Friday, May 20, 2011

NYPL Biblion: a "truly innovative application' about the 1939-1940 World's Fair from the New York Public Library

Because TNM has an international audience, this post from Pedro Monteiro, publisher of the new website Digital Distribution, first appeared online very early this morning, US time. It has been "bumped" to the top for the convenience of readers in the Western Hemisphere.

Every now and then, the app store can deliver some really nice surprises. These past weeks, I've been thrilled to find a lot of these surprises. We've seen and played with some new applications that finally bring a new "look" to what magazines and newspaper should really be on the iPad: I'm thinking about Al Gore's book Our Choice, or Above & Beyond: George Steinmetz, and just a couple of days ago we saw Letter to Jane: Moral Tales with its very fresh and experimental interface, navigation and content.
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But today, I was mesmerized with NYPL Biblion: World's Fair. Who would have thought, just a couple of months ago, that a great out-of-the-box layout, one that sets such a interesting example of UI for magazines around our tablets, would be designed for a library?

Yet, here it is, in all it's glory and novelty, the New York Public Library application Biblion. And what a sight it is! This publication (a first of more to come, we are told) bares the title "The World of Tomorow: Exploring the 1939-40 World's Fair Collection" and delivers a huge amount of content, from historical pictures, to essay's about the fair and its innovations.

But it is the interface that I want to talk about, so let's get to it.

Right at the beginning, the Table of Contents - if you can call it that - is presented in a very visually powerful way. You get a great taste of the amount of content you'll be able to explore and its navigation, even if different, is natural and needs no instructions. Tap the introduction "stack" and you'll see a cover for the issue (if it is the first time you choose the stack) and there's a very clever idea to start: you get cover titles on the left and right side of the cover.

On the left side, titles for previously read articles;on the right side, titltes for articles you might want to check out, from the ones not yet read. Publishers and developers out there, please copy this and understand the thinking behind this kind of UI solutions.

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The articles view is just beautiful, taking full advantage of the iPad's functions and physicality: on horizontal view, you get text and pictures separated. Reading navigation is done horizontally also, swiping through the pages in a cadence of pictures and text. Rotate your iPad to vertical mode and you get the Book View. Set for the reading experience, I just love the way pictures grow from their stack in acordande with the text you're reading. To add even more enjoyment to a design and UI freak like me, the NYPL application teaches another lesson with yellow marked, on the side to be pulled, related content to the one you're reading. The cherry on top of the cake has to be the left thumbnail of the article content. Such a nice way to visualize the full article. I expect this kind of approach to be copied all over very soon.

Talk about this visual hints of the articles, back on horizontal mode you can choose to see all of the section's articles in that way, a very nice way to understand fast what kind of content is on each article.

This is truly a innovative application – you'll just have to download it for free yourself from the app store. If you are as impressed as I am, then you should go to the Settings popup menu where can donate to the library. Go ahead, these guys really deserve it!

One last word for the developers of the app, the interaction design and technology firm Potion: well done guys, the kind of thinking that has gotten into the making of this application is amazing and should be a huge inspiration for everyone in the news business that is (or will be) publishing on the iPad. I will try to talk with the Potion guys about Biblion (if you are reading this, I'm the one asking for an email interview) and if I'm successful, I'll post it on my own blog.
– Pedro Monteiro

Two new media apps look at news and events in the state of Texas: The Texas Observer, The Statesman for iPad

As far as I know, the state of Texas has not seceded from the United States, though the day is still young. The state has just passed a bill requiring women to view sonograms of the embryo or fetus and hear a lecture on its development before being allowed to proceed to have an abortion – very subtle, huh?
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My sister lives in Texas, 'nuf said.

So it was with trepidation that I approached these two new media apps from the great state of Texas. One app is from The Texas Democracy Foundation for its magazine The Texas Observer, the other is from Cox Media for its daily newspaper The Austin Statesman.

Neither app breaks new ground, though both are usable and will be welcomed by loyal readers. Both apps are free to download but only the app for The Texas Observer charges for content.


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The Texas Observer is strictly a replica editions app, offering those who download the app one free issue, the April 8th edition, while charging for older issues. Because of this, the iPad app is already six issues behind the print editions.

The app contains a direct link to the TexasObserver.org website, as well as a donate button. I wonder if the donate button caused a hiccup in the app approval process, creating the issue delay problem.
The Texas Observer writes about issues ignored or underreported in the mainstream press. Our goal is to cover stories crucial to the public interest and to provoke dialogue that promotes democratic participation and open government, in pursuit of a vision of Texas where education, justice and material progress are available to all.
– from the app description.

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The Austin American-Statesman is the daily newspaper for the state's capital city, with a circulation of a bit over 173,000 daily, around 215,000 on Sunday.

The Cox Media app for its Austin property, The Statesman for iPad, is also a free download. For now, the app allows readers free access to the app's content. But the app description hints that this won't be the case forever.
Note: The Statesman for iPad app is free to download and during this introductory trial period, there is no charge for access to the full content.
The app is RSS feed driven and contains a refresh button that allows you to update the copy.

The news app allows for both portrait and landscape use, with the font page's ad switching from a button-styled ad in landscape, to a banner along the bottom of the page when in portrait. Currently the advertiser there is Dillard's, a major department store.

When the user taps a story it takes you to an article layout that contains a banner ad along the bottom in both orientations. In landscape the section navigation stays in place, but in portrait it is hidden behind a toggle switch.

The app is serviceable, though I wonder if it is a good replacement for the print edition. But since Austin is both a college town and the center of much of the tech community in Texas I would think that iPad ownership would be fairly high, so getting this right will be important for Cox Media. This app is at least a start.

The Red Bulletin launches first iPad app; the magazine is in a unique position - it has marketing dollars behind it

For a magazine designed to promote a product, Red Bull, the Red Bulletin is showing quite healthy growth. Now claiming a circulation of 4.6 million for its various editions, the magazine has just released its first tablet edition and it is very well done, indeed.
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The Red Bulletin is a free iPad app download that gives readers free access to both English and German language editions.

But what makes this magazine really unique is that its creator, Red Bull Media House, is actually spending money to promote it. Just this week, the company inserted copies of the US print edition into AdAge issues. I assume that cost a fortune as the magazine is a typical European A4 sized publication at 100 pages.

