Friday, November 4, 2011

Apple issues second iOS beta as it rushes to solve battery issues with the new iPhone 4S

The user reaction for owners of the new iPhone 4S has been overwhelmingly positive with really only one complaint (ignoring the Siri hiccup yesterday): some owners have found that battery life has been disappointing.

Apple issued a new iOS beta (5.0.1) on Wednesday that appears to help the situation. Today Apple issued a second beta (5.0.2) which should indicate that the company is just about ready to release the update to the public.

In addition to the battery issue, there is the expected introduction of iTunes Match. Apple had promised that the service would be launched by the end of October, but that deadline has come and gone – though I think most customers are more than willing to wait rather than have the service released in a glitchy form.

iTunes Match is a $24.99 per year service that finds the music you have in iTunes and matches it with music on Apple's servers. The idea is that customers that sign up for the service can then have access to their music on any device, at any time. Apple says that they have 20 million in their iTune store that can be matched so have no fear, even that Brady Bunch LP you only play when your wife is not around is in there, too.

Time Inc. release tablet editions for Golf Magazine for the iPad, NOOK Color and 'select Android devices'

Time Inc., which has promised that all their magazine titles will eventually have tablet editions, has released today apps for Golf Magazine. The app (iPad app here, Android has yet to appear) is free to download and provides print subscribers with the opportunity to sign into their accounts to access issues free of charge.
The iPad app does not support Newsstand, and does not offer a chance for readers to subscribe, so its appeal is intentionally (and oddly) limited.

"We are embracing a variety of exciting new platforms to showcase our content on and are delighted with the many benefits of viewing our monthly issue on tablet devices,” David Clarke, Editor of Golf Magazine said in the app announcement. “You can expect a number of exclusives for tablet users as our editorial team works to optimize the assets of this new technology, which will enhance all areas of the magazine.”

Although the press release sent out for this new app says that individual issues can be bought for $4.99, both the app description, and inside the app itself, says that issues are $3.99. The only issue currently available is the new December issue with Irish golfer Rory McIlroy featured.

There is a "preview" available through the app, but it consists of only one page of the magazine, and is hardly enough of a marketing tool to drive sales – definitely a lost opportunity on the part of the publisher.

I could not find the Android version of this app in the Android Market, though one assumes that it will appear soon. The problem of Android platform fragmentation is best exemplified by the fact that Time Inc. had to spell out that the Android app was for "select Android devices". When the Kindle Fire launches in about a week and a half, this platform fragmentation will only grow larger.

Australian publisher Hardie Grant releases two free magazine iPad apps developed by Oomph

Australian publishing house Hardie Grant Publishing has released two new tablet editions during the past couple of weeks. Both iPad apps were developed Oomph, an Australian digital publishing platform company.

Oomph has its own app inside the App Store used for assisting in the creation of new apps – Oomph Reader. The Oomph site is not as helpful as the Mag+ site in understanding the details of app creation, but I've contacted the company and hope to learn more.
Both tablet editions that I downloaded were free – both the app and the content. Neither supported Newsstand, so the business model of these new apps is a little hard to understand.

But both apps are worth checking out: JH Wine Companion Magazine and Australia Unlimited.

The "JH" of the first app refers to James Halliday, the dean of Australian wine writers. I first became familiar with Mr. Halliday when his book, the 1985 edition of The Australian Wine Compendium, was included in a case of Australian wine I purchased. (I guess I've been of drinking age a long time.)

The other magazine, Australian Unlimited, is an interesting magazine that focuses on individual Australians, whether they are in business, the arts, or whatever.

I found the wine magazine easier to navigate because of the way it showed that an article contained multiple pages. As is becoming common, a reader scrolls to reach additional pages within an article, and swipes to move on to the next article.

While the app could be used in both portrait and landscape, it looks best in portrait as these tablet editions are a hybrid between replica editions and native design. Publishers looking at new examples of tablet publications for their own projects would be wise to check out these two new free magazine apps.

For some, the rules of the game simply don't apply: the wacky world of modern capitalism and its consequences

Optical equipment maker Olympus today announced that it would delay its earnings report due to the continuing investigation into its M&A practices. If you haven't been following the Olympus melodrama, sit down and have a listen.

Olympus's CEO Michael Woodford, a 30-year veteran of the company, who became the first non-Japanese chief executive, was dismissed by the board of directors of the company because, they said, he didn't fit into the culture of the company.

