the volume is sufficient for those rare occasions when you simply can not be on headphones.

If Apple sticks with their mono speaker arrangement competitors will certainly have an opening.

Streaming, streaming, streaming

This might be addressed tomorrow: the ability of third party developers to include Apple TV streaming in their apps. This is supposed to be included in iOS 4.3 and it is possible that the new version of the mobile operating system could be launched tomorrow, and many developers are getting ready.

The screen capture above shows a New York Times video from their iPad app that allows the audio to stream to my Airport Express -- not very useful. Right now, the only apps that can take advantage of video streaming are a few Apple apps. Meanwhile, the Apple TV already has Netflix and YouTube built-in.

But the inclusion of third party streaming makes any media app a television app. Magazine and newspaper apps suddenly have access to living room HDTVs, as would game developers. Let's get this rolling asap.

A new, customizable home screen

If there was one area where the Android driven Motorola XOOM made Apple's iOS driven iPad look dated it was the home screen -- that first page you see when you awaken your tablet. (I'm not talking about the lock screen.)

After working with the XOOM for quite a long time at my local Verizon store, I went to the iPad display. From across the room one could see the familiar screen of the iPad: a collection of icons cluttering up the home screen.

Now this is a tough call, I get that users want instant access to certain apps. And the model used by Android sometimes feels like a leftover of PC days: the start-up button, the application folder, and all that baggage. But there is something to be said about that attractive home screen (imo).

The Home button, keep it

I might be in the minority here, but the fact that the iPhone and iPad have just one button is a major selling point -- it shows the ease of use, the simplicity of design, elegance.

Don't dump it. But if you want to include another way to do the same thing, through a gesture, for instance, OK, I can accept that.

Macrumors is reporting that Best Buy's inventory system is showing that the existing iPad has been deleted. This would probably mean that 1) the new iPad will be available immediately, either for instant pre-ordering, or else instantly available; or 2) somebody at Best Buy can't type. We'll know tomorrow.

By the way, I don't provide direct links to Macrumors. The site banned me months ago for including links to both my own stories as well as links to other media sites. They don't like that, takes traffic from Macrumors.

The Battle of the Polls: new surveys show Americans want to return to the Middle Ages with their smartphones

As time goes by, polls are becoming less about accurately reflecting the views of Americans, and more the drivers of editorial content.

Well, maybe that headline is a bit of an exaggeration. But recently released polls either show that the country is of two minds on every issue, or that one can manipulate a poll to say just about anything the pollsters want it to say.

For supporters of labor rights, the newest New York Times/CBS News poll says that most Americans strongly support the right of public employees to collective bargaining:

Americans oppose weakening the bargaining rights of public employee unions by a margin of nearly two to one: 60 percent to 33 percent. While a slim majority of Republicans favored taking away some bargaining rights, they were outnumbered by large majorities of Democrats and independents who said they opposed weakening them.
But then there is Rasmussen, known to be a bit, well, biased in favor of the Republicans. They released a national poll last week that said that fully 67 percent of those surveyed did not approve of the state Democrats tactics to stall the passage of the union-busting bill.

The new NYT/CBS News poll.

Earlier, Rasmussen released another poll that showed that, nationally, "likely voters" overwhelmingly supported the stance of Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, while only a minority supported the union position. That poll prompted a column by the NYT's Nate Silver which accused the polling company of intentionally introducing bias into the poll results. Silver said that Rasmussen manipulated its results through the old tactic of asking leading questions with false information in them before getting to the important poll question. If it were an election, this would be called push polling.

Sometimes poll results offer good news for both sides. Yesterday, for instance, Public Policy Polling (PPP) released the results of a survey of Wisconsin voters that showed that if the election for governor were today Scott Walker would be defeated by his Democratic rival. But supporters of the governor could also point to the PPP results and accurately see a silver lining: 45 percent of those surveyed still support the governor despite thousands of protesters occupying the Capitol Building, despite the (lukewarm) support shown by the President.

So what is going on? Polling has become part of the media business, as much a driver of news as events themselves. Don't want to send a reporter to Madison, conduct a poll instead and then talk about the poll. If Fox News wants to continue to call the protesters violent and prone to hate speech, it is easier to talk about a poll than to actually send a reporter to Madison to see that this isn't actually the case.

Also, as the editor of The Daily showed a couple of weeks ago, the news media does not like stories that take time to play out. "Folks, Egypt is over — time for us to get focused on covering America,” Jesse Angelo, editor of The Daily wrote in his widely distributed memo.

