Friday, April 29, 2011

HBO releases new streaming service app simultaneously for both iOS and Android platforms

Want to avoid the 24/7 coverage of the royal wedding? (Ten bonus points if you don't know what this refers to.) Then you are in luck as HBO has released its streaming service app today for both Apple iOS platform, as well as Android.
HBO GO is a much anticipated video streaming app because it promises access to programming even over 3G. (iTunes link here, Android Market link here)

Android tablet users might be disappointed that the app does not appear to be optimized for Honeycomb, but at least it was released on the same day as the iOS app.

The app is not a revolutionary move away from the cable companies, however. Users must sign-in to their accounts through the app – in my case Comcast's Xfinity service – in order to gain access to the programming.

My own experience with the app has been really good so far: video quality is great on WiFi, that's for sure. I'll play around with 3G later.

If you subscribe to HBO there is simply no reason not to download the app: it's free, it works, and I'm sure it will come in handy on trips.

But for HBO this app is a very good idea. I was wondering whether to continue HBO. But with Treme back for a second season, and now this app, well, I guess they will continue to get my business for a while longer.

Left: The sign-in page where users can sign-in to their existing accounts, or buy a subscription through the app; Right: the program player, in this case for the HBO series Treme.

Two approaches to launching replica editions of B2B magazines on the iPad: neither quite gets the B2B model

A recent conversation I had with a consumer magazine professional went like this: "I understand the consumer magazine business, but B2B is beyond me," said the consumer mag pro. "It's beyond most B2B media executives, as well," I said.

Besides being snarky, I made the comment to tell a basic truth: too many heads of B2B publishing companies have either forgotten their own business models, or never knew them to begin with.
The model is simple: B2B magazines attract and serve their readers in order to attract industry advertising. In order to attract industry advertising the publisher has to prove that the movers and shakers of a particular industry actually read the magazine – usually through a good BPA statement. But if the editorial content is really good – that is, essential to readers – then the magazine can sell subscriptions; AdAge or Engineering News Record being two examples. If not, then the magazines are given away free to qualified readers.

It's a simple formula, that current seems beyond the grasp of far too many B2B media execs. In order to cut costs and maintain profits they have eliminated their BPA statements, lowered the quality of the editorial, and now are beginning to give away their product to anyone who can download an app.

I downloaded two B2B magazines this morning, thinking that one of them was going to provide a good model for B2B publishers. Unfortunately, once downloaded, the actual app varied considerably from the screenshots used in the app description. In the end, neither app really adheres to the basics of good B2B publishing.

The first, Restaurant Business, was produced by RR Donnelley. It is a straight replica edition of the print magazine, offering no enhancements for the reader, and no reason to use the app versus the print edition.

This might be a good thing.

The app is a free download, and once downloaded provides free access to the magazine editions, as well as text versions of the stories inside. There is no subscription charge, and no registration process. That means that the new readers attracted to the app will be unqualified readers – of no value to the advertisers of the magazine.

In contrast, the screenshots for Supple Chain Media, an app made by YUDU Media, shows that there is a "Register" button built into the app. I considered this a step in the right direction, which is what prompted me to download the app.

But once I installed this free app I discovered that the actual app varied considerably from the screenshots shown in the app description. Gone was the "register" button. In fact, the issues that were available in the app were different, as well. The App Store shows that the most recent issues available were from 2011, but the live app only gives you access to older issues.

One wonders if there were issues getting the original app approved by Apple. The basic business model of giving away content for free in exchange for vital information from the reader is a bit different from what Apple usually requires. Apple wants to protect user information from its developers, creating a serious conflict with the goals of publishers – especially B2B publishers.

The solution might be to have the app only work with existing customers of the B2B magazine. In order to use the app one must have a log-in, this can be obtained on the website of the publisher, who would approve the new account only if the reader proves to be a qualified member of the industry being served by the magazine.

This is not so different from the model used by Netflix or MLB. The Netflix app is worthless to any downloader who doesn't have a Netflix account, which is obtained on the company's website. This seems like the model to use for B2B. Unfortunately, like those Flash flipbooks sold to publishers for use on their websites, an iPad app only will prove worth launching if the publisher doesn't forget or ignore the basics of good B2B publishing.

Left: Restaurant Business; Right: Supply Chain Media.

Morning Brief: Third time makes a pattern; from war correspondent to society editor; Globe reports that bid is being prepared for NYT-owned New England division

The spring season for American journalism means the Academy Awards and the Pulitzer Prizes. This year it also means a royal wedding. What is the old saying? "Once is chance, twice is coincidence, third time is a pattern."

