Saturday, March 26, 2011

UK media tries to come to grips with massive protest in London, a reaction to deep cuts in government spending

The media knew that there were plans for a large rally today in London to protest the deep cuts implemented by the Tory government of Prime Minister David Cameron, but the size and emotions on display today has caught reporters by surprise. Organizers originally hoped to draw more than 100,000 people to the protests, but estimates by UK media outlets have been as high as 500,000.

The BBC has used "more than 250,000" to describe the size of the crowds today in London, while the loyally conservative Telegraph has said 400,000 turned out today, while also emphasizing the attacks to businesses that have followed the original march. The more liberal Guardian used "around 500,000" to estimate the crowd, and has sometimes used the term "anarchists" to describe many of the violent incidents.
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In all cases, the journalists covering the event have been surprised, even shocked, at the size of the march and rally. BBC political reporter Brian Wheeler told his colleagues writing at the Beeb that "the noise in Whitehall was deafening as thousands of protesters banged drums, blew whistles and shouted anti-cut slogans, slowly making their way towards Trafalgar Square. The crowds were booing as they went past Number 10 (the Prime Minister's residence), but the demonstration was good-natured and friendly."

The first reports, around 2:00 London time, centered on the rally at Hyde Park where Labor Party leader Ed Miliband spoke to the crowd, condemning the cuts of the majority party. "Unemployment is never a price worth paying. The next generation should never have their hopes sacrificed on the altar of dogmatic deficit reduction," The Guardian quoted the opposition leader.

Within an hour, however, the first reports of violence were being reported, with Paul Lewis of The Guardian reporting of an attack on a MacDonald's (sic) and a luxury car. By 7 this evening (4 ET) Lewis reported that Lillywhites, a sports retailer in Piccadilly Circus, was on fire and that "the situation is now getting dangerous." (His report was later retracted, as the fire was not at the retailer, but elsewhere and was quickly put out.)

Meanwhile, the New York Times not only did not consider the story worth featuring on its website front page, but the lead story on its "Europe" page was Qaddafi Forces Pull Back as Rebels Retake Ajdabiya -- it should have been that Libya had magically been incorporated into Europe. (Update: At 4:40 ET, the NYT finally posted a story about the protest in London originating from the Associated Press.)

The situation was no different at the Washington Post as it also did not include a story either on its website front page or in its "Europe" section, leading witha story about Chechnya, again showing that US editors are geographically challenged -- worse, the story had been posted 21 hours earlier.

(At CNN's website, the story was downplayed, though a story could at least be found in its "World" section.)



My Twitter feed was not well configured to follow the events today. Eventually I was able to zero in on the hash tags #March 26, #UKuncut, #demo2011 and others in order to read comments and get links to pictures coming from on the ground in London.

I also learned that there has been some communications between the Metropolitan police and the protestors through Twitter, and interesting evolution of the social networking tool.

Friday, March 25, 2011

End of week odds & ends: Apple issues iOS update and wins trade ruling; NYT updates iPhone app, adds blogs

Owners of iOS devices (iPhone, iPad and iPod touch) were encouraged today to download a new operating system update that is designed to fix a number bugs found in the recently released 4.3 update.
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The mobile OS update fixes at least two major problems users have encountered: problems related to "activating and connecting to some cellular networks" and problems with Apple's new Digital AV Adapter. Owners have complained that on some television sets they have experienced flickering when mirroring the displays of their new tablets.


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The New York Times today released an updated version of its iPhone app -- we're now on version 3.0.0, meaning, I suppose that the company considers this a major revision.

The app now allows users to swipe between articles instead of returning to the menu. The media property also added yet more content including its blogs.

According to the description, the iPhone version now will stream push notifications to users now, even if the app is closed -- a feature that has been found in the iPad version for a while now. The push notifications can be turned off, of course, by accessing the option in Settings.

There have been a number of complaints already published in the App Store, however, related to the new version of the app missing font size adjustment capabilities. It appears that these reviews are right wrong -- the font being used is very small and will certainly force the use of glasses for many. (Update: the app does have font controls -- large or small -- though I would agree with some of the reviewers that the font default size is small.)

The description retains its warning that "Unlimited access to all sections is free until early 2011" -- we know, we know.



There was some good news late this afternoon for Apple as Reuters reports that Apple has won a ruling from a judge at the International Trade Commission that it did not violate five Nokia patents.

Meanwhile, the lawsuits continue.

DYI app publishing: the travails of an app rookie

It's been an interesting past few days as I've finally gotten around to working on an iPhone app for Talking New Media. I had played around a bit before this week but decided to spend a little more time at it now.
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Prior to my iPhone app adventure, I had launched a new mobile website for TNM using the tools from Mofuse, which had previously hosted the TNM mobile website. The whole issue with mobile websites are that they are usually designed for very specific devices, and all seems fine in theory until you actually launch a mobile site -- something that the critics of native apps seem not to understand.

For instance, launch a mobile site > look at site on your smartphone > smile smugly and congratulate yourself. Then access your site on an iPad and recoil in horror as your website bounces to the mobile site. Yikes, quickly try and fix the situation.

I did this when launching the TNM mobile site and was happy with the results until I went to my local AT&T store to check out the Samsung Galaxy Tab. I opened up the tablet's browser and visited the NYT website -- I was not too happy with the browsing experience, but everything looked OK, I guess. Then I typed in the URL for this site and you can guess what happened -- it bounced. (And it still will.)

Sure you can fix these situations, but can you ever guarantee that your website will look the way you want it to, everywhere? Should the NYT use a mobile site on a three inch screen? (Yes) What about a seven inch screen? (Iffy)

The problem I see with the advocates of html as the end-all and be-all is that the viewing environment is hard to manage. Develop an app for the iPad and you know exactly what the user experience will be like -- no wonder than that iPad users prefer apps.



The same would apply to developing for Amazon's Kindle, you know that there are only so many models of the e-reader, so estimating the experience is pretty easy.

Bloggers have it easy developing for the Kindle, Amazon does most of the work for you.