The real problem, many feel, was the fact that Woodford had called attention to the massive fees the company had paid to consultants – $687 million – involved in the acquisition of Gyrus (as well as the $700 million that went to these consultants in other acquisitions).

The consulting company was based in – wait for it – the Cayman Islands.

So Woodford, who blew the whistle, is out.While the board claims that everything is kosher, the stock of the company has crumbled. Woodford, meanwhile, has cried foul to various agencies including the FBI and the UK Serious Fraud Office.

Faced with this mess, Olympus today said it would delay the release of its Q2 earnings report. The stock today fell another 6.8 percent.

In another corner of the world, Las Vegas, the copyright troll company Righthaven finds itself in a bit of trouble.

Righthaven, if you recall, has filed 276 lawsuits on behalf of the Las Vegas Review-Journal and the Denver Post claiming copyright infringement of material. But the courts have dismissed these suits and have ordered Righthaven to pay the attorney's fees of the defendants.

Now outlets like VegasInc and Wired are reporting that Righthaven may have its assets seized if the company can not pay up.

“We do intend to use this, and any resources that we can bring to bear, in order to finally receive justice for our client,” Wired quotes the attorney who represents the claimants. “We certainly do not feel badly about how this might affect them.”

Copyright trolls, patent wars, corporate malfeasance – what is particularly distressing is the enormous amount of wealth and energy that is going into nonproductive activities today. With world economy teetering, the attention of the business world is not so much on growth and job creation but on activities not central to building businesses.

Yesterday GOP Senators killed provisions of the administration's jobs bill that would have boosted transportation construction spending – a perfectly logical way to stimulate the economy. But to pay for this, the bill would have raised taxes very slightly on the wealthiest Americans. The GOP claimed it was a stunt by the Democrats, the Democrats say the GOP could care less about the economy. Believe who you will.

But in my some ten years as a publisher of B2B construction publications I learned a lot about the people who run major construction firms. In 1996, with a chance to elect a President who would support a major increase in highway spending, most execs chose to vote and support the candidate who they felt would keep their taxes lower. Luckily for them Clinton won reelection and a massive new transportation bill was approved leading to a new boom in their businesses.

When you have people in charge who care less about the health of their own businesses, or business in general, and are more concerned with their personal wealth, or gaming the system, the system fails. It goes almost without saying that there are huge consequences when this happens.

Morning Brief: LG tries to get back in the game; Siri goes down, thousands of iPhone users get lonely; Google changes algorithm to try and achieve real-time results

Lots of interesting stories from last night to summarize this morning. One of the common themes, though, is that while it is OK to make mistakes, it is most important that you know where your company is trying to go.

LG Electronics shares dove yesterday 14 percent after the company reported continued losses due to their failing cellphone business. As The GuardianLG cellphone reports, LG, which makes both Android and Windows Phone handsets, has seen its share of the business decline dramatically.
LG's handset business has reported nearly 1tn won in losses over the past six consecutive quarters, as it has failed to introduce compelling models to challenge the likes of Apple's iPhone and Samsung's Galaxy line, both of which have significant shares of the smartphone market.

Things remain much better over at Apple, of course. But yesterday users of Apple's new iPhone 4S were surprised to find that their new personal assistant, Siri, was down.

In typical fashion, Apple was tight lipped about the outage which lasted a few hours.

I suppose one would expect Apple to be a bit secretive about things, but a service outage is something that requires an immediate response. Did they not learn anything from RIM's nightmare from a few weeks ago?

I suspect that Apple knew what the problem was (specific servers) and that the outage would be temporary.

In the meantime, both Fox and the WSJ (both Murdoch papers) are harping about battery issues with the iPhone 4S. I find this interesting since the issues are minor, and most importantly, have already been addressed though the new beta that was released earlier this week to developers. (I find it interesting how many tech writers report on these things but have not bothered to become Apple developers themselves so they can report on these betas.)

Why the urge from the Murdoch press to dump on Apple? Strange.

Google yesterday made changes to their algorithm in an attempt to make their search results more timely. The NYT wrote last night that the changes are an attempt to achieve real time search results.
The new algorithm is a recognition that Google, whose dominance depends on providing the most useful results, is being increasingly challenged by sites like Twitter and Facebook, which have trained people to expect to be constantly updated with seconds-old news. It is also a reflection of how people are using the Web as a real-time news feed: if, for example, you search for a baseball score, you probably want to find out the score of a game being played right now, not last week, which is what Google often gave you.
I tested out Google last night by typing in a headline I had written just a couple hours earlier to see if it would show up.

