Saturday, July 23, 2011

Commitment to live blogging and external sources helpful in developing breaking news stories online

This site signed off yesterday with a short update of the Oslo attacks story. Although this site would be considered a media industry B2B website, anything "news" is relevant as much for looking at how the news is covered as for the news itself.

In the case of the Oslo attacks, what interested me yesterday was what was happening in the Norwegian media industry, how they were dealing with this huge story, and also how other media outlets in the UK and US had decided to handle the news.

While driving in my car on Friday afternoon it was obvious that media outlets such as CBS radio were hours behind everyone else. With such a short time, often 30 seconds, to convey the news, radio news networks stuck to the simple facts, but in the end seemed to be leaving out the real story. "Who" did this awful act of terrorism ultimately was going to be the story.

A portion of today's NYT front page, courtesy of the Newseum.

Online, newspaper websites varied greatly in their approach. Most took their wire service stories and that was that. The bigger newspapers had their editors revise the story every 30 minutes or so, while the NYT had, for a time, a live blog.

The Guardian and the BBC both stayed with their live blogs longer than their US equivalents, and as a result appeared to get to be able to get to the fact that the terrorist acts had been committed by one person, and that the person arrested would be found to be a Norwegian.

My last update on this site, posted at 4:31 EDT, alluded to these facts. My source was multiple Norwegian news websites that were saying the same thing. Relying on Google to translate the website pages, each news outlet was saying pretty much the same thing: one person arrested, seen at both locations, appears to be "Nordic".

(We now know that the man arrested is Anders Behring Breivik, a Norwegian nationalist and fundamentalist Christian, and that the death toll is now over 90.)

The New York Times ended any live blogging some time in the afternoon and had reverted to the traditional story approach. As a result, for hours after it had started to become clear that this wasn't the work of Islamist terrorists, they were still reporting that a group called "Helpers of the Global Jihad" had claimed responsibility, though they also mentioned that there was a man arrested by police.

The problem with the story approach is that writing a news story is far different than live blogging. In good live blogging, the writer can pass along lots of information even if it directly conflicts with previous posts. What differentiates good from bad live blogging is the person's ability to weed through lots of sources and only go with information they feel will stand up, delaying other news reports in hopes that some sort of confirmation makes it worth posting. While some journalists might scoff at live blogging, it is clear that there is a skill and art to it that some papers are beginning to perfect.

The story approach, while great for summarizing what is known, is a poor format for the news angles that are still developing. But what makes it especially poor is that sometimes what is "known" – that a group has claimed responsibility – ends up taking the story in the wrong direction. While it was absolutely true that a group claimed responsibility, the group did so clearly to get some attention. In the NYT and other US news websites they continued to get that attention for far too long.

Is part of the problem that many newspapers are still hesitant to credit other news organizations for information? I should hope not.

When I was growing up and learning about newspapers I often visited the newsrooms of the Detroit News and Detroit Free Press. I especially loved the the giant circle of copy editors that could be seen after exiting the elevator. This group of crazy, chain smoking news veterans always seemed to be yelling at each other, especially as it got closer to 11 PM, their main news deadline.

One evening, while waiting for my ride home, the copy desk got especially animated. One guy yelled at all the others that he had a reporter saying that a body had been found near Tiger Stadium. Holding a telephone to his ear he started shouting out details. Others started yelling "what we got, what we got".

After more yelling back and forth one guy finally yelled out "hey, we got that one already, page 12. Name 'Jones', dead outside stadium." Another yelled at the guy with the phone "hey Johnny, tell him to go fuck himself."

The guy with phone then muttered what seemed to be simply "got it" and hung up the phone.

As a kid I thought the whole episode a lot of fun, especially the swearing. But as I've gotten older I realize that what these guys were doing it spreading the bits of facts to the group in a hurry, and finding a way to get to the truth fast. These old timers had figured out a way to sift through tidbits of facts in order to get to a decision concerning a news story. I always imagined that at home they had a hard time not yelling loudly, and telling their kids to "get to the point, get to the point."

I think about this today when we all work at an even faster pace, but are forced by convention to be more isolated in our decision making. That circle of editors would really come in handy today when trying to get stories right like the Oslo attacks.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Last update: Oslo attacks may have been domestic in origin; same person in police uniform seen at scene of bombing, then responsible for shooting on island

Driving around the city today I heard on the CBS radio the same news I reported here this morning, only three hours later. Apparently many journalists don't know how to read Norwegian news websites for information – very sad.
Here is what local Oslo newspapers are reporting right now: there is a good chance that the same person responsible for the shooting at the Labor Party youth camp on Utoya was also seen just prior to the bombing of government buildings.

If true, this Nordic looking person would be responsible for both attacks, which is why authorities are right now saying that it is possible that today's deadly attacks were a case of domestic terrorism, not international terrorism.

To keep up with events, I suggest The Guardian and the BBC, both are running live news blogs. The NYT have move to just updating its main story.

If you have the Chrome browser, reading the Aftenposten website is easy, that and NRK are good choices for news from the scene.

Note: if these reports prove untrue, I will probably pull down this post altogether.

