Friday, July 1, 2011

KC Star launches first iPad app that replicates both its print and web editions, while bypassing the App Store; IHT updates mobile and tablet apps, adding improvements to the iPad's section navigation

The Indenpendence Day holiday is fast approaching, which means this site will be shut down on Monday the Fourth. But before I head off for the long weekend I felt I better make sure my desk is cleaned off and the floor is cleared of debris (oh my, the carpet cleaners are already here).

When it comes to new media apps I already have quite a backlog to look at. The Kansas City Star, for instance, has released its first iPad app, E-Star, iPad edition of The Kansas City Star. It is not what I would call a tablet edition because the Olive Software developed app presents readers with an enhanced replica edition of the print newspaper, as well as access to the Star's website.
The "enhanced" part is simply that readers can tap on the individual stories and pull a new window with the story alone. Otherwise, this is a replica all the way.

The purpose of the app is clear from the app description. The text is clearly a promotion for the newspaper and says nothing about the app itself. The reason is that this is one of those apps that use Apple's in-app purchase loophole: the app is strictly a "reader" app, only giving access to current subscribers of the newspaper.

Upon tapping on a newspaper one is confronted with a sign-in dialog box. Tapping it takes you to the sign-in form – but it also tells you how to go around the App Store, in this case by going to the estar website page where you are told a subscription will cost you $4.95 per month or $58.95 per year.

But while the publisher of the McClatchy owned newspaper may see this pricing as a discount over the home delivery price of $130 per year, the iPad owner will discover that they are not about to receive a newspaper designed specifically for the tablet, but a replica edition optimized in some ways for them. It's readable, but makes the reader to the heavy lifting.

The International Herald Tribune has updated both its iPad app and its iPhone app this morning, while the latest update hit the Android Market two days ago.
The iPhone version adds some font features and fixes some bugs, while the iPad version adds its cartoon contents, and navigation enhancements, as well as the usual bug fixes. The navigation change will be much appreciated by readers: now, when reading within a specific section, one can move on to the next or previous article within that section without having to jump back to the section front (though that option is available, as well). It's a small change, but a welcome one.

The app remains free to download and provides readers with free access to the content through the end of the year, provided you register with the newspaper. The iPad edition continues to be single sponsored by Bell & Ross watches.

Morning Brief: Dramatic shift in trial could put the focus back on the media; the newspaper vendor is disappearing

The New York Times today is reporting that the sexual assault case against Dominique Strauss-Kahn, who was the head of the IMF, and the presumed future head of the French Socialist Party, is "on the verge of collapse as investigators have uncovered major holes in the credibility of the housekeeper who charged that he attacked her in his Manhattan hotel suite in May."

The problem for prosecutors appears to be the credibility of the accuser, a Guinean woman who was working as a maid at the Sofitel hotel in NYC. According to media reports, the woman phone a friend who was in jail to ask for advice. Because the man was in jail the call was taped. It was also discovered that the woman has "unattributed money deposited in the bank accounts" in several states, according to the Christian Science Monitor.

While the news certainly may have political ramifications, in that Strauss-Kahn may be able to resurrect his career if charges are dropped, the case also will focus on the press's habit of jumping to judgment.

As for the politics of its all, that depends on one's perspective, but the NYT quotes Claude Bartolone, a Socialist legislator, as saying last night “I think Sarkozy and his friends are going to have a very unpleasant morning.”

The BBC wrote last night about the end of newspaper street vending in Wales, quoting The Guardian's Roy Greenslade as saying the move was "sad but inevitable in the circumstances".
"Distribution is one of the most expensive parts of the costs of producing newspapers," Greenslade said. "And it's natural enough in such circumstances that you drive down and reduce costs where you can."

True enough, but the old fashioned and unique methods some newspapers have used to distribute their newspapers are more than mere "distribution". By ending the practice of street vending, or boys on bikes delivering the newspaper, the industry has done more than simply cut costs, they have also done great damage to their marketing efforts.

I am reminded of the conversation that went on years ago when Apple started building retail outlets. At the time Apple could look at competitors like Gateway and see that retail outlets were not cost effective from a purely sales perspective. But Apple went forward anyway because they felt that the branded retail experience would prove to be of great importance to the brands, and a great place to introduce new products.

But the retail stores would all be shuttered today if Apple measured their effectiveness as Gateway did, or how the newspaper industry looks at its old distribution methods. For Apple, their retail stores are part of their marketing efforts, which is why they have cut down in marketing on some other areas like MacWorld. Apple doesn't measure the effectiveness of the stores solely in terms of a retail P&L.

Likewise, looking at street vendors simply from the circulation department's perspective misses the marketing advantages of being closer to their customers. If some of the cost of the distribution was shifted to marketing then maybe the conclusion changes. But, of course, that assumes the newspaper has much of a marketing budget in the first place – but we'll leave that discuss for another time.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

MSNBC's political etiquette policy: make sure you are bleeped before calling the President an expletive

Time Magazine's editor-at-large Mark Halperin said that President Obama was a "dick yesterday", referring to the President's news conference. That is OK, apparently, as long as the producer is there to bleep out the expletive. If not, well, you're screwed.
"I want to offer a heartfelt and profound apology to the President and the viewers of Morning Joe. My remark was not funny. I deeply regret it," Halperin wrote on Twitter, now apparently the place where all official correspondence between the media and the President occurs. By the way, Halperin's post says he used "Twitter for iPad" to post his apology (see, you were wondering what the "new media" angle was, right?).

MSNBC had its own story which was in fact no story at all, just the apology: "Mark Halperin's comments this morning were completely inappropriate and unacceptable.  We apologize to the President, The White House and all of our viewers. We strive for a high level of discourse and comments like these have no place on our air. Therefore, Mark will be suspended indefinitely from his role as an analyst."

What really interests me in these situations are the news sites that decide that Halperin called the President a "dick", and those that says he called the President a "@#$%".

NPR's news blog, written by Mark Memmott went with "@#$%", no surprise there. Politico, though, included the whole sentence from Halperin: "“I thought he was a kind of a dick yesterday.” Again, no surprise.

Huffington Post, now it its post AOL-acquisition stage, used "D*ick" in its headline, but the actual word in its body copy. Back in 2008 the HuffPost ran this headline: "Penis Size Preference Chart: SEE WHAT WOMEN WANT HERE!" (This may explain why so few people are truly concerned that AOL will negatively effect the site's editorial standards.)

The Drudge Report – which right now has the headline "Rubio: Obama 'Left Wing Strong Man'" – had no problem using the actual word in its headline, after all no one reads any on that site other than the headlines anyway (it then links over to Politico).

In the end, I find it strange that Halperin should be suspended from giving his opinions on MSNBC because of this comment. Everyone already knows what he thinks of the President, so actually verbalizing it seems merely what he is paid to do. Or does the Morning Joe program people actually bring on people like Halperin in hopes that they will do a good job of hiding their true feelings?

(By the way, for a grown-up look at this whole flap, as opposed to my simple ramblings, you might want to read Greg Sargent's post on the WaPo site, which is spot on.)

Reed Business Information acquires Ascend Worldwide Group, will be merged into RBI's Flightglobal

While the U.S. holdings of Reed Business Information have been divested to a minimum of properties, the UK division is in an acquiring mood today announcing that they have "acquired the entire issued share capital of Ascend Worldwide Group Holdings Limited."
Ascend will be rolled into RBI's aerospace business, Flightglobal.