It did, along with a couple of media news aggregation sites that had stolen my story. What irked me was that Google placed one of the aggregation sites ahead of TNM, the original source.

Even this wouldn't have bothered me were it not for the fact that Google continues to deny that sites like TNM are, in fact, news sites, whereas aggregation sites, that do not generate any original copy are considered news sources.

I write, they steal, they get the traffic. Thanks Google.

Other news:

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Digital newsstand company, Magzter, offers its Indian publishing partners branded apps with Newsstand support

Back in June of this year Magzter launched its own digital newsstand in the vein of San Francisco-based Zinio. The NYC and India based company concentrates on the Indian publishing industry and in June released an iPad app, Magzter - Magazine store, which served as a newsstand for buying and reading the magazines Magzter represented.

But unlike Zinio, which has maintained a separate digital newsstand within the iOS sphere, Magzter has gone one step further by beginning to launch separate branded magazines apps for their customers that are Newsstand compliant.

To date Magzter has released 14 new branded magazine apps for its clients which includes such titles as India Today, Bike India, Car India, PC Quest and Business Today Magazine.

The 14 titles can be found in various categories such as Travel, Books, Business, News, Finance, Entertainment and Lifestyle. All of them, of course, can also be found in the Newsstand category. (duh)

The problem with these new apps remains that the apps present simple replica editions of the magazines, making the new apps an extension of the flipbooks found online and in the Magzter branded app.

The one magazine I looked at, Business Today, came with a six page preview which was slow to download. Once opened, while in landscape, the magazine could be read in two formats: ezRead and Classic. Classic is your standard replica edition with the pages reduced in size to fit the display, making them nearly impossible to read. ezRead simply blows up each page to fit the screen, hiding half the page. ezRead does make it a little easier to read.

In portrait only the one mode of reading is available or necessary as the digital pages more naturally fit the portrait dimensions.

Note: this brings the number of publications available inside the U.S. version of Newsstand to 343. By way of comparison, the French version (Kiosque) has only 209 publications, while the Italian version (Edicola) has 342 – why the major difference I do not know.

It should also be noted that there is a bug in the new version of iTunes which prevents customers from moving smoothly from one country's app store to another while still signed in. To surf around the various stores without crashing one should sign out of their accounts.

Time Home Entertainment launches special tablet edition of Fortune, "The Legacy of Steve Jobs"

I'll try and not get into my feelings about media people or companies who are trying to make a quick buck from the death of Steve Jobs. Simon & Schuster can certainly be excused for moving up the publication date of the Jobs biography – after all, everyone knew this was coming and were excited to read the book.

But whether it is media consultants who previously had dissed the iPad and called Apple's policies evil now turning around and offering teary eyed memorials in order to get some screen time. or media companies hurrying out special issues, the idea of turning someone's death into a profit center always irked me – the death of Princess Diana being the best (or worst) example.
So instead of talking about this new app from Time Home Entertainment from that perspective, I think it is interesting to look at FORTUNE The Legacy of Steve Jobs from a pricing perspective.

The new app can be found in the News category of the App Store. It is an iPad-only app that is priced at $14.99. This is quite a high price point for a tablet publication.

The app can be read in both portrait and landscape and as a result weighs in at 419 MB.

The decision to price it at this price point probably reflects the normal pricing strategy for a single issue – single issues on the newsstand often are priced around this level. But the pricing is more at a book level, when we talk about tablet editions.

As the app was released just last night there are no reviews inside the App Store, but I will be interested to see the reaction from readers and whether those that actually buy the single issue have found it worth their while.

One Last Thing: PBS puts its documentary about the late Steve Jobs online and on DVD (but no iPad?)

Viewers can now watch the quickly assembled documentary on the late Steve Jobs, One Last Thing, on the network's website.

The documentary, part of the PBS Presents series, is also available now on DVD. At this time, however, the documentary is not available through the PBS iPad app, which is, of course, crazy. But maybe it will make an appearance later today.

The documentary features interviews with some of those you'd expect – Steve Wozniak, for instance – but also people like Ross Perot who was an investor in NeXT, the company Steve Jobs created after his ouster from Apple in the eighties.

