Friday, September 16, 2011

If the App Store is the new newsstand for publishers then Apple should get serious about cleaning up the mess

A few weeks back I called a publisher (a newspaper, I think) to ask a few questions about their new app. The person responsible was taken aback that I knew their app had been released into the App Store and that I already knew a lot about it. "I spend a lot of time in the App Store, as you can imagine," was my response to her surprise.
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So, as someone who spends a lot of time looking for media apps inside the store I have a few a suggestions about how the store would serve me, and ultimately publishers, better:

Customization: More and more apps are building in the ability to customize the content and appearance of the app. But Apple's iTunes has few (if any) ways the user can customize the store. Sure, iTunes will allow you to custom the music player, but even here those choices are fleeting – that is, if I always want the track number to show up why is it that when I click on "Album List" it reverts to view options that includes "Rating" and "Plays" – I'm never, ever interested in the number of times I've played anything.

The App Store, on the other hand, offers no customization at all. The apps of the week, for instance, include whatever Apple wants to display. Fine, if this is a paid marketing opportunity for the developers, but it isn't, it's someone idea of what will interest me without my own input. Today, for instance, it lists to good apps – The New Yorker and Sporting News – but I already have those apps on my iPad, why promote apps I already have.

Socialize the App Store: Apple launched Ping. Oh boy, Apple doesn't really do social media, does it? Why not allow users to create their own pages, just like Facebook or LinkedIn.

Take that New Yorker app: there is a negative review by an App Store user. Currently the App Store allows me to click on their name to see all their reviews. This is really good and I use it often to see if the reviews are legit. (All zero star reviews, or all five star reviews, is certainly a sign that someone is up to no good.)

But where why not allow more? Again, this should be a customizable option. I'd love to create a Talking New Media page inside the App Store, for instance. I'd write more, and more thoughtful, reviews inside the App Store and hopefully certain reviewers would end up being a kind of "Good Housekeeping Seal" for new apps.

Careful with the Newsstand: I know a lot of publishers who are really leery of the new Newsstand that will be launched with iOS 5. What most don't understand is that the new Newsstand is really only about already existing subscriptions. Here is the official description from Apple:

Read all about it. All in one place. iOS 5 organizes your magazine and newspaper app subscriptions in Newsstand: a folder that lets you access your favorite publications quickly and easily. There’s also a new place on the App Store just for newspaper and magazine subscriptions. And you can get to it straight from Newsstand. New purchases go directly to your Newsstand folder. Then, as new issues become available, Newsstand automatically updates them in the background — complete with the latest covers. It’s kind of like having the paper delivered to your front door. Only better.
From a publishers perspective, Apple isn't creating a newsstand (a place where newspapers and magazines are stored), they are creating a bookshelf (a place where they are stored). The difference is huge because the number one concern publishers have about the App Store is the ability to get lost in it.

The other common misperception about the Newsstand is that they will show up in it. But if you are not selling subscriptions directly through the App Store, or if you are giving away your magazine, will you appear there? And what if I download a media app that offers free content, can I drag the icon for that app into the Newsstand? (I don't know the answer to that, maybe someone who is playing with the iOS beta can let us know.)

Postal rates as a catalyst for platform change

In discussions about the need to promote greener energy solutions the conversion often involves proposals that would either artificially lower the costs of alternative energy sources, or conversely, raising the costs of fossil fuels by means of such things as gas taxes. The thinking is that if green energy is economically incentivized then development will speed up.

In some ways this has been already happening in the area of print media. As the price of paper or postage increases, publishers begin to look for alternative ways of getting their products to their customers.

Many publishers rather lazily chalk up all their current woes to the Internet and their inability to find a profitable model for digital publishing. But the combination of new print competition from mass mailers, as well as changes to postal rates (and paper and employment costs) impacted publishers even before the web became a viable publishing platform.
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At left are two charts produced by the USPS which show costs versus revenue comparisons for the post office (Chart 1) and the number of periodicals mailed annually (Chart 2). To be clear, the first chart shows the cost coverage of the post office, not publishers.

To review, second class postage rates, the rate periodicals were charged before the creation of the Periodicals class, have increased dramatically starting in the '70s.

In 1971 the per-pound rate for second class mail was 4 cent. It rose to 5 cents in 1974, and 8 cents in 1977 to 11 cents in 1978. The increases in postal rates were a hardship for publishers to be sure. But as the first chart points out, it could be argued that postal rates for publishers were, for many years, subsidized and artificially low.

In recent years, the twin pressures of the economic recession and the diversion of communications to electronic media have presented financial challenges to both the Postal Service and the newspaper and magazine industry. The annual number of periodicals mailed has plummeted by more than 20 percent since 2001, from 10,077.4 million in 2001 to 7,953.7 million in 2009 – a level not seen since 1960.
Postage Rates for Periodicals: A Narrative History (pdf)
The USPS reported a net loss of $5.7 billion for the first nine months of fiscal 2011. Further, despite rate increases for publishers, the periodicals class has been a net loser for the post office, with losses of $2.2 billion on the class during the 2005 to 2009 time frame (1).

