Friday, October 28, 2011

TNM maintenance time: clearing out the garage

Every once in a while things go really, really, terribly wrong with my iPad, iPhone or iTunes. Actually, that's not fair, nothing ever seems to go wrong with my iPhone, but the others? Oh boy.

Today was one of those days: iTunes simply will not check for app updates.

For most of you this would be a simple annoyance that could be solved by doing your updates from your device. But I have literally hundreds and hundreds of apps inside iTunes, most of which are not on my devices. They are there so that when a newspaper or magazine issues an update I know about it. It's hard to get a media app update past me.

But sometimes something goes terribly wrong. Based on my research it appears that every once in a while an app update is bad, or an app gets corrupted somehow. Then iTunes simply won't check for updates. It is very annoying.

The solution is apparently to delete the offending app. But what if you have tons of apps?

So the solution for me, today, on a Friday, is spring cleaning – or fall cleaning, if you will. Get rid of everything. Delete all the apps, kill 'em off, send them into the Mac trash and laugh like an evil jester when you hear the swooshing sound when you empty the trash.

What you are left with is, well, nothing. But your iPad sure works great now!

Sure, it is a pain to re-download all those apps, but Apple let's you do this with no charge. But the big advantage is that you will forget to download a lot of apps simply because you don't use them anyway. They sat there on your tablet gathering dust – well, maybe not dust, but you get the idea – and now they are gone forever.

So, what should I reload back onto my iPad? All those entertainment apps like Netflix, that's for sure. But what about newspaper and magazine apps? Should I really waste space by reloading the NYT? Great news organization, for sure, but are they really serious about the new digital platforms? I have to admit that I really don't think they are. The Guardian? Definitely.

And on it goes. Thank goodness I kind of get a kick out of this.

The problem I really see is that this is still necessary. No tech company seems to want to make things as easy and transparent as Apple does, yet this still happens. If my iTunes can become un usable like this, what would it be like using iCloud? I shutter to think about it.

The reality still is that digital remains more fragile than paper, digital storage less secure than the corner filing cabinet. The situation is improving, but it challenge of reliable digital performance has yet to be met.

Disney Publishing releases interactive digital iOS app by Mo Willems: 'Don't Let the Pigeon Run This App!'

Earlier this morning TNM posted some of the details from the latest report on app activity from Distimo which showed that major brands are embracing the creation of apps as part of their marketing strategies. Leading that charge is Disney.

Coincidentally, this post on a new interactive app-based book by Mo Willems was ready to go.
Don't Let the Pigeon Run This App! is a $6.99 app that will run on both mobile and tablet iOS devices. While it was created by Mo Willems, the three-time Caldecott Honor winner, awarded by the Association for Library Service to Children, some credit should obviously go to the development team, as well. (The app was developed and published by Hyperion Books for Children, an imprint of Disney Book Group, and developed with Small Planet Digital.)

Like many interactive books, the basic idea behind this new eBook is "build your own story". But there is clearly far more here than just that simple premise.

Don’t Let the Pigeon Run This App! has three story telling modes, leading to a huge number of variables. But the inclusion of physical action (shaking the tablet or mobile device) and the ability to record your name for inclusion in the story, takes the app to another level.

"Interactivity has always been a key to the Pigeon books,” said Willems in the Disney launch announcement. “Don’t Let the Pigeon Run This App! takes that interactivity to the point where the child is not only the audience, but the author as well. I can't wait to see what awesome ideas kids will come up with. They're going to put the Pigeon through the wringer!"

The new interactive book is the newest addition to the series created by Willems that includes Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus (good advice) and Don't Let the Pigeon Stay Up Late.

I can tell you that playing around with this app on a Friday certainly beats looking at more unimaginative media apps – and maybe there is a lesson there, try to have a little fun when you are building digital products and you'll probably be more successful.

You can find out much more about what Disney is offering in the way of book apps at the company's Disney DigitalBooks site.

Morning Brief: Report finds that major brands are eagerly adopting apps as a marketing tool; Samsung grows its smartphone shipments to pass Apple in the third quarter

A report released this morning by Distimo shows that brands are quickly embracing apps as part of their marketing missions, with app launches growing by over 40 percent in the past six months, by 50 percent the prior six months.

As you'd expect, major brands involved in media are leading the way as companies like Disney and Sony launch large numbers of apps in the Apple and Google stores. Distimo, who produced the report, said that half the brands in the report had some app store presence in March 2010, while 91 percent of the brands currently have at least one app in the major app stores.

The most popular app store continues to be Apple's, but Google's Android Market is not far behind. The BlackBerry App World trails far behind, though 26 percent of brands did launch an app into the store.

More and more electronics companies continue to report "ship" numbers rather than "sold" numbers. Samsung, for instance, reported today a 44 percent jump in smartphone "shipments", claiming the top spot among smartphone makers, ahead of Apple.

According to the research firm Strategy Analytics, Samsung's shipped 27.8 million units, up dramatically over the prior year, while Apple sales shrank, mostly due to pushing the launch of the iPhone 4S back into October.

The ratings for the World Series between the St. Louis Cardinals and the Texas Rangers has been on track to be the lowest ever, thanks no doubt to the fickle nature of east coast fans who continue to show that they don't really like baseball so much as their own teams. For the second year in a row the series in being played without an east coast team participating.

But the ratings will take a jump today as the series has reached a seventh game after a rather epic, entertaining, though not exactly well played game six.

