Friday, July 15, 2011

The empire strikes back: The Australian starts campaign against possible new press regulations; attacks politicians critical of Murdoch's News Corp.

The new day arrives first in the East, of course, so the articles now appearing in The Australian are no doubt the first signs that Murdoch's press empire plans a full counter attack against its critics.

Both articles, posted at the same time last night, go on the attack.
David Flint starts his attack on critics of News Corp. by stating "I am no toady of the Murdoch empire", but then goes on to defend News Corp. and its political positions. Flint goes right after the current Australian government, no friend of the right wing press, by ending his column this way:

"The last thing we need are more laws or inquiries. What we need is good limited government and, if they can't give us that, an early election," Flint writes, essentially calling for an end to the current government.

Purely coincidentally I'm sure, The Australian also posted a column by Cameron Stewart which quotes a former The Age editor, Mike Smith, as saying that government regulation of newspapers would be bad for democracy.

But the column seems to use the words of Smith a bit out of context.

"It would be bad for democracy," he told The Weekend Australian. "It ought to be possible for anyone to publish a newspaper.

"But there will be increasing pressure for regulation, and maybe even public support for regulation, if the industry does not do better on self-regulation, and that is the lesson which dozens of other industries have learned."
The fact that both columns would appear simultaneously should not be surprising knowing that Fox News executives have been accused to of passing out talking points to its commentators, or using talking points provided by its political allies.

This morning, for instance, Fox and Friends host Steve Doocy and his on air guest Robet Dilenschneider urged Fox News viewers to "move on" from the phone hacking scandal.

“We know it’s a hacking scandal, shouldn’t we get beyond it and deal with the issue of hacking? We have a serious hacking problem in this country,” Dilenschneider is quoted by Think Progress as saying.

Yes, we have a hacking problem, especially when one of the largest media companies in the world is using the technique.

Then there is this WSJ article from today which quotes the chairman of News Corp. as saying that the company had handled the phone hacking scandal "extremely well in every way possible."

It is possible that instructions have gone out to try and limit this scandal to the U.K. only. But for those who thought News Corp. would not react to all the negative press being thrown at it, or would even consider divesting any of its media empire voluntarily, well sit back and watch the reaction build over the next week. The empire is prepared to fight back.

As entertaining as this Colbert Report might be, it might already be outdated. But it's worth a look anyway.

The new fox in the hen house: using 'Digital First' as yet another excuse to cut costs at media companies

The fox has been let into the hen house and it is going to be pretty hard to get him out. The gurus of digital are coming into newspaper and magazine companies because there is money to be made, for them, but not necessarily for publishers.

That's a pretty damning statement above, isn't it? And one you wouldn't necessarily expect from a New Media website. But the sad fact remains that most efforts to go "digital first" revolve around schemes to cut costs, typically found in veteran newsrooms and editorial staffs, not in new ideas about how to drive revenue in digital products. That is why most new advisory boards are made up of "digital" people who have backgrounds not on the revenue side of things but on the editorial side.

The ideas – aggregation, "digital first", hyperlocal – are all well and good, but none really get at the issue that advertising is leaving the display pages at newspapers and magazines, shifting to search and other digital formats. Most newspaper companies that claim to be moving to digital first strategies, remain behind when it comes to creating original, unique digital mobile, tablet and web products. Instead, the shift is concentrated on how content is handled, and most importantly, who handles – mostly younger, less well paid writers and editors.

If content truly is the differentiator, then the media industry's inability to visualize a future for the creators of that content surely must be a sign of failure. Instead, content simply is reduced down to ones and zeros – all content being equal in the eyes of the media executives.

Meanwhile, having few new ideas concerning sales, sales staffs and structure, the new digital gurus are left to depend on ad networks and other third party solutions.