As an advocate for the new digital platforms it would be easy to actually see this as potentially good news for the emerging platforms. But as a former print publisher one can see the impact on the P&Ls of many publishers – and besides, despite the "digital first" cries of some consultants and publishers, a profitable digital strategy still eludes most media companies.

Unlike green energy, however, the economic forces behind distribution cost changes are not just a legislative matter. Sure, Congress could move to help publishers through certain mandates, but any moves would most likely have only a minimal effect on distribution costs.

While the trade associations and publishers continue to lobby for moderating postal costs, it is good to look long term and to see that this ship (rising distribution costs) has sailed, and that while future cost raises could be prevented, the rising costs incurred over the past couple of decades has already made print a less profitable platform.

Imagine if in the '70s Congress had mandated a two dollar tax on gas, what would things look like today for manufacturers dependent on fossil fuels? For publishers, they don't have to imagine, they are living it.

Morning Brief: Sporting News releases minor update to its iPad app; Mag+ says it is ready for the release of iOS 5

I spoke yesterday with Jeff Price, publisher of Sporting News, and Ann Keegan, communications manager about their new iPad app and approach to its digital magazine publishing efforts. Today, right on cue, Sporting News has released an app update that fixes a minor problem. The app remains free, as is the content, reflecting the publications new approach to its iPad publishing.
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Price told me yesterday that Sporting News is currently working with the Treesaver folks to build their tablet apps. Treesaver is the company founded by designer Roger Black and Microsoft alum Filipe Fortes.

"We had to find a platform that was going to be sustainable long term, that was not a pdf-based approach but was much more of a dynamically published platform," Price said yesterday. "That is why we ultimately why we chose to build on the Treesaver platform."

The Treesaver website is currently displaying the new Sporting News iPad app on its website.



In preparation for the soon-to-be-released iOS 5, the company behind Mag+ this morning announced both a magazine subscription API and support for Apple's iOS 5 Newsstand.

“The Mag+ subscription API really opens up the options for publishers – giving them the maximum possible control over how they market and sell their magazines on tablets and allowing them to manage their customer relationships across all platforms," Moving Media+ CEO Staffan Ekholm said. "In turn, customers will benefit from a seamless experience as they find and read their favorite magazines – whether in print or on their tablet.”

“Newsstand also makes it easier for customers to source and manage their favorite periodicals. And it helps publishers make their titles easy to find in the Apple ecosystem.”



Congress is breaking all sorts of limbo records as it works to see how low it can go. It's new record is 12. That is, only 12 percent of Americans surveyed in the latest New York Times/CBS News poll approve of the job Congress is doing.

Additionally, only 6 percent of registered voters surveyed say that most members of Congress has earned re-election. Of course, as we all know, this is a meaningless number as most voters believe that it is the other guy that should be booted out of Congress while their own representative is fine. But with 84 percent of those surveyed saying it's time to "give someone new a chance" it's possible that many incumbents may see the writing on the wall and decided to not run next November.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Norwegian business tabloid gives publishers worldwide a look at two tablet publishing options with their iPad apps

Here's a big round of applause to Dagens Næringsliv for conducting its own tablet publishing experiments in public so that other publishers can compare and contrast different tablet publishing options.
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Today the Norwegian business tabloid has released two different iPad apps into the App Store. One, Dagens Næringsliv for iPad, is a native designed tablet edition built using the WoodWing tools. The second, DN eAvis, is, as the name implies, the ePaper, or replica, version of the newspaper. This version lists Visiolink as the publishing solution used to create the new iPad app.

Both apps are free, and neither app lists any in-app purchase options, but the Visiolink produced app does appear to require a purchase to access the content.

As for the WoodWing app, it has both portrait and landscape modes, but the landscape mode is reserved for viewing full screen photographs, so the reader would start in portrait to read the issue.

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For me, the WoodWing solution feels the most natural on my iPad, and is also the easiest to read simply because it is designed specifically for the tablet. But many publishers, including a number in Europe that I have talked to, believe iPad owners would like to access exact copies of their print editions via the iPad. This may explain why both apps were released at the same time.
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It will be interesting to check back in a month or so and see if the in-store reviews are different for each app.

I should add here that the newspaper has been offering its ePaper edition on its website for awhile, which may be why it is being offered here, as well. If you are already paying to access Dagens Næringsliv on you Mac or PC you can now access it via your iPad, as well. I would think, however, that this would require the publisher to charge for access on all their apps, which may be what they eventually decide to do.

A musical lunch break: 'I’ve kept a rein on my life, travelling among yellow trees in driving rain'

Maybe this site has been getting a bit snarky lately. It's been easy to be this way, what with the political climate both here and in Europe, dire economic news, etc. etc.

But here is something that, while maybe not cheerful is, in my mind, utterly, utterly beautiful.