Trailing by two runs going into the bottom of the ninth, and down to their last strike, the Cardinals' David Freese hit a drive over the head of Nelson Cruz, who didn't really look like he wanted to catch it anyways. That drove in two runs to tie the game. Freese ended up on third and Cruz was not charged with an error (though the game featured five of them).

But in the top of the tenth the Rangers Josh Hamilton, hobbled by an injury, and without a home run in the series, launched a two run blast that put Texas back up by two. Back again in the bottom of the tenth, the Cardinals were again down to their last strike when Lance Berkman, who earlier in the year had criticized the Rangers for not resigning Cliff Lee, hit a single into center that tied the game once again.

Finally in the bottom of the ninth David Freese proved the hero again with a solo home run to center to end the evening. Game seven is tonight to determine the series' winner.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Bay Area News Group pulls a Netflix, decides against its own controversial rebranding plan; launches Community Media Labs initiative featuring open newsrooms

The president of the Bay Area News Group said today that the company had reconsidered its idea of rebranding its local newspapers and will instead retain "the majority" of its current newspaper titles. "

"After carefully considering the feedback we received after we announced our plan to rebrand our newspapers, we decided to embrace a strategy that maintains the majority of our current mastheads and includes bringing the community into the newsroom," Mac Tully, president of Bay Area News Group said in the company's announcement.

The original plan was to rebrand the Oakland Tribune, Alameda Times-Star, Daily Review, Argus and West County Times as the East Bay Tribune, but that won't happen. The group will, however, combine the Tri-Valley Herald, Valley Times, and San Joaquin Herald, into one title, the Tri-Valley Times.

The rebranding plan, along with the decision to close the Walnut Creek office that used to serve as the headquarters for Lesher Communications, was widely seen as both a retrenchment and as simply a cost savings move – especially in light of fact that the announcement also said that the Oakland Tribune, The Argus and the Hayward Daily Review would halt Monday home delivery of their papers.

The papers included its announcement of its decision reversal in a story about an effort to create a more open, community focused newsroom called Community Media Labs. The idea is to create a newsroom open to the public, literally. These Labs will include computers, space for community meetings, blogging stations, Wi-Fi access and there will be classes taught by the public and news staff.

"This strategy is in the forefront of the newspaper industry's transition from print-centric businesses to a locally focused provider of news and information across multiple platforms," said John Paton, who was recently named Chief Executive of Digital First Media, and CEO of MediaNews Group, the parent company of the Bay Area News Group.

The first Community Media Lab will be instituted at the Oakland Tribune, and expanded to other communities over time. Update: Oops, forgot my usual disclaimer – I was formerly in management at the Valley Times, now part of BANG. But at the time the paper was not part of MediaNews Group, and in fact competed against MediaNews Group (and quite effectively, I might add).

Bloomberg launches its own live television iPad in competition with WSJ LIve; DIRECTV updates its iPad app to add live in-home streaming of content

Nothing spurs development faster than competition, and with the release of WSJ Live just a little over a month ago, it is not surprising to see a similar app from Bloomberg.
Bloomberg TV+ is a free app very much in the vein of WSJ Live, except without the inane video hosts that WSJ seems to always use.

The developers of the new Bloomberg app also have probably learned a lesson from the WSJ in that they have included AirPlay support right from the get go – WSJ Live had to be updated to add that in.

Of course, the reasons for the development of this app is very different than the reasons for the development of the WSJ app. Whereas the WSJ does not have its own cable channel and must attract viewers to its video via apps on tablets and on smart TV sets, Bloomberg has the advantage of already being seen on many cable channel menus.
That means that the main reason for launching an iPad app is simply to extend the reach of the television channel and drive additional viewership through the app's on-demand offerings.

The Bloomberg TV+ app also does something rarely seen, it allows for the downloading of the video content for offline viewing, something I would imagine business travelers will love.

The app performed a big sluggishly for me, but that may be because I am still using an original iPad (yep, still waiting for Apple to ship me that new iPad 2). But though it was sluggish it did perform as advertised so I can imagine that the app is just great on a newer iPad.

DIRECTV yesterday updated its iPad app to add in in-home streaming of live television. DIRECTV App of iPad (sounds like a name created when the developer blew earlier attempts at loading apps into Apple's system) will let you use your iPad as an extra television set – provided you have your iPad connected to the same home WiFi network that the DIRECTV Plus® HD DVR is connected to.

We are still a long way away from the television cable and satellite providers creating apps that will stream live television over 3G. That is what consumers want, but the broadband demands probably prohibit it at this point. Again we have a situation where the cell phone providers want to cap data volume while other media are creating products that add to the data demands.

Retweet: Interview with CEO of

I certainly don't link to Business Insider too often, their credibility being pretty much shot thanks to their aggregation tactics, but this interview with CEO Steven Boal, written by Matt Rosoff is a worthy exception.

The interview is very good and well worth the few minutes it will take to read the complete post.

If you are not familiar with it might be because they have not gotten the big press because they were not the target of big investments from the PE crowd, despite being around for more than a dozen years. In fact, that is one of the major points of the interview, that has been able to raise large amounts of funding by without having to rely on PE firms that have short time horizons.

"There are benefits to staying private and staying private the way we have done it. We are a non-venture-backed, non-PE-backed company, so we have no time-based duration funds in the company. Prior to the $200 million, we had raised $85 million, all privately," Boal told Rosoff.

This is the first point: by staying away from the usual PE players can continue to grow its business without wondering who will be the new owner when the time comes for the investors to cash out.

The interview also talks about the newspaper industry, and what impact the loss of coupons could have on the profitability of the industry, especially the Sunday editions.

Boal rightly shies away from boasting, and says news organizations will be here to stay, but he admits believing that the paper product is vulnerable.