Such is the state of American journalism: celebrity obsessed, self-absorbed, and prone to royalty worship. It's not a pretty sight.

I see the editor of the New York Times, Bill Keller, has a column this morning where he comes out "rooting for the Gang of Six" – the three Democrats and three Republicans who are negotiating away the final shreds of the American social contract.

Not surprisingly, Keller's column does not allow for comments.

You can, of course, post a comment on John Burns's live blog of the royal wedding. Burns, formerly the chief cheerleader at the Times for America's series of wars, and the attack dog against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, is apparently now the NYT's society editor in London.

The Boston Globe is reporting that a local businessman, Aaron Kushner, 38, is preparing a bid to buy the the New England Media Group from The New York Times Co. The Globe itself is part of the group, of course.

The Times attempted to sell off the group in '09, but the timing was horrible as the economy was tanking.

Chris Harte, former publisher of the Akron Beacon Journal and the Minneapolis Star Tribune is said to be advising Kushner. Ben Bradlee Jr., a former Globe editor is said to be involved in the team, as well.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Groupon releases iPad app to attract new users

There is a tiresome debate among some media writers about the wisdom of native apps versus the web. One mobile media columnist was 100 percent against apps until recently hired by a major newspaper that does apps, now he is for apps – amazing what a raise in pay will do to some people's opinions.
I've never bought into the debate, however: you do native apps because a native app can do things a website can't, whether it is animation, layout, ease of navigation, whatever. But when an app is simply a substitute for the website then the wisdom of launching an app can be called into question.

The new iPad app from Groupon is like this. Groupon HD is basically an app version of the website, only less easy to use. The free app does feature a few app-like features like popout windows, but of course this can be done with the web, as well, if desired.

What the app doesn't have, however, is a landscape mode. That means that if your tablet is often found in this orientation, and mine is almost always that way when sitting on my desk because of the cover, then the app ends being less useful than the website.

The advantage of the app, of course, is its marketing value: new users will see the app in the App Store, and current users will be encouraged to download it, as well. Since the app is free, the intent here is just to encourage more sales, so what's the harm, right?

Groupon had previously launched two iPhone apps: one for users, the other for merchants to assist them in redemptions.

TNM readers may start to notice that I will be increasing the size a bit of the media app screenshots. I think they have been posted a bit small, forcing casual readers to click to enlarge. Many readers stop by and read only one story, typical of a blog, and don't bother to click on the pictures. Larger versions of the "thumbnail" shots will be helpful for them.

In the 16 months this site has been live TNM has posted over 2,600 pictures, mostly screenshots of mobile and tablet apps, as well as a few of website home pages.

The goal is creating publisher nirvana: finding the perfect marriage of technology and content

Most of this morning has been spent investigating various new digital publishing solutions, many of which may be written about in the future. But one thought that kept coming into my mind was how much of the really interesting work being done in tablet publishing looks so different from what many digital publishing solution providers are working up and selling to publishers.

The reason for this, I believe, is that we are still so early in the development of these new platforms that we have not matched up the technology with the content. Instead, we are trying to dumb down the technology to serve the content, or dumb down the content to match the technology.
This is why so many app users have complained about, for lack of a better term, high-tech apps that deliver "cool" experiences, but end up being pretty shallow. Conversely, readers also complain inside the App Store of magazines and newspapers that are merely "PDF versions" of the print products.

The best examples of marrying the platform's potential (iOS or Android) can be found in projects that have been created specifically for the form over an extended time – prototypes, if you will.
Our Choice is a good example of this, something that is based on an older book, has been long in development, and has just been released today. Few "conversion" projects – print into digital – have been as successful as the native designed projects unless they undergo a long incubation period like this new iPad book developed by Push Pop Press.

The holds true for magazines Odd Magazine is an exception, not so much because the programming work is better (though it is) but because it was created by someone who had the time to reimagine the print product, and was creative enough (young enough?) to see the existing project in a new way.

(An aside: strange that the word "reimagine" is considered misspelled when typed out, it's a word that I see to be using a lot when discussing New Media publishing projects.)

It is sometimes good to remember that the old platforms, like print magazines, have had similar issues to what we are experiencing with mobile and tablet publishing.