Below is the promotional video by ECM for the new 2-CD release by Charles Lloyd featuring his incredible quartet with the great Greek singer and political activist (and former member of the Greek Parliament) Maria Farantouri. The new CD is Athens Concert, more information about the song and the CD after the video:



Amazingly, the most beautiful part of this song is after the fade out as Charles Lloyd continues to solo. As for the song, Κράτησα τη ζωή μου, it was written by Mikis Theodorakis with lyrics from a poem, Epiphany, by Giorgos Seferis. The lyrics used for the song are taken from the beginning of the second stanza:

Κράτησα τη ζωή μου
ταξιδεύοντας ανάμεσα σε κίτρινα δέντρα,
κάτω απ'το πλάγιασμα της βροχής
σε σιωπηλές πλαγιές φορτωμένες
με τα φύλλα της οξιάς
καμιά φωτιά
στην κορυφή τους βραδιάζει.

The flowering sea and the mountains in the moon’s waning
the great stone close to the Barbary figs and the asphodels
the jar that refused to go dry at the end of day
and the closed bed by the cypress trees and your hair
golden; the stars of the Swan and that other star, Aldebaran.

I’ve kept a rein on my life, kept a rein on my life, travelling
among yellow trees in driving rain
on silent slopes loaded with beech leaves,
no fire on their peaks; it’s getting dark...
The translation is by Edmund Keeley and Philip Sherrard and was reproduced from the Poetry Foundation website where you can find the complete poem.

Also seen in this video is Charles Lloyd crazily talented quartet made up of Jason Moran, piano, Reuben Rogers, bass, and Eric Harland on drums. The concert took place at the open air Odeon of Herodes Atticus in Athens in June of last year. The CD is available on ECM Records. Let's hope a DVD release follows.

If this got your appetite up for more, there is another, longer, YouTube video that goes into the background of the concert and CD after the jump.

Take a trip down memory lane: go to a newspaper conference; APME changes its name to APME

Really, what could be more nostalgic than to go to a newspaper conference and listen to the leading newspaper executives talk about their business?

ABCNews: "Newspapers aren't dead. They're not anywhere near dead. They're not going to die. They're going to change a lot," (Dean) Singleton said. "We must find an economic business model to operate within the new economic rules, and it's been painful."

Also, on the program was Kate Marymont, Gannett Co. vice president for news. Let's just say that when I think of New Media leaders I don't think of MediaNews Group, and when I think of quality journalism Gannett doesn't come to mind.

The meetings have accomplished one thing, though: the association, formerly called the Associated Press Managing Editors (APME), will now be called the Associated Press Media Editors (APME!). (Of course, the website still has the old name on it. But hey, that whole netspeed-thing takes some getting used to, and besides, there is all that old stationary that can still be used.)

Well, on the bright side, at least the meetings are in Denver so some of the attendees can go to the Rockies-Giants game tonight.

Morning Brief: A billion here, a billion there, soon it adds up to real money; The Guardian's U.S. URL goes live; should the web really look like print?

The Swiss global financial services company UBS early this morning had one of its traders, 31-year old Kweku Adoboli, arrested by City of London police in connection with a bit of trading gone array – £1.3 billion worth (or around $2 billion).

UBS issued a rather dry statement: "UBS has discovered a loss due to unauthorised trading by a trader in its Investment bank. The matter is still being investigated, but UBS's current estimate of the loss on the trades is in the range of $2bn."

So how did this happen? No one seems to be sure, if the stories in the WSJ and other financial papers are to be believed. But since the banking industry has been playing Russian Roulette with the world's economy for so long, no one seems terribly surprised either.



The Guardian unveiled its new U.S. news URL yesterday – guardiannews.com – as its New York based division begins publishing. Janine Gibson, who was formerly in charge of the U.K. Guardian website, will run the NY operation.
"The site will be a gradual build," Gibson said yesterday, "which will allow us to monitor audiences and grow according to behavior and what our users want – we're starting small but thinking big. It's fantastic to know that we will have the freedom to innovate and experiment with new forms of digital journalism with the full support of the Guardian brand behind us."

(Brit spelling corrected in the quote – just saying.)

The bad news for me is that U.S. readers will be automatically redirected to the U.S. edition and will have to switch back manually to the U.K. edition. I really don't like that and seems like an attempt to drive up the numbers of the new site without losing any traffic from the U.K. site. That means that even though I want the U.K. site, I'll have to go through the U.S. one first. I wonder how many media buyers will discover the gimmick and choose to not believe the Guardian's numbers?



I'm sure a few TNM readers noticed the comments from Flipboard founder Mike McCue: "so the Web will look quite different in five years–more like print."

Forbes' headline was that the web would look more like magazines in the future, not quite the same thing, but that's a minor quibble.

The question I would have is "is this a good thing?" Further, I think some publishers are hoping this is true but they shouldn't.

The fact is that the web has been, and will continue to be, a different and separate platform from print, and if publishers think that making their websites look like print products will solve their New Media woes, well they are in for a big surprise.

My feeling is that print people would like to see the web look more like print in the future, but I would guess that companies like Google know better.



I see that British Prime Minister David Cameron is urging Moammar Gadhafi and his followers to give up the fight, while French President Nicolas Sarkozy is promising support for Libya's new government.

