Friday, March 11, 2011

Online sales tax issue makes strange bedfellows of politically disparate groups and individuals

If there is one truth in life, besides death, it is that whatever the political issue, in the end it will always be about "money". Money, it seems, can bring two different people together and separate two people who normally would have much in common. Take online sales taxes . . .

I was lucky enough to have live in the Bay Area around the time of the Internet revolution, that giddy period of time that produced The Industry Standard -- that now oft forgotten industry weekly that grew from start-up to the number one magazine in the world, before crashing out completely, all in a three years.

Back then the industry was pretty unified behind the idea that online transactions shouldn't be taxed. It was believed that collecting sales taxes would slow the growth of the Internet -- and that was anti-business. Of course, who were these Internet pioneers? Mostly liberal techies.
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Then there were the more conservative business people who tended not to have much of an opinion about taxing online transactions because they were pretty sure that whole tubes thing was just a passing fade anyway. They, too, were pro-business types, anti-taxes, but they knew where their bread was buttered, and it was the brick and mortar stores that did the advertising, so their interests lay there. So these media executives went back to worrying about their print products and left the early web experiments to the dweebs.

OK, this is definitely generalizing, and I'm sure there are plenty of examples of the opposite being true, but my memory of life in the fast lane of those Internet days says this was the way it was.

So now we have today's online sales tax debate where we have Jeff Bezos and Amazon saying that collecting online sales taxes are an evil thing. So they will do what they can to avoid them, including ending its associates programs in those states that try and impose them.

In the other corner we have the state of Illinois, who now wants to tax online sales transactions, if, and this is important, the company has a physical presence in the state through employment or associates.

To be clarify why the law was passed this way one has to understand that Illinois' hands are tied by a 1992 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that said a state can only collect sales taxes on online sales if the company selling the goods has a presence in that state. So Illinois could not pass a blanket sales tax law -- once again state's rights wins out over consistent, logical policy.

The politicians who passed the law want to argue that the reason for the new law is both fairness, and the need to raise revenue. Those businesses against the law obviously see this as a setback to the advantages built-in from having lower prices due to no sales tax.

So who loves this bill? Certainly not conservatives. Read the comments on the WSJ story today:

"Illinois never met a tax they didn't like. Keep it up while the adjacent states curb unions and cut taxes," writes one commenter.

So business people hate this bill, right? Well, no, not really. In fact, the bill was supported by the Retail Industry Leaders Association, members of which include Walmart, Best Buy and other big-box retailers who, to be sure, are no friends of the Democrats.

"Gov. Quinn has taken a bold step today to help level the playing field for retailers in Illinois,"Sandy Quinn, president of a trade group, is quoted this morning in the WSJ.



In the end we have a strange mix of supporters and opponents on this issue. Conservatives are generally against online sales taxes because, well, they are taxes. Taxes, you see, are bad. Get rid of taxes and everything is wonderful (except schools, roads, policing, fire protection, etc.)

On the other side, are the liberals, who I have found are on both sides of this debate. Many say that raising revenue is the only way to balance the state's budget, and besides, brick and mortar stores have to collect sales taxes, why shouldn't online retailers. Others are still philosophical for a moratorium on online taxes as a way of spurring Internet growth.

So did this legislation become law because Illinois Democrats love taxes and want to raise revenue. Again, no.

This bill has zero to do with revenue.

B2B media firm Well Publishing hits the App Store by launching a tablet edition for Insurance Journal magazine

I love to talk about the mobile and tablet publishing efforts of B2B media firms. Unfortunately, there are few examples to point to at this point.
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Today, on the day Apple is launching its new version of the iPad, Well Publishing has launched a new iPad app for its Insurance Journal magazine. The B2B is a BPA-audited, 42,000 circulation magazine that comes out 24 times a year.

The new app is free to download and is only a couple of megs in size. The app creates a library in which readers can then download specific issues, which are also free.

This is a very simple, but yet effective app. There is only portrait mode so the individual issues are around 80MB in size. The issues are what I would call modified replica editions. All the full page ads are you see them in the print edition, but with links built in. One thing that proved annoying is that the developers made the entire page hot, leading to some unintended clicks that took me away.
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That aside, the editorial content utilizes scrolling to reveal additional pages. Modular ads -- those less than a full page -- are found here, of course.

If you are a B2B and looking for something slightly more tablet-like than only a flipbook than this might interest you. I don't know how committed Wells Publishing is to making tablet editions, though, as the latest edition available through the app is the January 24th edition, meaning that this issue is already a couple of issues behind the current one. The other two issues inside this app are from last year -- it all seems pretty random. But it is possible that the publisher has been waiting for Apple to approve the app and have it show up in the iTunes App Store. Hopefully Wells will load up the library for those who download their app.

One point, though: since most B2B magazines are free and targeted to specific industries, only "qualified" readers are usually able to subscribe -- everyone else pays. Tablet editions, therefore, create some dilemmas: do you charge for the app? Do you create a registration process? This particular app does neither -- the assumption, I suppose, being that only if you are really interested in the topic will you download the app. This is probably correct, but without a registration process the publisher (and advertisers) are pretty much in the dark about who is reading the tablet editions.

Apple pushes back shipment date on iPad 2

That didn't take long: Apple began taking orders online this morning for its update tablet, and while Apple initially promised shipments within 5 to 7 days, the company has had to revise its shipping dates. If you order an iPad 2 now it will be shipped in 2 to 3 weeks.
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Is it really possible that Apple is already suffering from inventory constraints?

Unlike the original launch of the iPad, where buyers had to pre-order their tablets for initial delivery on Saturday, April 3, with limited supply at Apple retail stores, this year Apple is stocking its retail partners with tablets. Sales will begin at 5pm today at Best Buy, Walmart and Sam's Clubs locations, and at AT&T and Verizon retail stores (as well as Apple retail stores, of course).

Morning Brief: 8.9 Earthquake, followed by tsunami hits Japan; online orders for the iPad 2 now on Apple website

A massive 8.9 earthquake, off Honshu, Japan's most populous island, Centered 230 miles northeast of Tokyo, the quake produced a devastating tsunami which was captured by citizens and quickly posted online.

NYT coverage can be found here. The quake occurred at 2:46 p.m, approximately seven hours ago (it is currently 10pm in Tokyo as this post goes live. At least 60 people are confirmed dead due to the tsunami at this time. The Guardian is reporting that "up to 300 bodies found in Sendai" -- obviously the death toll will climb through the night there.

A 6.5 foot tsunami was expected to reach Kauai at 3:07 this morning -- approximately 20 minutes ago. An 8.2 foot tsunami passed Midway Island according the to National Weather Service.

Two videos of the tsunami:







The US vetoed efforts to create a no-fly zone in Libya, defeating efforts by France and UK to end the use of air strikes by forces loyal to Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi. Washington is increasingly seen as resigned to the fact that Qaddafi's regime may hang onto power, to the frustration of US European allies.