But the thought that stuck with me was that newspaper executives have been aware for a long time that online couponers posed a real threat to the profitability of their products. But only now are newspapers forming alliances to try and develop digital alternatives.

I'm not optimistic. The same digital teams that have created ad-less (or near ad-less) mobile and tablet publishing products are hardly going to be helpful when trying to save a product that is all about advertising. This is why I'm am always crying out for the inclusion of the ad teams when any new digital media product is developed. Advertising should be considered from the beginning, not as a "we'll add it in later" detail.

But sadly the paid content people are supreme right now. I wonder where they plan on working next after they drive their products into the ground.

Note: Don't visit the website using Chrome on a Mac, it will give you an error message and won't let you in. That's very strange considering that it allows Chrome for PC and Safari for Mac to be used.

ABM's president Clark Pettit talks about the mission of the association and the challenges faced by trade publishers

Earlier this week the association for U.S. trade publishers, American Business Media (ABM), hosted an Executive Forum in Chicago centered around the theme of monetizing content. It was a good opportunity to speak with the president of the association, Clark Pettit, who took over his position last summer.

Pettit comes in to lead the trade publisher association at an interesting and challenging time. The effects of both the continuing digital media revolution, plus the very week economic times, is putting tremendous strain on the B2B publishing community.

But this week the ABM announced that it had added 15 new members, included in that list are some names new to the B2B industry, but indicative of where the industry may be headed: Moving Media+, the Bonnier spinoff and maker of the digital publishing solution Mag+, and RapidBuyr, a B2B daily deal site –  two examples of new companies coming into the association as associate member; plus AOL Industry, the new AOL B2B unit, came into the ABM as a regular member.

Pettit joined the association in July of last year, and association members hope that his experience in the music and motion picture industries, and the experiences learned in their migration to digital, will be extremely useful in his new role.

"One of the biggest challenges is getting back to really differentiating the content that you can't get from anywhere else on the planet, and getting that properly valued, whether that is ad supported or paid (content)," Pettit said on Tuesday.

"To me the whole concept of B2B is this deep, vertical understanding of a deep, vertical business audience and the ability to provide unique, long-form, rich, kind of highly tailored, engineering-like, nerdy content that is uniquely valuable to them," Pettit told me this week.

"Yet, the normal kind of thing that happens when the Internet comes along is the value of content, in general, has been, I would argue, for an interim period, severely depressed. I think the really premium, high quality content went down also. And then when you compound that with the need to launch into new areas – and I know we're talking about digital, but it is true across all of them, it's true across events, it's true across any of them – sometimes you price based on past knowledge, into a business line you don't fully understand yet so you don't have the metrics to price so you have some price erosion."

To learn more about what members want from the association, Pettit has been on the road, meeting with members.

"Fundamentally what the members told me was there is a value problem in the market place, and that wasn't just about ABM pricing," Pettit said. "It was 'we are phenomenally busy with an exploding number of complex things', the CEO is being dragged in a thousand ways, the next level down is being dragged in a thousand ways, and even just showing up to an event, let alone paying for the membership right and privilege to go there, is a serious cost."

Indeed, one of the aspects of the B2B industry many outsiders don't realize, is the number of small to medium-sized companies involved. With several major media companies essentially pulling out of B2B – RBI and Nielsen as two examples – the trade publishing industry is left without the kinds of companies that would normally lead the way in the migration towards digital platforms. While Condé Nast and Time Inc. have enthusiastically embraced tablet publishing, for instance, there are far fewer companies to point to in the B2B area that are leading the charge.

But there are other areas, Pettit said, where B2B is actually leading the way in publishing.

"I came in thinking, well, B2B is probably mostly behind – and that's OK, it moves at a slower pace, the audience moves slower, so that's an appropriate reaction," Pettit said.

"But in things like lead generation, and really understanding your audience, and using that to drive content, that's well embraced in the industry and to a degree that is well beyond anything that is happening in consumer. I think consumer (publishing) is beginning to realize they also have to do that even though they are not in the deep vertical audience. They have to understand the behavioral shifts or their brands disappear."

National Geographic Society issues a special edition for the iPad: '7 Billion' is single sponsored by DuPont

The National Geographic Society today released into the App Store a special issue that the publisher says is free to download for a limited time (hurry up).

7 Billion is a tablet edition currently only available for the iPad that has as its subject the fact that the human population is about to hit seven billion.
The special tablet edition is single sponsored by DuPont and serves as an excellent example of the kind of special edition publishing that is possible for tablets, assuming the publisher has created the infrastructure necessary to produce tablet editions.

This particular apps's design and production is created to Susan Park Lee, who has been a designer at the National Geographic Society for about a year.

The tablet edition uses native design: scrolling within stories and swiping to reach the next story. The issue uses landscape only as its orientation which saves a bit of app size. Nonetheless, the app still weighs in at 297 MB thanks to its animation and embedded video content – but it should be noted that the download is pretty fast.

This is a great app and it is good to see that DuPont chose to sponsor it. The single sponsor solution for tablet publishing continues to find more success than selling display pages in tablet editions, though hopefully agencies will wake up and start looking for good opportunities inside tablet magazines.

Morning Brief: European leaders reach deal to halve Greek debt; Sony buys out Swedish mobile phone partner

European leaders are lauding a new debt deal that will force the owners of existing Greek bonds to take a "haircut" by converting their bonds into new loans, the result of which will halve the outstanding debt of the Greek government. Part of the deal involves a new €100 billion bailout for Greece to be received next year.