But Egypt is not "over", in fact it is getting more and more interesting as Egyptians find themselves in negotiations with the Army over the details of democracy. But the story is even harder to cover now, so let's talk about Charlie Sheen.
A year ago Markos Moulitsas of Daily Kos said that he was going to sue the polling firm Research 2000, a company he had used to conduct polls for his political website for over a year. According to Moulitsas, the weekly polls being conducted for this site by Research 2000 were basically bogus -- a conclusion he reached after having a group of statistic wizards" look over the crosstabs of the weekly poll results.

Why is this all important? Because we have been in a new era of polling as content for several years now. The Research 2000 polls were an important part of both the editorial content of the Daily Kos website, as well as being part of the political discussion. In the end, poll results (if proved to be false) were manipulated most likely to feed the beast, so to speak -- to be part of a consistent editorial scheme. Many people are convinced that certain polling firms produce certain results in order to remain useful to the media companies they serve, while at the same time making an attempt not to lose all credibility. (This is why it is common for many polls to begin to merge into one clear pattern near the end of an election cycle as polling firms begin to face their own judgement days.)

But what does the reliance on polling do to the credibility and standing of journalists and their media properties? That was a rhetorical question, wasn't it?

That is why it is easy to look out at the state of the American mind and come to the conclusion that Americans want to end worker rights so that we can all become serfs of huge corporations, while playing games on our shiny new iPhones. Or, alternatively, we are concerned about our basic civil rights, and want to protect those who are teaching our children, patrolling our streets, and putting out dangerous fires. Who knows. But you may be able to get whatever answer you want if you just bring in the right firm.

For editors at publications on opposite sides of the political spectrum this may be a comforting thought.

Morning Brief: Random House says it will adopt agency model for e-book sales; some thoughts on the Apple event; Protester inside the Wisconsin Capitol starts blog

The last of the six big book publishing houses is now on board the agency model train, Random House announced yesterday. Starting today, the publisher will adopt the system whereby the publisher sets the price of the book and the sales agent collects a commission fee.
“The agency model guarantees a higher margin for retailers than did our previous sales terms. We are making this change both as an investment in the successful digital transition of our existing partners and in order to give us the opportunity to forge new retail relationships,” Random House said in a statement. “We are looking forward to continuing to work with all our retail partners—both digital and physical—on our joint mission to connect our authors with as many readers as possible, in whatever format they prefer.”

The CEO of the American Booksellers Association, Oren Teicher issued a statement, according to MediaBistro, that approved of the move. “We have believed from the beginning," Teeicher said, "that the agency model is in the best interest of not only the book industry, but the consuming public as well … We appreciate the careful and thoughtful deliberation Random House has brought to this issue, and applaud their decision to adopt agency pricing.”

On March 24 of last year, Random House said it would opt out of Apple's new iBooks store, though the company said it was still possible that it could enter the new Apple store but that it was "was treading carefully" fearful the new sales model would erode margins.

Tomorrow Apple will use its latest media event to unveil the iPad 2. Last year there was incredible anticipation that the event would be, well, memorable. But interestingly, I found it to be a major letdown. Watching Steve Jobs sitting in his chair putting the new tablet through its motions just didn't leave me feeling very excited about the iPad.

But in retrospect, that was one time where the event did not live up to the product. I can remember lots of other times where I admired the way Jobs was giving his keynote and only later realized that the products weren't that exciting. Only twice has the product been as amazing as the event: the introduction of the first Mac, and the unveiling of the iPhone.

Tomorrow, hey, its a new iPad, I don't expect to be wowed. The new version will have a faster processor, more RAM, one or two cameras, and a slightly, very slightly different design.

The fun will be in the anticipation that there will be a surprise somewhere along the line. The more important parts of the event may be the things discussed before getting to the iPad: changes to MobileMe? a preview of iOS 4.3? Things like that. We'll see tomorrow.

I suppose there are times when either I or you, my dear reader, realizes that I don't have much to talk about. On those occasions I usually find an app to look at, or comment about other media sites, etc. I suppose I should be grateful that there always seems to be something to talk about.

Then there are sites that are created that sound like they will be exciting, but in reality have not much to say. Here is a new blog by Jonathan Scott that sounds like a great idea, but I think Mr. Scott will find he doesn't really have much to say most of the time.

Called News from Inside the Wisconsin Capitol Building it is Mr. Scott's thoughts on the ongoing protests in Madison. It is a great topic, and a very worth while endeavor. But protests may look exciting from the outside, but walking around in circles, beating drums, and yelling chants is not quite up to the same level of thrill as, say, a blind date. It gets a bit repetitive.