Bradley Manning, the US soldier accused to releasing diplomatic cables to WikiLeaks, has released an 11-page letter through his lawyer. In the letter, Manning describes his treatment at the hands of officials at the Quantico Marine base in which he is being held.

"I was stripped of all clothing with the exception of my underwear. My prescription eyeglasses were taken away from me and I was forced to sit in essential blindness," Manning is quoted in the letter, the contents of which were published last night by The Guardian.



Online orders are now being taken on Apple's website for the new iPad 2. In the US online store buyers can order both black and while models, Wi-Fi-only models or 3G models that work on either the network of Verizon or AT&T. The Apple online store quotes delivery times of 5 to 7 days.

Retail store sales begin at 5pm today as Apple appears to desire to create a PR coup with pictures of long lines and happy customers. Late Friday afternoon is usually a slow news time -- often used by the White House and other government agencies to dump bad news stories in hopes they will get ignored by the media.

The grand plan, however, appears to have been preempted by events such as the tsunami in Japan.



Reactions to Amazon's move to kill its associates program in Illinois have been mostly

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Amazon terminates associates program in Illinois due to new law requiring sales tax collection from online retailers with employees or associates within the state

Backing up its pledge to end its associates program in Illinois if the legislature passed, and the governor signed new tax rules, Amazon has notified its Illinois affiliates that it is terminating the program.

(Talking New Media has been part of the program since the launch of this site, and thanks to the buying habits of our readers, TNM has earned . . . zip. Thanks guys. Oh well, guess this move won't hurt TNM much.)

Here is the notification:

Hello,

For well over a decade, the Amazon Associates Program has worked with thousands of Illinois residents. Unfortunately, a new state tax law signed by Governor Quinn compels us to terminate this program for Illinois-based participants. It specifically imposes the collection of taxes from consumers on sales by online retailers - including but not limited to those referred by Illinois-based affiliates like you - even if those retailers have no physical presence in the state.

We had opposed this new tax law because it is unconstitutional and counterproductive. It was supported by national retailing chains, most of which are based outside Illinois, that seek to harm the affiliate advertising programs of their competitors. Similar legislation in other states has led to job and income losses, and little, if any, new tax revenue. We deeply regret that its enactment forces this action.

As a result of the new law, contracts with all Illinois affiliates of the Amazon Associates Program will be terminated and those Illinois residents will no longer receive advertising fees for sales referred to Amazon.com, Endless.com, or SmallParts.com. Please be assured that all qualifying advertising fees earned prior to April 15, 2011 will be processed and paid in full in accordance with the regular payment schedule. Based on your account closure date of April 15, 2011, any final payments will be paid by July 1, 2011.

You are receiving this email because our records indicate that you are a resident of Illinois. If you are not currently a permanent resident of Illinois, or if you are relocating to another state in the near future, you can manage the details of your Associates account here. And if you relocate to another state after April 15, please contact us for reinstatement into the Amazon Associates Program.

To be clear, this development will only impact our ability to continue the Associates Program in Illinois, and will not affect the ability of Illinois residents to purchase online at www.amazon.com from Amazon’s retail business.

We have enjoyed working with you and other Illinois-based participants in the Amazon Associates Program and, if this situation is rectified, would very much welcome the opportunity to re-open our Associates Program to Illinois residents.

Regards,
The Amazon Associates Team

iOS 4.3: Personal Hotspot, and the issue of connectivity

One of the more highly anticipated features of the recent Apple mobile operating system upgrade involves Personal Hotspots. This is a feature where you can use your iPhone's 3G data connection to create a mobile WiFi network, this will enable your PC, Mac, or iPad to get online when an open WiFi network is not available.

This feature is not something very, it's just new to Apple. Other smartphones, and other carriers have allowed this to occur, so this is another example where Apple is not first to offer something, instead they offer it when they feel it is ready.

For journalists and bloggers on the road this is going to to an indispensable, and much appreciated new feature -- and absolutely vital if you want to use your WiFi-only iPad while on the road.
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If you are an iPhone 4 user here is how you activate your Personal Hotspot:

First, assuming you are an AT&T customer, you have to have the 4 GB data plan. If you currently have an unlimited data plan, and you use a lot of data you are hosed -- either you give up your unlimited data or you give up the idea of the Personal Hotspot. Big data users that still have their unlimited plans should think long and hard before giving them up.

But since I usually have access to WiFi, I don't use nearly as much data as you would think, considering that I both listen to the radio and watch Al Jazeera English on my iPhone!

Users need to go to the AT&T Wireless website, sign-in then look for their phone (if they have multiple phones on their account). The data plans are listed under "Features" not rate plans. Change your plan to te 4 GB plan and you are just about there.
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Then all that is necessary is to go back to your phone to set-up the hotspot. The setting is found under Settings > General > Network. You can also access the AT&T website this way, though it is probably easier to do it on your computer or laptop in advance of travelling.

The Personal Hotspot assigns your device a network ID and password that can be used by your iPad or laptop. Then it is pretty easy to use, just look for the right network on your iPad and sign-in. Easy.

Network speeds using tethering, as this process is called, is dependent on your 3G data speeds, with AT&T being pretty good. But even though your iPad or laptop will be accessing the web via WiFi don't expect typical WiFi speeds -- unless you are used to the WiFi found in airports, in which case you will be pretty happy.

As I mentioned the other day, getting your web connection through WiFi via a hotspot creates a weird situation on the iPad 2. The tablet from Apple will come with cameras and FaceTime software allowing users to conduct video calls. But these calls only work if the iPad 2 is access WiFi, not its own 3G. But if the iPad 2 is on WiFi, even if that WiFi is coming from a Personal Hotspot through the iPhone's 3G connection, FaceTime will work -- though it might be choppy. We'll see.

In any case, I really wish this Personal Hotspot feature had been available the last time I travelled to the West Coast. On that trip I simply did the best I could, spending far too much time at the local Starbucks. The other option, before the iOS 4.3, was to jailbreak your iPhone, but that seems like a waste of time to me now.

All this is great news for journalists with iPhones, and those considering iPads for reporting. With Apple introducing iMovie for both iPhones and iPads, a reporter could quickly shoot some video with their iPhone, edit it with their iPad, and load it online pretty quickly. Maybe we'll see some improvement in those hastily shot news videos now.

Members of the Newspaper Guild at the Baltimore Sun approve new three-year contract extension

In a story dripping with irony today, the Baltimore Sun has posted a story reporting that members of the Washington-Baltimore Newspaper Guild have approved a three-year contract extension with a voice vote. The Guild represents around 225 employees at the newspaper, less than half the number that were represented four years ago, according to the story.

Also posted online today is a virulently anti-union column by George W. Liebmann that claims that the same anti-union legislation that is at the center of the controversy in Wisconsin could, and should, be passed in Maryland. Liebmann represents the Calvert Institute for Policy Research -- I'll leave it to you to Google this organization to discover its political leanings.