I can not tell you how many times I have sat through a presentation by a representative of R.R. Donnelley watching as the rep presented new publishing product ideas. Bind-in CDs, specially printed covers, amazing cover and text papers, 3D, etc. They wow and excite you, and get you thinking about how you can use the technology to create better issues. Rarely does the representative want to talk about your costs right then and there. Instead, days later, you get a price sheet which shows that no matter how wonderful these are the costs are often far out of reach for your publication, or its advertisers.

Even desktop publishing went through a period like we are seeing today. It almost makes you laugh to think about how far we've come. (Most people in the magazine business today can't remember what it was like when art directors "discovered" the drop shadow, often by seeing it used elsewhere and experimenting themselves until they figured it out.)

The key is that the capabilities of the new platforms need to be incorporated into the day-to-day life of the content creators. Depending on outside vendors will get you going, but it won't create the perfect marriage of technology and content.

It's always the fault of the referee

Some things are universal, I guess. No matter what sport, or even line of business, it is always the fault of the referee.

I thought about this when reading about accounts of last night's big soccer match featuring Barcelona against Real Madrid in the first leg of a Champion's League match-up. For Americans this might be a yawn, but for the sport's fans worldwide (and especially in Spain, of course) this is a heavyweight match-up.
With the first of two matchs played in Madrid, one would presume that Real Madrid would have the advantage, with that advantage swinging to the other side in the next match in Barcelona. But early in the second half one of Madrid's players was sent off by the German referee – shown the red card, as they do it in soccer.

To hear the coach of Madrid, José Mourinho, tell it, it was all a plot by the referee to favor Barcelona. For others, it is all sour grapes.

The Guardian, which live blogs important matches, had this to say when it happened:

62 min: IT HAD TO HAPPEN. Pepe is sent off for a foot-up challenge on Alves. He didn't make contact, though there was enough intent, and you can't be bombing around the pitch showing your studs at shin height. On the touchline, Mourinho scrunches up his nose, then applauds Alves as he's carried off. He mouths "well done" to the fourth official, and gives him the thumbs up. And is sent to the stand for his trouble. Oh me, oh my.

65 min: Mourinho, never one to turn down a photo opportunity, or the chance to cast himself in the role of martyr, plonks himself down behind some metal bars.
Barcelona then went on to victory, 2-0.

Blaming the ones that enforce the rules is a universal reaction whenever things don't go well – and as a sports fan I know that many time the refs are, indeed, to blame. But the game goes on and the rules don't change. Like Billy Martin you can scream at the umpire all you want, even kick dirt onto home plate, but it won't change a thing, just make you feel better.

Today, many in media see the ref as being Apple or Google, and publishing executives certainly love to place the blame for their struggles elsewhere. It is a universal reaction to having events go awry. The game is fixed, the ref was blind, I've been cheated.

Paid app for CN Traveler shows the confusion of its publisher; part repurposed content, part custom publishing

If it is true that Condé Nast has decided to slow its media app development, then looking at the new app released under the Condé Nast Traveler name I would say it is a very good decision indeed.
2011 Gold List: Condé Nast Traveler is an app seems to have been created by the marketing department at the publishing giant, rather than a serious attempt to provide its readers a real travel service.

The app's purpose is to provide users with a look at some of the world's best hotels and resorts. It opens up with a promising look: an animated globe that serves as a way of looking at properties by region – and while the app works in both landscape and portrait, it is much easier to use in landscape.

So far so good. But it doesn't take long to realize that the information provided here is the bare minimum. Worse, the app really relies on searches through Bing to bring in more information rather than the boat loads of information I'm sure the magazine has at its disposal.
Priced at 99 cents, it doesn't take a genius to figure out that this app won't be generating millions of dollars for Condé Nast. So is this really a custom publishing piece for Microsoft? Maybe, but you would think that it would better serve this purpose if it was free.

I can't imagine that if the editors think this is a serious tool for searching for and deciding on high priced hotels and resorts that their readers would mind paying more than a buck for such a tool – but if they did, they would certainly want more information, pictures, etc.

No, this is simply one of those products released in the early days of tablet publishing that reveals the confusion that must be the norm right now at some publishing houses.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Book publishing on the iPad: BCNBase launches three versions of the same cookbook, and a work of fiction

Despite spending every day combing through the iTunes App Store, one gets a sense that there is a lot more going on there than can be perceived. Take, for instance, the case of this new publisher, BCNBase, a start-up company from Barcelona. Over the past seven weeks the company has released four apps into the App Store, a cookbook released in three different language editions, and a work of fiction by Saúl Álvarez Lara.
The Spanish version of the cookbook came first, BCN Cocina. Then an English edition, BCN Cuisine, followed a couple of days ago with the release of the French version, BCN Cuisine France.