According to the promotional flyer that accompanied the print magazine, 1.2 million copies of the magazine are distributed in the US using newsstands. events, mail and as a Sunday supplement in the The Los Angeles Times, The Miami Herald, The New York Daily News, The Houston Chronicle and The Chicago Tribune. These five daily newspapers have a combined circulation of well over the 1.2 million mentioned in the flyer, so I have no idea how they determine how many to insert into each paper, and how many each paper gets.

The flyer gives a clue, I guess: the magazine is designed to reach s 15 to 34 year old demographic, presumably the target market for the Red Bull energy drink.

"The idea for The Red Bulletin was conceived at 2:30 in the morning in a mountain hut in the Austrian Alps near Salzberg," Red Bull CEO Dietrich Mateschitz states in the introductory column of the issue.

"It attempts to convey that spark of excitement that rushes through the unique people who manage to transform their crazy ideas into reality, thanks to the energy in their bodies and minds."

(Sounds like Base Commander Jack D. Ripper should have been drinking Red Bull to avoid 'loss of essence'.)

The tablet edition and the print edition share their main features, but of course treat them very differently. The cover feature on two-time Cy Young Award winning pitcher Tim Lincecum of the San Francisco Giants is a good example.



The print edition has a series of photographs of his pitching motion that appears to have been taken directly from the video that was shot for the iPad edition. The layouts are fairly traditional print layouts with an emphasis on photography. The tablet edition concentrates on the video content which can be seen in landscape mode (the portrait layouts tell you to switch the orientation of your tablet).

The video content and the app's animation is extremely well done here. The user interface is fairly standard tablet magazine design, but the transitions are excellent.

The tablet edition does not try and duplicate the front part of the print magazine which contains lots of little news stories. Instead it just moves right into the features. Clearly this first tablet edition was conceived at the same time of the print edition, improving both.

And there, I suppose, is the big lesson to be learned here: if you are going to create a tablet edition it should not be produced after the print edition has been put to bed, but should be part of the original work – this will greatly improve both products as The Red Bulletin clearly demonstrates.

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Update: Bloomberg yesterday afternoon posted a mega-profile of Red Bull's CEO Dietrich Mateschitz and mentions the company's media efforts – worth a read.

Morning Brief: Rapture could slow down tablet sales; Google shuts down newspaper archiving project

They'll be partying it up in Fayetteville, North Carolina tomorrow as Harold Camping, an 89-year-old pastor, holds what he describes as "the best damned party in NC."
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Camping, you see, as once again predicted the end of times, or more accurately, the rapture. Camping and his followers expect that on Saturday they will be swept up into heaven, and that tomorrow begins the destruction of the world (with all non-believers dead by the fall).

If true, the event may have a significant impact on the plans of developers currently working on new tablet projects. Unfortunately, Camping is silent concerning the whole iOS versus Android debate. Will iOS developers be saved, or will it be the Android folk who rise to heaven.

"On the first day of the Day of Judgment (May 21, 2011) they will be caught up (raptured) into Heaven because God had great mercy for them," the BBC quotes paster Camping. To me this seems a little vague, better launch for both platforms.


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It was a great idea, digitize thousands of newspapers for posterity. But Google has called a halt to its plans to scan millions of pages of print newspapers, telling Search Engine Land's Matt McGee that Google doesn't plan to introduce any further features or functionality to the Google News Archives and we are no longer accepting new microfilm or digital files for processing."

No word as to whether this all has something to do with the first story above.

NYPL Biblion: a "truly innovative application' about the 1939-1940 World's Fair from the New York Public Library

Pedro Monteiro, publisher of the new website Digital Distribution, and a contributor to TNM, looks at the new iPad app from the New York Public Library.

Every now and then, the app store can deliver some really nice surprises. These past weeks, I've been thrilled to find a lot of these surprises. We've seen and played with some new applications that finally bring a new "look" to what magazines and newspaper should really be on the iPad: I'm thinking about Al Gore's book Our Choice, or Above & Beyond: George Steinmetz, and just a couple of days ago we saw Letter to Jane: Moral Tales with its very fresh and experimental interface, navigation and content.
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But today, I was mesmerized with NYPL Biblion: World's Fair. Who would have thought, just a couple of months ago, that a great out-of-the-box layout, one that sets such a interesting example of UI for magazines around our tablets, would be designed for a library?

Yet, here it is, in all it's glory and novelty, the New York Public Library application Biblion. And what a sight it is! This publication (a first of more to come, we are told) bares the title "The World of Tomorow: Exploring the 1939-40 World's Fair Collection" and delivers a huge amount of content, from historical pictures, to essay's about the fair and its innovations.

But it is the interface that I want to talk about, so let's get to it.

Right at the beginning, the Table of Contents - if you can call it that - is presented in a very visually powerful way. You get a great taste of the amount of content you'll be able to explore and its navigation, even if different, is natural and needs no instructions. Tap the introduction "stack" and you'll see a cover for the issue (if it is the first time you choose the stack) and there's a very clever idea to start: you get cover titles on the left and right side of the cover.

On the left side, titles for previously read articles;on the right side, titltes for articles you might want to check out, from the ones not yet read. Publishers and developers out there, please copy this and understand the thinking behind this kind of UI solutions.

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The articles view is just beautiful, taking full advantage of the iPad's functions and physicality: on horizontal view, you get text and pictures separated. Reading navigation is done horizontally also, swiping through the pages in a cadence of pictures and text. Rotate your iPad to vertical mode and you get the Book View. Set for the reading experience, I just love the way pictures grow from their stack in acordande with the text you're reading. To add even more enjoyment to a design and UI freak like me, the NYPL application teaches another lesson with yellow marked, on the side to be pulled, related content to the one you're reading. The cherry on top of the cake has to be the left thumbnail of the article content. Such a nice way to visualize the full article. I expect this kind of approach to be copied all over very soon.

Talk about this visual hints of the articles, back on horizontal mode you can choose to see all of the section's articles in that way, a very nice way to understand fast what kind of content is on each article.

This is truly a innovative application – you'll just have to download it for free yourself from the app store. If you are as impressed as I am, then you should go to the Settings popup menu where can donate to the library. Go ahead, these guys really deserve it!