Since the major networks are clearly ill-equipped to cover events in Madison today -- CNN's lone reporter on the scene is currently locked in the Capitol chamber and can't see what is going on outside -- here are a few detail gleamed from social media:

Students at Madison East High School have walked out of class and have marched on the Capitol. About 1,600 students took the long walk to the center of the protests escorted by police cars (update: another report confirms the walk-out, but says the number is more like 800-1,000 -- a tweet also has just reported that students at Madison West have walked out, as well).

Madison Major Dave Cieslewicz has authorized the city attorney to pursue any legal actions possible following the vote, accusing the state Republicans of violating state open meeting laws. Twitter tweets say the mayor is leading his own city workers in a walk-out to join the protest, though this can not be confirmed.

State troopers are pulling protesters out of the legislative chambers, while most of the press is being denied entrance. Some background: the head of the state troopers is the father of the State Majority leader, and was just recently named to his post in the middle of the budget repair bill controversy. This may explain why the troopers are at the Capitol in riot gear, while local and Capitol police are not.

Gruber does his iPad 2 review, saves me the hassle

I know I won't be one of those standing in line tomorrow (or even today) to get my hands on the new iPad 2. Buying the first iPad on launch day was unusual enough for me, buy version two immediately is out of the question.

I did the same thing with the original iPhone -- well, kind of. I was one of those who thought that Apple getting into the phone business was bad news, it would distract them from their Mac business so I was a bit skeptical. But weeks after the original iPhone launched I noticed that the phone was, well, amazing. So when I needed a new phone a couple of months later it was easy to leave Sprint for AT&T in order to get it. I had no regrets -- in fact, I thing that first iPhone belongs in the Smithsonian, its that amazing to behold, only the iPhone 4 beats it for pure design genius.
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But the iPad was a whole new ballgame. I thought then, and think now, that the iPad is the most important thing to happen to the news business since the web, and while its impact on readers will probably be less than the web, it should prove more positive to publishers than the web initially did.

What about iPad 2? The second version of Apple's tablet won't be a game changer, the first iPad accomplished that. So, in the end, any review of the iPad 2 should probably be left to the tech writers. That brings us to Daring Fireball's John Gruber. He has reviewed the iPad 2 this morning and has probably done the best job so far.

Here are a couple snippet's. but I strongly recommend, assuming this is of interest to you, that you read the whole thing:

It is a refinement of the original iPad — an impressive one, in several ways, considering that it arrives just 11 months after the original. But it is in no way a radical or significant departure from last year’s model. The fact is, Apple got it right with the iPad 1 in almost every way, and the iPad 2 reflects that...

...In short: the iPad 2 is a little lighter, remarkably thinner, and feels much more comfortable to hold. For all practical concerns, the display is identical to last year’s iPad...

...A year from now we might look back upon the iPad 2 as having been built for gaming...

...Smart Covers are so cool that I can imagine iPad 1 owners — who think they’re happy to stick with what they’ve got — changing their minds and deciding to upgrade upon seeing Smart Covers in person.
That's more than enough, let's not aggregate too much, right?

The next review I want to read will be from Andy Ihnatko. Ihnatko has already written a kind of pre-review of the iPad 2 for the Sun-Times, but his actual review will probably come tomorrow. I assume that like Gruber, Ihnatko now has his review copy of the iPad 2 and is busy testing and writing about it.

Sadly, Apple does not send me review copies of its products. (hint, hint)



Yesterday I posted a look at the AirPlay feature inside the newly updated iOS. I worked with it some more last night and so far my impressions are very positive. You see it is one thing to tell a customer that they can stream their videos and photos to their TVs (via Apple TV), it is another thing to do it well. A bad user experience will kill off any new technology, of course.

The next, and probably last post on the topic will center on the Personal Hotspot feature, and the whole issue of connectivity and media. Look for that this afternoon.

Viewpoint: Wisconsin, the media and the New Media

Two days ago I wrote, then deleted, another post about events in Wisconsin. The headline was something along the lines of "Wisconsin protests continue, media goes AWOL".

The post was deleted because the purpose of this site is supposed to be about New Media, written for those who might consider themselves old media. The reason it was written, however, was that as a trained journalist I wake every morning with one question on my mind: what's the most important story today?

For the past month, the most important domestic news story has been events in Madison. I would further argue that the number one media story has been how this story has been blown by the editors and publishers we count on in this country for news. The grand old men are letting us down.
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Media trucks in Madison three weeks ago.
As of yesterday, most in the media had
had moved on. Photo: D.B. Hebbard
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Three weeks ago I went up to Madison to see for myself. That weekend the media was out in force. That was the weekend that Tea Party activists were bussed in to have a relatively small counter demonstration, so the media got the story they were looking for -- one side says this, the other says that.

It was a pretty piss poor weekend for the media world. Example: the New York Times sent the son of the publisher to cover the story, and immediately he created a controversy with his amateurish+ reporting.

Today's Wisconsin news in the NYT is penned by a reporter out of Chicago -- the Times has bugged out. And so has most of the rest of the media. One of the only media outlets that decided to remain was Fox News, but then again they have a reason other than news to be there. The Fox News TV crew is there to report the corporate narrative, spread not only by their cable news channel, but by its print and electronic media products such as The Daily. Twice the network has been caught fabricating stories: first, it reporter said he was assaulted, then punched, then finally "bumped"; second, Fox reported "violence" and "thuggery" among the protesters, as well as sunshine, short-sleeved protesters and palm trees in wintry Madison, Wisconsin.

Even the Chicago Tribune, the largest newspaper in the Midwest, is using a Reuters story today. It's a two and a half to three hour drive from downtown Chicago to Madison, and they can't spare a reporter?

So please understand that for me, it is hard to wake up every morning and ask that same old question without coming to the conclusion that the number one story today in the media industry is not Apple subscription policies, or whether newspapers should construct paywalls, it is whether the mainstream media really is going to be a player in the New Media world. In the end, why should TNM write about the new Dallas Morning News paywall when the DMN is becoming increasingly irrelevant to its readers. (Today's lead story on DMN's website is Ebby Halliday celebrates 100th with gala at Meyerson in Dallas.



The average age of television viewers has hit 51 -- the average age of newspaper readers is now 56. But the conversation online among most media writers is not about how to attract new readers through better news products, but how to extract revenue from the remaining existing readers, while simultaneously driving down the cost of content through aggregation, and "community journalism". The same voices today proclaiming that media properties should fight Apple and Google and not be tempted to create tablet and mobile editions, were yesterday fighting efforts to publish (and sell) on the web. The names and faces of these journalism industry leader may have changed, but their message remains the same: let's get irrelevant.

One website can not fight this trend, it can only continue to report and analyze. I recognize clearly that TNM doesn't draw the same level of web traffic as those that are leading the charge backward. But it remains frustrating and disheartening to know that for many media industry executives think AOL and the Huffington Post is what New Media looks like. That is hilarious I suppose, since the news today is that AOL is about to layoff hundreds of employees -- that's surely one way to know that AOL is definitely old school.