Word of warning: the documentary is pretty awful in parts. Sappy and cliched. Jobs would have hated it, I think. In the end, the documentary is an excuse to use a few minutes, a few seconds almost, of unused interview with Jobs. PBS would have been better to wait and produce something with more depth.

'Digital First' quickly becoming a worthless slogan

Sometimes I dream that some of these newspaper executives who spout off about going "digital first" are sitting before me, dressed as if they are ready to go to Studio 54, wide lapels, lots of polyester. They turn sad when I tell them that the 70's are over, and disco dancing is what old people do on Caribbean cruises.

Most, if not all, newspaper companies that say they are going "digital first" are really just saying that they are no longer making enough money to sustain their current business models and so are using the new, hip slogan as an excuse to cut staff.

Businesses that transition to an entirely new platform do so only when the profits from the new platform so grossly exceed the profits from the other that the move is preordained.

Take Apple, for instance: Apple became a consumer electronics company with the launch of the iPod in 2001. Most people are so familiar and comfortable with the iPod now that they forget what a controversial move this was. The first iPod was unveiled in October of 2001, only a month and a half after 9/11. One analyst said that "Apple is following Sony's lead by integrating consumer electronics devices into its marketing strategy, but Apple lacks the richness of Sony's product offering. And introducing new consumer products right now is risky, especially if they cannot be priced attractively."

Analysts, what can one say.

But the iPod was a success, revolutionary, actually. But Apple didn't change its name from "Apple Computers" to just "Apple" until early 2007, at the same time it unveiled the iPhone. Additionally, Apple hasn't dropped its computer line to concentrate solely on consumer electronics yet, despite the fact that the iPhone and iPad are their two most profitable products.

But newspapers are not moving to so-called "digital first" strategies because the profits from digital so dwarf the profits they are generating from print that the move is long over due. Rather, many publishers are simply looking to cut the losses they are experiencing with traditional forms of distribution.

For many of these publishers, their digital efforts are still very much in the early stages of development. Yes, these publishers have been online for over a decade, but few have developed a portfolio of online products yet, still very much dependent on one main URL. Developing multiple online products is one of the first signs that a media property has moved into the space seriously.

Additionally, many newspaper companies say they are adopting "digital first" while at the same time giving both mobile and tablet platforms little attention. One newspaper company even has the leading anti-Apple, anti-iPad advocate on its board of advisors. Presumably this company's idea of digital is solely about the web.

I continue to see "digital first" as the lead of these company announcements, while "layoffs" is buried further down. Until I read of a company stating that their "digital first" strategy will force them to increase their staffing I will always be skeptical of these announcements.

Morning Brief: Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou will offer his resignation; Booth Newspapers spilt into two new companies, home delivery cut, new iPad app coming

The BBC is reporting that the Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou will offer his resignation soon following what has been described as tense meetings between the Greek, German and French heads of state. Angela Merkel and Nicolas Sarkozy, the Athens News is reporting, told the Greek prime minister that Greece needed to comply with the bailout agreement or Greece would be thrown out of the Eurozone.

The government of Papandreou is on the verge of collapse after several ministers said they would not support the prime minister's call for a referendum on the latest bailout package.

The demands of the French and German governments may prove to be a actions that go too far in the eyes of the Greeks. The Athens News described the words of Sarkozy this way:
“We believe the Greek people are free and responsible for their choice,” he said. “We all want to continue the effort with Greece. But there are rules,” Sarkozy said, adopting the tone of an adult chastising a child.
The Greek government had called for a vote of confidence to be held in the Parliament on Friday, if Papandreou does, indeed, offer his resignation, this would force a scramble to form a new government, one that might not follow through with the referendum vote. In any case, the Greeks will long remember the bullying by the French and Germans.

Update: 11am EDT – Reports in Athens News say that the prime minister may now scrap the idea of a referendum, presumably because there is a lack of support for the idea in the government. The BBC is also saying that Papandreou will not submit his resignation, as previously reported. But all this may be part of the battles currently going on in the government. It would premature to resign in the midst of the battle.

One thing, however, that no one is talking about is what will the impact of withdrawing the referendum have with the Greeks themselves, will this lead to more unrest and demonstrations in the streets?

The split in the Greek government was caused by the Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos breaking ranks with the prime minister.

Not surprisingly, the European markets love this move, with both the German DAX and French CAC 40 up sharply this morning.

Advance Newspapers have formed two new companies out of the Booth Newspaper group, its western Michigan properties.

MLiveMedia Group will handle the editorial content and sales and marketing for the print and digital properties which include The Grand Rapids Press, The Muskegon Chronicle, the Jackson Citizen Patriot, The Flint Journal, The Bay City Times, The Saginaw News, the Kalamazoo Gazette,, Advance Weeklies and

Another new company, Advance Central Services Michigan, will handle production, distribution and purchasing for MLive Media Group.

With the move will come staff reductions.

“While we believe these changes will create growth opportunities for our current employees, the reality is they will also lead to reductions in our workforce,” Dan Gaydou, president of MLive Media said. “We will provide as much notice and consideration to our employees as possible.”

The move will bring a sharp reduction in home delivery, with that service only being offered Tuesday, Thursday, and Sunday each week for its Grand Rapids, Kalamazoo, Muskegon, and Jackson newspapers.

The company, though, said it will soon be launching an iPad app. "You’ve told us you now get more of your news via your iPad," Gaydou wrote in a column. "Well, we’re building an app for you. We’re changing every day, innovating and moving forward to become a more engaging, dynamic, digital news organization.

The company produced a video to introduce the move:

DanG from MLMG on Vimeo.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Hearst Magazine issues app update for Esquire

Hearst Magazines has issued an app update for its title Esquire after getting ripped by device owners for leaving out an option for print subscribers to access the tablet editions free of charge.

The app description for the update is rather short on details, simply stating that the update "addressed Apple iOS5 issues".

Readers are charged $4.99 per issue for the tablet editions of Esquire, or $1.99 per month or $19.99 per year for a digital subscription.

The app has gotten incredibly negative reviews inside the Apple App Store for its pricing policies. One readers wrote that "I recently paid for a print subscription, assuming Esquire was hip and in tune to their reader's needs. I cannot believe they actually expect their customers to pay twice of the same content."

Morning Brief: WikiLeaks co-founder Julian Assange loses extradition appeal;

Two judges at the High Court in London ruled against Julian Assange in the WikiLeaks co-founder's appeal of his extradition to Sweden. Assange now has two weeks to appeal to the U.K. highest court.

World markets are still digesting the news that Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou said he would hold a referendum on the latest Greek debt bailout deal. Today Papandreou tried to be optimistic, stating that the vote will provide him a mandate for the bailout and a confirmation that Greece will stay in the Eurozone.

“The referendum will be a clear mandate and strong message within and outside Greece on our European course and our participation in the euro,” Papandreou told his ministers in Athens early today, according to a Bloomberg report.

But all this might talk could prove irrelevant if the prime minister can not win a confidence vote in the Greek Parliament later this week. Today Papandreou flies to Cannes, France where he is scheduled to meet with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Nicolas Sarkozy and European Central Bank President Mario Draghi, among others, to discuss the bailout and Papandreou's referendum announcement.

The Dodgers are for sale.

The once storied franchise in now in the hands of The Blackstone Group who will supervise the sale of the team and its Chavez Ravine stadium after Major League Baseball reached a deal with owner Frank McCourt.

McCourt had filed for bankruptcy protection in the summer after MLB rejected his giant TV deal with Fox. Like many rushed sales, all this grew out of McCourt's ugly divorce to his wife Jamie. During those proceedings it was alleged that McCourt had used the Dodgers franchise as his own personal credit card, taking more than $180 million in revenues from the club for personal use.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Short takes: Greek PM drops a bombshell, markets just drop; Google's ownership of Motorola Mobility could be short; ABC latest report shows gains in digital editions

It is hard to over exaggerate the impact of Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou's little news this morning. "Let's put it to a vote," he sort of said, and that was enough to get all of Europe and investors around the world riled up.

With his government teetering, with a confidence vote looming on Friday, Papandreou said it would put newly negotiated bailout agreement to a vote of the Greek people. Many expect that the vote will result in the rejection of the new bailout – but then again, maybe not. But the uncertainty, plus the revulsion at the sign of a bit of democracy had leaders around the world pretty upset.

As for the markets, both the German DAX and the French CAC40 lost 5 percent of value in today's trading (the Dow lost lightly less than 2.5 percent of its value today).