The Prime Minister of Greece, George Papandreou.

"A new day has dawned for Greece," the Prime Minister George Papandreou said early today. "We are permanently closing the country's accounts with the past and entering a new course that will be characterized by development and not uncertainties."

"We have reached an agreement which I believe lets us give a credible and ambitious and overall response to the Greek crisis," French President Nicolas Sarkozy is quoted by The Guardian as stating. "Because of the complexity of the issues at stake it took us a full night. But the results will be a source of huge relief worldwide."

Sony Corp. has agreed to take over the Sony Ericsson joint venture. The electronics giant will pay about $1.45 billion to buy out its Swedish partner.

"Its the beginning of something which I think is quite magical," Sony's chairman and chief Executive Sir Howard Stringer said, echoing the words of the late Steve Jobs.

The buyout of its partner may help Sony better integrate its divergent products into one coherent mobile ecosystem. It may be especially helpful if Apple decides to get into the television set business, as has been rumored.

In fact, one could safely say that this is the first impact made by Apple's new business, which is, of course, strictly vaporware at this point.

Lovely story this morning in the NYT about the Madoff's attempted suicide. After living the high life for years the married couple that they just couldn't stand the thought of people being, well, a bit peeved with them for rather impolite act of stealing their live's savings.

So one night the Madoffs took a bunch of pills and awaiting oblivion.

The next morning, Ruth Madoff told the Times that she was “glad to wake up” from her drug induced sleep.

“I’m not sure how I felt about him waking up,” she added. How sweet.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Afternoon brief: MPA in search for new CMO; an update on Ziff Davis Enterprise's all-digital strategy; Amazon's anticipated losses make some investors a bit nervous

Lucia Moses of Adweek is reporting that the MPA, formerly known now as the Association of Magazine Media, has lost its chief marketing executive only 14 months after he was brought on board.

Andrew Jung, formerly with Kellogg Co., was hired in August 2010 to promote the association and its magazine members. But promoting a medium like magazines is not exactly the same as promoting a consumer product and so, apparently, things have not worked out as planned. Frankly, I can not blame Jung, it is always nice to have a budget.

Yesterday afternoon I wrote about the plans of Ziff Davis Enterprise to go all-digital, closing its print magazines in 2012. Today the company released a press release that spelled out what the company's first moves will be.

According to the announcement, Ziff Davis Enterprise will be releasing next month a series of newly optimized websites and a portfolio of "native" apps for all the major mobile platforms – iPhone, Android, BlackBerry, Windows Phone 7, and Symbian/Nokia-powered smart phones, as well as apps for the iPad, RIM Playbook, and Android-powered tablets.

(I put "native" in quotes because there are reports that they company will be working with Texterity, the maker of digital flipbooks, not exactly a producer of "native" apps.)

Ziff has even come up with a cute name for their digital strategy: Omni Digital.

The strategy, the company says, involves creating mobile optimized websites, tablet optimized websites (I assume this means HTML5 touch controlled sites), native apps for both smartphones and tablets, traditional websites and digital editions of the magazines (presumably to appear on the websites and in digital newsstands).

It will be interesting to see what the B2B Ziff can offer up next month – we'll definitely be watching for the launches.

"The future of engagement is mobile, it is social and it is entirely digital," Steve Weitzner, Ziff Davis Enterprise CEO said in the company's announcement. "We intend to drive the digital marketing standard for B2B tech media and accelerate the 'anywhere and everywhere' consumption of content by exploiting the rapid adoption of mobile and tablet devices in the IT community. We are focused on providing a comprehensive and tightly integrated digital engagement portfolio to help technology vendors with their toughest marketing tasks by facilitating interaction with buyers throughout the purchase process."

If you are an investor with holding in the online retailer Amazon you are not lovin' life today. Despite an up day for the market around 13 percent today after the company reported its earnings yesterday afternoon – earnings that fell short of expectations and the company said that it might post a $200 million loss in Q4.

The losses, of course, are anticipated in part because Amazon has entered the tablet market with a $200 tablet that will actually drive losses (and revenue) instead of profits. How much the company will lose is a matter opinion – I've heard $50 per tablet, Bloomberg is quoting the research firm IHS Inc. as estimating that it is $10 per tablet.

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos's biggest mistake has been not more strongly warning investors. For that, according to Bloomberg, Bezos himself has seen the value of his stock fall $2.2 billion in value. (A billion here, a billion there, soon you're talking about real money.)

But is the strategy wrong? My own experiences in the media business definitely create a bias in me – I was once a classified advertising manager and was solidly in the camp that pushed for volume. Volume creates markets, it pushes out competitors, and it builds brand. Done right, a volume strategy will result in huge gains in revenue, and healthy profits. Done wrong, a volume strategy will result in huge gains in revenue, and unhealthy losses.

I doubt that Bezos hasn't bet the farm on his tablet strategy, but he has certainly created a lot of nervous investors, and some analysts have begun advising their clients to sell Amazon stock.

But as we all know, if an analyst says sell, it is often a good time to buy.

Condé Nast claims huge increases in digital subscription sales thanks to porting their apps over to Newsstand

The tech sites are proclaiming the merits of Newsstand today after Condé Nast, the publisher of such magazines as Allure, The New Yorker, Vanity Fair and Wired, said that their digital subscription sales had soared since the introduction of Apple's Newsstand with the recent iOS 5 launch.

According to Condé Nast, new digital subscription sales of all nine titles inside Newsstand have increased, 268 percent overall, while single copy sales are also up, 142 percent, compared to sales the previous eight weeks.

“We couldn’t be happier,” said Monica Ray, Condé Nast’s executive vice president consumer marketing.

“It’s clear that the focused attention and greater
discoverability Newsstand provides our brands has been embraced by the consumer. While we recognize the spike in sales is in part fueled by the attention the launch received, we are very optimistic that we will see a consistently higher level of growth going forward than we did prior to the app’s introduction,” Ray said.

Last week it was Future Publishing which was bragging about its Newsstand numbers, claiming that their apps had been downloaded two million times since Newsstand appeared in iOS 5. Both the proponents and the skeptics of Newsstand pointed out that there is a world of difference between an app download and a paid subscription – but one can't happen without the other, so at least that was a good start.

Likewise, it could be argued that claiming a huge percentage gain in paid subscriptions is not as impressive if one doesn't know the actual numbers involved – after all, if I sell one subscription today, but two tomorrow, boom, a 100 percent increase!

But Condé Nast seems happy, and if that is truly the case then maybe we'll stop hearing about Apple's "walled garden" and more about Apple's "new market place".

Let's get something straight: Apple is not always all about 'simple', 'elegant' and 'it just works'

Let me just say one thing that puts the whole "it just works" thing to bed once and for all: iWork, that mess of a productivity suite that will force you to spend hours trying to successfully print out one envelope, or to get your spreadsheets to properly import formulas.

For everything that a consumer can say about the elegance of the iPhone, or the ease of use of the iPad, there is iWork.

As an Apple customer since 1983, and huge proponent of the iOS platform, I am not blind to the utter garbage the company continues to produce when it comes of basic productivity software. I can stream my photos and videos to my television, but print an envelope? Forget it.

Sadly, this situation is pretty common. How far has common programs like Word and Excel advanced in the past decade? Ever try and do any layouts in Word or create a nice looking chart in Excel? Yikes, maybe we should all return to dot matrix printers.

Indiana college student puts out an Occupy Wall Street news app using the Red Foundry DIY solution

I suppose one could be cynical and call this new app from Santiago Jaramillo the ultimate in cashing in on a hot trend, but since the app itself is free of charge that would probably not be fair.
Occupy Wall Street News is a free iOS app from BlueBridge Digital, the first app released by its developer Santiago Jaramillo.

The app is a simple RSS reader app, created using the online app development site Red Foundry which like a lot of do-it-yourself app creators, allows users to create a free application with limited capabilities and support.

This particular app looks like it is simply bringing Google search results rather than direct RSS feeds from news organizations. The layouts are minimal, and the ad at the top of the screen from luxury car maker Lexus is certainly ironic, and calls into question whether the developer really cares one bit about OWS.

In fact, Jaramillo, 21, calls himself a prankster, a rebel, and an entrepreneur on his own badly coded website.

Whatever the case may be Apple is currently promoting the app in the News category so Occupy Wall Street News is bound to get plenty of downloads.

Morning Brief: The Guardian is ready for their screen test; Encyclopaedia Britannica launches its own iPad app with limited free content, full access for $1.99 per month

I can just imagine Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger saying "All right, Mr. DeMille, I'm ready for my close-up." It's a scary thought, I know. But The Guardian is apparently attempting to get ready for the time when its products, most likely its website, is viewed on bigger displays – specifically, televisions.

You can view their early work here.
The experiment is clear recognition that publishing is finally coming to the television, something that news organizations have been working on since at least the '80s. The old company Silent Radio, if you recall, used to scroll a new ticker on LED displays in bars, restaurants and other businesses with the idea that people wanted to constantly stay informed.

I think the examples found on The Guardian site are equally primitive in that they reflect the belief that users will simply want their websites optimized for their HDTVs – some will, but my guess is that, like all digital content, the evolution will be towards more interactive, animated content versus simple text and pictures.

I attended the American Business Media Executive Forum yesterday – a big thank you to the folks at the ABM. Several new posts will result from the meeting including interviews with Mike Haney from Mag+ and another with Clark Pettit, President and CEO of the ABM.

While the forum's theme centered on Content Marketing, the issue of digital was never far from the center of the discussions. Since it has been about two years since I've attended an ABM meeting, one thing that I noticed in my conversations with individuals at the event was that the digital divide seems to be geting wider, not smaller.

Several companies mentioned impressive mobile app initiatives, while personal conversations with several publishers and industry leaders showed a shocking lack of knowledge of even the rudimentary elements of app creation (like how to become a developer and submit an app). No doubt the association's new president will have to take a go slow approach in this area, but there is no doubt that Pettit has the chops to handle the digital side of things.

Look for more B2B content throughout the week.

One of the early CD-ROM based products that were introduced for PCs was the digital encyclopedia. For many parents, the chance to buy an encyclopedia for their kids justified the expense of buying an early PC.

Now we are in the mobile and tablet era of digital media and so, not unexpectedly, Encyclopaedia Britannica, Inc. announced today that it had launched an app version of its product.

The app, simply called Encyclopædia Britannica, is a free app for the iPad. Users can access limited content for free – 100 articles plus the first 100 words of each article; or they can pay a subscription fee of $1.99 for full content. Current subscribers to, who, by the way, pay $69.95 a year for access, can log-in to their accounts to access the content for free.

"For more than two centuries, Britannica has partnered with former U.S. and international presidents, Nobel Laureates, scientists and other historical figures to provide people with the information they seek. Now that world-class information is available on a fast, mobile platform," said Greg Barlow, Encyclopaedia Britannica's senior vice president and chief marketing officer.