Yesterday, thousands of Americans, including me, were glued to their Twitter feeds, watching as @wiunion produced more than one tweet a second. When the old media fails, there will be a new media rising to take its place.

That is one reason this site has been obsessed with events in Madison. As teachers, policemen and firefighters fight to stay in the middle class, most of the media world has ignored their story, and simultaneously told their readers that they do not matter. The Times and Tribune may only care about Wall Street, budget cuts and Charlie Sheen, the rest of America wants to know who and why people are trying to take away their salaries, health care and retirement resources.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Ill-advised update for CBS News for iPad released

Saying that their new app update fixes a problem where the app crashes upon launch, the CBS News for iPad app now . . . crashes upon launch.
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This is actually a common problem with app updates and can be solved by first deleting the old app, as The Daily has discovered with several of its app updates. Unfortunately, CBS has not discovered this yet and therefore the advice is not mentioned in the new app description. (As a result, the first couple of new reviews are very harsh indeed!)

But the real problem with this app is that knowing that iOS 4.3 was coming (it's even mentioned in the "What's New" section) why didn't CBS incorporate AirPlay streaming? (though the video tags can, I believe, be added on the server side of things) Maybe the reason was that they were trying to fix some other bugs.

Look for another app update very soon.

iOS 4.3: AirPlay brings media apps to the big screen

This is the first of several posts on the changes to be found in iOS 4.3 that may effect media companies developing apps for Apple devices.

The feature I have most anticipated in Apple update to its mobile operating system is changes to AirPlay. AirPlay allows apps to stream photos, audio and video to Apple TVs.
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Prior to today's iOS update, the only apps that could take advantage of AirPlay were a limited number of Apple apps such as the iPod and Photos. But even these apps didn't always offer full AirPlay access. For instance, if you shot some video using your iPhone 4 the video would go into your Photos folder where you could view it on your phone. But while the old OS allowed users to stream their photos to their Apple TV to be viewed on their HDTVs, the videos had to be moved out of the Photos folder and put into the Videos folder before they could be streamed. It was odd and annoying -- it was also, some speculate, simply the result of the developers running out of time before the last iOS update was issued.

But now, with the iOS 4.3 update, that same video does not need to be moved and can be streamed right away, making the feature 100 percent more user friendly.

But the most exciting changes, at least for media properties, are that now any app or website can stream its video content. But before this can happen media properties will have to add a tag to their video content and some apps will have to be updated.
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As I mentioned late Monday afternoon (see the end of the post), Air Video became one of the first apps updated to accommodate the iOS change.

Air Video allows users to stream the movies on their computer hard drives to their iPhone, iPad or iPod touch. The user simply downloads the Air Video app for their iOS device ($2.99) and then they download the "server" software from the Air Video website (free).

The set-up is easy enough, about the only thing you need to do is show the server software where to find the movies, preferably kept in one folder, but multiple locations are allowed. It's easy and users have always been big fans of the software.

Now they are positively giddy. What's new is that once their iOS apps are updated, and new server is downloaded and installed now those movies can be steamed to your HDTV via your iOS device.

Now admittedly this is simply a lazy man's way to watch movies without burning them to DVD, but it works and it is a sign of what is to come from other developers. I expect that some of the quicker to adapt media firms (no names, but you know who they are) to quickly figure out that by adding the proper tag to their video content their readers will now be able to watch the videos found on their website and inside their apps through Apple TV.



Many might see change as minor change to iOS. I know that when Apple CEO Steve Jobs announced in 2008 that the iPhone would now be open to third party apps many overlooked what a monumental shift this would be. Think of it, in June of 2008, when what was then called iPhone 2.0 was announced, there were exactly zero media apps for either mobile media or tablets (of course, the iPad was still a ways away).
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The original New York Times iPhone app was announced on July 11, 2008: "In honor of iPhone devotees like David Pogue, we’ve released the NYTimes iPhone Application, available for free at the iPhone App Store," read the blog announcement. That first app is not too different from the app used today, though today's NYT app contains much, much more content.

I doubt that iOS 4.3 will have the same impact as that 2.0 update, no way. But the expanded use of AirPlay may prove bigger than many people realize. Audio/Video companies like JBL, Pioneer and Philips, for instance, have just announced that they will release new products that are AirPlay compatible. The idea is, at least from Apple's perspective, that if you develop your media apps for the iOS platform and ecosystem you will have allow those products to be read, heard, and seen everywhere and on many devices -- including your home stereo and HDTV.

Apple releases iOS 4.3 update; Apple TV owners get access to MLB.TV and NBA League Pass; new Safari

Knowing that today is my birthday Apple CEO Steve Jobs had the company release the big iOS 4.3 update today, two days ahead of the launch of iPad 2. Apple TV owners, that's also me, got an update as well, as both MLB.TV and NBA League Pass subscribers can now view live games in HD through their Apple TV.

Lots of updates (including a new version of Apple's browser, Safari), lots of devices to update. So I'll duck out now and get cracking at getting all these updates installed.

Apple's new iPad 2, FaceTime, WiFi, 3G, Verizon, AT&T, man, this is getting really complicated, isn't it?

There is generally an assumption among tech writers, and us media writers, as well, that our readers are pretty tech savvy. Our readers know the difference between 3G and WiFi, Android and webOS, RAM and sheep.

But there is still a huge portion of the population that is nowhere as tech savvy as you are. Of course, that is why Apple products continue to be preferred by most consumers, to the utter dismay of Android techies. But this isn't an Apple v. Android post, this is an Apple v. consumer post. Because as Apple continues to roll out new versions of its mobile operating system and its iOS devices like the iPhone and iPad, it is starting to make things more complicated for its customers, effecting its customer relations in ways it may not realize.
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Take, for instance, the case of WiFi versus 3G. On Friday Apple will introduce a new version of its iPad that will be sold both as WiFi models and 3G models, of course. Two different versions of the 3G model will be introduced, one that will work on the AT&T; network, and one that will work on the Verizon network.

Consumers have been told that the new iPad will come with both a front and rear facing camera. Apple's own promotions play up the fact that if you buy a new iPad you will now be able to have nice long video chats with your girlfriend using your iPad, isn't that wonderful?

Of course, the reality continues to be completely different. First, although Apple played up the fact that they would make the FaceTime software open source so that other devices would use it, the reality remains that you can only use FaceTime if you are calling another iOS user -- iPhone to iPhone, iPad to iPhone, etc.

Most importantly, however, you can only use FaceTime when on a WiFi network. This makes FaceTime on the iPhone virtually worthless. I'm at a store and I want to show my friend something so I will use FaceTime, right? Not if I don't have a WiFi connection. So I take a picture and send it off via e-mail or MMS.

