Friday, April 15, 2011

TGIF: Wired makes its May iPad edition free to download; Instapaper releases update; Eine kleine Nachtmusik

With its May issue, Wired will have published a full year worth of issues on the iPad. And its been a roller coaster year with sales of its first issue very encouraging, and then not so encouraging. We'll see if "sales" of the May issue spike because it has one advantage of the previous 11, it is being offered for free.
"Sure, this will save untold thousands the $4 readers have to pay for a single issue for the Apple tablet," John Abell writes on the Wired website. "But merrily giving Wired away for the month of May is also apt to only increase the frequency of the number-one question Wired gets about the app — When will you start offering subscriptions, already!?"

Unfortunately, Abell can't provide an answer to that question.

The May issue is being offered free because "the promotional tab is being picked up by Adobe". That is pretty strange language to use. As a publisher, it would mean that Adobe is giving Condé Nast a make-good. Or it could meant that they are trying to reenergize the brand, after all, the first issue of Wired hit in at the end of May, in time for the international launch of the original iPad. Now iPad 2 is out, so maybe it is time for a new promotion – like a free May issue.

The May issue is available from within the iPad app, which serves as a library app where readers can buy, read and archive tablet editions.

Developer Marco Arment updated his Instapaper iOS app today (iPhone here, iPad here). The update includes a new in-app, offline dictionary that includes more content and longer definitions. The new updated app also includes a new full-screen image viewer (screenshot at left).

Instapaper is, of course, one of those essential apps that any first time buyer of a tablet should get. For me, it is the perfect tool to use when working on posts and coming across material that I would like to read, but know that now is not the right time. The app is $4.99 in the App Store.

Back with Talking New Media was first launched my last post of the week would always be Photoblogging Friday. The post was my version of cat blogging, a tradition of posting pictures of your cat credited as being started by Kevin Drum, then publishing his own blog at Calpundit (now at Mother Jones).

I don't own a cat, and dog blogging seems silly for a media site, so Photoblogging Friday. That is why in the Labels section to the left you'll see that there are 24 entries for PbF. It died when the site was put in mothballs for a short while, and not resurrected when the site became live again. The reason was simple: no one seemed to read the PbF entires, and no one commented on them. Many of the posts were written by Dean Brierly, a school chum from high school and college, and the publisher of Photographers Speak, as well as two other sites.
Too bad, those were some of the best early posts that appeared here. But it was, I guess, too off topic. But today it's time to start a new tradition kind of related to PbF. I've decided to feature something – music, film, books – something different.

So here is entry number one, a music recommendation: the new CD from the Marcin Wasilewski Trio, Faithful.

This is the third CD release on ECM for the Polish trio: Marcin Wasilewski, piano; Slawomir Kurkiewicz, double-bass; Michal Miskiewicz, drums.

Now like a lot of material that appears on ECM, this, too, might seem like nocturnal music (hence, the headline), but this is a very talented group of musicians who create intense as well as reflective music. The title track is an Ornette Coleman piece, but the track that grabbed my attention was "Night Train to You" a self-penned number.

The trio, until recently, were part of the Tomasz Stańko Quartet. The ensemble released three CDs on ECM: Soul of Things, Suspended Night and Lontano. Each are worth investigating.

Trumpeter Stańko, a Polish born veteran of the European jazz scene, really was reborn when working with the young trio; similar to what occurred when Charles Lloyd began playing and recording with Michel Petrucciani in 1981, though they were together for a far shorter time than was the Tomasz Stańko Quartet.

Hearst's Esquire magazine: Zinio and iPad editions

Readers know a magazine's brand and rightly or wrongly assume that picking the latest copy of a magazine, no matter what the format or platform, will be a consistent experience. This, of course, is no longer the case as publishers move their content from one platform to another.

Replica edition makers sell the idea that a reader wants their digital version of a publication to be exactly like print edition, then publishers see that their print editions don't look the same in print as they do on a 9.7 inch display, or a seven inch display, or a 3.5 inch display.
The April issue of Hearst Communications' Esquire show the difficulties of moving from one platform to the other. The tablet edition, priced at $4.99 in the App Store, gives readers the issue in portrait mode only, saving iPad owners a bit of storage space, but giving the reader a very different version of the magazine than either print, or the electronic version from Zinio.

The Zinio version of Esquire does not contain the kinds of enhancements found in Zinio versions of say National Geographic. The folk at Zinio are rightfully proud to show off the efforts of publications that take their flipbook versions of their magazines seriously by adding interactive content. But the fact is that the majority of publishers continue to let their digital publishing vendors do the work, adding very little to the electronic versions that either sit on their own website as flipbooks, or go into digital newsstands like that offered by Zinio.

What the desktop and iPad version of Zinio editions can offer, however, is landscape mode – a chance to see the two-page spread ads the way they were meant to be seen. Things get complicated in the Zinio app, however, as the app works in both portrait and landscape.

Left-top: the Zinio edition in portrait cuts off half the layout; Middle: the landscape version of the layout in the Zinio edition shows the complete two-page spread; Right-top: the iPad edition, with only portrait mode available, forces a new layout.

Esquire solves this in their app by pulling the print ads and inserting only ads that are designed to be seen in portrait and add interactive material.

For feature layouts, however, things tend to get complicated. In print, the Matthew McConaughey feature is a beautiful spread. On your laptop, signed into your Zinio account, the digital version really pops, no center binding to get in the way of the experience. On the iPad, however, how you see this completely depends on whether you have your tablet in portrait or landscape.

In the iPad edition, however, the art director knows the reader will only see the layout in portrait and is forced to start over.

As a reader each format of Esquire has its drawbacks and advantages: print is mobile, heavy, static; flipbooks (without enhancements) are mobile, static, and variable; the iPad version is limited, interactive, and hard to navigate.
Hearst is not using Apple's in-app subscription services and have not created a "library" app for Esquire. That means that each month readers have to download a new issue through the App Store rather than through the Esquire branded app. Hearst has built in notifications into the app, presumably to tell readers when the next issue is available, but opening the last month's app won't get them to the next issue.

The disadvantage is obvious: the app becomes simply a driver of single copy sales. Hearst, however, offers readers an 11 issue subscription for only $8 in the Zinio newsstand online.

The advantage of individual apps is that each issue gets noticed in the App Store at release, if only for a couple of days. Nonetheless, I doubt Hearst is selling many iPad editions based on the number of reviews inside the App Store. Readers feel abused by a $4.99 price, despite the high costs to produce that first app edition.

Les Habs win! and then this morning their fans get a new iPhone app courtesy of the Montreal Gazette

To say that the people of Montréal love their hockey team, the Canadiens, would be a bit of an understatement. Only in Montréal would there be a riot over a first round win in the playoffs. Watch out if Les Habs actually win the Cup this year.
Last night the Canadiens beat the Boston Bruins in the first game of the first round of the playoff – and I might add, the Sharks squeaked by the L.A. Kings last night, as well – and this morning the English language newspaper, The Montreal Gazette announced that their hockey app had made it into Apple's App Store.

Hockey Inside/Out is a free app from the Postmedia Network owned daily. It is an RSS driven app that has the latest news and photos at the Canadiens, well as video, box scores and the blog of Mike Boone.

Probably the best feature is that, once you have signed in, you can comment on stories – sports fans love to comment, that's for sure. There is also social network sharing of stories, as you would expect from a modern mobile app.

The app appears to have a single sponsor, Subaru, whose name appears on the splash page, and has banner ads throughout the app. The single sponsor idea remains one of the best ways to launch a new app where the total number of downloads and users is hard to determine. Also, launching an app at the beginning of the post season is a bit tricky. I have seen at least one app released by a media outlet for a football team that then did not make the playoffs. App development usually take a bit of time, so planning ahead and launching in time for the start of the season seems like the best strategy – the Boston Herald's Baseball app being the best example of that so far (though that would have meant that development of this hockey app would have had to start in the summer).

I love the screenshots in the App Store showing the carrier, Rogers. As you can see on my own screenshots, my reception in my office is sometimes not the best!

Left: the video page; Middle: Mike Boone's hockey blog with Subaru banner ad; Right: the log-in page for commenting and story sharing.

Rant: Do the aggregators even read what they aggregate?

A few days ago the AP got caught picking up a story that said that General Electric would repay a $3.2 billion tax refund – the story which picked up from another source was, of course, a hoax.

This morning I opened an email to find a story about a "recent" study of tablet and eReader users which asked "Are publishers paying attention to what consumers want from iPad magazines and newspapers?"

I received the same study and think its findings are of value. But, in the end, there was no way that I was going to do a post about a study that was conducted last September, a mere five months after the iPad was first introduced, and now read five months after the data was collected. At that time there were, at most, six million iPads in circulation. Since then another ten million original iPad have been sold, the iPad 2 introduced, and new tablets from Samsung and Motorola brought out, as well. That doesn't make the study worthless, it simply makes the findings old.

(As an example, the story quotes the author of the study as saying that "as many as" 15 million more tablets and eReaders will be sold in 2011. Yesterday Mobile Burn reported that Apple is now expected to exceed its original sales estimate for 2011 by 15 million units, selling "between 40 million and 45 million pads throughout 2011.")

There is no need to go on about the story. But that it was passed on in such a manner is what makes matter worse. Even a cursory review of the story would have led to the tablet sales quote and the sure sign that the information was outdated. But that is the nature of much of the aggregation that goes on, and its advocates continue to insist that this is the future. God, I hope not.

Morning Brief: AP to change formula for determining fees as agency pursues new revenue; Facebook wants you!

The Associated Press, the much maligned and resented American news agency released two statements yesterday about their attempts to grow revenue. The first announced that it will change the formula for determining the fees its charges its media customers, the second involved the hiring of a former ABC News executive to lead an independent agency created to grow revenue from licensing.

Starting next year, the AP said it will being charging its fees based on the size of the newspaper's print and digital audiences. The change is an obvious effort to make sure that as readers move from print to digital the AP is still getting paid. The statement failed to say how this in anyway will be of benefit to its customers. In fact, the statement puts the blame for AP's declining revenue squarely on the shoulders of its customers saying that the cause of its revenue woes "has been AP's decision to lower its rates during the past two years to help newspapers cope with a sharp drop in advertising revenue."

See, all you publishers, its your fault that the AP reported a loss of $14.7 million last year.

The language here reminds me of the US Postal Service, which yearly complains about its revenue woes, and each year appears to want to drive its publishing customers out of business.

The second AP announcement was that it is bringing on David Westin, the former president of ABC News, to lead a new agency designed to generate revenue by licensing news content for online customers.
The agency doesn't appear to be designed to create any new products, but to make online sites pay for the news they take from the AP. The AP statements says that "customers include websites that run or excerpt content from those news providers without paying for it." This has to be the strangest definition of a "customer" that I have heard of.

One would guess that the AP is attempting to build an RIAA model, where its real for being will be to harass bloggers and aggregators into pay for anything they believe originated from an AP source.

Sounds like its time to stop quoting the AP.

Meanwhile, CNN writer Mark Millan reports that Facebook wants to "friend" reporters and news organization in order to attract more news content to its News Feeds. The social networking site has hired Vadim Lavrusik away from Mashable, where he had been a community manager.
Lavrusik appears to be the right guy for the job. In his background is some work with social media for the NYT. He is also an Adjunct Professor at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism where he teaches social media skills. Lavruski is also the founder of the Community Managers Meetup, according to his website.

Question: looking at the two pictures here, which guy do you think would be more likely to come into your office and talk to you ways to grow your business, and which guy is likely to come in with a group of lawyers trailing behind?

Thursday, April 14, 2011

It's been a really good day for Flipboard: issues update with pages from Oprah, Rolling Stone and others, and gets $50M in funding at valuation level of $200 million

How good a day has it been for Flipboard co-founders Mike McCue and Evan Doll? Today the WSJ's Kara Swisher revealed in an interview with McCue that the start-up has secured a $50 million round of funding at a valuation of $200 million.
The investors are a pretty well known group, led by Venture Partners. Other investors include Comcast’s venture arm, according to the WSJ story, as well as Kleiner Perkins, Index Ventures and some big name angel funders.

"With this funding, we can grow at the right pace and have a lot of flexibility to get the product right,” McCue is quoted in the interview. (Ya think? I guarantee you that there are plenty of TNM readers who think $50 million would help them get their products right.)

As for the iPad update, I was pretty impressed with that until I read about the funding. Flipboard is getting some big content players onboard: Oprah, Rolling Stone, Wire, Elle and others.

Their update also incorporates Instagram, a new photo sharing service with its own iPhone app. Instagram allows users to share photos with friends for free, and to follow their friends through photo sharing. The branded app is one of the most popular in the App Store.

With the media deals and the massive infusion of funding, Flipboard is moving well beyond the "that's an interesting app" stage, and fast.

Heads-up iPhone and iPad owners: you have a minor update waiting for you when you plug into iTunes

Apple released a couple of updates today, one for consumers, the other for developers. Owners of iPhones or iPad will find the update in iTunes.
The iOS update is relatively minor in that it does not add any new features, but instead fixes some issues with FaceTime call freezes and issues that caused difficulties for some iPad users outside the US connecting to 3G networks.

In the US, the update will only be found it your carrier is AT&T – Verizon users remain on a separate track when it comes to iOS updates.

Apple also released a new version of its Xcode development software. Xcode 4.0.2 was also a pretty minor update, though for users that have encountered errors it might be important to them. Xcode can be found in the Mac App Store.

The Gainesville Sun goes in a different direction from its fellow NYT Regional Media Group daily in Santa Rosa

At the end of last week I did a quick round-up of some miscellaneous media apps that had been released. One of those apps was a tablet edition from the Santa Rosa Press Democrat that I found mind numbingly bad. Produced by a flipbook vendor, it is just a mistake in every way imaginable – and that it was from a newspaper that is part of The New York Times Regional Media Group only made the app more inexcusable.
Well here is another one from the Regional Media Group and it goes in the opposite direction. It is a limited, though natively designed iPad app: The Gainesville Sun for iPad. This app is pretty much identical to the original NYT Editor's Select app released one year ago by the Times. The look is the same, the navigation is the same.

From a reader's perspective, the new app from The Gainesville Sun is by far a more enjoyable reading experience. But because the content is identical to the website one does wonder at the necessity for the app.*

From a publisher's perspective, both app are head scratchers: neither will drive much revenue, though the iPad edition of The Sun does have a banner ad along the bottom. One might argue, however, that The Sun's app can now be updated to include more interactive features, maybe its magazine which currently resides on its website as a flipbook produced by Zmags.

It should also be noted that The Sun's app is identical to that produced for the third NYT regional newspaper to have a tablet edition, The Ledger, from Lakeland, Florida.

As a former publisher, I appreciate the idea that individual publishers could pursue separate digital publishing solutions, but I would also think that a group approach could have prevented the mistake that was the Santa Rosa app. No newspaper only two hours down the road from Silicon Valley should have used a flipbook maker to produce a newspaper tablet edition, not unless they were drunk on the local product – which is, by the way, usually excellent.

* Another comment about content: why is it that the imaginations of those involved in the editorial content of these digital products appears to limited? With the resources of both the NYT and fellow newspapers, one would think that the question could be asked 'what new content can we bring into this new digital product?' Additionally, there is the question of both aggregated content and content that could be brought into the product from partnerships with bloggers and other electronic outlets. Instead, the material already in the content management system appears to the beginning and the end of the discussion. And don't get me going again about ad content like local retail and classified!

Geek report: a look at some TNM website stats

Every once in a while it is nice to do a little navel gazing and share some of the site stats here, they are often rather surprising.
Looking at the operating systems of readers of Talking New Media I suppose it shouldn't be a surprise that most readers are accessing the site through a device using Windows. But the Mac OS accounts for almost 40 percent of readers, and when iOS is included the numbers almost, but not quite reach Windows.

Over ten percent of TNM readers are now accessing the website via an iPad, no other tablet registers at this time. iPhone users of the website are less than one percent, but that is probably because they are being diverted to the mobile site, which is hosted by MoFuse, and so are not registering unless they intentionally select the option to return to the regular website.

Lastly, over 28.6 percent of all readers of TNM are using Safari to access the site, the number one browser thanks to both Mac and iPad users. Number two is Firefox at 27.5 percent, and Chrome is now the third most used browser, at just over 20 percent. Internet Explorer has dropped to fourth, though almost exactly at the same level as Chrome.

Patch releases iPhone app for its network of local news sites; local directory is the key to making app essential

For a little over a year I have been banging the drum for classified and retail advertising inside mobile apps. Sadly, the newspaper industry is going through a content-is-king era where the only thing of importance to the New Media community seems to be "content".
As I've written before, my perspective, and therefore that of Talking New Media, is different because not only do I hold a "J" degree, but spent most of my newspaper career on the advertising side. To me, content is not only the sports section, but it is (was) the used car ads, the ads from local retailers – it's all content.

Talk a look at most mobile apps, the focus is entirely on editorial content. Those apps, such as those developed by industry digital publishing vendors like DoApp, offer additional features such as weather or traffic via Google Maps. This makes these far more useful than simple RSS readers.

Take the Chicago Tribune iPhone app: attractive design, a decent amount of editorial content, but absolutely no business model that says "here's a new profit center". The perfect product produced by the ivory tower that is modern journalism.

Patch, the local network of news sites that has been at the center of AOL's news content strategy has today released its first iPhone app. The free app is officially released by Patch Media Corporation – anything labeled "AOL" would probably be bait for App Store reviewers ready to pounce.

The app offers nothing that can't be found on the numerous Patch websites, but I would argue that what is inside this first mobile app – there will be an Android version released, as well – works better on a mobile device, and blows away most mobile news apps from the mainstream media.

The design of the app is too cute by half, using the company's sickly green colors, etc. The user is immediately asked if the app can use its location. The usual response from me would be to say "no", but this is a local news app, right? Hopefully users will respond positively, otherwise, they will have to search for their local edition. This is not difficult, however.

Inside users get access to all the Patch editions. Since this app, like others, are driven by databases of content, this is easily accomplished, and using the "Patch" name rather than the full local news site name (Grayslake Patch, for instance) brands "Patch".

The centerpiece of the app is the directory content. No different than what can be found online, this content is far more useful to mobile users here, on their iPhones, than online via the website. It is also the best revenue stream Patch has going to it right now, their local display ad sales being pretty anemic (in most locations).

I've made two animated GIFs to show you the news and directory app mapping. The directory design is simple and effective, and with all the same content as can be found online including the MapQuest derived map.

I haven't been a big fan of the Patch approach so far, and I certainly don't agree with the idea of making the profession of journalism a small promotion above Walmart greeter, but this iPhone app – albeit, very late in coming – is a major step in the right direction, both for Patch and for news organizations. (Wow, what a poorly structured sentence!)

If had to bet, I would guess that the newspaper industry will continue to be late in responding to mobile and tablet app development. I remain pessimistic.

Creating an app is not the same as having a good mobile media strategy – despite what the vendors try to sell you. If you can't figure out how to make money at mobile retire, hire me, or get reading, but don't just put out an app. And, for God's sake, don't just put two editors together in a room when you are making your mobile decisions. Bring in your ad people, too. If their answers aren't satisfactory, then you have the wrong people there, as well.

Condé Nast Digital Britain releases its first tablet edition for LOVE Magazine with, well, a bit of a problem

During my days in advertising in the newspaper business it was fairly common for some small business to think itself really creative by submitting to the paper an ad that was to be printed upside down. The client was always surprised to learn that we had a policy against such ads. Almost always the client backed down and the ad would run right-side-up. Then, of course, weeks later we'd get a call from the client asking why his ad was rejected but the ad on Page X was allowed to run upside down – we'd sheepishly explain that the ad in question wasn't supposed to run that way but was the result of a production error.
I was reminded of this today when I opened up this app from Condé Nast Digital Britain. With my iPad in landscape the app opened up to an animation that was, I thought, upside down. Oops, I thought, I better grab my iPad and make the accelerometer adjust. Nope.

OK, let's delete the app and see if it was an install issue. Nope. So I opened up other magazine apps to confirm that this wasn't the fault of my tablet, they were fine. Yikes. (Just as bad is the introductory music that sounds like an old cassette left out in the sun too long.)

Since this app has zero reviews in either the US or UK app stores, I don't know what's going on here. But if your publication ever gets an ad from Condé Nast you might want to warn them that you have a policy against upside down ads.

Morning Brief: BlackBerry PlayBook reviews lukewarm, at best; Huffington responds to blogger lawsuit in online post

I have found that most of those who are hoping for the rise of an iPad killer are mostly fans of Android, so it shouldn't be surprising that RIM is discovering that the early reviews of its BlackBerry PlayBook are not overwhelmingly positive.
Leaving aside the "my side versus your side" aspects of tech writers, a common theme among reviews is that the lack of apps for the webOS platform severely restricts the tablet's usefulness, as does the essential features that depend on owning a BlackBerry phone.

PC World: "To say that Research in Motion's BlackBerry PlayBook is a study in contrasts is an understatement. After extensively testing a PlayBook ($500 for 16GB of storage, $600 for a 32GB version, and $700 for 64GB) that was running not-quite-final software, I'm impressed by its convenient size and novel navigation, but I found the tablet's sometimes primitive native software and selection of apps frustrating."

Wired: "RIM is banking that those who bemoan the loss of screen real estate will use the tablet as a media hub for larger devices. You can drag and drop media files from your desktop to the PlayBook the same way you'd move files to a USB flash drive. You can also transfer files wirelessly over your local network."

NYT: "Finally, there’s a wild, wireless Bluetooth connection feature called BlackBerry Bridge. In this setup, the PlayBook acts as a giant viewing window onto the contents of a BlackBerry phone. Whatever e-mail, calendar, address book and instant messages are on the BlackBerry now show up on the PlayBook’s much roomier screen — a live, encrypted two-way link...

But — are you sitting down? — at the moment, BlackBerry Bridge is the only way to do e-mail, calendar, address book and BlackBerry Messenger on the PlayBook. The PlayBook does not have e-mail, calendar or address book apps of its own. You read that right. R.I.M. has just shipped a BlackBerry product that cannot do e-mail. It must be skating season in hell. (R.I.M. says that those missing apps will come this summer.)"

I'm not sure lawyers like it when you take to the Internet to respond to a lawsuit, but when the website has your name on it I suppose you have that prerogative.

Last night Arianna Huffington responded to the lawsuit filed by Jonathan Tasini that seeks reimbursement for bloggers who contributed to the Huffington Post website prior to its acquisition by AOL.

Huffington takes down Tasini's claims mostly by quoting others who have commented on the merits of the lawsuit, but I think she intentionally missed the real issues involved in the lawsuit.

“We are going to make Arianna Huffington a pariah in the progressive community,” Tasini is quoted by Jeff Bercovici of Forbes as stating during a conference call. “No one will blog for her. She’ll never [be invited to] speak. We will picket her home. We’re going to make it clear that, until you do justice here, your life is going to be a living hell.”

You can judge Huffington's column on its own merits, but she does not mention the fact that many who wrote for, or read, Huffington Post, or saw her on MSNBC, no longer view her brand as a positive. The price she will pay for being acquired by AOL may, in the end, not be measured in page views, but in the dwindling number of times she is called upon to represent a point of view. Of course, there is always Fox News.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Carson Magazine, created by the art director of Ray Gun, to launch in May; no digital edition, just print

It's not often that I get press releases for print products -- the name Talking "New Media" pretty much says it all. But I happy to talk print, too – I am certainly not part of the "print is dead" crowd.
So it was nice to be informed that David Carson, award winning designer and the former art director of Ray Gun, is launching a new magazine in May called ... you got it, C A R S O N.

Alex Storch is the editor-in-chief of the Los Angeles based magazine. The plan is to publish six issues in 2010, starting with a May/June issue, then a July/August issue, then monthly after that. The magazine will cost $7.99 at the newsstand, with a subscription price of $35.

If you've never seen Carson's TED talk, it is worth the 20 minutes because of Carson's sense of humor.

As for it being a print magazine, Leonora Alexandra Nielsen, Carson’s chief global strategist said in the release "it's not about being retro. With C A R S O N, we are pushing forward.  People want quality they can hold and touch, not pseudo-journalism and themed template design on their computers. The magazine is created and written so that people will want to put aside some time and stimulate their minds and their senses.”

And yes, I think it is a shame that there is no announcement about Carson creating for the tablet platform. Oh well.

Publishers emulate politicians in their obsession with cost cuts, modest revenue plans, while ad $$ go elsewhere

With the President speaking this afternoon about his plans to cut the deficit, one can't help but see the parallels between the current fashion among politicians to talk expenses (but no tax hikes) with the standing philosophy of the publishing industry to talk expenses (but rarely ad sales). The results have bene pretty much the same: the declining health of the enterprise.
The decade long period of slash and burn media management is probably reaching its end, there is simply few editors and salespeople left to cut. But the problem that has been created is that the discussion now centers more on the idea that modest gains in revenue (read: charging readers for online access) will somehow solve the fact that their ad dollars have gone to Google, and other companies that weren't even considered competitors a decade ago. It is like the politicians who don't mind raising the gas tax a few pennies, but won't consider raising taxes on the wealthy or ending tax breaks for the nation's most profitable corporations.

If online, mobile and tablet publishing platforms are to become profitable mediums for publishers their products are going to have to be competitive with other digital advertising vehicles – more ad-centric. To do this, publishers need to get their ad executives into the game, at the center of their strategies.

Here is something you might want to think about: how many digital ad executives have been made digital publishing consultants at a newspaper or magazine company? Instead, the focus is almost entirely on content.

One year ago, Google's Hal Varian spoke to the newspaper industry and reminded them where they are getting their dollars. While 80 percent of revenue was derived from ad sources, only 20 percent came from circulation – worse, only three percent came from subscriptions. Yet, this is where the focus is at so many publishing firms.

Final point: up until 2000, newspaper ad revenue pretty much kept up with GDP growth, sliding somewhat with the rise of the Internet, but it did not crash, it merely dipped due to the addition of a new competitor. So why the crash? What changed? I would argue that while one segment became more and more ad driven – Google, online pure plays – traditional media firms went the other way.

The Examiner releases iPad replica editions for their tabloid newspapers in San Francisco and Washington

The Bay Area is not exactly tech deprived, is it? But when it comes to newspapers on the cutting edge of digital publishing, well, it is the backwaters of the art.

San Francisco has been, for many years now, a sad newspaper market. When I worked for Lesher Communications, later Knight-Ridder, the Examiner was owned by Hearst Newspapers (my old employer in Los Angeles). Young Will Hearst III was as energetic a publisher as there was. This TV commercial will give you a feeling of the times:

But since 1965 The Examiner had been part of the joint operating agreement with the larger and more powerful Chronicle, famously made fun of in the movie "All the President's Men". When the Chronicle Publishing Company divested its interests, Hearst took over the Chronicle, selling off The Examiner to the Fang family to satisfy regulators.

Despite the fact that, the website home of the Chronicle, is one of America's top websites according to page views, Hearst Newspapers has not been a leader website design, mobile media or tablet publishing. This has created a huge opportunity for other newspapers in the Bay Area.
Alas, my old employer, Lesher, was sold off in 1995 to Knight-Ridder, who then sold the chain to Dean Singleton's MediaNews Group – which by that time also owned the Oakland Tribune and the San Jose Mercury News (whose parent company, Affiliated Media., filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in January of 2010).

All this is important to remember when you consider the attitudes of tech giants like Apple and Google. They reside in a part of the country where the newspaper publishers are the least adventurous, least tech savvy, and based on performance, the least successful.
What Apple thinks of our industry when they approve a replica edition such as this one from The Examiner is probably not hard to figure out. The free app, created by PageSuite Limited, the company behind the New York Daily News app, is a simple replica of the print edition.

While the app is free, the decision to make the content free here also is probably understandable in the case of The Examiner: the tabloid paper is delivered free to certain neighborhoods around The City.

Unlike the Daily News app, which offers more features, and is a branded app – meaning that the New York Daily News is listed in the App Store as the seller – this app is branded with the developer's name, generally a sign that the publisher has taken a less expensive option.

There is no reason to beat up on replicas again, I do that pretty regularly, but that this is the best app from a San Francisco publisher to date shows the sorry state of things in the Bay Area.

(On the bright side, the Giants beat their rivals, the Dodgers, last night.)

Also released today was the same app for the Washington Examiner. In the case, the Examiner in the DC area has some competition from the Washington Post's mobile and tablet offerings. (Note: I did not find similar versions for Android in the Android Market.)
The Washington Post for iPad has been having some technical difficulties, however. Users have been complaining that they can not log into the app despite an update on March 15.

I have not encountered any problems, so I assume the issue has been resolved. Of greater concern, however, has to be the presence of a house ad on the front page for Slate's iPad app. This may be being delivered to me because I am out-of-the-area, but certainly some sort of paid national ad would be better than a house ad, no?

Retweet: Portugal's unnecessary bailout

Every once in a while this site goes off the rails and covers topics not directly tied to New Media -- that is the freedom one has when one is the publisher, editor, reporter and janitor. One reason for this, of course, is that newspeople remain news people forever.
One topic discussed here recently was the financial crisis in Portugal. I have included headlines in the Short Takes section (at top right of the home page), and recently TNM reader and media designer Pedro Monteiro wrote a nice piece providing background on the situation there. (Side note: I love getting contributions from TNM readers. As of the last traffic report, TNM had readers in March from over 90 different countries.)

Today the NYT has posted a column by Robert M. Fishman, professor of sociology at the University of Notre Dame, and co-editor of “The Year of the Euro: The Cultural, Social and Political Import of Europe’s Common Currency.” Entitled Portugal's Unnecessary Bailout, Fishman argues that it is the bond traders that are the cause of Portugal's current difficulties.

I think the piece is well worth reading in full, but here is a snippet:

Market contagion and rating downgrades, starting when the magnitude of Greece’s difficulties surfaced in early 2010, have become a self-fulfilling prophecy: by raising Portugal’s borrowing costs to unsustainable levels, the rating agencies forced it to seek a bailout. The bailout has empowered those “rescuing” Portugal to push for unpopular austerity policies affecting recipients of student loans, retirement pensions, poverty relief and public salaries of all kinds.

The crisis is not of Portugal’s doing. Its accumulated debt is well below the level of nations like Italy that have not been subject to such devastating assessments. Its budget deficit is lower than that of several other European countries and has been falling quickly as a result of government efforts.

Morning Brief: NPR looks at newspapers on the day the Civil War began, 150 years ago; NYT a minority of owner Premiere League team; tablets across the pond

On the 150th anniversary of the start of the Civil War, NPR host Melissa Block interviewed author Harold Holzer about the way newspapers of the day covered the events. (Transcript and audio here.)
Their headline, "Newspapers Showed 'Eerie Calm' As Civil War Began", doesn't really match the story well, I believe, but the interview does reveal the fact that not all the players were lined up on that day when the rebel batteries fired on Fort Sumter -- both Virginia and North Carolina had not yet seceded from the union, for instance.

Melissa Block: The New York Times had a brief item from Charleston, talking about intense excitement in the city and that it has a map, actually, of the forts in Charleston Harbor; lots of anticipation leading up to that day.

Harold Holzer: Absolutely. And a map itself was a rarity. It was a declaration by the publisher that something special was afoot, indeed, because the newspapers were very gray in those days, bereft of illustration, unless they were the picture weeklies. So The Times is heralding the kind of breathless anticipation that's gripping the whole country.

Speaking of The New York Times, The Telegraph revealed yesterday that the media company is the second largest shareholder of Liverpool PC. The fact was discovered thanks to new disclosures made by the majority owners, Fenway Sports Group, led by John Henry. The group also owns the Boston Red Sox.

The NYT's total share of the English football team is not known, but it is more than ten percent, according to the statement released by Fenway Sports Group. The disclosure was mandated by Premier League rules.

Staying across the pond, the BBC's Rory Cellan-Jones today takes a look at two tablets that are about to make their debuts in the UK.

Poor Rory, though, has difficulty turning on the first tablet he encounters, the Motorola XOOM, or "Motoroloa Xoom" as it is on the BBC site. He laments the lack of apps for the tablet, the first Honeycomb driven Android device.

The second one, RIM's BlackBerry PlayBook, is "slick and capable, though I still have some doubts about whether a 7" device will find a large gap in the market between smartphones and larger tablets like the Xoom and the iPad," write Cellan-Jones. Again, the name is a bit bungled, but I'm sure, with time, they will start getting it right.

Back on this side of the pond, I have long noticed that one device often gets a bit mangled by the US press and that is Apple's iPod products. Forgetting for a second that capitalizing the first letter, as in IPod, is fairly common. But the other thing some media outlets do is capitalize the second part of the name. In other words, iPod touch becomes "iPod Touch". Yes, it is a small error, but newspapers and magazines used to be pretty strict about getting these things right.

When in doubt, check the manufacturer's website, right?

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Bonnier's series of buyers guide apps a roadmap to what B2B media companies should be doing on mobile, tablets

They are not pretty, not very complex, fairly easy to produce, and are much appreciated by their advertisers -- they are buyers guide apps produced by Bonnier's divisions that exploit industry data already in-house. They are, in short, what so many B2B media companies could produce if they rethought their traditional print buyers guides products.
The app seen here, Transworld Wakeboarding 2011 Boat Buyers Guide, is but one of several buyers guide apps now in the iTunes App Store. These apps are free, universal apps -- very appropriate, in the case, for the iPhone (seen here on an iPad).

These apps are fairly minimal in design, with only a portrait mode (which makes sense since these apps designed to also work on the iPhone).

In fact, with the exception of some design work that is built into the product finder mechanism, these apps could almost be built with some of the built-it-yourself services now appearing online.
What makes these apps perfect for B2B companies, though, is that if you search inside the App App Store you will find more apps just like the one seen here. This app contains information on a number of company's products, including Tigé, Malibu, Axis and MasterCraft -- and if you look in the App Store you will find that there are apps for Tigé, Malibu, Axis and MasterCraft, all built by Bonnier.

Whether these branded apps were sold to the manufacturers as separate buys, bundled with the annual commitments, or even given away as added-value, this represents a service that differentiates Bonnier-the-publisher from the competition. For these brands, these apps represent the first time they have appeared on a smartphone or tablet with their own app. It is smart business on the part of Bonnier, and something that I assume a B2B like Penton Media is considering for themselves.

Odd Magazine gets transformed from a 138 page print magazine into a brilliant 300 page+ tablet edition

An annual product of the Amsterdam Fashion Institute (AMFI), Odd Magazine has been a print magazine for seven editions. But now the magazine has been transformed into a tour-de-force iPad app, with 12 video, multiple animations -- and, I might add, weighing at a record weight of 990MB.
Each year the 30 students at AMFI, as part of the Fashion Magazine Minor, produce a new edition of their annual magazine under the editorial leadership of Frank Jurgen Wijlens. The latest print edition, which was published in June of last year, is currently available on

Product Description - "Completely conceptualized and realized by a group of 30 students of the Amsterdam Fashion Institute, Odd magazine explores six connections between seven people in the creative industry. Inspired by their personal stories and fashion visions, the magazine reveals an unexpectedly beautiful world of fashion, photography and illustration that is just a little bit odd.
Enter Jelle de Weert, 23, a student at the AMFI (now a graduate), and someone who wisely enrolled in the Adobe Digital Publishing Suite pre-release program. Adding about 100 new pages, shooting video and creating animations, de Weert worked five months to produce an iPad app version of the annual publication.

Odd Magazine – iPad Issue is a massive tablet edition that contains 312 pages in portrait, 338 in landscape, and is priced at $3.99 in the US App Store, 2,99 € in the Dutch store (I miss guilders).
To the great credit of its creator, the app . . . works. That may sound like a strange compliment, but with so much animation and content here, this app's navigation is smooth and flawless. One might expect that a project this large might require an update or two, but this one version should be all that is needed.

The text and much of the photography was taken from the print edition, but one can tell right away that additional creative material was needed to make this tablet edition. Take, for instance, the animated page with the 30 students: the page is made up of four or five photos per student. I almost made the mistake of trying to create a GIF of the page but gave up pretty quickly, realizing that it would take a day to compile such a graphic. No wonder it took five months to make this app.

"I made this iPad magazine for my portfolio," de Weert said, "and I would love to make more iPad magazines with more technical stuff and 3D but I would have to wait and see what comes to my path..."

Jelle de Weert, developer of the iPad version of Odd Magazine.

An app like this might easily be dismissed as not relevant to the monthly grind of magazine publishing, but as I've written before, apps such as for Odd Magazine are the places new ideas and themes. The world of tablet publishing can either become merely a cheap way to produce non-ink versions of print editions, or it can emerge as its own medium (it will probably become both things).

But as anyone who has priced out the Adobe Digital Publishing Suite has discovered, moving into native tablet design can be an expensive investment.

"You need to make an investment at first but costs for printing and distributing a magazine are way higher," de Weert told me in an IM interview. "But the most important thing is that the iPad version of the magazine should offer something that is not possible in the printed version (like the videos) or not even possible on the computer (like the 3D models you can spin around with your finger)."

Cisco says it will close down its Flip business

As part of a restructuring of its consumer business, Silicon Valley giant Cisco announced this morning that it will be shutting down its Flip business. Cisco will continue to provide support for current customers.

"We are making key, targeted moves as we align operations in support of our network-centric platform strategy," said John Chambers, Cisco chairman and CEO, in the company's statement. "As we move forward, our consumer efforts will focus on how we help our enterprise and service provider customers optimize and expand their offerings for consumers, and help ensure the network's ability to deliver on those offerings."

Cisco will also said it will "refocus" its home networking business to align with its "core networking infrastructure" -- is this corporate talk for eliminating the overlap between enterprise and consumer networking products? In any case, the announcement reads like an acknowledgement that Cisco has not been performing as well as it would like in areas outside its B2B areas of expertise. Unfortunately, the "refocus" effort will result in the loss of 550 jobs this quarter, according to Business Insider.

Morning Brief: Japan raises nuclear crisis level; mobile coupon clipper acquired, launched last year

Japanese authorities today raised the crisis level at its Fukushima Daiichi power plant to the highest level, seven, the same as was applied to the Chernobyl disaster. Despite the raises measure of severity, Japanese officials say the amount of radioactivity leaking from the plant is far less than what occurred at the Chernobyl.

"This is a preliminary assessment, and is subject to finalisation by the International Atomic Energy Agency," said the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency, Reuters reported.

Reuters also reported early today (in Japan) that a fire had been seen at the nuclear facility, though the flames were only seen for a short time.

"Flames and smoke are no longer visible but we are awaiting further details regarding whether the fire has been extinguished completely," a spokesman for the plant operator said early today.

Mobile app maker, Peekaboo Mobile, was acquired by nSphere one year after the company was launched. Peekaboo Mobile makes apps that let users find coupons for companies near the user.
Image and video hosting by TinyPic
Peekaboo Mobile has been partnering with location shopping publisher "Where". This is the kind of non-editorial content best suited for local newspapers, but because the vast majority of newspaper apps are simple RSS driven editorial products a giant hole has been created in the market that is allowing developers to walk right in. (In other words, once again newspaper companies are surrendering a part of their business, in this case, local retail. The anti-app crowd are winning the day, and developers are getting rich because of it.)

Penton Medis this morning announced that it is launching a marketing division aimed at providing its business-to-business customers with content marketing, digital media solutions and sales sales optimization tools, according to its statement.

Penton Marketing Services will be run by Kim Paulsen, Penton Media Senior Vice President. George Assimakopoulos, who was CEO of the recently acquired EyeTraffic Media, will serve as the division’s Vice President of Digital Media Services.

According to Penton Media CEO Sharon Rowlands, the move is being made after the company surveyed 4,000 of its customers and found frustration with web lead generation and a lack of knowledge about how best to use social media.

"Marketers are clamoring for new solutions to grow their businesses and they want providers intimately familiar with their industry segment,” said Sharon Rowlands, Penton Media CEO.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Amazon now offers Kindle with 'special offers' and sponsored screensavers in exchange for $25 discount

Will consumers accept ads in exchange for a discounted price? That is the proposition Amazon is testing out as they announced today a new Kindle price tier: a $25 discount in exchange for ads on your Kindle.

"How are we doing this?" the home page asks. "We took our bestselling Kindle and make a version with special offers and sponsored screensavers. Companies sponsor the screensavers, and you pay less for your Kindle."

Buyers of these ad-embedded Kindles will be able to customize their screensavers in order to better match up owner preferences.

Will $25 be enough of a discount to drive sales of these ad-embedded Kindles? We probably will not find out as does not report its Kindle sales numbers except in the most vague terms. already has four announced sponsors: Buick, Chase, Olay and Visa.

Adobe announce Flash Builder 4.5 and Flex 4.5; introduces subscription model for Creative Suite 5.5

Software giant Adobe Systems Inc. announced two new upgrades in its Adobe Creative Suite 5.5 release: Flash Builder 4.5, available immediately, and Flex 4.5, expected to arrive in June.

Flash Builder 4.5 Premium will be included in the new Adobe Creative Suite 5.5 Web Premium software. For the first time, Adobe will now have CS available as a subscription: Photoshop will be priced at $49 for a one month subscription, or $35 per month on an annual basis. Creative Suite Web Premium is priced at $89/$135, Creative Suite Production Premium at $85/$129, Creative Suite Design Premium at $95/$139.
"With these releases, developers for the first time have a single development platform for building highly expressive Web, mobile, and desktop applications, marking a leap forward for mobile app development,” said Ed Rowe, vice president of development tooling, Adobe.

“With the proliferation of smartphones and tablets, enterprises now need to ensure that their applications work seamlessly across many different types of devices. Flash Builder 4.5 and Flex 4.5 will now allow companies to standardize on a common platform capable of delivering rich and consistent application experiences that perform great across Android, BlackBerry Tablet OS and iOS devices.”

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette launches paid iPad app; revamped web designed should have been first priority

I don't live in Pittsburgh, so reading the local paper, or visiting the website is not something I would normally do unless I was following a link. But the launch of the first tablet edition of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette caught my attention as it is one of the few newspapers or magazines that have launched a paid app with free content, usually the opposite of the approach of those publishers trying to monetize their app development.
PGSelect offers readers "breaking news and a selection of the day's top local stories in sports, news, business, lifestyle, arts and entertainment, plus featured editorials and columnists from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette," according to the app's description.

But since the website is free (except for a member's only website – more on that in a minute), one has to wonder about charging for an app. But the cost is only $1.99, while content inside, though somewhat limited, is still free to access.

As for the app itself, its biggest limitation is design, not programming. That is what brought me to the PG website, to see if it resembled the app. No, but clearly the paper is struggling its digital media design team.
And that brought me to the Newseum, to look at the front page of the print edition. I grabbed the screenshot from the Newseum's recently released universal iOS app which is proving incredibly useful.

I suppose you can decide for yourself whether you like the paper's front page design, but I put myself in the place of a Pittsburgh resident and felt that I would be more comfortable reading the print edition that the website – and because of this I could see the merit in the company's first iPad effort. But digital design is not something this paper seems comfortable with.
Comparing the iPad edition to the website, one can see that the content management system is allowing the editors to show a headline and a summary first paragraph. This was apparent in the typo found on the home page in a story about a police taser incident. The typo misspells "Saturday", but this typo is not in the actual story.

In the iPad app, it must be RSS driven as there are headlines, but no summary paragraphs. As a result you get leads like this on a story headlined "Cop shooting charge withdrawn for 1; new suspect charged". The text under the headline reads "Alleghany County police announced today they have charged a new" – yep that's it.

So would a reader be better off simply using their browser to read the paper's website rather than their new app? I wouldn't think so.

The PG website is a modern 980 pixels wide (the NYT website is 970, TNM is 980), but the news hole is 500 pixels in size -- that's all you get. Along the right side is a 300 pixel column for ads which for some reason contains both medium rectangles (which are 300 pixels wide) and a 160 pixel wide skyscraper which floats in the 300 pixel column. The NYT's main news hole at the top of the page is 530 pixels wide, but news can be found on both columns to the right.

My point, of course, is that the PG is in desperate need of rethinking its digital media design work.

So, does a paid app/free content strategy make sense? I think it could for certain publications that offer free content, and where the app adds value. Here, the app does provide a good alternative to the website. But a better designed website would trump an iPad app with limited content.

In the case of the PG, the paper offers free web access, but in 2009 launched PG+, a members-only website that offers interactive features and exclusive content such as blogs, videos, live chats. The cost is $36, and according to a post written last September by Bill Mitchell of Poynter, the experiment has proven modestly successful.

Bloomberg Businessweek launches discounted iPad edition; swipe or scroll, the choice is yours

Business magazine Bloomberg Businessweek has released its initial tablet edition today in Apple's App Store. Bloomberg Businessweek+ is a free iPad app that creates a library where users can download one issue for free and additional individual issues after they have bought a highly discounted four-week subscription, an in-app purchase of only $2.99. Print subscribers can log-in to access their issues free of charge.
The app features both portrait and landscape modes with readers scrolling through stories when the iPad is in portrait, swiping when in landscape.

The app opens to an introductory video of either one or two people sitting around a tablet discussing the issue, something that could be shot on your cellphone, frankly. But it is consistent with an app that does not try to throw the kitchen sink at readers, making it far easier to repeat week after week.

If readers want a digital replica edition, Bloomberg Businessweek still offers its issues through the Zinio digital newsstand. But while that option offers the ability of the reader to access their issues through multiple devices (computer, tablet or mobile phone) the issues are still priced at newsstand rates of $4.99.
The app has an overall sponsor, NetApp, a digital data storage and management solutions company. Individual sections, however, have their own sponsors. The GlobalEconomics section, for instance, is "brought to you by" OppenheimerFunds, while Companies & Industries is sponsored by BASF, and Markets & Finance by Goldman Sachs.

The app allows readers to access additional information about companies mentioned in the articles by tapping on the company's bolded name – this pulls up stock price information and any recent news stories from Bloomberg's news service.

What is missing from the app at this point is a breaking news section that could pull in stories from the website. The app, strangely, does not have push notifications, so if any breaking news occurs this app will not help keep you informed. Of course, like any app, this could be updated.
There are three font sizes available, with the default size being the smallest. Articles can also be shared via Twitter and Facebook, as well as email.

But because this app does not contain animation and other video content, the issue sizes are rather modest, meaning that issue download times are fairly short. Even more importantly, issues can be read offline so that business travelers will have no problem quickly downloading, then reading their issues during air travel.

Finally, the app description promises that issues will be available to tablet edition subscribers by 10PM ET each Thursday.

I see at least one replica edition vendor arguing that the economics of creating these natively designed apps is excessive. The problem with that argument is that it implies that readers don't care whether they read a digital version of a print edition or a digital product specifically designed for the device's platform.

Unfortunately this is just wrong. Creating once and porting over to different devices leaves the publisher with one attractive product and a catalog of misplaced products.

I would rather see these vendors begin to offer publishers inexpensive native design options rather than continue to insist that readers just won't mind being fed these ugly and hard to read replicas. But I sense that a lot of vendors get pretty worried when they see important publishers investing in their tablet editions.

Gartner forecasts that the iPad will dominate the "media tablet" market with +50% market share through 2015

Information technology research firm Gartner has released a forecast that predicts that Apple's iPad should continue to dominate the "media tablet" market through 2015. Gartner defines a "media tablet" as "a device based on a touchscreen display (typically with a multitouch interface) whose primary focus is the consumption of media."

Gartner's report forecasts huge growth in Android tablets, from a 14.2 percent share in 2010 (though even that number seems high to me) to over 38 percent by 2015. Nonetheless, Apple's iPad, which sold more than 14 million tablets last year, will continue to hold the number one spot, selling 47 million this year.
“Seeing the response from both consumers and enterprises to the iPad, many vendors are trying to compete by first delivering on hardware and then trying to leverage the platform ecosystem,” said Carolina Milanesi, research vice president at Gartner. “Many, however, are making the same mistake that was made in the first response wave to the iPhone, as they are prioritizing hardware features over applications, services and overall user experience. Tablets will be much more dependent on the latter than smartphones have been, and the sooner vendors realize that the better chance they have to compete head-to-head with Apple.”

The forecast predicts slow growth for RIM's BlackBerry PlayBook, blaming the fact that the company will need time to attract developers to its webOS platform.

It will take time and significant effort for RIM to attract developers and deliver a compelling ecosystem of applications and services around QNX to position it as a viable alternative to Apple or Android. This will limit RIM’s market share growth over the forecast period,” Ms. Milanesi said. “It will be mainly organizations that will be interested in RIM’s tablets because they either already have RIM’s infrastructure deployed or have stringent security requirements.”