Friday, June 3, 2011

Methow Valley News gets its first iPad app thanks to the work of a local developer and duct tape wallet maker

If Google Maps is to be believed, Twisp, Washington has to be a fairly isolated, though idyllic. Population 938, according to Wikipedia, it is located in the Methow Valley, which looks like the kind of place where you horse back ride in the summer, and cross-country ski in the winter.
The weekly newspaper, the Methow Valley News is published by Paul Butler and staff, and now it has its own tablet edition thanks to Brian Drye, who lives in nearby Wintrop.

Drye, 40, has just released his first iPad app, Methow Valley News, and is charging $2.99 for access to the latest local news. In addition to this first tablet app which is an offshoot of his original iPhone version, released in 2009, the developer has a dozen other mobile apps for such things as Tennis String Tension, a cross-country skiiing app called MVSTA Grooming Report, and others.

I tracked Drye down and asked him about his app. It turns out that Drye does his development all from scratch, no do-it-yourself website vendor help – "just for fun, mainly," Drye told me.
"I have Xcode, and write it in Cocoa, and then test it locally – and then use a simulator, and then an attached iPod to try it out," Drye said.

If you click on the app support page, you'll see pictures of his mobile app shown on an original first generation iPhone. The page is part of, the site Drye uses to sell his other wares: Duct Tape Wallets – "that's my other sort of weekend activity."

"I used to live in Seattle with my wife and we moved to a smaller town, Wintrop," Drye said. "They have a nice farmer's market so it's a good place to meet people."

The move was made at the beginning of 2007 and he clearly likes it there. "It's a great place," Drye told me. "We're on the other side of the Cascades, so its pretty dry and sunny – and we're kind of up in the mountains, so you have all hunting, fishing, hiking, biking, skiing and all that stuff going on. It's a great place to live."

I wondered if Twisp was the kind of place David Lynch used to shoot Twin Peaks, his television series. But that turns out to have been North Bend, Washington, much closer to Seattle than the Methow Valley.

Judging by the photos of the staff of the Methow Valley News, Twisp is definitely not anything like the folks in Twin Peaks – which may be good or bad depending on your perspective, I suppose.

In any case, Twisp now has both iPhone and iPad news apps, something a lot of towns can't claim including Chicago, one should be reminded.

Now I wonder if the Antlers Saloon (real place) has good WiFi so you can use these apps to catch up on events in the valley?

Assouline Publishing released tablet app version of its soon to be published luxury book 'Coca-Cola'

You are about to experience a visual journey of Coca-Cola imagery from around the globe, that spans 125 years of people refreshing and connecting with Coca-Cola. – Assouline Inc.'s introduction to its Coca-Cola iPad book app.

Luxury illustrated book publisher Assouline has released an iPad app that is sort of a companion piece to its coffee table book Coca-Cola, which has not yet been released (although the company's website says it was supposed to be available in May).
In many ways, the iPad app, Coca-Cola, which costs $4.99 is a smart promotional piece for the printed book which the publisher has priced at $65 (it can be pre-ordered at a discount on But in keeping with the publisher's luxury theme, a special limited edition of the book is available of $650, seriously. (Maybe they could have done a special limited edition of the iPad that ran Flash.)

The app, of course, has the multimedia material including video ads, animation, you won't find in the 208 page printed version, though you won't get "a complimentary ASSOULINE canvas tote bag" like you would if you paid $650 for the limited printed edition. Oh well.

The book and its tablet edition are meant to celebrate the 125th anniversary of Coca-Cola's founding. Unfortunately, the tablet edition is geared towards the fun side of things rather than a serious look at the company's history. In this way, it truly is a coffee table app (and in this regard, it's a good one).

(It's history is pretty interesting, having started as a coca wine drink, then as a medicinal drink, before finally becoming a national iconic drink associated with all things American. For a historical look at Coca-Cola you might try the book by Mark Pendergrast: For God, Country, and Coca-Cola: The Definitive History of the Great American Soft Drink and the Company That Makes It.)

The app is probably best viewed in landscape, though portrait will work in a pinch. The app has some pretty good reviews from users inside the App Store, though I think some users are a bit confused by the way portrait mode works for them – many of the photos don't work as well.

For Assouline Publishing, this is their first iPad book app, so their developers may getting the hang of things. As for the company itself, the company that was founded in Paris, and is now headquartered in NYC, usually is associated with all things upper crusty. The new effort seems like a step in a more populist direction.

Here is the company's promotional video for their Coca-Cola iPad book app:

Morning Brief: Dr. Death dead at 83; Apple ponies up some cash to ease iCloud's introduction

The man known as Dr. Death, Jack Kevorkian, has died at the age of 83 after suffering from kidney and heart problems.

As a former Detroiter, Kevorkian was often in the news as he was from Pontiac, Michigan. Kevorkian was a trained pathologist, and was a right-to-die activist who was also a hog for publicity, advertising in Detroit newspapers his services in "death counseling."

His first assisted suicide occurred in 1990, an elderly woman with Alzheimer’s disease. Kevorkian was charged with murder but those charges were later dropped. The incident, however, lead to his license to practice medicine being revoked. Eventually the authorities got some charges to stick and he served eight years for second-degree murder. He was released in 2007 on condition that he would no longer offer assisted suicide services.

The New York Post is reporting that Apple will pay four major music labels between $100 and $150 million in advance payments to grease the wheels for their new iCloud music storage service. And why not, with $40 billion in cash reserves this amount is little more than chump change.

Rumors have floated about Apple charging a $25 a year fee for the service, but these types of rumors are often wrong as witnessed by rumors that Apple's iPad would be introduced at $1000 or more.

Apple CEO Steve Jobs is expected to introduce iCloud, along with Lion and iOS5 in his keynote address that kicks off its Worldwide Developer Conference on Monday in San Francisco at 10 AM PDT.

The media, which is a self-absorbed industry at most times, really became unglued with the news that Jill Abramson would become next excutive editor of The New York Times, apparently the media discovered her gender.

Jill Abramson is 57 years old, has been managing editor of the NYT since 2003, and has worked as a reporter for The American Lawyer, editor of Legal Times, senior reporter for the Wall Street Journal, and was made the NYT's Washington bureau chief in 1997. She has also been the heir apparent to Bill Keller for quite some time.

But, of course, the big news is that she is a woman. (I would have thought her marriage to "Henry" and her two children would have given them a clue about all this.)

Jay Rosen tweeted a link to this story by Tom McGeveran, to be fair, that actually talks about Abramson in a meaningful way. It's worth a read.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Groupon says it looks to raise $750 million in an IPO; company lost $413 million last year

An SEC filing is not where you will find modesty: "I started The Point to empower the little guy and solve the world's unsolvable problems. A year later, I started Groupon to get Eric to stop bugging me to find a business model. Groupon, which started as a side project in November 2008, applied The Point's technology to group buying. By January 2009, its popularity soaring, we had fully shifted our attention to Groupon."
So reads the letter from Andrew D. Mason contained in the Form S-1 filed today with the SEC by Groupon, which now hopes to raise $750 million in an initial public offering (IPO). The filing also shows that the social buying service has seen its revenue explode from $94K its first year in 2008, to $30 million in 2009, to $713 million last year. It has already generated $644 million in revenue in the first three months of 2011.

But Groupon is still bleeding money, losing $413 million last year, and is on a similar pace in 2011.

Groupon, which said "no" to Google's $6 billion bid, will rely on Morgan Stanley, Credit Suisse and Goldman Sachs as lead underwriters for their IPO.

The time seems right for tech IPOs, if LinkedIn's IPO is any reflection of the market (LNKD is currently trading at around $80 a share today, lower than their first week performance, but still much higher than original expectations).

My bet is still that saying "no" to Google was foolish, but one can never discount that the feeding frenzy will continue to the advantage of Groupon.

Update: TechCrunch reminds us that Groupon isn't the only new media company looking to IPO. Music streaming service wants to raise a little over $140 million, pricing its shares at around $7 to $9 per.

Revenue at Pandora are not anywhere near Groupon levels, however, but then again they sell advertising around its content, whereas at Groupon it is the content.

A second look at aside magazine and the issue of HTML5 programming as an alternative to iOS app publishing

For the past two weeks, since posting this first story about aside magazine, the German HTML5 based online 'magazine', I have been haunted by a question concerning the poor user experience I reported: was it the result of using a first generation iPad?
I can report that it was most definitely inherent in the product itself and the performance I experience was in no one influenced by my broadband connection or my first generation iPad.

Using both a new generation iPad, at different locations, with different connections I experienced the same stuttering and jerkiness that I reported in the video demonstration I made two weeks ago (which you can see in my amateurish video below):

To recap: aside magazine "works", that is you can read it, and the in-magazine animation and content is viewable. It is just not a great user experience when compared to natively designed iOS tablet editions.

This raises the question that we hope will be answered soon: will Onswipe's digital publishing solution see similar results, or is there something that can be done on the programming side to make the reading experience better? We'll probably find out on June 21 when Onswipe holds their launch event – unless we get those canned videos that some companies like to use to avoid showing a live demonstration. There will be a lot riding on that launch event, no doubt.

But I think publishers who are dreaming of HTML5 publishing should sit back a bit and ask themselves a couple of questions: first, how are their online products doing now compared to print? and how will they monetize an HTML5 magazine any differently than they would a natively designed app magazine?

The advocates of web-based publishing often forget that most print publishers are not exactly raking it in online right now. That is why a tablet magazine, with its closed environment, is actually more like print because print publishers are generally better at selling products than they are access.

Is Verizon the new Best Buy?

Years ago, when Best Buy first started selling Macs, the buying experience was so poor that it was all but certain that Best Buy was simply using the presence of Macs to sell higher end PCs. The sales staffs were uneducated on the Mac OS, gave potential buyers truly bad information, and did they best to turn people off to anything Apple.

Today I believe the situation seems better at most Best Buy locations I visit. While sales people still tend to gather around the PC area to draw in customers, most sales staff I encounter don't intentional try and stir people away.

(Though they still don't properly answer the question posed by many customers properly: Question: what programs can you run on a PC that you won't be able to on a Mac? Answer: none, after all, you can always install Windows on your Mac if you want.)

Today I once again encountered a Verizon sales rep who intentional tried to stir me away from an iPad. This has, as you can tell, happened before. This time the person launched into a speech about how I should buy a Motorola XOOM because it can be upgraded to 4G at some point.

I played along: OK, I said, what about apps? The Verizon staffer said that the apps will come eventually.

So I should buy a tablet that one day will be able to upgraded to 4G and that one day will have more tablet apps instead of an iPad which will run on the same 3G network as the XOOM but already has access to natively developed tablet apps?

The sales person then admitted that they were just "doing their job" directing me to the XOOM.

Interesting. If Verizon is intentionally trying to move XOOMs at the expense of iPads, then the sales numbers that already are skewing heavily for the iPad would be even more lopsided if one of Apple's partners weren't intentionally trying to support a competitor (at least in the Chicago area).

Pennsylvania paper is the latest to go behind metered paywall, the latest to hear it from their online readers

Are newspaper executives the most arrogant folk in the world? I personally think they would have a tough time beating out B2B executives for the title of most arrogant media executives, but that is just a personal opinion. The folks in and around Pottsville, Pennsylvania would probably claim that the publishers of their daily newspaper, the Republican Herald, win hands down.
Yesterday the newspaper announced that it would put its website behind a metered paywall, pointing to such papers as the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal to justify the move.

"For pennies a day, Web readers will be able to access the most complete news report in Northeast Pennsylvania, with all the investigative energy and in-depth coverage that no one else provides. Web readers can still get the gist of the news with free access to our home page, obituaries, classified ads and blogs, as well as any 12 articles a month they choose to read," publisher Henry H. Nyce said in the newspaper's own online announcement.

Readers, allowed to comment online on the announcement, were not thrilled.

"Nobody is going to pay a penny for an online subscription. The Republican Herald is not the New York Times or the Wall Street Journal. I'm shocked that you would be so arrogant to make the comparison," wrote one commenter.

One commenter used a bit of snark to write "What, you mean people aren't going to pay to read articles like 'Local Housewives Raise $35 at Ghost Mall Bakesale'?"

With The Republican Herald's flavor of paywall will require even print subscribers to pay, though only $1.99 per month, or $14.99 annually. It is hard to figure why the paper would want to risk losing that traffic for so little revenue gain.

For non-print subscribers, the cost will be $7.99 per month, or $74.99 per year.

The paper also announced an e-edition, but here again the digital publishing solution is a bit lacking: a flipbook from which will cost the same price as the website.

Like most newspaper announcements regarding metered paywalls, the paper's own story plays up the amount of content that will remain free – "he home page, section fronts, obituaries, blogs, classified ads, photo galleries and paid Lifestyle announcements like engagements, weddings and anniversaries will continue to be free – while pointing to other papers who are launching similar paywalls to justify their actions. It is a measure of the weakness of the industry as a whole that no one seems to think these moves are collusion within the industry, such is the desire to see the industry find some sort of solution to its revenue woes.

But the moves are also a sign of the seriously conservative nature of the newspaper industry, rather than try to find inventive digital publishing solutions, the industry generally concentrates on trying to protect print, while trying to get readers to pay for online access (and let's not forget these incredibly weak efforts at e-editions).

Although many of the comments on the story announcing the move, which were universally negative, tried to use logic to talk the paper out of its decision, the one that probably points to the future simply said "See Ya."

Major editorial changes at the NYT: Bill Keller to step down as executive editor, Jill Abramson named to post

The New York Times announced major changes to its editorial team this morning, announcing that Bill Keller will step down as executive editor to become a full time writer, to be replaced by Jill Abramson.

Abramson is a former investigative reporter and was the Washington bureau chief for the Times.
Arthur Sulzberger Jr., publisher and the chairman of The New York Times Company also announced that Dean Baquet, the current Times Washington bureau chief, will become the new managing editor.

Both appointments will become effective September 6.

“He’s been my partner for the last eight years,” Mr. Sulzberger said in the NYT's own story on the moves. “He’s been an excellent partner. And we’ve grown together. If that’s where his heart is and his head is, then you have to embrace that.”

Abramson will become the first female editor of the Times in its 160-year history, and could bring new energy at a time of rapid changes to the newspaper publishing industry. While the NYT has been able to remain the nation's leading newspaper, at least as far as prestige is concerned, it has often acted as if it was fighting the changing world of digital publishing. The Times, for instance, was one of the first newspapers to launch an app for Apple's iPad, but that same app was widely criticized for being a half-effort, almost an obligatory effort simply to remain seen as a leader in the space.

While much of the comments about the moves will center on Abramson becoming the paper's first female editor (and that makes sense) further conversations will no doubt center on whether these moves will change the perception of the paper as one beholding to authority, or whether the changes at the top will bring a more independent, aggressive tone to the paper. The promotion of the Washington bureau chief, no matter who that would be, is not a good sign in this regard.

Build a native app, get some promotion from Apple: Chronicle finds its new app features in the App Store

So much talk from media writers about why publishers should avoid Apple's App Store has centered on the percentage of any transaction Apple takes. As a result, many have been hesitant to launch apps, while others have made the doubly poor choice of then launching replica editions, choosing to pay vendors to produce app no one will read rather than risk giving Apple 30 percent of a decent product.
Of course, by not being inside the App Store – or the Android Market, for that matter – you are just not in the ballgame, which is an OK decision as long as you have made a logical choice not to be there. TNM, for instance, has not launched an iPad app simply because it would be just an extension of this site. But you can be sure that we're thinking very hard about other iOS launches right now.

So I have been especially hard on major newspaper publishers who have been late to the App Store with tablet offerings. Where, I wondered, has The San Francisco Chronicle been, for instance?

But the Chron released its first tablet edition this week and guess what? Apple has it prominently displayed on its first page, as you can see above.

Call it positive reinforcement from the owner of the store. Publishers may not like it, but then again with publishers outsourcing their circulation services and so much else of their businesses I continue to find it strange that they should be concerned with the tech giants role in their New Media world.

Windows 8 gets previewed at AllThingsD

The post-event conversation reminds me of the post-debate spin of a Presidential campaign, with Windows supporters talking about how the giant software company has been able to incorporate touch into its main OS product, while critics accuse Microsoft of simply putting lipstick on a pig, layering new features on its Windows 7 system.
Both sides have a point, of course. But it should be remember that Microsoft is not promising to launch Windows 8 anytime soon. In fact, we really won't have a good idea of a launch date until Microsoft holds its developer conference in mid-September.

Charles Arthur of The Guardian has a fairly unbiased look at the preview given yesterday by Steve Sinofsky, the head of the Windows and Windows Live division, and if you have the time you can watch the entire on-stage conversation on the WSJ site.

Perhaps not surprisingly, John Gruber lays into Microsoft a bit on his Daring Fireball site. The all-things-Apple writer calls what he has seen so far "a fundamentally flawed idea" because Microsoft appears to have simply layered the new features on top of the older operating system. He does, however, praise several features showcased in the AllThingsD conference presentation.

I'm actually surprised that he didn't go a little farther. For me, one of the most revolutionary things Apple did with Snow Leopard was make the OS leaner. Mac users who upgraded to Snow Leopard were thrilled to find that their OS now took up less space on their Macs than the older system, something that is usual to say the least.

Layering touch features onto Windows 7, then, is simply Microsoft being Microsoft.

But then again, why was this presentation even made? To me it like those tablet previews so many companies have conducted where the product is "shown", demoed in video only, and then a future launch date is promised, though rarely delivered. With Apple's WWDC right around the corner, there may have been a need to show Windows users something, anything, in order to protect market share once again.

This may explain the rather poorly produced video Microsoft released in support of the Windows 8 preview:

Morning Brief: Mac owner yells "stop, thief!"; Argentina yells "stop, thieves!"; stocks fall, confidence wanes, while the media remains obsessed with Weiner's wiener

You'd be smart to leave Joshua Kaufman's stuff alone, the Mac owner is quite prepared to get his stuff back.

"I came home late on a Monday night in March, and someone had broken into my apartment through my window," Oakland, California resident Kaufman told the New York Daily News yesterday.
But the police weren't very interested in pursuing the case – it's Oakland, after all. So using a program called Hidden, Kaufman pursued the thief. The program, which costs $15 per year for an individual computer to protect, or up to $395 per year to protect 100 company computers, can use the computer's camera to take pictures of the thief and track his location.

"The following Thursday I started getting images and location information," Kaufman told the Daily News. "I was amazed. I was like, this thing actually works!" But still the police weren't interested in helping Kaufman get his MacBook back (maybe they are Windows people), so Kaufman posted the pictures to a the Tumblr blog "This Guy Has My Macbook" and . . .

"ARRESTED! An Oakland police officer just called me to let me know that they arrested the guy in my photos! BOOYA!" Kaufman tweeted yesterday.

The Daily News story includes several pictures of the alleged criminal – I thought it better to not post those in case there is more to this story.

OK, so that's one less thief in the Bay Area, but what do you do when the thieves are some of the biggest corporations in the world? In the U.S. the answer is, of course, nothing. We Americans are fully aware that while we have the right to vote, the right to rule is strictly limited to corporations.

Argentina, however, thinks that if you make record profits you should pay taxes. Silly Argentines.

Nonetheless, the Argentinian government has decided to bring a case against four large grain trading companies, ADM, Bunge, Cargill and Dreyfus, accusing the companies of tax evasion.

"These companies have gone into criminality," Ricardo Echegaray, the head of Afip, Argentina's revenue and customs service, said according to The Guardian. "2008 was when agricultural commodities prices spiked and was the best year for them in prices, yet we could see that the companies with the biggest sales showed very little profit in this country."

Cargill and ADM both denied the charges. However, while it is standard operating procedure to record record profits and pay no U.S. taxes, other countries, apparently, may feel differently about the matter.

Back in the U.S., stocks suffered their worst day of the year with the Dow falling almost 280 points, while the Nasdaq fell a little over 66 points – both over two percent declines.

"There isn't a lot of confidence to begin with, so it doesn't take much to push people away from the table," Ted Weisberg, a trader with Seaport Securities told Dow Jones Newswires.

The problem, of course, is that jobs are not being created, people's homes are falling in value, resulting in no growth. The White House and the Republicans in Congress, meanwhile, are arguing about how much money to pull out of the economy in order to make matter worse. It is, after all, all too logical that in a recession you step on the brakes.

Of course, as Rome burned the U.S. media continued to talk about Rep. Weiner who apparently can not be sure the picture of a man in bulging boxer briefs is really him. "It certainly doesn't look familiar to me, but I don't want to say with certitude to you something that I don't know to be the certain truth," Rep. Weiner told CNN, according to Reuters.

So Weiner's inability to recognize his own wiener remains the story du jour.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Apple's big surprise at WWDC may simply be that it is finally getting the importance of social networking

For large tech firms like Microsoft, Google and Apple, the rise of social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter have caught them a bit by surprise. Apple's Ping, for instance, was an almost desperate attempt to get in the ballgame, if only on a limited basis. I'm still searching for someone who utilizes the feature (I'm there, somewhere).

Now various sites are talking about what we might expect at WWDC with the roll out of Lion and iOS5. 9to5Mac has posted several stories that take the musings of other sources and tried to bring them together. The gest of it is that it looks like Apple will be integrating Twitter in "a system-level service" (to use the words of John Gruber) which would allow users to Tweet from any app.

This video, below, was posted on Twitter's YouTube Channel, and as one commenter said "a lot of iPhones in here...mmm..this looks like a partnership for iOS5 to me." Me, too.

Onswipe announced launch date: June 21

Sorry, guys, but "The Summer of Onswipe" doesn't have the same ring to it as "The Summer of Love", but for a lot of publishers interested in what the start-up may have to offer it will do.
More importantly Onswipe has announced a launch date: June 21, the first day of summer:

There are a lot of you, tens of thousands to be exact, that are eagerly anticipating the launch of Onswipe. Up until now, everyone has been asking one question: When? Now we finally have the answer… June 21st at 3:00 pm EST, the same exact day summer kicks off across the world. If this is the year of the tablet, then this is the summer of Onswipe. – Onswipe blog.

What Onswipe promises publishers is "insanely easy tablet publishing". Whether that will translate into insanely good tablet publishing is the million dollar question. We'll soon see.

In case you've forgotten what Onswipe is about, here is their promotional video posted about a month ago (hot pink appears to be their color):

Audi UK creates universal app for Le Mans 2011

Serious auto racing fans have a soft spot in their hearts for the 24 Hours of Le Mans, a race that has been taking place outside the small French town since 1923.
I, on the other hand, have a soft spot in my heart for tablet app made by car companies. Why? Because their huge marketing budgets mean that their developers can spend a fortune coming up with a state-of-the-art app.

One of the first such apps was Volkswagen Das, created by Readershouse Brand Media which this site looked at one year ago when it was first released. Coincidentally, a newly updated app has been released just yesterday.

In November the Audi A8 got its own app from Factory Design Labs. Using all the tools at its disposal, the developer created an app that weighed in at 611 MB. The last update, made in April, brings it up to 629 MB.

Many other auto maker apps have followed, many from the regional divisions. Today Volkswagen Group United Kingdom Limited has released a new app called Audi UK's guide to Le Mans 2011, and like many of the apps this one has a lot of interesting things going for it – and, since it is free, it can be downloaded by publishers and designers looking for inspiration.

The free app for the race which takes place June 11-12, offers video content, car photos, an interactive map of the course, and the use of augmented reality which I found to be a bit underwhelming. (The augmented reality works on iOS devices with cameras, meaning no AR on an original iPad.)

This app is a bit large, as well, though 298 MB is not too bad. Nonetheless I quickly deleted the app from my iPhone after testing out the augmented reality feature. This app is definitely better on the larger display of the iPad.

B2B: BNP Media moves its media kits into an iPad app; Penton uses mobile developer to create tablet editions

The B2B media industry remains miles behind its consumer cousins in both mobile and tablet publishing. Part of the reason for this, no doubt, is the sad financial shape of so many of the companies – either burdened with debt by their private equity owners, or simply mismanaged, in general.
As a result, very few mobile or tablet apps have been launched by US B2B companies. To be fair, some of the better B2B tablet editions, such as Publisher from Digipress, have not been followed up with new editions. My guess is that the media firms involved were disappointed in the number of downloads, finding the market simply to immature to pursue. That's my guess, anyway.

Two B2B recently released new tablet apps: BNP Media, the Troy, Michigan based B2B publisher, and Penton Media, the Wasserstein & Co. owned B2B firm that once claimed Cleveland as its home, but now lists NYC as its headquarters.

The NEWS HD was BNP's first attempt at a tablet edition. The app was released in January and contained a preview issue (or as the editor told me, a "dummy" issue) – sort of a newsletter for the HVACR industry. A February edition was published inside this library app, with a new issue expected in either June or July, according to Mike Murphy, editor of The NEWS.

The product is about what you would expect: pretty much a PDF with embedded content. Although I am not a fan of these flipbook products, I think they work better on the iPad simply because readers have a chance to browse them. Online, the reading experience is poor, as backed up by research data from such companies as Zinio prove.
BNP Media's second app, released today, is even a more modest effort. The app, Manufacturing & Safety - BNP Media, is a library app where media kits for the B2B magazines that are part of this group will be collected. Along with the media kits comes a corporate brochure complete with an embedded video of Tagg Henderson, co-CEO.

The app is supposed to include information on the following magazines: Adhesives & Sealants Industry, Appliance Design, Assembly, Ceramic Industry, FORGE, Industrial Heating, Industrial Safety & Hygiene News, Paint & Coatings Industry, Pollution Engineering, Process Cooling, Process Heating, Quality, and World Trade 100. Unfortunately, only one media kit can be found in the app now, the one for World Trade 100 – again, a PDF-type approach with an embedded video from the publisher Sarah Harding.

BNP Media is apparently one of those companies that does not like to share information very openly as the one media kit found in this app does not even contain ad rates, let alone BPA audit information (World Trade's circulation has fallen from a high of 76,283 in 2002, to 42,006 today).

(World Trade 100 is the rebranded name for World Trade, the name found with BPA. Unfortunately, BNP's websites are currently down so getting more information about their properties is impossible. Also, a disclosure is in order: for a year I was the publisher of Pollution Engineering, then owned by RBI. At that time the circulation was 68K, today it is less than half that.)

Penton Media last week released six new apps into the App Store, one iPhone and one iPad app each for three B2B properties: Home Care, American School & University, and Gov Pro.

All six apps were created by the mobile app developer Handmark. Unfortunately, while Handmark has been producing perfectly suitable iPhone apps for quite some time, they continue to be late to the tablet platform.

Back in March of last year, after Steve Jobs had demoed the first iPad, but before its April launch, Jon Maroney, Senior Vice President of Mobile Publishing told me that the company was eager to develop for the iPad.

"One of the things that is most interesting and most exciting about the iPad, from my standpoint, is how people are going to interact with this device isn't know. We are going to find out so much the week of April 5th," Maroney said at the time.

Unfortunately, what continues to come out of Handmark are these RSS feed driven apps that are far better suited for mobile devices than tablets.

Penton Media, because of its size, should be in the forefront of creating B2B media applications, but . . .

A final point needs to be repeated: because most B2B media properties depend on "qualified" readership, their products are given away for free. So in order for the business model to work on tablets a registration mechanism is essential so that the publisher can tell potential advertisers how many qualified readers they are reaching through their app.

Without a qualification mechanism, the business model falls apart. If one goes to the American School & University magazine website, for instance, and clicks on the "subscribe" link one is directed to a multi-page form that one must fill out to get the magazine.

In contrast, since anyone can download an app from the App Store, the B2B model is hard to reinforce – one needs to build into the app a mechanism that encourages registration. Conversely, one could charge for access to the content while offering print subscribers free access by signing into their accounts through the app, something that Apple is now allowing.

But, and here is the big exception, if your B2B app is simply another form of your website, that is, it is driven by the RSS feeds from your free site, then you can not restrict access to the app's content without running into trouble from Apple's app review team.

So why create free RSS driven apps like these from Penton? The answer I would give would be to sell more advertising, but as far as I can see these apps are completely ad free, making them even more of a mystery. But then again that modern B2B publishing for you.

Morning Brief: Lodsys files lawsuits against seven small developers, including Iconfactory; Fox News launches iPad app because no one can stop them from doing so

Lodsys followed through on its threat to sue developers for what it claims is patent infringements. The patent troll picked out seven small developers to sue, though one of them is fairly well known.
Iconfactory, the maker of Twitterrific was one of those companies targeted. Of the seven, most concerned apps for iOS, but there was one developer that also creates for Android.

Florian Mueller has a good post on the lawsuits over at his website Foss Patents, so there is very little for me to say on the subject.

Let me just say that the whole patent game is a sad condition of the current era. I remember very well the laughs Steve Jobs got during his iPhone keynote address in 2007 when he described multitouch saying "it works like magic" - which also got a laugh. But the big laugh was when Jobs said "And boy, have we patented it."

The remark was obviously intended to show that Apple considered their new device groundbreaking and companies that had a tendency to copy Apple (read: Microsoft) should beware.

So while Lodsys and other patent trolls may be considered a threat to the new mobile and tablet industries, they are probably no more a threat than all the major players, Apple included, that are currently involved in patent lawsuits. The difference is that Lodsys has simply shown exactly how evil these companies can be by targeting small developers.

So Fox News has launched an iPad app, what is there to say? I downloaded it, opened it and then took a screenshot. There you have it, my report.

One could say that it is just another app, works in both portrait and landscape, etc. etc. In other words, I could be like the other media writers: pretending that Fox News has lowered the level of professionalism of the whole industry, blurred the lines between reporting and advocacy, etc.

No, it's another news app, and I'm sure a lot of people will download it to read up on death panels, Obama's fake birth certificate, how the country is moving towards socialism, and to hear about the latest adventures of Sarah Palin. Actually, this sounds like the CNN, NBC News and CBS News apps.

I find it interesting that few people question the wisdom of TV news networks releasing free apps, while everyone talks about paywalls for newspapers. Both are news products on the same platform.

My own thoughts on this are that this is a reflection of the decline of newspaper advertising. Newspapers have not made the transition to online very well, and now mobile and tablets are presenting the same problems.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Paid apps dominate the App Store travel category; planning a trip to Italy still a bit of a challenge

The big point of differentiation between Apple's App Store and the Android Market is the number of paid apps available on the iOS side of things. Free news apps may still out number paid ones, but in other categories paid wins out.
So when looking at travel apps in preparation for a trip to Italy (I can dream, can't I?), finding good free apps is a bit of a chore.

Alitalia, the biggest airline of Italy, has just released a new app, care of TripAdvisor. Alitalia HD is a free app that naturally assists you in booking flights. Because it does not offer landscape mode, it is essentially a mobile app, with only an up conversion to the iPad's resolution the only real advantage. The airline also has an iPhone app, but the only review in the App Store is pretty negative.

TripAdvisor has its own universal app that is pretty convenient. The name, as they say, says it all: TripAdvisor Hotels Flights Restaurants.
You may wonder why I have an upside down picture here. Actually I don't. This is the real splash page used by Michael Müller Verlag GmbH for their Florence app. It is a bizarre app in that downloading it really does nothing for you.

Once the upside down splash page goes away – and it does real fast – the app takes you to a page where you are asked which app you want to download. Now I don't know about you, but I usually assume downloading an app takes me to the content, not this one.

Instead you are told you have to download another app.

OK, after I have downloaded the other app the first one becomes totally worthless, you have to use the new one to actually download the content you wanted to begin with. Three downloads to access the content, that has to be some sort of record or something.

If there is ever a Rube Goldberg contest for app developers, Michael Müller Verlag should win without much serious competition.
The editor of The Tuscan Magazine, Sarah Fraser, seems to be pretty happy to see her magazine available for the iPad. In the introductory column she writes "It's our first birthday! Moving from strength to strength we are launching the magazine as an app on the istore. We are especially proud since none of us at TTM actually knew what an app was only a few short months ago!"

I don't doubt it.

Leaving aside the reference to "the istore", this app was not created by the publisher but is in reality simply a replica edition created by the flipbook maker Kastoff Enterprises, a Montreal-based company. Like most replicas, it really doesn't work for tablets since it was designed for print and makes no real changes for the iPad's display or capabilities.

Fairfax Digital's iPad app for The Sydney Morning Herald offers free content until December; updates The Age app

Is it easier for a tabloid newspaper to design for tablets? This question came to my mind when I looked at this app from the Sydney Morning Herald, a Fairfax Media property.
The Sydney Morning Herald is not a tabloid, but their front page design is very much the opposite approach taken by papers such as the NYT, with only a few stories getting front page positioning. A tabloid, after all, has limited real estate, with only room for either a very large photo, or just a few stories. That is very much the look of the new app released today.

The SMH for iPad is the second app released for this property, the first being a dull replica edition put out by NewspaperDirect that users have found profoundly wanting.

This new app, however, takes a completely different approach that is far better suited to the tablet.

The app is both free to download, and gives readers free access to the content for a limited time thanks to a single sponsor, Telstra. The free trial period is due to last all way until December when the paper plans on charging $8.99 (Australian dollars, about $9.60 US) per month. That price represents quite a discount off the annual subscription price being offered online, $349 per annum.

The Sydney Morning Herald is the oldest continuously published newspaper in Australia, having been founded in 1831.

In an online post the editors of the Morning Herald say that other "tablet applications will follow." So clearly the company is pretty committed to the platform.

Also released today is an update for its other iPad edition for The Age. Melbourne based, The Age is almost as old as The Sydney Morning Herald, having been launched in 1854.

Here is the promotional video created for the launch of The SMH for iPad:

Apple confirms agenda for WDC keynote address: Apple CEO Steve Jobs to introduce Lion and iCloud service

It's a bit unusual for Apple to issue a press release outlining what to expect from a Steve Jobs keynote address, but with expectations low for this year's World Wide Developer Conference, with many thinking the next generation iPhone will be launched in the fall, this year's event needs a bit of promotion.
Apple confirmed that CEO Steve Jobs will give the keynote on June 6 and will unveil the next generation of Mac operating system, Lion, as well as iOS 5 and iCloud, Apple's much anticipated storage service. That's a lot of material to cover, and for users of Macs, iPhones, iPads and iPods, is a full agenda of products that will directly effect them – not to mention the developers who create new apps for these products.

But without an new iPhone or iPad to introduce, many tech writers have been less interested in this year's event. In reality the event is back to what it has always been: something for the development community.

iCloud, though, is sure to grab the most headlines as it is being launched following similar efforts from both Amazon and Google.

San Francisco Chronicle releases first tablet edition; native app is a good start despite a few bugs

The San Francisco Chronicle has released its first tablet edition, an iPad app that will eventually require users to sign up for a subscription, though for now readers can enjoy their first 30 days free of charge to try out the app.
As I have pointed out here, Hearst Newspapers (my old employer) have been very slow at launching innovative mobile application, and nonexistent when it comes to the iPad. This app, therefore, San Francisco Chronicle for iPad, is smart step in the right direction.

Although this app has many design faults, the app, nonetheless, does at least two things very much right: one, it has a business model; and two, it avoids the replica editions of far too many other newspaper properties.

While the app offers readers 30 days free to preview the app, there are two levels of in-app subscriptions: $5.99 per month or $59.99 per year. The app description clearly points out that readers can not cancel these charges once they have pressed "buy", unlike their home delivered copies.

The circulation folk must be aware that any decent iPad alternative to the print newspaper will be serious competition for home delivery. Currently the Chronicle will charge you $9.75 per week for home delivery, while home delivery for the Contra Costa Times, for instance, is considerably less.

As for app design, the iPad edition is definitely a better choice than either the Verve Wireless app for the cross Bay rival properties owned by MediaNews Group, Bay Area News for iPad, or the replica editions being pitched by companies like Tecnavia.
"We designed the San Francisco Chronicle for iPad to make it easier for readers to engage with the content that matters most to them," Ward Bushee, executive vice president and editor of The Chronicle said in their newspaper's own story on the app. "This will complement our already strong presence in print with more multimedia and breaking news features, but still retain a similar look and feel of the printed newspaper."

The app offers both portrait and landscape modes, though the app has some bugs that makes it act differently in different modes. For instance, the story about yesterday's Giants win over the Cardinals has a picture of Andres Torres hitting his grand slam. In the corner of the portrait view is a little box with an "11", signifying that there are 11 pictures with the story. Tapping that "11" takes you to a photo gallery from the game. In landscape mode, however, the "11" is still there, because I can see it when the page loads, but it disappears when the page finishes loading. It is still there, though, because tapping the corner of the picture will still take you to the photo gallery.

Strangely, swiping to the next story I can see that the photo gallery symbol shows up – a very strange little app defect.

Another strange thing is that most of the stories are contained on one screen, in order to continue reading the story one must swipe to the next page. But looking through the sports section, called The Sporting Green as the section long ago was once printed on green paper, I see that not all stories act the same. The story about the Warrior's draft, for instance, requires you to scroll.

Left: the subscription page; Middle: the in-app story that explains the app's navigation; Right: the cover flow-like navigation feature.

Another bug involves swiping to the next story: as you swipe the stories appear to go from one to the other consistent with the side navigation bar, one story follows the other. But I noticed that when you get to the story about the resignation of Ohio State coach Jim Tressel it did not go automatically to the next story that was related. Why? My guess is that the app has an unfortunate design where it wants to go to the next unread story rather than going from one story to the next. The result is that one jumps around unexpectedly, a case of the developer thinking they are doing the reader a service when in fact they are taking command of the app in expected ways.

All these little bugs or design flaws can be easily corrected. The design element that might disappoint readers the most are the unexpected pop up ads.

The app features banner ads throughout the app, located along the bottom of the page in both portrait and landscape. But occasionally the reader encounters a full screen ad which pops up unexpectedly. This is sure to annoy more than a few readers.

Other than that, however, this is a good first effort. The app allows you to adjust the font size, download copy for offline reading (very important since Bay Area residents take mass transit), and the app has two ways the go from section to section (a cover flow-like navigation, plus a simple pop up menu located at the bottom of each page).