The iPad, being a more family room-oriented device, has the advantage of being more often in a WiFi environment -- that is, if it is in your home or mine. But many Americans still are without home WiFi. In fact, a recent survey showed that 32 percent of surveyed Americans attempt to access WiFi through their neighbor's Internet WiFi network, meaning they are themselves without such a network.

No WiFi, no FaceTime. Well, kinda.

You see current iPad owners who have bought their iPads through Verizon have a workaround. Since Apple did not make a 3G version of the iPad that will work on Verizon's network, Verizon has been selling the WiFi-only version of the iPad with their own MiFi solution. This device creates a local WiFi network that the iPad can connect to. WiFi equals FaceTime remember?

In reality, the MiFi is getting its Internet through 3G, but then is creating a WiFi network. The iPad only knows that it is accessing the Internet through WiFi, and though that connection will be slower than one directly through a router, it is still WiFi, and hence FaceTime will be allowed to work.

I called Apple about this today because this all seemed rather complicated and at odds with the way they say their products are supposed to work. But their representative confirmed that this workaround is valid.

So here is where we are: if you go to the store and buy a new iPad 2 and get the 3G model you may not be able to use FaceTime at home. But if you bought the original version and got the MiFi unit, then upgrade to iPad 2 you are set. Strange, huh? And not terribly customer friendly either.

Zinio suffers a meltdown of its digital newsstand service

The big question: what is the best e-publishing solution for magazine publishers, replica editions on digital newsstands, or native app development? Both?

If it were not for a tweet from TNM reader Tablazines (aka Chris English, publisher of Hoodgrown) I would never had known that the digital newsstand service, Zinio, had been down for a week. The one and only magazine that I have subscribed to using the Zinio platform, Sporting News Today, I didn't renew due to disappointment in its vision of digital publishing.
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Apparently Zinio began experiencing difficulties on March 2, according to some subscriber comments posted on the service's website blog. The first acknowledgment of the outage was the next day when the company posted its first blog post saying they were on the job attempting to fix the problem.

The next day Zinio was able to more fully explain the issues that caused the outage:

"This week, Zinio suffered an outage at one of our data centers that has made zinio.com and components of our web services in our client apps unavailable. This means you may presently be unable to purchase new content, or access new magazines in your Zinio library...
...We are working to return our services to 100% by the morning of Saturday, March 5, 2011, or earlier. "
Unfortunately, the company had a bad weekend -- as it worked on the problem the company continued to post on its blog and probably felt that they could solve their issues by Saturday, as promised. Late Saturday: "The maintenance page is being placed back up on Zinio temporarily while we make some final adjustments. Thank you for your patience."

On Sunday Zinio felt it was almost there, and on Monday there were no further updates. Unfortunately, Zinio's digital newsstand is still not 100 percent functional, if my own iPad app is any indication, but clearly they are just about there.



Strangely, the Zinio outage was not exactly big news, though I'm sure the folks at Zinio probably didn't feel this way, as their site got plenty of messages from users. But all day yesterday I didn't see a single post online about the problem.

For me, of course, Zinio is a flipbook maker, another of those vendors that serve the publishing industry,  though one with its own digital newsstand. It serves that part of the market that enjoys reading digital replica editions from their home or work computers, or now using their iPads.
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The Economist's latest issue available on its own iPad app is March 5, while the latest issue through the Zinio newsstand is from February 26.


As I mentioned above, I'm not a Zinio customer anymore. The last magazine I have subscribed to through the service was Sporting News Today, the daily digital publication from the venerable ol' Sporting News. The last issue delivered to me was September 30 (or at least the last one I kept), with Stanford's Andrew Luck on its cover.

So why don't I use Zinio's digital newsstand? Because I feel that reading replica editions on my computer or iPad is like listening to the radio on my TV -- right medium, wrong platform. My computer is for getting information, doing work, being creative, not reading long form text. My iPad is a better device for reading magazines -- right platform, right size -- but replica editions are designed first and foremost for print, so replica editions are by definition foreign material, lacking the navigation, convenience and multimedia content usually found on media app specifically designed for tablets.

As I've said even before the first iPad was delivered, tablets are its own platform -- not print, not the web, tablets.

But clearly many Zinio customers feel differently and that is good for Zinio. Further, Zinio is the premiere digital newsstand, I think that is pretty clear. And further still, based on my reviews of some of the recently released apps from Freedom Communications and MediaNews Group, I'm also convinced that apps are not automatically the answer -- these recently released apps are horrendous, brand-destroying messes.

I don't think anybody should be beating up on Zinio over their service disruption -- service outages will occur, they are pretty much unavoidable. Does anyone remember Apple's experiences when it launched MobileMe? I certainly do, I cursed out Apple big time. But loyal users of MobileMe, believe it or not, really like the service and would like to see it expanded. Others who gave up on the service continue to have hard feelings.

Jeanniey Mullen, Zinio's CMO, was all over the company's blog reassuring readers that things would be OK, and for that the company deserves a lot of credit.

If I were the publisher of, say, The Economist, I would definitely make sure my magazine is inside Zinio's digital newsstand. Clearly Andrew Rashbass feels that way because The Economist can be found in Zinio's digital newsstand. Priced a dollar more than issues bought through their own iPad app, and one edition behind, these Zinio replica editions probably outsell issues available through in-app purchases. But will this be the case a year from now? I will be very curious to find out.



Speaking of technical meltdowns, as I was writing this post I noticed that Photobucket, the photo serving service I normally use here, was down. Photobucket has been driving me crazy these past few weeks, changing the way users upload their photos seemingly every week. Why can't they stick to one method?

A week or so it looked like they finally had it figured out. Users could upload up to three photos at one time, and the photos would end up in the right folders -- something that was a problem in the past. Then it is back to the old way of doing it. When Photobucket finally gets back online we'll see if they have changed its user interface once again, just to confuse and anger their customers.

Condé Nast launches new Glamour app, using Adobe Digital Publishing Suite results in monster-sized issues

As promised, Condé Nast has released a new iPad app for its magazine Glamour. The free app is the result of the publishing company now using the Adobe Digital Publishing Suite to produce its tablet editions. To encourage new readers, Condé Nast is pricing the April issue of Glamour at only 99 cents -- there is also a free preview inside, as well.
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In October Robert A. Sauerberg, Jr., President of Condé Nast announced that it would begin producing "digital replica editions" using the Adobe Digital Publishing Suite rather than its own native app solutions. It was a contentious issue that resulted in some personnel changes at the publishing company. Now comes the results.

(I should add that the press release misspoke: these are not "replica editions" as all the Condé Nast tablet editions contain added content and more.)

The first thing one notices is that the April is a 553 MB download -- half a gig. But the Condé Nast magazines have always been a big download, and unfortunately things are no different now. The reason for the girth is that Glamour accommodates both landscape and portrait, is loaded with animation and multimedia content, all of it built right into the app. That makes for a great reader experience, but it also means owners of 16 GB iPads will be scrambling for storage if they end up subscribing to a Condé Nast magazine. (Right now one can only buy the one individual issue of Glamour.)
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The solution the publisher has built-in is the ability to archive old issues. When the reader chooses to "archive" an issue it is deleted from the tablet, but can be downloaded again later without paying a second time. It saves space, but is a bit of a pain.