One last word for the developers of the app, the interaction design and technology firm Potion: well done guys, the kind of thinking that has gotten into the making of this application is amazing and should be a huge inspiration for everyone in the news business that is (or will be) publishing on the iPad. I will try to talk with the Potion guys about Biblion (if you are reading this, I'm the one asking for an email interview) and if I'm successful, I'll post it on my own blog.
– Pedro Monteiro

Thursday, May 19, 2011

The publisher's dilemma concerning tablet editions: 'You're selling ice, and I have a refrigerator'

I received a call the other day from the local newspaper, one that, frankly, I have not subscribed to in quite a very long time. I was very nice to the telemarketer, after all, I've employed telemarketing firms in order to sell subscriptions or renew B2B trade magazine readers.
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I let the salesperson finish their pitch and then gently said "you're selling ice, and I have a refrigerator."

There was silence on the other end of the phone for a second and then I continued: "I do most of my reading of the news on my computer, but if I want to spend time reading a paper, I pick up my iPad. You guys are selling a product that may still be good, but I'm not reading newspapers that way anymore."

There was silence again. Then the salesperson said "yep, me, too," and he was on to the next call.

Playboy magazine finds a natural home on the iPad, but HTML solution is not as optimal as a native application

The App Store seems to be acting up for me, preventing me from downloading new media apps, so this is a good time to look deeper into Playboy's browser based tablet solution.

America has serious issues with sex. Over half a century after the founding of Playboy magazine, America still is both obsessed and repelled by it. The nation watched as a President, overseeing the most prosperous era in the nation's history, was impeached over sex. Now the majority party in the House is working to end reproductive rights for women, including the right to contraception.
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PhotobucketSo maybe it is fitting that today we are still talking about the magazine Hugh Hefner started in 1953, partially out of a $1,000 loan from his mother (gotta love mothers). Playboy was at one time, but is no more, an important American institution. It was born in the fifties, America's Victorian Age, with a nude picture of Marilyn Monroe no less, and continued growing and improving right into the early seventies.

Playboy, despite its male-centric posture, was a platform for women's rights (and civil rights), even if was the end product of a philosophy that said "nice girls like sex, too."

More importantly, it was symbol of "liberal" America: intellectual, educated, a bit snobby, funny, and sexually adventurous. No wonder that the sixties didn't kill off the magazine, it actually strengthened it. Playboy's editors recognized great authors and plenty of funny men, too, like Woody Allen, and Brooks and Brooks (Mel and Albert), and gave them plenty of space thanks to the magazine's great fiction editors like Robie Macauley. (Macauley left Playboy in 1977 to become a senior editor at Houghton Mifflin, clearly a career at Playboy was not considered a negative at the time.)

But that was all so long ago. From a circulation level over 7 million to today where it now is less than a third that, Playboy has fallen on hard times. Many say it was the rise of more accessible pornography that did in the magazine: first competitive magazines that were more raw (think Hustler and Penthouse), then the VHS, and finally the Internet.

I won't argue with that assessment other than to point out one thing: I never thought I'd read another issue of Rolling Stone, but thanks to several provocative articles by writers such as Matt Taibbi I've found myself reading the magazine occasionally, whether in print or online.

Such is the power of great editors that their work can rejuvenate even legacy periodicals. But can Playbook be reborn? Not in print, I would argue. The tablet seems to me to be the perfect platform for the magazine thanks to its display, its multimedia capability, and its portable nature. It is a leisure-time device, as studies have show, and Playboy has always been a leisure-time read.


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Left: Peter Sellers on the cover in 1964; Middle: an interview with Miles Davis from 1963; Right: the first cartoon asks "what is the past tense of 'virgin'?."


(Let's stop right here and point out the obvious: many people couldn't care less for this magazine, and are even philosophically opposed to its success. Fine, let's deal with this issue as an exercise in turnaround publishing.)

LinkedIn stock jumps in value at launch, then settles at around $85; WSJ screams "Bubble!" prematurely?

The Wall Street Journal screamed "Bubble Alert!" as LinkedIn's stock rose in early trading following the company's IPO launch. But by the time the WSJ's story hit their website, LinkedIn's stock has already fallen from its high of $92.99 a share to below $80 as I write this.
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The day before the stock's introduction, analysts were raising their target prices to around $45 per share and speculating that this price was probably far too high for a company that generated $15 million in profits last year.

At the higher valuation of $45 a share, analysts would be pegging the value of LinkedIn at a little over $4 billion, still very high based on current profits, but then IPOs are not about present day performance but expectations of future growth. At $90 a share, however, the WSJ may have a point.

Already today LinkedIn's stock has jumped around wildly but continues to settle back in around $85.

Update: New numbers added to story as the stock climbs, then falls, etc. etc.

Update 2: It is now just past noon on the East Coast and LinkedIn's stock stands at over $107 a share. I think it is safe to say that the WSJ was right, this is a bubble. It is also safe to say that the investor class is crazy and should be committed.

Morning Brief: Playboy avoids Apple's App Review team and puts its back issues up online behind paywall; NYT CEO Robinson says Globe is not for sale, but ...

Taking a lesson from Apple, Playboy has launched a new website that will host all 57 years of the magazine's back issues called iPlayboy.
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The website prominently promotes reading Playboy on the iPad, but the company did not launch an iPad app, but rather went with a browser based solution instead. The move avoids a potential fight with Apple's rather granny-like attitude towards sex, satire and anything else that smells adult behavior.

But the move also means that there will be no in-app purchases, instead readers sign up at the website. But here is the catch, and it is a big one: Playboy doesn't own the URL iPlayboy.com. Instead, readers are directed to i.Playboy.com where they sign up for a very expensive membership starting at $8 per month. Playboy also offers a one year subscription at $60 per year, or $100 for two years.
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What this gets readers is every issue ever published. Interestingly, the real enticement here is not access to current issues, but access to the older issues - a tacit admission that it is the back issues with their author and celebrity interviews that are the real attraction to the brand – and that list of quality authors is long, indeed: Saul Bellow, John LeCarre, Kurt Vonnegut, Mel Brooks, Woody Allen, Vladimir Nabokov, Joyce Carol Oates, and on and on.

According to Wikipedia, the magazine hit its peak with the November 1972 edition which sold 7,161,561 copies. Last year's ABC audit showed that the magazine's circulation now stands at just over 1.6 million.



