Friday, September 30, 2011

Retweet: 'Why magazine publishers like the Fire'

The New York Times reporter Jeremy Peters today, writing in the Bits feature, says that magazine publishers "see tremendous potential in the Fire and hope that the device can do for their business what the Kindle did for books: bring droves of new customers into a business that is having difficulty retaining its traditional print readers."

I think that overstates things a bit, especially knowing how conservative most publishers are. Nonetheless, there is no doubt that publishers would like to see both new competition for Apple, as well as a generation expansion of the tablet publishing platform.

You can read his entire post here.

Peters main points to support his claim is that new competition from Amazon's Kindle would give publishers more leverage with Apple, that they will be able to charge higher prices for their magazines through Amazon, and that Amazon's newsstand will help magazine publisher's apps stand out from the general clutter found in Apple's App Store (he does point out that Apple will have a newsstand soon, as well).

Peters gets a quote from Bob Sauerberg, president of Condé Nast, that supports the clutter argument, but otherwise the post is free of actual input from publishers.

I think it is fair to say that all publishers would love an environment where the tech giants were beating themselves silly to the point where they would actually care what lowly magazine publishers have to say. But it is also true that publishers would also like to be able to deal with only one OS, one store, one, easy way to get their digital products to market. Unfortunately, with competition comes complexity.

What the NYT article fails to mention is the number of publishers currently working with directly now. There are only 129 Kindle Edition magazines currently available in the online retail store (obviously there are more through the Android app side). That means that publishers have no experience with Amazon when it comes to applications – though I think that if Amazon works hard they could use this to their advantage.

For me, though, the big issue remains the reader experience. Have you read the reviews from readers inside They are very illuminating. This one is talking about The Economist's Kindle Edition, but it could easily be talking about almost any big name magazine:

The subscription price is WAY out of line compared to what you can find on the web. Plus, the Economists' charts and graphs are WAY too small to read. What a disappointment.

The Kindle Fire, though a color display tablet, is only 1 inch larger diagonally than the standard sized Kindle so the same size issues inherent in the e-ink Kindle will be there in the Kindle Fire (the Kindle DX, on the other hand, has a display about the same size as the iPad).

Further, the idea that there is a magazine market out there somewhere where readers will be willing to pay any price to access their digital publishing product they are clearly smoking something.

If it sounds like I am down on the Kindle Fire you are wrong. I think this could be a good development for the industry because I believe can sell – and as anyone who reads TNM know, I'm solidly pro-sales!

My two major concerns right now about the Kindle Fire are the size of the display (it promotes a Kindle Edition approach to digital publishing) and it's OS (a customized version of Android). I think life is easier for publishers when they can design for a single for factor, and when they don't have an endless number of different operating systems they have to deal with.

From my experience publishers don't like to deal with their printers, why should we expect them to like dealing with tech companies and online retailers? (Besides, the big printers often come to visit them in person, bearing skybox ticket to the Yankees, Cubs or Dodgers. Do you think Tim Cook, Larry Page or Jeff Bezos will come bearing gifts?)

Far too many newspaper publishers need to be reminded that they still have advertising departments

I may sound like an old timer when I say this, but I remember a time when the ad departments not only got a say in the business decisions of newspapers, they actually ruled the roost. Today, at many newspaper companies, the ad departments are stuffed into the back room as if they are the crazy uncle you don't like to talk about. (That reminds me, I wonder how he's doing back there?)
The result of this kind of media management is that new mobile and tablet apps are being released by newspapers that delegate any revenue generation strategy to their app developers or the ad networks they choose to include in their apps. I know the first question I would have had when I was an ad manager, when told we were about to launch a new app, would be "great, what are the rates? what are the specs", followed quickly behind with the question "and why wasn't I told about this sooner?" Believe me, I would raised hell if told my team couldn't sell into the new product.

New England Newspapers Inc. have recently launched a series of new iPad apps for some of their newspaper titles, specifically The Manchester Journal, the Brattleboro Reformer, the Bennington Banner and the North Adams Transcript.

At first I thought the apps were the first apps developed by a newspaper publisher using on the many online app building services. Each of the apps comes with a simply app design that puts a series of boxes, some of them initially empty of content, onto the display. Quite a number of do-it-yourself software companies are offering these kinds of apps for little cost, assuming the publisher doesn't want a built-in newsstand or other features.

But these apps are from DoApp, a mobile app company I first profiled when TNM first launched in early 2010 (man, look at those first generation iPhones!). When they launched the first of their iPad editions for their clients I expressed my disappointment in the apps, so since these apps are exactly the same as the others there is no reason to repeat myself.

(New England Newspapers had previously launched replica editions apps for some of their titles, including the North Adams Transcript, that were built by Technavia.)

It is obvious that not every newspaper publisher is going to choose to get into app development themselves, and it is equally true that one can't stop the vendors from continuing to push their wares on vulnerable newspaper publishers, so let's leave that issue alone for now. Instead, let's return to the subject of advertising.

Left: the new North Adams Transcript iPad app opens to nine boxes, some of them empty, and a banner ad that comes in from the developer's network; Right: the dreary layout of the news section of The Manchester Journal app.

As amazing as it may sound, it appears that many newspaper companies need to be reminded that they are in the business to make money, and making money is not a crime. In fact, it actually leads to raises and hiring.

Because of this, the revenue generating departments of the paper really need to be major players when new products are launched. Tablet editions and mobile media may be platforms in search of business models, but I can tell you without fear of contradiction that any successful business models developed will include revenue generation.

When the conversation moves to revenue generation it too often centers around how a newspaper can make money off of its content. Paid content is king right now. Great, but where are the paid content strategies that are creating the new media millionaires in the newspaper industry? I'm all for paid content, in general, I'm just not sold on the idea that it is replacing the ad supported publishing model. From where I sit newspapers need to generate revenue every way they can right now, throwing away the ad side of the business doesn't make sense to me.

Because of this, the ad guys need to be sitting at the table when the conversation turns to mobile and tablet apps. The digital folks need to be comfortable communicating with the ad managers.

Further, those ad managers need to be in the same room as the vendors when they come in and pitch their wares. If they are they will no doubt ask some good questions like "so how much will we make from this?" That certainly will be a shock to those selling apps who fear one big question "who much will this cost?"

You see an app shouldn't cost a publisher anything. It should make the publisher money. Now I'm not stupid (don't go there), I know that right now no one can absolutely guarantee anyone that they are going to make money on their media apps, but there should be a path towards profitability, even if that path seems filled with hypotheticals.

Sometimes I feel like I'm the only left that still have the backs of the ad guys. So be it. I guess I like revenue and profits. Call me old fashioned. But seeing empty cubicles gets depressing. I would prefer the old fighting the old battles with personnel – you remember those, don't you – "I've got two new employees starting tomorrow, what do you mean we don't have desks and phones for them?"

Morning Brief: U.S. airstrike reportedly kills al-Awlaki in Yemen; Samsung surprises with a new tablet introduction; Touch Press releases new interactive story book app

The AP's Kimberly Doziere is among those reporting that a drone attack has killed Anwar al-Awlaki, an American born cleric and prominent al-Qaida leader.

While most reports have been clearly slanted towards the view that the killing of al-Awlaki is a positive thing, the AP report at least bring up the very thorny issue of al-Awlaki's American citizenship:

Al-Awlaki's death is the latest in a run of high-profile kills for Washington under President Barack Obama. But the killing raises questions that the death of other al-Qaida leaders, including bin Laden, did not.

Al-Awlaki is a U.S. citizen who had not been charged with any crime. Civil liberties groups have questioned the government's authority to kill an American without trial
The issue is one of whether targeting a U.S. citizen for assassination is a violation of the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution which states that no "person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury".

It will be interesting to see whether the U.S. media plans to seriously deal with this aspect of the story.

Samsung continues to flood the market with smartphone and tablet products, apparently desperate to see if something, anything will finally break through. Today the company introduced the Galaxy Tab 7.0 Plus – though what the "plus" might be was not clear.

"Building on the success of the Galaxy Tab, we're now delighted to introduce the Galaxy Tab 7.0 Plus reloaded with enhanced portability, productivity and a richer multimedia experience" JK Shin, President and Head of Samsung's Mobile Communications Business said in the company's announcement.

If by "success" Samsung means that they actually launched the product rather than simply announced it then the company is clearly right to call its Galaxy Tab a success. Otherwise, that statement might be stretching it.

The new tablet will be launched first in Indonesia and Austria starting at the end of October (presumably because Austria is their primary target market*). The product will then be "gradually rolled" into other markets, including the U.S., after that.

In other other Samsung related news, Bloomberg is reporting that the company has made an offer to Apple in an attempt to resolve its patent disputes with Apple. Apple has successfully prevented Samsung from selling some of its products in various countries due to alleged patent violations (and outright copying of Apple's products). It would be nice if all these patent wars would come to an end, but like all wars, they seem to have a momentum of their own that prevents any kind of resolution.

*Yes, that's snark.

Despite lots of talk of a resolution to the Euro crisis, investors just aren't buying it. After yesterday's mixed market performance, European markets are sharply down today. The German DAX is down nearly 3 percent while both the FTSE and CAC 40 are down, as well.

The WSJ is saying the U.S. stock futures are down, as well, blaming an inflation report in Europe that showed the inflation rate rising to 3 percent. But the story also admits that U.S. markets were negative even before the report was issued.

This leads to the obvious question of how the markets could be reacting to a report that hadn't been even issued?

This slanting of the news in the WSJ is occurring more frequently as the paper begins to use its news sections as editorial platforms. Under the previous ownership of the WSJ a pretty solid wall was constructed between the newsroom and the editorial board – that wall is pretty much rubble at this point.

Touch Press has released a new interactive story book. March of the Dinosaurs is a $7.99 interactive story book that is currently being promoted by Apple inside the App Store. March of the Dinosaurs is already appearing in the top paid apps list, though no customers have posted their impressions of the app as of yet.

Touch Press is the same digital publisher behind such popular and well-received book apps as The Waste Land and Solar System for iPad.

Each of those app were priced at $13.99 so it would be interesting to know if this app is experimenting with pricing or if it contains less material. Unfortunately TNM did not receive a promo code so I have no experience with the app (and I usually don't go begging for promo codes from publishers).

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Reality of the current tablet market seen in traffic reports

I remain optimistic about the chances that another tablet other than the iPad will gain traction. There is no doubt that's Kindle Fire has a decent chance at success, for instance.

But one thing I still wonder is whether these smaller tablets will be used in quite the same way the iPad is. What I mean by that can be explained when you consider the web traffic generated by iPhone users versus Android users. For quite some time iPhones generated far more web traffic than Android devices, despite the fact that there were far more Android devices sold. The reason, many people reasoned (and I agree with), is that many low priced Android devices were replacing dumb phones – the buyer was not looking to surf the web with their device and so was using it far less for this activity.

(It should be pointed out that while Android phones account for more web traffic in the U.S. than the iPhone, when you look at iOS versus Android – that is, the iPhone, iPad and iPod touch together – iOS still is on top by a healthy amount. In addition, the only other country than the U.S. where Android phone web traffic is currently higher than iPhone web traffic is Argentina, according to comScore.)

So, I wonder, will the fact that most new Android driven tablets have 7-inch displays mean that their owners will use them for web surfing infrequently? We'll see.

For now, I know one thing, TNM's traffic from tablet users is dominated by the iPad: 96.7 percent of all traffic last month that was identified as coming from a tablet owner came from the iPad. The Motorola XOOM accounted less than one-half of one percent of all traffic coming from a tablet. for iPad: Classified Ventures's first iPad app; look for an app update to soon follow

The last time I wrote about an app that was upside down the independent developer wrote me immediately to beg me to delete the post. I told them that I couldn't do that and was accused of trying to get him fired. I told him I'd make sure to update the story as soon as he issued an update to the app (which happened a couple of days later, which is why I won't link to that story now, no need for more embarrassment).

Yep, this is really how the app opens!

I never thought I'd see another upside down app, but here is another, this one from the folks at Classified Ventures, the online classified company owned by A.H. Belo Corp., Gannett Co. Inc., Tribune Company, The McClatchy Company and The Washington Post Company. for iPad is really not one of the better apps I've seen in a while. Yes, it is upside down. But, really, this is no big deal. All the user has to do is turn their iPad around to begin using the app. I assume something like this happens in the development process. (Some users, if they are holding their tablet in the right way, won't even notice.)

The real problem with the app is that looks like it was designed by a team of people more interested in just getting an app out than by classified advertising professionals (if there are any of them anymore).

Maybe it is the fact that I was a CAM for many years, but I'm still a big believer in classified advertising – even if most of the newspaper industry has just plain given up. Both the web, and now mobile and tablets are a great opportunities to reclaim the category.

But this app is just going through the motions. The app, for one thing, is single-sponsored – in this case by Lexus. Bad idea. Classified advertising is about volume. This app could have been a gold mine.

For another, the entries on the new cars contains very little information, and few photos. If the team had worked with the manufacturers they could have set up better entries that contained more information and more photos and video. (Of course, this app could be updated later to do this.)

Instead, the editorial copy is limited to a couple of bullet points on each car. Worse, the app tries to be "fair". No!!! If you want reviews go to Motor Trend or the website The Truth About Cars. Classified is about sales. Let's sell!! (Real classified folks like to sell, it isn't a sin. The whole idea is that you have a used car to sell, and we help you sell it. What could be simpler and more honest.)

This app just seems like an effort to drive car buyers to the website, which is what happens if you tap on the "View Inventory on" button.

The app, once you have turned around your iPad, contains minimal information.

The challenge of a true classified app for autos are those used car listings. That is why the icon clearly states "New Cars". But why call the app " for iPad" then? In essence they have used up that name and if they ever launch another app will have to go in another direction.

We'll have to wait for the first good car sales app to be released. For now the auto companies are doing a good job on their own. What is really needed is a classified app that utilizes the iPad's abilities: video, photos, e-mail, texting (that will come with iOS5). My guess that a new company will come into the space, one more comfortable with the platform. Don't expect that from the old media companies.

There are a couple of other car sales apps in the App Store such as CarZen: Research & Buy New and Used Cars, and, of course, Craig's List's app contains used car listings. currently has an iPhone app in the App Store, but nothing for the iPad. I'm sure they are either working on something, or at least thinking about it, right?

