Friday, August 5, 2011

CBS Local Media releases seven new universal iOS apps for its local radio and television stations

Seven new apps from CBS Local media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. have been released into the App Store. Each of the apps is a universal, though a user would be hard pressed to see how these apps have been optimized for the iPad.
The seven apps are for New York, Boston, Dallas-Fort Worth, Chicago, Philadelphia, Los Angeles and San Francisco. Each is identically designed, right down to their app icons.

Each app includes content from the local CBS affiliates: in New York, for instance, that would be CBS2 television, and WFAN, 101 WINS and WCBC radio stations; in Chicago it three outlets.

The apps look like they were designed for the iPhone and only reluctantly optimized for the iPad. The news feed approach works fine on the iPhone with its smaller display, but look pretty silly and outdated on the iPad (see below). Similarly, the story layouts are not very imaginative (also seen below).

The situation is worse when you get to video: the window appears to be streamed for the iPhone's display because on the iPad the video opens to a very small window, which when expanded shows how low-res the video actually is.

All the apps will let the user stream live radio, but only video clips are accessible through the apps. No doubt this is due to the existing cable contracts.

I hope these apps are taken seriously by CBS because an overhaul of the app that makes them more appropriate for the iPad is needed.


One thing users of these app will soon discover, and complain about, is the fact that none of the radio feeds will include live baseball games. This isn't the fault of the local stations, of course, but the result of the fact that MLB retains all streaming rights to games.

Nonetheless, I'm sure we will see users complain about this in the App Store reviews.

Italian publisher releases its first paid iPad app after launching a string of replica edition magazine apps

The Italian magazine publisher Edizioni Morelli (ELI) has released its first paid iPad app following the release of a string of free apps for its magazine portfolio. The new app, 100 Agriturismi, costs $1.99 in the U.S. App Store, 1,59 € in the Italian App Store.
This new app is the 13th released so far by the publisher, ELI Edizioni Living International S.r.l. Previous apps for such magazines such as Ville&Casali and Casa Naturale have been developed by Virtualcom Interactive, another of those PDF to digital edition vendors that seem to be just about everywhere.

The magazines apps produced, therefore, have been simply replica editions, though some claim some enhanced features. I find them virtually unreadable, myself.

The new app, 100 Agriturismi, is a little different in that one can access the magazine through the app, but also do more.

The theme of the magazine, if you haven't guessed, is Agritourism, or put simply, spending your vacation on a farm. Now this is a nonstarter for me, as my allergies would cause me to spend the whole vacation sneezing, but I guess this is a growing phenomenon.

The app contains a selection of holiday cottages in Italy and is broken out into five areas including Food and Wine (that one's a winner), Pet Friendly, etc. The user can search for a location and view a photo gallery and other information about each destination.

I think this dual purpose app is a really good idea as I mentioned this in regard to Lufthansa's apps. Currently the German airline has separate iPad apps for its flight reservations and for its onboard magazine.

Morning Brief: Jobs tick up slightly; Washington Post's dismal earnings report shows revenue still declining

The jobs report released this morning will at least not throw gasoline onto the fire that is the stock markets. The Labor Department reported this morning that employers added 117,000 jobs to the economy in July, beating many forecasts.

We have reached a point where a modest uptick in new jobs is considered good news. In general, the employers need to add far more jobs that this report said in order to spur growth. But we'll take what we can at this point. The Labor Department also said the unemployment rate ticked down to 9.1 percent. The U-6, the broadest measure of unemployment, also ticked down to 16.1 percent.
Markets this morning are mixed as many European markets may be waiting to see how the Dow opens. The German DAX opened very sharply down, but is recovering, down around one-half percent on the day. It has traded down over 2 percent each day this week. The FTSE is following suit, but the French CAC 40 is actually trading up this morning.

The NYT is live blogging the market this morning after yesterday's 500+ point drop. But with the jobs report pointing to a better open, we'll see how long they decide to keep that up.

The Washington Post Company reported earnings this morning and they aren't doing the markets any favors. The media company reported earnings of $45.6 million versus $91.9 million last year.

Again it was revenue that was the culprit. The WaPo reported that its revenue was down 10 percent in the quarter, with both its education and newspaper divisions to blame.

For the first six months of the year, the WaPo has net income of $60.7 million versus $137.3 million in 2010.

Reflecting how important its Kaplan division is, the WaPo now reports that first. In fact, its newspaper division's revenue losses have been rather modest compared to McClatchy, for instance. For the first half of the year newspaper revenue is only down 3 percent, though it should be noted that most media companies are reporting versus pretty bad 2010 numbers.

Former Beetle Paul McCartney will be contacting the British police concerning the phone hacking scandal. The Daily Mail is reporting that his former wife, Heather Mills, has claimed that the Daily Mirror called her and admitted that it had illegally accessed her voicemails.

"I am going to talk to the police because apparently I have been hacked," McCartney is quoted as saying by the Daily Mail. "I don’t know much about it because they won’t tell anyone except the person themselves. I do think it’s a horrendous violation of privacy. I do think it has been going on for a long time and I do think more people than we know knew about it."

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Late afternoon update: U.S markets tumble more than 500 points; agreement said to be in place to reopen the FAA

Today was not a good day to worry about your 401K account. Let me tell you, you have less money now for retirement. Sorry about that.

The U.S. stock market closed with a thud, losing 512.76 points on the day, or 4.3 percent. Investors were voting with their wallets today, stating that all is not well both here and abroad.
Foreign markets also tumbled badly, with the German DAX down 2.3 percent on the day. But European markets have been taking a beating all week, with the DAX down over 2 percent for the past three days.