In a not so definitive statement New York Times Company CEO Janet Robinson told a group of Boston Globe reporters in a meeting that their paper was not for sale, but that because the company is publicly traded it would be forced to entertain any offers made for the Globe.

"One of the things we say often, and it can’t be said enough in this community: The New York Times is very proud of The Boston Globe," Robinson said. “We’re very proud of the progress we’ve made. We’re very proud of its commitment to quality journalism." (Boy, that sounds condescending, like she's talking to a little boy who brought home a B on their report card.)

Separately, Robinson reported at a J.P. Morgan conference yesterday that more than 100,000 readers had signed up for access to the Times website and mobile access since the paper went behind a metered paywall in March.

"If you break it out, not only have we surpassed the 100,000 mark as we noted in regard to the April call, we also have an MEU -- Most Engaged User program -- that we sold to Lincoln that is being paid for by Lincoln until the end of the year," the AP reported Robinson telling investors.

Robinson also said that 728,000 of the NYT's print subscribers had registered online for free access, taking advantage of the NYT's offer of free digital access for print subscribers.



The publisher of The Kansas City Star, Mark Zieman, has been promoted to Vice President, Operations at McClatchy. The promotion will mean a move to Sacramento.

Zieman will be replacing Frank Whittaker who is retiring on May 27. Zieman will be split operations responsibility with Bon Well: Zieman handling 13 daily newspapers in seven states, while Well handles 14 daily newspapers. Pat Talamantes, vice president, finance and chief financial officer, has added the company's Florida operations which include The Miami Herald to his list of duties.


Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The patent economy: Leave the gun, take the cannoli

This post about Facebook winning a patent concerning the tagging of digital media, along with all the lawsuit recently filed between tech giants, now has the entire tech industry appearing more like rival gangs than rival businesses. The weapons may not be guns, but they are lawyers (there is no cannoli, just lattes).
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The latest patent to enter the conversation concerns Tagging digital media and you don't have to be a techie or a lawyer to understand how the granting of this patent will effect future tech products.

Luckily, as Erik Sherman points out in his really good post on the subject, the patent doesn't cover all kinds of tagging, but now Facebook's lawyers can get started doing what they do. Further, since I am not a patent lawyer I can not express any views concerning the merits of the granting of this patent, but . . .



Nokia sues Apple, Nokia sues Samsung, Nokia sues LG, Samsung sues Apple, Apple sues Samsung, Apple sues HTC, Apple sues Amazon, LG sues Sony, Amazon sues Barnes & Noble, Microsoft sues Barnes & Noble, Dell sues Sharp, Hitachi and Toshiba, Google sues US government, RIM sues LG over the word "black". Need I go on?

Our corporate owned and run economy, protected by the courts, is better suited for the Middle Ages, not the 21st century. Until the patent laws are seriously reformed we will continue to read about the actions lawyers the way we used to read about the actions of sports figures. And yes, you'll need a scorecard to follow along.

If you don't think all this gang style warfare won't effect you let me give you two examples of how it already has.

Many years ago I heard about a new cassette recorder that used digital technology. The devices would be the perfect replacement for analog cassettes, and a great way to digitize LPs. The RIAA, however, threatened to sue any manufacturer who brought the product to market. (Later legislation was introduced at the behest of the RIAA that required DAT machines to include a chip that would detect any attempts at using these machines to copy material. The legislation, by the way, was introduced by Sen. Al Gore and Rep. Henry Waxman.)

Ultimately, the consumer DAT machine became unnecessary with the growth of digitization in the late nineties into today, and what goes around, come around as the music industry now faces a far bigger piracy nightmare than they could have ever dreamed of would have been caused by the DAT machine.

Domino's Pizza reports that its iPhone app and mobile optimized website has accounted for £10 million in sales; launches new mobile app into the Android Market

Mobile means big business for Domino's Pizza in the UK. The UK and Irish company, not the US one, has reported £10 million worth of business through its mobile channels.
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Part of this success is through its iPhone app, Domino's, which is available only in the UK App Store. Amazingly, there is no US equivalent app.

The company said that the iPhone app has been downloaded over a half million times so far, and combined with a mobile optimized website, has accounted for just reached over £10 million in sales.
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Not surprisingly, the UK company has announced that it has launched an Android version of the app which can be found in the Android Market here, where there is also a Domino's Japan app, as well (again, there is no US application).

"We’re always looking for innovative ways to allow our customers to order," Simon Wallis, sales and marketing director for Domino’s, said.

"We first launched online ordering ten years ago and, based on its phenomenal success, we were keen to capitalise on new opportunities created by mobile channels. Investing in this type of technology is now paying dividends for us, achieving pizza sales of over £10 million. With sales of Android phones reported to be up 810 per cent year on year, we’re excited about what the future holds with the launch of our new app, which will allow even more pizza lovers to order on the move.”

Reminder to developers: No Flash on the iPad. Got it?

When you look as many media apps as I do in the course of a day you can really get discouraged. But I try and tell myself that we are still only 17 months into the age of tablet publishing and things will get better.
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Still there are errors that developers make that have you shaking your head.

An app I just finished looking at – no links because there is no reason to be pointing fingers – was a typical replica edition for a local magazine. The app created a library where readers can buy the latest issue.

The app gives readers a "preview" of the issue they can buy but the single page that is displayed floats in the window creating a kind of boat-in-rough-waters look. But the worst decision was to create a button that will take you directly to the publisher's website. That doesn't sound too bad until you realize that the site uses Flash in a major element on their home page.

OK, it's not the end of the world, and it appears that this is the developer's very first app to hit Apple's App Store. So let's just call this all a learning experience.

Would pay three grand to have a PDF of your magazine available in the App Store? It appears that some would

While many publishers are still taking a wait and see approach to tablet publishing, and others are still searching for that elusive good-but-inexpensive digital publishing solution, there are apparently publishers out there desperate to get their publications into Apple's App Store.
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At least one company is more than willing to do the work for you: MagAppZine says that for $2,994 they will take a PDF of your magazine and create an app for it.

MagAppZine charges the publisher the one-time setup fee ($2,994) then charges per issue upload, between $24 and $39 per issue depending on the number of issues per year. Then MagAppZine charges publisher a 25 percent commission on all sales, minus the 30 percent commission Apple gets.