More ominous than the prospects of a vote on the referendum – at least to me – was the news that the Greek defense minister sacked some of the military's top brass. Athens Newsreported this afternoon that the chief of the Greek National Defense General Staff, the chief of the Greek Army General Staff, the chief of the Greek Air Force, and the chief of the Greek Navy General Staff were all replaced today.

It should be remembered that the armed forces in Greece staged a coup as recently as 1967, and then ran the country until 1975. In June of this year the CIA was rumored to have concluded that a military coup in Greece was a possibility (though the sources for that report seem less than authoritative).

Crain's Chicago Business is reporting that Ed Snyder of San Francisco-based Charter Equity Research Inc. believes that Google may turn around and sell or spin out Motorola Mobility.

“Google bought Motorola for its patents, not for its hardware operations, which wouldn’t contribute enough in revenue or profits to offset the risk,” Snyder is reported to have said in a research note. “We therefore expect Motorola to be spun or sold again in the not-so-distant future.”

The issue, of course, is that Google would not want to be a position to compete directly with other makers of Android handsets and tablets.

Makes sense, but we'll see.

The Audit Bureau of Circulations (ABC) has released its latest newspaper circulation report and they show some continued growth in digital editions.

The New York Times enjoyed the highest growth in digital editions, growing from 100,520 total digital copies counted, to 380,003 digital editions. Meanwhile, the total number of digital replica editions actually fell, showing the emphasis on web and app subscriptions.

Mag+ at ABM: Part 2 of a conversation with Mike Haney on tablet publishing and the B2B publishing industry

Last week American Business Media (ABM) held its a Executive Forum, "Content Matters", which concerned ways publishers and marketers could maximize the use of their print and online content.

One of the newest associate members of ABM is Moving Media+, the Bonnier Corp. spinoff that produces the Mag+ digital publishing platform for touchscreen tablets. Speaking at the event was Mike Haney, U.S. director and a part of the original concept team.

I spoke with Haney about the origins of the Mag+ project and his move from executive editor of Popular Science magazine (part one), as well as the challenges of presenting the new digital platforms, and specifically Mag+, to B2B media executives (part two).

Part Two

While the newspaper and consumer magazine industry has been fairly quick to exploit the new tablets by building natives apps, embracing Apple's Newsstand, or simply launching replica editions, the trade publishing industry has lagged behind – though there are some examples of B2B publications to be found in the U.S. version of Apple's App Store.

I asked Mike Haney, U.S. director at Mag+ about what he is hearing from B2B publishers as he begins to present his company's digital publishing solution to prospective customers, and how this is different from what he is hearing from the consumer publishing side.
"In the conversations I've had with some of the B2B publisher sits fundamentally different," Haney told me, "and that's been one of the really interesting things about spinning Mag+ out and going out to these markets."

"One of the things we've realized is that consumer is a small percentage of our business. It's the flashiest, its where you get the most notice because these are brands people know. But there is such a huge market out there in custom publishing, in B2B, in some of these other verticals. What's interesting about going out and talking to them, especially with my background as a consumer publishing guy…is learning about those different challenges," Haney said.

"So, on the B2B side, what I've learned talking to them is that everyone's reason for doing this (tablets) is different. For consumer publishers its revenue. At the end of the day, it's just revenue. Whether it is about getting consumers to pay for something in digital that they haven't before, whether it is about expanding the audience base, whether it is about getting experimental ad dollars in there, saving on the print run eventually, it's about revenue."

Of course, in B2B, where a large majority of publications do not charge for a subscription to the magazine, but are instead distributing only to "qualified" readers, the motivation to build new digital products is going to be different.

"When you move into this controlled circ environment – it's not that it's not about revenue, everyone wants to make money – but the way their going to do that's different. There not going out there looking for 100,000 new readers necessarily," Haney said.

Consumer magazine Popular Photography used the Mag+ system to create its tablet edition which can be found inside Apple's Newsstand.

I confirmed with Haney his own understanding of the rules Apple currently have as they relate to Newsstand, the new digital publications app that was introduced with the launch of iOS 5. For B2B publishers (and others) Newsstand may provide the kind of solution publishers have been asking for.

While the vast majority of subscribers to controlled circulation magazines will receive the publication for free – assuming they "qualify" – non-qualified readers, such as those outside the industry, can still purchase a subscription to the B2B magazine. