Friday, April 8, 2011

Final thought this week: ESPN app is tip of the iceberg

Or maybe it's not. But it is the issue of the moment for television providers, one that has been created by the creation of the iPhone and the iPad (and now Android phones, as well): who will be the ones allowed to create live programming apps, the program producers, or the content distributors?
With the launch of their iPhone app, WatchESPN, the Bristol, Connecticut sports network is now in the business of both content creation and distribution -- kind of, because the app will only work if you receive your television through Bright House Networks, Time Warner Cable or Verizon FiOS TV.

Meanwhile, Time Warner Cable and other television carriers are launching their own apps, generally iPad apps, but are getting plenty of push back from the networks, especially the major networks.

The reason is simple: the networks see that smartphones and tablets are another way to distribute their programming. With cable/satellite distribution you can negotiate a deal and try and cover the country, letting over the air handle the rest.

Imagine, for a second, that Americans decided that they wanted to watch their television programs inside movie theaters (crazy, I know). Who would the programmers negotiate with? The theatre chains, right? Well, I would imagine that the cable companies would argue that since they offer cable in the areas where the theaters reside that they have the right to deliver the content in that location. The argument is over whether the contracts involve only delivering programming to the television device, or the viewers location.

If device, then the programmers can negotiate new deals for new providers per device platform, or create their own apps. If location, then the cable companies are the ones who have that right.

It is a battle for the future of a new kind of programming distribution. The good news for consumers appears to be that everyone now (finally) realizes that consumers want their content everywhere (why are so many publishing executives so behind on this?). It is just a matter of letting the lawyers work things out (or the courts).

(Interestingly, the ESPN app skirted this debate by negotiating up front with the cable providers. In this regard, ESPN is siding with the providers, something the other networks disagree with.)

End of the week app round-up of miscellaneous media apps: wine, the wine country and cool hunting

In a week's time I download a lot of mobile and tablet apps that I never get around to writing about. Mobile apps have a hard time making their cut, so many are ways of reading content on the run -- better versions of a mobile website, but generally without interesting new features (like the new Talking New Media for iPhone app, which I am sure you have downloaded by now, right?). But media apps designed for the iPad are often more varied.

So now that it is the end of the week, and I can't think of a better way to wrap things up than to clear off my desk (so to speak) by clearing off my iPad. Here goes:

The first media app is a replica edition from Florida Weekly, or more accurately, a collection of replica editions. The serves the four editions of these free weekly tabloids produced by Florida Media Group LLC.: Punta Gorda / Port Charlotte, For Myers, Naples, and Palm Beach Gardens.

The free app opens to a dialogue box where the reader can choose their edition. The reader can move from edition to edition, if they choose. Beyond that, there is not much else here that differentiates this from print.

Produced and released by Our Hometown Inc., a website design and hosting company for small newspaper publishers, this is the first app to be launched into Apple's App Store. Unfortunately, it doesn't look like the company spent much time inside the developer website working on this app.

"View full page Florida Weekly editions for free on your iPad!" reads the app description -- the entire app description. No word on what those editions might be, or why you would want to read them on your iPad. Additionally, only one screenshot was included with the app.

Hopefully, the approval and release of this app caught Our Hometown by surprise and they will add more in the description field and all a screenshot or two. This can happen: one day Apple tells you your app is in the review process, the next minute you are told the status of your app has changed, and suddenly there it is inside iTunes. Changes then made to the description take a while to appear in the App Store so maybe the developer is adding material right now.

Cool Hunting, from the website of the same name, is something altogether different. It has been featured by Apple inside the App Store, and has received pretty unanimous praise from users, as well.

If you are not familiar with the website (or the app) it is a design reference tool. "Our global team of editors and contributors sift through innovations in design, technology, art and culture to create our award-winning publication, consisting of daily updates and weekly mini-documentaries," the app description says.

The app was created by Bond Art and Science which has a pretty funky website which you will either find fascinating or annoying (I think I lean towards annoying).

There is a lot here to explore so, since this app is free, I'd recommend downloading it yourself and taking it for a test ride when you have some leisure time. But if not, this promotional video will reveal a lot:

Cool Hunting iPad App v2.0 Demo from Cool Hunting on Vimeo.

Jaguar's first 2011 issue of its customer magazine an interesting take on the tablet publishing platform

Last fall I looked at the first iPad app released by Jaguar Cars Limited as part of an ongoing look at the automotive magazines being released by manufacturers. These customer publications are free from the monthly deadline grind, often with pretty healthy budgets, and no requirement that they one day turn a profit. Their goal is marketing alone.
Produced by the custom publishing division of Haymarket Market in the UK, that first tablet edition has been pulled from the App Store and in its place you will find Jaguar Magazine March 2011. Still free to download, the customer magazine is still a great ride, and very instructive for those publishers searching for an alternative look at tablet publishing.

This issue no offers both portrait and landscape. Instead, the app sticks to landscape, better to show off the video content embedded within. Like Project, Esquire and other new tablet editions, the magazine 'cover' (an increasingly outdated term, really they are 'splash' pages) is itself a video. In this case, however, Haymarket does not create layers like in the consumer magazines where text overlays the moving image, here is just a video of a blue XKR-S (prices start at $132,000, if you're interested).
The app is fairly simple in construction as it begins: full pages of content with scrolls to a secondary page. The navigation is smooth and the reader might get lulled into thinking this was a pretty minimal app.

The fun begins at the Jaguar E-Type story. It opens with a video and moves on to a series of photographs of the first E-Type Jaguar launched at the 1961 Geneva Motor Show. Again, development-wise, this really isn't terribly complex stuff -- after all, that first page is simply a video and what follows are static pages. But I still find it effective from a reader's perspective.

I admit that I am a Jaguar driver, and so may be giving this app more credit than it is due. But I have always found the tablet editions released from the auto companies to be more interesting than much of the consumer magazines released. I also find that they produce more good ideas for me, as well.

(I've just downloaded Atomix Mag which promises to be a tour-de-force compared to this more modest effort, but will I find it more enjoyable?)

Note to readers: Comments stuck in spam-blocker

Recently a few comments have gotten stuck in Blogger's spam blocker black hole. The spam-blocker is on by default and I have found it useful as this site, like many others, gets a fair number of comments that are attempts to sell mobile phones and other goods.

Google added the spam detection feature awhile back and I see no way to turn it off, so my apologies to those who have added comments to the posts and have had to wait hours (days) to see their comment appear online. I'll try and remind myself to check the spam folder a little more often!

Morning Brief: Jon Stewart says his goodbyes to Glenn Beck; budget talks stalled on social issues, not money

The news, whether financial, domestic or international, is hardly the kind you'd like to wake up to this morning.

So let's start with something a bit different this morning.

Here is The Daily Show's Jon Stewart riffing on the news that Glenn Beck, with Fox News for the past couple of years, is moving on:

Staring at a deadline less than 24 hours away, negotiators for House Republicans and Democrats admitted they were close, though still deadlocked as Republicans insisted that any deal included provisions that would end funding for Planned Parenthood, a prohibition on the use of federal or local funds to pay for most abortions in the District of Columbia, and restricting the regulatory powers of the Environmental Protection Agency.

Complicating the negotiations is the thought that the Republican leading in the house, Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, is not empowered by his caucus to compromise with the minority. When asked about whether he was in sync with the demands of Tea Party members in the House, Boehner argued that he was.

"Listen, there's no daylight between the Tea Party and me," Boehner said. "What they want is, they want us to cut spending. They want us to deal with this crushing debt that's going to crush the future for our kids and grandkids. There's no daylight there."

Another war well managed. NATO today admitted that it destroyed rebel tanks in another incident of "friendly fire".

"It would appear that two of our strikes yesterday may have resulted in the deaths of a number of [rebel] forces who were operating main battle tanks," the BBC reported Rear Adm Harding stating Friday.

The State Supreme Court election took another bizarre turn yesterday when Waukesha County Clerk Kathy Nickolaus reported that she had failed to report 14,315 votes in the city of Brookfield. The city leans heavily Republican and the suddenly discovered votes meant that the incumbent, Justice David Prosser, an ally of the Republicans, gained 7,582 votes over the challenger, JoAnne Kloppenburg.

The county clerk, Nickolaus, is a Republican who has a history of being caught up in controversy. In 2001 she was granted immunity in an investigation involving illegal political activity during state employment, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. In 2002 Nickolaus was accused of developing a computer software program to track campaign donations while a state employee.

Nickolaus appeared to get some support yesterday from Ramona Kitzinger, the Democratic Party representative on the Waukesha County Board of Canvassers. "We went over everything and made sure all the numbers jibed up and they did. Those numbers jibed up, and we're satisfied they're correct," the Journal Sentinel reported Kitzinger as saying.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

WoodWing announces that it will make its format open and free of charge in bid to make it standard; launches 'Open Format for Interactive Publications' website

Stating that it would like its tablet publishing format as much as a standard as the PDF format, WoodWing announced this afternoon that it will make its data format open and free of charge.

“Our mission is to serve the publishing industry,” Erik Schut, President of WoodWing Software stated in the company's press release.
As part of the announcement, WoodWing has launched a new website to promote "ofip", or "Open Format for Interactive Publications".

“Publishers will seriously benefit from standardization, as it avoids vendor lock-in and will allow to pick and choose different suppliers and technologies for the various parts of the supply chain. Both the tools to create your publication, as well as the reader apps for the various platforms can be chosen freely. Before making this decision, we have carefully analyzed the existing and upcoming standards, as well as proprietary formats. As our tablet publishing solution is currently the most mature and has the most extensive feature set, we came to the conclusion that our format is a good starting point for an open industry standard. Being XML-based, it’s easy to transform from and to other formats to allow quick and easy interoperability.”

Brazilian publisher Grupo Abril releases first tablet edition for its consumer magazine Arquitetura & Construção

For those who have not moved into tablet editions, either through contracting to use WoodWing's suite of publishing tools, Adobe's suite or those being offered now by Mag+, there are good examples now of magazines that have ported over their print magazines to the iPad without resorting to creating replica editions. Some try to create a virtual tour-de-force: throwing everything including the kitchen sink into their tablet editions. Others, like this new iPad app from Brailian media conglomerate Grupo Abril, are simpler, but create a great reader experience.
Arquitetura & Construção is a free app from the Portugese language publication of the same name -- a consumer home design magazine. The app creates a library into which future editions will be accessed. The first issue found inside can be downloaded for free, but future editions will cost $6.99 (a bit steep, maybe?).

As a reader, and as someone who doesn't read Portugese, I can look at a tablet edition like this from an interesting perspective: how easy is it to navigate? is it intuitive? do I feel comfortable in the platform and with the product? am I enjoying the experience?

Since Abril is listed as a WoodWing customer we can assume the production team here used their tools to create this tablet edition. The look and feel is familiar and fairly common to those magazines using this method of converting their print editions to digital. The first thing to look for is whether we will have a landscape mode here -- and we do.

Translation of the credits: Welcome to the first edition of Architecture & Construction for the iPad. Here you'll navigate through the content published in the printed version, as well as extra features such as videos, interactive photo galleries and interviews. Download this edition at no charge. The contents of the next issuer will be available in the App Store, Apple's application store for $6.99. Below, the team that brilliantly put this project on its feet: Julia Lima, Thiago Barcelos, Marize Sciessere, Manoel Vitornino Jr., and Celia Renata Rise Hanashiro (absent on photo).

There is only one ad in this edition, making it feel like a prototype issue. The ad, like the editorial, has both portrait and landscape creative. Since the app description says that this is the April 2011 issue, it appears that the production team chose to leave out the rest of the advertising -- it wouldn't have been paid for anyway, right?

I don't know if that was so smart, though. I would assume that at some point ads will start appearing in future issues, and since readers will have to pay to read those issues they may wonder why the free issue had no ads, but the paid ones do.

The Masters Tournament begins today; but iPad app, sadly, remains a buggy; too late for another update?

The Masters starts today, the first of the four "major" golf tournaments, and a sure sign of spring for many northerners. This year, as TNM wrote about last week, the organizers of the tournament have released a companion iPad app. The app was released in advance of the tournament, allowing the developers to work out some of the bugs in the app, and do some live tests of the video feeds.
Unfortunately, the app is not performing well, with stuttering video, crashes, and inconsistent performance. On the bright side, at $1.99, this app was a bargain, nonetheless.

This app is crammed with goodies, and a fully functioning app would have been worth a higher price point. But from day one users complained that much of what was described in the app description was not working. Users found that the video "flyovers" of the course at Augusta National were not working, some complained that their apps had no sound. Some of the problems may have been inherent in the video feeds -- for instance, if CBS had their cameras turned on, but were not broadcasting live, they may have dropped the audio.

Today, with the tournament starting, the app only features the play on a small part of the course. Meanwhile, ESPN is broadcasting the event live on television, and their feeds are not part of the app. Come Saturday, when CBS takes over the broadcast, more and more of the app will go live, allowing users to view the simulcast of the live television broadcast, as well as to watch the play on other holes.

Apple has demonstrated the ability to get updates through the system in a hurry when necessary. I wonder if another update, there have been two already, is possible, or whether this is it for 2011?

NYTs updates iPad app; but is it a dead app now?

In April of last year, when the first generation of iPads were on those UPS trucks being delivered, the first New York Times tablet edition hit the App Store. NYT Editors' Choice was one of the most anticipated apps for prospective owners of the Apple tablet, a reason by itself for buying the new device. On that launch day I rushed online a look at the first newspaper tablet edition, even calling it a "Review" -- I don't do that anymore.

That first look proved pretty accurate, if you ask me. I said it looked gorgeous -- "but even Talking New Media looks great on an iPad!" I said that Saturday.

Then I wrote: "But the Times app gives you the impression that this is an interim solution. By posting a free app that gives readers access to some content, they may be paving the way for a paid app, or a paid subscription app."

I was right about the "paid" part. In May, the Times announced that it would launch its metered paywall in early 2011. What became obvious later was that the first iPad was not thought through, it wasn't part of any real strategy but a compromised product that allowed the Times to claim it was leading the way, when it reality it was just going along for the ride.
Many iPad owners hated the app: it had limited content, it had little interactivity. But others were thrilled to be able to read the NYT on their tablets and not get their fingers dirty (just their displays).

One of those that hated the app, apparently, was Apple CEO Steve Jobs. According to reports, he wanted the NYT to be there at launch (they were) and he wanted a real product, something with limited content that looked awfully close to an RSS reader (which it is, after all).

Gawker's report, posted only one month after the first iPad launched, said that "some" NYT executives wanted to charge $20 to $30 per month for the iPad app. No doubt this was the view of the circulation folk who wanted to protect the print product.

Steve Jobs demos the NYT app, January 2010. Photo source: Gawker.

(This is one reason why I think the position of Circulation Director at newspapers need to change. There needs to be an audience development director position that sits over circulation, responsible for building readership across platforms. This person would promote readership not only to increase circulation revenue, but understand that audience also drives advertising, and that there is also money to be made from online readership, as well. You would think this would be the position of "publisher" but newspaper publishers appear to have very limited backgrounds -- they are print people in a multi-platform world.)

In the end, the iPad's launch was highly inconvenient. The Times had been moving towards a metered paywall strategy and along comes this new device that might change things. Rather than deal with the new reality, it appears that the original NYT iPad was a "punt". Eventually, the bad reviews inside the App Store were embarrassing enough to force the hands of executives and the app slowly added content over time. But the plan was still the same: built the online paywall and fit in the apps around the strategy.

Today the NYT has issued an update to its iPad app, a minor tweaking of the app that now allows readers to see article images even they are offline and other enhancements and bug fixes. But will it matter.

Morning Brief: Spain won't be Portugal, who won't be Ireland, who won't be Greece; meanwhile, back in the States ...; RTÉ offers free news video to newspapers

Spain's Economy Minister Elena Salgado told national radio station SER that her country will not follow the example of Portugal and seek a bailout from the European Union. Portugal joined Greece and Ireland in seeking assistance from European authorities in order to reduce their nation's debt.
Meanwhile, Greece revised its 2010 budget deficit to above 10 percent of gross domestic product.

Oh those silly Europeans. Thank goodness we Americans act like adults when dealing with our budget issues.

USA Today - President Barack Obama: "At a time when the economy is still coming out of an extraordinarily deep recession, it would be inexcusable -- given the relatively narrow differences when it comes to numbers between the two parties -- that we can't get this done."

ABC News - House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio: Listen, there’s no daylight between the tea party and me.”

Fox News - Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif.: "We don't need one Democratic vote," he said.

TPM - House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio: I want to reiterate that there's no agreement on the numbers. There's no agreement on the policy riders."

TPM - Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV): "I have confidence that we can get this done," he said. "We're not there yet. But hope lies eternal."

Irish state broadcaster Raidió Teilifís Éireann (RTÉ) is offering to give Ireland's largest newspapers free video news clips at no cost to the publishers, the Irish Times reports today. The move is designed to "defuse a row over the broadcaster’s commercial digital media activities."

According to the report, RTÉ will give video news clips, though those clips can not be edited or repackaged. The Irish Times report, though, does not mention if the newspapers could monetize the clips with pre-rolls or other advertising, or whether this offer would, in effect, create a giant new network for RTÉ.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Microsoft announces partnership with Toyota to invest about $12M in telematics, in-car Internet connectivity; Google plans on major overhaul of YouTube

Software giant Microsoft today announced it had entered into a partnership with Toyota Motor Corp. to form a partnership to build what it is calling "next-generation telematics services using the Windows Azure platform." The partnership promises to move forward the building of new in-car Internet-based telecommunications and entertainment systems for consumer vehicles.
The new Toyota car systems will use Microsoft's Windows Azure platform and will appear first in Toyota's electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles in 2012. The goal is to establish a complete global cloud platform by 2015 that will provide affordable and advanced telematics services to Toyota automotive customers around the world," Microsoft said in their press release today.

"This new partnership between Microsoft and Toyota is an important step in developing greater future mobility and energy management for consumers around the world. Creating these more efficient, more environmentally advanced products will be our contribution to society,” said Akio Toyoda, president of Toyota Motor Corp. “To achieve this, it is important to develop a new link between vehicles, people and smart center energy-management systems.”

The WSJ is reporting this afternoon that Google is planning a major site redesign at its YouTube video website.

The redesign would organize the video service by "channels" and to spend as much as $100 million on producing original programming for new premium channels.

The story claims that Google is trying to position itself "for the rise of Internet-connected televisions that allow people to watch online video in their living rooms, according to people familiar with the matter."

Google's own Google TV has struggled to gain a foot hold in the market, but Apple TV's service, which has performed better, includes YouTube as one of its main free services. The combination of iPad streaming, Apple TV and Google TV could make YouTube a giant in the programming distribution area if the company were to begin offering its own programming, or to offer premium channel spots to other content providers.

Good news, bad news on tablet sales: Apple's iPad 2 beating estimates, while rumors of slow sales for Motorola

With the first quarter now history companies will begin revealing their Q1 financial performance soon, but rumors are already circulating that the newly launched iPad is blowing out its numbers. Meanwhile, the WSJ is reporting that Deutsche Bank estimates that Motorola Mobility has sold only 100,000 Xoom tablets so far.
One bad report from an analyst usually doesn't mean much, but John Paczkowski quotes several analysts who are either lowering their sales estimates for the quarter or simply saying that things aren't going so well for Motorola's entry into the tablet market.

Over at Apple, the iPad 2 appears to be doing a bit better. DigiTimes Systems quotes suppliers who say that Apple took delivery of 2.4 to 2.6 million units in March -- delivery does not equal sales, of course -- but estimates are that Apple sold 300,000 iPad 2 units on its first day of sales.

Media executives should be cautious, however, by drawing too many conclusions from some analyst sales figures. Among tech writers the game is all about winners and losers, who is up and who is down. If the 100,00 figure for sales for Motorola is correct this would be disappointing for those who keep pronouncing Apple "dead in the water". But if true, it also means that Motorola has a shot at being the first manufacturer of a Honeycomb-driven tablet to sell one million tablets in a year. Before April of last year, such a sales figure would have seemed incredibly good.

On the other hand, Apple's continued success with the iPad is good news for those media executives and publishing service provicers who have been developing for the tablet. These new media apps will be available to a quickly expanding market, and many publishers will have gained a year's worth of development knowledge in the process; knowledge that will come in handy when Android tablets acquire a larger toe-hold on the market.

The only ones who will truly be mad about all this has to be those who continue to argue that newspaper and magazine publishers are making a mistake by developing for the iPad, arguing that web-based development is the way to go. They are beginning to look like dinosaurs.

Sometimes you can learn more from the 'losers' than from the 'winners'; but no one likes to write about the 'losers'

As usual, John Gruber of Daring Fireball found a story online that I found interesting. He pointed to this story on Call Me Fishmeal, a blog written by Wil Shipley, about software companies. One of the points of the story is that no one likes to write about the companies than don't make it, stating that "there are no magazine articles written in Fortune about all the guys who invested in ePizzaOnline and lost all their money."

He's right, of course. But his story is really about the software business, not the media business, but I immediately saw the media implications of this fact.
First, it is true that Fortune, or any other business magazine, and especially B2B magazines, don't like to right about the companies that don't make it. There are lots of reasons about this, but they pretty much boil down to cowardice. Few publishers will reward their editors for writing a downer article about some failed business -- even if readers want to learn from the failure of other businesses. Looking at the website of many B2Bs one will find only press releases and feature articles, designed to attract advertising and offend no one.

OK, for anyone with any experience in B2B publishing that is well known. But, and this is the second point, the same holds true of those who look at the media business.

Now, I am not talking about bloggers -- we all live on negative commentary, right? But what about the trade press, how honestly do they look at their own industries and examine the reasons why a company or publication has failed?

Politicians begin taking advantage of mobile and tablet platforms: Canada's NDP releases iPad app; first app from an official US presidential candidate released

Update: The Wisconsin Supreme Court race has, if you can believe it, tightened even more. As of 1:30 CT Assistant Attorney General JoAnne Kloppenburg now leads the incumbent David Prosser by 204 votes, according to the AP. All the votes, theoretically, are now in. Now it is on to the recount, I suppose.

Election time in the newspaper business used to mean a temporary revenue boost from all those print display ads from candidates. Radio and television, too, used to see huge bumps in revenue thanks to election time.

This is still true, but media fragmentation, combined with more direct marketing, has meant that the impact of an election cycle is now more muted.
With the rise of the Internet, candidates and their political parties could launch their own websites, but still have been dependent on the media to reach new and undecided voters by buying banners and buttons, and the like.

The growth of mobile media and tablet publishing doesn't significantly change things, only adds to the fragmentation. Political parties can release their own apps, as can candidates, but these are very much like party websites -- they generally reach those who are party loyalists.

The NDP, or New Democratic Party, if you will, of Canada has released its first app into the iTunes App Store. Called Jack Layton for iPad (can you "run" for "iPad"?), the free app is the official application for the Canadian political party, even though they are branding it with the name of their party leader. The app itself is fairly simple, but contains some good information. Not only does it give voters information on Jack Layton and the party's positions, but allows voters to input their district, or "riding" as it is called in Canada, to find their local NDP candidate.

As you expect from a political app from Canada, it is bi-lingual -- but for the life of me I couldn't figure out how to get the thing to display French. Since there are no complaints about this in the Canadian App Store I must be missing something here.
For those not caught up on Canadian politics, the next Federal election is May 2 and the Tories which currently run the government, are expected to win again as they are at 40 percent in recent polls.

For an American, one thing I can find refreshing about Canadian Federal elections is the mercifully short election cycle: no long primary season, followed by several months of solid campaigning. It is quite a contrast with the way things are done south of the border . . .

The App Store is not wanting for apps on political figures. There are several Sarah Palin apps,for instance. But none of these are "official" apps, possibly because as of today only one political figure has officially announced that they are running for president.

Well, that one candidate, the current president, has launched a universal app. Obama 2012 is a free (or course) universal app.

The app is not as useful as the NDP app, but part of the reason for this is that it has been released so far ahead of the November 2012 election. Because of this, the app can not work as support for other Democratic Party candidates -- since they have not been selected yet -- and the campaign would be hard pressed to start identifying specific issues it would like to stress.

But the app has other problems, as well. The biggest of these is that it is poorly designed, with text that does not fit onto the screen forcing the reader to constantly move the text around within its window.

I expect this app will either get a major update soon or be replaced by something altogether different. After all, the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary are still a long, long way off.

Morning Brief: SF Board of Supervisors approve tax break for Twitter, others; Wisconsin voting results still uncertain

An April election in an off-year would normally be considered minor, and largely ignored by the news media. But yesterday there were important elections in some parts of the nation -- none more watched than in Wisconsin.

But the tech community was watching a Board of Supervisors vote in San Francisco very closely. The Board voted yesterday on whether to grant a proposed tax break on companies located, or locating, to neighborhoods west of downtown. One of those companies located South of Market is Twitter, which currently employs 350 people, but has plans to create over 2,000 new jobs in the future. The company had threatened to move to Brisbane, on the Peninsula, south of The City.

Twitter got its tax break when the board voted 8 to 3.

"Central Market and the Tenderloin have been burdened with high vacancies and blight for decades and ... the payroll tax exclusion is a powerful tool that will help us bring in much-needed jobs, services and retail," San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee was quoted by

San Francisco charges a 1.5 percent business tax on employee compensation. This tax applies to companies with payrolls higher than $250,000. said the tax break could save Twitter $22 million in taxes over six years.

In what normally would have been a largely ignored vote in April, in an off-year election, voters in Wisconsin made it to the polls to vote in several contests that were a referendum on Governor Scott Walker's anti-union agenda. But getting the final results may take much more time than anticipated.

In what would normally be an uneventful vote to reconfirm a State Supreme Court Justice, voters selected between the incumbent Justice David Prosser and Assistant Attorney General JoAnne Kloppenburg. The race is supposed to be non-partisan, but interest groups on both sides of the Governor's agenda poured money into the race knowing that the make-up of the State Supreme Court could influence who wins major battles over legislation and recall efforts in the state.

As of this morning fewer than 600 votes separate the two candidates, with the incumbent, Justice David Prosser, holding the narrow lead. 1.4 million votes have been counted, 99 percent of the vote, meaning a recount is all but certain.

In Milwaukee County, in another nonpartisan race, Chris Abele defeated Jeff Stone for Milwaukee County executive, the position held by the current governor, Scott Walker, a Republican. The winner, Abele, was considered the Democratic candidate, while Stone was supported by the Republicans. In this race, at least, the vote was not close, with Abele winning 61 percent of the vote.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

A request for a template: redesign time at TNM

It has a little over one year and three months since Talking New Media launched. This website was launched as a way of communicating what I had learned in 30 years of newspaper, magazine and online publishing, while at the same time having a reason to learn more about the new electronic publishing platforms that had launched, or would launch.

But I made many bad choices when I launched this site -- no need to go through the long list right now.

But one thing for sure is that I am not really a "blogger", I'm a news man. But in the blogger format each story follows the previous one -- this is not the way a journalist would design a website.

So now I want to do a redesign, but one that will keep me on blogger -- at least for now. What I need is a template that has one spot at the top for a main story, with categories below. But I need the side columns similar to what is here now.

I have searched, and searched, and search -- but have been very unsatisfied with the results. The closest template I've found has a slideshow in the top spot that shows three to five pictures/stories. I need this spot to be a single story, probably its own category.

Anybody have any ideas?

[Oh, and by the way, I've received good news from Apple. I'll explain tomorrow.]

The dirty little secret why many publishers can't develop their own tablet editions: they got rid of the art directors

Playing around inside InDesign and in the Mag+ plug-in the past day or so has reminded me how much I've fallen behind in my magazine and newspaper production skills. I workin' it, but it is tough sledding.

The hands-on experience of doing the work yourself is a gentle reminder that many publishers are in the predicament they are in because they have slashed their production capabilities, along with their futures, when they began downsizing in order to maintain their profit margins. Now their profits are gone, as well as the very tools necessary to compete in the new electronic media environment.
I always admit that I was lucky to have worked in San Francisco during the early years of not only the Internet boom, but the years when desktop publishing developed to look like what we have today. QuarkXPress and Photoshop became the standard publishing tools used by the production staff and as a publisher I felt it important to at least learn rudimentary production skills -- better to communicate with the production managers and art directors.

In 1992, my publishing unit at McGraw-Hill was responsible for one publication plus its special editions. My production department, meanwhile, was made up of five or six people, a couple that were absolute desktop publishing wizards. Within a year we launched a magazine (to go along with our daily newspaper) and the staff absorbed the work without a hitch -- in fact, it became the real fun part of the job.

Today, the idea that a small magazine could have a half dozen people solely responsible for production is out of the question. Only the big consumer magazines have large production staffs.

At a media company where I was once a group publisher, one industry group has one art director spread over three magazines -- and that talented guy isn't even an employee, but an independent contractor.

Not surprisingly, publishers like that one are completely at the mercy of third party vendors when it comes to developing new digital publishing products. There is simply no way they can ask their current staff, assuming they have a current staff, to learn and then perform tablet and mobile publishing production.

Now before I get bombarded with emails from vendors, let me just say that I think there is certainly a place for outsourced production -- whether it is print magazine work, or digital. What is at issue here is corporate knowledge.

Media app updates: BtoB magazine (yeah, already), Google improves look of its iOS Books app

Ya gotta be kidding, I write about two apps this morning, and within a couple of minutes one app is updated and the other pulled. What a morning.
The BtoB magazine app, discussed just this morning, and was released on Friday, has already been updated. The update to this universal app really helps the experience on the iPad. Previously, the app opened to a splash page in portrait. But now the app opens, when in landscape, to a horizontal library page.

And although the app description doesn't mention it, it appears that the app now has notifications, as well.

Google has updated its Google Books universal app. The updated app has added landscape reading now which makes the app a far better experience. A number of other technical fixes are also included in the update including speed performance improvements, 3-D page turning (current iOS 4.3 required), and communications improvements.

I still prefer the Kindle app for reading on my iPad, as well as Apple's own iBooks app, but this update is a step in the right direction.

A look at two new apps from Texterity: one in the app store, BtoB magazine and, another now gone

As readers of TNM know full well, this site comes down pretty solidly on the native design side of the debate between those who advocate creating apps specifically for tablets, or whether to let third party vendors create replica editions. But the choices are not simply this-or-that as other issues come into play when deciding in which direction to go: budget and production capability questions are important, of course, as is the quality of the replica edition itself.
One digital services provider, Texterity, has over 100 apps inside the iTunes App Store now -- many are universal apps that can be used on both the iPad's larger display and also on the iPhone and iPod touch's smaller display.

I find these replica editions totally unreadable on my iPhone and don't really understand the idea of trying to cram a tabloid sized publication down to three inches.

In the case of the universal app for BtoB magazine, a free app from Crain Communications, the Texterity iPhone app includes an RSS feed-like text version of the articles, making it a bit easier to read.

This text feature is also found in the tablet edition, as well, and it is really a question of the quality of your eyesight as to whether it is needed. The BtoB app offers a bit more than other replicas thanks to the partnership between Texterity and The Wonderfactory, a digital media design firm that is the company behind iPad apps for Time Inc. and American Express Publishing. By introducing some WoodWing tools, the app would have more native app features than other replica editions. One of those features found in the app from BtoB magazine is Live Feeds area that bring in news from the media property's website.
What these replica editions also have, though, is that annoying page floating found in so many replica editions. The page floating occurs when the reader attempts to zoom into the page using pinch-to-zoom. The page enlarges somewhat but then tends to float on the iPad's display. You definitely don't want to be reading one of these after having a few drinks.

The other problem is that text legibility is not good: the app is produced at too low a resolution to be a comfortable reading experience. With glasses, I had no real problems in portrait mode, but landscape was out of the question.

In fact, replicas don't really work in landscape, in general. I would think that Texterity, with its partners at The Wonderfactory, might consider creating hybrid apps that feature a replica edition in portrait and a more native design, driven by RSS in landscape -- and they may be doing this already, though I haven't seen one yet.

I should note here that there is some debate among vendors about whether the term "replica edition" is a positive or a negative. Some companies don't shy from using the term, while others will raise a ruckus if you call them "replica edition" vendors.

I see the term as somewhat neutral. Working with a company like Texterity means starting out with print and moving towards a native app experience. Creating a native app means starting out with print content and creating a whole new product. Both approaches have their challenges.

It should be noted that Texterity is emphatic that these are not simply flipbooks: "Neither a PDF nor a web page, Texterity's digital editions offer publishers the advantages of higher circulation, increased revenue, stronger brands and readers coming back for more."

Another app released late last week from Texterity was for The Boston Globe Magazine. Strangely, however, the app is no longer in the iTunes App Store as of this morning.
I called the Globe to find out if the app had been pulled or whether there was some other issue. (See update below.)

As a side note: it is always interesting for me, someone who left the newspaper business back in the nineties, to get reacquainted with the way newspapers organize themselves. Let's just say that my experience is that newspapers are an example of making less with more. The teams responsible for creating editorial content are generally left out of the decision making process when it comes to digital, and the digital people are not in communications with the content creators.

The situation is even worse when it comes to the ad folk: my conversations with digital professionals at both newspaper and magazine companies is that the ad department is not a player when the time comes to discuss digital strategy.

In any case, I am not at all familiar with the staff structure at the Boston Globe, having never worked there -- my background in the newspaper trade is with Hearst, Copley, Lesher Communications (later Knight-Ridder) and McGraw-Hill (yes, McGraw-Hill produced daily newspapers, bet you didn't know that).

It's hard, therefore, to know what the strategy here is now that the app has gone missing from the App Store. Unlike the BtoB magazine app, The Boston Globe Magazine for iPad (Google cached link) this one was much more of a traditional replica edition. While the BtoB app had a banner ad promoting "Texterity + The Wonderfactory", the Globe Magazine app is without this.

The app opens with a small video window that contains what I would call a random video. This makes me wonder if the app had been released prematurely: either the staff was caught flatfooted, or the app was never meant to go into Apple's system at all.

I called the Globe and both the magazine's editor and a representative at were nice enough to call me back. They said they would look into the app situation.

Update: As I suspected, this app should never have appeared in the App Store at all, which is why you won't find it there now. It would terribly unfair to draw any conclusions about this app, its intentions, and the like, because it was not intended for public consumption. Having said that, I have it on my own iPad and I wonder how many others grabbed it before it was pulled?

Morning Brief: Feds looking into apps that share user information; Appeals Court dismisses 'net neutrality' lawsuits as premature; arrests in phone hacking case

No doubt that the John Galt crowd will see the move as government intrusion, but smartphone owners will probably applaud a move by the feds to examine whether mobile phone apps improperly reveal too much user information to their developers.
As noted late last week, Pandora has revealed in a Security and Exchange Commission filing that it has been issued a subpoena by a federal grand jury that is looking into information sharing being done by mobile phone applications. The company has been informed that it is not a target of the investigation, but part of a broad investigation into privacy issues.

At the very least, the hope is that developers will be more open with their users about what information they are revealing by using their apps, and possibly cut down on the practice when the user has not opted in.

Politico reported yesterday that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit on Monday has dismissed lawsuits brought by Verizon and MetroPCS that were challenging the FCC's recent rulings regarding 'net neutrality'. The court found that the lawsuits were premature as the rulings have not published its Open Internet Order in the Federal Register.

A spokesman for Verizon told Politico that once the rules are published they will file again.

The British phone hacking case has finally resulted in some arrests. The former editor and current chief reporter of the News of the World, a News Corp. tabloid, have been arrested for allegedly intercepting cell phone call voicemail messages, The Guardian reports this morning.

The ongoing melodrama has been news because it involves actions that occurred the recently resigned communications director of the ruling Tories was the editor of the News of the World.

The phone hacking scandal goes all the way back to 2006 when a News of the World editor was arrested and charged with hacking the phones of members of the royal family through accessing their voicemail and using information found for stories about the royals. Clive Goodman, the editor involved in this first incident eventually plead guilty and served four months.

But The Guardian was on the case and future revelations ensured. Then in September of last year the New York Times reported its own findings that included the allegation that Andy Coulson, who had left the paper for a roll in the Conservative Party government, knew about the phone hacking. This, plus other revelations, led to Coulson resigning as communications director this January.

The Epsilon data breach mess keeps claiming its victims. This morning Marriott sent out notices to its registered customers that their email addresses are out in the open thanks to the incident at the email marketing services firm.

The question on my mind is how many other companies are holding back on notifying their customers that they use Epsilon and that their email addresses have been compromised?

Monday, April 4, 2011

Livestation becomes AirPlay-enabled with new update

The online television streaming service LiveStation has updated its iOS app today. The update now makes the iPhone/iPad app Airplay-enabled, which means that owners of the app can now stream the video content to their Apple TV devices for watching on their television sets.
Livestation is a free app from the company of the same name that gives users the ability to watch live television on their tablet or phone from a limited, but important, selection of programmers such as Al Jazeera English, NASA TV, France 24, Press TV, BBC Arabic and others.

While the number of channels is small, Livestation is one of the few ways consumers in the US can watch Al Jazeera English which has proved itself invaluable in following events in Egypt, Libya and Côte d'Ivoire. The importance of making their app Airplay-enabled is that now there will be a way to watch these channels without having to rely on a cable or satellite provider since those companies currently do not offer this channel.

The app update also greatly improves the look of the app on the iPad. Previously the channel selection page only worked in portrait, showing that the app had been developed for the iPhone. The quality of the video streams is still fairly pixelated, but at least now the user does not need to turn their tablet around to watch content.

There is not a Livestation app currently in the Android Market, though I did find an Al Jazeera app in Google's app store.

Two reports show online business still has lots of room for growth; B2B online display advertising budgets stagnant

Two recently released marketing research reports reveal that while online advertising is enjoying strong growth compared to print, print continues to get an overweighted amount advertising compared to the medium's actual readership levels.

Despite good growth projections, eMarketer says that while US adults spend a little over 25 percent of this media consumption day online, only a little less than 19 percent of ad spending is targeted to online. Mobile media is also underweighted: 15.6 percent of media consumption is via mobile media, while ad spending on mobile makes up only 11 percent of the marketing dollars.

Newspapers and magazines -- print, that is -- are overweighted, according to the report: 8.1 percent of time is spent reading a newspaper, while newspaper get 16.5 percent of the ad dollars out there.

This phenomenon is probably the result of traditional buying habits as agencies and marketers are slow to move ad dollars from one medium to another. The raw numbers also do not measure ad effectiveness.

Forrester released a report two weeks ago that also revealed that B2B interactive marketers are also not moving dollars to online at a rate equal to the rate readers are moving to online media. According to the report, while 71 percent of B2B marketers are advertising online (display ads), this is considerable less than the 86 percent of marketers that are targeting consumers online.

Partially this can be explained by the more complex and longer sales cycle associated with B2B, but it is also reflects the rather poor job B2B publishers have done in developing and promoting their online properties. Forrester, though, says marketers have their doubts about the effectiveness of B2B online display ads.

Not surprisingly then, few B2B marketers are planning on increases to their online budgets in 2011 - only 13 percent according to Forrester, though overall spending is expected to increase this year by over 6 percent. The emphasis was added to show that at least in the area of B2B marketers are not putting their dollars where the readers are heading.

I should add a note here, however: I have not read the report, which costs $499 on the Forrester website, so I am relying on second hand accounts of the report. Having said that, their own findings are consistent with my own experience talking to B2B brands and their agencies.

Engadget-AOL story shows danger of acquisition strategy

This is a retweet of sorts of the excellent David Carr column appearing today in the New York Times. It recounts the story of AOL's website acquisition strategy, and how, especially in the case of Engadget, it doesn't always work out.

A little background: Engadget was launched in 2004 and was purchased by AOL as part of a larger acquisition of Weblogs Inc. Edited by Ryan Block, then Joshua Topolsky (and it was just announced, Tim Stevens). Now, however, Topolsky and much of the staff has or is leaving the AOL property for a new venture -- you can read all the details in Carr's story.

But this whole saga very much reminds me of other New Media acquisition strategies including that at some newspaper companies. The idea is that in order to acquire New Media cred it is is necessary to buy New Media properties. Those on the outside usually means the death (or at least the decline) of that New Media property.

Bonnier releases Mag+ tablet publishing tools for use by publishers; software works with Adobe Air, InDesign

Magazine publishing firm Bonnier has announced that it is spinning off Moving Media+ and that the new separate company has released its Mag+ tablet publishing system for use by other publishers.

To get started a publisher needs to visit the website (you can click on the logo here in this story) to register with the company. After confirming your contact information you will soon be downloading the MagPlus software.
The installation instructions are included in the download, but are fairly simple: the users must have the latest version of Adobe Air, and should keep the MapgPlus folder on their desktop in order to then install the plug-in into Adobe InDesign's plug-in folder. Then the user continues by installing the MagProd file as well as the iPad Reviewer file (very easy, believe me). Other than registering your iPad with the Mag+ team in order to activate the device for app reviewing, that is about it. An installation and application introduction PDF are included with the software.

"Mag+ puts creative people back in the driving seat – where they belong, Fredrik Strömberg, Moving Media+ Head of Concept said in the company's announcement. "Now designers and editors can get on with the business of producing beautiful work on tablets, without relying on the technical side of the house at every step.”
Publishers who use the application pay at the end of the process, when they are ready to launch their magazine app. The cost is $2500 and allows the user to publish for five months. After that, the cost is $500 per issue, or $500 per month for unlimited publishing.

For entrepreneurial publishers, the cost will be a bit of a burden until they get up to speed. But for small to mid-sized publishing houses, the platform might be a good deal, especially if the cost is spread over multiple titles.

Bonnier is using the platform on its titles Popular Science+, Transworld Snowboarding+, while IDG’s MacWorld is also on the platform.

Marketing firm Epsilon discovers its data files have been compromised; companies scramble to inform customers

Customers were informed yesterday and this morning that their email addresses are now out in the open following a breach in security at Epsilon, a marketing services firm. Customers of such companies as Chase, Best Buy, Kroger, Capitol One, Citigroup, Ameriprise and Barclays are scrambling to notify their customers that their email addresses have been accessed. The U.S. College Board is also a customer of Epsilon and this morning informed students that have signed up at the website to take the SAT that their information has been accessed.

The breach is being called the biggest email security breach in US history.

Many of the customer notices are almost identical: Barclays Bank of Delaware issued a press release stating that its vendor Epsilon has informed them that "someone 'outside their company' gained unauthorized access to files in their systems that included a large number of email addresses," the bank said in its statement.

Chase send emails to customers stating that "Epsilon, vendor we use to send e-mails, that an unauthorized person outside Epsilon accessed files that included e-mail addresses of some Chase customers."

Epsilon conducts email marketing campaigns for hundreds of customers, sending out billions of marketing emails each year. According to a statement issued by Epsilon on Friday, the company became aware of the security leak two days earlier on March 30.

Cablevision launches first iPad app that takes a different approach to delivering live television programming

While Time Warner Cable continues to battle negotiate with their programming partners on the issue of channel streaming for their iPad apps, Cablevision has released its first iPad that takes a slightly different approach. As a result, the Optimum for iPad app will allow users to view all their channels plus on-demand programming.

The free uses a "Advanced Digital Cable" television network to deliver programming to the iPad, rather than streaming. In essence, the application simply turns your iPad into another television set. The advantage, in theory, is that Cablevision believes this way of delivering live television is consistent with existing distributions agreements.
"Cablevision has the right to distribute programming over its cable system to iPads configured in this way under its existing distribution agreements with programming providers," Cablevision's press release explains.

“This application allows the iPad to function as a television, delivering the full richness and diversity of our cable television service to a display device in the home,” said Tom Rutledge,
Cablevision’s chief operating officer.

The disadvantage of taking this approach is that the iPad is anchored to the home environment through your WiFi network, though those will a bit of technical knowledge could construct a workaround. Nonetheless, what many consumers are asking for is the ability to view live programming on their mobile devices outside the home -- without adding another large cost.

“This is the future of Advanced Digital Cable televisions served with virtual set-top boxes, and just one of many digital displays we are going to be serving through a variety of applications,” Rutledge said in the company's statement.