Ascend is a 46-year old company that has offices in Hong Kong and New York, and lists as its areas of expertise aviation finance and insurance; aircraft manufacturing; aircraft leasing, airport investment and space.
The company has been run by CEO Gehan Talwatte. "I am very excited about the opportunities that the combination of Ascend and Flightglobal will bring." Talwatte said in the announcement release. "By combining our insight and expertise with Flightglobal's growing global audience, distribution capabilities and unrivaled media presence, we can significantly extend the reach of the Ascend brand."

"Ascend brings to Flightglobal an impressive position in the global air finance market," said Jane Burgess, RBI managing director. "This exciting acquisition adds important new data assets and expertise to Flightglobal's existing aviation data business and provides Ascend with access to Flightglobal's powerful global aviation audience and extensive marketing capabilities."

HP launches its webOS driven tablet tomorrow; like Android tablets, the Touchpad will have few apps available day one, though USA Today & Zinio are ready

Giant computer maker Hewlett Packard will be launching its own tablet starting tomorrow, and based on the early reviews it appears that you won't have wait in a long line if you plan on snagging one.

Since HP didn't send TNM a review copy I will not be providing readers a look at the new tablet – and this is probably a bit of a mistake on HP's part as the usual players are giving the Touchpad a thrashing today. But whatever, this isn't a hardware site, what concerns TNM is media.
But like all the recently released tablets, save the iPad 2, what has been missing is a solid app catalog, and an easy way (like iTunes) to access that catalog. Based on the the David Pogue review for the NYT, we know that there will be around 300 webOS tablet optimized apps available for early buyers of the tablet. Obviously that is a very modest number, but as Pogue correctly points out, that is still more than the total number of Android apps currently tablet ready, an astounding fact, if you ask me.
Based on HP's own site for the Touchpad we know that Time Magazine, NPR and USA Today will all have apps available tomorrow, as well as a Facebook app, which actually gives HP a bit of a leg up on Apple. Zinio, too, is ready to go with a webOS app, something I'm sure their publishing partners appreciate.
But the one thing I want to see, hands-on, is Pivot, HP's own digital magazine that will act to promote the company's app catalog.

One of the few to mention Pivot in their review was Jason Snell of MacWorld: "One clever thing HP is trying: It’s created a digital magazine, Pivot, and embedded it inside the HP App Catalog app. Think of an airline magazine entirely about webOS apps, and you’ve got the idea. It’s an outside-the-box approach to encouraging app discovery, and while I have no idea if it’ll work, it’s certainly worth a try by an upstart platform looking for a way to show off its apps."

The Modesto Bee launches its own metered pay wall, but can't come up with an original reason for doing so

The first line of publisher Eric Johnson's column on the Modesto Bee website "There is no doubt in my mind that what The Modesto Bee provides to our community has value." After that you pretty much know what will follow. It is like the employee who enters your office and asks "do you value my work here?" What will follow is inevitably a call for money.

And so it is at the McClatchy daily newspaper in California's Central Valley, the publisher wants their readers to pay up and so up goes the chain's first pay wall (or "paywall", I still can't figure out which way it should appear).
My own views on pay walls are clear and consistent, although a bit fuzzy: 1) pay walls have the best chance of succeeding when the newspaper provides valuable financial news, examples being the WSJ or Financial Times; 2) local news is becoming a commodity, and unless you are vastly superior to the competition – emphasis on "vastly" – a pay wall will only drive away readers; 3) Internet companies do best online when they provide free services, such as search or email, the track record of those trying to be the exception to this rule is not good; 4) experimentation is good so go ahead if you must, but if forced to bet my own money I would be betting against you; and finally 5) metered pay walls are often so porous that all the other rules can be thrown out except #1.

"I have worked in digital publishing for 15 years. In all of that time, especially early in its life cycle, the culture of the Internet was based on the concept of easily accessible, free information. Mainstream organizations that sought to charge for access were often criticized and condemned for their actions," Johnson continued in his post.

But then Johnson goes on to say that other papers are putting up pay walls and, of course, mentions the WSJ and NYT. But he also says smaller papers are starting to do the same, though clearly those papers would not have done so had the big boys kept their websites open.

But the Modesto Bee now has its pay wall, which started on Tuesday, and the details of the plan should be familiar by now: print subscribers get a free pass, "casual visitors" won't pay either because of the looseness of the plan, leaving those who frequent the site more often to pay – in this dase $5 per month, or $50 per year.

What is ironic about these newspaper pay walls is that at the same time they are erecting barriers to entry they are launching web features more like the Internet pure plays. These daily deals that the Boston Globe, NYT and even the Modesto Bee are creating are completely dependent on traffic and mass penetration of the market. And though I doubt putting up a pay wall will serious effect the success of these group buying efforts, I do think they reflect the fact that companies like McClatchy still have no real web strategy other than to get revenue where they can while cutting staff and resources following the reporting of their financial results.

In the case of the Modesto Bee, the paper doesn't even have an iPhone or Android mobile app yet, something that developers have noticed so have launched their own. The Modesto news app from Brighthouse Labs, which likes to flood the App Store with apps – they have 3816 worthless iPhone apps currently available –– is so bad that the company used screenshots from a Vancouver News app for its Modesto app description. It doesn't matter, no one has complained, no one has written a review, but I'm sure a couple made the mistake of paying the $1.99 to download the app.

Morning Brief: Layoffs accompany News Corp. sale of Myspace; Cisco now the latest to launch its own app store; five wars were apparently not enough for WH

Having purchased the social media site for $580 in July of 2005, News Corp. yesterday confirmed that it has sold Myspace for the rock bottom price of $35 million. The buyer, Specific Media LLC, said that it will team up with Justin Timberlake to try and "rebuild and reinvigorate" Myspace, according to the WSJ report.

As a final going away present, and likely a requirement of the deal, News Corp. laid off half of Myspace's remaining 450 employees on Wednesday.

One might have thought that by this time Android tablet sales would be booming, just as Android smartphones have. But one huge reason for the failure (so far) of Android driven tablets has to be chalked up to the Wild West world of Android apps.

Now comes word that Cisco will launch its own app store to support its Cius tablet. The seven inch tablet can run apps from the Android Market and the Amazon App Store, which is good because as of this morning there was exactly one News app available in the Cisco app store: FeedeR News Reader, produced by Weekend Coders LLC.

The Washington Post reports this morning that the U.S. has carried out a drone strike in Somalia. The target was two people allegedly with ties to al-Qaeda.

If you are keeping count, and the WaPo apparently is, this makes the sixth country that the U.S. is now engaged in drone attacks: Somalia joins Afghanistan, Pakistan, Libya, Iraq and Yemen. Oh, and in case you are thinking that some of these wars are winding down, the NYT reports this morning that monthly combat deaths in Iraq hits a 3-year high this month. So far 15 soldiers have been killed, the highest total since June 2008.

Monday is the Independence Day in the U.S. and this site plans to make a long weekend of it. So posting will be limited tomorrow, and nonexistent on Monday (unless some earth shattering news occurs, of course).

The best way to keep up-to-date, if checking into the website is inconvenient, is to follow the TNM Twitter Feed here, or to download the iPhone app here.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Google's move to mobilize local businesses stands in sharp contrast with traditional media's web solutions

Today Google announced on its Mobile Ads Blog that the company is launching a new service for small businesses that is designed to assist businesses build their own mobile landing pages.
If you have ever checked out DYI app building sites you will immediately feel right at home. The mobile website help Google is offering is very similar to the app builders: pick out a template, a color scheme, upload a logo or two, write some copy – bingo, you're done.

Of course, being Google, the service is free (you can't compete with free), and will no doubt drive more AdWords and other advertising for Google.

But it's 2011, do small businesses really need this kind of help? Certainly companies like those behind the Yellow Pages are already helping out their customers like this, right?

To find out I checked out the AT&T Yellow Pages website. The first thing the telecom wanted to know was my zip code which I promptly typed in only to find out that they could not help me. Of course, I thought, I live in one of those areas were the Yellow Pages are really published by Dex.

OK, so what does have to offer me? Well, while Google's service is simple, simple, simple, not to mention free, Dex's mobile solutions are included in the company's website design area.

On to Patch, the AOL company that is launching hundreds of local news websites. Each of the local Patch sites are built to all look the same, right down to that annoying pseudo-grass used on the sides of the site, even the sites for the high desert of California where grass means wildfires.

In any case, don't expect any help there because the link to "Advertise" always takes you to a form you must fill out – how helpful.

No, despite it being 2011, local merchants are still not getting digital help from the media companies that claim to serve them. Despite local newspapers, hyper-local websites, and direct mailers, Google is simply stepping into the opening that exists because media companies still see technology as something to be outsourced.

The travel industry (and some publishers) are taking advantage of the leisure reading habits of tablet owners

It is pretty well established that the iPad, when it comes to reading newspapers and magazines, is a leisure-time reading device, much like an e-reader. (The exception might be when the reader is using the Safari browser.)

I know that Claus Enevoldsen and the team over at The Orange County Register feel that way about their recently released tablet edition. It's somewhat ironic that the Register is virtually producing an afternoon edition through its iPad app since I was working at Hearst Newspapers when our paper, the afternoon daily Herald Examiner, was overtaken in circulation by the suburban morning paper, The Orange County Register.
(The first time I mentioned that I thought the iPad would be a leisure-time media consumption device here at TNM was on March 19 of last year, about two weeks before the first iPads were shipped to waiting customers.)

It should be no surprise then that the travel industry is waking up to the potential of tablets. Airlines, hotels and travel publishers are rushing out apps for the device, many of which are imaginative takes on the art of the iPad app, others are simply using the tablet to add distribution to their readership numbers.

What follows is a quick look at four new apps that can be found in the Travel (or Lifestyle) category of the App Store.

Seven Stars Galleria Milano is an app for the high end hotel found in the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II in Milan, Italy. The app (seen at top, right) is the first iPad app from Terrier Tech, which is probably the name the developer, Luca Giuseppe Pirito, likes to use for his apps. An online search seems to indicate that the company is from Torino (Turin).
The developer has several iPhone apps in the App Store, but like I mentioned above, this is the first for the iPad and it is an excellent first effort. The best part of the app is that it easily moves from an English language version to an Italian language version at the tap of an icon.

The app has photo galleries, virtual tours of the rooms, dining information, and room reservations. Good news, the Rossini Executive Junior Suite is available on Labor Day, it will only set you back 800€.

Unfortunately, the app description is completely in Italian, which means quite a few travelers will be fooled into thinking this app is not appropriate for them.

The Conrad Chicago for iPad is an app released today for the Hilton Hotels owned property. The app opens with one of those videos that one might see on their hotel television set.

But things get better once inside the app. There one can get information on the hotel, dining information, request a wake-up call (very smart) and other services including housekeeping. Because of the usefulness of the app one would think this would be a universal app so you could use it on your iPhone. The good news is that while this app may not be universal, an iPhone version can be found in the App Store, as well.
The app is from Intelity, an Orlando, Florida company that specializes in customer interaction services for the hospitality industry. This new app for the Conrad Chicago is the eighth iPad, they also have 16 iPhone apps, as well.

The app for the Savoy Zurich is more disappointing. The app is essentially just a replica edition of a promotional brochure with several links built in. (One will take you to the online reservation system.)

Like most replica editions one could say that "this is better than nothing", but when compared to the more interactive apps mentioned above this one comes off looking, well, cheap.
Of course if iPad owners want to check out expensive hotels on their iPads they will also want to read more about the cities they plan to visit. That is where city/regional magazines can take advantage of the iPad. Looking inside the App Store one can see that Emmis Communications, the publisher of several city magazines has released five apps for their radio stations, but nothing for their city magazines (no surprise, I suppose, I couldn't even access their website today).

One publisher who is moving forward with apps for their city magazines is VIP Media Press. Back in March I wrote about their first app for their Barcelona Deluxe magazine.

The biggest problem I saw with the Barcelona app was simply that it was a garish magazine which celebrates wealth in a way that I found rather disturbing.

The good news about the MADRID deluze magazine plus iPad app is that you'll never feel insulted by its contents . . . because you won't ever see it.

The app opens to a library that allows you to download the issues. The download takes long enough time that your display will go to sleep, always a bad sign. But once the download is completed you will see the view button, here is where the fun begins. Pressing the button will immediately crash the app. When you reopen the app you will see that the app will ask you to download the issue again. And on and on.

This would be a great app for April Fool's Day, but as a magazine app it is more than a bit annoying.

Airlines are, of course, jumping on the iPad bandwagon. As of today you can find airline apps for American Airlines, Lufthansa, Alitalia and others, as well as quite a number of airline magazines that one would normally find onboard the plane, like Hemispheres from United Airlines.

But one is struck by the fact that while the hotel and airline industry recognize the unique platform tablets present to them, publishers continue to present to their readers horrible replica editions that show no understanding at all of tablet publishing. Like much of the B2B industry, clients are recognizing that the publishers they used to work with remain stuck in the past.

Thinking out loud: Building new HTML5 websites for tablets, is this really such a good idea?

I received a call from a consulting company yesterday that was to ask me some questions about digital media and repurposing content. As I usually do, I cautioned about the recurring mistake publishers make: thinking that an existing product that works well in print can be converted with little change to a digital product and have the same level of success – different platforms generally require different products.
In some ways, this is the thinking behind some of the new HTML5 based publishing solutions emerging now for the tablet. By taking a publisher's website and rather than building a native app one can use HTLM5 to build a new site that will be seen by readers on tablets. This new site will look and feel like a native app, but will be easy to build through an HTML5 solution.

Isn't this a good thing? A solution that avoids the trap of building a replica edition when the platform requires a new product? The problem here is that while you have indeed built a new product, you have also gotten rid of your established product – your branded website. For tablet users it completely disappears and becomes this new thing.

Slate, for instance, last week started using Onswipe's digital publishing solution to transform its website into a Flipboard looking site. The move was certainly interesting, but if you are a regular reader of Slate the move was a bit jarring. Today I see that the site is back to it normal look on the iPad, with only a link to the Onswipe driven site. (It may have been like this from the beginning, I really don't recall.)

For me, the idea of building a new digital publishing product using a solution such as Onswipe remains exciting – but rather than convert an existing website to the new format wouldn't it make more sense to build something new?

Unfortunately, it is very easy to see HTML5 as simply the next generation of the flipbook: another cheap and easy way to build a digital product without considering whether the solution is appropriate for what you are building. Just as adding Flash flipbooks of your print magazine online has proven a dead end, so will creating touch capable websites – its a solution searching for a problem. As an iPad owner I can tell you that I have no problem surfing the web on my tablet, despite a lack of Flash. The real problem that needs to be addressed is how do I create a magazine or newspaper product that can be read on tablets?

Luckily, the way to work through this is simply to consider your new HTML5 based product as something new, not something that replaces your website. If the new touch capable Slate product was called Slate Magazine then you are closer to the way I think this can all work.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Red Bull releases a second iPad app for US edition of Red Bulletin magazine

The very first iPad app from Red Bull for its Red Bulletin sports magazine created a library where readers could download its issues, all of which are free of charge.
PhotobucketThe dilemma for Red Bull, though, was that Red Bulletin comes in different flavors, an English edition and a German edition. Do you offer both editions inside the app?

For me I didn't think it was a big deal, they were, after all, all they needed to do was label the editions "International" and "US", something they didn't do originally.

But they must have gotten some negative feedback, or at least some expressions of confusion because now they have released a second iPad app just for the U.S.

The Red Bulletin US is also free, and it, too, creates a library where readers can access the issues, but now there is only the one version that can be downloaded.

The current issue, featuring American track and field athlete Lolo Jones on the cover, is constructed in a similar fashion to the first issue TNM looked at. But this time the issue is a modest 158 MB (or so) because there are only landscape layouts.

The issues are still packed with video and great photography – I'll leave it up to you to judge that actual quality of the editorial.

A few thoughts on posts and deleted posts

Every now and then things slow down here at TNM. Often this occurs in the summer when the news cycle tens to take a siesta. But just as often it is because I have written a lengthy post, thought about it, and then decided to delete – either because I just felt it didn't merit posting, or for very personal reasons.

This morning I read this post from Roy Greenslade of The Guardian. Greenslade is in the middle of reading James O'Shea's The Deal from Hell: How Moguls and Wall Street Plundered Great American Newspapers, the former Tribune Company editor who in his book recounts the Tribune merger with Times Mirror and the purchase of the company by Sam Zell which eventually led to the company's bankruptcy.
The reason for the post by Greenslade is the point to Jack Shafer's post on, where Shafer takes apart O'Shea's book. Shafer just doesn't get the that the blame for the industry's woes can be placed at the feet of those inside it since, he argues, have't companies like the NYT and WaPo also experience staff reductions?

Well, needless to say that I find Shafer's post laughable. It reads like the naive ramblings of a middling actor telling us that he finds Mel Gibson to be a worthy role model.

But ultimately I decided to trash that post for the simple reason that very few TNM readers appear very interested in the inside ball of the newspaper industry – they have already moved. Those involved in new media really don't care much about why the newspaper industry is failing, simply that it is and that creates new opportunities for those who will follow.

But for me, as a former newspaper executive, the whole thing is like a car crash, ugly to observe, but impossible to turn away from, nonetheless.

But all industries are made up of people, people who make decisions, who are responsible for their actions. But is it really surprising that journalists fail to see this? After all, every Sunday morning we all are subjected to the same news shows where journalists interview the usual suspects, the same people who have proved to be wrong time and time again, yet the journalists never question whether they should stop talking to the discredited, never mention the discretions. In today's world of journalism, people are not responsible, they are ruled by outside forces bigger than themselves. No one is to blame, therefore placing the blame is considered bad form.

Microsoft launches cloud-based Office service today

Microsoft today launched a cloud-based version of its Microsoft Office produce. Aimed at professionals and small businesses, the service is subscription based and lets users access email, documents, contacts and calendars via the web.
Called Microsoft Office 365, the service will cost small business $6 per month to subscribe, for each user, and requires that PC owners have Office 2007 SP2 or Office 2010 installed on their computers, or Office 2008 or Office 2011 for Mac installed. Enterprise users are charged from $10 per month, or $27 per month per user depending on the number of features needed.

The service will work on most common browsers.

The software giant's cloud effort is both an attempt to hold off other cloud computing products from Google and Apple, and also somewhat of a recognition that the company's Office suite is a now a legacy product that offers few reasons for consumers and companies to continuously upgrade every couple of years.

Comparing the new Microsoft product to Google one instantly recognizes that the new product is coming from the same company that continues to confuse consumers with multiple versions of its software products. While Google Apps will cost you $5 per month, Microsoft's product is tiered; Microsoft's product is less optimized for mobile devices that Google's (based on this early look by PC World). But there are a lot of people very comfortable with Office, and miss it when it is not available on their mobile devices – for them, this might be a good solution.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Bonnier releases disappointing app for Saveur

If you read my report on Thursday of last week on the slate of new tablet editions released by Bonnier you would have noticed that I ended that post wondering about their title Saveur. The world food magazine was conspicuously missing from the latest app releases, were they delaying a new app because they wanted to incorporate video and other tablet features?
Sadly, the answer appears to be no. Late on Friday a new iPad app appeared for Saveur and like the other Bonnier apps, it is essentially a replica edition, but one that no doubt uses the Mag+ system to compile the PDF pages. (Update: I have been told that it does not use Mag+ but another Bonnier system for replicas called MagLight.)

Like the other Bonnier apps, the Saveur app is free to download and offers a discounted in-app purchased subscription for $1.99 monthly, or $14.99 per year. Individual issues can be bought for $4.99. But print subscribers are screwed: you will have to pay again if you want to read this magazine on your iPad – which is why I only bothered to look at the preview issue, why pay twice?

The app is replica in every way: it has no landscape mode and the production team does not reenvision the layouts to take advantage of the iPad, forcing the reader to use pinch to zoom to read many of the articles because there has been no font adjustments.

The Saveur app is hugely disappointing and I can imagine that magazines like this one will suffer greatly once publishers realize the enormous potential tablets offer for food magazines.

Bonnier also released on the same day a similar app for its magazine Garden Design, but those who were expecting great things from the Swedish media firm have got to scratching their heads at this point.

Protesters occupy The Acropolis, only find ruins

In something straight out of The Onion, Greek communists have stormed The Acropolis in Athens. No doubt their first reaction was "damn, there is nothing here but ruins!" (Psst, guys, it's been a while since anyone but tourists were there.)

Greek protesters occupy The Acropolis.
Photo courtesy of Reuters and The Guardian.

More seriously, unions in Greece have called for a 48-hour general strike starting tomorrow. The strike is timed to coincide with debates being held in the Greek parliament involving further austerity measures being considered by the embattled government of prime minister George Papandreou.

Meanwhile, in Spain thousands of anti-austerity protesters have begun a march to Madrid, setting off from different cities around the country. Called the “indignados”, the protesters are part of what is known as the May 15 movement.

While the debt situation in Spain is not as severe as Greece, the country's unemployment situation is dire, with adult unemployment over 20 percent.

Morning Brief: Meredith buys Eating Well Media Group, launches; Israel warns journalists on flotilla

Meredith Corp. announced this morning that it had acquired the EatingWell Media Group, and that it will be launching, which it describes as a site that will pair recipes with discount coupons.
Meredith already produces great food content across our brands, and food is our top advertising category," said Meredith Chairman and CEO Steve Lacy in the company's announcement. "In acquiring EatingWell and launching, we've added two anchor brands to serve the 75 million American women we engage every month, and the marketers that want to reach them."

The EatingWell group comes with a bi-monthly magazine with a circulation of around 350,000. EatingWell CEO Thomas Witschi will join Meredith as EVP and President, of the Women's Lifestyle group.

The website launch will feature in-store and manufacturer coupons, instructional video content and more than 20,000 recipes taken from the Meredith magazine catalog.

"Our goal is to create a multi-revenue food platform that aligns with the modern way women plan, shop and prepare meals for their families," said Liz Schimel, Chief Digital Officer, Meredith National Media Group.

Israel is threatening journalists who are caught on the Gaza-bound flotilla with deportation and a 10-year ban on entering the country. Oren Helman, the director of the Israeli's government press office called the flotilla “a dangerous provocation that is being organized by Western and Islamic extremist elements to aid Hamas," according to a NYT report.

One year ago, during the "Gaza Freedom Flotilla", Israeli forces killed nine activists.

The International Criminal Court in The Hague has issued an arrest warrant for Libya's Muammar el-Qaddafi and his chief of intelligence for war crimes related to the recent unrest and fighting.

Interesting how quick the court is to press charges when the person involved is not the head of a major western country, isn't it?

Did you watch the Gold Cup final? Chances are you didn't since it was not on shown on a major network. The US got crushed by a far better Mexico team 4-2. To these eyes this US is team is the worst I've seen in two decades.