But liberal economists have been beating the drum for more stimulus and less austerity, conservatives, and most of Washington has been on the austerity bandwagon. It seems unlikely that that particular train can be turned around.

Was this an historic day for the markets? Not really, at least when you are talking about the Dow's performance on a percentage basis. (Today's 512 loss, however, is the 9th largest point loss in market history.)

On a percentage basis, today's 4 percent drop doesn't even make it into the top 20 of really bad days for the market. While every has heard of the 1929 crash, it was actually October 19, 1987. For a story about that great crash, the day the market lost 22.61 percent read this post from last week.

The best day ever for the market, percentage wise, came on March 15, 1933, the day the Emergency Banking Act was put into place. That act created the Federal Reserve and effectively ended the bank runs. (I accidentally tweeted that this was the "worst" day in Dow history, what was I thinking?)

Gotta love Wikipedia. Someone has already updated this page to reflect today's market performance, putting today as the 9th worst point loss in history.

Have a few dollars you need to put away for a short time? How about a one-month Treasury bill? Bloomberg today reported that because bond prices are falling the U.S., reflecting the deteriorating economy, the yield on a one month T-bill is currently negative 0.0102 percent.

That's right, you don't get any interest for buying that bill. Of course, yesterday the yield, while in the black, was only 0.0051 percent. Hard to get rich at those rates, huh?

The New York Times is reporting, though it is not their lead story thanks to the Dow, that Senator Harry Reid says that an agreement is now in place to reopen the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). The federal agency has been unfunded thanks to Congress beating town without an agreement to fund the agency.

As a result, the airlines have had a holiday from paying its fees to the agency, some $30 million per day that the airlines are supposed to collect taxes on flights. Instead, most airlines have raised their fares during the dispute.

4,000 FAA employees have been furloughed while the agency dispute has gone unsolved.

Here is some more good news: the price of oil fell 5 percent today to $87 a barrel. With the the U.S. and Europe's economies grinding to a halt, oil investors apparently do not see much of a rise in demand in the near term.

Note: this story was updated many times over the past half hour to reflect new information, correct sloppy errors, and include links where none were available previously (we always link, which is more than can be said for those who steal my stories!) My apologies to those who read previously, less complete versions of the afternoon news update.

Media app updates: Sunday Times adds section downloads and editing mechanism; Tackable updates their TapIn Bay Area app for the iPad

There hasn't been a lot of new interesting media apps launched in the past few weeks, in my opinion. The one that has gotten the most press is AOL's Editions, the latest news aggregation app. For me, this is a "me-too" category because any app that does not contain original content, but only aggregates content from other sources is really all about design. Flipboard, Zite, Editions – make your choice, but there will be others just like them coming down the road before you know it.

But while there haven't been a flood of good new apps from traditional media companies launched in the past couple of weeks, that doesn't mean that the developers have been on vacation. No, in preparation for that trip to San Tropez (after all, that is where all good developers vacation, right?) they have been working on updating their current apps. My guess is that once iOS 5 is launched in the fall you will see even more updated apps.
Murdoch's Sunday Times updated its popular iPad app today. Sunday Times UK, as it is called in the U.S. App Store, or simply Sunday Times, as it is called in the U.K. App Store, remains in the top ten in the news category under free apps. Sky News for iPad remains in the number one spot.

The big change to the Sunday Times app is that now readers can download all sections of the edition for offline reading, reading those sections downloaded while others continue to load.

The developers also made it easier for readers to delete sections and entire editions through the app.

TapIn Bay Area, the app sold under the MediaNews Group name, but developed by Bay Area start-up Tackable, updated its iPad app yesterday. (You can find my original post on the app here.)

The app is a daily deals app but was launched without putting the deals on a map. Maybe the thinking was that iPad owners would not use their tablets in a mobile fashion and so wouldn't want this feature that is usually seen on a smartphone app.

Tackable launched a separate iPhone version of the TapIn Bay Area app that is designed to by a companion app to the iPad version and is more about social networking and community news than daily deals. Strangely, though, the feature added to the iPad app seems more appropriate for the iPhone version, which does not use maps.

Spotify has already issued a bug fix update for its iPhone app, which judging by the number of comments in the App Store, seems to be doing very well. Users, however, have complained that they are confused as to how to create an account. This is, no doubt, the result of Apple's in-app purchase rules, which force companies like Spotify to keep this stuff off of their apps.
One airline that has both a magazine app and a separate flight app is Lufthansa. It's flight app was updated yesterday to improve its load times and fix some bugs.

I'm wondering, however, when we might see a combination app, something that might prove very interesting to frequent flyers.

Lunchtime news break: a thank you & more financial news

First, a thank you to TNM readers for not completely abandoning the site yesterday. I know that when TNM strays from posts about new media apps, websites, and the like the traffic numbers sometimes suffer. Not yesterday.

That might be because most media people realize that the economy remains story number one. For reporters and editors that means making adjustments to their content. But for media executives, that means making adjustment to their businesses.
PhotobucketToday, though, the stock market is making everyone pay attention, whether you like it or.

Right as I write this post, the Dow is down over 300 points – that is actually up from the lows of the day! Meanwhile, the DAX, which looked like it have a more moderate day, is in almost (let's stress "almost") free fall, down over 225 points, or 3.40 percent. The FTSE and CAC 40 are doing even worse. And as if to reinforce the global nature of markets, markets in Canada, Brazil, Mexico and Chile are down by similar or even bigger percentages.