Paragon Software currently offers an Android version of the Britannica Concise Encyclopedia 2011 for $19.95, as well as a Spanish language version for that platform, as well.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

B2B: Ziff Davis Enterprise abandons print for digital

Ziff Davis Enterprise, the B2B division that publishes eWEEK, CIO Insight, Baseline and Channel Insider, is going digital, ending the printing of its magazines in 2012.

“The future of engagement is mobile, it is social and it is entirely digital,” said Steve Weitzner, Ziff Davis Enterprise CEO in the company's announcement.

“We intend to drive the digital marketing standard for B2B tech media and accelerate the ‘anywhere and everywhere’ consumption of content by exploiting the rapid adoption of mobile and tablet devices in the IT community. We are focused on providing a comprehensive and tightly integrated digital engagement portfolio to help technology vendors with their toughest marketing tasks by facilitating interaction with buyers throughout the purchase process.”

By going digital only, Ziff Davis Enterprise says it will increase both the frequency and audience reach of its digital media products.

But according to a Folio: report, the company will be working with Texterity on its digital editions. Texterity is known for producing digital flipbooks and for launching replica edition apps for its mostly B2B customers.

Ziff Davis Enterprise is a stand alone company owned by Insight Partners and is not associated with Ziff Davis Media, which itself went all digital in 2009.

Pew survey shows growth of the tablet market; study looks at news consumption by tablet owners and compares the use of media apps to browser usage

Pew has issued an interesting new study of news consumption on tablets (which pretty much means iPads), and while the data is extremely important for publishers to understand, I'm not sure I agree with parts of Pew's own interpretation of that data.

The study, conducted by the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism in collaboration with The Economist Group, found that a year and a half after the introduction of the iPad, 11 percent of U.S. adults now owns a tablet of some kind. Not surprisingly users are using their tablets to consume the news.

But while Pew questions whether they are using apps versus the browser to access news content, the actual survey found that 52 percent said they were, in fact, reading the news through an app, just not exclusively through apps.

Pew also found that tablet owners were hesitant to pay for news content. But since the survey found that 40 percent used the Safari browser exclusively to access news content, it shouldn't be surprising that this audience - used to getting their content free of charge - would say that aren't willing to pay for access.

Especially knowing that the survey took place prior to the launch of Newsstand, I'm more optimistic about the public's willingness to pay for digital - especially since Pew found that brand was an extremely important influencer in determining what content to access. Additionally, news consumption is often a surfing activity. But in-depth news consumption, for instance through news magazines, is more of a leisure time activity, and therefore more likely to be possibly consumed through a branded app.

These surveys are incredibly important, but jumping to conclusions based on one survey may be a mistake. But Pew continues to do incredibly important work for publishers in understanding the impact of tablets on their businesses.

While tech sites speculate about whether Apple will become a TV set maker, the real question becomes what impact would this have on the platform overall?

The tech sites need something to talk about now that the iPhone 4S has been released – it's a bit early for talk about the iPad 3 (though I expect those rumors to start heating up), so now the talk is about the idea that Apple will get into the television set business.

In reality this is an old rumor, warmed up a bit by some comments by Steve Jobs spoken to Walter Isaacson.

I’d like to create an integrated television set that is completely easy to use. It would be seamlessly synched with all of your devices and with iCloud. It will have the simplest user interface you could imagine. I finally cracked it.
There are lots of good reasons why Apple entering the TV market seems like a bad idea, but two of them make the most sense to me: 1) prices of televisions sets are dropping each year; and 2) the market is hardly void of competition.

But I can also think of two good reasons why the company might enter the space: 1) if Apple begins manufacturing its own displays, or has such a price stranglehold on display pricing, it might feel it is at a strategic advantage (Apple would want to come it with a device competitively priced like the iPad); and 2) it has something new to offer the platform, the way the iPhone was something very different from a BlackBerry or a Razr.

Marco Arment, developer of Instapaper, wrote a couple of days ago about what Apple could be up to:
Apple makes a class of obviously disruptive products, such as the iPhone and iPad, that blow away the industries that existed before them. They also make another class of products, such as the Airport Extreme, that don’t revolutionize their category but simply stand as high-quality implementations of what everyone else is doing. If Steve was excited about Apple’s potential entrance into the TV market, he probably intended to revolutionize it, not just make a nicer version of everyone else’s TV set.
So let the rumor sites continue to feeding frenzy for awhile before seriously considering whether there is any meat on the bones of these rumors. Instead, let's consider what Apple, or anyone, would do to transform this platform.

First, consider that the current state of television distribution didn't always look like it does today. Today about 90 percent of Americans get their television though cable or satellite providers. But for most of its history, cable television was almost exclusively a product used by viewers in rural areas, too far away from the television stations to pick up a decent television broadcast signal. In the 1960's there were less than a million cable TV subscribers. By the end of the '80s, however, that number had grown to 53 million households. The point is that many networks, and many producers of content, still remember the day when television was a direct to consumer product, with only the networks to deal with (but since there were only three major networks, that was actually a far bigger barrier to entry).

Today, the growth of mobile and tablet products has stoked the direct broadcasting dreams of many in the industry. In some ways, I would think that we are already seeing the future of television, but in microcosm.

Well, at least the newspaper business is booming in one corner of the world: Libya

Reuters reports on the mini newspaper boom currently going on in Libya. According to a story it posted this weekend, over 200 independent publications have been started in the North African country since the fall of Muammar Gaddafi.

"Customers are buying all the newspapers in front of them, and then deciding what to read," the Reuters report quoted Rajab Al-Waheishi, a newsagent since 1956.