Few modern publishing executives are heard talking about going on sales calls with their ad staffs, better to sit in their offices talking to their advisors – who themselves have never gone on a sales call. In the trenches, the sales teams will tell you that it is impossible to sell multi-thousand dollar ad solutions to local businesses, and that the digital offerings of newspapers, in particular, are often far too complicated and do not produce the results they are looking for.

The problem of lost local advertising is not a new one for newspapers, and it did not arise because of the Internet – it predates the Internet by over a decade. As newspaper circulation levels and costs rose, ad rates rose with them. And as ad rates rose, retail (and to a less degree classified) sales teams began to see the number of prospects for display advertising decrease.

In the early eighties the biggest competitor for local advertising became companies like Advo, who could offer targeted advertising based on zip code to local merchants, often at a fraction of the cost of the metro newspaper, and often the local paper, as well. The sales process was complicated for the rep who needed to calculate CPMs, look at the distribution information, and pass along a quote to the customer. But from the advertisers perspective the rep handled the hard work while they simply approved the budget. Better still, negotiations tied price to distribution, rather than the rate card rate.

Newspapers struggled to compete as marriage mail grew. Newspapers, such as the one I worked at in the late eighties, added combination insert and mail programs to compete. But the process was difficult as reps had to learn a new way to sell, and often had to settle for a lower price point.

Auto and real estate shoppers came into many market simply because publishers feared that advertisers, looking for a cheaper buy, would stop buying their full run ad sections if they created speciality products. So new competitors filled the void, happy to take ads from customers who used to depend on their metro newspaper to drive traffic into their showrooms, or to their open houses.

(Some of these competitors have moved smoothly into new digital formats, or, as in the case of web competitors such as Zillow, moved smoothly into mobile and tablets – as seen above.)

Newspapers, and to a certain degree magazines, continue to get squeezed by the new media alternatives. But rather than choosing to compete in the new media marketplace, publishers have punted, choosing to adjust their cost structures rather than create new competitive ad products.

So when I hear "digital first" I cringe. As someone who has advocated web publishing, then mobile and tablet publishing, you might think my first instinct would be to applaud. But I know that some of the advocates for "digital first" are simply selling their wares. It is, in the end, the reason why most announcements of "digital first" initiatives are eventually followed by layoff announcements.

Morning Brief: Rebekah Brooks resigns as chief executive of News International; Future PLC reports 5% decline in profits as ad and circulation revenues dip; Argentina bans prostitution ads in newspapers and other media

The resignation today of Rebekah Brooks was inevitable, but is it too late to have any meaningful impact on the growing scandal? It all depends on whether the politicians who say they want to look into the business practices of News Corp. are being truthful. or whether they will now look for a way to bury the whole episode under the rug.
"At along last Rebekah Brooks has made the right decision, but it is far too late," said Liberal MP Don Foster, according to The Guardian. "It was disgraceful that Rupert Murdoch, when he arrived in the UK, said that his top priority was Rebekah Brooks rather than the people who had been affected by the alleged illegal activity of a small number of his staff."

“No one in this country should exercise power without responsibility,” Labour Party leader Ed Miliband said in a statement, according to Bloomberg's report on the resignation.

Marketers looking for signs of what awaits the country economically can look no further than events occurring in Minnesota and Connecticut.

Yesterday the governor of Minnesota announced that lawmakers had reached an agreement that would end the state government's shutdown. In the end, the governor gave up on his demands that some tax hikes occur for upper income taxpayers. He blinked, and the result is that while the state government will reopen, layoffs and major spending cuts will occur in the middle of a recession.

In Connecticut another Democratic governor, Dannel Malloy, announced that public employees would start receiving layoff notices after union members failed to sign onto the governor's plan for $1.6 billion in concessions and savings. The governor is looking to add 6,500 more to the unemployment rolls.

In the case of Connecticut, the approved plan did call for some revenue enhancements including a raise in the level of income taxes paid by those making more than $100,000 a year. But the majority of revenue enhancements will come in the form of state sales taxes.

Is this what we can expect from the federal budget negotiations, as well? If so, the unemployment picture could get even worse, just in time for next year's presidential election.

Bath, England based Future PLC reported a five percent decline in profits today, stating that circulation revenues declined three percent, while ad revenues continued weak.

The US division said it need to adjust its forecast for ad sales down, while stating that it would delay the launch of a new digital product.

In its investor statement Future PLC said "the Board has decided to accelerate transition of Future US into a primarily digital business. This process may take 12 to 15 months, to allow time for existing subscriptions and other contractual obligations to be fulfilled."

Argentina's president, Cristina Fernandez, has instituted a ban on prostitution ads in newspapers and other mass media which starts today.

The decree has drawn praise from women's groups, as well as the U.S. ambassador who said "many countries will appreciate seeing the effects that this decree will bring in the fight against this crime," according to the AP.

But others say that the move will adversely effect newspapers aligned with the opposition, including Grupo Clarín, the largest media company in Argentina, though the company themselves declined to comment.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Apple introduces volume purchasing program for businesses who want to download B2B apps

The B2B publishing was not exactly a big fan of the web back in the mid-nineties, not only hesitant to launch their own websites, but even more hesitant to help their customers with their own – fearing, of course, that their customers would depend more on the Internet in the future and less on those full page ads in their magazines. How did that work out for publishers?
Now the industry is making the same mistakes when it comes to mobile and tablets: hesitant to launch their own apps while watching as third party vendors invade their space offering B2B apps of their own.

Recognizing that in order for the App Store to serve as an effective market for B2B apps there has to be a volume discount available, Apple has today introduced a new program specifically designed for companies. The program is currently only available in the U.S., though one could assume that Apple would be more than happy to roll out the program elsewhere if things work out.

The App Store features thousands of great business apps designed to deliver immediate benefits for your company. With the App Store Volume Purchase Program, your business can tap into the potential of these world-class apps and offer a broad range of solutions for your employees to make them even more productive. Whether you’re purchasing apps for iPhone, iPad, or both, the Volume Purchase Program offers a simple and efficient method to purchase iOS apps from the App Store in volume for distribution within your organization.

In addition to offering apps from the App Store, the Volume Purchase Program enables businesses to buy custom B2B apps developed for their unique needs. Businesses can work with third-party app developers and business partners to procure these custom B2B apps securely and privately through the program.
To enroll in the program all a business needs to do is to go to the Apple landing page and complete the form once Apple opens up the program – right now it is merely "coming soon". A company will simply have to supply Apple with contact information and the Dun & Bradstreet number associated with your company.

Once the program kicks off, a company representative would be able to have a company account where they can search for apps and then designate the total number of apps they want to buy. After the order is confirmed the customer will then get a redemption code from Apple good for the number of downloads along with a spreadsheet with the codes, as well as a link so users don't have to type in the URL or redemption codes in manually.

iOS developers who want to offer custom B2B apps will have to price their apps at $9.99 and above, but this shouldn't be much of a limitation if the apps are truly custom.

All new B2B custom apps will, of course, go through the same app review process, though one would hope that Apple would, in the future, make sure this is a somewhat separate, more more specialized app review team.

Those interested can download the PDF guide here.

Tablet publishing soon to have its own tablet magazine; fall launch of TabTimes will test level of vendor support

Late in 2009 Editor & Publisher, the newspaper industry's trade magazine folded. Folio:, the magazine industry's trade magazine has changed hands a couple of times in the last few years. Now the tablet publishing "industry" will soon have its own tablet magazine, TabTimes, and the start-up will test the theory that a tablet-only magazine can survive and thrive where industry print magazines have failed.
TabTimes is backed by Patrick Pierra who will serve as the tablet magazine's publisher. Pierra is a Canadian who has some deep pockets thanks to selling BV! Media to Rogers Media for $25 million last year.

George Jones, former editor at Maximum PC, will head up the editorial team, along with other media veterans.

According to, TabTimes will be advertising based, though according to the TabTimes website there are no ad people as part of the launch team at this time, and Pierra's own background is editorial.

But whether the new launch uses ad networks or its own ad sales team, the biggest obstacle to the start-up's launch is not the level of maturity of the tablet advertising market, but the simple fact that the media industry is a terrible B2B segment. Media professionals are not exactly a coveted market to reach for advertisers, and so many vendors are themselves start-ups.

TabTimes says they plan on launching their iPad app this fall. With any luck maybe TabTimes could free me from having to continue Talking New Media (free at last!)

In celebration of Bastille Day

Today is Bastille Day, a day sadly not celebrated in the U.S. We Americans have a pretty strange relationship with the French, due mostly to the News Corp. media organization – yet another example of how the news organization has skewed the internal politics of the nations it does business in.

But no two nations should have better ties: without France's help the American Revolution would have failed; without American help the liberation of France in WWII would not have occurred.

But enough politics and the media, here is U.S. saxophonist Lee Konitz in Paris deconstructing La Marseillaise:

On three continents, 'fair and balanced' news organization is called to account for its behavior and news coverage

In Australia, already where it is Friday, the chief executive and chairman of News Limited, the Australian wing of the Murdoch media empire, was forced to defend his company's news coverage.

"I often hear noises from some government ministers about how they are unhappy about how they are being portrayed in some News Limited publications but most forthrightly in The Australian and The Daily Telegraph," John Hartigan was quoted today.
Hartigan denied that the goal of News Limited was to interfere in the politics of Australia and oust the current government.

In the U.S. two Senators yesterday sent a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder and Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman Mary Schapiro asking them to investigate News Corp. in the wake of the phone hacking scandal that led to the closing of News of the World.

"The reported allegations against News Corporation are very serious, indicate a pattern of illegal activity, and involve thousands of potential victims," CBS News quotes the letter from Senators Barbara Boxer and Jay Rockefeller. "It is important to ensure that no United States laws were broken and no United States citizens were victimized."

This morning, back in the U.K., the deputy sergeant at arms of the House of Commons is delivering a summons to Rupert and James Murdoch that demands that the two turn over evidence to a committee investigating the phone hacking scandal.

The committee wants the two Murdochs, along with former News of the World editor, and current chief executive of News International, Rebekah Brooks to testify.

"We're decided that these three were the most appropriate," said John Whittingdale, chairman of the culture, media and sport committee. "If we wanted to talk to others then we might consider that in the future. Murdoch was the chairman of News International in this country until very recently. Rebekah Brooks is the chief executive. They are the people who are directly responsible."

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Tackable launches custom social media and news app for MediaNews Group in the Bay Area

Bay Area tech start-up Tackable has launched an interesting, if somewhat frustrating, new social media news app for their partners at MediaNews Group, the owners of the San Jose Mercury News, Contra Costa Times and Oakland Tribune. (Disclosure: I worked for the CCT newspaper group before its acquisition by MediaNews.)
TapIn Bay Area is a free app for the iPad that can take advantage of the newspaper chain's wide distribution in the area, with its papers in much of the area other than San Francisco itself.

The app promises news, weather, events, movie listings, and other information, as well as "local deals".

"The app, developed in collaboration with California Newspapers Partnership and a local start-up Tackable, plots news, coupons, events, deals, photos, hiking trails, and featured video into an exploratory experience," Steve Rossi, CEO of CNP, said in the San Jose Mercury News's own story on the app.

The app is free, but clearly states that monthly subscription of $4.99 will be required in the future, but does not say exactly when.

Gigaom's Mathew Ingram wrote a good piece on the app on their site, so there is no reason to go through the particulars again here.

What frustrated me about the app, however, was the idea that I would be open to sharing my information through the registration process, knowing that whatever benefits I would get would eventually go away if I chose not to subscribe later on. That information I provides Tackable will stay with them forever, so would I really be so stupid as to sign on to something like this?

Well, clearly many will. I spoke to someone just the other day that didn't even bat an eye over the thought of handing over their contact information in exchange for a coupon to a restaurant they liked. No matter how much we all know we should guard our personal information, almost any promise of a benefit is enough to get us to hand over that email address.

My concern here is the same as what I wrote about concerning replica editions: the tendency on the part of newspaper publishers who show a huge amount of disrespect towards their readers. (Reading the San Jose Mercury News story about their own app, for example, left my monitor littered with pop-up ads, making me wonder whether the new media team considers is sensitive to this issue.)

This new app from the start-up Tackable was certainly an interesting surprise. The company's more anticipated iPhone app involves its mobile photojournalism platform.
Tackable is a mobile photojournalism platform launching in 2011 across 34 newspapers in the San Francisco Bay Area. Reporters and editors create photo assignments, which readers complete using their smartphones. Readers also send in live, breaking news photos, helping reporters write better articles, faster. – Tackable website.
But Tackable has already launched a sort of prototype app for The Spartan Daily, the student newspaper of San Jose State University.

The idea behind the app is to empower citizen journalists to submit news and photographs to the paper, as well as to act as a source of news and information itself through crowd sourced information.

Spartan Daily is a free download and will let you understand the idea behind the app.

Accenture study finds media and entertainment execs saying their companies are still struggling with digital

A recently released study by the Media & Entertainment Group of Accenture claims to find that nearly half of executives surveyed still say their companies are struggling to convert their operations from analog to digital. The Global Media & Entertainment Study also found that media executives are anticipating even more rapid change to come, 85 percent of those surveyed saying that their businesses will continue to change significantly in the near future.
“Although some companies have made more progress toward achieving the goal of distributing content via any channel, in any format, to any device, most still need to form a holistic view of their digital consumer so they can monetize their content,” said Marco Vernocchi, global managing director of Accenture’s Media & Entertainment industry group. “Revenue growth in this new, multi-platform world is dependent on delivering personalized, consumer-driven content to individual consumers via the right platform."

“Clearly, the industry has lots of work to do to take advantage of the opportunities presented by the digital distribution of content,” said Vernocchi. “A clear view of the customer, improved customer relationships and digital rights management are just a few areas that could yield significant results.”

Sky News claims News Corp. will withdraw its bid for BSkyB; BBC says that News Corp. will retain its 30% ownership stake in the UK satellite TV service

Sky News claims that Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. will withdraw its bid for BSkyB, the British satellite television provider. The U.K. television news channel is displaying a breaking news banner on its website making the claim.


According to another media outlet, the BBC, News Corp. will keep its current 39 percent share of the company.

The move, while probably inevitable, is nonetheless a shocking development, and an admission that the phone hacking scandal has grown to such a size that it threatens the very existence of Rupert Murdoch's U.K. media empire. It also may be a last attempt to defuse the situation, knowing that News Corp. could decide to pursue BSkyB at a later date, after the situation has cooled down.

Update: News Corp. has now confirmed the news. "We believed that the proposed acquisition of BSkyB by News Corporation would benefit both companies, but it has become clear that it is too difficult to progress in this climate," News Corp chairman Chase Carey said in the company's statement.

Meanwhile, BSkyB's share price on the London Stock Exchange is predictably crashing. The BSY price opened today at 692.00, but is currently down 3.54 percent to 667.50. It should be noted, however, that this brings the share price back down to levels seen earlier this year, before the acquisition news began to effect its price.

Morning Brief: Netflix bets the farm on streaming, but selection remains an issue; Some in the media dare to starting to saying the obvious

It completely makes sense that Netflix would bet the farm on streaming of films and television shows. It also makes sense that Netflix would raise its prices to compensate for higher negotiated costs for content.
The problem, which I think they are also aware of, is that customers continue to receive DVDs in the mail not so much because they want that content in solid form, but because content available through streaming remains limited. Without a dramatic rise in the quality and quantity of content many users may go elsewhere.

Jessie Becker, Netflix's vice president of marketing, made the pricing announcement on the company's blog yesterday and frankly didn't do a good job of justifying the company's pricing moves. When using phrases like "we didn’t anticipate" the company comes off looking bad and inviting criticism from its customer base – which is precisely what happened in the comments.

"DVD renters can pay more to access more of the voluminous DVD library, but what are streamers supposed to do about the lack of current releases or desired catalog titles?" wrote Travis McClain in the comments area. "I realize Netflix cannot stream what the studios do not allow, but this is a disparity that really should be acknowledged in the price scheme."

Over 5,800 comments are currently on the blog post.

The real problem for Netflix is that while the company has a huge catalog of DVDs to offer its customers, its streaming options run into a different level of competition. Netflix beat up on Blockbuster pretty badly, but how will it do when up against Apple and other streaming media competitors?

They are finally starting to say what others have thought:

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: The practices of all Mr. Murdoch's media properties should be scrutinized in light of the criminal enterprise that was once the News of the World.

Digby (Heather Parton): It's a criminal enterprise, that's all there is to it.

Paul Krugman: At this point it’s starting to look as if News Corp is better viewed as a criminal enterprise than as a media organization.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Two new apps for the Travel category leave out essential features like AirPlay and translations for potential tourists

The travel category is one that has really benefitted from Apple's introduction of the iPad. While travelers – both business and pleasure travelers – can now use their smartphones to secure reservations, check on the flights and more, the iPad's bigger real estate makes reading travel magazines, books and guides immensely more pleasurable than print only.
Today the National Geographic and Fotopedia have released their second universal app together, Above France. This app, unlike the previous one, Dreams of Burma, will cost readers $2.99 to download.

In addition to the two apps released with National Geographic, Fotopedia also has several other apps that appear in the travel section, including Fotopedia Paris.

“We are thrilled to collaborate with National Geographic Traveler again,” said Jean Marie Hullot, CEO of Fotopedia in the company's announcement of the new app. “If you think that France is beautiful, wait until you see this app. It’s a love letter written with a camera and a helicopter. We are grateful that Frank Mulliez decided to share his extraordinary adventures with us in this brand new app.”

The app certainly delivers a lot of photography content, and has lots of bells and whistles such as social media sharing.

But the apps produced by Fotopedia have two problems, one small, one huge.

The small problem is that they consistently have load problems. One or more sections of either app I have on my iPad will give you that loading symbol forever unless you shutdown the app and reopen it. Upon reopening the app all appears fine, hence why this is a small problem.

The second issue is the lack of AirPlay built into the app. With all these great looking photographs why wouldn't you want to share them with the rest of the family by streaming them to your television? I found it astonishing that AirPlay was not built into the Fotopedia Paris app, and even more astonishing with the new one.

So far all the Fotopedia apps look identical indesign which tells me that the new company, which has raised some $6.5 million from investors so far, is more a tech company than a publishing company. As I've written in the past, app producers who end up making lots of clone apps often stop innovating. Hopefully this won't with Fotopedia – their apps could certainly use some simple upgrades.

Another travel app that immediately got my attention today was for the French town of Albi. Albi is a modest sized town of around 67,000 residents located in the south of the country. For me, a student of the Albigensian Crusade, Albi a natural destination, though it did not play as big a part in the actual crusade against the Cathars as Carcassonne or Béziers.

Albi, the free universal app, is far more of a travel app than the photography based apps from Fotopedia. While Fotopedia apps can act as a way of experiencing a destination from afar, the app from l'Office de Tourisme d'Albi wants to encourage you to visit their town.

But here again an app fails simply because it has left out one vital detail. Here the app is completely in French – great if you already live in France and have not done much traveling around the country, but terrible if you are English, American, German . . . you get the idea.

Because Albi, the app, does contain a few photos, and some important information on hotels, I suppose I will keep this app on my iPad. But this app was simply not well thought through. Again, the photographs can not be stream using AirPlay, so sharing the experience with your travel partner is out of the question.

I should add here that if you are really familiar with your iPad you can get around the issue of AirPlay streaming. The answer, of course, is to take screenshots of the photographs you find in any app and then from the Photos folder stream them to your Apple TV.

But good UI would prevent readers from having to do all the work. The developers of these two apps should have thought about the end user a bit more when creating their new travel apps.

Phone hacking scandal summarized by The Daily Show

Well as bad as things are in the world of media, there is always the hope that one major media outlet will properly summarize the news for us and put it into perspective. No, not the one that turned its Iraq War cheerleader into a royal wedding correspondent.

No, this one:

Only nine percent of Brits approve of News Corp. takeover of BSkyB, but will it matter?

A poll released this weekend by YouGov, a London-based public opinion survey company shows that only nine percent of those surveyed thought the proposed News Corp. bid to take over full ownership of BSkyB should go forward, while 70 percent were opposed.
But will public opinion really matter? If this were the U.S. involved the answer would be a resounding No based on the complete lack of responsiveness to public opinion exhibited by teh Congress and White House on issues such as tax hikes, social programs and war.

But the U.K. situation might be different in that there are mechanisms in place such as stronger media regulations and oversight that might make the public's opinion more influential.

The survey, conducted with The Sunday Times, a Murdoch owned property, was quite lengthy and covered a number of topics including the practice of journalists paying police officers for information – no surprise, they are against it.

Publishers show disrespect for their own readers by accepting cheap, poorly designed replicas from vendors

While Apple celebrates the fact that their iPad tablet now has thousands of apps available for it in the App Store, users are well aware that a huge number of those apps are garbage: badly designed apps only developed to lure in the naive. Apps are the new Wild West.
What is amazing, however, is how many of these garbage apps come from media companies, especially newspapers. Each week brings more new apps, developed by third party vendors that are often no more than digital versions of the print edition, shrunk down to the size of the iPad's display. If these replica editions are virtually unreadable on the iPad, how readable will they be on a seven inch display?

No matter, it is clear that many newspaper publishers do not care in the least. Their goal is to get something, anything into the App Store before they are accused of being dinosaurs.

Sadly I am beginning to see a new trend: digital replica editions launched as an alternative to native designs. The Oklahoman, for instance, released a tablet edition back in October that was fairly well received by readers, though quite a number complained about the price.

But for some reason the paper has now released an app from Olive Software, a maker of flipbooks, that is a replica of the print edition. The Oklahoman Print Replica is still priced the same as the native app, so it doesn't solve the price issue. So why does this app even exist?

I attempted to test the app but found it completely unresponsive to attempts to access the same issue - constantly giving me the same warning message despite following the app description instructions. I quickly gave up, after all, why would I want to read a replica edition on an iPad anyway.

In the meantime, The Oklahoman has issued an update its older app that regular users claim makes the app unusable. Since I don't have a paid subscription, and can access the content for seven days as a trial, I did not experience any major problems, though I did find the app 'sticky' in its navigation.

Morning Brief: Afghanistan's battle with the Taliban turns personal; Google Doodle celebrates the 450th anniversary of the completion of Moscow's Saint Basil's Cathedral

The endless war in Afghanistan, fought between its government and the Taliban, the US and the Taliban, and the US and the Afghanis, turned a little more personal today with the assassination of Ahmad Wali Karzai, the chairman of the Kandahar Provincial Council and the half-brother of President Hamid Karzai.

Apparently the work of one of his own bodyguard, the assassination may harden Afghanistan's government position towards any negotiated peace, and extend out even further the involvement of US troops.

The TelegraphG describes the impact this way: "(Ahmad Wali Karzai's) assassination is likely to drive home a very stark message to the Afghan population, that the Afghan state under President Karzai is incapable of providing security, even for its own leadership. As such, this will make it much harder for Nato to persuade the local population to switch their allegiance to the Afghan government as ISAF forces begin to hand over the security lead to Afghan.

Today's Google Doodle celebrates the 450th anniversary of Saint Basil's Cathedral, located in Moscow's Red Square, and completed in 1561.

The cathedral is one of the most distinctive in the world, and has been as much synonymous with Moscow as the Effel Tower is synonymous with Paris.

The final edition of the News of the World reportedly sold 3.8 million copies, and it is this fact that probably lies behind the whole phone hacking scandal. It is the question appears to lie at the heart of today's popular press: does the insatiable thirst of consumers for celebrity news and private details justify the methods the press (and especially the Murdoch press) use to obtain such information? Is 3.8 million the answer to the question "at which point does economics trump morality and professionalism?"

"Retailers were hit by unprecedented demand as people swept up copies of the newspaper, which included a 48-page souvenir pullout charting some of the paper's famous scoops over its 168-year history," News International said in their press release.

But as the actor Hugh Grant said the other day, there is the issue of what interests the public, and what is in the public interest.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Late afternoon updates: News International phone hacking story continues to dwarf all other media news; Hoodgrown gets an update, as does ABC News, MLB.TV

For most of the day I have been without electricity in my office forcing me, along with hundreds of others in the Chicago area, being great customers of Starbucks today. Though I could have posted more news here at TNM the simple fact is that nothing I would have posted would have been nearly as important as the story that continues to come from the UK.
The Guardian, and to a lesser degree, other newspapers like The Telegraph, continue to update the phone hacking story. Nothing else in the world of media really can compare with this one story.

But if you want to know just how dead Editor & Publisher really is, check them out today. Their headline is a link to an AP story: Rupert Murdoch Takes Charge of Newspaper Scandal. If E&P didn't die a year and half ago, it is surely dead, dead, dead now.

So what else is going on? We;;, I'm sure TNM reader Chris Cartel wouldn't mind me mentioning that he has updated the app for his tablet magazine Hoodgrown. The app now sports in-app purchase activation.

ABC News also updated their app, which is really a good thing since users have complained about the app's performance.

MLB.TV has also issued an update to its iPad app in time for the All Star game. It also claims to fix some performance issue. I certainly hope so because, frankly, I rather tired of having it conk out with two outs and the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth.

Storm knocks out TNM

A massive storm blew through the Chicago area this morning, knocking out power about two minutes after this morning's first story was posted. No word on when power will be restored.

In the meantime, The Guardian continues to post revelation after revelation concerning the phone hacking scandal.

Update: Finally, late in the afternoon the power is back on. Sorry for the lack of posts, but this will be explained in the next post.

The Guardian launches Kindle Edition in UK; still testing new iPad app with select readers

In the wake of the News of the World phone hacking scandal, the newspaper that has been leading the coverage, The Guardian, has launched a Kindle Edition (U.S. link here.). The price is £9.99 per month or £0.99 per issue in the U.K., and $9.99 per month or $.75 per issue in the U.S.
The Guardian also said that it is testing a new tablet edition for the iPad with some readers, though they still did not announced a launch date for their iPad app.

"Our objective has been to produce the most accessible, elegant interpretation of the Guardian newspaper for iPad and we hope we're close to achieving that aim," wrote Subhajit Banerjee on the paper's website.

"Rather than simply replicate the newspaper design for iPad, this project has provided an opportunity for us to redesign the newspaper exclusively in tablet form. The app will deliver a single daily edition of content, specifically curated for iPad. Like Kindle, it will be a subscription product, though we will be releasing it with a free trial period from launch," Banerjee wrote.