Let's do the numbers: say you do 12 issues a year, and charge $1.99 an issue. Your cost that first year for the app would be $2,994 plus $408 to upload the issues. If you want your own splash screen on your app, that's another $394. That's $3,796. To break even you would need to sell 3,634 issues. (Divide the total cost by $1.04475, the amount you would get minus the Apple and MagAppZine commission.)

So far five apps have appeared under the MagAppZine name in the App Store including one for The New Criterion. The arts and culture journal is charging $4.99 per issue, but is offering the January issue as a free sample. The journal reveals that it is all text, no photos, no video, just text – so maybe this is the right solution for them.

For me, this shows that there is a desperate need for a more native publishing solution from Apple. I know they aren't fond of these kinds of apps, yet more and more of them are appearing in the App Store. If they want more interactive publishing apps that offer iOS features then I think Apple will have to develop that digital publishing solution themselves – a GarageBand for publishers.

Next Issue Media finally set to launch its digital newsstand for users of the Samsung Galaxy Tab

Although TNM's official launch date was January 4, 2010, you'll notice that there are actually posts going back to November of 2009. Many of these posts were early experiments, but some were the result of news that I felt was very important for the industry: the closing of Editor & Publisher (which has never really relaunched IMO), the announcement that the New York Times would go behind a paywall are two examples.
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Another early post was in response to the announcement that five major magazine publishers, Condé Nast, Hearst, Meredith, News Corp., and Time Inc., had formed a digital consortium for the purposes of creating a storefront and to create new digital products using a common platform for the new mobile devices being introduced. (I think my dog and I were the only ones who read that early post.)

Well, here we are, almost a year and a half later, and the news that Next Issue Media is about to launch its digital storefront is, to be blunt, not very big news. The reason is simple: the tablet market did appear as predicted, but media companies reacted too slow, tried to impose a losing pricing structure on the new market being created, and ended up only looking more out-of-touch in the process.

Now that some publishers like Condé Nast are finally starting to offer iPad owners reasonable subscription prices one wonders whether a united digital storefront is really necessary.

Well, I would say that it might be, in fact, necessary.

The reason is that while Apple has been able to successfully create a workable ecosystem for its iOS devices, the Android market is still a mess for publishers – at least on the tablet side.

No wonder then that the announcement that the Next Issue storefront launch only involves the ability of Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.0 owners (who are on the Verizon network) will be involved in the launch. Those few tablet owners will be able to buy issues of Fitness, Popular Mechanics, The New Yorker, Time, Esquire, Parents, or Fortune.

These legacy titles will be read on one Android tablet, with a seven inch screen, that is running an old version of Android (Froyo).

Back in November of 2009 the announcement of a new digital consortium seemed like a peek into the future. Today it looks like the scene at the finish line of a marathon when the older folk come walking towards the finish line. It's nice to see them make it finally to the finish line, but the real racers have long since passed by.

Nonetheless, we all know that eventually, eventually, eventually, Android tablets will be introduced that will be part of an important non-Apple part of the tablet market. Samsung, for instance, will be launching a Honeycomb driven ten-inch display model of its Galaxy Tab in early June – one that has a far better chance of being a hit than then smaller model currently available.

Morning Brief: Low cost Nook could put downward price pressure on Android tablets; Al Jazeera's Parvaz released

If it's true that Barnes & Noble has scheduled event week to announce a new lower priced Nook with touch controls then this create more pressure on new Android tablets to lower their prices. And that may be a problem for them.
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By introducing the iPad at such a competitive price (as it has turned out) Apple has set the upper end of the price scale, Android tablet manufacturers are struggling just to meet those prices, let alone beat them. As a result, some are having to tout features that their tablets have that Apple's tablet does not – and there aren't many of them, Flash capability being the most obvious.

Most observers I've read expect B&N's new low priced Nook to be monochrome, which makes it more a competitor to the Kindle, but one has to realize that many consumers still see the new tablets as eReaders, while others see them as replacements for netbooks. In reality, the iPad is in none of those categories, while able to fulfill most of the functions of both. To beat the iPad manufacturers will have to have a complete, easy to understand ecosystem that includes an easy to use UI combined with the apps and media consumption features found on the iPad – otherwise price ends up being the only differentiator, and that is where B&N appears to be heading.



In the race to drive traffic to news and tech sites, it is becoming increasingly common practice to rewrite the stories of others, avoiding to claim originality at all (for obvious legal reasons) and then at some point at the end link back to the original source.

Business Insider does this all the time; in fact, they've created a strategy to Tweet the stories they find interesting driving people to unrelated stories, but with the desired link at the top.

Today's example is this one about a recent survey by Digital Research. Brad Chacos, writing on MaximumPC reacts to the research stating that while corporate managers may be buying tablets like crazy they appear to have no idea what their actual tablet strategy currently is. Fine, I suppose, but it would be hard for me to disagree since he doesn't include a link to the survey.

Gizmodo then picks up the story, rehashing the basic idea, then gives MaximumPC credit at the end with a link. 9to5Mac then picks up the Gizmodo story and the cycle continues. Only the 9to5Mac story has an embedded link where it uses the words "Digital Research survey" – did they find the original survey? No, it is a link back to the story that started it all at MaximumPC (but 9to5Mac credits Gizmodo as the source).

I like to call this new form of modern journalism aggreplagiarism – a combination of aggregation and plagiarism. No one complains because it is the new norm. Websites need ever greater amounts of traffic in order to boost their numbers. Creating vast amounts of original material is simply too hard and so we have a new form of aggregation.

I don't really have a problem with aggregation, it is the hiding of it that bothers me. Jim Romenesko, I think, is a good example of how it should be done.



Speaking of Romenesko: the story that leads his feature right now is the good news that the Iranians have released Al Jazeera reporter Dorothy Parvaz.

In a Morning Brief last week that Google ate, I noted that Parvaz had been detained in Syria and then handed over to the Iranians. Parvaz had apparently entered Syria on an expired Iranian passport and so the Syrians (they said) deported her to the country of the passport's origin.

Parvaz holds triple citizenship status: Canada, the US and Iran.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Late afternoon briefs, snark and the rest: Barnes & Noble schedules special event, possible new NOOK?; the poor state of financial journalism; waiting on my iPhone 5

A look inside my control panel shows that Google is throwing stories back into the system, all those stories they deleted last week. What a weird way to fix things.

Since I retrieved the stories from the TNM iPhone app, I don't need these duplicates so they've been deleted.


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Barnes & Noble sent out invitations for "a Special Announcement" to be made on May 24th. CrunchGear thinks it's a new Nook, and that sounds about right. But since I didn't get an invite I'll just wait like everyone else until the actual event.

I noticed, however, that B&N is creating accessories for their NOOK products – very smart, Apple makes a fortune on its own accessories. But when I start seeing lots of accessories from third party companies I know that their product has really gotten traction.



Barnes & Noble is not the only bookseller looking at launching a new tablet. Wired says Amazon may release two new tablet devices by the end of the year. Of course, everyone says they will launch a new tablet, just few actually do it, and aren't we still waiting for a decent non-iOS tablet to arrive?

I think Amazon realizes that they have the sames infrastructure that most resembles Apple's, putting them in the best position to make a success of the effort.

The problem, of course, remains Android and many flavors, none of which seem to have established the OS as a serious alternative to the iPad. I still think it will happen, but it certainly is taking longer than I anticipated.

The media developers still tell me the same thing: they develop for the iPhone and iPad first, then work on an Android phone app. Android tablets are still a lower priority – not a low priority, just a lower priority.



Financial journalism: "What’s with our elite financial journalists?' asks Ryan Chittum on CJR.org.

He is responding to this article by Roger Lowenstein on Bloomberg BusinessWeek which tries to explain why no Wall Street execs have gone to jail over the financial crisis. Needless to say Lowenstein lets the bankers off easy.

Dean Starkman, of the CJR's business section, chimes in on Twitter with "somehow the "sophisticated" argument always exonerates wall st. funny how that works."



Bruce Bochy, the skipper of the WS champ Giants has apparently forgotten how to manage. For the second day in a row he's decided to leave in his starter in order to make a loser of him.

It reminds me of the line from Ken Burns's The Civil War where Shelby Foote talks about a Confederate general ordering a hopeless charge as a way of "disciplining" his troops. Worked about as well as Bochy's moves the past two days.



Found out today that I will probably be getting an iPhone 5 when it comes out this fall. With four phones on our AT&T plan, it means that there are always one or two upgrades available. I get the new phone, the old iPhone gets passed down – it's a sweet little deal I have, don't you think?

But the thing is that I am perfectly happy with my iPhone 4. So what can I expect from the new iPhone? Probably not much, maybe a higher resolution camera, not that it needs one. Also, a new location for the flash - big deal.

Probably the biggest and most important feature upgrades have always come through the iOS updates, not necessarily the hardware: third party apps, for instance. I think this will remain the case.

The good news, my youngest, who already owns my old original iPhone and an iPhone 3Gs, will get upgraded to the iPhone 4 - meaning I'll finally have someone to video chat with. (If she refuses she's grounded.)

Tim Moore, one of the first to launch an indy magazine for the iPad, releases his third edition of 'Letter to Jane'

One year ago I wrote here at TNM: "Citizen publishing comes to tablets." It was in response to the first edition of Letter to Jane, a newly released iPad app from independent publisher Tim Moore. One year later Moore has released his third edition: Letter to Jane: Moral Tales.
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Moore's iPad magazine is an outgrowth of his blog, turned online magazine, of the same name – a name inspired by Jean-Luc Godard film of the same name. Now, however, the website is online to support the tablet magazine, rather than the other way around.

At the time of his first attempt at iPad publishing Moore explained to me that once he heard about the launch of the iPad he knew what he wanted to do with Letter to Jane.

"I wanted to (bring the magazine to the iPad) ever since I heard about the thing, but wanted to see what the big magazines might do. Then I got a feel for it -- then got one in my hands and realized I'd really like my work to be on there," Moore told me last year.

Now here we are a full year later, and although editions of Letter to Jane have been pretty spaced out, we are now on the third issue. All three editions are still in the App Store: the first edition here, and the second one here.
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"I can't believe it's only been a year, but this has been fun learning programming, I'm glad I took it up," Moore told me today. "The first two issues were obviously learning experiences, and when I made this I didn't really feel like a developer until I was midway through the app. I still have a lot to learn but I get the language now and so it's getting easier every day."

Moore has raised the price of issue three to $1.99. Letter to Jane: Moral Tales, though, is his largest and most ambitious edition so far.

"I really wanted to give this issue a location, an identity," Moore wrote on his website about the new issue. "Living in Oregon there are only really three images you get from this state: freaks, freaks in Portland, and freaks in the forrest. None of those images interested me at all. Early on before I knew what the issue was I knew I wanted to shoot it on the Oregon coast. One of the main reasons for that decision was that the Oregon coast can be really ambiguous if you want it to be. It’s always foggy, grey, and rainy with a lot of open spaces that no one ever goes to. This was perfect for me, I really wanted a “beach” nothing specific, just the symbolism of it all."

The tablet magazine is mostly in portrait, though both the video content and the photography are in landscape – though if you are lazy you can see the photos in portrait, as well.

Alligator Digital Magazines offers template app with layout ideas; another app is its own magazine

This post is a natural follow-up to the app update story concerning Hoodgrown Magazine. (You can find that one here, or scroll down.)
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PhotobucketThe company that publisher Christopher English works with is Alligator Digital Magazines, a technology company out of Los Angeles. Alligator, in order to promote its business, has released a couple of apps themselves to showcase their work.

The recently released Alligator Magazine is a free download and is essentially their own in-house magazine. As you would expect, it promotes their services and capabilities, as well as offers some insights. As a news magazine it really doesn't cut it as it opens with a short news item that is dated February 9, and later has a story about the Motorola XOOM that is already outdated.

I suppose offering news items is almost de rigueur in these company produced magazines, but it probably should be avoided.

Of more interest is two items: the interview with Chris English, a client, and some of the nice layouts. The app offers both portrait and landscape layouts, of course, many of which are very nice. My complaint would be that the English interview's layout actually doesn't fit the iPad's display, bumping text right up to the edge. The Motorola XOOM article, though offering outdated information and opinion, is well done, and because it has a natural border on the pages, is a better treatment of the text.
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Both the Alligator Magazine app and the previously released ALLIGATOR DIGITAL MAGAZINES app are universal. The ADM app is interesting in that it offers two different downloads within it that are samples of possible layouts.