As for the app itself, those who love Glamour, or any of the other Condé Nast magazines should love the apps. As mentioned, readers can use the tablet editions in both landscape and portrait, and the added content is certainly a bonus.

The advertising, of course, is vitally important here. Despite almost all the conversation centering on editorial, ad content is part of the reader appeal here and at many, many magazines. In fact, the first sign that a new reader is not a good lead for a magazine is when the reader complains about having to pay for a magazine AND still getting advertising.

The first few ads in the April edition contain no multimedia, but all have both portrait and landscape creative. The first ad with added content is for Maybelline. But most of the ads are "dumb", meaning without added animation or video content. Shockingly, the ad for Origins comes only with portrait creative.
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It will be interesting to see what the reader reaction to the new app is. First, even with 15+ million iPads out there female owners are about 35 percent of owners. Second, will readers object to the higher prices Condé Nast wants to charge readers -- the 99 cent deal ends today, soon the price will be most likely the same as print.

Also, what about annual subscriptions? Right now Condé Nast, despite high print production costs, will only charge you $12 for an annual subscriptions -- you can get 36 issues for only $24. Yet many publishers complain about Apple's subscription policies. I guarantee you that publishers will get plenty of negative feedback from readers if they price their digital products significantly higher than their USPS delivered print editions.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Update: Twitter releases another app update

A quick update to this post from earlier today where I talk about the dangers of not being prepared to quickly update your media app when things go wrong. In the case of Twitter, it was adding a feature that was universally panned by users -- Quick Bar.

Now I see that Twitter has issued an update this evening to their update. The new app is supposed to "fix bugs", but might be just standard language. It also mentions "Updated Quick Bar default behavior to not overlap tweets in timeline" -- that might be the fix users have requested, we will see. I still haven't updated this app, though, since I am perfectly happy with the old version.

Another thing: the iTunes App Store shows the app update being released on "Mar. 09, 2011". That's a bit strange, isn't it, or does Apple use GMT as it's standard? If so, happy birthday to me!

The Daily is updated again and this time many of the bugs have been worked out - but app still lacks multitasking

This morning saw the release of version 1.0.4 of The Daily, Rupert Murdoch's iPad-only tablet news product. Unlike previous updates, this one installed without a hitch and it appears to have fixed many of the bugs that users have complained about in previous versions.
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So what's new? Not a whole lot that the reader will immediately notice -- but that is because bugs only are seen when an app crashes or freezes up, right?

The first thing I noticed after installing the update and launching the app was that my subscription no longer has an expiration date. Instead I was greeted with a message that said I had a two week free trial. That would mean, barring another update, that my free trial will now end around March 21st.

Let's review the current state of the settings. Under "General Settings" the user can turn on and off breaking news notifications. Another option allows rabid readers to have The Daily launch at start-up -- this might be something that only works once iOS 4.3 in available because I could not make this work at all. Then there is a Horoscope setting and a Location setting.
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(Do you believe in horoscopes? Is there a "horoscope" demographic The Daily is aiming at?)

The Account Information area now is probably in its final form as The Daily gets set to start charging for content.

Inside the app the social networking tools are well done, I especially like the way the comments section looks with its semi-transparent appearance. If you are not aware, you can record comments as well as write them in this app -- in fact, many folk are not even aware that the iPad comes with a microphone at all since iPad 1 doesn't have a built-in camera.

Both the audio and video features in The Daily seem like overkill to me as both features are kind of, well, stiff. But an app I have to say that they are very well done.

The one thing The Daily still, for some reason, doesn't have is multitasking. Every time you leave the app the check e-mail or open up another app The Daily needs to launch all over again. The Daily's own website mentions "multitasking", though it used the term to mean something altogether different than what the term means for tablets. With all the bells and whistles to be found in this app you would think it would have this basic feature -- and I'm sure it will soon.

The Daily is a complicated app, if you don't believe me try figuring out how to customize the sports features. OK, maybe it's not that hard, but by not having this stuff under settings the reader has to stumble upon the tools in the help page. You see most 'help pages' are just a few illustrations telling the reader to swipe and scroll. Here there are actually some settings.

When my trial subscription runs out I'll probably have to buy individual issues just to see what new things are to be found in this app, assuming this product survives. As I've said before, there is no way I could subscribe to The Daily -- I drink coffee, not tea.

Afternoon odds and ends: Catalyst Media launches ad network for tablet-only magazines; Viewsonic launches ViewPad running Android 1.6 AND Windows 7

Atlanta, Georgia-based Catalyst Media International has announced that it has formed a new division that will sell advertising for tablet-only magazines. The Tablet Ad Network maybe a bit ahead of its time, but the company is certainly enthusiastic:

“Tablet Ad Network was created from the belief that the future of magazine publishing will be on tablet computers, and we believe that the use of tablet computers and the readership of tablet-only magazines will explode in the years to come,” said Michael Basso, company spokesman for Catalyst Media International. “The growth we will see in tablet computers such as the iPad will spur publication of smaller circulation niche tablet-only magazines. We believe the tablet computer will lower the barrier for entry as a magazine publisher by lowering costs such as printing and distribution. We plan to be a driving force in the transformation that the magazine publishing industry will take over the next 5 to 10 years.”


Want an Android tablet? How about one running Android 1.6? Or Windows 7? Not likely, right? But Viewsonic says it will launch a tablet that will run the outdated Google OS AND the bloated Microsoft OS. Oh brother.
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To make matters worse, TUAW spotted this, a screenshot of the new tablet supposedly running PowerPoint for Mac. Somebody in creative's gonna get in trouble over that one. Update: Adama Hanin, the veep of marketing at ViewSonic saw the TUAW post and thanked them for pointing out the error. My only question would be why would they need to Photoshop in stuff like this, can't they use screenshots of real programs? (rhetorical question)

Turns out that the reason Viewsonic's ViewPad is stuck with Android 1.6 is because the tablet runs on an Atom CPU and 1.6 is the only version of Android ported for the processor.



Worth a look: New York magazine has a side-by-side comparison of the newly redesigned Newsweek and New York Times Magazine.



Don't bother: Damon Kieskow writes on his Mobile Media blog at Poynter that publishers should avoid mobile media platforms and stick to the web. Really.

Guess Poynter will be eliminating their mobile media column soon.



Rasmussen Reports has released another poll showing that Wisconisn Governor Scott Walker is losing support within the state -- and this from a polling firm known for Republican-friendly polling.

The new poll shows while 39 percent of 'likely voters' say they support the governors plans to eliminate collective bargaining rights for most state workers, 57 percent say they oppose the plan.