One thing that seems apparent is that neither leader wants to bring in President Obama into the discussion. Maybe they have seen his negotiating skills at work in the U.S. and fear he'll give Gadahfi half of Europe in exchange for his leaving Libya.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

News.me relaunches as a free iPad app

I had completely forgotten that I had posted a story when the original News.me iPad app was released. Such as my opinion of the basic concept that I quickly forgot about News.me and went on with my business. Apparently I was not alone.
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The idea behind News.me is that you customize your news feeds just like other news reader apps, but that you can see what other users are reading at the same time. It is news voyeurism, celebrity worship, or a little of both. In any case, what you learn pretty quickly is that others who you have heard of have pretty bad taste (at least compared to your own impeccably tastes) and that there really is not much differentiation between news readers – they are simply taking RSS feeds, after all. The fact that News.me wanted to charge me 99 cents per week to read them was not attractive either.

I'm not generally thrilled with being told what I should be reading, and no further evidence of the failure of the model needs to shown that the fact that when I opened up the new app and finished confirming my Twitter information I was presented with my first news – a story about Sarah Palin. Do I seem like the kind of guy who would care about Sarah Palin? (Don't answer that!)

We'll, maybe News.me will be a better experience for you, and at least now it is free. In that case, you can download the new News.me app starting today in the App Store.



The background of News.me is that it was part of bit.ly and was developed by the New York Times R&D lab. As of today News.me will run as a separate company with Michael Young as Chief Technology Officer, and Rob Haining leading iOS development (the app is currently only available on Apple's platform). Jake Levine, formerly of betaworks, will be serving as General Manager.

As for those News.me users who like the old News.me app and were willing to pay for it, there is some bad news. You have to go into your account and manually cancel your subscription – apparently there is no other way to stop the charges.

German news weekly Die Zeit releases new tablet edition for the iPad; native design proves to be reader friendly

In my previous post I mentioned the joy of looking at foreign language media apps because the language barrier often makes it easier to look strictly at design and navigation, rather than the content itself.
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A good example of this is the excellent new iPad app for the German news weekly DIE ZEIT (U.S. App Store link). Die Zeit is one of Germany's leading weeklies, with a circulation of 488,036. Established just after the war, the paper is considered pretty centrist, though my German is such that it could be talking about Lady Gaga for all I would know.

But the app is simple, and simple here really works. The free app opens to the library where readers can download their issues. Being a brand new app, the publisher is offering the first issue for free, so curious publishers should check this out.

After that, however, the cost for accessing Die Zeit issues will not be cheap: 3,99 € per issue, or a subscription for 44,99 € for three months, 79.99€ for six months or 149,99 € for a year.

Today there are only two issues available, which is to be expected, this week's issue and last week's. If there is a serious criticism of the app I could make it would definitely be download times. This is one of those 'click download and walk away' type apps. No question, the downloads need to be speeded up.

But what the reader gets is not just a replica edition, this one was designed for readability with both portrait and landscape modes. The emphasis here is on text, not bells and whistles, and I find that a good model for any publication that is as deadly serious as this one. That is not to say that the app doesn't contain multimedia – it does – but it is not the center of attention here.

DIE ZEIT is one of those applications that makes you wish that Apple's iOS had a good built-in translation mechanism. In fact, here is where Google's Android platform could really differentiate itself from Apple. Any translation mechanism would have to be built right into the the OS, rather than as a separate application. This is why I continue to use Chrome, though Safari is always also open on my desktop. (I have two displays, which also helps with posting.)

DIE ZEIT is the fourth iPad app from this publisher. ZEIT Online plus is a universal app designed to present its website natively for the iPad and iPhone. Then there is ZEITmagazin Quiz and ZEIT Sudoku HD, obviously experiments with the platform.

Although this app was just released and I could not find any user reviews inside any of the App Stores, German users have given this app mostly five stars so far. Any complaints will probably center on the slow download times, and the sluggish performance of the app that readers might experience on an original iPad, versus the iPad 2.

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Left: the internal newsstand; Right: an ad for BMW in landscape.

New iPad app gives you Glenn Beck, Glenn Beck, Glenn Beck, Glenn Beck, Glenn Beck, Glenn Beck, Glenn Beck, Glenn Beck, Glenn Beck ... and not very well, either

European app developers are always surprised to find that TNM likes to look at their media apps, often passing on a nice note to me about my post. Americans, it is said, are notoriously bad at foreign languages, and I'm not much better (though Google Translation is very handy). But I find that looking at media app, but completely ignoring its content and concentrating on the design and organization, helps me to evaluate the app or website more objectively.
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I suppose the same would apply to this new iPad app for Glenn Beck, because the content is essentially incomprehensible, gobbledygook, it is easier to look it – and once you get by the actual content of this app you see there is not really much here.

The app is essentially a way, now that Glenn Beck is no longer on Fox News, to distribute his programming. So this free app, Glenn Beck, gives you a couple of archived television episodes (sure to grow over time, of course), as well as a feed of the radio program which is three hours long per day.