I encountered only one problem when launching the Kindle Edition of this site: the preview inside the development site did not duplicate the end product. Online the Kindle Edition looked terrible, but an email to support revealed that they saw everything as OK on their end. Fine, let's hit "send" (or whatever) and see what results.

The good news was that they were right. Now all I need is one of my Kindle Edition subscribers to give me a nice review on Amazon.com (come on guys, help me out!).

Morning Brief: Contradictory news from Japan; Journalism Online price estimate; a poor iPad app update from ABC

The blacklisted cable news channel, Al Jazeera English, reports that Japan's Prime Minister warned that the situation at the crippled Fukushima nuclear power plant had become "unpredictable", while also reporting that officials said the situation was improving.

Several workers were apparently severely injured when they stepped into a pool of radioactive water, the water seeping over their protective boots.

The New York Times, whose reporting on the crisis has come under criticism for sensationalistic elements, this morning is saying that Japanese officials have expanded the area where they are "encouraging" citizens to evacuate.



The Financial Times weighs in this morning on the sale of Journalism Online to R.R. Donnelley, saying that the Steve Brill start-up timed its sale well, pointing to the institution of the the NYT paywall.
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About two dozen customers of Journalism Online, their venture, have deployed its Press+ tools, but progress has been slower than expected in the depths of the advertising recession, when publishers suddenly seemed willing to try anything, from micropayments to paywalls around their content. Many newspapers were waiting to see if the New York Times could pull the trick off, Mr Crovitz suggested.
Despite selling the company, founder Brill was talking up the company, claiming that "Everybody's gotten the new religion," regarding the need for some form of paywall.

And I think that is a good way of saying it: a religion, as journalists appear to have been eager to grab hold of a philosophy that says their content is worth paying for, while at the same time dismissing the more advertising-oriented thinking that higher traffic will drive advertising dollars.

Meanwhile, paidContent.org is saying that their sources place the value of the sale at close to $35 to $45 million -- co-founder Gordon Crovitz saying they are "very happy with this transaction.” But the price is about the equivalent of a minor consumer magazine, essentially chump change for R.R. Donnelley, a company that did $9.8 billion in revenue last year, though it also lost $27 million (and dramatic improvement, though, on its $127 million loss in 2009).


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ABC has updated its iPad app, ABC Player, but users are still complaining of the poor quality of video displayed in the app.

The ABC app was one of the first released following the launch of Apple's tablet last year, but quality issues have continually plagued the application. In addition to poor quality video, centering on resolution issues, ABC has had service outages on a fairly regular basis. As a result, one of the nation's largest broadcasters has gotten a reputation for, of all things, poor broadcasting.

Even worse is the fact that ABC has not made their iPad app AirPlay enabled, possibly to avoid complaints from their cable and satellite partners.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Afternoon odds and ends: Google keeping Honeycomb out of the hands of developers, at least for now; more on Journalism Online sale to RR Donnelley

After the mess some carriers made of earlier versions of Android, Google has decided to keep Honeycomb away from the developers for the time being.

Bloomberg/Business Week (or whatever they are called now-a-days) reports today that the decision is probably a move to prevent the version of Android that is specifically optimized for tablets from suddenly appearing on a new smartphone.

But while some developers might howl, the move is probably very good for users -- at least for now.



Ken Doctor writes a long piece on the sale of Brill's Journalism Online to R.R. Donnelley on his Newsonomics site. I think he pretty much nails it.

What I would add is that I just don't see much value in this for Donnelley, but then again no transaction price was announced so it might have been one of those "heck, why not?" acquisitions. We might learn more later.


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Comcast Interactive Media released another update to its iPad app today bringing more content for cable subscribers to view on their tablets. But unlike Time Warner, Comcast is not about to get themselves messed up with the networks when it comes to the streaming of live television.

All the content available to watch on your iPad is on-demand programming: HBO, Starz, Cinemax, Showtime, etc. A few cable channels like BBC America and TBS are thrown in, too. But none of its is live programming, just archived material.



The word that the new BlackBerry PlayBook will be able to run Android apps has led to more than a fair number of chuckles. The apps will have to be ported over, but the problem is still the same: unless an app is native to the device it tends to suck.

As I've written before, when Apple's Steve Job first announced the iPad back in January of last year, part of his announcement was that iPhone apps would run on the iPad. Shortly after users received their iPads, though, it was quickly discovered that you really didn't want to run an app designed for a smartphone on a tablet -- it just looked terrible.

A few apps, like radio players, really aren't a problem, but media apps and games are another matter.

RIM will make the addition of both Android and Java apps possible by "two optional app players that provide an application run-time environment for BlackBerry Java apps and Android v2.3 apps," according to the statement.

"These new app players will allow users to download BlackBerry Java apps and Android apps from BlackBerry App World and run them on their BlackBerry PlayBook."

Wilkes-Barre Publishing releases a series of replica editions; newest iPad app is for The Morning Sentinel

This post is offered, I suppose, as proof that I am not a dyed-in-the-wool proponent of tablet apps -- at least not like the ones described below.

The Wilkes-Barre Publishing Company today released their fifth iPad app into the iTunes App Store, this one for The Morning Sentinel, a Portland, Maine newspaper produced under the MaineToday Media banner.
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Like the other four tablet editions, this one is a digital replica of the print edition and is offered completely free to readers.

The app is built by paperlit, a Menlo Park, Calif. start-up. On its website, paperlit says that they offer "One click, hassle free publishing". I often say to digital publishing solution vendors that this is usually their sales pitch -- having heard a number of them while a publisher myself. For some reason they usually deny this, so it is good to see paperlit being honest about this pitch.

But having said that, though, hassle-free publishing is not the same as profitable publishing. So paperlit also says that publishers can "take advantage of a range of different business models when publishing your newspaper, magazine or brochure. You can choose a free application. You can sell your application for a one time payment. You sell your content for a one time payment or on a suscription basis."

Despite having these choices Wilkes-Barre Publishing has chosen to release these five tablet editions as free apps, with free access to content inside. It is, to say the lease, an odd decision.

As of today, The Morning Sentinel is currently offering only one edition of the paper to those who download the app -- the Sunday edition from February 27th -- but I suspect this is the result of the app's release inside the iTunes store catching them by surprise. The similar app for The Portland Press Herald, offers today's edition, as well as others for download.