The book is the collaboration between the three members of the company: Serge Herbiet, who is listed as the 'seller', and the two people credited with being the authors – Paco Gaya and Lali Domenech. Gaya studied food photography at Santa Monica College and worked in Los Angeles until 1990 when he moved back home to Barcelona. Domenech studied graphic design at the Massana School in Barcelona and has worked as a food stylist and writer, authoring several cookbooks.

All three apps are free to download and give you total access to the contents. The company's website doesn't give you much of a clue as to their motivation in releasing these apps, but I would guess that this is part experimentation, part promotion for their capabilities.
As for the apps themselves, the design takes advantage of both portrait and landscape modes. For the most part the content is the same in both orientations, but sometimes there is additional information to be had by switching the orientation of the iPad. (To see this properly you probably need to click on the screenshot at left to enlarge the animated GIF.)

The programming here is fairly simple, easily accomplished through any of the now standard digital publishing tools available. In this regard, this is not one of those tour-de-force apps that one might expect from a major publisher. Instead, this might be considered a dry run for bigger and more complex apps to come. We'll see.

Note: the fourth app is called BCN Litertura 1, and is an app version of a story by Saul Alvarez Lara. As I don't read Spanish I did not download. The app costs $1.99 in the US App Store if you want to check it out and report back.

Bottom's Up: here's a new product that's truly appreciated

No, this post has absolutely nothing to do with New Media, which undoubtedly will make it the most popular post this week:

Readers of TNM might know that I am a Giants fan – San Francisco Giants, that is. Last year was a good year to be a Giants fan, but there are other reasons other than a once-in-56-years World Series win.

For instance, there is the city itself, America's most beautiful, there is Silicon Valley, two world-class universities nearby, the wine country, etc.
Then there is AT&T Park, which once used to be called PacBell Park, and is sometimes referred to as China Basin, in honor of its South Beach location. The park is not only one of those retro-parks where the fans are close to the action, but is located right on the bay as you can see here.

No park in America features as many smells: whether it is illegal smoking material, or the famous garlic fries. The park also is known for some of the best beer to be found in any ballpark in America. Any place that can offer SF's own Anchor Stream, as well the full range of beers from Gordon Biersch beats those watered down brews found at most parks.

And now there is this, which has to be seen to be believed. From a company called Bottoms Up, there beer distribution system makes standing in line to get a beer a thing of the past, well worth watching:

Apple responds to security concerns in press release

It took Apple a fairly long time to respond to concerns raised by the revelation that Apple's mobile platform could track a users location and store the information in such a way that it can be accessed (see map of information from my own iPhone), but today it finally posted this press release.

Apple's release does a pretty good job of explaining what is going on, I think, and what they plan to do in future OS updates to alleviate the fears of their customers. The full release can be found after the break. But I seriously doubt that those currently living off of Apple news, bad news, will be placated.

Canal 180, a new TV channel in Portugal, launches a companion iOS app, developed by Bliss Applications

Pedro Monteiro, digital art coordinator at Impresa Publishing, and the talent behind the new website Digital Distribution, looks at a new media app from his home country of Portugal: Canal 180.

Canal 180 is a new television channel on the Portuguese cable TV scene. It is the first national channel fully dedicated to culture and presents itself as a 'open source' channel, since some of its content is produced in collaboration with other channels and cultural entities. Canal 180 was planned as a 'low cost' channel and broadcasts for 6 hours every day.
For the launch of Canal 180 (on Monday, 25/04/2011), it also launched a universal iOS application. The app was developed in Portugal by Bliss Applications, a new company that is developing various apps for different platforms. Bliss has won a couple of awards, in Portugal, for their work.

I talked with André Gil, Bliss manager, and he has given us a peak 'under the hood' on the Canal 180 app and what's to come in the near future.

Right now, the application is in its early stages due to the pressure to launch the app on the same day that the TV channel was publicly presented. In this version of the app, users can access videos of shows from the channel. Canal 180 has a dedicated YouTube channel where it uploads their TV shows. The application uses this videos (and the YouTube iPad API) and presents it on dedicated areas within the app.
As a first page, the Canal 180 app displays the "Magazine" videos. Magazine is the premium show of the channel broadcast and it deserves a special treatment within the app. The full show is 'broken' in smaller videos, allowing for a smoother streaming and a quicker reply from the app itself.