Want to watch Glenn Beck cry? That will cost you because this is a "reader" app in the vein of Netflix – you have to already be a subscriber to Glenn Beck's GBTV plus in order to access the live video streams. That will cost you $9.95 per month (though there is a 14-day free trial if you are curious).

Because the app will not stream the video to your Apple TV this app is not quite a return to the big screen for Beck, but if you are obsessed with the man you'll get plenty of opportunity to see your hero – this is Glenn Beck everywhere and all the time.

The app, however, is meh.

Morning Brief: Who knew there were wildfires in Minnesota? My nose; two major French banks get downgraded by Moody's; Republican win the 'Twitter' seat

Did you hear about the big wildfires? No, not those in Texas, but the ones in Minnesota? Me neither. But my iPhone let me know yesterday as it showed that there was a special weather alert for my area.
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I had been suffering from bad allergies all day yesterday, but chalked them up to the dry, fall weather, and the fact that it looked like neighbors had been burning leaves.

But, no, it wasn't burning leaves that I was smelling, it was wildfires that were occurring over 400 miles away in Minnesota. The air was so bad in Northern Illinois and Southern Wisconsin that the Milwaukee Brewers closed the roof of Miller Park before the game with the Colorado Rockies because of the smoke.

The fire, which is being called the Pagami Creek Fire, started with a lightning strike way back on August 18, but only blew up to be a major fire in the past few days. "Nobody would have guessed it would be doubling and quadrupling in size," Jean Bergerson, a spokeswoman for the Minnesota Interagency Fire Center, told the Associated Press.



Stok markets are up modestly today despite a Moody's downgrade of several of France's largest banks. The ratings for the banks Société Générale and Crédit Agricole were downgraded because of these banks "exposure to the Greek economy and the fragile state of bank financing markets," a New York Times post reads today.

The German DAX, which has taken a severe beating these past couple of months, is actually up over two percent today, now off its 52-week lows.



The Republican candidate won a special election last night in the New York 9th district. Republican Bob Turner won the seat previously held of Anthony Weiner, who was forced to resign his seat due to bad social media protocol.

This message will resound for a whole year," Turner said last night according to USA Today. "We've lit one candle today and it'll be a bonfire."

Great, more fires.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Sporting News launches a new branded iPad app, a free tablet magazine that can be customized by the reader

Wow, once again I am writing about a new digital publishing effort by Sporting News as the title has released a new iPad app. The first post appeared on TNM in May of last year and featured an interview with the new publisher, Jeff Price.

Just in time for the start of the NFL season (actually, a few days late) Sporting News has launched a new iPad app. This app replaces the branded news app that was developed by Zinio which I assume had to go away because of the deal Sporting News struck with AOL earlier this year.
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The new app, simply called Sporting News, is a digital-only product that can trace its origins back to Sporting News Today, which was a free, digital flipbook that could be found on the Sporting News website a couple of years ago. Enter Jeff Price, the former head of digital for Sports Illustrated that was brought in by American City Business Journals to rejuvenate the brand.

One of the first moves Price made was to revamp the fantasy games operations and to close down the free flipbook. He then partnered with Zinio to create a paid digital magazine that could be found in Zinio's digital newsstand found both online and in its iPad app.

"Part of the struggle that's going on right now in the industry is trying to force fit what your current business model is into this new platform," Price told TNM a year and half ago. "If we were taking that approach we would have started with Sporting News magazine and said 'OK, we're going to put all our energy behind Sporting News magazine and we're going to translate that over to the iPad."

At first the Zinio newsstand solution was Sporting News's only iPad product. "We've honestly put that on the shelf for now (creating their own branded app) and we'll come back to that and find a way to make sure that its available for those folks who'd want to engage with the magazine from a digital content perspective."

But five months later Zinio had built Sporting News its own branded app. That app duplicated the experience of reading the digital magazine through the Zinio newsstand, but offer Sporting News its own marketing.

The biggest issue with the Zinio app was simply that it replicated a print product that did not exist. Further, it really did not have any interactivity in the app such as sports highlight videos, even though Sporting News had signed a partnership deal with CineSport – and while the CineSport videos are really of pretty poor quality compared to what is offered elsewhere they are providing Sporting News with ad inventory in which to sell prerolls.

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Left: a typical article layout; Right: the sign-in process.



All those old efforts were put aside with the inking of a content deal with AOL. Since early this year Sporting News, though still owned by American City Business Journal, has essentially become another AOL brand – that is, until this new digital publishing effort.

The new app is less modelled after print than the old app, which is a step in the right direction. I found the app very 'sticky', meaning that navigation was not very smooth on my original edition iPad. It may be better on a newer tablet.

The app has some good customization features that may have been learned through their previous app efforts. Readers can select their favorite teams through the Facebook, Twitter or Google ID sign-in mechanism. Because sports fans tend to want to read about their local teams, this will allow the content to be more tailored to the individual reader.

WSJ Live brings live video streaming of financial news to the iPad; free app is essentially live TV without the cable

The Wall Street Journal has been creating video content for quite a while now, both archived on its website but also live under its The News Hub banner. Today the paper launched a new iPad app that brings this content including live streaming to Apple's tablet.
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WSJ hosts demonstrate the new WSJ Live iPad app, as seen on an iPad.


The app, WSJ Live, is free to download and does not require a subscription to the newspaper. It is essentially live television that bypasses actual broadcasting, and so is a very smart use of the technology and possibilities of the tablet. Currently six advertisers have already signed up to sponsor the app and run spots during programming: Aetna, AT&T, Citi Simplicity, Cognizant, FedEx, and Fidelity.

What the app lacks, however, is the ability to stream the video content to an Apple TV for viewing on big screen TVs. iPad 2 owners, however, could use their tablet's ability to mirror the display to accomplish the same thing.
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But you will see WSJ Live in more places than just the iPad. Although there is no Android app right now, the WSJ Live "app" will be added to Google TV, Hulu and Roku, as well as pre-installed on some smart TVs from Samsung, Panasonic and Sony.

If I were an executive at a cable company I would clearly see the writing on the wall as more and more media outlets begin to launch programming that bypasses the traditional carriers and attempts to reach viewers directly through their devices – whether those are televisions or, as in this case, a tablet.

Newspaper and magazines face more than a technology shift, they are facing an economic one, as well

Why is it that newspapers such as the New York Times can grow digital advertising yet still experience sharp declines in revenue overall? How is it that a magazine publisher can brag about the number of iPad downloads their new app has had, yet still suffer losses on their P&L?

For many media observers, the rise of new digital platforms is obscuring the fact that as the middle class continues to shrink in America so, too, the market for newspapers and magazines.

To see just what an impact the economy is having on media it might be wise to look at other consumer markets, as well. Yesterday the WSJ reported on efforts by Procter & Gamble to adjust its product offerings. In her article, reporter Ellen Byron looked at how P&G is striving to appeal to both the high-end market and low-end market in response to a shrinking middle class.

"It's required us to think differently about our product portfolio and how to please the high-end and lower-end markets," says Melanie Healey, group president of P&G's North America business. "That's frankly where a lot of the growth is happening."



Fortune Magazine, launched in the midst of the Great Depression.


Today, the AP reported on new Census figures that show that the poverty rate in the U.S. has grown to 15.1 percent, the highest level of poverty since 1983. Further, now nearly 50 million Americans are now without health insurance, thanks mostly to losing that insurance during the recession.

For many Americans, newspapers and magazines are simply luxuries that are no longer affordable. This, I might add, at a time when many newspaper publishers are constructing paywalls around their online news products.

At the center of my own criticism of the media's response to both economic and technological changes effecting the industry is the seemingly natural response of publishers to try a "convert" their existing products to digital platforms rather than to launch new products that are more appropriate.

Returning to the lessons of P&G it might be helpful to look at how that company responded to the Great Depression of the '30's:
First, competing brands were advertising less, so P&G was able to increase advertising spending to gain share. Second, P&G identified several gaps in the market and, with a strategy of acquisition and innovation, moved to fill them with new products. And at a time when competitors were putting less marketing and other support behind their products, the cost of P&G's strategy was relatively less than it would have been under normal business conditions.

Leveraging developments in the chemicals industry, P&G introduced the first synthetic detergent in 1933, the first synthetic shampoo in 1934, and the first liquid oral dentifrice in 1938. All of these products were successful-but they were also precursors to many products launched in the 1940s and 1950s, such as Tide and Crest, two of the most successful brands in the company's history.

Today, there are still great launches taking place, especially in tech and tech services. But if media companies are reluctant to launch new products in this environment they may be wise to consider acquisition strategies that will accomplish the same objective.

Boston Globe's new website utilizes responsive design to allow site to adapt to device and orientation

If Proctor & Gamble put its laundry detergent Tide in a new container and raised the price, would that be a new product? or simply a new way to market the old one? That was went through my mind as I first looked at the new BostonGlobe.com website, an attractive use of web technology, and a huge improvement over the old site. But it is still the Boston Globe's website.

Using responsive design, the new Boston Globe website the reader to be delivered an attractive and appropriately oriented website no matter the device or orientation used by the reader. The site responds to an iPad user, for instance, switching the orientation of their tablet from landscape to portrait, or a reader making their web browser window larger on their desktop computer.
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“The important thing is, you pick up any device no matter what shape, size, or capability and it just works, said Todd Parker, of Filament Group, who along with Upstatement, worked on the new site.

While the programming of the website is getting the attention, the launch of the new website is finally an opportunity to give the daily newspaper its own branded website, while at the same time launching a news site that will eventually exist behind a paywall. The paper will charge $3.99 per week for access to the new site for readers who are not already print subscribers.

“We’ve never had The Boston Globe have its own front door in the digital space,’’ said Globe publisher Christopher M. Mayer in the Globe's own story of the launch. “It’s always been integrated with Boston.com. This was an opportunity to build something brand-new and to have it front and center and really do justice to the brand promise The Boston Globe offers to its readers."

Before the launch of BostonGlobe.com, the paper's content all resided on its Boston.com website. The new site, however, takes its content and headlines directly from the newspaper. For instance, both today's print edition and the BostonGlobe.com site's headline for the story of last night's Republican debate was "Rivals put Perry on defensive in debate", while Boston.com's headline is currently "Latest GOP debate affirms clear split".

Interestingly, both sites continue to suffer from the same headlining issues: headlines that do not fit their space and often have bad "widows". This is considered the norm online, though I know of at least one newspaper editor who would be rolling in their grave if they saw the current state of headline writing online (he insisted that all heads fit their space within a pica or two).

So is this a great new product or simply a new way to make a modern website? The jury is still out because the launch of this new site for the Boston Globe opens up the possibility of the paper transforming Boston.com into a different type of website.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Tablazines releases third tablet-only magazine, while continuing to experiment with digital publishing solutions

Tablazines is Chris "Cartel" English, and visa versa. And together they, he, has released a new tablet-only magazine into the App Store: Maybach Magazine.
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Maybach – officially called Maybach - Urban Lifestyle Magazine, but more on that later – is English's third magazine app to be found in the App Store, all published under the Tablazines name. The app was released last week, and while the app description needs updating because it doesn't give the reader much information about the magazine, it is clear immediately what it is trying to accomplish.

I'm looking at it as Ebony for a younger generation. The first issue is not exactly a good representation of where I plan to be with the magazine, but it's a good start," English told me on Friday.

"Coming up, I read Ebony, I read Jet, because my parents had it there. And when I talk to a lot of people now, especially in the black community, most of them don't even pick up magazines anymore, physical magazines."
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English is one of those 'let's just go do it' publishers who has adopted the tablet platform early on and is continuing to experiment. Tablazine's first magazine, Hoodgrown, has been written about several times on this site, and has garnered a bit of well deserved press. But for that first magazine, English chose to work with Alligator Digital Magazines, the Los Angeles-based company he first read about on this site. For his newest magazine, English is doing more of the work on his own and is experimenting with a different platform, Pugpig.

"With the very first issue of Hoodgrown that was all HTML and CSS," English said. "The new issues have been done with Quark … and exported into JPGs and the HTML layer added on top, because I was able to control the text even a little better than I could with the CSS, and it allowed me to do it faster."

"I can basically do the same thing using Pugpig's solution, as well, but I didn't do a lot of interactivity in this first issue because I really just wanted to get it out there, and I wanted to play with the system to see what it can do."

Maybach's first issue is definitely more replica than native in appearance thanks to the change in platform. But like Hoodgrown, the app is free to download and is universal – meaning readers can access the magazines on either their iPhone, iPod touch or iPad. But unlike Hoodgrown, the Maybach app does not install a digital newsstand, though Pugpig's platform does allow for the building of a newsstand (for a price).

Using Alligator for Hoodgrown, the vendor does a lot of the work, including the Xcode work, and uploading the issues into the App Store. With Pugpig, English manages the app himself, though this led to a bit of a problem with Maybach.

English told me that the magazine was originally going to simply be called Maybach Magazine, which is reflected in the app icon, but he "screwed up the bundle ID and deleted it", English said. This forced him to call the new app something else – hence the longer and more descriptive title.
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For English, who does his magazine publishing currently as a side venture, the release of the iPad and the ability to publish digitally for tablets has meant a return to publishing. Hoodgrown was originally a small print run magazine. But while the print magazine was well received, it was impossible to increase the print runs as necessary because the financial support for the book came out of English's pocket, thus the end of Hoodgrown.

"Our second issue featured the rapper, The Game, on the cover and from there I connected with his publicist Shemia Miller. She was so impressed with the magazine that she represented the magazine for nothing and landed us deals with Tower, Trans Media and Foot Locker," English told Digital Magazine Publishing last year (website now shutdown).

"The problem was that I was printing 5000 copies per issue from my paycheck and received an initial order of about 50,000. Not having the best of credit (there’s a lesson there) I wasn’t able to raise the money to fulfill the order and just got disenchanted and ceased publication of the print magazine."

"But I knew I was going to do Hoodgrown again," English told me Friday. "And I knew somewhere, somehow it would come up again." Enter the iPad.

MoboTap releases gesture based web browser for the iPad; browser comes with built-in Webzine feature

Mobile technology developer MoboTap has released an iPad version of its browser that allows users to use custom gestures to improve their web surfing experience on Apple's tablet.

The new browser, Dolphin Browser HD, is a free download in the App Store and has a lot going for it, especially if you are sometimes frustrated with Safari on the iPad. Using customizable gestures, the reader can refresh, go to specific websites and other things through drawing on the display with their fingers.
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The browser also has other features such as tabbed browsing and sidebars. Some of these features will be coming to the iPad version of Safari once iOS 5 is released, but they are here now with the Dolphin Browser.

The iPad browser also comes with a Webzine look that is similar to Flipboard and is fully customizable.