The first is "ADM Lab template experiments" which is a 40.5MB download. The second is smaller, "ALLIGATOR MAGAZINE News and views…" which is a 13.3MB download. Both are efforts to showcase their work and to promote the company's business to possible publishing clients.

If you are looking for digital publishing solutions for the iPad (and also the iPhone/iPod touch), it would definitely be worth checking out these apps.

App updates: Adobe adds progressive download feature; Hoodgrown Magazine updates its iPad app to universal

If you are a magazine publisher producing tablet editions, you know that one of the biggest challenges is keeping the file size down, or alternatively, making sure the download times are reasonable. One solution is to make your issues capable of progressive downloading – that is, the ability of the reader to start reading the tablet edition before the download is completed.

Adobe has this morning issued an update to its Adobe® Content Viewer for iPad app that adds progressive downloads to their bag of tricks:

Introducing Progressive Download Feature. This functionality allows a user to view a magazine or newspaper that is currently being downloaded. Users no longer need to wait for the entire magazine to be downloaded before reading the articles. Shortly after initiating the process of download, viewers can start reading the articles in the magazine, while remaining content continues to download in the background. – App Description

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Independent publisher, and TNM reader, Christopher English has updated his app for Hoodgrown Magazine. The app is now universal, meaning that his urban music magazine can now be read on your iPhone, as well as your iPad.

English has produced five issues of Hoodgrown for the iPad and has been able to make his monthly deadlines starting with his first issue in December. The latest issue inside his newly updated app is from April – meaning that a May issue should be right around the corner (check out the comments here, I bet English will be willing to let TNM readers know when we can expect the May issue).

Hoodgrown Magazine is being published with the help of Alligator Digital Magazines (ADM), a Los Angeles based developer, which recently released its own magazine app. ADM has a promotional app in the App Store, as well.

I will be posting something on ADM's two apps later today.

Morning Brief: A fatal attraction: Powerful men and feather dusters; WaPo disputes Pew's recent claim that a large portion of its traffic comes from the Drudge Report

So what can be learn about the new that the potential future president of France has been arrested for attempted rape of a hotel housekeeper and the revelation that the guvenator had a baby with the housekeeper? That powerful men love women with feather dusters? The power is corrupting in all ways?

I prefer to sum things up with the thought that if we let idiots run the world this is what you get.

Meanwhile, here are the headlines on the front page of the NYT website, see if you can find the common theme:

New York Investigates Banks’ Role in Fiscal Crisis
Questions Raised About a Code of Silence
Trump Bows Out, but Spotlight Barely Dims
Japanese Officials Ignored or Concealed Dangers
Money Troubles Take Personal Toll in Greece



Did you see this study? Conducted by Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism, it claims that the Drudge Report drives a substantial amount of traffic, over ten percent of all traffic, to such major news sites as the New York Post (no surprise), the Washington Post, Fox News, and Boston.com.

Here is the chart from the Journalism.org website, clicking will take you to the original online post:
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Apparently the WaPo isn't happy – though a quick check of the commenters on their site should tell them that the study is probably true.

A spokeswoman for the newspaper told Michael Calderone of the Huffington Post that the percentage of traffic driven to their site from the Drudge Report is closer to 2.5 percent, not the nearly 15 percent claimed by the Pew study.

Whatever. If you lie down with dogs, you get up with fleas.



Speaking of the WaPo: what do you think of their site redesign?

I admit that I am probably in the minority here among New Media people, but this WordPressization of news websites is not for me. I love WordPress, mind you, but I would think that news sites run by major media firms could generate more innovative design work.

The only thing that I find very good, however, is that like most websites, the WaPo site now floats in the middle of your browser rather than hard left. It was this aspect of their old site that screamed out "I'm an old website!".

Monday, May 16, 2011

Condé Nast launches four new iPad apps that incorporate Apple's in-app subscription buying model

Those iTunes reviews, as rough as they sometimes are, have at least been consistent. But while many publishers have been trying to ignore them, all they have ended up doing was damaging their brands. So what do iPad owners want from magazine publishers? Not to be ripped off – it's as simple as that.
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iPad owners are not a dumb lot, they can see that if one wants to subscribe to a print magazine the circulation department will be more than happy to sell you a subscription at a steep discount. So it hasn't helped the reputation of the publishing community to see that many publishers have wanted to stick it to iPad owners. Well, the strategy hasn't worked. Some have blamed Apple, others iPad owners, but it has been the poor tablet strategy that should have been blamed instead.

Now some of the major publishers are coming around. Condé Nast, for instance, has been launching new iPad apps for its titles that finally offer the reader a real deal. Released today are new apps for Vanity Fair, Allure, Glamour and Golf Digest. Each app is free download and are essentially the same as previous apps except in how they handle in-app purchases.
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Now readers have three options for buying the latest edition of Vanity Fair, for instance. An iPad owner can simply buy the latest issue at $4.99, just as they have in the past. Or they can buy a one month subscription at $1.99 – this subscription is self-renewing, but can be cancelled at any time. A one year subscription now costs $19.99 – the same rate the publisher is offering the dead tree edition for on the Vanity Fair website (or through other outlets such as Amazon.com).

It may not be a bigger discount, but at least iPad owners shouldn't feel ripped off. Now why this has taken so long is a bit of a mystery, but at least it is progress.

Replicas from the Palm Beach Daily News, the National Review; Florida paper wants no part of Apple's App Store

The Palm Beach Daily News launched its first iPad app in the App Store today, but it is clear that the local newspaper is no fan of tablet publishing as the app does not offer any way to actually buy the digital editions or to subscribe in any way.
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Instead, the media executives are going retro: they have included the phone number for the circulation department in the app description!

The app, Palm Beach Daily News Electronic Edition, is free to download, but the app contains no in-app purchase mechanism, instead, if you are currently a subscriber to the paper, you can sign-in to your account to access replica editions of the current editions. The app does offer a couple sample issues but what you get is the usual replica edition where the reader has to pinch to zoom in order to have a chance at reading the articles.

