Friday, October 14, 2011

Publishers and vendors make their Newsstand decisions, as the number of available titles continues to grow

As any distributor will tell you, there is only so much room on a physical newsstand. Not so, of course, for Apple's new digital newsstand that now has over 250 titles available – still small potatoes compared to Zinio, for instance, which has over 5,000 titles available.

Yesterday I wondered why the New York Times would have moved their iPhone app into Newsstand since it clearly is not a periodical, but an extension of its website. My only guess was that it was continuing to support Apple's initiative, probably in exchange for promotion within the Newsstand store. The screenshot above may, or may not, support that guess.

Meanwhile, publishers, developers and digital publishing vendors continue to make their decision concerning Newsstand. Mag+, the Bonnier spinoff, said yesterday that there were now 15 magazine titles that could be found in Newsstand (and more awaiting approval) that are using their digital publishing solution, including Popular Science and Sound+Vision.
While vendors like Exact Editions (more on them below) have incorporated Newsstand quite well, company's like Tribune Interactive continue to issue updates without adding in Newsstand support. Today, for instance, Tribune released an update for LA Times Magazine for iPad that simply fixed some bugs.

The tablet edition looks a bit like a replica edition upon opening – it is portrait only – but you soon see that it is not as some pages requiring scrolling, and the fonts are adjusted to make reading more enjoyable that your standard PDF-based digital magazine. There is an interesting house app in the latest issue, as well.

This is a magazine that definitely should sit in Newsstand because issues can be updated each week automatically, and the magazine is designed for leisure-time reading. It is possible that Tribune Interactive is confused about the rules for Newsstand – many think only paid publications qualify – or they are taking their time adding in Newsstand support (or they've decided not to participate).

Exact Editions, on the other hand, already has 25 titles that I counted in Newsstand (as of this morning, in the U.S. App Store). They have done a very good job of adjusting their apps to take advantage of the preview feature.

Photobucket Jazzwise, the U.K jazz magazine, is a free app from Exact Editions. Upon opening the app one is presented with the first three pages of the magazine (at least I assume they are the first three pages): the cover, an ad from Steinway, and the TOC. In landscape none of the pages fit the screen but are very readable, in portrait the TOC contains very small type because, of course, the magazine was designed using print specifications. Further, in portrait, because the Brits use A4 as the standard page size, the pages are actually too long for the iPad's display (which is why U.S. replicas appear a bit too short).

After the third pages one moves on to the store (see above) where you can buy issues or an annual subscription.

Morning Brief: New device that allows you to make phone calls goes on sale today; Ellen Shannon joins Penton as chief content director, publisher of Multichannel Merchant

I hope you are not reading this post while standing in a long line outside an Apple retail store. I just don't visualize TNM readers as the kind of folk who go in for that kind of thing.

In any case, the iPhone 4S goes on sale this morning, though other than the "S" on the box not much else will appear new until they fire up the device.

Oh, and it makes phone calls, apparently.

Penton Media's Multichannel Merchant has a new Chief Content Director and Publisher. Ellen Shannon, previously Conference Director at TechMedia, will bring 30 years of professional experience to her new role.

Shannon was also the owner of Publication & Conference Development Partners for eight years prior to joining TechMedia.

The Prime Minister that no one has much confidence in, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, has won a confidence vote in parliament today, 316 to 301, according to a BBC News report.

Berlusconi is facing trial on sex, bribery and abuse of power charges, which probably won him a few votes.

Actually, the vote was procedural, forced upon the government when a budget item failed to pass by a single vote, forcing the vote. Berlusconi was not rattled by the forced vote: here is no alternative to this government. Early elections would not solve the problems we have. A political crisis now would mean victory for the party of decline, catastrophe and speculation," the BBC quoted the Prime Minister as stating.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

The Guardian's much anticipated new iPad edition reveals the philosophy of the team behind its development

The British daily, The Guardian, released one of the first iPad apps developed by a newspaper company back in April of last year, The Guardian Eyewitness – a beautiful photojournalism app that has been well received by iPad owners. One expected that a news app was right around the corner. That proved not to be the case.
Instead, the team at The Guardian has used the past year and a half to think about the new platform, to wait for the right digital publishing solutions to evolve so that they could create something that works well on the iPad, yet is recognizably a newspaper.

"The quick and easy answer would have been to do something that looked like a pdf file of the newspaper," Alan Rusbridger, editor-in-chief of The Guardian, wrote about the newspaper's new tablet edition.

"Mark (Porter, design consultant) wasn't having that. He wanted to create something that had the "feel" of a newspaper – legibility, browseabilty, a sense of hierarchy – with the tactile functionality of the iPad," Rusbridger wrote.

So if producing a replica edition was out of the question, so, too, must have been the idea of copying the look and feel of the NYT/Financial Times iPad model. Otherwise, The Guardian could have produced an app much sooner.

The turning point appears to have been when Mark Porter, who has now launched his own design firm, drew a grid that could both organize content and create a hierarchy to the content, allowing more important stories to occupy greater space.
I suppose one could call a Flipboard look with an editor clearly at the controls.