French App Store: the most downloaded media news apps are often the ones with the most complaints

Is it that the French are just in a bad mood right now, or are they really as dissatisfied with the quality of the media apps being released by their media companies as the French App Stores seems to show?

A recent survey of French consumers showed that consumer sentiment is falling in France as economic conditions have worsened and the European sovereign debt crisis continues. (French President Nicolas Sarkozy's approval rating has actually climbed recently, but still only 37 percent of French voters approve of his performance.)
The French App Store, meanwhile, is one of Apple's most vibrant European stores. Apple also has nine retail stores in the country, and although most are in Paris or their suburbs, there are locations in Bordeaux, Lyon, Montpellier and Nice.

(Apple should definitely consider expanding beyond this, don't you think?)

Two of the most popular newspaper downloads continue to be from Le Monde Interactif. Le Monde is a paid universal app that gives iPhone and iPad users a modified replica edition. Priced at 0,79€, the app also charges readers 17,99€ per month for a subscription. The dual pay model is not terribly popular with reviewers in iTunes, but the app is, nonetheless, the number paid news app in the store.

Le, which was just updated, is a free app that is currently the fourth most popular free news app download. But the update has gotten plenty of complaints from users in the App Store:

Je viens d'installer la màj, et maintenant quand je lance l'appli, ça reste 5 seconde sur un écran noir marqué "le monde", puis ça me remet sur mon écran d'accueil...Hélas !

I just installed the Update, and now when I run the app, it's still 5 seconds on a black screen labeled "the world", then it gives me on my home screen...Alas!
Reviews inside the French App Store would suggest that French tablet owners would definitely prefer native apps over replica editions. For instance, the app for Le Figaro, which gives readers both a native tablet design plus a PDF version of the newspaper appears to have negative reviews more for bugs that for the app itself, but reviewers definitely say they prefer the native tablet layouts over the replica edition.

But it is hard to say definitely what readers like when they have so many complaints about the programming – crashes, log-in problems, etc.
But the number one free news app remains a newsstand app called Le Kiosque. The app sports one of the more bizarre icons, possibly reflecting the fun attitude of the people behind the app.

Le Kiosque is similar to the Zinio app in the U.S. in that is a digital newsstand of newspapers and magazines. The periodicals are replica editions and can be read online, or using this iPad app (there is no iPhone version).

Le Kiosque was founded in 2008 by Ari Assuied, Robin Sabban, Michael Philippe, Nathaniel Philippe (left to right in the picture) after Philippe searched for a French magazine in New York can could not find it. They realized then that there was a need for a French digital newsstand.

The new update of the app brings in social networking tools and push notifications.

One of the newest French newspaper iPad apps is for Ouest-France, the regional daily newspaper that comes in 47 regional editions, making it the largest French language paper in the world.

Founded in 1944, it was launched following the closing of Ouest-Éclair, which was banned following the liberation for collaborating with the German occupation forces. (As the name would suggest, Ouest-France serves western France, specifically, the Brittany region.)

The original iPad app was released on August 10 and updated a couple of days ago. While the app is free, the individual editions cost 0,79 €.

Unfortunately, this app, too, is getting hammered in the App Store by iPad owners. The problem here, however, seems to be that print subscribers are being forced to pay for the tablet edition as the publisher has left out any log-in mechanism for current customers.

It's pretty hard to draw many conclusions about reader preferences looking at a glance at the French App Store. Just like in the U.S., apps such as Instapaper and Read It Later are doing very well.

Missing, however, from the top ten lists are such apps as Flipboard or Zite, even though they are available in the French App Store (Flipboard has very good reviews inside the French store, so maybe it has simply dropped off the top ten lists recently. There are no reviews, however, for Zite.)

FYI: in the U.S., the number one paid app is Michael Jackson Doctor Trial, followed by the New York Post.

Morning Brief: A night to remember for baseball fans, captured perfectly by new mobile and tablet apps; Kindle Fire's new Amazon Silk and privacy concerns

At some point today I will be in a situation where I will have to explain what happened last night, the last night of baseball's regular season. It will be difficult, that is for sure.

If you are waking today unaware of how last night's big games turned out then this NYT story is a great round-up – at least of the Red Sox game. And while I have been a bit annoyed with the eastern press for almost completely ignoring the dramatic race in the National League, it turns out that focusing in on the Red Sox-Rays race was a good idea – that is where the drama really way. As for the Braves-Cardinals race, the Cardinals did not play by the script when they went out and destroyed the Astros last night, leaving it to the Braves to create all the drama, and ultimately all the disappointment.

So, there is no baseball today, the playoffs start Friday. As for my Giants, their season didn't really end when they were eliminated from the playoff race, it ended when their stars started falling, one by one. But Giants fans waited forever to win, we can wait again. That's baseball.

How did you watch last night's ball games? ESPN did an excellent job of keeping viewers informed of what was occurring in all the games, switching back and forth when they could.

But a national network has to be neutral. Not so the local broadcasts. And with the ups and downs of emotions it was good to have my iPad next to me loaded with MLB.TV's app. It is one thing to see the winning home run, it is another to hear the local call. Search in YouTube for a video replay of Edgar Rentería's World Series home run and you'll see that one of the most popular videos doesn't even show the big hit – its the radio call by Dave Fleming, his voice cracking after a long season.

This morning I can rewind the Red Sox-Orioles games and stop the action right when the final run was being scored. Red Sox fans, no doubt, wish it could be rewound permanently.

During the course of editing an early morning post yesterday about the Amazon tablet launch event, I deleted a sentence I wrote that went something like this: "the strength of the built-in browser may have a big impact on the success of the new tablet" – or something like that.

It has turned out that one of the more controversial aspects of the Kindle Fire is its Amazon Silk browser. By cacheing data on its cloud servers, Amazon hopes to speed up the performance of the browser, delivering websites faster than browsers found on other tablets.

But the implications are rather interesting. Here is some of the Amazon Silk Terms & Conditions:
Amazon Silk optimizes and accelerates the delivery of web content by using Amazon’s cloud computing services. Therefore, like most Internet service providers and similar services that enable you to access the Web, the content of web pages you visit using Amazon Silk passes through our servers and may be cached to improve performance on subsequent page loads.

Amazon Silk also temporarily logs web addresses known as uniform resource locators (“URLs”) for the web pages it serves and certain identifiers, such as IP or MAC addresses, to troubleshoot and diagnose Amazon Silk technical issues. We generally do not keep this information for longer than 30 days.

You can also choose to operate Amazon Silk in basic or “off-cloud” mode. Off-cloud mode allows web pages generally to go directly to your computer rather than pass through our servers. As such, it does not take advantage of Amazon’s cloud computing services to speed-up web content delivery.
Don't be surprised that this remains one of the features of the new Kindle Fire tech sites debate over the next couple of months.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Late afternoon briefs: Amazon's unique version of Android; tablet-only news app 'The Daily' not reaching critical mass; Village Voice Media confirms staff lay offs

My conclusion after reading all the reports about the Kindle Fire is that Amazon has taken the Android OS and is using it against Google more than against Apple, though this tablet will definitely bite into iPad sales (at least somewhat).

The reason I've come to this conclusion is that the new Kindle Fire does nothing to expand the Android OS because it creates yet another iteration of the platform. Rather than using the Honeycomb version of Android, the new Kindle Fire is a custom version. Any apps built for a Honeycomb driven tablet won't run on a Kindle Fire (if reports are true). In fact, all apps will have to be bought through – so much for the openness of Android, more like the anarchy of Android.

In order to push its own ecosystem, Amazon is willing to price its tablet at a low price (and possibly lose $50 per unit). Will that cause PC makers to consider tablets an unprofitable business if the new tablet is a hit? In that case, the Kindle Fire might actually slow the growth of the Android tablet market, rather than expand it. Meanwhile, Apple goes on its merry way.

Note: for two long looks at the Kindle Fire from two writers who are admittedly in the Apple camp (generally), read Andy Ihnatko's take here (doesn't the Sun Time have editors who can proofread?) and from John Gruber on Daring Fireball.

Bloomberg is reporting that News Corp's The Daily is averaging about 120,000 readers per week – and even that number seems questionable as the report says this is actually what it calls "unique weekly visitors", which would include both paid and unpaid readers.

Ken Doctor, of Newsonomics, is quoted as saying “The Daily’s proving to be a great R&D experiment but probably not a viable business...It’s not breaking through the national noise.”

The problem with The Daily, almost from the beginning, was not its design or even its pricing. It was very simply that it was very much a Rupert Murdoch publication: highly partisan, divisive, a niche.

But with the market for tablet publications so small at the time of its launch, wouldn't it have made sense to launch a product with the broadest possible appeal rather than simply add to the News Corp. portfolio of partisan publications? (It's anti-union, anti-teacher, anti-working class campaign in Wisconsin forced me to finally delete The Daily app on my tab. There is only so much hate I can deal with in my day.)

That's not to say that News Corp. isn't doing some good work in the area of tablet publishing - it's just that The Daily editorial work is an example of that work.

Village Voice Media confirmed today that it has laid off 19 reporters across its properties. Journalists at the Seattle Weekly, SF Weekly, City Paper, and the Dallas Observer.

Richie Whitt at the Dallas Observer wrote online about losing his position at the alt-weekly:
As of this morning, the Dallas Observer is out of the sports business, at least on a full-time basis. Though I'm not technically being fired ("laid off" is supposedly less damning), the paper and its owner, Village Voice Media, have decided to eliminate its full-time sportswriting position. It's called downsizing. And yes, it sucks.

New & updated media apps: editorial corrections prove easier for Sports Illustrated with ones and zeros than ink and paper; Bluetooth support added for Skype apps

So now that the excitement and hype of the Kindle Fire introduction is over it is back to business – talking about where most of the new tablet editions and apps are appearing first.

Time Inc.'s Sports Illustrated released a single-sponsored special section for the college football season just the other day. Sports Illustrated Football Rivals HD is a free app that is a good example of using apps to produce special sections. These sections can be single-sponsored like this one, sponsored by Coca-Cola Zero, or can be a themed section with many sponsors.

Today, though SI issued an update to the app. No, there was nothing technically wrong with the app. No, instead SI ventured into dangerous waters: writing about college sports where every alum knows everything there is to about their teams. Then combine that with rivalries, well, oh my. Writes something wrong about the Michigan-Ohio State rivalry and as a Michiganian I can tell you that you are looking for trouble.

So today the SI app has been updated and the app description contains a line I've never seen before: "Editorial corrections." Try that in a print edition.

Skype released their widely expected updates for their apps today. The updates for their iPhone and iPad apps adds Bluetooth support for the iPhone 4 and iPhone GS, the iPod touch 4th generation, and the iPad 2.

The app update also adds video stabilization, which seems to work pretty good in demos.

On the other hand, the app updates adds advertising for users who do not have Skype Credit or a calling subscription. Users are going to complain, but Skype has been looking for a sustainable business model for a long time, ads are a natural, if unpopular solution.

A new app, released last week, is for the magazine Relevant. The magazine describes itself as a magazine covering faith, culture and living intentionally. The app, simply called RELEVANT, is free to download and gives the reader the September/October issue for free. Future issues will cost $2.99, or an annual subscription, six issues, costs $9.99.

The app is worth checking out as an example of what I would call the tour de force school of tablet publishing – and I really don't mean that in a negative way, just not all publishers are willing or able to put this much production effort into their tablet editions.

The app has gotten good reviews inside the App Store, though it's possible reviews were just sucking up to the big guy, who knows. Here is the promotional video that demonstrates the new tablet edition:

Tablets, specs and prices

For the first year of the iPad's existence the cry from the Android crowd was that better specs would kill the iPad – first it was USB ports, then cameras, more storage or Flash.

Yet today I didn't hear anyone even talk about the lack of cameras on the Kindle Fire (it doesn't have any), or whether it supports Flash (it does I hear, though I don't think it was mentioned in the presentation). No, all anyone could talk about was its price.

Of course, sites that will talk about how the Kindle Fire will kill off Apple, but I think those sites have been exposed for their lack of credibility and link bait tactics long ago.

Note: Daring Fireball is pointing to this story that appeared two days ago about the origins of the Kindle Fire – very interesting reading.

Amazon announces its new Kindle Fire tablet: 7-inch display, Android OS, cloud storage, and a low $199 will present a real alternative to Apple's iPad

When Steve Jobs introduced the iPad back in late January of last year, I was a little disappointed in the product (my expectations were too high), and frankly wondered if it would be a hit. This site was certainly betting that between mobile and tablets that we were entering a new era of digital publishing. I was obviously wrong to be so conservative in my estimate of the prospects for the success of the iPad.
So here we are 20 months later and Jeff Bezos has just introduced the Kindle Fire, a $199 tablet that dare not mention its OS name – Android. And that is probably a brilliant move because, after all, Apple markets the iPhone and the iPad just by their name. (You don't hear Apple say the iPad is an iOS device, it's an iPad._

I'm sure most TNM readers interested in the Kindle Fire already know the tech details, but for others here they are in a nutshell: 7-inch touchscreen display, 14.6 ounces in weight (one third less than the iPad), a dual core CPU, Android OS, 8 GB of storage with free cloud storage.

The big detail, of course, is that it will cost only $199, and one can pre-order it today for release on November 15.

Here is the brand new Kindle Fire ad from Amazon:

Andy Ihnatko, columnist for the Sun Times, is at the Amazon event as I write this and tweets:
"I'm not sure it's a head to head device (iPad). Customers will tell us." Dave Limp, VP of Kindle.
I think that quote is very telling. A 7-inch display tablet is not a head-to-head competitor for the iPad, as BlackBerry and Samsung can tell you.

But although I rarely go in for predictions – there is plenty of that on the tech sites – I think the Kindle Fire will be a run away success. Why not? If you were willing to spend $150 on a black & white Kindle why not $199 on a color tablet that can replace your old Kindle. They will, indeed, sell millions of these.

But it is still an Android tablet, so what will this mean for publishers? Most of the publications available for Android are there because of Zinio and other replica makers. Will this spur the creation of more Android tablet publications?

I don't know about that simply because of the Kindle Fire's unique storage proposition: the device will give you 8 gigs of storage – Apple doesn't even offer an iPad will this little storage. One issue of Wired is at least a half a gig, one would run out of storage pretty fast were it not for the fact that Amazon is offering cloud storage for free.

Cloud storage, though, is great for text versions of books, MP3s, and doesn't hurt streaming, of course. But what about magazines and newspapers?

And here is the issue that I can't seem to get past: with little storage on the device itself, and with cloud storage probably where users will keep most of their media, it would seem that smaller sized replica editions could be what is the norm on the Kindle Fire – yet, replicas would be very hard to read on a small display tablet. My experience with both the PlayBook and XOOM, for instance, is that the experience is too much like reading on a mobile device (painful).

The covers of the magazines look nice on a 7-inch display, as you can see above. But text? Remember that most print magazines are 11 inches tall – that's almost twice the size of the display of the Kindle Fire. That means your fonts will be half the size if you produce a replica editions. Replica editions are already hard to read on the iPad's display which is less than 8 inches in size in portrait. (Remember, display sizes measure the diagonal length of the display, not its width or height.)

That is why I think many Kindle Fire owners will find their tablet great for books (except outdoors, of course – guess Amazon will have to stop those digs at Apple about their displays, huh?), as well as movies and music. Surfing the web should also be an improvement over a mobile phone experience, though not as easy as on a larger screened tablet.

One solution some publishers and developers might consider is to move forward with Kindle Editions: these publications will be able to be accessed on all Kindle devices, even the Kindle Fire.

But one company's digital publishing solution that seems to not work well here is Adobe's. Magazine apps built with the Adobe Digital Publishing platform are often criticized by iPad owners as being too large in size – a couple of magazines can start to fill up a 16 GB iPad pretty quickly. What will the situation be when the tablet only has 8 GB of storage and must depend on the cloud?

For now this is what I would say about the Kindle Fire: it is the first Android driven tablet that I would consider buying (I've actually already pre-ordered one), the price alone makes it worth checking out. The negatives (7-inch display, lack of tablet optimized Android apps, small internal storage) are still an obstacle to me saying that the Kindle Fire is real competition of the iPad as my preferred tablet choice.

But I can see lots of consumers choosing to try the Kindle Fire rather than spending $200 more for an iPad. Times are tough, after all.

One question that always accompanies an Apple product introduction is "when will it ship?" For Apple, there is usually a U.S. ship date announced, followed by a European or Asian date that follows a few weeks later (to the grumbling of some European consumers).

As you read above, the Kindle Fire will be released on November 15. Well, kind of.

NewspaperDirect powers Spanish digital newsstand, Kiosko y más; iOS app gets very mixed reviews

The digital newspaper and magazine distribution company has released a press release to promote its fairly new digital newsstand of Spanish periodicals, Kiosko y más. The online newsstand, Kiosko y más, is complimented with an iOS universal app (the link is to the Spanish App Store), as well as an Android app (though the only app I found in either the Android Market or Amazon app stores was the PressReader app, not one branded Kiosko y más).

The new digital newsstand was originally announced in the pages of El Pais in July. Kiosko y más featuees over 30 newspapers and 60 magazines, all delivered in the replica edition fashion NewspaperDirect promotes. In the newsstand Spanish readers will find such newspaper titles as El Pais, El Correo, Las Provincias, La Vanguardia, El Periodico de Cataluna, and others, as well as magazines like Lecturas, Rolling Stone, In Style, Cinemania and others.
Kiosko y mas represents an important step for the news publishing industry. By forming alliances of this nature, publishers can offer readers the content they love, packaged in a rewarding experience that can be delivered across all platforms and devices," said Alexander Kroogman, CEO of NewspaperDirect. "We applaud this move, which is truly visionary and a benchmark model for other countries around the world."

As other replica proponents are discovering, however, readers are very much split regarding the merits of replica editions. Inside the Spanish app store, the number one star reviews exceed the number of five star reviews, with lots of other levels being used as well.

The problem, of course, is that while some iPad owners like the idea of using their tablets as simply replacements for print, others are rejecting the idea of digital publications as exact editions of print.

Complicating things is that many reviews are complaining about the app itself, and the fact that the price of the digital newspapers seems too high.

Here is a video featuring NewspaperDirect's VP of Business Development, Alex Gruntsev, where he presents a preview of the next release of PressReader.

The main point Gruntsev appears to be making it is that the print newspaper layout is a better experience for readers than the current tablet solutions currently being released. Therefore, the the goal is to create a design that has the advantages of the traditional newspaper design, modified for the tablet. I'm not sure this is the right approach – looking backwards towards design ideas rather than have them originate from the new platform – but it appears they are definitely looking to improve their digital offerings.

Good things to watch for: At the 9:50 watch for the way fonts are changed, far better use of pinch to zoom that the way replica makers are using zoom now; also, the use of audio is interesting.

Morning Brief: Amazon NYC event at 10 EDT; markets mixed as Europe as Greece passes first property tax law; hey, don't look now, but there are pennant races!

There is no reason to speculate on the event to be held in NYC today – the event is less than two hours away (10 EDT) so we might as well let Jeff Bezos do the talking.

What will interest me, however, is whether this is the first of several tablet launches, or simply a testing of the waters. Tech sites have said to expect a smaller tablet, one that looks more like a BlackBerry PlayBook than an iPad, Kindle sized, but color and running Android. If so, I see the tablet having far less of an impact on Apple's dominance of tablet media than others do – at least at first. But if a larger unit is expected later this could change things. Maybe.

The problem for Android tablets, of course, is what flavor of Android, and where are the tablet optimized apps? But Amazon has a huge advantage over all its potential Android competitors in that its online store is far better organized, highly popular, and more importantly, very familiar to consumers. is just as comfortable for consumers as is iTunes, in other words.

More on all this after the event.

Stock markets in Europe are mixed as traders digest the latest news concerning the Greek financial crisis. Yesterday Greek lawmakers passed a property tax bill, a first in the Hellenic Republic. The property bill is part of a set of initiatives designed to meet obligations imposed on it by the European community.

Simply put, Greece needs more revenue in order to pay back the new bailouts. The measures are sure to create a backlash, but how much of one?

Yesterday the opposition,known as the New Democracy, criticized the government's new VAT receipts measure. "Apparently, the only thing that does not require receipt/proof is the government's inadequacy and incompetence, at the expense of a society that has long exhausted the limits of its endurance," Yiannis Vroutsis said, the shadow finance minister.

Who would have thunk it? An actual pennant race.

The regular season of baseball ends tonight and to the surprise of many fans, there will actually be important games played. For most of the season it appeared that 2011 would go down as the year without any races for the post season, with the Yankees, Red Sox, Tigers and Rangers expected to win in the American League, and the Phillies, Braves, Brewers and D-Backs in the National League.

But late season collapses by both the Red Sox and Braves have created two races for both wild card slots (though the east coast media is all but ignoring the National League race).

Tonight the Tampa Bay Rays play the Yankees, and if they win they will force the Red Sox to beat the Orioles, or else they are done. The Braves meantime must play the Phillies one more time, while the St. Louis Cardinals who are tied with the Braves play the Houston Astros.

The fun part of all this is that while one might think that both the Red Sox and Cards are playing weaker teams and so have the advantage it hasn't worked out that way.

If there is a tie for the wild card after tonight a single game playoff will occur Thursday.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

IDG's German arm continue to push forward with well made, though simple magazine apps

It isn't very easy to find all the tablet editions from IDG as they in the App Store under several variations of the IDG name – but they are worth seeking out, especially if you are an art director about to move forward with work on your first tablet edition.
CIO Plus is one of the newest iPad app released by the German publisher under the name IDG Business Media GmbH.

This free app is designed to distribute the special sections from CIO magazine. If you want to read that magazine proper, however, you will have to download a different app: CIO Kiosk, which you'll find under the IDG Magazine Media seller name.

It's a bit confusing, but the fact is that IDG wants to sell you CIO magazine, so better to keep it in its own "kiosk" app where you can buy individual issues or the yearbook for $4.99 or $24.99. I like the idea of separate apps for special sections, though in this case IDG is apparently going to group all the special sections in one iPad app rather than release new apps for every new special section. By doing this they are missing a marketing opportunity to brand each section separately.

These are natively designed tablet editions – I believe they are using the Adobe Digital Publishing platform to produce them – so you will find both portrait and landscape layouts here, with embedded video and a bit of animation to boot. Despite the fact that the one issue of CIO Plus is only 20 page in size, the multimedia and dual layouts mean the issue is still 124 MB in size. In other words, these native apps continue to be monsters.

Left: the kiosk, or newsstand, where you can download the issues; Middle: a typical article layout; Right: the cover of the CIO IT special section in portrait.

Sorry, no iPhone: T-Mobile's customer letter, written by their chief marketing officer, badly misses the mark

The past few weeks have been a great time in marketing education – I assume Harvard and other universities are trying to figure out exactly how to add in the recent marketing mistakes into their curriculum.

First, of course, was the Netflix debacle, or actually debacles. On July 12 Jessie Becker went on the Netflix blog to announce that they were raising their prices by separating out streaming from DVDs. The reaction was epic with well over 12,000 comments posted to the site.

Then came CEO's "I messed up" blog post of September 18 where Reed Hastings, well, messes up.

The problem, which any husband could tell you, is that an apology shouldn't be followed by claims that, while "I am sorry, I am still actually right." Not good. And if such behavior doesn't always end in divorce, in business it often ends in goodbye customer. (And the some 27,000 comments on the site pretty much tell Netflix that.)

Yesterday T-Mobile made a marketing mistake, as well. The good news is that I don't think it is nearly as epic as Netflix's, but then, how could it be. Netflix is this year's king of marketing suicide. So what did T-Mobile do wrong? It said it was sorry, then tried to say it was right (in a way).
Here is how the letter by Cole Brodman, Chief Marketing Officer, T-Mobile USA, begins: We’ve heard from many customers who love their T-Mobile service, but are disappointed that we don’t carry the iPhone. To these customers, first, thank you for your business. Please know that we think the iPhone is a great device and Apple knows that we’d like to add it to our line-up. Today, there are over a million T-Mobile customers using unlocked iPhones on our network. We are interested in offering all of our customers a no-compromise iPhone experience on our network.
OK, not bad. T-Mobile is sorry that it won't have the iPhone this year, but maybe some day, right?

But then they make the same bad mistake too many marketers make. Here was a simple message to those customers that want an iPhone that basically said "hey, we're working on it."

But then Brodman can't stop himself, he must try and sell customers that want an iPhone an Android unit instead.
In the meantime, we continue to bring to market some of the most advanced, cutting-edge Android devices. Today, I had the chance to take the stage at the Mobilize event in San Francisco and introduce our fastest 4G smartphones ever, the Samsung Galaxy S II and the HTC Amaze. We’re very confident that these Android smartphones rival or beat any smartphone out there in terms of functionality, speed, overall experience and features – including the iPhone.
Maybe he should have said it this way: "I know you want an iPhone, but I'm sorry that we won't be able to sell you one. BUT, you really should buy this instead, it's better than an iPhone, you fool."

Good thing T-Mobile doesn't have comments on their blog or they would have heard an earful.

If rule number one of sales and marketing is listen to the customer, rule two is surely then don't turn around and tell the customer they are wrong.

The perfect way to handle this would simply to say they want the iPhone, too, and that they are working on getting it. Then customer really want an iPhone have a decision to make: if they like T-Mobile's service they can stick around and wait for the iPhone, if they don't they will leave anyway.

But here you are basically saying that the customer is wrong to want an iPhone so we want to lock you into another device. If the customer really wants an iPhone they are going to be furious at the bait and switch.

Hearst Newspapers releases first tablet edition for its Houston Chronicle; identical iPad app as S.F. Chronicle

App development is one of those things where the first try is always the most primitive and later efforts usually advance the product. But newspapers, sadly, don't work that way. Getting a newspaper to create a mobile or tablet product is like pulling teeth to begin with, constantly tweaking and improving the product is almost impossible – how often do newspapers do redesigns, after all?
So I suppose it is not surprising that about four months after the launch of the San Francisco Chronicle's first iPad app, that the app for the Houston Chronicle would be essentially identical to the first one – right down to the little "newspaper edge" graphic used on both. Both apps use the same layouts, the same navigation, etc.

That's not necessarily a bad thing, after all, why reinvent the wheel every time. But what is missing in the Chronicle (SF) is missing in the Chronicle (Houston) app. (Disclosure time: I am a former employee of Hearst Newspapers, at the Los Angeles Herald Examiner, may it rest in peace.)

But as I said when looking at the San Francisco Chronicle app back in late May, this isn't a bad app. When I wrote about that app I mentioned that there were bugs that needed to be worked out, and sure enough Hearst's digital team has issued a few updates that have improved that app's performance.

The fact that the first app has been updated is a very good sign, and one that gives a reader hope that the company is serious about its tablet edition.

Now comes the Houston Chronicle for iPad, and although the version is listed as 1.2.2, it makes its debut today in the App Store. No doubt some of the updates included in the first iPad app are here in the Houston app.

One issue that usually arises with a media company that imposes similar apps and different products is that often a foreign look is imposed on the products. In this case, however, the look of this app is closer to the look of the actual print version of the Houston Chronicle than it is the San Francisco Chronicle.

The app, of course, is free to download, and once installed and launched one immediately sees that the reader is being offered 14 days free – a good move. There are three subscription options available within the app: first, current print subscribers can log-in to access the content for free; the second option is a paid subscription, $5.99 per month or $59.99 per year.

Left: the subscription sign-up page; Right: the section navigation feature.

If I were a reader of either newspaper I would be pretty pleased with this new app – for me it is free and it is a way of accessing the paper on the go. The reader can press the refresh button to get the latest edition (no changes in the hour I had the app open) and then go – or at least that's what I thought.

It turns out that refreshing might bring in new headlines but it isn't bringing in any content. In other words, there is no offline reading (head slap). For the record, there is offline reading in the - for iPhone app, the Houston Chronicle's mobile application.

So who would be attracted to this app? Is this intended for current subscribers (no, not really, since it isn't a mobile version of the paper), or to attract new subscribers?

My guess is that this app is neither, but is simply what the app team feels they can accomplish right now. As a avid newspaper reader I'm not impressed by the product (I need the box scores, the one feature I've been reading since I was five).

Judged that way, as a work in progress, I suppose I would come to the same conclusion as I did back in May: this is a good start, and a heck of a lot better than the replica editions being pushed down the throats of publishers by vendors. But there is a long way to go before one could say that this kind of tablet edition is worth reading compared to the print edition.

One last word about that little graphic that tries to make this look like an actual print newspaper: stop it. Tablets are not made out of paper. Rather than try to duplicate what print does best, why not start with the idea that an iPad app will try and do what tablets do best.

Trying to make your tablet app look like an actual print newspaper makes the publisher look, well, old and out of touch. Lose the print look, it's time to go digital with digital products.

(I'll get off my soapbox now.)

Morning Brief: Reports say Facebook iPad to be unveiled at iPhone 5 event; Labour MP makes phone hacking accusation against another UK newspaper at debate

Strange, isn't it, that only one day after a blog report about the developer of Facebook's iPad app quitting the company should come word that Facebook will actually launch the app at the next Apple event.
Yesterday came reports about a blog post by Jeff Verkoeyen who said he worked on the Facebook iPad app but quit after the company kept delaying its launch. But Verkoeyen's website is now missing in action, along with his blog post.

Then came word that the missing Facebook app would make its debut at Apple's event on October 4 where the company is expected to unveil its next generation iPhone. Whether Facebook will be a majro part of the presentation or just have their app mentioned is unknown because the reports at this time are all rather vague – which, of course, means that could be completely untrue.

A Labour MP, Tom Watson, is alleging that the Sun newspaper was involved in phone hacking. The Guardian this morning is reporting on the allegations made at an emergency motion debate where the fiery MP has called on James Murdoch to step down as chairman of the British satellite TV provider BSkyB.

The Guardian, of course, has led the inquiry into the phone hacking activities carried on by News International's tabloid News of the World, and while there have been accusations that other British newspapers may have also employed less than honorable methods to gather their stories no proof has so far emerged that any papers other than the Murdoch owned papers have hacked into the voicemail systems of British citizens.

"Do you really think that hacking only happened on the News of the World?" Tom Watson is quoted by The Guardian as asking. "Ask Dominic Mohan, the current editor of the Sun. He used to joke about lax security at Vodafone when he attended celebrity parties. Ask the editor of the Sun if he thinks Rupert Murdoch's contagion has spread to other newspapers. If he gives you an honest answer, he'll tell you it's only a matter of time before we find the Sun in the evidence file of the convicted private investigator that hacked Milly Dowler's phone."

Stock markets are surging this morning after word came out that was a possible deal concerning Greek debt, and that the US government would not be facing a shutdown.

FEMA informed Congress that it had enough money currently on hand, $114 million, to make it through the week and that it could then draw off of its next fiscal year's money to fund disaster relief.

The news headed off yet another showdown between Democrats and Tea Party Republicans who wanted any additional funding for FEMA offset by cuts in spending elsewhere. Unsaid in the whole episode, though, is the question of why additional funding was proposed in the first place if FEMA had the money on hand. It also was another defeat for Democrats who could not get their spending proposals through Congress, while the Republicans, who want nothing passed anyway, can walk away saying they prevented additional spending.

“In my view, this entire fire drill was completely unnecessary,” the Republican leader Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, is quoted as stating by the NYT.

Monday, September 26, 2011

History of a story: how smaller media outlets sometimes get ripped off by the aggregation of larger competitors

This post was written last week and held as I tried to get some feedback from Aaron Dimick, the reporter for WEAU mentioned here. I also wanted to put some time between the time the stories mentioned here appeared and the time this post published.

The original story was reported by's Aaron Dimick for broadcast on that evenings news program: the Eau Claire library would begin lending iPads to library patrons in order to them to become familiar with the Apple tablet and to read e-books, watch videos, surf the web and even download their own apps and content (though the apps and content are deleted from the tablet once the iPad is returned to the library).

Here is the original news report which was posted online by the station:

The web version of the story was posted to the station's website on Wednesday afternoon as Eau Claire library launches iPad lending program.

Ina Fried of the WSJ's All Things D then posted her own version of the story the next morning as Check Out What You Can Check Out at a Wisconsin Library: An Apple iPad. The story immediately includes a link to the Eau Claire library website in the second paragraph. The third paragraph then contains a large quote from library director John Stoneberg taken from the original Aaron Dimick story. The attribution reads "told TV station WEAU", with the text containing an embedded link back to Dimick's story.

Fried's story then goes on with information and quotes from the library's online document about their program, showing that Fried did more than just take the information from Dimick's story. Fried also closes the story out with some information about Amazon's Kindle program with libraries (they are partnering with Overdrive to create a Kindle book lending program).
The WSJ story also contains an illustration: a picture of an iPad with a library checkout folder and due date card on it. The merged photo takes an actual library due date image that had been posted on Flicker, and merged it with an image of an iPad.

Fried's Twitter feed then shows that the new WSJ story was promoted through a tweet that evening.

The next day appeared a Business Insider tweet that read Forget E-Books -- Now You Can Check Out iPads From The Library. The tweet links directly to the Business Insider site and a story with that headline. The story, written by Dylan Love, then links directly to the WSJ story, and is only three paragraphs in length.

To illustrate the story, Dylan Love created a merged photo of a library checkout card attached to an iPad.

The way Business Insider takes the stories from other media outlets has gotten a fair amount of attention last week (and now this week, see below). Felix Salmon wrote on the Reuters website about the issue by recounting various articles where Business Insider has simply rewritten the work of other reporters in order to drive traffic. While sympathetic to BI's need to drive traffic growth Salmon does have his concerns.
So why does Business Insider risk undermining all that highly original, distinctive content for what appear to be roughly 18,000 article views? When media companies are asked to grow at a meteoric pace — and Comscore indicates that Business Insider’s unique visitors have nearly doubled this year — the line between original content and borderline theft gets awful blurry. The editorial mission quickly transforms from “What can I link to?” to “How much can I take?”
Salmon's story was then picked up by Marco Arment, the creator of Instapaper, who recounts the frequency in which Business Insider rewrites his blog posts – "they’ve linked to nearly every significant article I’ve written for the last few years, often automatically by scraping Techmeme."

"But what offends me even more than rewriting my titles and burying my links," writes Arment, "is how their layout so strongly implies that I’m a Business Insider writer and I endorse my name and writing being splattered all over their site."

Arment then ends his own story by wondering if Business Insider will reprint his rant about BI. Amazingly, it turns out they did, though they quickly pulled it down.

(Later Arment tweeted "My article about Business Insider has already had more than 3 times as many pageviews as Business Insider sent me since 2009," followed by another stating "Plus two nasty emails from BI high-ups accusing me of worse offenses, betraying a lack of understanding of what Instapaper actually does."

As my italicized intro states, this post was supposed to appear last week but I held it as I attempted to add to the story. Today, this post on ZDNet appeared that was in response to the Business Insider/Arment scuffle.

The post, written by Tom Foremski, talks about how aggregation is all about page views, which is why Business Insider does what it does:
The problem is that most journalists don’t know the economics of their own business, they have been sheltered from that knowledge by the wall that separates editorial departments from the commercial side of the business. That’s why journalists are puzzled by the “over aggregation” they see at Business Insider, Huffington Post, and other places.
I'm not sure I agree with Foremski here. From where I sit, I see journalists more and more running the show – why else are paywalls being erected, an ad person would tell you that the more eyes the better.

That aside, I think the issue here is that there are many types of aggregation, some of it wouldn't upset a traditionally trained journalist, others would. I have no issue with the WSJ story that appeared, though I think giving credit to the original reporter would have been a nice touch. As for the Business Insider story, well, I'll leave that one to you to decide.

Media and the tablet makers: it's dependence on subscription revenue that makes app store fees painful; many consultants push paid content, reject ad models

A few weeks ago I was speaking to a publisher who was about to launch their first iPad app and the conversation naturally turned to dealing with Apple and the App Store. That publisher asked me about what I thought about the 30 percent fees Apple took – doesn't bother me was my response. He was shocked. "How can a publisher survive?" was the quick answer. I asked him what his revenue was last year for his magazine, then asked how much of that came through subscriptions – it turns out that very little did, very, very little as a percentage of all revenue.

"If Apple wanted 30 percent of your ad revenue you would go nuts, but 30 percent of subscription revenue? A drop in the bucket." And so the conversation went.

In the end, it all boiled down to one question: can you sell advertisers on the idea of advertising in a tablet publication?

A Ray Ban ad from an issue of Wired on the iPad.

For many publishers, especially smaller ones, the lure of tablets is to extend their brand and to present their current print advertisers with something new, somewhat more reach, all for no extra dollars. It is the small model they used when they launched their first website: sell print, give away the web. How did that work for them?

Now here we are again, with a new digital product with unknown readership, variable or weak download rates, and start-up costs just like those of the nineties – do you remember talking to your first web developer, I certainly do?

If Condé Nast, Hearst or Meredith were selling digital ad pages like they are able to sell print ad pages, the whole issue of splitting App Store subscriptions revenue would be a nonissue. Publishers would gladly give Apple 30 percent in exchange for the chance to sell more pages.

I was in a store this weekend when I spotted a large issue from one of the major magazine publishers. While waiting to be checked out I picked it up, flipped to the inside back page to see who big the issue was and then pulled out my iPhone to use the calculator. I figured that issue had 55% advertising and guessed at the page rate, then I smiled.

"What?" asked the person behind me, curious as to what I was doing and why I was smiling.

"$18 million. That's what this issue brought in," I said. (It turns out my estimate was probably slightly low.)

The same magazine does very well on the newsstand and has a very large, loyal subscriber base. But the most publisher could ever expect to bring in from readers would be around $2 million per issue since their print subscription prices are so discounted. Despite being a readership power house this magazine is doing well if it can get 5 to 10 percent of its revenue from readers versus advertisers. Other magazines may do better, but it is rate, indeed, for a magazine to have a truly balanced approach to revenue generation, and rarer still that a Consumer Reports model succeeds.

(Many media writers forget to discount subscription prices when calculating circulations revenues, just as many reports lazily take the open rate for advertising as what a publisher actually gets per page.)

Most, almost all, the independent publishers I speak to who are now developing for tablets come from the editorial or design side of the business. Further, almost all the consultants currently advising newspaper and magazine publishers are coming from the editorial side of the business. No surprise then that a heavy emphasis is on how to proceed with a paid content strategy.

One consultant I spoke to talked about ad revenue as "gravy" that would be brought in strictly through ad networks. When they began complaining about Apple fee structure I asked them what percentage of the ad revenue they expected to have to share with ad network they responded that it didn't matter – it was, after all, merely "gravy".

The 'replica edition versus native app' dilemma not just limited to consumer publications as trade publishers attempt to find an affordable tablet publishing solution

Two U.K. B2B publishers perfectly illustrate the issues trade publishers face when launching their first tablet editions: does one build an in-house app development team, bring in app development partner, or go with a PDF-based solution that will create replica editions?
While most major consumer publishers are slowly moving towards native apps, the majority of magazines that are read on the iPad or Android tablets are likely to be replica editions of the print magazine. Whether these replicas are read inside a newsstand app like Zinio's, or else contained in their own branded app, the end products are pretty much the same: exact copies of the print edition that require the reader to zoom into the text to read the stories. Some of these replicas contain live links or embedded multimedia like audio or video, but are exactly like the print editions.

This is the approach taken so far by Terrington Limited for the three apps it has released into the App Store. Network Communications News, Motorcycle Sport & Leisure Tours Brochure, and Electrical Contracting News are all free apps recently released in the App Store.

Since the publisher is using Yudu to create digital flipbooks for their websites, I have to assume they are using this vendor for their apps, as well.

The apps, though, do show up under the Terrington name, so it's possible they are building these apps themselves. (Yudu has over 100 apps under their name in the App Store for such magazines as Oklahoma Living Magazine and the UK edition of Information Age.)

Because many B2Bs do not charge for their magazines since they use a qualified circulation model rather than a paid subscription model, a less expensive replica edition solution has some merits. The problem, though, is "qualified" as these replica editions do not offer a qualification mechanism, or even a registration process.
LOOP Digital Media, the Cambridge publisher, has gone in a different direction, however. P1 Aviation Magazine is a native app, build to be read in both portrait and landscape, though landscape is reserved pretty much for photo galleries.

Maybe LOOP went in this direction because it is located in Cambridge, or because it considers the subject of its magazine, business aviation, as more demanding of a native app solution – who knows. But the P1 app is by far a better reading experience as far as I am concerned.

It, too, however, is an open book as it has no qualification mechanism built into the app, nor does it charge for access to the issues. It's issue downloads, as you would expect are much larger than those of its replica edition counterparts – over 300 MB versus only 15-20 MB for the PDF-based editions.

With Amazon to unveil its new color Kindle tablet this Wednesday, it would be wise of publishers to begin getting familiar with Amazon's own app store.

While Apple's App Store shows 658 paid apps, and 3,439 free apps under the News category built for the iPad, Amazon's apps store only has 354 apps total, and it doesn't appear that any of these are built specifically for tablets. (I find it rather hard to track the Android Market as they do not break out mobile from tablet apps, though they recently added a "Featured Tablet Apps" section which contains 171 apps.)

But the Kindle Edition store shouldn't be ignored by publishers either.

As of today, there are only 27 'Business & Investing' magazine listed in the Kindle Edition magazine store – 130 total periodicals, versus over 15,000 blogs (that's where you will find the Talking New Media Kindle Edition.)

Creating a Kindle Edition for your magazine appears relatively easy enough, though the fact that the it is still considered a "beta" program is a bit strange.

One thing that might be holding many publishers back is simply that Amazon is certainly giving off mixed signals by launching a color Kindle that supports Android. Should a publisher launch a simple Kindle Edition like The Economist, or an Android app (here is The Economist Android app).

It is easy to see why so many publishers raise up their arms in frustration and then conclude that it is easier to start with the Apple App Store and move on to Android or Kindle later (or else let their digital publishing vendor worry about all this for them).