The paper is a bit unique in other ways, as well, as it is published daily for part of the year, twice weekly "offseason".

The app was developed by Olive Software, a company I had heard of as creating replica products, but one that has been quiet for a while. The company's website looks pretty dead: its last press release is shown to be from 2009, and the company has yet to change the copyright date on its website to reflect that it is 2011 – not a good sign.



The National Review is a strange little magazine. The magazine was founded in 1955 by William F. Buckley, Jr. but for the past few years the magazine has been far less influential than its website which contains The Corner blog.
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Not being someone who considers themselves "conservative" I find the magazine confusing. Take its recent issue that has Paul Ryan on the cover morphed into FDR, with the title "Ryan's New Deal". Paul Ryan, of course, is the Wisconsin representative that wants to end Medicare. The National Review obviously loves the idea, but why make him look like FDR? The magazine hates FDR! Very strange.

Anyway, this app is certainly better thought out than the one above. The app, National Review (witty take on the magazine's name) is free to download and creates a library where fellow conservatives can access the issues for free if they are already print subscribers. But the National Review believes in free enterprise, so they have embraced Apple's in-app subscription system – individual issues can be bought for $1.99 per issue, or you can subscribe for 6 months at $11.99, or a full year at $19.99 (that's about ten bucks off what the website is currently offering an annual print edition subscription for).

The app doesn't incorporate its website blogs but it does offer a great archive feature. Users can search the magazine's archives, and even it they are not subscribers, can buy access to individual articles for 99 cents a piece.

Pressjack looks to offer RSS feed driven digital magazines for both online and tablet delivery

Trinity Innovations, the company behind 3D Issue digital flipbooks, is currently in beta with a new product that hopes to bring a new digital publishing solution to publishers – one that is RSS feed driven, instantly updated, and can be viewed both online on your PC, as well as on your iPad.

PressJack has been described as a sort of Flipboard for online magazines. That isn't quite right: Flipboard is a consumer product where the reader brings in RSS feeds from content producers and re-lays them out into an attractive iPad product; PressJack if for publishers, creating a digital magazine out of their own RSS feeds. In a way it is a logical outgrowth of the Flash flipbook product, and something other flipbook vendors should consider – most continue to push replica editions.
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The PressJack work space.


"We're launching in Beta so we can shape it around user's requirements," Hannah Baldaro of PressJack told me last week.

"So instead of us making something that isn't needed, or isn't wanted, release in Beta to find out user behavior and how they want to it and we can add the features for the final version."

The system is pretty simple: you sign up on the PressJack website then download the beta software. Then you create a publication and begin adding in RSS feeds. Three weeks ago, when I first heard of PressJack, the customization options were few. Now, after a couple of updates, there are more attractive options available such as customizing the cover, adding in stand-alone HTML pages.

After each step the publisher can demo their product to see how it is coming along. I created a demo publication is about ten minutes this morning, though I will admit I was already pretty familiar with the digital publishing solution. The only element I customized was the actual size of the publication – having it match the exact resolution of the iPad.
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The output version of TNM.


Unfortunately, one can't see these digital magazines on an iPad right now, but Baldaro promises that will come.

"For the moment it runs in Flash," Baldara said. "So that's just for Beta and then when it's launched it will have an HTML5 output solution, so, obviously, it will be able to be viewed on any device."

"Then there is plans for it to be web hosted, as well. Once you've created your digital magazine it sits online and then it updates itself," Baldaro told me.

For now, publishers can output their digital magazines for self-hosting.

PressJack, as mentioned, is in beta, but should launch as a final product soon. "It was released probably three weeks ago, we've already had two updates, so we're hoping in six to eight weeks," Baldaro said.

For me, I hope they never go "live". By that I mean, that hopefully the developers will not feel like PressJack is ever a finished product. There is a lot of things that could be added, so it might be best if they just keep updating the product indefinitely.
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The standard article layout.


Some of the things I would like to see in the future would include a TOC solution, or the ability to use that is today the home page as a second page, allowing the creation of your own cover.

The biggest thing would be layout options: right now all digital magazines created would look pretty much the same. Being able to produce "themes" would be nice, or at least being able to manipulate the themes as you can on Blogger or WordPress.

Finally, what about advertising? Right now the easiest way to add advertising would be as stand-along HTML pages. It would be nice to be able to incorporate network ads into the article layouts, as well.

I should mention, finally, that some of these features suggested above may already be available to beta users, after all, I'm not an expert users at this point. But you can check PressJack easily enough by going to their website and signing up and taking it for a test drive.

aside magazine, an HTML5 magazine for the iPad: promising concept results in an unreadable product

The Google meltdown last week prevented me from posting a look at aside magazine, touted as the "World's first magazine just made with HTML5". The screenshots were taken, a video shot, but Blogger was down and so it was on to the weekend for me.
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The concept behind aside is great: one opens up the web home page using your iPad's Safari browser. Your site sniffs out the source and delivers a page that requests that you create a bookmark icon – something that can be done for any web page, by the way. Then the iPad owner clicks the icon, which launches their browser which loads the aside home page.

For many iPad owners, they will not even know that this isn't really an app – until they actually attempt to read the magazine, however.
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Unfortunately, the experience is not good: swiping between pages is not smooth, scrolling is jumpy, loading is uneven.

Is this the fault of the programming, or the iPad? The concept, or the delivery?

Because I saw no reason to upgrade my iPad, I'm still using the first generation iPad. It is possible that the iPad2's faster CPU could improve the reader's experience, but I think that is unlikely.

The promise of HTML5 is that it would allow publishers to create tablet editions that can be read in both portrait and landscape that would completely bypass Apple's App Store. It also would allow publishers to create magazine-like products for any browser based device so that one could create a completely different type of website experience (later today I'll talk about another company moving in this direction, PressJack.)

This was supposed to be what Flash could bring to the web, but the software ended up being used mostly for advertising and web elements rather than complete web experiences – in fact, most web users vocally oppose Flash sites, in general. HTML5 supposedly will be a better solution, and my guess is that it will be, eventually.

You can test aside yourself, it is free, after all, all you need do is surf on over to the website and test it on your iPad. As you can see from the video below – screenshots don't capture scrolling and swiping very well – my own experience was not the best: