Showing that Apple can definitely get its app review teams to act in a timely fashion, The Onion has had its new iPad app released into the App Store today, on April Fools' Day. And that is no joke.
The Onion Tablet is a free app from the organization that bills itself as America's Finest News Source, and frankly who can argue with that, right?
The app is fairly primitive, an RSS feed driven design, but the app contains all the stories and satirical videos from The Onion's website -- and today The Onion has it pretty easy, they don't have to do much different on April Fools' Day than they would any other day.
The Onion's lead story today is "Chicago Cubs Can't Believe They're Doing This Again" and since this is opening day for the Cubs, a team that has not won the World Series in 102 years (and counting), the story is most appropriate.
(Oh, by the way, it is raining and 40 degrees today in Chicago. And oh, by the way, the Cubs starting pitcher just blew a two run lead by giving up a grand slam to the Pittsburgh Pirates, and are now losing 4 to 2. Really, why do the Cubs bother?)
Friday, April 1, 2011
Showing that Apple can definitely get its app review teams to act in a timely fashion, The Onion has had its new iPad app released into the App Store today, on April Fools' Day. And that is no joke.
The Masters Tournament releases a companion iPad app featuring extra programming; early release offers the developers time to fix bugs before the first player tees off
For some the first sign of spring is Opening Day of the baseball season; for others it is the start of The Masters, the first of the four "majors" in golf. Played at the Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Georgia, the beautifully landscaped course, combined with the gentle weather means spring for many Americans, even if the temperature outside where they live is barely above 40.
The tournament itself is unique in that it is very tightly managed by the tournament organizers. The television broadcast by CBS, for instance, contains minimal commercial interruptions -- only four minutes per hour. And, of course, it is the only "major" played on the same course every year. As a result, viewers have a fondness and familiarity for the tournament missing from other majors.
With this level of tight control, it is not surprising that The Masters would release its own iPad app for the tournament and include features over and above simple scorecard and highlight videos.
The Masters Tournament iPad app costs only $1.99 and offers tons of added programming, though users will have to wait until the actual event, of course, to begin to enjoy that content.
The main event begins on Thursday, April 7, but the app will allow users to watch live streams of the players practicing starting on Monday, as well as the traditional Wednesday Par 3 Contest.
Then when the actual tournament begins, iPad owners will have access to the CBS simulcast plus addition live video from famous men Corner (holes 11, 12, and 13), as well as holes 15 and 16.
The app launched a day or so ago, well in advance of the tournament, and that was a really good idea. Already an updated app has appeared, and still there appear to be video problems with the app. Buyers can probably expect at least one more update before the tournament begins.
It would be malpractice on my part not to mention that this app seems to continue the trend of the tournament and country club of whitewashing its history. The included timeline fails to bother mentioning the tournament's practice of not including African-American players all the way up until 1975 when Lee Elder was finally allowed to play, or the fact that the first African-American member of August was not allowed in until 1990. This isn't the place to recount this history or to recount the racial attitudes of the founders of the club and tournament. Nonetheless, I felt very uncomfortable using the app when it seemed so obvious that certain things were missing from the app's Timeline (you can read more about the tournament, the country club and its founders, including Bobby Jones and Clifford Roberts elsewhere online).
This app is, in the end, very much a marketing vehicle that is intended to promote the annual tournament which brings in millions for Augusta National Golf Club. Better to look at it this way, rather than as a true media app.
Thursday, March 31, 2011
Frankly, I didn't see this coming: Time Warner Cable really does want to fight for its right to stream programming to its customers through its iPad app. Tonight they have posted a statement online similar to the statement they issued the press, but with a kicker.
It, too, states that they feel it is their right to carry and stream programming in their app:
We believe we have every right to carry programming on the iPad app. But, for the time being, we have decided to focus our iPad efforts on other enlightened programmers who understand the benefit and importance of allowing our subscribers – and their viewers – to watch their programming on any screen in their homes.Then it ends like this:
In the meantime, we will pursue all of our legal rights against the programmers who don’t share our vision. Your enthusiasm, and the enthusiasm of the programming partners who have embraced the app – rather than those who are solely focused on finding additional ways to reach into wallets of their own viewers – has convinced us more than ever that we are on the right path. We will continue to fight to ensure that you have access to the content you pay for, no matter which screen in your home you choose to view it on.Interesting, no?
Twitter was not the only company that surrendered to pressure from outside to drastically alter their media app today: Time Warner Cable, responding to pressure from the network programmers, has pulled cable channels such as FX, Discovery Channel, MTV and others.
Time Warner Cable was one of the last of the cable or satellite providers to launch an iPad app, releasing their app about two weeks ago.
The app provided customers of the Time Warner cable service, plus their Internet services, the ability to stream programming to their tablet, as long as they were on the same WiFi network. It is definitely limited streaming -- but it was enough to get the attention of programmers who want to severely restrict their contracts to just cable TV.
But according to a statement from Time Warner Cable, the company has decided not to fight the programmers, possibly in hopes that TWC can negotiate this feature. "We believe we have every right to carry the programming on our iPad app. But, for the time being, we have decided to focus our iPad efforts on those enlightened programmers who understand the benefit and importance of allowing our subscribers--and their viewers--to watch their programming on any screen in their homes."
Clearly Time Warner is pretty upset by the attitude of the network programmers who are fighting the move to streaming. The statement issued to the media revealed a bit of frustration with their programming partners.
"We have decided to focus our iPad efforts on those enlightened programmers who understand the benefit and importance of allowing our subscribers -- and their viewers -- to watch their programming on any screen in their homes," Time Warner said in its statement.
While Twitter called it the QuickBar and included it on their iOS applications; others, though, came to call it the DickBar. Things went quickly downhill from there.
Today Twitter threw in the towel, eliminating the QuickBar from its apps.
The response from users was universally positive: "No more obnoxious trending bar = back to five star status," wrote one user in the App Store. "Thank you for removing the QuickBar! Please do not add it back," wrote another.
← The Twitter iPhone app, sans the QuickBar.
"Rather than continue to make changes to the QuickBar as it exists, we removed the bar from the update appearing in the App Store today," the Twitter blog announced. "We believe there are still significant benefits to increasing awareness of what’s happening outside the home timeline. Evidence of the incredibly high usage metrics for the QuickBar support this. For now, we’re going back to the drawing board to explore the best possible experience for in-app notification and discovery."