Amazingly, the poll also included additional questions that were clearly designed to influence the results of this important question. For instance, Rasmussen asked whether unions "hould be allowed to require a local school district to buy health insurance coverage from a union-created insurance company". These lead-in questions are a typical method used by Rasmussen to influence poll results, and frankly, if there were a union of pollsters (!) would get them kicked out.

But don't expect polls like this one to influence Gov. Walker. If you told a bank robber that a majority of people polled don't approve of their crime would the thief decide to stop their robbery?

Quick Bar fail: learning Twitter's app update lesson

Ever since Twitter came out with a Mac app I have paid more attention to my Twitter feeds. The new Twitter app, found in Apple's new Mac App Store, came along just as things were heating up in Egypt. Between Twitter and the Livestation app stream Al Jazeera English, I was able to keep up with events.

Now it is Twitter that is creating news in the electronic media world. Last week Twitter issued an update to its iOS apps and users have been howling ever since.

The app update issued on March 3 has already generated over three thousand new reviews in the iTunes App Store, the vast majority of which are one-star pans.

So what has generated the wrath of iOS users? Quick Bar. "Quick Bar, shows trends and other important things without leaving your timeline! Swipe the Quick Bar left/right to cycle through trends," the app description modestly announces.

The Quick Bar, or the Dickbar, as John Gruber named it after Twitter's CEO Dick Costolo, is used to bring in advertising into the app through the guise of added content. Users aren't buying it.

The object lesson here, though, is two-fold: one, don't mindlessly update your apps, I can't show you the Quick Bar on one of my devices because I have decided to not update the app; and two, when it is time to update your own company's media app be prepared to react if things go wrong.
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I can not tell you how many times I have seen an app updated only to begin reading reviews that say "hey, guys, your app doesn't work anymore!" Part of the reason for this is simply that many apps are developed by third parties and when something goes wrong it takes a long time to get them fixed -- like standing in line to buy tickets to something, then discovering that they sold you tickets to the wrong event and being forced to go again to the back of the line.

The Dallas Morning News slips behind new paywall

A paywall is not exactly like some remnant of the Cold War, a solid war that separates out the good guys (editors) from the bad guys (readers). It's more like a cyclone fence where the reader can see the content they are missing, and the editors are barkers luring in paying customers.
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This morning The Dallas Morning News officially revealed its paywall, though web surfers would have seen it yesterday. While media critics debate the theory of constructing paywalls, readers will simply notice that the DMN website no longer lets them access most content, and that finding how much it will cost them to regain access has been made incredibly hard.

And that is why most paywalls fail: publishers may want to believe that making web readers pay for access to the news is the right thing to do, but in practice they are a bit more sheepish about it.
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Take the efforts of Jim Moroney, the publisher, seen at left in the company's user guide to its electronic news offerings. The system put in place today seems to go out of its way to hide the fact that the publisher would actually like you to pay something. Page upon page of promotional material talks about registering, signing-in, etc. But why are they so shy about telling you straight out what they want you to pay?

For Dallas area readers, the easiest way to figure out what the new paywall will cost them is to avoid the system set up to attract them and instead just go to the subscriber services page -- there the circulation department appears to be a little less ashamed to tell them the cost of accessing their newspaper.

As I've said before, I am not philosophically opposed to paywalls, I simply believe that most publishers over estimate the value of their own news products to their readers. This is why the most successful paywalls have been for financial news rather than general newspapers. (And since many newspaper subscribers actually pay for home delivery for the Sunday supplements and coupons found there, paying for electronic content misses the point.)

This morning, for instance, the lead story on the DMN website tells readers that 'Higher gasoline prices begin ringing up concerns in Texas', hardly news to anybody who owns a car. So I want to pay to read that?

But for someone who follows the industry, the DMN paywall will be a great experiment to watch. Along with the soon to be launched NYT metered paywalls, we will be able to look at different models and watch how they perform, assuming the publishers are honest about their performance. Stay tuned.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Tribune Interactive releases its first iPad app for LA Times Magazine; LANG releases four replica edition iPad apps

The first tablet edition has been released by Tribune Interactive and I must admit that it has me totally confused. The free app if for LA Times Magazine and the app description appears to describe something I just don't see:
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"Enjoy reading LA on your iPad either horizontally, flipping through its pages, or switch to the vertical view to settle in with the articles of your choice."

The problem is that holding my iPad horizontally does absolutely nothing as the app stays stubbornly in portrait mode. And since the entire magazine only weighs in at around 40MB, I don't think there would be enough data there to have both portrait and landscape views.
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At first blush you might think this is a replica edition, but it is not. Well, not entirely. Thom Meredity, Hansen Smith, Rip Georges are credited as being the designers with Helene Goldsen the content editor. Moving through the app one notices that there are certain pages with small arrows which give the reader a clue that their is more content below. The reader can then scroll down to reveal some additional content or a caption for an illustration. It is the use of scrolling for additional content, along with the occasional use of animation that makes this not quite a replica edition.

In fact, the animation is just about all the multimedia content that I could find here, and that's OK, not every media app needs to be loaded up with audio and video. Sometimes one just wants to read, right?
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But here again the app description talks about "bonus material including additional images, audio and video created just for the LA app". Additional images? I assume they are there. But added audio and video? Where?

I'm wondering if the app description is more a promise of multimedia content down the line, rather than a true description of the tablet edition as it exists today. What one gets now depends heavily on its photography -- which is good since the iPad really does make photos pop.

As for the lack of a landscape mode, think this is OK, as well. Although I prefer my iPad in the horizontal position -- and the new Motorola XOOM practically demands landscape -- one can easily hold the iPad like a Kindle and read a tablet edition. This, let's call it, enhanced and modified replica edition, works fine and provides the editors of the magazine with a working app to build on.

Having said that, I wouldn't be completely surprised to discover an app update in the App Store for LA Times Magazine.



The Tribune Company's LA Times Magazine app wasn't the only media app released for a Los Angeles area media property. In fact, the Los Angeles Newspaper Group, part of MediaNews Group, released four new iPad apps in support of its Southern California newspaper properties. The free apps are for the Torrance Daily Breeze, the Long Beach Press Telegram, the Los Angeles Daily News and the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin.
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(Just to show you the effects of media consolidation, the Torrance Daily Breeze used to be part of the now defunct Copley Los Angeles Newspaper Group. the Long Beach Press Telegram used to be owned by Knight-Ridder, the Los Angeles Daily News changed hands many times but once was owned by the Tribune Company, and the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin was founded by Donrey Media. How has consolidation worked out? Well, MediaNews Group filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection last January.)

Along with the four new iPad app, an updated app was released for the San Bernardino Sun, as well.

If you are a regular reader of TNM these apps should look familiar, they are identical to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel app I wrote about, and blasted, when it was released at the end of December. They look the same because they are the same. "Powered by Tecnavia", these apps are somebodies vision of tablet publishing -- just not mine. (Is the sales rep selling these tablet solutions really that good? Or are the newspaper executives really this bad? Download one of these new apps and weep for our industry.)