The Tribune Company continue release of iPad apps for its newspaper properties – business plan to come

The Tribune Company continues to release natively designed tablet editions for its newspaper properties, each identical, each allowing free, though limited, access to the content.
Over the past week the company has released iPad editions for the Hartford Courtant (Courant Connecticut News Reader for iPad), the Orlando Sentinel (Orlando Sentinel News for iPad), the Daily Press (Daily Press for iPad), and yesterday the Sun Sentinel (South Florida Sun Sentinel News for iPad).

Released by Tribune Interactive, one would be hard pressed to differentiate any differences between the apps or the newspapers, each is free, each offers both portrait and landscape, and each has been received in a rather lukewarm fashion by readers thanks to reports of crashes – something, I might add, I did not experience.

These new tablet editions follow on the heels of the first two iPad apps released for Tribune Newspaper companies: Chicago Tribune App for iPad, and Los Angeles Times App for iPad.

As I written before, these apps are a good starting point, but sorely in need of added features, and most importantly a business plan. Now that it appears that the company is rushing out me-too apps for its properties, one has to wonder if management sees having iPad apps as a bit of a sales point should the chain start selling off its properties. One certainly wonders how much input was given by the newspaper editors and sales executives themselves, and how much this was a top-down decision to release these cloned apps.

In any case, these 'native' app editions are certainly not helping me promote native app development over replica editions, that's for sure.

Identical iPad apps for the Chicago Tribune, L.A. Times, and the Sun Sentinel.

Norwegian newspaper Aftenposten says it is evacuating editorial staff following bombing in Oslo; Dagbladet, other papers, quickly reformat websites to cover attacks

The Norwegian newspaper Dagbaldet, the country's second largest tabloid, along with other papers have quickly moved to shift all their website properties to covering the bombing and shootings in Oslo.
The attacks appear to be directed at the government, and possible the ruling party, though it should be stressed that no one has yet claimed responsibility for the attacks. (Update: NRK is reporting that a previously unknown group calling itself "Helpers of the Global Jihad" has claimed responsibility for the attacks, which it claims on its website to be in response to the publishing of cartoons depicting the prophet Muhammad. )

The one English language news source in Norway, The Nordic Page, has only limited coverage of the attacks. Because of this, one would be better off going to Norway's many newspaper websites using Chrome, and having their browser translate the page.

Update: Norwegian news sources are now claiming at least four people have died as a result of the shootings on the island of Utoya at a gathering of the youth wing of the Labor Party. It is also reported that a shooter has been arrested.)

Aftenposten is reporting that the police have asked people to evacuate the Oslo's city center, forcing reporters and editors to leave the paper's offices. The Aftenposten website states that they will attempt to get back online as soon as they are at another location.

Apple, technology and the mindset of publishing execs

Why does this site talk so much about Apple? That was a question posed to me by a reader the other day, someone who owns an Android phone and clearly in no fan of the Cupertino company.

My answer was simply that I write about what I know.

I've been an Apple customer since some time in 1983. Back then I owned an Apple computer because it was a great way to write, an improvement over typewriters, and look how fast that dot matrix printer can churn out a page!

Over the years I've continued to own Apple products, mostly because I liked and was familiar with the user interface. Besides, the lack of market share was probably seen more as a positive than a negative in my eyes.

But publishing executives have always had a strange and distant relationship with Apple and I think it somewhat influences events even today.

My first PC, the Apple IIe.

For many publishing executives, technology is simply another cost, and one that they have hesitant to defray. Editors and art directors always complain about the outdated equipment they work with, often seriously running afoul of management over complaints about their computers and software.

As a result, those who are most tech savvy, and the most likely to want the latest version of Photoshop or new Mac, are the least appreciated employees in the company. Those willing to settle for outdated equipment, those least tech savvy, have tended to survive in the publishing industry.

And what have been the residual effects of this natural selection?

I joined Cahners in 2000, shortly before it changed its name to Reed Business Information. Cahners had recently made the corporate decision to get rid of their Macs and replace them with PCs. Apple, you see, was going out of business, it was decided, and there was no way they were going to be stuck with a dead platform – or, at least, that is what they said publicly.

But the truth was probably more likely that the execs could see that moving to PCs would be cheaper in the long run, knowing the price of Macs. And besides, the cost of buying new PCs would go into another part of the budget and could be expensed out over time. It was, in other words, simply a gimmick to goose profits.

Art directors fought over themselves to be the last to be converted over to PCs. It was amazing to see so many art directors being so nice to each other. "You know, you've been stuck with your computer much longer than me, why don't you get that Dell, I'll try and manage with my old Mac."

When I joined the last B2B I was employed at it was the same old story: old equipment, management that looked at technology only as a cost, a company that was a decade behind the technology curve. I was probably most proud of the simply fact that by the time I left all my editors had new, working computers, though most had to move to PCs, much to their chagrin.

Today Apple is closing in on Exxon, according to the New York Times. While Exxon's market cap is $411.6 billion, Apple's is $360.7 billion, up another ten billion dollars just yesterday after it reported its amazing earnings.

Despite this fact, I am sure that quite a number of media executives who have been around as long as I have a bit of a frown on their faces. They have bet all along that Apple would go away, and that they might be able to continue to bury their heads in the sand whenever the conversation turned to technology.

Today, how many editors have iPads on the desks, I wonder? While I am looking at and writing about apps from John Deere, BWM, and other businesses, these editors, who are tasked to write about these companies, are left in the dark – as are the sales reps responsible to selling these companies ads.

Leave out the question, for a moment, about tablet publishing, what about simply keeping up with the news? It's hard when you think of "Apple" (not to mention the word "technology") as a dirty word.

Active Interest Media picks up the assets of PassageMaker from Dominion Enterprises

Active Interest Media, Inc. (AIM) today announced that it had acquired PassageMaker and Passagemaker’s Trawlerfest events from Dominion Enterprises.
“These acquisitions allow AIM to expand our marine, consumer enthusiast and
B2B portfolios with highly differentiated print, digital and event properties,” said Efrem “Skip” Zimbalist III, AIM's chairman and chief executive officer.

PassageMaker is an international magazine that covers boating. Also included in the deal was Soundings, a magazine for recreational boaters; Soundings Trade Only, the magazine covering marine industry professionals; and Woodshop News.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

For Mac users: Lion installation and migration

I really couldn't help myself, call it a bit of a weakness, but I decided to take the plunge and update my Mac's OS to Lion. I knew there would be problems, but frankly I don't think I've ever encountered a serious problem in the past so, heck, full steam ahead.
The last time Mac users went through this process it was to move from Leopard to Snow Leopard and what users got on the other end of the update was less not more – that is, a smaller, faster operating system. I loved it. What a concept: Apple actually did the opposite of Microsoft by leaving their users with more hard disk space after the install than what they started out with. Sure, there were few new features, no real obstacles to updating the OS, just a smoother, faster, better Mac after the move.

This time, however, it is a completely different experience.

For one thing, as Mac users have learned, the process takes place all online – no boxes, no trips to the store, no way to do this at a discount through! For $29.99 one downloads and installs the OS through the Mac App Store. It's massive download: 3.49 GB, and so some users have complained about slow download times, and the fact that it is hard to know for sure how much longer their download will take.

For me, the entire download took 28 minutes from start to the first reboot of the computer. Another 30 minutes later the installation was complete and the adventure began.

The first and only real challenge for me is email. I've been using Entourage for years, but I admit that I hate just about all Microsoft products. Because of this I haven't updated my version of Office since purchasing Office 2004. The problem: Office 2004 was written for Intel-based Macs and since Lion gets rid of Rosetta, Office 2004 will not run.

But then, who needs email, right?

The easy answer is to, of course, upgrade Office, and that is what I'll probably do. For now I simply downloaded the trial version of Office 2011 and imported the old Entourage database. In the meantime I fired up Mail and created the accounts. I try out living without a Microsoft mail program for awhile, if it works I will be completely free of Microsoft programs.

Thanks to upgrade Creative Suite a year or so ago I don't seem to have any other application issues so far.

That leaves learning how to scroll again. No kidding.

But if you really want to know anything about the new Lion I strongly recommend reading this review from John Siracusa, it's truly epic, sometimes massively geeky, but essential.

The vultures are circling: Nokia reports huge loss in latest quarter due to sharp decline in smartphone sales

Tech writers love to report bad news. Some, like Business Insider, do it just for the link bait, others love to see a car crash.

Nokia's latest earnings report (PDF link) has offered up plenty for these vultures. Reporting an operating loss of €487 million for the quarter, the company is in serious trouble if the goal is to be number one. Maybe trying to become profitable again would be a better idea.
The problem for Nokia, of course, lies in smartphones. The company saw a 32 percent decline in a category that is booming.

But for publishers this is all a nonevent. Nokia's Symbian platform was never a serious contender and now that it has bet on Windows Phone one has to ask do I really want to start developing for Windows Phone?

This question of platforms brings us back to the issue of third party vendors versus building internal capabilities: one huge sales point of many vendors is platform neutrality, they say they can help you launch products that will work on iOS, Android, webOS, etc. For many publishers this seems like a big benefit. But is it? Is the issue of which platforms to develop for really been a big issue? Isn't it obvious?

Morning Brief: Atlantis landing ends shuttle program, nation enters the "we can't" era; Condé Nast experiences some blowback; NYT Co. posts loss due to write down

With this morning's landing of Atlantis, the space shuttle program comes to an end, and so begins an era when politicians haggle over the price of everything and the value of nothing. While the shuttle program may have ended, the debates over the role of government continues.

The Atlantis lands this morning. Infra-red picture,
then reversed, courtesy of NASA TV

But politicians are, sadly, reaching a consensus on what government's role will be in the future: end government programs, shift the money to the private sector. As a result, shuttle programs are ending, space telescope projects are threatened with defunding, and education dollars shifted to for-profit corporations.

It's gonna get ugly.

Update: Wow, I like this photo of the shuttle landing taken by the NYT's Philip Scott Andrews.

Speaking of ugly, did you read this piece in the Observer? It is the inevitable blowback from the far too premature decision by Condé Nast to get in bed with Adobe and forego native app development.

I suppose one could be on either side of the debate concerning digital replicas versus native apps, but one thing that I think most people would agree on is this: expecting anybody to have the answer to tablet publishing issues only a few months after the introduction of the first real tablet computing device is silly. So putting all your eggs in one basket is a recipe for failure – the equivalent of walking into a casino and putting all your money on 21, unless you have inside information known to no one else, then you are just gambling.

But the real lesson here, kind of touched on in passing in Nitasha Tiku's take down, is that "digital wonder boy Scott Dadich", by promoting a production solution that added no new personnel, make everyone's job that much more crazy, was simply saying what most publishers want to hear: we can do this with minimal cost, and no new hires.

It is why many flipbook vendors have blasted me when I say that their sales pitch for digital replica editions can be boiled down to "it's cheap and it's easy". They hate that I say that, despite the fact that their own websites proclaim the same thing.

Ultimately, the responsibility for much of the publishing media industries issues with digital publishing can be laid on upper management's search for easy and cheap answers. A far better way for any magazine executive to look at the issue of tablet publishing would be to lock themselves in their own office for a few minutes and think about all this by themselves. Do you have the answer? No. So, if you do a little research do you think you can come up with the answer in the next ten minutes? No. Good, so proceed knowing this rather than pretending that the answer is easy, and for God's sake kick out the first guy who comes into your office who says "I've got it!"

It's been only 16 months since the first iPads were shipped to U.S. consumers, did you really expect the era of tablet publishing would be mature by now?

There was a saying about burlesque: never follow kids or dogs on stage. Similarly, one doesn't want to be following Apple in reporting their quarterly results.

But the New York Times Company did just that this morning, reporting an overall loss of $119.7 million due "in part" to writing down the value of its regional newspapers.

Without that write down, and the cost of funding layoffs, the company would have posted a profit of $82.9 million – a more than ten percent decline over the same period last year.

Like most other newspaper companies, the NYT is still experiencing revenue declines, 2 percent overall, and 4 percent in advertising.

But most startling number might be online advertising: it grew, but only 2 percent. This tells me that the NYT is not seeing significant revenue yet from mobile and tablet publishing efforts, which admittedly have been modest.

The NYT's report also said that so far the NYT has signed up 224,000 paying customers, while 57,000 others are reading the paper digitally using a Nook or Kindle.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Explaining Apple's blow out numbers is not rocket science

This is a pretty lightweight post, I will admit, and if you are an Apple hater I would recommend moving on. But it is what it is.

A lot of analysts today are struggling to explain Apple's mind boggling sales numbers. This morning I talked a bit about the 9+ million iPads sold and only mentioned in passing the lack of good Android alternatives. But what about the iPhone?
20.34 million iPhones is an amazing number, especially since I still remember talk in 2007 of Apple reaching the one millionth iPhone sale after 74 days of availability.

Daring Fireball points to this post which is a great mea culpa about their own forecast.

But the answer may lie in the comments where one reader talks about the quality of the product an the fact that few buyers express remorse for buying an iPhone.

I would go even further: Mac owners have known for a long time that buying a Mac is one of those no-brainer decisions, the only issue has always been price. Now I know a lot of Android owners will argue with this, as will PC owners, but I've always found that there are few regrets expressed from Apple buyers once they have pulled the trigger.

But should this is either a surprise or even an issue? Think about this issue from any other perspective: are BMW or Jaguar owners more satisfied or less satisfied with their car purchase than, say, a Chrysler owner? You'd scoff at the question knowing that the owner of a bright new Beemer pays a huge premium over the owner of a Chrysler. But so do Mac owners.

What has changed here is that Apple has managed to get a handle on is costs for its mobile devices in a very impressive way. An iPhone is only a slight premium over other smartphones, and an iPad is not more expensive than other tablets, though it still feels like the premium product.

The last time the economy was booming people used to talk about the Nordstrom factor: you'd rather shop at Nordstrom, but often could not based on cost. But when you did you seldom regretted the purchase.

Now I am sure I am biased on this issue. I've been an Apple customer since before the first Mac was introduced – that's a long time. But I was not an instant iPhone user. I had to wait a few months before I realized what was going on. Even now I am not an early adopter, the iPad being an exception.

But I recognize, like a lot of consumers, that ultimately the Apple purchase is a pretty safe one, and this is certainly driving these sales numbers.

Schofield Media shutters its Chicago operation; unique business model kept the media company 'under the radar'

Both B2BOnline and Folio: are reporting today that Schofield Media was shuttering its U.S. operation. According to the company, the Chicago office is being shuttered after Wells Fargo pulled its financial support.

If the company is not familiar to you it was intentional. Founded by UK publisher Andrew Scofield, the company used a somewhat controversial method of selling advertising. A phone operation was employed, made up of "researchers", whose job was to call companies to see if they would agree to be "profiled" in an upcoming issue. The articles would then be written by a small editorial staff who worked to produce a favorable article, often featuring an interview with the president of the company.
In exchange, the company would give the publisher a list of their suppliers. Another separate phone operation (within the same room) would then hammer these suppliers for advertising in support of the "profile" article using a script of assist the sales process. (If I remember, Schofield didn't use the term "profile" but instead used "feature".)

Each potential article was written onto a chalkboard that sat in front of the inside sales room and the number of ads sold would be listed next to the article name. The article would go live only when enough advertising was sold. Lots of ads, a longer profile. No or few ads meant the profile would be scrapped. Only when the feature went "live" would the information then be passed on to the editorial team.

"I would prefer that we continued to stay under the radar," Andrew Schofield told Folio: back in 2006.

But while the operation could sell several hundred thousand dollars per issue each month, built exclusively with profile advertising, the very next month the ad dollars started at zero again since there was no contract advertising to carry over.

In addition, because the readership of these magazines – and currently the website lists eight titles for Chicago – consisted to a large degree of the companies being profiled, few copies needed to be printed. So, while a magazine such as Construction Equipment magazine may claim over 75,000 subscribers, Schofield's Construction Today claimed only 8,541 readers in the last year that it publicly reported its circulation (of which only 2,705 was first year qualified). Most of the other magazines simply did not report its circulation to an auditing bureau.

Because circulation could be kept to a minimum, the largest cost was that of the sales force and the editorial teams, along with production.

Despite the lack of contract advertising on its books, Veronis Suhler Stevenson invested in the company and lists them as an investment on their site still today. Tom Kemp, then a managing director at VSS, and now CEO at publisher Northstar Travel, said of Andrew Schofield "(h)e is young and aggressive and he has plans," the Tony Silber article in Folio: said. "We like being a partner."

Crain Communications releases iPad edition of Business Insurance; requires digital subscription to access issues

Chicago B2B publisher Crain Communications released an iPad app for its B2B magazine Business Insurance on Monday. The app, Business Insurance Digital, is free to download, and gives readers access to a sample issue.
To access current issues, however, readers will have to sign into their digital subscription accounts. A digital subscription costs $69 per year, while a print and digital subscription costs $169, though currently lists the price there at $125 per year.

Business Insurance is a BPA audited magazine with a circulation of 45,262 – a readership level the magazine has maintained since it dropped its circ from 50K back in 2001.

Of its total circulation, about two-thirds is qualified, while the remainder is paid. This kind of complicates Crain's efforts to bring this magazine to the iPad: do they attempt to qualify readers, sell them subscriptions through iTunes, or make the app a "reader" app where the reader must already have a subscription.
In this case, the publisher has left this its vendor, Qmags. The reader, once the app is installed, must sign into their preexisting account. The app assumes they already have an account setup. Otherwise the reader can access the sample issue.

As far as replica editions go, I suppose this one is fairly good: the navigation is smooth, and there are links to the jump pages and back, but no option to read a text-only version of the stories.

Strangely, the publisher has created a custom look for the magazine on its website – which itself is pretty outdated looking. Of course, once the reader goes to this page and clicks on a story they are told they have to register with the magazine. Once register access to the content is free. (This new account with Crain does not work with the iPad app, however.)

So why charge for the tablet edition, which is merely a replica, but give away the print magazine and website to qualified readers?

The app is "sold" under the Qiosk name, the one used by Qmags in the app store. The name "Crain Communications" is nowhere to be found. In fact, if you were not familiar with the magazine you might be excused for thinking that the publisher was Qmags themselves. I suppose this might be helpful should the actual publisher decide to begin developing their own tablet publishing products.

iPad sales near 30 million: is the tablet market mature enough to sway critics and hesitant publishers?

I would think that yesterday's quarterly earnings report from Apple was not very good news for a lot of media observers. Yes, there are those who are radically anti-Apple, such as those behind a certain business news aggregation website, but that is not who I am thinking about.

Since its launch in April of last year, there are those who have been advising their media clients and online readers to hold back or ignore totally Apple's new tablet. One media guru who is well-known and advising a number of newspaper clients even proudly "reboxed" his iPad and as far as I can tell, had not written about the iPad since its launch. The iPad, you see, simply doesn't exist, and he'll be damned if he'll retract his initial judgement.

But if my math is correct, and Apple isn't playing games with its financial reports, the company has now reported 28.7 million iPad units sold. Meaning that as of this morning, one can safely say that they market for publishers wishing to create tablet editions for iPad owners has probably exceeded 30 million.
Is 30 million a big enough market for publishers to consider mature enough to make their investments?

Comparing some numbers might be helpful: total newspaper circulation is a bit hard to define because of the size of some papers, and the basic definition of what is a newspaper – do you include free weeklies, etc. But adding up the largest papers one sees that the market in the U.S. is around 48 million, according to the World Association of Newspapers. In China that number is double. But these numbers may include some duplication, and certainly leave out a lot of specialty publications. More importantly, they are counting circulation not audience.

The number that most newspaper publishers would be most interested in is penetration. Exactly how many people in the Chicago area, for instance, own and use iPads?

Newspaper publishers, unlike many book and magazine publishers, need market penetration. But publishing to tablets does not negate print distribution, only adds to it. Better yet, costs do not increase much as distribution grows. Unless a publisher has signed up with one of those third party vendors that wants to charge of the number of downloads (and why would one do this?) the number of app downloads is pretty much irrelevant. The only thing a publisher must consider as their circulation grows digitally is server capacity and reliability.

The lack of a good Android tablet competitor has probably slowed the growth of tablets somewhat. But Samsung, for one, is marketing their new offerings hard and will probably see some modest results – modest, that is, when compared to Apple.

My advice has remained constant through the first five quarters of sales: now is the time to begin publishing tablet editions, but a radically irresponsible level of investment will not be rewarded now, nor in the near future. But the market for tablet publishing has grown faster than most optimistic forecasts, and no doubt will continue to grow though the next two quarters.

Remember this: Apple sold over 9 million iPads in a quarter that did not include the holiday shopping season. No doubt that Apple's Q1 2012, which includes Christmas, will be incredible (especially if they decide to launch a new version in time for the holiday).

Apple releases OS X Lion through the Mac App Store

This morning released the latest version of its Mac operating system, code named Lion. Mac users will be able to download the new OS through the Mac App Store for $29.99.
The new operating system has its share of new features – multi-touch gestures, full-screen apps, Launchpad and Mission Control, as well as Resume, Auto Save and Version – but the two big features here are the way users upgrade, and the low price.

The upgrade process is certainly a bit different: rather than buying a CD in a box, users will simply download the OS through the Mac App Store. Mac users will need to make sure they have installed the latest version of Snow Leopard before upgrading, and that their Macs have an Intel Core 2 Duo, Core i3, Core i5, Core i7, or Xeon processor.

The price is something that will not make Microsoft happy, as traditionally an OS upgrade is a big revenue driver. This will continue the trend of lower prices on OS upgrades, putting more pressure on Microsoft to discount Windows.

I haven't upgraded to Lion this morning simply to let the early adopters have the bandwidth. For me the new features are nice but hardly essential, and the desktop/laptop has reached a point in their development where it is difficult to get me excited about upgrading.

I still have a ten year old Macbook Pro that is working fine, though I believe will no longer will be able to be upgraded. My mini is now one generation behind, but at least it comes with an optical drive – yes, Apple has dumped the optical drives of its new desktop computers – and has enough RAM to handle Photoshop and some video editing.

As a result, I get more excited by iOS updates – iOS 5 is coming in a couple of months – and the thought of a new iPad with a super-high resolution display.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Apple says it sold 9.25 million iPads in the latest quarter; proving without a doubt that the tablet is a just a fad

This afternoon Apple reported more ridiculous earnings and ridiculous revenue numbers. To be exact, the company said that it earned a profit of $7.31 billion in its fiscal 2011 third quarter on revenue of $28.7 billion.
Apple also reported that it sold 9.25 million iPads during the quarter, which I suppose only goes to prove that the media gurus were right all along to dismiss the tablet as a worthless toy, without any meaning for publishers.

Obviously I'm kidding (somewhat). But only because it still bothers me how many newspaper executives are willing to continue to listen to fools who have been proven wrong time and time again. Like it or not guys the tablet, especially Apple's tablet, is here to stay. Get in the game, or go home.

“We’re thrilled to deliver our best quarter ever, with revenue up 82 percent and profits up 125 percent,” Steve Jobs, Apple’s CEO, said in the company's press release. “Right now, we’re very focused and excited about bringing iOS 5 and iCloud to our users this fall.”

Indeed, now comes the fun stuff: Lion is to be released tomorrow in the Mac App Store (no more CDs), iOS 5 and iCloud, along with a new version of the iPhone, in the fall.

Oh, and did I mention that Apple sold 20.34 million iPhones this quarter? I probably didn't need to as that will probably get the headlines. But for me the more startling number is this one: in this economic environment Apple increased revenue by 82 percent year over year.

Innovating does have its rewards.

Also reporting earnings this afternoon was Yahoo. While analysts may be disappointed that revenue did not hit their expectations, it did rise 5 percent – $467 million version $445 million in 2010.

I know a number of media executives that would give their left leg to be able to report any overall revenue increase this quarter.

Yahoo CEO Carol Bartz from the earnings press release: "For the quarter, earnings per share was up by 18% year over year. We made clear progress in search, and saw strong growth in engagement on our media properties."

"We experienced softness in display revenue in the second half of the quarter due to comprehensive changes we have made in our sales organization to position ourselves for more rapid display growth in the future."

B3 Publishing releases demo video for Montreal tourism that shows its digital publishing solution at work

One of the better early iPad media apps released was for Mac|Life. Released in September of last year, the app was developed with B3 Publishing.

B3 Publishing is the newly formed division of what used to Balthaser Studios, a rather legendary group of early Flash promoters. I called that Mac|Life a killer app, but sadly Future US did not really build on that first iPad app and begin to seriously develop tablet editions. Too bad.

But B3 Publishing continues on. Today Kenny Balthaser tweeted about some work they have been doing. This video, a demo for Tourisme Montréal, shows off their latest work:

Like other tablet publishing platforms, B3 Publishing is promoting their digital publishing solutions as an easy and fast way to convert print publications for tablets. Looking at their website, one might think that B3 is promoting replica editions. But neither the app you see in the video, nor the Mac|Life app are simple replicas, so you know this platform has to be more powerful than that.

“B3 Publishing is unique in that we own and control our own technology platform. Our platform has been designed from the ground up to build rich, interactive digital content,” said Ken Balthaser Jr., Vice President of Publisher Services in the company's launch announcement in February.

“Since we own and control the technologies, we are able to move quickly and implement new features and refine workflows. The end result is reflected in the efficiencies in our workflows and the quality of the final product.”

If you are interested in learning more about the B3 Publishing platform visit their website here. In the meantime, after break is a video show the system at work:

Murdoch hearing take-away: defense of corporate heads boils down to ignorance and an avoidance of responsibility

Until today, the one thing no one ever said of News Corp. was that Rupert Murdoch is a disengaged corporate executive. But today both Rupert and James Murdoch again and again said that they were "shocked" at the revelations that News International was engaging in illegal and immoral behavior.

For the Murdochs, they were forced to either take personal blame for the actions of their media properties, or they can claim ignorance. They chose the defense of ignorance.

Today's session, that certainly lasted far longer than was useful, and included the now famous shaving cream incident, did News Corp. little good, though it probably will have done little harm. Yes, investors in News Corp. could come away today a bit worried about the ability of the Murdochs to run the company going forward. But I doubt that a hearing in front of a committee will have more impact on the company than the continued police investigations being conducted by Scotland Yard.
For me, the most revealing moment of the hearing was when Rupert Murdoch got emotional when he recalled that his father felt his most important contribution to journalism was pushing the story about Galopoli, and the actions of the British. But he finished by saying that he hopes his children can accomplish similar things.

But what immediately crossed my mind was that the nostalgic moment was revealing in that Mr. Murdoch did not have any similar story to refer to during his long reign as head of News Corp.

Indeed, the question has to be asked "if all of News Corp. were to disappear would journalism suffer a loss other than the loss of jobs that would occur?" Over the past decade, when one thinks about the big stories that have impacted our lives, how many of these stories were broken by a News Corp. media property? and how many have actually been buried by News Corp. properties? Did Fox News dismiss Gitmo and torture, or lead the charge to reveal the crimes? Is the Wall Street Journal leading the investigation into the doings of Wall Street? Hardly.

In fact, it is News Corp. that promoted 'death panels' rather than discuss health care reform, promotes the notion that social security is going bankrupt, rather than talk about taxes and defense spending. News is not at the center of News Corp., politics is.

This may have indeed been a "humbling" day for Rupert Murdoch and News Corp., but I don't see that the chairman or his son in any way feel that things have to change at the company.

Tip for 'Talking New Media for iPhone' users

The first, and probably only, mobile application released for this property, Talking New Media for iPhone, has a bug.
Occasionally, for reasons unknown, the news feeds that bring in news to the mobile app will not work and the app will not update. I don't know the reason for this but the solution is easy and definitely works.

To fix this simply delete the app and reinstall – works every time.

The TNM for iPhone app is not exactly a best seller, having been downloaded hundreds of times, rather than thousands. But downloads continue at a pretty steady pace despite the fact that the app was launched a couple of months ago – proving, I suppose, that while app launches are a critical time, users will find your app even weeks later.

Publishers reduce staff at a time of great innovation, when product expansion and experimentation is necessary

Nothing says "lost" quite like the news that another newspaper or magazine publisher is reducing staff. In a time of a revolution in mobile and tablet publishing, many publishers are proving that they have a lack of ideas and little understanding of the potential of the new digital platforms.

Each time I read about another round of layoffs I search in vain for a part of the story that might say that while one department is under the axe, the company will also be adding personnel to help them create new, exciting digital products – but, alas, that paragraph always goes missing.

In a time when smartphone sales are exploding, when Apple is about to announce another blouw out quarter of iPad sales, one would think that companies like Gannett, Tribune Company or McClatchy might just catch on. There is something happening in the world of media, they might conclude, and we should be leaders in the new space.

But instead we hear of a "reshuffling" at Tribune Company, an opportunity to reduce the size of some of its support staffs.

Of course, the reason why so many media companies are being forced to cut more now is not just that revenues continue to decline, but that the earlier decisions that were made to reduce staff in order to eek out an extra penny of profit left these companies without the resources necessary to be leaders in the new digital platforms. For years many newspaper companies, in particular, reduced staffs during relatively good times in order to maintain ridiculous profit margins.

Now, when ad revenue is at a premium, these staffs are ill prepared to be creating and launching new digital products, many of these companies having outsourced much of its development.

As someone who grew up in bad economic times, I was always told that recessions are when one steals market share – the best time to innovate in when the economy is weak.

But today's publisher apparently believe that when times are good one contracts to maximize profits, and when times are tough one contracts to minimize losses. That's a hell of a way to run a media company.

Monday, July 18, 2011

It's all over for Borders: auction fails to generate any interest, so company announces it will liquidate itself

Admitting that their attempts to generate bids had failed, book retailers Borders said this afternoon that it would sell itself to a group of liquidators.
According to, the group is led by Hilco Merchant Resources and Gordon Brothers Retail Partners LLC. The liquidation could begin as early as this Friday. 400 stores, and up to 11,000 employees will be effected by the action. Borders, which is currently in bankruptcy will see court approval for its actions at a hearing on Thursday.

"We are saddened by this development," Borders President Mike Edwards said in the statement. "We were all working hard toward a different outcome, but the headwinds we have been facing for quite some time."

“For decades, Borders stores have been destinations within our communities, places where people have sought knowledge, entertainment, and enlightenment and connected with others who share their passion. Everyone at Borders has helped millions of people discover new books, music, and movies, and we all take pride in the role Borders has played in our customers’ lives,” Edwards said.

Oddly, the choice to liquidate follows an attempt to reach a deal with buyout firm Najafi Cos, which would have been willing to pay $435 million, according to Reuters. But an attorney for Borders put the estimated liquidation sales price at between $250 and $284 million.

Interesting media app updates: CNN adds live TV to iOS app, depending on provider; Letter to Jane updates latest its edition; huge app, minor update, bad combination

We're about to get hit with another wicked summer storm. The last time this happened we lost power for over six hours. So this will have to be the last post today. Wish us luck!

Adding streaming program to one's media app is becoming more and more common. The HBO GO iPad app, for instance, has been a big hit around my household.
Today CNN updated both its iPhone and iPad apps adding live television to the app. The app has always had some live streams, as well as archived video, but now CNN has added a live stream of its actual broadcast.

The catch, of course, is that the users has to have an account with one of the cable providers currently playing along with CNN. For me, as a Comcast subscriber, it means that I can use both this app and the HBO app to stream content. But the WatchESPN app is still limited to only a few cable providers, with Comcast not being one of them.

Tim Moore updated his latest app edition of his tablet magazine. Letter to Jane: Moral Tales, which was looked at first here, was updated to add a plain text mode, an updated design, as well as the soem bug fixes.

The app description also says that it has "fixed compatibility with iOS5", meaning that Moore has been playing around with that beta, right?

The latest version of Apple's mobile operating system is due by the end of the month this fall and promises a slew of new features.

Another app that was updated today was Gagosian, the gallery app from Radical Media. This app is a huge one, and was updated just back on July 7 when new content was added.

Because the app is 664 MB it is rather inconvenient to update, but if there is new content it is certainly worthwhile. But this update only claims to fix some bugs and improve stability. So if your version is working just fine this seems like an update well worth passing on.

Spotify comes to the U.S., will consumers be eager for another monthly subscription charge?

I will admit to be one of those consumers not very eager to pony up another ten dollars a month for another media service. Comcast costs a fortune, and AT&T is not exactly giving away its cell service. (DirecTV was dumped a couple years ago after constantly raising its prices and cutting its channel selection.)
And so here is Spotify, fresh from overseas, ready to take on the U.S. market. The company offers three choices for accessing music: the free option will deliver music to your computer, but with ads and no access on your mobile device; the $4.99 per month option gets rid of the ads, but still keeps you locked out of accessing music on your mobile device; leaving the $9.99 option for those wanting to stream music through their mobile device.

So when I got my invite from Spotify I figured I better check it out. It didn't take me long to figure out that I'm not really the perfect candidate for this new service.

The problem for me is that I really don't need access to music on my computer, I have plenty. Music services only work for me on my iPhone or iPad. Pandora allows me to do this, but I get ads, and some 18 year old somewhere decides what types of musicians work well together, sometimes well, sometimes very poorly.

But I am most definitely not Spotify's target audience (nor Pandora's). My music collection is extensive, curated, and, for the most part, easily accessible.

But if I didn't have all those CDs (and LPs!) at my disposal I might well be more open to these types of services. But would I refrain from buying CDs from Amazon or downloads from iTunes? Probably, which is why I think that record labels who think these new services will act as a new revenue stream are deluding themselves.

Having concluded that I probably am not a good prospect for Spotify I have to add that I could always change my mind, After all, now that Netflix has raised its prices 60 percent I could always cancel that monthly charge and spend the money elsewhere!

Google begins boycott of Belgian newspapers following loss of lawsuit over links inside Google News

Sometimes getting what you want is a very bad business decision. That might be the case this morning as several newspapers in Belgium discovered this weekend that their newspapers were essentially blocked from search results generated by Google's search engine.
The boycott of the newspapers by Google are the result of a lawsuit filed in 2006 by the newspapers which claimed that Google did not have the right to post links to their articles without Google paying them, or asking their permission.

Those papers won the lawsuit, but are now about to lose the war.

Google spokesman William Echikson confirmed that Google was removing the Belgian papers from their search results, telling the AP "We regret having to do so. We would be happy to re-include Copiepresse if they would indicate their desire to appear in Google Search and waive the potential penalties."

Those penalties, amounting to 25,000 €, hardly seem much of a victory for these publishers if their articles continue to be omitted from Google search results.

But Belgian publishers say that they don't mind having their search results show up on Google, they just don't want them to show up in Google News. Well, now they don't.

Morning Brief: Labour Party head condemns concentrated ownership of the media; Gannett income declines 23%

Labour Party head Ed Milliband today gave a speech where he questioned the wisdom of allowing one media company to own a high proportion of the media assets in the U.K., while also attacking the near monopoly position of several energy companies, as well.

Before the closure of the News of the World, News Corporation controlled nearly 40% of the newspaper market. It also owns 39% of BSkyB, giving it huge power, including effective control of two thirds of the pay TV market through the Sky platform, alongside Sky News.

Politicians should have confronted this earlier. And, let’s be honest, the reason we did not was, in part, because News Corporation was so powerful.

I do not think that is healthy. It is not healthy for a country that believes in responsibility all the way to the top of society. It is not healthy for our democracy, where we see too much power in one set of hands. It is not healthy for consumers.

That is why Labour will be submitting proposals to the judicial inquiry for new cross media ownership laws.

Gannett today reported that second quarter income fell 23 percent as a result of continuing ad revenue declines at its newspapers.

Despite this, Gannett's chariman and chief executive officer, Craig Dubow, attempted to be positive, even announcing an increase in the divident being paid out to investors.

"Our results for the quarter reflect the positive impact of our ongoing efforts to focus on our customers and to meet their business and marketing needs across our platforms. This resulted in higher digital revenues for the quarter in each of our business segments. Company-wide digital revenues were up 13 percent compared to last year. Broadcasting segment revenue was up slightly overcoming the significant political advertising spends of last year. Each of our business segments was solidly profitable, due in part to our commitment to align our expenses with revenue opportunities. We accomplished this despite the continued challenging economic environments in many markets and the impact of the crisis in Japan on the supply chain and inventories for autos and consumer electronics," said Dubow.