The three other iPad apps are for The Fort Worth BusinessPress, The Kennebec Journal and The Times Leader, the company's flagship newspaper.

Previously released iPhone apps for Wilkes-Barre Publishing properties were developed by another third party vendor, Verve Wireless.

Steven Brill sells Journalism Online to R.R. Donnelley

Printing giant R.R. Donnelley has acquired Journalism Online, the company founded by Steven Brill, the company announced earlier this morning.

Journalism Online is a proponent of metered paywalls that hopes to monetize the web, while at the same time losing as few readers as possible in the process. "Our goal is to develop custom programs that drive revenue, while at the same time preserving and even enhancing advertising and circulation goals," the company's Press+ websites states.

"We are delighted to bring Press+'s innovative capabilities to RR Donnelley and look forward to engaging with the broad array of consumer and b-to-b publishers with whom RR Donnelley has relationships," Steven Brill said in the sales announcement.

Although Journalism Online was able to sign on a couple of smaller newspapers, larger newspapers such as the New York Times appear to be going it alone in their their approach to creating paywalls.

Update: Folio: is reporting that Jordan Edmiston handled which would mean, at least to me, that the company was shopped.

'The Stranglehold of Apple', and other media myths

I have to admire the persistance of certain media writers who insist that Apple has a "stranglehold" on the media through its in-app subscription policies. Like the media commentators at a certain network, if they say it long enough eventually, maybe, people will start to believe it.

But it simply is not true.
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It is not true because anyone can publish to an iPhone or iPad, and whether one charges or makes the product free, the publisher is no more committed to an "ecosystem" than a publisher is committed to a printer. But then again, this may be the result of the author not working across the media spectrum, from newspapers to magazines to broadcast.

Publishers get "locked in" to platforms all the time. Try buying recycled paper from many printers and you'll find that you are priced out. Other times you are stuck with certain paper stocks because it is all that is offered or is affordable. Platforms have limitations, all of them.

Strangely, many media critics are currently on the html bandwagon. They suddenly have rediscovered the web. None have many ideas as to how to make it pay, however. But this is, I would argue, a leftover of the old line of thinking that owning the presses means being free to do what you want. Ask any newspaper publisher if their presses, and the workforce, is liberating?

WordPress adds iPad feature: gives your blog a Flipboard-like look through the iPad's Safari browser

WordPress has added a new feature that allows users of WordPress.com to create a Flipboard-like look to their WordPress.com blogs.
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To add the feature a WordPress.com blogger would go to "Appearance" and click on "iPad" in the Dashboard.

Announced on the WordPress Weblog, the new feature is the result of WordPress working with Onswipe, a New York start-up founded by Jason L. Baptiste and Andres Barreto. Onswipe has also made a plug-in available for self-hosted sites that use WordPress.org.

One thing I am not clear about, however, is whether the new look will be visible to all web browsers, or if the design sniffs out that it is being rendered on an iPad and only renders the blog with this design there. Someone will have let me know.



One of the biggest regrets I have about TNM is that it wasn't self-hosted and using WordPress from day one. With WordPress one gets the definitely feeling that there are actual human beings behidn the work. Why Google hides behind its firewall is beyond me. It is one of the reasons I am very skeptical when I hear so-called media experts talk about Apple being "closed" while Google is "open" -- clearly the person making the claim has never actually worked with either company (and is mostly likely safely ensconced away in academia).

Jon Stewart and the "battle of the news entertainment networks"

Oh, oh, now you've done it. The war between the news entertainment networks has escalated with the entrance of Jon Stewart of The Daily Show:

New publisher, new strategy: USA Today strategy should 'work' for web, have little effect on mobile and tablets

The changes occurring at USA Today has gotten a fair amount of press coverage lately, as newly appointed publisher Dave Hunke quickly attempts a makeover of Gannett's flagship national newspaper.

Dave Hunke, who was named USA Today publisher in April of 2009, was previously known for his bold move in Detroit, slashing home delivery to just three days for the Free Press and News dailies. “You can’t negatively market your way into anything,” Hunke told the News Hour in 2008. “But by mere fact of some scarcity and I guess you could call it deprivation, I think we’re going to find out a lot very quickly about the mass market’s adaptability to digital delivery of edited, written — meaning with a beginning and end — news content."

But a year and half later the move was somewhat reversed by management of the papers after Hunke had moved on the McLean, Virginia.

Now the national newspaper is attempting major changes, though in very different areas because USA Today is a very different newspaper. As a national daily, one known for years as the newspaper found on the floor outside your hotel room when you were away on business, USA Today can not slash costs by cutting home delivery. It can, however, employ another familiar move: layoffs. The paper laid off around 130 employees last fall.
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An element from the USA Today website promoting their blogs.


But there are lots of new moves also being made at USA Today. David Payne, for instance, has been brought in as the new head of digital. Payne bring smobile and video experience from his time at CNN, which will be very useful. But Payne's background is actually law, so it may be that he has been brought in more for M&A purposes than to organically build digital capabilities.

And that is a familiar story at Gannett: buy rather than build. Gannett owns some interesting digital properties such as PointRoll and ShopLocal. It has allowed the company to tell shareholders that they are growing digital. But a property bought by a traditional media company like Gannett is usually about to end its innovative early days and become a legacy brand, albeit, a digital one (think 'CareerBuilder').

The problem Gannett has had is that it almost always makes moves to prevent a decline, rather than to actually build a business. Buying digital properties may be looked on by some as a move forward, but it is almost always done to counter the impression that the company is behind and declining. Does anyone seriously think the changes being made today are the result for a daring march to the future, or a reaction to past performance?

So what is the team at USA Today doing now? According to the AP, Hunke is looking to make the daily newspaper more "advertising friendly", though I think this applies more to the daily's website. He also wants content designed for mobile and tablets, while at the same time recognizing that the print product is, like it or not, going to appeal to an older audience.

I think Hunke and team are partially right.

Throwing the kitchen sink at the website, as one critic called it, will most assuredly drive traffic. Hunke and his editors should see results from their efforts here, results that could, in theory, lead to greater ad revenue.

But in the area of mobile and tablet, Gannett has some serious disadvantages. First, in order to improve its ability to succeed in both areas, USA Today would have to increase the demand for its information. It can do this one of three ways: improve and grow its editorial capabilities at USA Today (it won't do this, it is moving in the opposite direction), think like a portal, or create new brands.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Apple may license AirPlay to television set manufacturers

According to a post on Bloomberg.com this afternoon, Apple is "weighing" a possible move to license AirPlay to television set manufacturers, allowing users of iOS devices to stream their video content directly to new television sets, rather than going through an Apple TV. No doubt the revenue from licensing fees would be greater than that derived from Apple TV sales, a product the company still calls a "hobby".
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Currently Apple only licenses AirPlay for audio streaming, and this seems to be going along swimmingly as several manufacturers including Pioneer, Philips and JBL have announced new speakers or receivers that will accomodate AirPlay streaming.

The problem, of course, will be getting the TV makers on board. Apple has gone nowhere with their FaceTime software, which when introduced, was to be open source and available for other companies to take advantage of. Heard of anybody building FaceTime into their devices or systems?

Although several movie and television related media apps have released updates to make their apps AirPlay-enabled, only two magazines (that I know of) have incorporated the system -- that one is a music magazine (SPIN Play), the other the print magazine of a cable TV channel (ESPN the Magazine), and both publishers are working with the same developer, Bottle Rocket.

Progressive downloads and AirPlay compatibility added to updated media apps from Project, Financial Times, others

Media companies continue to issue updates to their iOS apps, adding AirPlay support, and in some cases, progressive download capability, to assist readers in accessing their new magazine issues quicker.
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Project Magazine, the tablet-only monthly from Virgin Digital Publishing, will be releasing a new issue tomorrow. Today, however, they unveiled another update (we are on version 1.30, if you are counting) that added progressive downloads, some bug fixes, and more importantly, served as a marketing opportunity. After all, while it may seem bad for a software company to always have to issue updates to their software, there is actually some good reasons to issue an update of a media app, other than just to fix bugs. Every update grabs the attention of the reader and reminds them that you are there. Besides, iOS users generally love updates -- it means more goodies.

Other updates include the Financial Times iPad Edition which just fixed some bugs, and the IMDb Movies & TV app, which is now AirPlay-enabled so that users can watch the trailers on their televisions through streaming to an Apple TV.
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The NCAA March Madness On Demand app was also updated following complaints about video quality.

Finally, Inkling, an interactive textbook platform, as issued a major update (now version 1.3). The update, according to the app description, contains stability and performance fixes.

But the Inkling update also contains some major additions, as well: a new video player, direct chapter-to-chapter navigation, support for backgrounding, improvements to the way the Spine responds to gestures, etc.

Update: Add Fandango Movies to the list of updated app that are now AirPlay-enabled. This was an obvious one since the app contains movie trailers.

Melbourne-based New Litho shows the industry how to make tablet editions for their print customers

What are the odds that the printer of your magazine will be able to provide innovative digital publishing solutions? It's possible, I suppose, but you would not necessarily expect much in this area.
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Take the magazines coming out of RR Donnelley, the Chicago based printer of thousands of magazine titles. For the past year they have been releasing iPad app for their customers. But these tablet editions are slow to download, replica editions that scream "we love print, but you really, really want to read this on your iPad, well I guess that will be OK with us."

But if you are lucky enough to do business in Australia, you might want to talk to the folks at New Litho, a printer from Surrey Hills, outside Melbourne,  that specializes in real estate publications.

Last week they released their first iPad app for one of their printing customers, McGrath Real Estate. McGrath, besides selling properties, is also a publisher in that they produce a weekly publication that promotes their listings. The real estate magazine, of which 14,000 copies are produced a week, gets dropped at various locations, as these kinds of real estate magazines tend to be.
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In addition to the print version, New Litho has also been producing flipbook versions of the magazine to be linked to from the real estate company's website. These are your typical Flash flipbooks which you see all the time.

But now New Litho has released its first iPad app in support of McGrath Real Estate, and it should be a model for other printers worldwide.

The free app creates a library where users can download their issues -- right now only one issue is available. The download is fairly slow, but not too bad. To assist in quicker reading, the app includes progressive download which allows the reader to dive right in after 3.1 percent of the magazine has been downloaded. This will only allow you to read the first few pages, of course, but it helps speed things up.
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But like I said, the download speeds weren't bad which made me think that what I would see when I opened up the issue would be the typical replica edition. Nope. This app, while qualifying for replica edition status with ABC because it contains the same editorial and photography as the print version, has native landscape layouts that make this a much more pleasurable reading experience.

As you can see from the animated GIF of the article, the reader can scroll through this article much as one would in a natively designed app. In addition, the tablet edition contains zoomable floorplans.

(About the only thing I could think of that would make this feature even better would be if the user could stream these floorplans their Apple TVs for viewing on their HDTVs, though with the new HDMI cable on would be able to "mirror" the whole app for viewing on a television if you really wanted to do this.)

Can New Litho continue to produce quality work like this? They're trying: "For the the past year we've been working on iPad apps for our magazines, Seth Watts, managing director at New Litho said to me in an email. "We had some unique requirements, insofar as we only have 4 staff in our pre-press department and they are busy producing the 30 titles above (those real estate magazines)."

New Litho has a small pre-press department, Watts informed me, so their work is cut out for them. But this a great start, and a wonderful alternative to those blurry replica editions being sold by US printers.

Battle of the news entertainment networks continues

It is said that the news media really loves war -- nothing drives sales quite like a new war. So it is with New Media: there is nothing quite like a war between old media outlets, especially if they involve Fox News, CNN or MSNBC.

So let's see if we can get the timing of this latest "war" correct: First, Fox News goes off on CNN's Nic Robertson and other journalists for, as they alleged, allowing themselves to be use as human shields -- their accusation. Fox News, you see, wouldn't have allowed themselves to be used that way. (As for MSNBC, with Keith Olbermann gone things are starting to slide, see below.)

That brought a now pretty famous reply from Nic Robertson:



In the meantime, Fox News amended its original report that said that Fox News was not represented at the tour of the damaged compound in Tripoli. Instead, they said that while correspondent Steve Harrigan stayed behind at his hotel. Fox News sent a camera crew instead -- oops, and how wonderfully brave of Harrigan to volunteer to stay behind and do his job while the other journalists wasted their time, you know, reporting.

But after Robertson's blast Fox was not going to let the facts get in the way of another round of battle with a rival network. Speaking to the Huffington Post, Harrigan said of Robertson "I think he's dull. I fall asleep when he gives a report."

"Is that heroic what he’s doing?" Harrigan asked. "He puts on his blue blazer and gets on the government bus, and then pats himself on the back and calls that news? Bullshit."



Meanwhile . . . the New York Times reports that CNN ratings have been increasing due to the events in Japan and Libya. According to a Times post today, CNN averaged 678,000 viewers in primetime on Saturday among viewers 25 to 54, while Fox News averaged 353,000, with MSNBC dropping to third at 254,000.

Overall, however, Fox News rated as the second most watched cable channel, though well behind leader USA Network, according to TVNewser from Mediabistro. CNN was ranked ninth in primetime, while MSNBC was 27th. The only "news" show ranked in the top 40 was "The O'Reilly Factor", which I would contend (as would Fox News) is not really a "news" show anyway.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Musical Chairs: New Media, Old Media personnel news; federal judge rejects Google digital books settlement

Lots of personnel news to report today but first some news from Libya. French news agency AFP is reporting that two of their journalists, Dave Clark and Roberto Schmidt, as well as Getty Images photographer Joe Raedle, will be released, according to the Libyan regime.



Twitter gets a new head of operations, Mazen Rawashdeh, formerly the Vice President, Technology Operations, eBay Marketplaces. The news was broke, of course, with a tweet.

The Guardian announced today that it has hired a new chief revenue office to be officed in New York. Steve Howe, former guitarist with Yes former advertising executive at the WSJ and Financial Times, will lead the sales effort for US efforts, which have been pretty dormant in the area of business operations, though the British news organization has been focusing on US news for quite some time.

Deborah S. Tomilson has been named divisional vice president of audience, business development and digital at The Providence Journal. Tomilson joined the Journal in the advertising department as the director of marketing and business development and was later named executive director. WPRI.com speculates that Tomilson will become the Projo's "paywall czar" -- we'll see.

And just as politicians seem to have a revolving door, so, too, do Washington journalists. Shailagh Murray, a reporter with the Washington Post, has resigned to become communications director for Vice President Joe Biden. Murray has worked as a journalist for 20 years and covered the Obama-Biden campaign in 2008. Chummy, huh? The previous communication director for the veep was Jay Carney, formerly Time Magazine's Washington Bureau Deputy Chief, and then Chief from 2003 to 2008.

Talking Points Memo is hiring an Associate Editor for its Washington DC office -- though Josh Marshall will also consider NYC candidates.

"Associate Editor will be responsible for working with a team of three to four reporters, with responsibility for story assignment, story editing and working with reporters to produce great copy," the job description reads. Three weeks vacation! Go for it.



Finally, in case you missed this: a New York federal judge has rejected the 125 million class-action settlement between Google and authors and publishers, saying the deal goes too far in granting Google rights to exploit books, according to the New York Times post.

“While the digitization of books and the creation of a universal digital library would benefit many, the ASA would simply go too far,” Chin wrote in his decision.

WoodWing to conduct 2-day tablet publishing workshops across the U.S. beginning in Columbus, Ohio on April 14

Digital publishing solutions company WoodWing Software will begin a series of Tablet Publishing Workshops around the U.S. with a stop in Columbus, Ohio on April 14-15.
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The two-day workshops are designed to educate participants on the creation of digital publications for the iPad and other tablet platforms. Interested publishing professionals can register on the WoodWing website for any of the 21 different sessions being held across the U.S.
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“In just two days, we’ll take the attendees through the entire process from start to finish,” Shawn Duffy, Managing Director of WoodWing USA, said in the company's release. “They’ll create an entire digital publication from scratch using WoodWing’s Tablet Publishing Solution. Some of the most popular magazine titles in the world are being published to tablets using WoodWing’s tools – everything from Time and Sports Illustrated to Better Homes and Gardens and Parents. Those attending the workshop will see how easy it is to do the same thing.”

“Tablet publishing isn’t the wave of the future – it’s the wave of the present,” Duffy said. “Any magazine publisher who isn’t offering a tablet edition is losing opportunities and revenue. WoodWing is the industry leader in this market, and this workshop is the best way to find out everything publishers need to know in just two days.”

During the workshop attendees with learn how to create horizontal and vertical layouts using InDesign templates, add video and slideshows, as well as how to publish their products on tablet devices. Technical requirements, and a list of software that needs to be pre-installed on the participants laptop can be found on online. The cost of the two-day sessions is $1,500 per person.

Amazon Appstore opens: light on content, great on design

The Amazon Appstore for Android has opened today with a design that will be familiar and comfortable with Amazon customers, and a definite improvement on Google's Android Market.

Although the store contains far less apps than, say, the iTunes App Store, the total number of apps available is not a bad start. The featured app is, of course, Angry Birds.

The most noticeable feature missing is a breakout of mobile and tablet apps, reinforcing the impression that very few apps have so far been optimized for tablets running some form of Android.
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The app store is broken out by 28 categories, an additional eight categories more that Apple's store, and one more than the Android Market. The categories in the Amazon Appstore do not match up with those in the Android Market: for instance, the Amazon store has a category for browsers while the Android Market has one for Business. The Android Market combines "News & Magazines", while the Amazon store has a separate category for Magazines.

There are currently 89 apps in the News & Weather category, and only four inside the Magazine category. By way of comparison, Apple's App Store contains 443 paid apps and 1,783 free apps available for the iPad, and 2,660 paid apps and 5,731 free news apps for the iPhone.

Despite the app numbers, the Amazon store benefits from its familiar design. One wonders, though, at what point one of the Android stores will begin dedicated support for tablet applications.