We just came up with this idea of a simple grid," Porter says in the promo video (see below), "but stories can occupy one cell of that grid, or two cells of that grid, or four cells of that grid, and so on. And immediately you've created a little kind of architecture in which there is a form for big stories, small stories, and intermediate stories."

For me, this isn't the great solution I might have hoped for – it sometimes lacks the beauty of print design. In fact, looking at the screenshot above I can say that sometimes this app is just plain ugly. But not all the section fronts look like the "front page" current does, sometimes it is very attractive, indeed. So this is definitely a very good start, and philosophically I love it.

The problem newspaper editors and publishers face, of course, is the need to design a product that can change quickly and easily, like the front page of a newspaper; that doesn't lock you in, the way a website's template often does; yet does not require whole sale design every day like a magazine-styled product would, like The Daily, for instance.

The free app, formerly call Guardian iPad edition, is meant for Apple's Newsstand and requires that downloaders have installed iOS 5 (luckily, that isn't of a hurdle today, but yesterday it prevented me from getting to this app). The app will deliver daily editions Monday through Sunday (the Sunday edition is The Observer, and is unavailable through the app).
Like the Orange County Register iPad app which sees itself as kind of an afternoon, leisure-time version of the morning paper, The Guardian's first effort consciously is attempting to be a sit-back-and-read it type of application.

"We've consciously set out, with this version, to deliver the Guardian newspaper edition, something that will work for some of our most loyal and passionate readers. It's a reflective once-a-day Guardian, designed and edited for iPad," Rusbridger wrote.

The Guardian's new tablet edition will give readers free access to the content through mid-January. Then a monthly subscription will cost £9.99 a month.

One element missing, that was discussed prior to launch, and is mentioned in the promotional video, is the integration of advertising. Looking at the section fronts, one can see where advertising might fit in. The articles, however, are designed much like the website stories, so I assume ads would be placed along the side of the stories. Like any new product launch, I would have liked to see ads included right from the beginning – this makes them easier to sell, and conditions the reader to expect them. If the ads don't appear until later – say, right around the time readers are forced to pay for access to the issues – this will cause a number of readers to feel they are being abused.

Newsstand: many publishers are eager to jump right in, though considering the alternatives may be wise

On most days there are the predictable stories posted about the relationship between publishers and Apple. The tech sites like to talk about the future of tablets and how publishers will make millions at whatever. Media sites, be they in the newspaper or magazine areas, continue to be mostly negative about anything to do with Apple, often wondering aloud why Apple doesn't do more for them. (It's rather pathetic to read, actually.)

Newsstand on my own iPad.

Now Apple has released its new mobile operating system, and with the launch of iOS 5 comes Newsstand. At noon EDT there are now 220 different publications to be found in the Newsstand store. For some publishers, such as Future plc, the creation of Newsstand was a great time to launch a whole portfolio of new magazine apps. For Hearst, it was the right time to start using Apple's in-app subscription system by launching new apps that are Newsstand compliant.

Like many consumers who rush to update the latest software immediately upon release, some publishers and developers clearly want to take advantage of the latest improvements being offered by Apple, Google, Amazon and others.

In the case of Newsstand, there are enormous advantages to being part of the new environment: magazine or newspaper cover icons, automatic downloads, and the like. For many publications, maybe most publications, Newsstand is where you will want your media app to reside.

But maybe this is a good time to slow down a bit and ask the simple question "are there reasons NOT to be in Newsstand?" There are.

Tracking the new app updates yesterday I quickly saw that many of the major magazine publishers were ready with updates or new launches timed to coincide with the introduction of Newsstand. Newspapers, too, rolled out a few updates and launches: Hearst was ready with the S.F. Chronicle and The Guardian had held back their first iPad effort to launch yesterday.

Late in the day the NYT released updates for both its iPad and iPhone apps. But should the NYT's iPhone app really be in Newsstand?

On my iPhone, updated a week ago to the final version if iOS 5, Newsstand was moved from the home page back to a later page of apps. The reason is simple: I really don't like reading periodicals on my phone. Sure, three years ago when the iPhone first came out, reading almost anything on my phone was kind of cool. But studies have shows that when it comes to periodicals print is still the preferred platform, followed by eReaders and tablets, then phones, and coming in last is the computer screen (more for the kind of reading done on a computer than for the screen size).

Is this really a periodical, or a web-based news product?

But while my shiny new Newsstand app has been relegated to the back pages of my apps, a News folder that I created still resides on the home page. Inside that folder are apps from The Guardian, WaPo, BBC News, Patch, the Chicago Tribune, and other news organizations. The most used app, though, is no longer there: the NYT iPhone app, it's now in Newsstand.

For me, the NYT iPhone app is an extension of the website, not really the newspaper product. That's why I would have been hesitant to add in Newsstand support. There may well have been other reasons why the NYT decided to update the app to move the app to Newsstand such as marketing support from Apple, keeping on Apple's good side, etc. But for other publishers and developers now might be a good time to look again at your app development strategy.

For some publications, launching multiple apps may be the way go: one long form journalism app for Newsstand, for instance, and another that serves daily deals, classifieds and directories in another. Whatever the decision, taking a little time to think about strategy can't hurt.