But being inside the Capitol must be even worse: what is he doing in there other than making a statement with his presence? But we wish Mr. Scott all the best, and I guarantee him I will be checking up on his blog occasionally.

Washington Post reporters David A. Fahrenthold and Philip Rucker last posted a story that said that the possibility of a government shutdown was in the hands of a group of Republican freshmen, a collection of 87 newly elected representatives who, for the most part, want to dramatically cut spending in the new budget.

What are the chances these Representatives will force the government to shutdown? One newly elected Texas Republican, Rep. Blake Farenthold, is quoted by the Post as saying "I really feel like I was called to run for office at this time. A whole bunch of things all came together at once. . . . I can't credit that to anything but divine intervention."

Looks like the crazies are in charge -- count on a government shutdown.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Consumer Reports, the guys behind those iPhone 4 death-grip articles, dares to launch an iPad edition

It will be fun to see whether Apple decides to promote the new Consumer Reports iPad app in their New & Newsworthy section. It was Consumer Reports, of course, that published the famous reports that said the iPhone 4's antenna had a design flaw that could cause a loss of signal strength and dropped calls -- eventually Apple responded with a free bumper program for owners.
Now the magazine published by the Consumers Union of US, Inc. has released its first iPad app, the Consumer Reports Digital Edition. The app is free to download and wisely includes a free preview issue.

So what is the center of focus of the free preview issue? Why of course, a review of tablets! Considering how few tablets there are currently on the market -- we're not counting the tons of "announced" tabs that have not launched yet -- it is not a surprise that Consumer Reports rated the iPad as the best large tablet, and the Samsung Galaxy Tab as the best small tablet, what else could they do?

As a tablet edition, the Consumer Reports preview issue is pretty good: it offers both portrait and landscape modes, and appears to be designed specifically for the tablet -- but since it is a preview issue rather than a tablet version of an existing print edition, it is hard to know whether future issues will be designed specifically for the iPad, or whether they will be replica editions.
Future issues will be available as an in-app purchase through this shell app, though the publisher is currently not users know the price. I assume they will will offer both individual issues as well as an annual subscription through the app, but we'll have to wait to see.

The Consumer Reports tablet edition has a couple of interesting features to point out: one, it has a thumbnail view that includes a view of the entire article, making it a bit easier to navigation; also, the in-app library has both portrait and landscape views of the cover depending on which orientation you are holding the iPad -- admittedly a minor detail, but it seemed unique to me.

What the app lacks, though, it just as important: no pinch-to-zoom, and no font controls. This is important because I found the articles a bit fuzzy and hard to read. With the rather thin preview issue already weighing in at 128 MB -- mainly because of containing both portrait and landscape -- these features would add to the size of future issue downloads.
In the end, I think the idea of launching an app as free, with a free preview issue, is an excellent idea. This encourages downloads, and gives the reader an idea of the magazine.

It is clear from Kimberly C. Kleman's Editor's Note that this was the idea -- use the app as a marketing opportunity to reach new readers. It will be interesting to see if they build in a sign-in feature so that they can offer their existing subscribers free access to future issues.

This iPad edition is the second iOS app to be released by Consumer Reports. The first was Consumer Reports Mobile Shopper, an iPhone app that costs $9.99.

The idea for the app is pretty good: offer consumers an opportunity to check out what Consumer Reports says about various products such as digital cameras, etc. But the reviews inside iTunes have been brutal. Customers have complained about the app crashing, and that the app only offers limited access to information, not the full CR website. One might say that if the app were reviewed by Consumer Reports it would not be recommended.

SI's Swimsuit Issue now a Chrome Web app (as well as an iPhone app, iPad app, Android app, etc.)

WoodWing sent along a press release this morning touting something a bit different, so it is worth a post I think:

Time Inc.'s magazine Sports Illustrated has released its young-male-hormones-gone-wild Swimsuit Edition as a Chrome web app. The app, which can be found in Google´s Chrome Web Store, sells for $6.99.
The app for Google's Chrome browser, utilizes WoodWing´s Tablet Publishing solution and WoodWing´s HTML5 Reader App. WoodWing touts its digital publishing solutions as allowing its publishing customers to create HTML5 digital publications for iOS devices, Android and webOS, as well as Google Chrome products.
“HTML5 is seen by many as the future of interactive media-rich content on the Web,” Erik Schut, President of WoodWing Software is quoted in the release. “With our HTML5 Reader App, we offer our customers yet another channel to publish to easily, extending the reach of their publications even more.”