The boom is caused by the lack of a central authority clamping down and overseeing press activities. "It's good because in the past we couldn't print anything without a permit. Now, no one asks us what to print," said Abubaker Hammuda, who runs Al Taleb printing.

Morning Brief: Mag+ announces design contest, winner gets free app; Lee Enterprises issues revenue warning

Designers are being offered a chance to win a free iPad app through a contest from mag+, the digital publishing solutions company. Mag+ will select two winners from those designs that are entered, each winner getting their app published to the iPad, a prize worth £1,700 ($2,500). The full contest details can be found on the Mag+ website.
Whether that app is a festival programme, recipe book, glossy magazine, album notes, children’s book, blog digest, annual report, user manual, or yet unimagined digital publication, Mag+ breathes life into it. – Mag+ contest announcement.

Mag+ will select a short list from those who enter their designs, and then they will conduct a public voting on the Mag+ website to select one of the two winners. The other winner will be selected a Mag+ panel of design experts.

Lee Enterprises is the latest newspaper company to report disappointing earnings and to warn about the upcoming quarter.

Yesterday, the publisher of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and more than 40 other newspapers said it lost $156 million in fiscal Q3, blaming an accounting charge for a majority of the loss. But the publisher also said its revenue fell 5 percent to $187 million, according to the AP.

The fourth quarter doesn't look much better as Lee warned that it expects revenue of about $181.4 million. Lee will report Q4 earnings on November 7.

Rumors continue to swirl about Apple getting into the television set business. Late last night Bloomberg added to the rumor mill by adding a name, Jeff Robbin.

According to the report, Robbin, who worked on SoundJam, the precursor to iTunes, is now "guiding Apple’s internal development of the new TV effort."

Bloomberg claims to have three people who confirm the claim, though I know at least two people who say I'm a pretty nice guy. OK, I know one person who will say that.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Short takes: Apple posts 'A celebration of Steve's life'; Jody Jones named SVP, Digital for Time's Lifestyle Group

Apple has posted the video from the October 19 event the company held in honor of its late CEO, Steve Jobs. The event, A celebration of Steve's life, was a company wide memorial that not only took place at Apple's campus in Cupertino, but also in all Apple retail stores.

Jony Ive speaking at Apple's memorial for Steve Jobs.

The memorial was led by the company's new CEO Tim Cook and included live memorials from former Apple VP of Marketing Bill Campbell, current Apple board member Al Gore, and Apple's Senior Vice President of Industrial Design, Jony Ive.

Ive spoke eloquently, starting his speech by remember Job's love of ideas.
You know Steve used to say to me, and he used to say this a lot, "hey Jony, here's a dopey idea." And sometimes they were…really dopey. Sometimes they were truly dreadful. But sometimes they took the air from the room and they left us both completely silent. Bold, crazy, magnificent ideas. Or quiet, simple one which in their subtlety, their detail they were utterly profound." – Jony Ive
Steve Jobs always loved music, and so the company made sure that in the hour long ceremony there would be plenty of live music. Both Norah Jones and the band Coldplay performed live.

Time Inc. has announced today that Jody Jones has been named SVP, Digital for Lifestyle Group. Jones was most recently SVP, Digital Programming & Content Integration at Discovery Communications and previously held positions at Scripps Network Interactive, Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia and AOL.

Jones will report to Evelyn Webster, Executive Vice President, Time Inc. Lifestyle Group.

Blaming bans in banking services from Bank of America, Visa, Mastercard, PayPal and Western Union, WikiLeaks co-founder Julian Assange said today that the whistleblowing website will no longer continue its publishing operations.

"The US government itself found that there were no lawful grounds to add WikiLeaks to a US financial blockade. But the blockade of WikiLeaks by politicised US finance companies continues regardless," Assange said in a statement.

According to The Guardian post on the announcement, WikiLeaks was raising €100,000 a month last year, but now, after financial institutions have stopped processing donations to WikiLeaks, the money the organization has been able to raise has dropped to a trickle.

Penton Marketing Services asks B2B marketers about their web and social media marketing satisfaction levels

The B2B media firm Penton has released a survey of B2B marketers called Truth from the Trenches that asks marketers about their online marketing strategies.

The survey summary is free to download in PDF form from the Penton Marketing Services website.

From the new study Truth from the Trenches released by Penton Marketing Services.

"What we wanted to explore were the real pain points, expectations gone unfulfilled, frustrations and realities marketers struggle with on a daily basis," said Kim Paulsen, senior vice president at Penton Marketing Services in the company's press release for the survey. "This study reveals both the gaps we uncovered and the strategies you can use to gain ground and turn marketing buzzwords into real tools for success. We are confident that this study will be a great tool in your quest for successful marketing implementation."

The survey finds that have of B2B marketers rate their company's website as effective, while a far larger number, 77 percent, say their websites are not effective in generating sales leads, the gold standard in B2B websites.

Penton Media launched its own in-house B2B marketing division, Penton Marketing Services, in April of this year. The survey promoted today was conducted around the same time as the creation of the new division and involved around 5,000 surveys reaching 3,835 who indicated that they have "direct involvement in their corporate marketing strategies."

Retweet: the NYT's David Carr gets on his soapbox and delivers a mighty sermon, will the media industry listen?

My mouth must have dropped wide open as I read this column by the New York Time's media writer David Carr headlined Why Not Occupy Newsrooms? One simply does not dare speak the truth so plainly in print now-a-days.

Carr starts his column by recounting the USA Today editorial that shakes its finger at Wall Street for excessive bonuses paid at companies that have engaged in "risky behavior".

Then Carr turns the tables on USA Today and its parent Gannett. Oh my.

The first thought that crossed my mind was whether Jim Hopkins, who writes the independent Gannett blog had read the story – yes, of course, he did.

Carr blasts Gannett for paying out excessive bonuses to its own chief executive even as the shares of the company were falling and its newsrooms were being halved in size due to layoffs. He also criticizes the huge retirement package given to Craig Dubow who recently left the company for health reasons, and then mentions that the company's new CEO has herself received huge bonuses over the same time frame "and will now be in line for even more."
Forget about occupying Wall Street; maybe it’s time to start occupying Main Street, a place Gannett has bled dry by offering less and less news while dumping and furloughing journalists in seemingly every quarter.
But Gannett is not the only target of Carr's ire, as he continues with shots at the Sam Zell era at The Tribune Company, ending with this broadside:
No one, least of all me, is suggesting that running a newspaper company is a piece of cake. But the people in the industry who are content to slide people out of the back of the truck until it runs out of gas not only don’t deserve tens of millions in bonuses, they don’t deserve jobs.
The entire two web page rant is well worth reading.

The situation Carr talks about is not unique to the newspaper industry, of course. But other segments of the publishing industry have their own issues – somewhat similar, but different, as well.

For quite some time the B2B industry has been the personal playthings of the PE firms that control them. One could ask the same question concerning leadership in the industry as firms play musical chairs moving CEOs who play along from one firm to the next, all the time staffs are reduced, and performance tanks. Yet rarely do CEOs lose their jobs, and if they do they inevitably receive a soft landing by taking a job for a year or two at the private equity firm that placed them to begin with. It is amazing how the faces of the CEOs of many of the firms seem so familiar.

The difference, of course, is that few CEOs in the B2B industry receive the kinds of bonuses Wall Street or Gannett have paid out. But the performance track record of the industry is even worse than that of the newspaper industry. Today no segment of the industry is as backwards when it comes to New Media, has suffered as many layoffs, or continues to manage its properties so ludicrously.

(At one firm I know one can find the same person serving as publisher of 11 different titles thanks to staff contraction. At another B2B the "publisher" position was eliminated altogether as management added to the ranks of the executive staff.)

What makes David Carr's rant so unique is that he names names and does not hold back. Don't look for Carr to move to Gannett any time soon.

Update: a sure sign that David Carr wrote his piece while in a fool mood – he tweeted later about having a cold: "One of the signs that the cold you've caught is a common one: The drug store is sold out of your usual remedies," Carr tweeted.

Sometimes the truth comes out when your defenses are down.

The Wall Street Journal updates its recently released video iPad app, WSJ LIve, to add in AirPlay support

The WSJ this morning issued an update to its WSJ Live iPad app. The app update fixes some bugs and adds social networking sharing through email, Facebook and Twitter.
But the biggest change is the addition of AirPlay support, the one area I complained about in my first look at the app back in September.

All video and audio apps really should incorporate AirPlay support, but video support requires some changes to the videos themselves, adding in some code that allows them to be streamed from the iOS device to an AppleTV.

Now the WSJ Live has it (as well as pre-rolls from companies such as Fidelity and Cognizant).

The Apple TV, though, is not the only place you will be able to access WSJ Live on your flatscreen TVs as the "channel" is also available as an app on many smart TV sets today. I recently picked up a new Panasonic plasma that contains apps on its Viera Connect system.

One interesting app that I have not checked out as of yet is from UStream, the personal video streaming company. One of the very first posts on TNM talked about UStream, but their services have been slow to catch on (this post was written and published three weeks before the "official" launch of TNM). But the addition of UStream on smart TV systems may well boost the services chances of becoming more popular.

Morning Brief: Biography of Steve Jobs hits both digital and physical bookstores this morning; Cat earnings soar

For many buyers of the new biography of Steve Jobs, this morning has started with an email from Apple informing them that their iBooks edition of the Walter Isaacson eBook was available.
The actual e-mail was actually sent late last night,I received mine just before midnight. If your device was set up for automatic downloading of books then you awoke this morning with the new book already on your device.

The book your pre-ordered, Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson, is now available. To download your book, go to the device or computer where you placed this pre-order and click the link below. Additionally, any devices or computers with Automatic Downloads enabled for Books will automatically receive this book. – Apple email.

The Isaacson book has gotten a lot of pre-release press, and yesterday's 60 Minutes program was dedicated pretty much entirely to the book (two-thirds) or the iPad (the last segment was on the use of the iPad in treating autistic children).

Because my resume is posted on the common job boards I get solicitations every now and then from recruiters looking for iOS and Android developers. I guess these recruiters don't bother actually reading the resumes they pull up because I am definitely not a developer.

But I loved the email I received this morning from the recruiter who says they are looking for an iOS and Android developer with seven years experience. I think they will be searching a long time before they find the perfect candidate. But the good news is that by 2014 they may well find the right person.

B2B publishers may be taking note of the earnings report released this morning from Caterpillar. The construction equipment giant is reporting that their quarterly earnings increased 44 percent. Just as importantly, the company was cautiously optimistic about 2012.

"Although there is a good deal of economic and political uncertainty in the world, we are not seeing it much in our business at this point," Cat Chief Executive Doug Oberhelman said in te company's earnings announcement. "We believe continued economic recovery, albeit a slow recovery, is the most likely scenario as we move forward."

Cat is forecasting fairly robust revenue growth for next year, and said it has added personnel in anticipation of the growth. All good news for those B2B publishers working on construction books. (I used to be the publisher of a B2B title in the transportation construction industry.)