Hearst brings Cosmo (and sex tips) to Apple's Newsstand

It must be terribly frustrating for some of the media writers out there who have advised publishers to avoid working with Apple to see that publishers are quickly relaunching their magazine apps to make sure they are found inside Apple's new iOS 5 Newsstand. Many other publishers, like Future plc, flooded the App Store yesterday with new apps (54 of them), timed to appear just as their readers were struggling to download the new OS.

Hearst Newspapers yesterday updated its app for the San Francisco Chronicle to make sure it could be found in Newsstand, and this morning Hearst Magazines launched a new app for its magazine Cosmopolitan to replace the one it initially launched in March. Cosmopolitan Magazine is a free iPad app (not universal) that will now begin utilizing Apple's subscription services inside iTunes. The two subscription options are $1.99 a month, or $19.99 for a year.

Cosmo joins Popular Mechanics, O The Oprah Magazine, Esquire and CFG: Cosmo for Guys inside Newsstand – all are new apps released in the last 24 hours.

(Of course, I could have focused in on the new Esquire app, but anytime you can write "sex tips" in a headline it has to be good for traffic, right? Interestingly, if you click on Condé Nast's GQ app to download you get a message saying that the app contains adult material, but Cosmo, with its blaring headline "Sex Tips" does not give you the same message.)

We are beginning to see reviews pop up in the App Store from readers who are complaining that once they update their magazine app it disappears from their iPad. Actually, the app simply moves from where ever it originally was and now can be found inside Newsstand.

It is strange that Apple is allowing these reviews to appear when it is clear that these readers either were not aware that the apps had moved, or had not updated their iPads to the new OS. Hopefully Apple will clean out these erroneous reviews for their publisher partners.

Morning Brief: RIM says it that its BlackBerry service is improving following outage; Georgia-based Morris Communications the latest to proclaim itself 'digital first'

It is never good to become the subject of a joke. For Research In Motion, a company with more than enough troubles already, that is what it is experiencing following a massive outage of its email service caused by problems related to work being done in a facility in the U.K.

"Got an iPhone? Turn it into a virtual 'Blackberry by enabling airplane mode," one tweet read.

But while tech and media writers could joke about RIM's problems, BlackBerry owners were furious – not only at the outage, but in the way the company was dealing with the failures. It was not until late yesterday afternoon, two days after the start of the problem, that Robin Bienfait, Chief Information Officer at RIM, posted a lengthy explanation of the issues users were facing.

"I want to first apologize for the service interruptions and delays many of you have been experiencing this week," wrote on the company's community site. "I also wanted to connect with you directly, give you an update on the service issues we are trying to solve, and answer some of the questions and concerns you’ve expressed."

Five hours later, late last night, Bienfait wrote that BlackBerry service, at least in Europe, the Middle East, India and Africa, was improving and Mike Mike Lazaridis, co-founder of the comapny, posted a video update on the situation: is confirming word that the Financial Times is closing FT Tilt. FT Tilt is s a subscription-based online financial news and analysis blog created along the lines of the influential alphaville blog.

Editor Stacy-Marie Ishmael confirmed the report with a recent post that starts out simply "FT Tilt is closing."

The site was an attempt to create a news site that was a subscription-based blog – a noble experiment that would have required massive buy in my readers to succeed. It didn't, unfortunately.

Morris Communications of Augusta, Georgia, is the latest newspaper company to say it is going "digital first", a phrase that I thought had died a decade ago but now seems to be making a comeback.

The company made a few personnel changes including making Michael R. Romaner, president of Morris DigitalWorks the new executive vice president of digital for the company. They have also named Mark E. Lane from The Florida Times-Union as vice president of sales for both print and digital, and Robert R. Gilbert with Morris DigitalWorks will become veep of audience.

"We are transforming ourselves into a 21st-century media company," William S. Morris III said in the company's press release. "The people and businesses we serve are moving quickly from print to digital, and we are determined to keep leading the way in meeting their needs in all the markets we serve."

The announcement does not say exactly what Morris is planning to do to become "digital first", and if you were a cynical person (newspaper folk aren't cynical, are they?) you might read into this that the company is simply merging its digital company into its traditional print company.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

New York Times iOS updates hit the App Store; updates allow for inclusion in Newsstand, as well as bug fixes

It's the end of the day for me, I'm outta here. But I where oh where is the NYT update? Yep, there it is.

Late this afternoon the updates for the New York Times hit the App Store, in what had to be the busiest day in the store's history. As you'd expect, the update to the iPhone and iPad apps make them iOS 5 compliant, move them into Newsstand, and fix the usual bugs.

But the NYT iPhone app has me a little puzzled. Yes, it requires a subscription, but is it really a periodical, something that should "sit" on a Newsstand? The app is an RSS readers that presents its content as 24/7, not something that is read in the morning.

Do apps like these really belong in Newsstand? (My answer is "no", these kinds of apps can do more than deliver news, I would keep mine out.)

Apple upgrades go slow, as if the company created their own bottleneck to prevent a meltdown; some advice for those who have not updated their iOS devices yet

One of the worst experiences anyone can have is buying a new computer, then having to reload all the software, having to make sure the settings are correct, etc. It's a pain, kind of like moving.

But updating one's mobile operating system is getting to be a lot like that experience. Because Apple has millions of customers who use their iOS devices, the launch of a new OS can try anyone's patience.

Once you have successfully installed iOS 5 on your device you can then set-up iCloud.

Today many, many users complained that they could not complete their updates, most getting stuck at "Restore". But it might well be that Apple created their own bottleneck on purpose as a way of slowing down the whole process so as to prevent a total meltdown (read: RIM).

Here is some advice for those who plan on updating their phones or tablets tonight: patience.

When you plug your phone or tablet into your computer iTunes will let you know that iOS 5 is waiting. My advice is to hit "later" and let iTunes back-up the device first. Having a solid back-up is always smart. I might also suggest you do a hard reboot of the device, as well, just to be sure it working as it should (lots of people forget that their iPhones are more like a computer than an old dumb phone and need rebooting occasionally).

Then hit update – chances are that everything will go fine. But if you run into the "Restore" issue, don't panic. The message you get will scare you a bit: "An internal error has occurred." But the real problem is that the device can not verify the Restore with Apple – it is completely an Apple issue, not your device. Again, don't panic.

Now what? Since you have successfully downloaded the new .ipsw file which contains the new software you need not hit "Update" again. Instead hit "Option" "Restore". This will bring up a dialogue box where you are to point to the software you want to use to restore your device. If you are on a Mac I would suggest bringing the software to the desktop. To do this you will have to go into your Library>iTunes and drag the file to the desktop. In Lion, Apple, for some reason, made this folder invisible. To see it you have to press "Option" and go to "Go' in Finder and then to folders (keep holding down "Option"), you'll find the Library now.

All this may seem techie, but, hey, TNM readers are techie, right?

When the update is finished don't be surprised by the new dialogue boxes that come up. Apple wants you to turn on Location Services, verify the right Network, etc. Only then will it finish the restore by reinstalling your old apps. I had 197 apps that needed to be reinstalled, that took a while!

The whole process is not very pleasant. Apple has done a good job today of preventing a MobileMe disaster, but I think they did it by slowing down the traffic. That was frustrating for a lot of customers, and led them to believe that there were serious problems. I bet there are thousands of customers who currently believe that.

There is a lesson in all this, at least for me: always download the gold master from the developer site and leave the launch day updates for everyone else. I wasted a lot of time today updating my iPad, had it been my phone I would have screamed!

Apple tries to update everything (it seems), Internet traffic explodes; Guardian launches first iPad edition

What were they thinking? Apple has issued a ton of updates today and the result is lots of complaints of slow download speeds, but so far, at least, few real complaints compared to the launch of MobileMe.
If Apple can survive the day and not melt down the way Research In Motion apparently has, it will be an incredible accomplishment.

As for the strain on the web, well that is another matter. As can be seen in the web traffic numbers, Internet usage is at extreme levels today.

I have previously updated my iPhone, which I also use for development, to the gold master, so I have had iOS 5 for a while. But my iPad has still not been updated due to serious issues there. It is possible that this is the fault of the unit itself – I've encountered problems with it before. I'm now on my third attempt at updating the tablet.

But Apple didn't just update its mobile operating system. Apple also also issued an update for Lion, iTunes, many (if not all) of its apps, and launched a couple new ones, as well. It is a busy day, let's hope it ends well.

(I've deleted that "Update" that was here because I've written a new post about the upgrade experience.)

The Guardian today released its long awaited first iPad edition, timed to appear today inside Newsstand. The subscription price is £9.99 for one month, with six issues published each week.

One guesses that The Guardian is new at this because the price is listed in pounds in both the U.K. and U.S. App Stores.

Since my iPad is dead in the water right now, and not looking good, I probably won't be able to download the app today to write about it.

Hearst releases San Francisco Chronicle app update that gets the newspaper into Apple's Newsstand

Most of the talk on the tech sites concerning Apple's Newsstand has concerned magazines. But newspapers, too, qualify, as long as they issue an update that adds Newsstand and they offer a subscription through iTunes.

Hearst Newspapers (where I started by career) has just issued an update for the San Francisco Chronicle for iPad that adds iOS 5 support and gets the paper into Newsstand. (Original story from May on the app's launch here.)

While there have been reports that the Newsstand "store" has gone live and that iOS 5 has been issued to the public, I have no proof of either at this time – it's live now, happy downloading!

Once you have downloaded iOS 5 you will see all your Newsstand enabled apps there, but you can also check in Settings and see the magazine and newspaper apps under "Store" where there is an On/Off toggle for automatic downloads of updated periodicals – the default is "On".

For those downloading now, be patient, the download speed is slow, plus your iOS device has to do a restore, which adds more time to the update process.

One more thing: there is also a Mac OS X update that adds iCloud support. Needless to say, you shouldn't try and download and install that at the same time you are trying to install iOS 5.

Future plc goes all in: launches 54 Newsstand apps

Wow, that is almost all I can say (I guess I better say more, otherwise this will be a very short post, but let me repeat: wow). Future plc today (and last night) just launched 54 magazine apps that are designed to be part of the new Newsstand feature found in iOS 5.

It would make my fingers hurt to list all the magazines, but they are easy enough to find simply by searching "Future plc" in the App Store.

Clearly these apps had been embargoed for release today. All the apps are universal so it will be interesting to see if these apps are simply replica editions, or whether they employ native tablet designs.