I don't know if this is the first app update to feature the new AirPlay features found in iOS 4.3, but if isn't the first it is close to it. Air Video, sold by InMethod, lets you stream your movies from your computer to your iOS devices. Now with third party access to AirPlay, the Air Video will be able to support that function, as well.

One thing, though, iOS owners won't get access to iOS 4.3 until Friday, so this is jumping the gun a bit. Current owners of the app will get their upgrades for free, of course. Otherwise, the video streaming app costs $2.99.

Wisconsin update: War of words, more protests

The US media has pretty much moved on from the Middle East and Madison so that they can dedicate more ink and air time to Charlie Sheen. But things are still at an impasse in Madison as the governor, Scott Walker, refuses to compromise on his stance to eliminate collective bargaining rights for most state workers, and the 14 Democrats who fled to Illinois to avoid giving Walker his bill remain south of the border.

WisPolitics.com reports this afternoon on the reaction of some of the Democrats to stories, promoted by both the NYT and WSJ, that the Democrats are ready to return with their tails between their legs, ready to give Gov. Walker his victory. According to the governor, some of the Democrats would like to return but are being held up by bad ol' Minority Leader Mark Miller.

Sen. Bob Jauch (D-Poplar) is having none of it: "Never, never has there been a suggestion that Tim Cullen and I would somehow abandon the other 12 for the sake of cutting a deal," WisPolitics.com reports Jauch as saying. "That's just an outrageous lie."

WisPolitics.com, recently bought by The Capital Times Co., continues to do a fine job on the story in its backyard, as is Talking Points Memo.

In the meantime, I have been up to Madison twice since the protests began, and despite less press coverage, the protests most definitely continue.

Grupo IMPRESA launches impressive, confusing tablet edition for its flagship newsweekly Expresso

Some of the best media apps being produced for tablets are not coming from the US but from Europe. A little over a week agp Grupo IMPRESA released its iPad edition for its newsweekly Expresso.
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Expresso is the flagship newspaper of the publishing group, with a circulation of over 100,000, the paper includes supplements and a magazine, and most of that can be found here. Pedro Monteiro, Digital Art Coordinator at Impresa Publishing, tells me that real estate supplement is not yet available, which implies, of course, that it will be soon.

The free app (links: US App Store and Portugese App Store) creates the shell, a library where readers can buy and download individual issues.

Individual editions cost $0.99 (0.79€), which seems like a hefty discount off the print cover price of 2.90€. Monteiro says that the price represents a special launch discount, so readers may be faced with a price increase at some point.
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Once downloaded and installed the reader has access to five separate sections: Primeiro Caderno (the main news section), Economia (Economy, the business section), Revista Única (the magazine), Atual (the cultural magazine), Emprego (the employment section).

The main section is, itself, a hefty download at 226.7MB. The file size is pretty much the result of embedded video and other animation within the download. The photography, as you would expect looked great.

The app has been well received inside the Portugese App Store. But the one complaint has to do with the orientation choice: horizontal. The app is, of the most part, designed in horizontal mode.

"Like Visão, we've decided this for two reason," Monteiro told me.

"First, it is our belief that the iPad, for reading in a lean back position, is mostly a horizontal device. Also, the vertical 'paradigm' is very much associated with the print product and the design for the iPad doesn't republishes any design made for print. Second, we wanted to have the automatic vertical text mode enabled in Expresso and that makes it impossible to design vertical and horizontal layout."

I think this is the right choice, but some readers are obviously confused by this. This reveals itself in the choice of making the thumbnails in the library vertical when they should be horizontal to remind readers. Also, the encourages the reader to turn their tablet to see the gorgeous shot of Sandra Barata Belo pretending to be Emmanuelle in full screen.
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In the end, it is the time constraints imposed on the designers and development team that keeps this being a mostly horizontal product -- but this still a good decision because it keeps the file sizes down, as well.

Monteiro told me that the team is using WoodWing's digital product tools to design their tablet editions. The design of the navigation is excellent. I particularly like the swiping to move from story to story (this is common) with the scrolling to reach second pages within stories. I know John Gruber has said it finds this confusing, but I still think this works well. The one hiccup I found in the app occurred when I opened Revista Única: I got stuck on the cover page and only after quite a while did I manage to access additional pages or the navigation tools found on the bottom. I think this was because the section was loading its content. The user's impression, though, is that the app has crashed, frozen in place. Eventually the section loaded and I could start exploring the section.

I think this is an app US developers should download and look at closely. A replica edition simply can not compare to the user experience of this app for Expresso.

Morning Brief: FT chief exec stresses need for customer data; Murdoch at 80; Economist issues minor app update

Stressing their growing understanding of their customer base, Financial Times chief executive John Ridding told the New York Times that his company is consideringh joining Google's new One Pass subscription system because of its more liberal customer data sharing.
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Ridding told the NYT's Eric Pfanner that Apple is threatening the inroads it has made in electronic publishing through its in-app subscription policies, saying that if the FT decides to pull out of Apple's ecosystem “it would be a shame, not just for us, but for the broader ecosystem that has developed in recent years around these devices."

The NYT story tells of the Financial Times' succes at generating reader revenue through its 207,000 digital subscribers, a growth of 50 percent in one year.



Roy Greenslade of The Guardian takes a trip down memory lane this morning with Rupert Murdoch. Greenslade has a little history with News Corp, having been an assistant editor at the Sun for five years.

Greenslade recaps the history of Murdoch and the UK media world and comes to the conclusion that BSkyB is his greatest accomplishment. "He took the gamble. He made it work. And he will go on reaping the rewards. He came, he saw, he conquered," Greenslade writes.

Rupert Murdoch turns 80 on Friday.


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The Economist issued a minor update to its iPad app this morning that fixes some programming bugs. Otherwise things are pretty quiet on the app front as publishers and developers await the release of the latest update to Apple's mobile operating system.

The update will arrive on Friday, the same day people starting ordering the iPad 2 on the Apple website, or can waiting in line at an Apple retail store, Best Buy, Walmart, etc.

The new update will bring AirPlay streaming to all media apps, allowing publishers to have their in-app videos streamed to televisions. This will be especially important for those publishers who have built native apps that already have embedded video content, such as the New York Times. Other apps that use systems such as the Adobe Digital Publishing Suite or WoodWing tools will be at an advantage, as well, assuming they are embedding video or audio content.

For replica edition makers, however, this will only further make those editions appear outdated.
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For consumers, one of the added features in iOS 4.3 is mobile streaming of content through iTunes Home Sharing. This allows iPhone, iPad and iPod touch users to access the music and other content found in their computer's iTunes folders to be played on their mobile devices, assuming they are on the same WiFi network.

Apple issued the iOS 4.3 Golden Master on Thursday to those with Apple developer accounts (my notification above). This is the final pre-release version sent to developers so they can get to work on app updates. One can assume that over the next few weeks we will start to see plenty of media apps being updated to include some of the new features to be found in the latest iOS.