The second section of the app is the Videos one, where users can check different content from the broadcast. This content is divided in three sections: Cinema (movies), Música (music) and Outros (other).

All of the Canal 180 content can be favorited or saved for viewing latter within the app, that's the third section of the app. Users can also login with their Facebook and Twitter accounts and share content.

André Gil also told us that in the near future the application will be upgraded to include the channels' TV listings and some of their websites' content. André is also planning to enable Apple Airplay in the application, one feature that wasn't present with this first launch since Apple TV is not a big product in Portugal. (Update: see comments for correction.)

On the interface design, I really think that Bliss team has nailed it. The app looks great and works like a charm. I'm looking forward for the next update to see how the 'written' content will be integrated within this design.

All in all, Canal 180 is a nice TV application delivering a good service to its users on the iOS platform. It has potential to grow and I'll be following it for the next months.

Pedro Monteiro

Dish Network, leading the way in blog spam

This site doesn't get a ton of comments as traditional media people have, I guess, a hard time getting past captcha. But a big thank you to the New Media folk who do comment occasionally.
But those faithful commenters can not compete with Dish Network. Apparently the company has hired a firm in India to flood blogs with Dish Network comments, if this post can be believed. And I believe it, as this site gets lots of spam comments from supposed Dish Network employees. The comments are generally from unique names that link to Google profiles that show that they have recently been created.

The target of the spamming seems to be Time Warner, for some reason. In any case, in honor of Keith Olbermann returning to television (not that I really care) here is to Dish Network, "the worst person in the world."

Morning Brief: Sinking McClatchy looks to digital, but a bit late in the game; drama last night on the west coast

The NYT iPad app just sent me this push notification: "White House Releases Long Form of President Obama's Hawaii Birth Certificate." Guess that will dominate the news this morning.

I almost choked when I read the quote from McClatchy's CEO Gary Pruitt at the end of a story yesterday in the NYT: Ad revenue will be the lion’s share of our digital revenue from now on into the future. We’re comfortable with that.”

Had I read that in 1999 I might have been impressed, but 2011. A little late there guys.
McClatchy had just reported another quarter to disappointing earnings, this time a loss of $2 million for the quarter. Revenue from the same time period was down almost ten percent, with print advertising leading the way south.

Pruitt pointed to stronger digital advertising numbers, up slightly over ten percent, as good news. But with McClatchy lagging behind other newspaper chains in its digital media efforts, it is hard to feel good about the chain's future. Currently the company has 14 mobile apps in the App Store, but only two for Android. McClatchy has yet to launch a tablet edition for any of its newspapers.

(To make matters worse, the company's iPhone app for the Sacramento Bee is so buggy that it won't load content and eventually crashes. Apparently readers have given up on the company updating the app because readers have stopped posting complaints in the App Store and are just staying away.)

Speaking of late: it was a late night last night. The Canucks and the Blackhawks battled late into the evening, west coast time, before Vancouver finally scored the winning goal in overtime. It was great drama.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Qik launches Android apps making video chat possible between iPhone & Android users – assuming they will talk

Can Android users and iOS communicate with each without getting into an argument? We'll find out now that Qik has released an Android version of its video chat software for Android devices.

Freaky, here I am video chatting with myself about Qik.

Qik, which is owned by Skype, has had an iPhone version of the software for a while now but it was of limited for the same reason FaceTime has been a bust: so few could use it. But with the release of Android version now iPhone owners and Android owners can video chat – assuming they really want to.

And therein lies the problem: who is actually video chatting? I've never seen anyone do it in public, though I suppose the WiFi requirement by FaceTime may be to blame. Qik (iPhone app here) helps because it on 3G, as well as WiFi.

One of the first posts here at TNM talked about UStream, but Qik seems like it is in theory would be a more powerful tool, one that combines video recording, streaming, and now video chat. But here is the reality of Qik: playing around with the app awhile and testing its streaming and recording capabilities I can tell you I could not get the app to stream live video, or to record and then upload the video properly when on WiFi. Then, after the system failed to record and upload any video online I then asked the app to delete the videos – it couldn't do that task either, so I had to go online and manually delete the "videos" (actually just empty files).

Later I was able to get halting video to steam using 3G, but the quality of the video was something from the nineties. The good news here is that the apps are free, so you get what you pay for, right?

Qik's biggest accomplishment to date is clearly getting Skype to buy them, because while I've gotten UStream to work flawlessly, Qik is pretty much unusable (at least for me, anyway).

Here is their video, in case you're interested:

Al Jazeera shoots itself in the foot by releasing new app without AirPlay support; Israel lifts its ban on the iPad

The news network Al Jazeera wants to reach the American market, but so far the cable companies have blacklisted the news service. But, as I have written about a few times, video streaming services like Livestation have been offering Al Jazeera to their users online and via mobile.
Now Al Jazeera has released a whole new app for the iPad, and then left out the most important feature.

Al Jazeera for iPad is a new, free app that offers live streams of Al Jazeera English, as well as news feeds from the news service's website. The app can be used in both landscape and portrait, but the high quality of the video stream is the real winner here.

But why, oh, why didn't Al Jazeera make this AirPlay-enabled? I was so amazed that the company did not include this that I tested it over and over because I could not believe what I was seeing.

A tap of the screen pulls up the video controls. The AirPlay button, which is a default control, shows the iPad, my Airport Express and my Apple TV. All video can stream audio directly to the Apple TV, but video content needs to be enabled in order to stream. But Al Jazeera released this app without this feature.

So now Al Jazeera has blacklisted Al Jazeera. This is truly a crazy world.

Al Jazeera's website reports that the Israelis are no longer banning the iPad from entering Israel. This has been a weird story to follow, but apparently people were begin given the choice between shipping their iPads back stateside, or else having them confiscated upon entering the country.

The reason given by the authorities had something to do with WiFi, though it was a silly, stupid excuse. The real reason most likely was that the son of Israeli president Shimon Perez is Chemi Peres, who happens to be the president of iDigital, the only Apple distributor in Israel.

Well, according to Al Jazeera, the ban has been lifted and vistors to Israel won't have to worry about bringing in their tablets anymore.

Note taking software for journalists improving, though most still offer limited capabilities

Conducting interviews, either in person or over the phone, continues to be a time consuming chore for most newspaper and magazine writers. The interview itself is the easiest part, transcribing the interview quickly and accurately is where the work is at.

Before proceeding I should point out that I always seek the consent of the recorded party while on the phone, and never continue the interview unless I have received that consent. I always point out that I only record to make sure the quotations are accurate.
My iPhone usually works just fine, either using the phone's built-in app from Apple, or one of several other apps that work, as well. The advantage of the Voice Memos app is that once you have connected your phone to your computer the voice memos will sync, this will allow you to use iTunes to hear back the interview, using iTunes to repeat sections or advance to the next question.

The problem with the iPhone, though, is that notes have to be taken on a separate device. For me, I simply open up the TextEdit program on my Mac to take simple notes. The problem with solution, of course, is that it doesn't work on the road.
One advantage of using Evernote, available for both the iPhone and iPad, is that it will allow you to record an interview while also taking notes silently in the background. The program will also let you take pictures with your phone (or iPad, though the camera on the iPhone is vastly superior).

The app lets you organize the interview into a logical whole, and then upload the notes and recordings to the Evernote website for easy access. The user can then, if desired, download the audio file (which comes in a wav file).

If there is one complaint I have with Evernote it would be that right now the app does not support external USB microphones. Ever since the last major iOS update that included Apple launching an iPad version of GarageBand the iPad's port now works with third party USB microphones (assuming you have Camera Connection Kit).

And speaking of third part microphones: Blue Microphones have several options of external microphones that will work with both the iPhone and iPad through the Camera Connector Kit, but again, one needs to match this up with a software solution. Sadly, my old Mikey, which worked so well with my iPhone 3GS, does not work with the iPhone 4.

Publishers who do not 'own' their apps face possible nightmares down the line; two new magazine apps

Today should be a great day for two publishers as their first iPad apps have hit the App Store. But, sadly, one of the publishers is probably questioning the wisdom of their decision to go with a third party to create their first tablet edition, while the other is just thankful not to be in the shoes of the other.

When you see a new media app in the App Store what is the first thing you look at? Is it the screenshots, the app description? For me, I like to see who the 'seller' is – the person or company listed as the creator of the app. For large companies it is most often the publishers themselves, as in 'Condé Nast Digital' or 'Hearst Communications, Inc.'
But for small to mid-sized publishers the 'seller' is often the third party developer – as in Texterity or The name of the developer often gives you a pretty good clue what you are about to see in the final app: native apps for those publishing under their own names, replica editions when you see the developer's name.

There are certainly exceptions such as two new apps from the developer Produtoralink from Brazil: Status, a men's magazine from Mexico, and Istoé Dinheiro, a Brazilian financial magazine.

The developer here appears to use the Mag+ system developed and used by Bonnier. The system allows publishers or developers to take their InDesign files and convert them for use in a tablet edition.

The signs of the process are obvious as you open the app: text boxes located within page designs that allow for scrolling within the frame, the use of animation for photo galleries, etc.
Both apps are free to download and give you free access to the latest edition. The apps create a library where the reader downloads the issues. Status is offering the May issue, which weighs in at 274 MB – quite large for a magazine that only offers portrait layouts. (The problem of creating only a portrait mode for your app becomes instantly apparent when you run into two-page spreads as seen at left.)

But the download was fairly quick and the reading experience was pretty good, though I will admit that my lack of Spanish skills limited to me to evaluating the layouts, animations and navigation.

Then there is the Revista Istoé Dinheiro app: if I were the publisher I would be wondering why I let the developer act as the seller.

Opening the app takes you to the same library set-up, with the same Status magazine available to download! Yep, the developer messed up big time and included the same magazine for download for both publishing clients.
For me, this is a reminder that I would want more control over my app development, even if I was using a third party to create the app. Yes, there are advantages to having someone house your files, etc. But you only launch once and this launch was blown.

Becoming an Apple developer is not expensive, and the process of submitting apps is simple. Most importantly, by becoming an Apple developer you can test your own apps, a process called ad hoc testing or distribution. An ad hoc app acts like a live app except that it isn't actually in the App Store. I should think that ad hoc testing would be essential for publishers and editors prior to final submission of the app to Apple.

Tablets-Phase Three: Sony to launch two Honeycomb driven tablets this fall; will Amazon launch an Android version of the Kindle? app for the iPad

First there was the iPad, then the first halting attempts at competition, now comes the third wave of tablets including an Android driven Nook, as well as new product launches due in time for the holiday season.
Today Sony jumped into the tablet game by unveiling two new Honeycomb driven tablets called S1, with a 9.4-inch display, and S2, with two 5.5-inch displays. The unveiling by Kunimasa Suzuki, Sony's deputy president of the consumer products and services group, is another example of a manufacturer previewing its tablet offering months ahead of any actual product launch.

Nonetheless, with its integration of its PlayStation games, Sony stands a good chance of success with a games-oriented tablet product. Additionally, by the time the fall season comes there should be some built up demand for an Android tablet that is well designed and which contains all the basic features – read: email, calendar and contacts – that were left off the BlackBerry PlayBook.

The question is whether the next few months will begin to see a large number of Android tablet optimized apps being developed and released.

While many doubt that the new Android version of the Nook will take a big bite out of the emerging tablet market, others are betting that if Amazon does the same as Barnes & Noble and releases an Android driven Kindle that it will have a winner.

But won't this mean a move away from it current displays?

Photobucket released its first mobile app for the iPhone in early 2010, a very useful mobile app that assisted home buyers find and evaluate properties for sale. Of course, while the last few years have been great for Apple, it has been a disaster for the real estate industry.

Who knows when the real estate market will recover, but is moving forward with its apps launching an updated app that improves the look and feel of its app on the iPad. The old app was one of those mobile apps that worked fairly well on the iPad, unlike most apps designed for the iPhone's smaller screen. It wasn't great, but it was functional.

Now this new universal app is the first released for specifically designed for both the iPhone and iPad. Since has also released Android and BlackBerry apps, I expect we will see new versions of those apps soon, as well.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Fragmentation of Android market one of the biggest obstacles facing publishers

I've been a bit incapacitated today, which explains the lack of new posts. But in the meantime I've been reading about Barnes & Noble's conversion of the Nook into an Android tablet – I'm not terribly impressed.
This is all good news for eReader users, mind you. Now Nook owners can download some apps for their eReader and have some sort of tablet experience. But Nook owners won't have access to the Android Market, limiting them to an extremely small number of apps.

The problem for publishers is not just the number of app stores for the Android platform – the Android Market, app stores from Amazon and now Barnes & Noble – the problem comes in having different Android apps optimized for versions of Android and different flavors of Android tablets.

But this may be, at least for now, what the future will look like on the Android platform, and it's probably good news for vendors who like to sell publishers their digital publishing solutions.

Homage Magazine launched as tablet-only app: teaser issue works hard to frustrate any prospective readers

It is interesting to me that tablet-centric and tablet-only magazines are beginning to be produced around the same time that some major publishers are already expressing frustration that their tablet efforts are not catching on with the general public. It is proof, I believe, of the argument I made a year ago that it will be those that are committed to the new platform that will show the way for traditional print publishers.
But even though I have great faith that the new, independent electronic publishers will have lots to offer the industry and to magazine readers, it is also true that the basics of publishing do not change from platform to platform – and rule number one is don't piss off your new readers.

On Saturday a new tablet-only magazine appeared in Apple's App Store, Homage Magazine, and it certainly violates rule number one big time. The app is free to download and then gives readers a "teaser" issue. Does any one like to be "teased"? Better that the publisher had offered an abridged issue, or better still a full prototype issue.

Instead Homage Magazine gives its new readers lots of messages that say "To use the features of this section, download the full edition from the App Store". Grrr.

To make matters worse, there is no "full edition" currently in the App Store. (I actually think they mean that the full edition will appear as an in-app purchase, but we'll see because neither option is currently available for readers.)
It's probably just as well, because judging from the music the publishers use here it appears that this magazine is designed for those people who walk into an elevator and stay there all day because they like the music.

The app description says the new magazine will "pay tribute to the extraordinary people, places, events and products that are positively changing the fabric of our planet." I think the emphasis here will be on "products". As for those "extraordinary" people mentioned, well, think "rich".

The website that supports the new magazine is not very helpful in understanding the company and people behind this new tablet magazine. But it does contain the first spec sheet targeted at the advertising community I've seen from a publisher.

Other publishers who have yet to build their own media kits with specs might find this simple PDF of interest.

Morning Brief: Guardian asks about the future of B2B publishing (but provides no answer); Condé Nast app slowdown due as much to failed strategy as tiny market

It may be only April but the media world already looks to be in a summer funk. News is light, magazines are thin, and we are not even near those August vacations. Last week I picked up a couple of B2Bs that contained so few ad pages that according to my figures were down 80 percent in ad pages when compared to two years ago.

Speaking of B2B: The Guardian this morning asks Have trade magazines got a shelf life?

Any headline that ends in a question mark is a sure sign that the author has failed to come up with an answer themselves and is forced to conclude that they don't know. But the article is worth a look, nonetheless, if only to get a little perspective on the health of the B2B media market from across the pond. Things are not going so well over there either, if the article is any indication.

Unfortunately, other than stating that the total number of B2B titles in the UK has declined, the author fails to give many other details that a publisher would like to have – like ad pages, for instance.

In the US, the sector is still on life support. After seeing ad pages fall nearly 30 percent in 2009, ad page declines moderated a bit, falling only 3.1 percent last year. The first report from the ABM is probably due within the next month and expectations are that there should be some growth recorded. But for many B2Bs it is way too late: decreased ad sales staffs, combined with dropped BPAs has condemned a number of titles to the inevitable. For others, however, 2011 may indeed be a turnaround year – we'll see.

Over on the consumer side, things are looking up for some of the larger titles. The first quarter was a blow out for Vogue, for instance, with its ad pages totally 621 in the first quarter, up ten percent or so.

Condé Nast's mens titles struggled, however, with Details and GQ down, though Esquire did manage to report a small gain.

All this is mentioned to put into perspective the recent talk about Condé Nast slowing down its magazine app development. I would bet you a bundle that the publisher would not be saying they are slowing down launching apps if the company were blowing out its numbers . . . of it consumers were enthusiastic about what Condé Nast is offering iPad owners.

Face it, by pricing their magazines at single issue prices, Condé Nast was never going to succeed on a massive scale with its tablet publishing efforts. A quick look inside the App Store shows that that the following magazines have mostly negative reviews: GQ, Allure, Brides, Self, Vogue, Golf Digest, The New Yorker, and Wired. Across the board, the reviews are similar: readers don't like having to pay newsstand prices for their digital editions.

So who will still buy these titles? Well, the same loyal readers that have been buying the print titles one at a time. The problem is that this represents a very small portion of the reading public – an iPad owner and a single copy buyer.

So you could say that Condé Nast is indeed smart for slowing down its iPad app development, the market is just too small at this point to make going after this segment a good business proposition. But conversely, you could also say that the strategy was faulty to begin with, and instead it would have been smart to have used the launch of the iPad to try and attract new readers by pricing their products more in line with reader expectations.