Subscriptions prices seem to vary from magazine to magazine: Mac|Life, for instance, is charging $5.99 for individual issues, or $0.99 per issue when you subscribe; Guitar World's subscription prices are $7.99 for an individual issue (ouch), or $1.99 per month or $14.99 per year if one subscribes.

By the way, a pretty funny line is included in the app descriptions by Future: Note: This digital edition is not printable and does not include the covermount items or supplements you would find with printed copies.

Engadget's own tablet-only magazine, Distro, hits Apple's App Store; iPad app brings in articles from the website

Web-only media properties produce a lot of content – some sort form, but occasionally long form, as well. Not surprisingly, some web publishers (like TNM) have considered launching tablet editions that feature their best online material, packaged like a magazine, but strictly digital.
Today Endgadget's magazine app, Distro, hit the App Store. The free app creates a library where the reader can download individual issues – also free. Right now the library contains five issues that can be downloaded.

The latest issue of Distro (it is strange calling it that since the app has just launched) features Steve Jobs on the "cover", which really should now be called the splash page to be consistent with app terminology.

This is a very simply app, Engadget is not going nuts with the platform. But I also think this is really, really well done (for what it is trying to accomplish).

The app only offers portrait mode, which is a bit surprising since this had the backing of AOL. But for other web properties this is a logical decision to make to save time and reduce the file sizes (the issue download very quickly).

But even though Distro uses portrait it is not based off the traditional magazine size, it was designed using the tablet template. Because of this Distro is much easier to read than replica editions where pinch-to-zoom needs to be used.

The navigation uses the same principals proposed by that almost two year old video by Bonnier for its Mag+ concept. As an example, readers swipe to go to the next article, but scroll down to reach the next page within the article.

One thing that is shockingly missing is a subscription mechanism. By adding this, and pricing the issues at zero, Distro would be able to be in Newsstand. Maybe they plan a quick update, we'll see soon.

Left: the article layouts are simple in design, but easy to read and navigate; Middle: the in-app library; Right: An honest to goodness ad! Yeah!

Update: I guess someone gave Engadget some bad information because Engadget is just wrote on its website about Distro's absence from Newsstand:
If you're wondering why Distro is not in Newsstand, during development we were told that you can't include free downloads in there, and we definitely want this to be free! It seems like that may be changing, so we'll look to add support there when we can.
Well, if the folks at Engadget had been reading TNM they would have known better. Oh well.

Morning Brief: It's the Twilight Zone for some apps ahead of iOS 5 update; jobs bill killed by Senate Republicans

This morning media apps are disappearing, which is probably making the publishers of these iPhone and iPad periodicals crossing their fingers that all will be well by day's end.

Magazine apps that had had their apps updated to include Newsstand have nowhere to go until the user updates their iOS device and so are deleted from the device at sync. For those who already have iOS 5 on their device – presumably because you have a developer account and have downloaded the GM – magazines will start to appear in your Newsstand app.

New icons from three magazines. Newsstand requires a cover-like icon rather than the traditional square app icon.

Newsstand is not a stand alone app to be found in the App Store, but comes as part of iOS 5, meaning everyone who owns an iPhone, iPod touch or iPad will see a big empty newsstand at some point. I'm quite sure publishers are hoping this will spur device owners to load up their Newsstand, at least to prove to others what wonderful readers they are? ("Hey, what's in your Newsstand?")

Yesterday Apple began releasing magazine app updates that included Newsstand Рtwo magazines from Bonnier, as well as Wired were among the first to be released. Late last night other Cond̩ Nast magazine apps were updated including BRIDES Magazine, GQ, Allure, SELF, Glamour, Golf Digest. This morning came updates for Vanity Fair and The New Yorker Magazine.

Senate Republicans yesterday voted to kill the President's jobs bill. What else is there to say?

Yesterday the White House put out word that they have evidence that the Iranian government was involved with a plot to kill the Saudi ambassador in the United States. After the run up to the Iraq War one is certainly conditioned to be a bit skeptical about matters like this, so again we'll just wait to see where all this goes.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Updates and new launches: Time Inc. launches NOOK Color version of Real Simple; The Tennessean gets a quick update; Apple updates its own iBook app

A few months ago Time Inc. made it clear that for them the future would include tablets when they promised that the company would "launch tablet editions for its entire portfolio of 21 titles by year's end."

And the reason for that commitment couldn't have been clearer, either: “Having our entire portfolio available on tablets will create a significant new digital reach for our advertisers," said Maurice Edelson, EVP at Time Inc.

Time Inc. says that so far more than 11 million copies of their digital magazines and apps have been downloaded, resulting in over 600,000 single copy sales (this doesn't include the number of times their print subscribers have logged into their accounts to access the digital versions of their print magazines).

Today the publisher announced that it had just released its November issue of Real Simple for Barnes & Noble's tablet, the NOOK Color. “Our consumers have been asking for Real Simple on NOOK Color, so we are very excited to make this announcement," said Kristin van Ogtrop, Managing Editor of the magazine.

But the announcement also makes clear that the November issue that NOOK owners will find on their tablets contains all the same advertisers that can be found in the print edition. Time Inc. lists Campbells, The Container Store, Estee Lauder, JC Penney, Kia and others as appearing in the issue.

“Our advertising partners are always looking for new ways to connect with our consumers, so we’re thrilled to bring Real Simple to NOOK Color – and soon, to all major tablet platforms,” said Evelyn Webster, Executive Vice President, Time Inc. Lifestyle Group.

Last week I wrote about the new iPad edition of The Tennessean, the Gannett newspaper. I wasn't thrilled with the fact that the digital product appeared to have no business plan, any strategy that would allow it to make any money. I also said that the app seemed to have performance issues.

Well, I see that the app has received an update today. The "What's New" section clearly states the reason for the update: "Made numerous bug fixes to enhance stability." Good for them.

If you have as many apps as I do (you really have no idea), then your iTunes account will be filled with updates over the next few days as developers ensure their apps become iOS 5 compliant.

Apple, too, is issuing updates. This afternoon it issued an update for iBooks.

Wunder Radio is one of the apps now showing an update. It lists iOS 5 and Twitter integration as reasons for the update. This morning I mentioned that not apps are performing the same under iOS 5, which I've had on my iPhone for the past week. The AOL Radio app, I mentioned, would not continue to play when the display went to sleep. I would expect an update of that app soon, assuming they read TNM, of course!

The WSJ has updated its new WSJ Live apps, but, get this, the reason for the update, the app description says, is "watch our WSJ Live Commercial". Guess I'll wait to update that one.

Apple's team starts releasing media apps with support for Newsstand into the App Store

A little birdie had told me that Apple was holding apps back from the App Store that contained support for their Newsstand app that will be found in iOS 5. But with the release of the new OS tomorrow, and there being, no doubt, a back log of apps to move, Apple is releasing media apps now.

One of the first I've seen is Bonnier's iPad app for Popular Science+. The app has just appeared as an update and only lists support for Newsstand as what's new in the app.

And as I was writing this another magazine, also from Bonnier, has been updated. Sound+Vision also lists Newsstand support as what is new in the app.

Those TNM readers anxious to see their apps in Newsstand – we know who you are – won't have to wait much longer.

That was quick: Apple, having just released iTunes 10.5, has just now released the beta version if iTunes 10.5.1 to developers. The beta iTunes software warns developers that their "iCloud libraries will be deleted at the end of this beta."

There are also some "known" issues that show that Apple is not quite there yet: "The scan & match feature is not yet complete ...Some songs may not match (even if they is available in the iTunes Store) and will be uploaded to iCloud ... Other songs may match to a different version of the same song on the iTunes Store."

Apple releases iTunes 10.5, essential download for users if iOS devices and developers

Apple has just released the new version of iTunes. The new software, iTunes 10.5, will be needed to be installed by iOS device owners who will begin updating their devices tomorrow with the latest version of the operating system, iOS 5.

Those with developer accounts who have been working with beta software will have to update, as well, as their beta software will expire by week's end.

Developers may immediately notice what is missing in iTunes 10.5 when compared to their beta versions: iTunes Match, the new $24.99 service that allows users to match their own music collections to Apple's cloud-based tracks for playing anywhere. Apple is no doubt not launching the service this week to avoid the inevitable rush of new users and bandwidth issues that would come with the launch of this service at the same time users are downloading the new iOS, as well as new iTunes software. The service is rumored to be launched later in the month.

Previously developers had been warned that their content, uploaded during beta, would be scrubbed from the new cloud services before the service goes live for consumers.

Ad pages for consumer magazines dip 5.6% in third quarter, now in negative territory for the year

Magazine publishers were fairly optimistic that they could record ad page gains in 2011 after several years of contraction. But those hopes are being dashed as the year moves along.

According to the latest report from the Publishers Information Bureau (PIB), ad pages for consumer magazines dipped 5.6% in the third quarter of this year. For the year, ad pages are now in negative territory: down 1.1% versus the same first nine months of 2010.

Of the categories measured in the PIB report, Food & Food Products is down the most for the quarter and for the year: down 24.8% for the quarter, and down 16.2% for the year. The Financial category remains the strongest (anybody surprised?).
Of the individual magazines, Bloomberg BusinessWeek is continues to be having a good year, up 22.8% though September. Other magazines of note: Departures is up 46.2%, or 142 ad pages; Wired is up 15.9%, or over 85 ad pages.

On the downside, Newsweek continues to falter, down 22% for the year, or over 140 ad pages. All the Sunday magazines are in negative territory – magazines like Parade and USA Weekend – though the New York Times Magazine is only down one-half of one percent on the year, essentially flat.

American Business Media (ABM) has not released its third quarter numbers yet for the trade publishing industry. Through June, however, B2B magazines had been able to record a modest gain of 1.99% for the first half of the year, according to the ABM, with a majority of categories recording ad page gains.

Foysyth County News releases first tablet edition

Writing about the convergence of media and tech can sometimes lead to encountering apps that don't always perform as they should. The initial reaction is to immediately begin writing about how a certain app is buggy, or shouldn't have been even released. Then on takes a second look and suddenly all the bugs are gone and so is your post.
A good example of this is the new iPad edition released by the Forsyth County News, a Georgia newspaper. FCN News was developed by Salt Lake City digital publishing solutions company Matchbin.

The new app opens up to a message telling you that"You don't have any publications yet! Tap "Buy" above to get some." Since I haven't see any sample issue of the product, buying "some" is a little hard. Making it harder is that fact that there is no "Buy" above! Clearly the developer meant "Store", but still is it so hard for someone to proofread the app?

Once you go to the store you see that you can either buy one issue at 99 cents, or subscribe at 99 cents – again, rather strange but I'm game. Now to understand what I encountered next you need to know that my iPad was in landscape in its cover. I bought one issue and then waited. Nothing happened but I figured that I needed to go into the library at that point, and I was right.

Once in the library I tapped on the one issue I had bought and encountered an issue that took up two-thirds of the screen. I turned my iPad to portrait but nothing happened, it did not turn.

I was about to conclude that this was one buggy app when I decided to shutdown the app and reboot it. At that point opening up the purchased issue resulted the app going full screen – all was well, sort of.

The problem with native application solutions is that they are a more complicated digital publishing solution than simply converting a PDF. The result is that often native apps can misbehave in all sorts of manners.

The design of the news pages inside FCN Digital are simple enough, but the navigation is not very intuitive. There is no button for "Home" or "Library" that helps the reader out.

The app also comes with a Business Directory that I simply could not get to work. Tapping the categories did nothing, as did tapping the message that read "Tap here to learn more".

Overall, this app would be fine if it were the result of a few weeks of work and was being presented to the publisher as a work-in-progress. Unfortunately, it has made is way into the App Store and I suspect that an update will need to be released sooner rather than later.

Left: the opening splash page; Middle: the sections are a collection of boxes, effective, if boring; Right: The Business Directory needs serious design work.

Why does this happen? I've always suspected that it is harder to reject the work of digital publishing vendors than it is internal work. Vendors often give you a certain amount of time at a certain price and if the work is not up to the publisher's standards then they are faced with a very tough decision – admit that a lot of money has been wasted, or else let the project go through and hope that whatever defects are to be found in the end product can be cleaned up at a later date, and without too much more cost being added to the bill.

The last website launches I was involved with while a group publisher presented me with this dilemma. The work was simply not acceptable and it looked we'd either have to go in another direction or else continue to struggle getting close to the original vision. I simply did not want to launch yet another boring, ineffective B2B website. But the media company's chief executive and the management team at the vendor put plenty of pressure to "just get the job done". The result: more websites that are not generating any profit, for anyone.

My only recommendation for any publisher working on projects in the new media space is to assume that it will take twice as long as the vendor says it will in order to get things right, and to make sure the vendor is willing to see the project through to everyone's satisfaction without massive changes to the original price.

Morning Brief: Arrests in Boston and threats in NYC; not all apps are ready for iOS 5; voice controls for cookbooks

There were more than 50 arrests of Occupy Boston protestors last night, while in New York City mayor Bloomberg said the protestors could remain in Zuccotti Park for now: “If they break the laws, then we’re going to do what we’re supposed to do — enforce the laws," the mayor said.

Meanwhile, the continuing protests, the arrests and the criticism from the Fox News wing of the media has finally gotten the protestors a decent amount of coverage. What comes next will be interesting to see as the protestors begin to zero in on their targets of their protests – today, for instance, Occupy Wall Street plans to march up Fifth Avenue to the homes of some of America's richest people, Rupert Murdoch, JP Morgan CEO Jamie Dimon, and Tea Party funder David Koch.

iOS 5 is set to be released to the public tomorrow and while I have been using the gold master version of the software on my iPhone for the past week I have been occasionally coming across apps that have bugs in them when used on iOS 5 phones.

One of the apps, AOL Radio, for instance, no longer continues to play when your phone goes to sleep. This is a behavior that used to exist in the first generation of iPhone software that lacked multitasking capability. When I discovered this I tested out Pandora to see if it worked fine under iOS 5 (yes, it does).

Expect to see lots of updates quickly hit the App Store as developers find bugs that need fixing under iOS 5.

Last week I took a look at the donna hay magazine app and casually added that "All that would make this perfect would be if Apple could add in voice controls that would allow cooks to instruct their iPads to turn the page without having to use one's dirty hands to do this (this will come, believe me)."

TNM reader Tony Redhead commented on that story and it is worth elevating the comment to here:
You mentioned in the Donna Hay post that it would be perfect if Apple could add in voice controls. Well it's already here and it didn't have to come from Apple. There's an Australian company called MoGeneration that has a Digital Publishing platform, called Oomph, that has Voice Controls as one of it's features. In fact all the recipes in the latest Fitness First digital magazine have a voice control option, it's pretty cool. No more sticky finger marks all over your iPad.
Thank you, Tony. I hadn't heard of this company and will obviously check them out.

The idea of voice controls for cookbooks, as well as magazines and newspapers containing recipes, seems to me to be a natural. I can envision Siri one day being able to answer the question "find me a recipe for banana bread" and then walk you through the recipe at your own pace.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Media app launches and updates: Hanley Wood releases news app for Architect; Facebook app gets update to add iPad; Xfinity updates app to improve iOS 5 compatibility

Hanley Wood has released a second app in support of its B2B magazine, Architect. The app, Architect News, is an RSS feed reader that brings in news from the publisher's website.
The app was created by Decision Counsel, a Berkeley, California based strategic branding and interactive agency that had previously released a similar app for another Hanley Wood property, Builder. The app was cleanly developed, but its design is, well, rather simple – more a Walmart in appearance rather than a Guggenheim.

The app appears under the Decision Counsel name, rather than Hanley Wood. This is a similar situation to that of Architect's other iPad app released under the RR Donnelley name, Architect Reader Magazine – that app is an enhanced replica edition

Architect magazine not that long ago became the "official" magazine for the American Institute of Architects, grabbing that label away from McGraw-Hill's ArchRecord.

There is lots of buzz today about the fact that Facebook has updated its iOS app to add in iPad support. The new app will probably show up as an update in iTunes for a lot of people.

Interestingly, the app is not currently appearing under iPad apps, though the iPhone version shows clearly that the app is now universal. Since the tech sites love to talk about Facebook I'll leave it to them to discuss the app.

One app that surprisingly doesn't get that much use in my house is the Xfinity TV app. I really don't know why that is, though I would guess it has something to do with the fact that it really doesn't do much that can't be done with the remote.

The biggest advantage of the app is that you can play on demand programming (though not live television). But the selection is limited to premium movie channels only.

In any case, the app was updated today to fix some bugs and to make sure the app is compatible with iOS 5 when it is released on Wednesday.

The Guardian previews its forthcoming iPad edition

The long awaited first iPad app from the U.K. daily The Guardian appears to be only days away from being launched. Today the newspaper previewed its new app with a promotion video, seen below.

With iOS 5 to be released on Wednesday, quite a number of major changes will be coming that will effect newspaper and magazine publishers. The most important will be the launch of a new Apple app, Newsstand, that will place publisher's periodicals offering subscriptions (free or paid) into one central location. Because of this, many apps are being held back for a few more days as the new apps incorporate features that will only work with iOS 5.

The Guardian, which was one of the first newspapers to launch an iPad app with its The Guardian Eyewitness, has not, to date, launched a tablet edition for its daily newspaper. Eyewitness is a well-received photojournalism app, not a news app.

But The Guardian's editor, Alan Rusbridger was always quite clear that an iPad would eventually appear.

"We looked at some of the beautiful, early experiments that people did as newspapers on the iPad – and they were beautiful but they were recreating the newspaper on the iPad," said Rusbridger in the promotional video.

"One of the issues we were grappling with was how do you get that sense of hierarchy of information that we are familiar with from a printed newspaper page? How do we create that in a form that is appropriate to the iPad?"

"We just came up with this idea of a simple grid," Mark Porter, design consultant on the Guardian's iPad project says, "but stories can occupy one cell of that grid, or two cells of that grid, or four cells of that grid, and so on. And immediately you've created a little kind of architecture in which there is a form for big stories, small stories, and intermediate stories."

The Guardian recently launched a U.S. news site, and is building an editorial team in NYC. It will be interesting to see whether there are separate U.S. and U.K. apps, or whether the app will use location to stream the appropriate editorial content.

Another thing to look out for is how The Guardian app app handles advertising. Most tablet editions build in one ad spot, either a medium rectangle or banner ad, which remains the same from page to page. It appears that The Guardian has been thinking long and hard about how to incorporate advertising into the display 'pages' of their iPad edition.

"We've built an advertising system here where advertising is present, surrounded by editorial, as we're familiar with from printed newspapers," Porter said. "But there is still a clear separation, and then when you engage with the advertising there are various interactions you can performance that make it a more entertaining experience."

Morning Brief: Netflix reverses decision to split off DVD business; The Independent to erect paywall for non-U.K. readers; it's 'Le Huffington Post', darling

A Netflix spokesman admitted today that the company "underestimated the appeal of the single web site and a single service,” Steve Swasey, a Netflix spokesman, told the NYT this morning.

As a result, Netflix will not split into two separate streaming and physical media companies.

"This means no change: one website, one account, one password… in other words, no Qwikster," CEO Reed Hastings wrote on the company's official blog. He admitted, as well, "we are now done with price changes."

The Independent announced today it would launch a paywall for U.S. and Canada readers, while keeping their website free for its U.K. readers.

Usually media executives prefer to keep their foreign readers accessing their site for free knowing that they are usually casual readers. The Guardian, for instance, launched separate U.K. and U.S. mobile apps, offering U.S readers the British daily's content for free. The Independent is going in the opposition direction.

In the end, though, the strategy really will effect very few. Like the NYT's paywall, The Independent will allow readers access to 20 page views of material per month before one encounters the paywall. So while The Independent gets a large portion of this web traffic from non-U.K. sources, the chances are that much of this traffic is search engine driven.

The Huffington Post today announced that they will launched a French version of their news and opinion site. Since I assume the reason for the launch is so that Arianna Huffington can have an excuse to spend more time in Paris, this shouldn't be much of a surprise.

The surprise was its partner in the new venture: Le Monde. (I wonder if AOL CEO Tim Armstrong is completely unfamiliar with the newspaper?)

The new site, Le Huffington Post, will be merged with Le Post, a Le Monde-run website.