The equivalent iPad version can be found within the existing Sports Illustrated iPad app for the same $6.99 price. There is also a kind-of free iPhone and Android app, as well. Users can upgrade their app for $1.99 to "unlock hundreds of razor-sharp photos and dozens of steaming videos".

OK, enough talk about the softporn SI apps. What I found interesting about the Chrome app was that the developers did not also launch an equivalent Mac desktop app -- another sign, I think, that the Mac App Store is not going to enjoy the same level of developer support that the iOS app stores have. Many of the categories are still able to display their apps on one page -- an easy way to see that the app selections are pretty small. (The good news: there is now a curling app available!)

Morning Brief: Sullivan announces move to NewsBeast; TPM's Kleefeld reports from Madison and gets his story

Andrew Sullivan, known as much for this staunch support for the Iraq War, and then reversal, as for his blogging, announced on his blog The Daily Dish his decision to leave The Atlantic for NewsBeast, as the merged entities of Newsweek and the Daily Beast are sometimes called.

Sullivan took his blog to The Atlantic from Time in 2007. Sullivan's blog is unique in that he does not accept comments from readers.

Talking Points Memo sent one of its staffers, Eric Kleefeld, to Madison to cover the ongoing protests there over the governor's plans to eliminate collective bargaining rights for most state workers. The move is paying off in some good, on-the-scene, reporting.

Yesterday readers could follow Kleefeld on either the TPM website or Twitter as protesters defied a police order to vacate the Capitol by a 4pm deadline. Kleefeld reported minute-by-minute as the possibility of conflict grew. Eventually Capitol Police Chief Charles Tubbs announced that the protesters could stay.
"There will be no arrests, as we said before, there will be no use of force," Tubbs said. "We want the people to continue to cooperate and work within the guidelines and the laws of the state of Wisconsin. So there'll be no one asked to leave the Capitol tonight."

Bad winter weather did not hold back the protests this weekend -- in fact, most observers reported that the number of people surrounding the Capitol grew this weekend to around 70,000 -- and without the bussed in Tea Party counter protesters.

Finally, a word about the Oscars: the Academy Awards remains one of those made-for-television events that seems to lure otherwise level-headed writers to it the way a moth is attracted to a patio light. The good news is that they seem to reveal which writers are about as good as . . . well, a moth.

Yesterday I deleted a few writers from my Twitter feed as it became obvious that my desire to follow media news, and news from Madison, Libya, and the Middle East had been hijacked by celebrity fawning drivel.

(It was shocking to find out that a certain former E&P editor, now at The Nation, is, in reality, a Entertainment Tonight wannabe.)

The Oscars are now over. EOM.

Hands on with the new Motorola XOOM

I spent extensive time at my local Verizon store yesterday so that I could get a real feel for the new Honeycomb-driven tablet, the Motorola XOOM. I was able to download some apps, play with the browser, view videos, etc. So after reading and posting a bunch of reviews from other writers, it's time for TNM to weigh in:

Executive Summary:

The Motorola XOOM is the first real Android competitor to Apple's iPad. I have not been impressed with the Samsung Galaxy Tab, both because of its size (too small to be a true "media tablet") and because of its version of Android.

Having said that. both the XOOM and Honeycomb appear to be a work in progress. Browser crashes, the heavily landscape nature of the tablet, and its lack of native tablet apps will negatively influence the buying decision of many consumers. But if properly, and heavily marketed, the Motorola XOOM could take advantage of its first mover status as the first Honeycomb tablet on the market.

Quite a number of reviews have mentioned that the XOOM will surprise you with its weight, and it's true, the XOOM feels surprisingly heavy. But like the first generation iPhone, I like the weight and feel of Motorola's tablet. But what surprised me was how small the tablet seems compared to the iPad. The XOOM is 9.8 x 6.6 x 0.5 inches according to the Motorola website. The iPad, in comparison is 9.56 x 7.47 x 0.5 -- not much difference, but that almost one inch width difference may prove important to media developers, as I will talk about later.

Spec-wise, the XOOM has many advantages, though most will disappear very quickly when the iPad2 is introduced: both a front-facing and rear-facing camera, stereo speakers, to name just two features.

Like the iPad, the XOOM does not feel cheap, it has a solid, well-built feel to it.

Like other reviews, I can't help but notice that this is a tablet that feels most natural in landscape -- this is the way it was displayed at the store, this is the way it is most often pictured on the Motorola website, this is the way one reads the branding on the tablet itself, and with its connector located where it is, using this tablet in portrait mode would be the exception, not the rule.