The lawyers at Apple, Amazon, Microsoft, Google and elsewhere certainly are busy.

Google recently was fined by French privacy watchdog CNIL 100,000 euros for Street View practices, while Microsoft said it was suing Barnes & Noble based on the idea that the Android OS infringes its patents.

Meanwhile Apple is suing Amazon over its use of the word "Appstore", or as Apple's trademark has it "App Store". “Amazon has begun improperly using Apple’s App Store mark in connection with Amazon’s mobile-software developer program,” Bloomberg reports the complaint as stating.

If possible, encourage your kids to go to law school and not J school.



One prominent feature of the new Amazon Appstore is its little developer bug (below) which links to the developer site. The annual price to become a developer is the same as Apple, $99, but Amazon is waiving the first year's fee.
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Amazon has also started up a developer blog at the beginning of the year to support the developer community. The blog has its own dedicated website, but posts at this point are pretty light.

The process to create a developer account is very easy and designed to get apps up onto the store very quickly. I completed the forms in about five minutes and received a confirmation email almost immediately.

I did not encounter any difficulties so at this point it would be hard to judge the amount of developer support. Previously, while creating a developer account with Apple I encountered problems of my own doing, but customer support was excellent and all the problems were resolve through direct contact with a live support person. As for Google support, I can count four separate problems that I am currently having with the company, none of which have been resolved, and two of which have existed for over a year.

ABC will now allow advertising to differ in print and 'replica digital editions' giving publishers more flexibility

The Audit Bureau of Circulations announced today that the board has agreed to modify the requirements for US and Canadian consumer magazines, allowing advertising to differ between print and digital editions.
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Marie Claire's Zinio edition on an iPad.


"Early magazine digital editions were commonly PDFs of the print version, so ABC required a digital replica to be just that—an exact version of the print issue," ABC President Mike Lavery said. "But with today's advanced publishing software for tablet devices like the iPad, the environment is far richer and more complex. Even static print ads often require reformatting for digital publication. These production requirements can put a burden on the deadline-driven communication between client, agency, and publisher to ultimately determine the advertiser's wishes, especially for fractional and classified buys. The new parameters simplify the process, make the advertiser's intent clear, and streamline the audit requirements."

The ABC also has instituted a rule change concerning digital newspaper subscriptions. Now, if a newspaper offers a digital subscription "without a definitive term", that is, open-ended, the subscription will qualify as paid for only 30 days. After that the subscription will be reported as "verified".

If I am reading this right, this would effect Kindle Editions that are sold as a per-month charge, but are open-ended. This should not effect tablet editions that are sold either as daily, weekly, monthly or annually -- that is, with a definitive time frame associated with the purchase.

The rules for digital editions remain pretty forgiving. According to the ABC, to qualify a publication’s digital version as direct request:
  • A weekly (or more frequent) publication must be accessed nine times per Publisher’s Statement period.
  • A monthly publication must be accessed twice during a Publisher’s Statement period.
  • A quarterly publication must be accessed once during a Publisher’s Statement period.
  • A semi-annual publication must be accessed once per audit period.


The rule changes, especially those effecting magazine publishers, should be welcome. Unfortunately, the continuing reference to "replica editions" is both wrong-headed and confusing. Since most consumers are not in favor of "replicas", based on consistent feedback given in the App Store and through comments online, the constant reference to "replicas" encourages the creation of simple, unpopular products.

However, the ABC has been consistent in saying that the term applies to the content, not the form. "As previously required, the digital replica version must, at a minimum, contain all editorial content (including photography) contained in the print edition," states the ABC statement.

Based on this criteria, a tablet edition that contains all the same stories and photographs, but are reformatted into portrait and landscape layouts, for instance, can still be considered a "replica" for paid circulation purposes.

Survey reveals that 16% of consumers cancelled their newspapers due to recession, trends across age groups

The long recession has impacted consumers in many ways, according to a Harris Poll released last week. Well more than half of Americans polled say they are purchasing more generic brands (61%), and almost half are "brown bagging" for lunch (48%).

But only 16 percent of those surveyed said they had cancelled the paper. Only canceling their cell phone service (14%) or going to work via mass transit or carpool (13%) was lower than eliminating their newspaper subscription, according to the Harris Poll.

Magazine subscriptions, on the other hand, appear more vulnerable in today's economy. Thirty percent of respondents said this was one area where they are cutting back. And the older the consumer is, the more they are willing to forego their magazine subscriptions.

Newspapers, however, do not show much variation by age group in the willingness of the consumer to cancel their subscriptions -- 15% for 'Echo Boomers' (18-34 years of age) and the same for mature adults (66 years old and older).



Harris also released their 2011 Harris Poll EquiTrend survey of brands last week. (PDF link here) The survey measures consumer sentiment towards brand names.

“As consumers continue to look for ways to reduce their budgets, having a brand that consumers trust and respect plays a large role in keeping consumers loyal,” said Jeni Lee Chapman, Executive Vice President for Brand Research at Harris Interactive. “Consumers continue to be more selective about what they purchase, but those companies with high brand equity are able to avoid switching behaviors of those brands that lack brand equity.”

The results for computers were bizarre, however. HP took the number one spot, but Apple was not listed as a brand. Instead, "iPod", "MacBook" and "iMac" were listed separately -- with iPod, not even a computer, coming in second. iPad was not included in the survey.

The "winner" of each category is recognized as a "brand of the year" which may account for the strange way some of the categories were organized, and calls into question whether this is a true survey or a promotional gimmick.

For the record, National Geographic was listed first for magazines, with Real Simple second. Newspapers USA Today and the Wall Street Journal did not rank "At or Above Industry Equity Scores", possibly because they are not magazines (!). There was no newspaper category.

Morning Brief: Workers return to crippled nuclear plant; US loses jet in Libya; cities gage impact of AT&T merger

If you are just checking into work and want a quick review of what is going in the world, here you go:

World:
Japan: Repair crews return to nuclear plant as Japan's disaster toll rises - LA Times
Nearly 10,000 people are now confirmed dead, with more than 13,000 missing as a result of the March 11 tragedy, Japan's national police agency reported late Tuesday.

Libya: US Warplane Crashes in Libya; Pilots Safe - WSJ
"As we are successful in suppressing the air defenses, the level of kinetic activity should decline…I assume in the next few days," Mr. Gates told reporters after meeting with his Russian counterpart in Moscow.

Local:
AT&T: Proposed wireless merger likely to impact Austin - Austin American-Statesman
"The AT&T labs in Austin are going to be front and center in the industry," Gillott said. That's because any device the labs say doesn't meet its testing standards will be shut out of a larger part of the U.S. market.

More AT&T: PhillyInc: 'Massive river of data' going through AT&T command center -- Philadelphia Inquirer
"A lot of us don't think about once we hit 'send,' what happens? It's just magic. And that's a good thing," said Tiffany Baehman, vice president and general manager of the Greater Philadelphia market for AT&T...There was little magic in evidence on the tour of the Philadelphia command center, but lots of noisy, brute-force technology that keeps a large part of AT&T's network running.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Afternoon odds & ends: Welcome Kindle Edition readers! Rogers Media releases CityNews; new Mac OS update

First, a big thank you to those who are reading this website on their Kindle! If you, too, own a Kindle and would like to read your industry news on that device, just go to Amazon.com to learn more about subscribing to the Talking New Media Kindle Edition.


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Rogers Media, the major Canadian media company, has released an interesting universal app today, their first news app.

CityNews is the first iOS app released under the Rogers Media name, in that it represents Rogers Broadcasting Limited. Rogers Publishing, however, had previously released an app for its magazine Maclean's.

There are a couple of things that makes this one of interest. First, and I rarely say this, this one is really snappy on the iPad. While the app looks a lot like the NYT or Financial Times app, and is RSS feed driven, it just feels real quick when navigating. Also, although this is, as I said, a universal app, the iPhone version feels a bit different than the iPad version simply by utilizing a subtle difference in layouts. Both apps, for instance, give you weather and traffic, but the fact that those are included on the bottom of the mobile app gives it a different feel.
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Rogers Media released this app without making this app AirPlay-enabled for video streaming, and odd choice for a broadcasting company. I suppose, like print publishers handicapping their web and app products to protect print, the broadcasters may have felt that they would prefer users watch their Citytv station rather than streaming video via the app.

As you can see from the screenshot, my Apple TV shows up in the app, but it will only stream the audio. Nonetheless, if you live in Toronto, or simply want to keep up with local news, the release ofd this app will be much appreciated, though the app is so new I do not see any reviews for it in either the Canadian or US app stores.



If you recently bought a new MacBook Pro, lucky you, you would be well advised to check your Software Update today and download the 10.6.7 Update. While the update is supposed to be for all Mac users with the latest OS (Snow Leopard) it appears to be especially important for MacBook Pro users who have encountered problems with their new computers.



For what it is worth: I cleared off a bunch of apps off my iPad. Despite deleting more than a dozen apps I still have more than 11 GB worth of apps on my tablet. In comparison, I have only 1 GB of music, thanks to being able to access the iTunes library on my computer through Home Sharing.

Brands see tablet publishing through apps as another way to reach consumers, unfiltered by the media

Here is another example of a brand launching an iPad app as part of their marketing efforts, the B2B example being the John Deere Mower Match app looked at last week.
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The Crisco Mobile app comes in two flavors: Crisco Mobile is for the iPhone, and Crisco Mobile HD is for the iPad. Both apps are free for consumers to download, of course. The iPhone app was originally released last month and works pretty well on your phone.

The iPad version (the screenshots you see here) doesn't add anything other than scaling up the resolution for the tablet display. In fact, what makes sense on a phone ends up being a bit strange on a tablet in that the app only works in portrait (makes sense on an iPhone display) but then viewing video is in landscape (of course). On a phone this seems natural, but on a tablet it is cumbersome to have to turn your iPad around every time you want to see a video.
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Having said that, there is quite a number of nice little features here that you can check out if you are so interested.

But the point of posting about product apps is not to review them but to continue to point out that many consumer product manufacturers are beginning to see the opportunity available to them to market their products directly using mobile and tablet platforms. Once again, like the web, most publishers have decided to not get directly involved with development, meaning that they can not assist their advertisers. The money spent here, on this app, has to come out of some marketing budget -- odds are it will come out of print (though it is bound to vary from company to company).

Crisco, for the record, is owned by The J.M. Smucker Company, which is also listed as the 'seller' of the app. For those interested in Android, I did not see any equivalent apps in the Android Market website.

A question: how long before T-Mobile pulls those ads featuring the iPhone owner which makes fun of AT&T?

I have a feeling that the latest T-Mobile advertising campaign -- you know, the one that makes fun of AT&T -- may be about to get shelved now that AT&T has announced that it is acquiring T-Mobile USA from Deutsche Telekom AG. What do you think?

But before all those ads get deleted from the T-Mobile YouTube channel, maybe its worth a little review:



Media writers appear don't like, and are confused by NYT paywall approach; industry veterans are not surprised

The reaction from media writers to the details of the New York Times metered paywall were predictable; I am quite sure NYT publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr. expected this. There was no way any announcement, either instituting a paywall, or announcing that the paper was punting, would have resulted in a major of media writers approving of the move. Like Philadelphia sports fans, media writers would boo Santa Claus.

Most of the criticism centers around the math: why does it cost $5 more per four week period of time to acquire access to the iPad app versus the iPhone app? (Probably because the iPad approximates print more than does a smartphone app), why is it that it appears that the NYT doesn't appear to be charging for the web? ($15 for web + iPhone, $20 for web and iPad, $35 for both iPhone and iPad, as well as the web -- that makes it look like they are just charging for iOS and Android devices, and nothing for the web.)
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GigaOM's Mathew Ingram writes that, in his view, the plan is backward-looking, protecting print at all costs (after all, you get all electronic versions of the NYT for free if you subscribe to the print paper). He is right, but he shouldn't be surprised.

In an early post on this site, back in January of 2010, I wrote about the rumor that there was an on-going turf war at the Times regarding iPad pricing. Circulation wanted the iPad app priced at print levels, while digital operations wanted lower pricing. Assuming the rumors were true as reported by Gawker's Valleywag, and they ring true to me, then the solution worked out in time for the iPad's launch April 3rd of last year, must have been totally unsatisfying: the iPad app launched with no cost attached to it at all, but the content was limited -- no one got what they wanted, especially readers.

Ryan Tate, the writer of that piece a year ago, seemed surprised at the level of bureaucratic infighting at the NYT. As I said then, and feel now, those that look at these turf wars must have never worked at a paper in management -- they are the norm.

At many papers, the circulation director has an oversized amount of influence: a paper's health is often associated with its increasing, or declining circulation numbers. While many like to point to the web as the source of the decline in newspaper print circulation levels, but major shifts in pricing, or distribution geography, can dramatically influence those final ABC numbers just as much as changes in reading habits. No circulation manager would like the idea of losing, say, 100,000 print customers to a tablet edition, no matter what the cost savings unless they can be assured that their ABC audit will look about the same.

(Disclosure: I was, briefly, a circulation director at a smallish daily newspaper in Northern California -- it was part of a bizarre experiment designed to train me to be a publisher, which I quickly became, elsewhere.)

So is Ingram right? Is the NYT paywall backward-looking? I wouldn't say that the management team at the Times is backward-looking, per se -- compared to most newspapers, the Times is one of the most forward-looking in the industry -- but the industry as a whole is not very creative outside its comfort-zone of print, and the Times is no different. At most papers, people with experience outside of the daily newspaper environment are looked at with distain; those who left the daily grind of the metro newspaper world to work in digital media, or other forms of print, are looked at with suspicion. No wonder then that decisions made regarding the web, mobile or tablets appear strange to outsiders, especially those consumers who are younger and more often than not looking for electronic media products rather than a home delivered one.

The problem the Times has, as do so many other newspapers, is that they continue to make the same mistakes over and over again. Launching their iPad app as a free app, with limited content was almost the identical move made by papers when they launched their websites. Not only were the sites free, but it took a while for editors to develop a web-first attitude towards getting the news online before it hit print.

Instead, the executives at the Times announced that they would institute a paywall sometime in the future -- one year later we know what it will look like.

Interestingly, the National Football League solved the problem faced by publishers long ago. A football game can only be seen locally if the game is a sell-out, otherwise it is blacked out. Imagine if the NFL ran the Times: web access would be limited to paying customers in the NY area, but would be free nationally. If enough local customers pay, then the website would be opened up locally.

Football fans complain about the system, especially when their teams are not very good and seldom sell-out the stadium, but they understand the system -- someone's got to pay for it to work.

More later, much more, I'm sure.

Morning Brief: AT&T and T-Mobile to merge, if FCC gives approval; Detroit News publisher issues apology; readers notice sensational news coverage of nuclear crisis

Assuming the FCC approves, a merger of AT&T and T-Mobile, announced yesterday, would create the largest wireless company in America, with around 38 percent of the market, just ahead of Verizon. Sprint would move up to third, but would trail both companies badly with only 11 percent of the market.
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AT&T's announcement came yesterday afternoon, guaranteeing that the news would be the number one business story this morning. The deal, in which AT&T agrees to acquire T-Mobile USA from Deutsche Telekom AG for cash and stock worth approximately $39 billion, is being sold by AT&T as a way of helping T-Mobile achieve 4G LTE deployment.

"This transaction represents a major commitment to strengthen and expand critical infrastructure for our nation’s future,” Randall Stephenson, AT&T Chairman and CEO, said in the statement released Sunday. “It will improve network quality, and it will bring advanced LTE capabilities to more than 294 million people. Mobile broadband networks drive economic opportunity everywhere, and they enable the expanding high-tech ecosystem that includes device makers, cloud and content providers, app developers, customers, and more. During the past few years, America’s high-tech industry has delivered innovation at unprecedented speed, and this combination will accelerate its continued growth.”

Next comes the FCC approval process, something that could be contentious and may require some concessions on the part of AT&T. But AT&T is already gearing up for the fight as T&T's top policy executive Jim Cicconi was quickly quoted on several websites Sunday defending the deal.

"Obviously we understand the questions and the concerns and we feel we have good answers," Cicconi told The Hill yesterday. "We took a very hard and close look at this and we feel the facts support the deal."



Early Saturday the editor and publisher of the Detroit News, Jonathan Wolman, published an apology to News readers, and to reporter Scott Burgess for editing the online version of a review of the Chrysler 200 after the review had already appeared in print. The editing of the review occurred after a complain was received from an auto dealer who is an advertiser.

Journalists blasted the actions of editors in changing Scott Burgess's review, and Burgess himself "resigned in frustration", as Wolman put it in his apology. But others were less sympathetic to the snarky review that, it seemed to me, clearly crossed the line from review to sarcasm. The editing of a review after printing, and following advertising input struck a cord in many journalists who did not seem as concerned with the original piece itself.



Talking Points Memo's Josh Marshall posted a letter from a reader that lambasted the US press, and to a certain degree Talking Points Memo, for its coverage of the Fukushima nuclear plant crisis. The reader, who was not identified, wrote that "the Japanese news coverage has been largely calm, rational, informed, and critical. Some of this is naturally to avoid creating panic, but it has been able to do that because as a whole it has answered many of the questions people have and thus gained a certain level of trust."

He then compared this to the US media's approach to the story: "It also just looks good because there is something so ugly beside it: the non-Japanese coverage. That, I am afraid, has been full of factual errors and other problems. This has not been just Fox News, but also CNN, MSNBC, ABC, and even the New York Times to differing degrees...I for one cannot understand why ABC, for instance, could feature Michio Kaku multiple times over several days when by the time his declarations of imminent disaster, the situation on the ground had already proven him wrong."

This is a subject I wrote about on Thursday morning in the Morning Brief. At the time I wondered if the New York Times's increasingly hysterical tone, using words like "bleak" and "ominous" to describe the situation, was the result of information it had from its sources, or if it was something else entirely.

Now with the military actions in Libya, it appears that suddenly the story in Japan is no longer worthy of such sensational editorial treatment.