It's not just the stock markets, though, that media executives should be looking at. Just a few minutes ago I retweeted a Paul Krugman tweet promoting his latest blog post, which he headlined Rates of Wrath.

Krugman has been obsessed with two things involving the bond markets: first, while austerity proponents have been saying U.S. bond prices will increase due to the national debt, the opposite thing has been happening, due, Krugman speculates, to the slowing economy; and second, the rising bond prices being seen in Italy and Spain is endangering the European single currency community and raising the possibility that those countries may default.

As I wrote yesterday, rising ten year bold prices are translating into larger interest payments for Italy, Spain and other European nations. At the same time, lower bond prices actually lessens the impact of the U.S. debt. Yet, and this gets to the crux of the matter, all the attention in Washington is on the debt, reigning in spending, at a time when the economy badly needs to kick in the behind.

Final note: writing about stock market prices is a fool's errand. Right now the Dow is recovering, possibly as investors swoop in to pick up bargains. After all, if you want to own some Apple stock, what better time to pick up some shares than when the market is tanking. My recommendation, don't that much attention to the Dow, look at the DAX and other indices to see how the world is viewing the current economic news.

Times Community News to launch weeklies in Pasadena and the San Gabriel Valley, expand OC coverage in Pilot

This is counter to recent trends in newspapering: TTimes Community News, a division of the Los Angeles Times Media Group, announced this morning that it will launch new weekly publications for Pasadena and the nearby San Gabriel Valley.
The Pasadena Sun will make its print debut this Friday and plans to cover the towns of Pasadena, South Pasadena and San Marino. On Sunday the Sunday Valley Sun will appear, serving the San Gabriel Valley. It will get some of its content from the neighboring La Canada Valley Sun, along with the new Pasadena Sun.

Both papers will be free weeklies that will distribute through news racks and in local businesses.

The newspaper group also said that the group plans on increasing the geography covered by its Coastline Pilot. Right now the paper concentrates on Laguna Beach, but will now broaden its coverage to the communities of Laguna Niguel and Aliso Viejo.

Print newspapers, how retro.

(It is pretty clear that these papers are still in the launch phase: the website for the Pasadena Sun currently looks like an exercise in white space.)

Morning Brief: Concerns continue to grow over Eurozone debtor nations; Premiere League and the press wrangle over restrictions to game coverage

Not to beat a dead horse, but ... the U.S. stock market opened sharply lower morning. Sharply. Although the U.S. markets actually were able to close flat to slightly higher yesterday, markets have been in free fall in Europe for the past week, while the U.S. markets have been mostly down.

Right now all the major European markets are down over one percent – better than the past few days where the German DAX has given back over two percent a day, but still not good.
Jobless claims were not significantly better, as reported by the Labor Department this morning.

But, for the most part, the eyes of investors are on Europe, where both Italy and Spain have had their government bond rates dramatically rise, leading to both countries being forced to pay more money to service their national debts.

"We're back to worrying about the future of the eurozone and the sovereign debt crisis, and the generally stuttering economy," the Guardian quotes Will Hedden, a sales trader at IG Index.

Here in the U.S. negotiations between the team owners of the National Football League and the players successfully concluded, preventing a possible postponement of the regular season.

But in the U.K. they have a different problem: talks involving the Premiere League have broken down. The dispute revolves around how matchs will be covered by the national newspapers and the wire services.

The league wants to prevent the news media from publishing pictures of the games quickly and to restrict real-time live blogs of the match – something that the Guardian loves to put on its website home page.

The media coalition put out a statement outlining the restrictions the league wants to put on the press.

"They run to 16 pages of legal constraints, which among other things include league controls on how and when news can be published online – and how news material can be distributed to fans at home and overseas," the media coalition, which is led by the Newspaper Publishers Association, said in its statement. "In many instances they also require users of content to obtain and pay for permission from the Leagues for their coverage."

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

British Library plans by year's end to double the number of book titles available through its iPad app

The British Library 19th Century Collection is one of the great joys of owning an iPad, whether you can advantage of the free access, or else subscribe to gain full access.
Today the app has been updated to add even more content, as well as to add in some features.

As of today the available collection stands at more than 26,000 titles. But the plan is to get the collection up to 60,000.

The app offers some limited access to the collection, but for a subscription price of £1.99 per month, or $2.99 per month globally, the iPad owner will gain access to the full collection which will soon include books in European, Asian and African languages, as well.

"We launched a taster app in June and were completely overwhelmed by the response we received - it was phenomenal," Samantha Tillett, Product Development Manager at the British Library said in the Reuters story about the new update.

I was thinking about the future of libraries around the country and I think this is one of the more obvious solutions, including the subscription fees. Unfortunately, we live in a time where many American, and far too many politicians, no longer believe in institutions such as public libraries, believing that everything, everywhere should be in private hands. Ironically, this attitude about public libraries comes at a time when Borders is closing all its retails stores, making access to places where one can physically examine books in person more limited.

Cygnus Business Media continues modest tablet experiments with app for Sustainable Construction

Not many B2B publishers have begun experimenting with tablet publishing, or even mobile media for that matter. One that is experimenting a bit is Cygnus Business Media.

The B2B media firm today released a modest tablet edition for one of its titles, Sustainable Construction Magazine.
I call it a modest edition because the issue available within the app contains only one actual article, despite the fact that the cover promises at least two more – they are not there.

The free app is single sponsored: in this case Caterpillar, which has an ad that opens up the issue with a bit of animation. Unfortunately, the ad was only designed for landscape so it looks a little odd in portrait. But the app description shows only landscape screenshots so maybe the publisher is giving us a clue to the way the want readers to use the app.

As a former B2B publisher, I can almost feel what is going on here. I assume the company is trying to get employees, editors and art director in particular, comfortable with the platform and so this app has been released with very limited content. But the publication is only quarterly so I would think waiting to release this with the other stories would have made sense.

In any case, here it is, far more than most B2B publishers, but only scratching the surface of what is possible.


One of the dilemmas B2B face when launching tablet editions is the issue of "qualified readers". Usually B2B publications are only available to readers who demonstrate that they are within the industry of concern to the publication, and then that reader receives the publication free of charge.

But with an app, anyone can download and install the tablet edition. What to do?

One approach would be to make the app a "reader", as some newspaper publishers are doing. In this scenario, anyone can download and install the app, but to access the content the reader has to sign into their account – an account that can only be obtained if the reader already subscribes to the print edition, or if the reader has registered with the publication's website.

In the case of this particular app, the content is open to everyone probably because the publisher is still experimenting – and besides, it is a single sponsored issue so why not keep it open.

Cygnus is moving in the right direction with this app, modest though it is. The key going forward for both Cygnus and the B2B media industry, in general, is to work through the issue involved with "qualifying" readers, as well as selling new digital ad space. The temptation of many B2Bs will be to go with replica editions provided by their flipbook vendors. These tablet editions will, no doubt, be as successful as those useless website flipbooks, though they may stand a chance getting better readership on a tablet.

Lunchtime news break: more on the financial crisis in Europe; bond and stock markets remain a bit unsettling

I know these financial news items are not very "new media" oriented, but as a former newspaper and magazine publisher I am tend to be hypersensitive to financial news that may ultimately effect the advertising environment.

There doesn't appear to be much panic in the pages and on the websites of media properties in Europe when reporting the current financial situation, at least not yet. But the news has been grim and people are starting to pay more and more attention to what the stock and bond markets are doing – on both sides of the Atlantic.

Today marked the third day in a row that the German DAX has closed down over two percent in value – today closing at 6640.59, down 156 points, or 2.3 percent. While the UK's FTSE index has also been down the past few days, its declines have been more modest. That is until today, when the stock index also closed down over two percent. The French CAC 40 followed suit, as well.
What has been driving the market can be guessed at, but the steady stream of bad news has to be having an effect.

The U.S. media has been obsessed, of course, with the spectacle in Congress. But if the agreement on the debt ceiling was supposed to calm things down, well that is not what is happening. Today, for instance, the Dow is currently down over 100 point, though not at the low point in day thanks to a sharp tumble near the open.

But for Europe, the truly frightening thing has been bond prices. Although few, other than maybe the NYT's Paul Krugman has been talking about this area, the fact is that European newspapers such as Die Welt are paying close attention.

The trouble lies in the fact that both Italy and Spain are seeing the interest rates it is forced to pay on its debt climb. Let me give you some examples: today the U.S. pays 3.125 percent on its 10 government bonds, Germany is paying 3.25 percent on the same bond. But Italy's rate today climbed to 6.21 percent – a three percent increase in prices just today. Spain's rate is even higher, at 6.34 percent.

What does all this mean? Last fiscal year the U.S. paid $413,954,825,362 in interest on its total debt according to the treasury department. If U.S. bond prices were to climb as Italy's has, the U.S. would be paying close to a trillion dollars in interest alone on the national debt.

But the potential crisis is not that U.S. bond prices will rise. As many economists have pointed out, this has been a favorite talking point by those advocating austerity measures. In fact, bond prices have gone down slightly, not up. No the crisis for now is centered in European countries such as Italy, Spain and Greece.

Just to personalize all this, imagine getting the mail today and finding out that your payment of your adjustable rate mortgage had just gone from $1500 per month to $3000, this might just have an impact on your budget, right? That is what Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero and dealing with today.

Update: One hour before the closing bell, the U.S. markets have turned slightly positive. But the NYT's Rachel Donadio has just posted an article concerning Italy's Silvio Berlusconi and the pressure that is starting to mount on his government as its government bond rates continue to rise.

Axel Springer AG reports strong earnings and revenue growth, which it attributes to its digital, international

The big question in media circles this past year and a half has been not only whether to invest in more digital publishing platforms (see Time Inc. announcement), but whether that investment would ultimately payoff. German media giant Axel Springer AG said yesterday that they believe it has.
The publisher of newspapers and magazines yesterday reporting good earnings growth, as well as very solid (very, very solid) revenue growth. Earnings grew almost 10.5 percent to 288.7 million euros, while sales grew 11.8 percent to 1.53 euros, according to the company's earning announcement.

(For you financial folk out there, you might be interested to know that the company also announced that it was operating at a EBITDA margin of 18.9 percent, as well.)

The big takeaway may be, however, that the company is crediting its digital strategies for its good earnings results.

“The results confirm our strategy. Axel Springer’s digital and international activities are not only the driving forces behind our growth but now account for nearly 40 percent of our operating profit," Dr. Mathias Döpfner, Chief Executive Officer of Axel Springer AG, said. "In our digital business we achieved a higher earnings contribution in particular of our content and classified advertising portals. Our paid-content initiative in the Internet is making progress, and we will insistently continue to pursue this long-term change in paradigm.”

Axel Springer AG is one of the few publishers currently reporting strong ad sales – in this case, an increase of 18.6 percent, this despite a decline in national print media that it says is due to last year's strong showing during the World Cup which Germany hosted last year.

Time Inc. goes all in on tablet editions: publisher says all 21 of its titles will have tablet editions by year end

Time Inc. stated today that it will "launch tablet editions for its entire portfolio of 21 titles by year's end." Magazines that will soon have their own tablet editions include InStyle, Real Simple and Entertainment Weekly.
“Having our entire portfolio available on tablets will create a significant new digital reach for our advertisers," said Maurice Edelson, EVP at Time Inc.

Starting in January of 2012 Time Inc. will begin reporting its digital sales and subscriber information to the Audit Bureau of Circulations for inclusion in its audit reports.

Time Inc. brought out Sports Illustrated early in the tablet era and has releasing tablet apps for many of its publications ever since. Currently Time Inc. has iPad editions for Life, People, Fortune, Time Magazine, as well as Sports Illustrated. It has has a few special interest iPad apps such as the SI Swimsuit Edition and Cooking Light recipes.

“Now is the time for us to make this bold commitment. In the coming year, there will clearly be many more consumers using tablets, accelerating demand for content and driving advertiser interest. We are putting ourselves in a great position to take advantage of these opportunities,” Edelson said.

Time Inc. has been using WoodWing's digital publishing solutions and I would assume they would continue down this road. The company has announced today that it would begin selling digital subscriptions and single copy sales through Barnes & Noble for reading on the company's NOOK eReader by year's end.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Buyer's remorse sets in as investors begin to realize what the future holds for economic growth; one UK firm lowers its global ad spending forecast significantly

The cult of austerity has won, the budget slashers reign supreme, and investors are heading for the hills. Or at least that is one day's data appears to show.

Like a teenager who buys the latest hit CD because it is cool, only to find out it really sucks, investors are starting to realize that slash and burn may not be actually good for the economy. With Europe, a half year ahead of the U.S. in its austerity campaign, reporting numbers that look like a return to recession, the outlook for U.S. economic growth is starting to look dire.

Today the U.S. markets tanked, with the Dow dropping more than two percent of its value, 265.87 points in total, and the Nasdaq losses even higher, 2.75% percent or 75.37 to the negative.
Maybe investors understand better than politicians that you can not contract your way to growth. I wondered just yesterday morning whether this mood shift might effect ad spending for the rest of the year, and further out, the fall planning season. I guess I should have waited 24 hours because one marketing services company is already claiming that it is.

Warc, a London based marketing information service company, has downgraded its International Advertising Forecast. The company is still forecasting growth, 3.2 percent for the year (globally), but this is down significantly from their previous forecast of 4.6 percent growth.

Global economic conditions remain unsettled and this is making marketers cautious, particularly in Western Europe, Japan and the US," Suzy Young, Warc's data editor, said. "As a consequence, marketing budgets for 2011 are likely to be smaller than initially hoped."

BtoBOnline is reporting that Warc blames this decline on debt issues in the U.S. and Europe. But that is not at all what the company said, instead speaking of "uncertainty relating to political disagreements over how best to tackle public deficits in the Eurozone nations and the US." That is definitely not the same thing.

But markets are weird things, and I have a feeling investors might be in a buying mood tomorrow. But don't take my financial advice: in 2000 I felt positive enough about tech to buy into Cisco following the bursting of the tech bubble in the stock market – that didn't turn out so well.

While the U.S. media is already moving on from the debt ceiling crisis, concluding that it was all good fun while it lasted, but now the Senate signed onto the agreement it can return to more important celebrity news, Europe is suffering severe handover.

Markets in Europe also fell today, with German DAX falling more than two percent – the second straight day of declines at this level. The FTSE in the UK and the CAC 40 in France also fell by large amounts.

The problem is that the aerial walking done by the Congress was seen not as just good politics but real juvenile behavior on the part of the politicians with ramifications far broader than just the U.S.

The Guardian is reporting this afternoon that Spanish Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero is abandoning his holiday plans to return to Madrid to deal with the financial crisis.

(American may not understand the meaning of "vacation", but the Europeans certainly do. TNM traffic from Europe is half its normal level in mid-July to early August thanks to European vacations.)

According to The Guardian story that leads its website this afternoon, interest rates on Spanish and Italian bonds have rise to above 6 percent "the level that signalled the beginning of the bailout process for Greece, Ireland and Portugal."

Paul Krugman, NYT economics columnist is paying attention to all this. Yesterday on his NYT blog he mentioned the Italy-Germany bond spread – the spread between what the two countries have to pay on its bonds. Krugman uses the spread to see what investors think of the economies of the two countries. That spread, according to Bloomberg, is at at shocking levels.

(Update: wow, maybe Krugman reads TNM – doubt it – he has a new short post about the situation in Europe on his NYT blog.)

The fact is that the austerity contagion has been active in Europe longer than here in the U.S., and the results are turning catastrophic. With the White House now signed onto the austerity bandwagon with the Republicans, we could be looking at the U.S. economy falling back into recession before many media companies have even begun to recover from the previous economic downturn.

Hang on to your hats publishers.

IKEA releases updated iOS app that uses Mag+ to bring its catalogue to customers

Swedish home products retailer, IKEA, has released an updated version of its iOS app that adds retina display support for iPhone 4 users, as well as other features such as a store locator.
IKEA has had an iPhone app for its catalogue since the end of 2009. But that app was really just a way of displaying its catalogue on a mobile device, where as this version is far more interactive, and with more features, of course. (Catalog or catalogue? We'll go with catalogue for this post.)

Built using the Mag+ digital publishing system, the newly updated app will work on both an iPhone and iPad, though I would think the tablet is where a home catalogue is more, well, at home.

Because it is based off the print catalogue, the app works best in portrait most of the time But in other circumstances, like with two-page spreads, the app is best in landscape. This is the danger of converting a print product with minimum layout changes.
The app adds a plus sign (+) to products where a little pop-up window will reveal more information about the product. The app also allows readers to pinch-to-zoom to get a better view of the product, but this eliminates the plus sign and the user must go back to the regular view to get that navigation feature back. This probably makes sense since the idea of pinch-to-zoom is to make the picture larger, not a navigation icon. But the user will have to get used to this.

There are other navigation helpers such as a thumbnail view of all the pages and a table of contents. One can also bookmark pages to assist finding products again. The shopper can also email or use Facebook or Twitter to send products to their friends or family.

If you've never seen the IKEA catalogue you need to know that it is a monster: 376 pages in size in this app. So having a digital version is definitely a tree saver. Oh, and I should add, the app has a search mechanism so you won't have to flip through 376 digital pages in order to find that item you are after.

The app is free to download, of course, and once installed gives users the ability to view either English or Spanish language versions of the IKEA catalogue.

Left: the thumbnail view; Middle: the table of contents; Right: pop-up windows give users more information about the products.

International Publishing Group releases an unreadable replica edition for their International Express weekly

Anyone who has developed their own iOS app knows that one of the big moments in the process is when you finally submit your app and you receive the initial email back from the app review team, automated for sure, telling you that your app is now under review. The next big moment is when you are told your app is about to appear in the App Store – or conversely, that the app has been rejected for reasons that seem a bit arbitrary.
If there is one complain media people have with Apple that I hole heartedly agree with it is that Apple's media app review process seems totally a crap shoot. A look at the apps in the News category of the App Store reveals a lot of apps that just seem amateurish and a waste of time. Then, occasionally, we hear of some legitimate apps being rejected for strange, arbitrary reasons – though to be fair, there seems to be a lot less of that now than in the past.

But one rule Apple constantly talks about, but doesn't seem to enforce evenly, is the app that simply duplicates the web or print, providing nothing new for the reader. Many replica editions fall into this category which is why vendors who push them like to include features like story sharing through social networks, good navigation, links, multimedia, etc. This is the big reason why, while I generally loathe replica editions, I try not to be dogmatic about it. I'm trying, I really am.

But now and again I run across an app and have to ask myself "how did this get approved?"

One of those apps, released today, is from International Publishing Group, an Australian firm that seems that is in some interesting businesses. For one thing, IPG publishes tabloid weekly newspaper versions of British publications for expats in Australia, Canada and elsewhere.

The company is also in the helicopter and boat charter service business. Interesting combination, no?

The app, Int'l Express, is the digital version of their weekly publication that takes content from the UK's Daily Express and Sunday Express.

The app is free, as is the content. But upon installation you notice that there is only a sample issue from the end of May currently available to read (maybe this situation will change now that the app has appeared in the App Store). At 20 MB it is a pretty easy download.

The small size can be attributed to the fact that the app only works in portrait, which isn't too much of a negative because tabloid newspapers generally look pretty good on an iPad in portrait.

But the app contains nothing other than the tabloid pages, no text versions of stories, and most importantly, no pinch-to-zoom. This makes the replica practically unreadable. No, it makes it completely unreadable.

So how does an app like this get approved? Your guess is as good as mine. I suppose the publisher could have argued that this would be only way many readers could access the publication in many places. That would be true, but "access" is not the same as "read".

Oh well, let's not beat up on the publisher too much, after all, they got their app through Apple's review team.

A few thoughts on HTML5 apps and websites

Playing around this morning with both Xcode and several HTML5 based publishing solutions I keep stopping to think about the whole issue of "magazine-like" apps and websites. I kept asking myself "why would I want a magazine-like look unless I wanted a magazine?"
As someone who has had their name on the masthead of over a dozen different magazine titles I know what a magazine is, and I know what a website is. But now they are supposed to be the same thing? God, I hope not. After all, for most magazine publishers the vast majority of their revenue on a given title - ignoring ancillary products like events and special sections – still derives from print advertising. So isn't creating a "magazine-like" look for an app or website just another desperate attempt at finding a profitable web model – in other words, phase two of the flipbook experiment?

That doesn't mean I am not intrigued by these new digital publishing options. I have several prototype projects right now with Xcode and online, learning these publishing solutions, playing with the features, etc.

Right now my conclusion is that the digital publishing solutions remain ahead of the successful business models. Until the two and get together we are still in the era of experimentation. It's both exciting and frustrating, that's for sure.

Morning Brief: False alarm – Skype launches, then pull its iPad app; anyone for a 'Satan sandwich'?

For a few hours late last night iPad owners could download the tablet version of the Skype. Having been seen first in the New Zealand App Store, and very briefly in the U.S. store, Skype pulled its app after recoginizing some issues.
Just after midnight Eastern time last night Skype tweeted that it had removed the app from the App Store: "To ensure your best Skype experience, we've temporarily removed Skype for iPad which went live prematurely today."
Shortly thereafter they added "We know you've been eagerly awaiting Skype for iPad and apologize for the inconvenience."

With Apple's FaceTime not catching on with developers, iPad owners have been eagerly awaiting a chat and call app more universally accepted.

Update: As you can see by the screenshot, Skype for iPad is back live in the App Store. That didn't take long, did it? This whole episode seems rather strange.

The Senate today is expected to pass the debt ceiling legislation fairly universally condemned by both sides of the political spectrum.

One of the more imaginative descriptions of the package was from Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, D-Mo., Chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, who called it "a sugar-coated Satan sandwich," according to USA Today.

But no one thinks there is any chance the Senate will not pass the bill later today.

While the world's attention was riveted to the spectacle of the Congress, the News Corp. phone hacking scandal continues to provide new revelations.

Yesterday The Guardian reported that lawyers hired by the media giant admitted that it deleted emails associated with News International on nine different occasions beginning May of last year.

The law firm involved, Stuart Benson, clearly wants to shift the blame for the deletions over to their clients. "It is entirely for News International," the firm said yesterday, "the police and your committee as to whether there was any other agenda or subtext when issues of deletion arose and that is a matter on which my client cannot comment and something you will no doubt wish to explore direct with News International."

One gets a sense that this is a more common practice in the U.K. than in the U.S., where any tampering with evidence in the midst of an investigation will, itself, be enough to bring further charges. It is pretty well standard practice to let those being investigated know that if any evidence is destroyed in the middle of an investigation separate charges will ensue.

For its part, a News International spokesman said yesterday that "NI keeps back-ups of its core systems and, in close co-operation with the Operation Weeting team, has been working to restore these back-ups."

Monday, August 1, 2011

Time Inc.'s custom publishing arm begins launching iPad editions for their customers: Ford and NYSE first to launch

The iPad is a great platform for custom publishing, as well as special sections and special sections. Production and distribution costs can be controlled, and so the key is satisfying that customer by providing a good experience for their readers.

Time Inc. Content Solutions, the custom publishing arm of the media firm, has just launched two iPad apps for its customers Ford and the New York Stock Exchange. Both apps are free and provide the content free of charge as you would expect from promotional magazines such as these.
My Ford was launched two weeks ago. The magazine is not that hefty which allows the developers to keep the issue download to only 57.8 MB. This size is big enough to allow for an introductory video plus both portrait and landscape layouts.

NYSE Magazine was just released at the end of last week. It creates a library when installed where the first issue can be downloaded. The current issue, labelled as Third Quarter 2011, is a bit heavier at 116.9 MB, but this is still pretty modest.

The app, too, gives readers both portrait and landscape layouts, but leaves out introductory video. This magazine will remind TNM readers immediately of other Time Inc. tablet editions so I assume the publisher is using digital publishing solutions from WoodWing.

Both apps I think will satisfy their clients. The key now is getting potential readers to notice the apps. In this regard Apple is helping out: the NYSE Magazine app is currently being featured in the App Store.

Washington Post has a hard time reading stock tables

I guess the Washington Post is solidly behind the new debt ceiling deal, posting a story about how European and Asian stock markets rallied today.

"European markets also jumped on the news of the U.S. debt deal, with early gains in key indexes in London, Paris and Frankfurt," the WaPo reported.

Well, I guess someone needs to be taught how to use the Internet. Here is what the NYT says happened to European markets today:

FTSE 100 - UK -4.76 or 0.70%
DAX - Germany -204.79 or 2.86%
CAC 40 France -83.23 or 2.27%

Oh, well just because the basic premise of the story is wrong doesn't make the story completely wrong, does it?

The fact is, as I wrote last week, trying to come up with reasons why the market go up and down on a given day is near impossible. While it is true that Asian markets went up today, it was certainly more out of relief. As for Europe, their markets went down following bad economic news. One could guess that investors are more than a bit concerned that further austerity, lumped on top of an already slow economy, will hardly lead to growth.

But who knows, tomorrow the market could skyrocket...and Asian markets could fall. In the meantime, the editors at the Post should consider the merits of rewrites.

Apple releases software update for Apple TV, as well as TV shows previously bought through iTunes

Apple this morning released a software update for users of its Apple TV adding Vimeo content as well as allowing users to stream television shows previously purchased through iTunes.
The update also supposedly improves the fast forwarding and rewinding of live events – hopefully this will be helpful on the MLB.TV app which can sometimes be painful to use.

That's all the tech news you get from me on this subject. What interests me about the update, however, is how all this is being dealt with by Vimeo.

You would think that getting onto the Apple TV would be a fairly big deal for Vimeo, after all, until today the only video site on the Apple TV has been YouTube. But Vimeo has not issued a press release about the move.
In fact, looking at the Vimeo site, the company has not issued a press release since January 5th, almost seven months ago. The company does seem to maintain its own blog, though, again, there is nothing there that mentions the addition to Apple TV.

What can I say, marketing is becoming a lost art, I guess.

Markets turn negative as debt ceiling bounce proves short lived; will weakened economic outlook hurt ad budgets?; BBC journalists on 24-hour strike to protest staff cutbacks

So much for the anticipated debt ceiling bounce, huh? The markets are down now after opening flat to slightly up following the news last night of an agreement between the President and Republican leaders on the raising of the debt ceiling.
Meanwhile, markets abroad have reacted in a similar fashion: with Asian markets starting the day higher, but European markets soon turning negative. As of 11 EDT the German DAX was actually down sharply, almost 150 points in the negative, down almost 2 percent. The British FTSE, was down more modestly.

The cause of the declines is always difficult to judge, but one thing that is now common wisdom is that the administration has adopted the Republican's preference for austerity over growth. The cuts in spending contained in the agreement with the GOP only call for modest cuts that will take effect immediately, but the agreement contains the seeds of big cuts down the road, with a "trigger" that could force major cuts to certain areas of the budget. This downsizing in the budget may be good news for those pushing for a balanced budget, but occurring during a recession they are seen by many as a formula for further economic contraction.

Adding to this bleak outlook is the present, which doesn't look all that great either. The Institute for Supply Management reported today that its index was at 50.9 percent in July.

"The PMI registered 50.9 percent, a decrease of 4.4 percentage points, indicating expansion in the manufacturing sector for the 24th consecutive month, although at a slower rate of growth than in June," Bradley J. Holcomb, CPSM, CPSD, chair of the Institute for Supply Management™ Manufacturing Business Survey Committee said today.

"Production and employment also showed continued growth in July, but at slower rates than in June. The New Orders Index registered 49.2 percent, indicating contraction for the first time since June of 2009, when it registered 48.9 percent. The rate of increase in prices slowed for the third consecutive month, dropping 9 percentage points in July to 59 percent. In the last three months combined, the Prices Index has declined by 26.5 percentage points, dropping from 85.5 percent in April to 59 percent in July."

The real question for publishers is will this effect ad budgets for the remainder of the year? This seems unlikely as we are already in August and most ad spending has been locked in at least until November. But we are now entering the period once known as "fall planning", that strange time when marketers get their 2012 budgets and begin accepting proposals from their ad reps.

Ad scheduling has certainly evolved over the past decade or so to the point where less and less ad schedules are locked in stone. But if the perception is that 2012 will not see a significant recovery of the economy, it could be bad news for those publishers who hoped that their publications would see some sort of rise in ad spending in the coming new year.

The BBC is broadcasting today with reduced staffs due to a 24-hour strike called by the national Union of Journalists in reaction to job losses at the World Service and Monitoring division.

The union represents 3000 employees and while BBC management say that a large number of them have shown up for work today, the union disputes this.

The World Service of the BBC announced early this year that if was cutting 650 positions as part of the Tory government's austerity program.

The Atlantic releases new iOS app built by RareWire that offers both tablet editions as well as website content

The Atlantic has released a new universal app over the weekend for its website and monthly magazine. Built by RareWire, the app is an interesting hybrid that the developer says is all built using XML, not HTML5.
The new app, The Atlantic Magazine: Digital Edition, is free to download. Once installed, the app immediately gives you several choices: if you are a print subscriber you can sign into your account and get access to the magazine directly through the app; if not a print subscriber, you can sign up for $21.99 – 10 issues per year; the third option is to simply access the web content free through the app. Later, within the app, you can choose to buy individual issues at the non-discounted price of $4.99 per issue.

The app's rendition of the website content should look familiar to TNM readers now: a Flipboard-like look that very much reminds one of OnSwipe's look, as well. The look, at first, appears attractive, but the impression does not last. The reason is that this style of layout – individual boxes housing the stories, all the same size, in random order – really goes against good publishing practice. Editors put stories in certain positions, giving them more space than others, for a reason. A box is a box is a box.

The reason for this look, of course, is that the design is driven by feeds, and feeds can not discriminate. At best, a designer can make sure that a certain feed goes into a certain box, but that box is still the same size as all the others.

Clearly I'm not a fan of the Flipboard style of magazine website design.

But the app does work, is otherwise well designed, and does give readers access to the website from with the app. When combined with the magazine access, this is a winning formula.

The advantages of the tablet editions are extra multimedia content, offline reading and article sharing. I'll have to look deeper at issues to notice other differences with the print editions, if there are any,

RareWire says in its announcement for this app that they will make their App Creation Studio available for publishers in the fall. The platform will work for both iOS and Android.

Top Left: the sign-in page where the reader can sign into their print account of buy an annual subscription in-app; Top Right: a pop-up ad from Mercedes-Benz; Bottom Left: a web article layout; Bottom Right: the issue archives.

Morning Brief: The new anti-business coalition; is avoiding the App Store the right move for newspaper publishers?

Let's start the morning with a little story . . .
A number of years ago I was the publisher of a B2B magazine in the transportation construction industry. As publisher I joined the big, important trade associations, serving on committees such as the legislative committee where we set policy for the trade association's lobbyists. Members of this committee were generally the CEOs of large and mid-sized equipment manufacturers – I was fortunate to be part of the committee because these guys represented our biggest advertisers.

I remember one lunch that was held shortly after the 1996 election that saw Bill Clinton reelected. The mood around the table was rather strange, people were in generally a good mood considering that I knew that this was a pretty conservative group of executives.

I asked those sitting their munching on sandwiches about the election, most voted for the other guy, right? Right. But yet Clinton promised more spending for their sector, while Dole was against a rise in the transportation budget. So why vote for Dole? Taxes, of course, was the answer. So, I said, you personally vote against the interests of your own company and for your personal interest? One CEO of a midwestern firm laughed and said "yeah, don't tell our board", and the others laughed in agreement.

I can imagine this same group of CEOs sitting around the same table his morning after the news that the President and the Republicans had agreed to a debt ceiling bill. The group would thrilled that the Republicans took it to the President once again. But when asked about what this would mean for their businesses they would probably answer with "tough times ahead".

If political philosophy will sometimes dictate supporting policies that you know are actually against the best interest of your company might that same behavior be behind the actions of some newspaper publishers who insist on avoiding Apple's in-app purchase policies?
This continues to be my only explanation for why publishers would create a replica app for their newspaper than make it impossible for a reader to easily buy a subscription. Since the publisher can set their prices the fee that Apple gets ends up being far less than the percentage publishers pay out through their circulation departments.

Although tech writers never mention this, mainly because they've never worked at a newspaper, but the circulation department is not a profit center at the vast majority of newspapers. The goal, at best, is to come as close as possible to break even as they can. So if a publisher is willing to lose money to get a paid subscriber their newspaper, why is losing only 30 percent consider a nonstarter?

I think about this question every time I see a new reader app launched in the App Store. Today, the newspaper is the The Tribune, a McClatchy paper