But if you are the maker of a replica edition, this would be a nightmare. Magazines and newspapers are, of course, designed in portrait -- to move the tablet terms to print. The Motorola XOOM will let you use portrait, of course, but the fact that XOOM begs to be in landscape only means that it will be even more apparent to users that replica makers are taking a short cut at the expense of the user experience.


Android 3.0 (Honeycomb) certainly feels more at home on a tablet than its predecessors. The "home page" is attractive, and makes Apple's collage of app icons look dated. Apps are located under a button located in the upper right hand corner which brings down the apps. In many ways this is the equivalent of putting applications into a folder like Windows or the Mac OS. As a result, I wonder how well this will work if, or when, the Android platform will be able to offer an extensive selection of natively designed tablet apps -- it can't right now.

For me, the browser was a disaster: it loaded sites slowly and crashed several times. There may have been reasons for this outside of that tablet itself: a slow WiFi connection? a need to reboot the tablet? Who knows, but I was almost as unimpressed with the experience as I was using the Samsung Galaxy Tab.

A aside: TNM on the tab showed up as a mobile site, as you might have expected. Thankfully, TNM's mobile site has a built-in option to view the "desktop" version of the site, but if this and other Android tablets get popular I will definitely have to make an adjustment to make sure tablet users are fed the right website.

Adding apps to the tablet is easy enough through the Android Market. I downloaded and installed the New York Times Android tablet app and was very disappointed to see that it was simply an RSS reader version of the website. Unlike with the introduction of the iPad, the NYT has not pulled out all stops to make sure they had a good app ready to go. Even the NYT support page appears to go to a dead page.

For some consumers the lack of tablet apps ready to go may influence their buying decision. When the iPad was introduced there were obviously few apps available, especially compared to the number available today -- but, of course, it was all alone in the market. Any tablet introduced today, though, will have to deal with Apple's app advantage.

And this may be where Motorola finds itself at a disadvantage: the XOOM comes will all the features and built-in apps you would expect. But unlike Apple, which sees itself as both a hardware and software company, Motorola is not only at a disadvantage in the area of software development, but it also seems to be at a disadvantage in how it looks at launching a tablet.

On my iPad, for instance, is a Netflix app, an MLB app. I'm sure that eventually these will be available for the XOOM, but they are not available now. The MLB app, for instance, is there in the Android Market, but it is obviously designed for Android phones. (In fact, as I am writing this post, I am listening to the Giants playing the D-Backs in a preseason baseball game, via the At Bat 11 for iPad app, which is beautifully designed for the Apple tablet.)

Of course, the Android Market itself, does not accommodate tablet apps the way the iTunes App Store does. Tablets remain an after thought.


So will the Motorola XOOM be successful? Don't look hear for an opinion on that -- I won't supply "claim chowder" for anybody. But I do think two things will highly influence the chances of success: marketing and sales (what a surprise that a former publisher would say this).

Ask any Mac users why Windows blew away the Mac and you should get the answer that it wasn't because of quality, it was marketing. Now-a-days, though, Apple spends a fortune pushing its iPhones and iPads. Motorola, and to a certain extent Verizon, will have to compete with Apple both in quality of product and in marketing. In fact, since it is entering the market more than ten months after the iPad launched, it will have to market that much harder.

The sales angle has to do with my experience at my local Verizon store. The Verizon employee was very interested in how much time I was spending checking out the XOOM. We talked for a long time about the tablet, though it was definitely all new to him. Then we talked a bit about the iPad. The sales person was, like many online, obsessed with the issue of Flash, and clearly this was going to point this out as a big advantage. But as I showed him, most sites have already adjusted their video content to accommodate iPad owners. The Verizon person also mentioned YouTubes, assuming that YouTube would be worthless on the Apple tablet. Of course, I then pointed out that the iPad comes with its own YouTube app, plus Google offers its own YouTube app, as well.

But if there are other Verizon store personnel with similar views you can see how this might influence potential buyers. Of course, the fact the store had a dedicated iPad section, while the Motorola XOOM was just one of several "mobile" products on a back display, may also influence sales.

Lastly, a trip to Best Buy yesterday was also interesting as the Apple section was busy, with shoppers looking at the new MacBook Pros -- and, of course, iPads. With the Motorola XOOM right now exclusive to Verizon, this means that Motorola must compete with Apple at its carrier partner's stores, while Apple continues to sell iPads at its own retail stores, Best Buy, AT&T stores, and at Verizon.