I'll have to play around with the Dolphin Browser far more to see if I find it preferable to Safari. But my own dream iPad browser would be voice control as the interesting thing about touch controlled apps is that they are best when the amount of display touching is limited. For instance, hold the iPad often leads to mistaken touches which can very annoying when you are reading an article – while trying to scroll, for instance, one can accidentally touch the headline of an adjacent story leading you off to that story.

The Dolphin Browser was released first for the Android platform and the tablet version can be found in the Android Market here, while the smartphone version is here. Interestingly, MotoTap was able to release a beta version of their tablet browser into the Android Market earlier this summer before launching a final version recently. I have a feeling Apple discourages strongly "beta" apps from being submitted by developers.

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The McGraw-Hill Companies announces split into two new companies: McGraw-Hill Markets, McGraw-Hill Education

The Board of Directors of The McGraw-Hill Companies today announced that it had approved a move that would split the 123-year-old company into two new public companies: McGraw-Hill Markets and McGraw-Hill Education.

McGraw-Hill Markets will include such brands as Standard & Poor's, Platts, J.D. Power and Associates, as well as the construction and aerospace segments. This new company will start its life generating around $4 billion in annual revenue. Terry McGraw will serve as Chairman, President and CEO of the new company.

McGraw-Hill Education will be run by the current president of the education segment, Robert Bahash. McGraw-Hill Education will operate in the K-12, higher education and professional education markets and currently generates about $2.4 billion in revenue.

"We are establishing two cohesive, high-performing operating companies that are structured to meet customer needs and positioned for sustainable growth and shareholder value creation in rapidly evolving global markets," Terry McGraw said in the company's announcement. "This will provide exciting opportunities for our employees who will be part of two great companies with rich histories and bright futures."

The move by McGraw-Hill was widely expected, though it did not involve the splitting out of Standard & Poor's, which was called for by many critics of the company following the controversial decision by S&P to downgrade U.S. bonds (a move not repeated by either Moody's or Fitch).

The move also leaves such publications as Engineering News-Record and Aviation Week further isolated with the company. At the time I joined McGraw-Hill in the early nineties, ENR was part of a fairly strong portfolio of print publications that included such titles as Business Week and Architectural Record. The current look of ENR, for instance, was modelled after a redesign of Business Week. But Business Week is now owned by Bloomberg, and ArchRecord recently lost its contract with the AIA to Hanley Wood's Architect magazine.

A few weeks ago, in an article concerning calls by some investor groups to split the company into four segments, the NYT' DealBook speculated that some magazine titles could be sold off – with fewer titles owned by McGraw-Hill, the specific titles are not hard to guess.

In June the company also announced that it had retained Morgan Stanley in order to pursue a divestiture of its Broadcasting Group. The group is fairly small by McGraw-Hill standards: about $100 million in size. It is mad up of ABC affiliates in Denver, San Diego, Bakersfield and Indianapolis, as well as Azteca America affiliates in Denver, Fort Collins, Colorado Springs, San Diego and Bakersfield.

Morning Brief: Investors brace for another rocky week; report says ad spending up 3.2% in first half of year, but slowing; explosion reported at French nuclear power plant

Markets in Europe are extremely weak again today as investors (and everyone else) worldwide continue to be concerned about the deteriorating economies of countries such as Greece.

As of 8 EDT, the German Dax was down another three and a half percent, while the French CAC $0 was down nearly five percent. All markets, with the exception of the British FTSE 100 were still at 52-week lows.

The New York Times is leading this morning is leading with a story concerning the economy:

In Greece, the epicenter of the Continent’s financial disarray, government officials announced new austerity measures on Sunday, even as the country’s finance minister, Evangelos Venizelos, warned that the Greek economy was expected to shrink much more sharply this year than previously anticipated. In a revision, a contraction of 5.3 percent in 2011 was predicted, rather than the 3.8 percent forecast in May.
Stock futures indicate Wall Street will open down this morning.


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News sources are reporting that the nuclear power plant at Marcoule à Codolet, near Nimes, France has had an explosion.

According to the French newspaper Le Figaro, the French regulatory body l'Autorité de sûreté nucléaire (ASN) is saying that one person is reported dead and four other injured, one seriously.
Le Figaro: La préfecture avait auparavant fait état de quatre blessés. Selon les premières informations, l'explosion a touché un four servant à fondre des déchets radioactifs métalliques de faible et très faible activité, précise l'ASN dans un communiqué.

According to initial reports, the explosion hit a furnace for melting metal radioactive waste of low and very low activity, the ASN said in a statement. – Google translation


Kantar Media is reporting that total advertising spending is up 3.2 percent so far this year. The research company reported, however, that the rate of growth is slowing with the economy, with second quarter ad spending up 2.8 percent.

"Advertising grew at a slower rate in the second quarter, contributing to speculation about the durability of an advertising recovery that is into its second year," said Jon Swallen, SVP Research at Kantar Media North America. "Key ad spend indicators are painting a mixed picture. On one hand, a majority of media types actually improved their performance from Q1 to Q2. On the other, spending growth for the Top 100 advertisers stalled in Q2 and the ad market became more dependent on the comparatively smaller budgets of mid-sized advertisers as the main source of growth."