The top banner, known as the QuickBar, was introduced to Twitter's own mobile apps as a way of bringing instream advertising. But smartphone users instantly rebelled against the loss of display space. Then the term "DickBar" was coined by John Gruber of Daring Fireball in a tweet -- then came the hashtag, irate reviews in iTunes, and it was only a matter of time before Twitter relented.
Better late than never, I guess.
knowDigital study looks at The Daily, foresees possible problems for News Corp's experiment in tablet publishing
The digital media research firm knowDigital released a study of the impressions of The Daily among iPad owners. The study is one of the first publicly released of any tablet publication, let alone one as highly visible as the News Corp. launch.
knowDigital finds that iPad owners who have downloaded The Daily app perceive that superior content is to be found elsewhere online free of charge. Additionally, consumers expressed a desire for single issue sales options, as opposed to a recurring subscription.
“Our research finds that iPad users feel positively about what News Corporation has set out to accomplish with The Daily,” study author and knowDigital President Sam Milkman wrote in the company's press release.
“However, for News Corporation to convert those positive impressions into regular use and paid subscriptions from iPad users, it is going to have to address a number of concerns raised in our study.”
The study, which can be found in full in PDF form here, breaks out reactions of iPad-The Daily readers into two camps. Those who the authors identify as "tech-savvy, heavy news users" and "those who are less tech-savvy and have lower interest in gathering news content". It is the second group that appears most positive about the new digital newspaper.
"It’s not just the news; they have the gossip, they have arts and life, they have apps and the games," a respondent identified as Linda stated to the researchers.
On the other hand, a respondent identified as David told knowDigital "It's not hard-hitting, factual news, ‘cause I feel more comfortable getting that from another source. If I want to learn something new, I'm not going to go to The Daily to learn that.”
Users identified The Daily more as an "app" rather than a newspaper or magazine. I would guess this shouldn't be surprising as The Daily did not come to the iPad from a history in print.
The study also found that users had a "low awareness" that the app is updated through the day. This may be the fault of the editors, however, who could use notifications to make sure readers are aware of new content -- though this has to be used sparingly and with some forethought. I receive, for instance, notices from the NYT of budget developments in New York state, something not terribly important to me as a Midwesterner.
Research like this one from knowDigital is of incredible importance to major publishers looking to launch tablet-only publications. For the most part, publishers are still working in the dark as to what consumers expect in a tablet edition. However, it could be said that many of the issues facing The Daily could have been foreseen. First, while those in the newspaper industry, and those who are iPad enthusiasts may have been very much aware of The Daily prior to its launch, The Daily did not get much marketing support aimed at the general public.
A major marketing effort might have had to address such questions as "why is this product different, better?", "why should I subscribe to this new product?", as well as "what can I expect from this new news product?" Those who are heavy consumers of the news probably could have guess the answers to some of these questions, knowing this was a new launch from News Corp. -- but then again, the publisher may have gone into this launch hoping many iPad owners would ignore the source of the new media app, and concentrate on the app experience itself.
MLB.com updates apps on Opening Day, adds features; Sunday Times issues updates, promises new features
The Boston Herald was not the only ones who submitted something to Apple for launching today, the first day of the baseball season. MLB.com has updated both its iOS apps today in another example of Apple's review teams can move apps through the system in a hurry if needed.
The updated apps, which cost $14.99 a piece (iPhone app here, iPad app here), a "live look-in" feature, as well as fixes some performance issues.
I have found that the previous version of the app often lost its ability to find audio and video feeds. A look under the audio icon would reveal that no audio was available -- even when that was obviously not true. I would fix the problem by deleting the app and reinstalling. We'll see if this newly updated version has this bug fixed.
No Android update could be found in the Android Market. Complaints about audio are common in reviews found over there.
The Sunday Times, the News Corp. UK newspaper, updated its iPad app today in a fairly major update.
The app remains free to download, but there is a solid paywall in place with this one -- issues cost $2.99 to buy if you are not already a paid subscriber to the print edition.
The app has a load of new features including:
- A ‘Live’ button to the toolbar was added
- Football, cricket and rugby results tables can now be refreshed without leaving the app
- Font "clarity" improvements
- "Quick Lists" have been added to each Contents page
- New interactive features involving crosswords and photographs
I must say that the Times does an excellent job of communicating with its customers through the app description, a good lesson for publishers who sometimes just go through the motions when they fill in those online forms on the Apple developer website.
Trulia.com launches its own iPad and Android real estate search apps; loaded with features for home buyers
After getting my J degree and moving to Los Angeles I began searching for my first editorial job. It didn't take long to realize that if I wanted to live by the beach and enjoy life out of Michigan that I had better get a job on the business side of things. That is how I ended up selling real estate classified advertising for Hearst Newspapers. Within a year or so I was promoted to outside sales where very soon we launched a real estate tabloid into the market, later I became a CAM.
Classified, and real estate in particular, is still near-and-dear to my heart -- and it is truly heartbreaking that many newspapers have allowed their real estate advertising to walk out the door. It is only going to get worse.
Today it is hard to compete with the online websites like Realtor.com and Zillow.com. The experience of photo slide shows and great gobs of information is hard to beat when the standard classified ad is a couple of lines of text. It is for this reason that I have advocated for the mobile app.
Through smartphone apps, newspapers can offer location-aware content, maps, etc. Unfortunately, most classified ad departments have lost whatever power they once had as their revenue and ad pages have declined. (Let me tell you, we CAMs used to rule the roost -- and we knew it!)
A new series of apps from Trulia.com show how hard the battle will be for newspapers to win back their real estate category. The online real estate search company, backed by Accel Partners and Sequoia Capital, have launched new iPhone, iPad and Android apps today that are pretty much state-of-the-art.
All three apps released over the last couple of days are free for users to download. The iPhone and Android apps are, of course, best used on-the-go when house hunting or when you've come across a "for sale" sign. Like the Zillow's offerings, the apps offer detailed information concerning features, sales history, property taxes, etc. The iPhone app has been around a while but was updated yesterday. The update teases that new features are on their way.
Getting the timing right on an app launch is nearly impossible. You submit your app to Apple and wait -- sometimes you get a message asking for more information, delays, waiting, and then sometimes the app shows up in the iTunes App Store seemingly demonstrating perfect timing.
That's how the folks at the Boston Herald must feel this morning as their new iPhone app, Boston Herald Baseball 2011 appeared in the App Store last night, just in time for Opening Day (that's today!).
"I had heard that Apple tends to move paid apps through faster than free ones," Tom Rose, senior editor at Herald Interactive told me this morning. "Not sure if there's any truth in that, but this one went from In Review to in the store in 24 hours. Big relief."
The app follows the standard look of its developer, DoApp: two layers of navigation at the top, with content below. For the most part the content is driven by RSS feeds made up of news, columns, and the like. But the app also contains schedules and standings, as well as social networking sharing and a great feature that allow you to share information with the newspaper.
Maybe the most important feature, we'll see, is the chat area. Baseball fans are ones to want to brag up their teams, or complain like crazy when things aren't going so well. The ability to see in front of the TV, at the game, or on your front porch listening to the games and chat away on your smartphone might just be a new trend. (I can imagine online arguments being ended with the line "hey, bub, I'm at the game, I saw the play with my own two eyes, he was out by a mile!"
The app description contains the usual disclaimer, that the app is not associated with either the Boston Red Sox or Major League Baseball, demonstrating the sensitivity that surrounds licensing in this sport.
Rose tells TNM that an Android version of the app is due to show up in the Android Market soon, with a Windows Phone app soon, as well.
There are also plans to add more information and features to the mobile app throughout the year, but I'll let the Boston Herald announce those as they come up. But already this app is stuffed with really great material and should prove to be valuable not only for Boston Red Sox fans, but for baseball fans everywhere. It is clear that the team at the Herald thought through this app and made sure they didn't leave anything out that was obvious to a baseball fan.
It is clear why Rose wrote me when I complained that newspaper publishers were sitting on their duff this year as the season was about to begin. Where are the baseball apps, I asked? Well, the Boston Herald had been working on one, and right now they have the field to themselves.
(The Boston Red Sox don't open the season until Friday, so I guess the team at the Herald may have launched this app with one day to spare, but 12 teams do start play today, including the rivals of the Red Sox, the Yankees. My Giants open against the dreaded Dodgers this evening, though for once San Francisco fans go into the game . . . well, still in a state of euphoria.)
Wednesday, March 30, 2011
Hobbyist publisher Taunton Press has released three woodworking tool guide this afternoon. The iPad apps from Fine Woodworking, located in the Lifestyle section of Apple's App Store, are $5.99 each to download.
The new tablet editions are Bandsaw Basics, Tablesaw Basics and Router Basics.
From the app description of Bandsaw Basics from Fine Woodworking:
Want to get the most from your bandsaw? Then this is your essential app for learning all about bandsaw safety, correct setup, and proper cutting techniques through videos and interactive features from the experts at Fine Woodworking.
Taunton Interactive has previous released iPad apps from the cooking side of the business. Fine Cooking: Cooking for the Holidays and Recipes from Harvest to Heat were both released just in time for the Christmas holiday, and were both $1.99 to download.
One theme that has been running through quite a number of posts here on Talking New Media has been media streaming and its potential for print publishers. The ability of mobile and tablet editions to stream audio and video to stereo components and large screen through Apple's AirPlay has opened up infinite possibilities for creative publishers.
But just as streaming opens up non-broadcast media companies to new areas for content, there are traditional media properties who see the continued growth of streaming as a threat. Certainly ther is tremendous tension right now between the content creators and their distributors -- that is, the television networks and the cable and satellite companies.
But radio has faced increasing pressure because of streaming for a number of years. The day WXYC began to stream programming on the Internet seemed to open up the station to additional listeners online. Pioneers in this area no doubt saw the advantage of using the web to reach new listeners, but that advantage certainly began to fade as other stations began to do the same thing -- including stations that wouldn't have seemed to be competitive in the past.
Today, as someone who listens to more radio through the Internet than through the airwaves, it is far more likely that I will listen to KCSM in San Mateo, California when I want to hear jazz than WDCB, the Chicago area jazz station; more likely that I will "tune" to Accent 4, a Strasbourg, France classical station than my local classical station WFMT.
This new competition has only lightly touched most radio stations. Talk radio, with its syndicated radio talent, probably is effected by competition through streaming, but the music format is where the real action is.
The history Internet radio and the music labels can be found online, but readers should be reminded that it wasn't so long ago that it appeared that Internet radio was on the ropes. Start-ups like Live 365 which allowed anyone to create their own Internet radio streams, were on the verge of being killed off by the issue of royalty payments. The 2007 agreement between SoundExchange and the larger webcasters was just barely enough to keep the platform alive.
But while Internet radio appears to be a fact of life, with new companies like Pandora paying more than $45 million just last year in royalty payments, individual streaming poses a new threat to traditional radio.
Yesterday's launch of Amazon's Cloud Drive and Cloud Player are seen as both new competition for Apple's plans in the same area, but will continue the trend of consumers streaming their own music content using technology including cloud storage.
To recap Amazon's announcement yesterday: Amazon announced that registered customers of the online retailer's website could now have cloud storage of up to 5 GB of data for free, as well as the ability to pay for even more storage at $1 per GB at six different storage levels starting at 20 GB ($20 per year) up to 1 TB ($1000). This storage would house any kind of digital content, though music is the assumed content that would be used most often.
This digital music content could then be streamed to be listened to using another Amazon launch, Amazon Cloud Player. The new player is compatible with popular browsers such as Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome and Safari, for both PC and Mac users. Further, an Android app from Amazon will allow users to play the music on their mobile devices -- no such app currently is available of iOS device owners.
The issue of content licenses has already been brought up by media properties such as paidContent.org, but Amazon feels pretty sure it won't be necessary to negotiate with the music labels. We'll see.
Norway's Aftenposten releases its first tablet edition; arrives a few days after the iPad 2 went on sale in Europe
Last Friday Apple launched sales of the iPad 2 in 25 additional countries. One of those countries was Norway where buyers there, according to bloggers, are being charged some of the highest prices found for the new version of Apple's tablet (click here to see a price chart).
Norway's largest daily newspaper, Aftenposten (The Evening Post), has used the occasion to release its first iPad app. The free app grants access to a natively designed news app, somewhat of a cross between the NYT and apps like NPR or CNN.
Aftenposten, the print newspaper, produces two editions daily: its morning edition has a circulation around 240,000, and its evening edition has a circulation of around 130,000 -- and, yes, both editions are called Aftenposten. The paper is distributed in Oslo and the surrounding areas.
Once the user downloads the new app and it is installed, the user is greeted with a "news globe" on the splash page similar to the ABC News app -- don't panic, it is only decoration. The app then moves to a registration page where the user must submit their email address to continue.
The message on the page is that the user will have free access for a limited time. The app desciption (in Norwegian, of course) also is truthful in the limited time free access.
The app description is very well done, and complete. It informs readers that they will have access to the morning paper from 6AM and the afternoon paper by 4PM. It mentions the multimedia content to be found such as audio and video, as well as slideshow, and it gives the reader basic navigation instruction.
It also gives credit to the newspaper's development partner: Making Waves, a Norwegian company, despite its English language name.
I've kept this app on my iPad in order to follow it as the newspaper company moves from offering free access to a paid subscription model. Because the app is so new, there are no reviews inside the Norwegian App Store at this point, so it will be difficult to know the impression the app is making with native readers. But I'm certainly impressed with the good start the publisher has made.
The newspaper also has a smartphone app as well, Aftenposten for iPhone, as well another called Aftenposten Quiz which is a paid app. (Both links are to the Norwegian App Store, though both apps can be found in the US store, as well.)
Here is the promotion video produced for the launch of the app:
Yesterday I wrote about the lack of apps being produced by newspaper companies in support of their special sections, and in particular, their annual baseball sections. I noted that marketing agreements often hinder the effort to produce "official" baseball team apps -- MLB has this area tied up.
In the post I showed a screenshot of the Boston Herald iPhone app, with its missing sports feeds. I heard back from Tom Rose, senior editor at Herald Interactive, who gave me some interesting news which I will write about later.
But it also led me to take another look at the app to see if the Sports feeds were working -- and indeed they are. I don't know at this point if this was an app glitch on my end, or an indication of a problem on the newspaper's end.
So in the interest of fairness, here is a new screenshot from the DoApp developed iPhone app from the Boston Herald.
Media rivals are pulling their punches regarding new Times paywall, hoping to learn from rivals experiment
Despite loads of snark, many media rivals seem tio be holding back criticism of the NYT paywall as they watch and learn from their rival's experiment in digital paid media. While there are many examples of columns written in a snarky tone, or revealing a deep skepticism about the concept of a metered paywall, many of the NYT's closes rivals are conspicuously quiet about their competitor's effort to generate revenue from online and app-based media.
This is not totally unexpected: newspapers, in particular, have been less willing to criticize their competitors over the past couple decades as the newspaper business has become more endangered, creating a more closed environment that resembles a guild-like industry.
I could find no stories at all in the NY Daily News, while the NY Post, never one to pull their punches, has only published short and to the point pieces on the move. One year ago, however, the Post was a bit more willing to have some fun at the expense of its rival. "The New York Times will make you pay," is how the original January 21, 2010 story started in the Post.
Which also goes to show how long the NYY has been working on its paywall, and why it has ended up costing so much money. This is the point of a blog post on Ecoconsultancy.com, snarkily entitled "The miracle of the New York Times pay wall" (I, too, am struggling with whether paywall is one word or two). Patricio Robles ponders how it is possible that the NYT could spend a reported $40 million to construct its new paywall:
Assuming that the $40-50m figure, which has been reported by multiple media outlets, is correct, it may serve as one of the most powerful highlights of the real problem newspapers like the NYT face: inherently flawed economics.Meanwhile, Apple may be proclaiming 2011 to be the year of iPad2, and therefore tablets, newspaper executives will be directing their attention elsewhere as they eagerly await the first signs that the NYT strategy will be a success. But with the NYT investment costs so high, and with the resulting system ending up with so many holes in it, this paywall experiment looks more and more like the Times Select experiment where both sides of the debate could claim it's argument had merit.
Put simply, many struggling newspapers don't just have a revenue problem, they have a spending problem.
But unlike the last paywall attempt, I have a feeling that the Times won't completely pull back its paywall if it feels things are not going well. The publisher can, after all, loosen the article limits, lower its prices, or change the formula of paid versus free articles. As a result, this metered paywall approach may result in more intelligence concerning digital media pay systems, but no solid answers.
Salesforce.com announces acquisition of social media monitoring service Radian6 for reportedly $326 million
Customer management software company Salesforce.com will acquire Radian6, a social media monitoring software provider. Reuters is reporting that the deal is worth $326 million, while Bloomberg says it is worth $340 million, including $276 million in cash, the rest in stock and stock payouts to Radian6's founders.
Radian6 said in a press release that the company will continue to operate as a separate company.
The acquired company allows users to monitor and analyze social media properties such as Twitter and Facebook for use by companies to gain intelligence about businesses. Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff said in a conference call that Salesforce.com customers will now be able to capture information from these social media websites to assist them in sales and competitive analysis.
Tuesday, March 29, 2011
Media outlets report more bad news from Japan, core appears to have melted to bottom of containment vessel
Japan may have lost race to save nuclear reactor
Because the reporting by the US media has been so unreliable and sensationalist it is hard to know what is truly going on in Japan anymore. Nonetheless, this report sounds . . . well, not great.
The radioactive core in a reactor at the crippled Fukushima nuclear power plant appears to have melted through the bottom of its containment vessel and on to a concrete floor, experts say, raising fears of a major release of radiation at the site.Meanwhile, the New York Times, an organization that has been a bit compromised by its sensationalist coverage of the nuclear crisis since the beginning, reports that "confidence" is slipping away:
The warning follows an analysis by a leading US expert of radiation levels at the plant. Readings from reactor two at the site have been made public by the Japanese authorities and Tepco, the utility that operates it.
Heroic workers and firefighters continued to cool the volatile reactors by pumping in hundreds of tons of water a day. Much-awaited electricity had reached the plant after a rush to extend new power lines, ready to hook up to vital cooling systems and engineer a long-term “cold shutdown” of the plant.The crisis in Japan is one of those news stories that does not fit the usual two or three day news cycle that makes American journalists comfortable. The story is complicated and ongoing. Few American news outlets want to dedicate more than 48 hours to any one story, Japan included.
Despite the story in Japan growing more dire, it has still, nonetheless, slipped from its lead position. Witness the NYT itself: despite the bad news, its editors are still leading with Libya: a literal double line separates Libya from Japan -- sorry Japan, if you were going to have a meltdown it should have fit the timeline imposed by our limited attention span.
"As the result of finding plutonium and finding a high density of radiated water, it's clear that the fuel has melted," ABC News reports that a government spokesman has said.
Sounds horrible, no? But the LA Times says: "Japan nuclear crisis may have a silver lining for radiation health research". God, really?
Publishers miss out again as baseball season is about to begin without their presence in the App Store
One of the great memories I have of working at the Los Angeles Herald Examiner was Opening Day of the baseball season. A few weeks before the season would begin there would be a giant sales meeting held somewhere off campus where the advertising managers would talk about the annual Dodger special section that we would soon sell and then publish a day or two before the season started. One year Dodger manager Tommy Lasorda gave the sales teams a rousing pep talk -- his own version of "win one for the Gipper".
It never worked -- the L.A. Times, with more than five times our circulation, always sold us under the table. But who cares, we all got to go to the Opening Day game to see the beloved Dodgers who won the World Series twice in the eighties, once while I was working at the Hearst newspaper (that means I got free World Series tickets!).
This year would be my 29th Opening Day if I was still working at the ol' Herald Examiner. But Hearst shuttered the paper several years after I moved on to Copley Newspapers, but I wonder, would we still do a printed special section for Opening Day? Would we do an app?
Well, Hearst doesn't have a paper in L.A. anymore, but they do own the Chronicle in San Francisco -- at least I haven't heard that they have sold it to MediaNews today, though there is still time left in the work day. But I know they wouldn't do an app for the Giants, that team that won the World Series last year for the first time in their history in San Francisco. I know this because Hearst Newspapers have yet to produce a single iOS app in support of any of its newspapers. (Is Hearst aware that the folk in the Bay Area are a bit more tech savvy than they are back in their NY headquarters?)
That means that developing special apps for seasonal occasions would be out of the question. As a result, the Giants are pretty much absent from the App Store altogether. A search pulls up some really lame apps, such as the one above produced by Brighthouse Labs, an outfit that likes to throw paid apps into the App Store hoping someone will be naive enough to buy it. The one listed for the Giants is but one of over 3,000 apps Brighthouse has in the App Store, none of which are worth their price and all of which call into question Apple's app curation policies.
As for the Dodgers, they too are "served" by Brighthouse Labs, but thanks to ESPN they do have a decent sports app for the city.
I can think of at least three reasons why newspapers are again in 2011 missing the boat. The first is simply that newspapers remain behind, in general, when it comes to mobile media and tablets. The second is that marketing rules with professional sports teams can be a bit of a hassle. To do an "official" app is probably out of the question. That is why a search for "Boston Red Sox" for instance, pulls up 26 apps, but none are from the baseball team, and none, frankly, are very good.
But that doesn't stop independent developers from grabbing the RSS feeds of the Boston dailies and compiling their own news apps.
Both the Boston Globe and Boston Herald do the minimum: they mention the baseball team in their app description which makes their app come up in a search of the App Store. The Boston Herald app, developed by Minneapolis-based DoApp Inc., is obviously not much of a priority for the newspaper as evidenced by their app. As you fan see here, their Sports feeds are dead, for some reason, giving the user blank pages when they use the Sports tabs (the News tabs work fine).
The Boston Globe app, on the other hand, right now contains a banner with the score of the game in progress (BoSox 1, Tampa Bay Rays 1 in the bottom of the 8th, if you're interested). The Globe, while not a prolific developer of apps, has nonetheless released four different iPhone app and one iPad (though not a tablet edition of the Globe itself).
Pedro Monteiro, a native of Portugal, and a digital media designer at a major media firm, has been kind enough to volunteer his insight into the developing financial crisis in his country. Here is his guest column:
Portugal has been in a crisis since the loss of the Brazilian colony. One of the leading Portuguese journalist, José Manuel Fernandes, has written a very good article about our historical lack of proficiency with money, which is a very good tool to understand our problems today.
With José's help, let's start by setting a brief historical background on the country's finances.
When Portugal lost the Brazilian colony, the country also lost a stable treasury. Since then, the country was never able to stabilize its economic and financial situation. By the end of the XIXth century, with the English embargo, Portugal went bankrupt. This incident was one of the main factors that led to the fall of the monarchy and, in the end, to the rise of a dictatorship.
Only in 1974 were we able to rid ourselves of the dictatorship and be free again. Sadly, our financial situation was no better than before. In 1977, Portugal asked for it's first IMF intervention. This was not enough, and the institution returned again in 1983.
After joining the EU in 1986, Portugal finally had a chance to receive some money that could help us modernize the country. This was a small golden era for Portugal. Our current President, Aníbal Cavaco Silva, was Prime Minister at that time. Now-a-days, most Portuguese believe that the money we brought in was not well spent.
Fast forward for the present and we again face a difficult financial situation. Being one of the weakest economies within the Euro zone, we are face an onslaught from the international markets. It has been increasingly difficult to find money to borrow on the international markets. In order to tackle this problem, our now dismissed government, Partido Socialista (PS), had to make several budget adjustments. As it was a minority government, last week in parliament the government saw it's fourth adjustment in the year overruled by all of the opposition parties. The Prime-Minister, José Sócrates, resigned on that same day.
Right now, Portugal is waiting for a new election, the date to be set by the President, expected to be in the early Summer. The opposition biggest party, Partido Social Democrata (PSD), is expiated to win those elections.
What remains to be seen is whether they can keep making adjustments that will ease the international financial market pressure. Another big doubt is whether international help will be asked for and which party, PSD or PS, will take the blame for it.
Meanwhile, the country is being swept by lots of public manifestations. People are arguing against the harsh measures they have to face: right now and in the near future.
US media's digital strategy mirrors its editorial strategy - with the same results; ABM approves new business plan
It's not hard to see what is wrong with the US media's attempts to understand electronic publishing: disregard readers and reward failure. It is a lot like the media's editorial strategy: insult the intelligence of the audience, and repeat mistakes.
You would think that following the debacle of the Afghan and Iraq wars that the US media would be a bit more skeptical about US military ventures. But the same folk at the NYT, for instance, that tried to convince us that Saddam Hussein was a national security threat, and that weapons of mass destruction would surely be found, continue to write weekly columns for the paper, or are the paper's senior voice when it comes to the Middle East or all things military.
Being right is pretty irrelevant.
This same strategy drives digital strategy. Look at who is being hired and brought on as the industry's consultants: those who have dismissed mobile applications, the rise of the tablet, and anything that was in any way outside the comfort zone of 1990's era web-think.
It is incredibly frustrating day after day to read so-and-so's opinion of the NYT paywall, or the latest media app; it is exactly like reading about the events in the Middle East, you know the American Enterprise Institute, the Brookings Institution, Karl Rove or Frank Gaffney are bound to be in story somewhere.
The consumer magazine field appears to be better positioned to survive and even thrive in our New Media environment. Possibly this is because the industry has always been more willing to experiment with its platform. Magazines are launched, magazines are folded, the industry moves on.
The folding of a newspaper, however, is national news, a cause for a decade long wake. The veterans of the Rocky Mountain News or even the Chicago Daily News write about their old papers years or even decades after the paper has folded. Maybe the reason for this is that as papers fold their employees rarely move on to another paper, another launch. It is as if the industry only has a set number of positions available and the rule is that the number can only go down, never up.
No wonder that it is so easy for AOL to find editors for its Patch properties.
But, of course, it doesn't have to be like this. Web, mobile and tablet publishing doesn't have to involve $30 million investments, such as News Corp. is spending on The Daily. Even The Daily, I suspect, knows this based on its single issue special section on Elizabeth Taylor. Sometimes it can be quick, inexpensive, and endlessly variable -- the exact opposite of mainstream newspapering.
Update: Right on cue John Gruber tweets about this post about mobile websites versus native apps. I think the author, Josh Clark, is spitting in the wind, though. It is easy for Clark to advocate for native apps, he has experience designing them, those who are against them haven't -- and they are often the ones in charge of digital strategy.
American Business Media (ABM) today announced that its board of directors has approved a new business plan, which under the leadership of new President and CEO Clark Pettit, is hoped will bring the industry trade group back to life.
“The B-to-B media industry is currently grappling with fundamental changes in the ways that businesses get and use information,” Pettit said at the time of his appointment in July of last year. “Many of these changes parallel the ways that the consumer-focused media industry has been transforming, particularly through digital media and internet connected technologies. I believe that my experience in managing transformational change, embracing these new technologies and behaviors, and finding new business and revenue models will be directly relevant to ABM, its members, and the B-to-B media industry.”
The new business plan echoes some of the ideas presented last summer at the time of Pettit's appointment: bringing a cooperative approach, partnering with industry experts, providing greater value. (For many B2B media executives, the "value" of an ABM membership was, and probably is, foremost in their minds.)
The business plan lists five areas in which the trade association should concentrate:
- Industry research and actionable business metrics
- Education and training programs around various new business models and solutions, and how to execute on them
- Increased networking opportunities and focused leadership groups
- More robust committees and councils focused on tangible deliverables and professional development
- New events, including regional programs and events in cooperation with other organizations and experts, focused on driving new b-to-b business models
When I first started attending ABM events, there was a lot more talk about the specifics of sales, in particular. Sessions on media kits, sales presentations often involved staffers bragging about their cool kits and pull-all-the-stops out presentations -- but those sessions produced lots of talk and idea sharing, and inevitably ideas were brought back to the office and tried.
Hopefully the new hires announced today -- Michael Burns as VP, Events, Claudia Flowers as VP, Recruitment & Retention, and Marie Griffinas VP, Content & Programming -- can bring in new ideas and allow the ABM to better serve not just the executives that make up the board, but the editors and sales staffs of those who actually are producing the B2B magazines and websites (there are still only a handful of mobile apps and tablet editions being produced by US B2B media properties).
Morning Brief: TheStreet.com teams up with Journal Register Co.; Guardian to announce US editor; RBI closes Computer Weekly magazine, sells site to TechTarget
The Journal Register Co. will partner with TheStreet.com to share business news resources the two companies announced yesterday. The deal will call for business website to share national business news with the newspaper chain, while the Journal Register properties feed in local business news into the national web property.
The Journal Register owns daily newspapers such as the New Haven Register and The Oakland Press in Pontiac, Michigan.
The newspaper company also had an announcement for this morning: Jim Brady, who helped launch the hyperlocal news site TBD, and a executive editor at washingtonpost.com, has joined the company to "to lead the Digital Transformation of all of its newsroom on all platforms," according to a statement.
“Jim has a deep understanding of how the audience both creates and consumes news and information in the digital world. The debate of bloggers vs. journalists or citizen journalists vs. professionals is now over. The new business models of news demand we understand and incorporate both. Jim has been at the very forefront of that debate and is a leader in implementing solutions,” said John Paton, Chief Executive Officer of Journal Register Company.
Guardian editor-in-chief Alan Rusbridger told Yahoo's The Cutline news blog that his company will soon be announcing the appointment of a New York based editor as part of its new strategy to attack the US market. The effort "will be significantly larger than anything we've done in the states before," Rusbridger told The Cutline.
Rusbridger was also asked about his views concerning the NYT's new metered paywall -- Rusbridger has been consistently on record as being a skeptic. "I can't see anywhere in world that's tried charging [online] for general news that has made a go of it in the sense that you get enough people and enough money to make up for the loss of influence," he said, but said his views could change it the new paywall proves a success. "...I don't think any of us can be in a completely entrenched position."
Newton, Mass.-based TechTarget announced it has signed an agreement with Reed Business Information to acquire the UK IT websites ComputerWeekly.com and MicroScope.co.uk. The deal will result in the closing of the print edition of the 135,000 circulation weekly.
“ComputerWeekly.com and MicroScope.co.uk strengthens TechTarget’s already high quality audience and substantial reach into senior IT decision makers in the UK,” Bill Crowley, senior vice president of international, TechTarget said in the company's announcement.
RBI's US division divested itself of the majority of its B2B titles, representing about 45 percent of its revenue. Properties such as Publishers Weekly, Broadcasting & Cable and others were sold off between November 2009 and April 2010. The US division of Reed Elsevier then closed the remaining properties, though quite a number of the titles later were resurrected by their publishing teams, though the results have been a mixed bag so far. RBI chose to retain Variety and a number of data companies including Reed Construction Data.
I will admit that looking at foreign language media apps presents some special challenges. Americans are notoriously bad at other languages, and Google Translation will only get you so far. But there are some really interesting things being done with media apps overseas, and this newly released from Hungarian media company Marquard Média Magyarország is certainly no exception.
Éva is a woman's magazine launched in 2007 by Marquand Media Hungary, a subsidiary of Marquand Media of Zug, Switzerland (that town should ring a bell with those that watched 60 Minutes this Sunday - Zug is the town showcased that is used as a tax haven by hundreds of US companies seeking to avoid US corporate taxes).
Marquand Media generally licenses such as InStyle, Joy, Shape and Playboy, but Éva was specially created for the domestic market in Hungary, however.
This first tablet edition is not a replica edition of one of the issues but is instead a special edition published for the Easter holiday. The free app creates a library where the reader can then download the current special issue for free. I would assume that the publisher will then use this app to release other editions of the magazine whether they are special editions or versions of the print edition -- we'll see.
The Easter issue is a painful download, weighing in at 458 MB. Like many of the magazine apps that contain such hefty issues, there is an archiving option built into the app.
The tablet edition of Éva is packed with audio and video, and can be read in portrait and landscape with some variation in content between the two orientations. In this way, this app will remind you of many of the Condé Nast Digital apps -- big, tour-de-forces of the tablet publishing art.
So far the reaction to the app has been 100 percent positive inside the Hungarian App Store -- and yes, there is an Hungarian App Store, though Apple doesn't make much accommodation to the language differences. But readers are no doubt thrilled to see an Hungarian publishers go all out on an iPad edition of a domestic magazine. (The nearest Apple store would be 918 miles away in Bergamo, Italy.)
Monday, March 28, 2011
Some app updates, and a correction: NPR for iPad adds AirPlay support, USA Today app update, NYT app fonts
First a correction: late on Friday I mentioned that the New York Times had released an update for its iPhone app and that some early comments in iTunes were not very positive. In particular, reviewers complained of the small default type size (true) and that the font adjustment had been eliminated. That part, font adjustment, was not true, it's there, just in a different spot and in pretty dark type itself. Just thought I'd set the record straight.
Late this afternoon the NPR for iPad app, another of those excellent apps developed by Bottle Rocket, has been updated.
The update brings the app up to date with iOS 4.3 support and makes the app AirPlay-enabled -- which in this case doesn't involve video but does now allow the app to stream its revenue to an Apple TV. The app will also pause all audio if the users headphones are removed -- a feature that is convenient the headphones come out accidentally, though terribly inconvenient if one really wants to use the speakers.
Other minor app updates today included the USA TODAY for iPad app, which just lists some bug fixes, and the CBC News universal app, which does the same.
Hearst completes 651€ Lagardere deal today, brings on new CFO for Hearst Magazines International division
These are heady times at Hearst Magazines as the company completed the deal today with Lagardere, getting the French media group to sign the final contract with the publisher to sell it stable of magazines for 651€ (just over $917 million).
"Having conducted the requisite information procedure with the Lagardere group workers' councils in certain jurisdictions pursuant to the relevant regulatory requirements, Lagardere SCA has today signed the share purchase agreement for the sale of its international magazine business to Hearst Corporation," it said in a statement.
The international division, not surprisingly, needed to staff up and today Hearst Magazines International president and CEO Duncan Edwards announced that Simon Horne has been appointed chief financial officer, general manager and senior vice president.
"Simon is an outstanding CFO and an experienced general manager in the international media business," Edwards said in the statement announcing the hire. "I am delighted that we are able to draw from our own strong pool of talent for this important role as we anticipate the acquisition and integration of new businesses."
Horne previously has been with Harcourt Publishers International and The National Magazine Company where he served as CFO.
That was easy: TNM is up and over the new New York Times paywall, thanks to Lincoln and their marketing offer. (That mean, I suppose, TNM readers will be able to view all NYT stories linked from this site.)
For others today is the day that the company said it would launch its metered paywall, and at 2:00 ET today in the US (last week in Canada) the paywall was up.
The NYT system went live on the 17th -- that was not only the day when those in Canada were subject to the paywall, but that the back-end of the system could record subscriptions (I'm guessing). As you can see from the screenshot below, my own subscription was recorded that day thanks to clicking on an ad that was delivered to me -- a promotion with Lincoln where the ad is delivered to 200,000 frequent users of the NYT website (I believe my ad was seen on my iPad). I've blurred my subscriber number, though I doubt that was necessary.
To introduce the new approach to web readers the publisher, Arthur Sulzberger, has posted a letter on the website:
As I have said previously, the introduction of digital subscriptions is an investment in our future. It will allow us to develop new sources of revenue to strengthen our ability to continue our journalistic mission as well as undertake digital innovations that will enable us to provide you with high-quality journalism on whatever device you choose.Sulzberger then goes on to explain the details of the plan, emphasizing that print subscribers will continue to enjoy free access to electronic versions of the newspaper.
Mobile video news company Newsy announced today that it had closed a new round of funding, worth $1.5 million, that will be used to aid the company's growth and expansion plans, as well as help it keep up with the ever changing world of mobile app development.
"It's nice to be able to hire, to help manage the growth," Jim Spencer, Newsy's founder and president told TNM this morning.
The round of funding will originate from the same St. Louis-based private equity firm that has previously provided funding.
"It really helps the company in terms of being able to staff, and manage the growth. You know the Worldwide Developer Conference was announced this morning and that costs $1500, there are real expenses that go with building apps," Spencer said with a laugh.
"But it will really help us be able to add to our marketing, our editorial, our sales, and our development teams."
The Columbia, Missouri based start-up recently updated its iPhone and iPad apps making them AirPlay-enabled. Newsy also has an app in the Android Market, as well.
"We really emphasis the mobile aspect of what we are going. We think of ourselves as a mobile video news company," Spencer said.
"Our stuff looks great on the iPhone, Android, the iPad, and places like that, and we have a website. But our website is primarily a platform to be able to insure that our content is distributed as widely as possible. The real emphasis is on our apps and what we are doing in mobile."
Newsy's main point of differentiation as a news service is that it that takes video news from different worldwide sources, aggregates and analyzes the content to then create new video news spots. One reason the company is located in Columbia in order to be close to its partner, the Missouri School of Journalism.
Newsy was one of the first to take advantage of Apple opening up AirPlay to third party developers. The capability is a natural for Newsy, being a video news service. Now uses of Newsy apps can use AirPlay to stream video content to their Apple TV devices for displaying on television sets..
"First we wanted to create a new form of news which we call multi-source news, but we also wanted to create a product that was really a multi-platform product. So we're in the process right now of redesigning our videos to display most meaningfully on phones, as well as tablets, and now big screen televisions," Spencer said.
Spencer said that the company recognizes the new AirPlay capabilities will mean that the company will have to makes sure their video programming continues to attractive to consumers whether on a smartphone, or now on an HDTV.
"We happen to think our stuff looks really good on a big screen right now because we encode and distribute at such a good quality video. But you're going to see some very interesting changes coming to our products so that we are really are relevant and beautiful across multiple platforms," Newsy's president said.
Times of India releases first tablet edition along lines of NYT for iPad, but app lacks sustainable business model
The Times of India this morning saw its first tablet edition enter the iTunes App Store. The free app, The Times of India for iPad, is modelled after the NYT/Financial Times design which has proved popular for both readers and publishers.
The app's description does an excellent job selling the app, though that is hardly necessary since at this point there is no price attached. "Speed News scroll with minute-by-minute updates posted by more than 500 Times of India reporters from more than 80 Indian cities," the description states. It also mentions "live cricket scores", gotta have that.
The app contains many of the important features readers are beginning to take for granted: video content and photo galleries, the ability to read news offline, and social networking sharing of news stories.
The feature missing here, strangely, is the ability to stream the video content. A user can tell if an app is AirPlay-enabled by whether the video content is still visible on the iPad's display while Apple TV streaming is enabled: if you can still see the video then only the audio is being streamed, but if the video player grows dark and displays an AirPlay message then you know the video is being successfully streamed to the user's Apple TV for displaying on a television set. This feature is missing on this app, as it is the New York Times app, as well.
Right: reader commenting is built right into the tablet edition.
The video content also requires a live network connection to view, something that is fairly common with news apps (magazine apps often embed the video content, making them hefty downloads.)
While the app allows readers to view the comments on the articles inside, though there is no built-in mechanism for adding your own comments at this time. This is too bad, but probably to be expected since there is no registration built into the app other than the ability to sign into your Twitter or Facebook account to share stories.
This is a good start, as far as a first app is concerned, but the lack of a subscription or even single issue mechanism (combined with a lack of in-app advertising content) calls into question the long-term business model being employed here.
The Daily demonstrates that newspapers, too, can do single issue special interest editions - on the iPad
Take a close look at any display of magazines on a newsstand and you will quickly see that the display is not totally made up of monthly magazines, but that quite a number of the titles are special issues, single editions produced to attract a subset of the audience. Better Homes and Gardens, Sunset are just a couple of the publications that have specializes in this type of single issue.
Newspaper, however, are not exactly known for their special editions. Sure, the special section has been the lifeblood of many newspapers, especially local newspapers, but these special sections are rarely sold to readers outside the main newspaper.
But tablet publishing allows nimble publishers to create and sell single issues with remarkable ease. A good example of this comes from The Daily, which released a commemorative app (can I trademark that phrase?) following the death of Elizabeth Taylor. The $1.99 app was released on Thursday, March 24, only one day following the announcement of her death.
(One question that immediately popped into my mind was "how did they get the app approved so fast?" A lot of developers have to be scratching their heads over that one.)
One has to assume that the News Corp. digital news property was prepared for launching such a product well in advance (and probably has worked directly with Apple concerning streamlining these products). Each special edition could experiment with price and format, and the creators can learn from each release.
These single editions are but one of the new revenue streams that open up thanks to mobile and tablet publishing. But they are only open to those companies that have developed internal teams for this kind of publishing. But for those publishers that have contracted this work out to third party developers, there are still some platforms that offer this kind of speed -- Kindle Singles, for instance.
NYT paywall goes live; while readers look for ways around the wall, the company offers one way to avoid paying
Is a paywall really a paywall if most readers don't see it? And is a paywall really a paywall when the company offers its own way around paying for access? We will begin to get answers soon as the NYT closes the door, metaphorically, starting at 2pm ET today.
For some 200,000 heavy readers of the New York Times website, the first breach in the wall came with a banner ad from Lincoln which offered free access to the newspaper's website and smartphone access free for the rest of 2011. (TNM quickly signed up.) It was a clear sign that the publisher, or at least the ad people, see the paywall as a marketing opportunity.
"We've been spending a lot of time with our media partners looking for ideas," Connie Fontaine, Lincoln marketing communications manager told AdAge last week. "Our brand is one that has a lot of great news and a lot to say but isn't always heard. The Times did bring us this idea and we thought it was really relevant to the brand for a lot of reasons. The type of reader we'll be able to engage through this program is a thought leader."
Whether the NYT continues letting advertising partners offer free access will probably be determined by the success the company has getting frequent readers to pay up. Call it Plan B, if you will. It is one of the reasons I am not 100 percent against the NYT experiment -- there is enough wiggle room in the plan to allow the publisher claim some level of success. After all, a cut in the price might spur buyers, using similar offers for advertisers is another approach. Or, it is possible that the plan will work as currently designed.
Unfortunately for the Times, these young, tech savvy readers are precisely who they would like to reach, the perfect target audience for their advertisers (ignoring their propensity to avoid paying). They are not, as Arthur Sulzberger Jr. recently told an audience last week "mostly high-school kids and people who are out of work” -- a remark he quickly regretted saying.
Another target audience, though, may be more willing to pay: the same group of readers attracted to the WSJ, highly paid professionals who may consider the new price simply the cost of doing business (and who will then end up writing off this expense, making tax payers foot the bill).
The adventure begins today.
Next, will we see a new NYT iPad app today? Or at least an update?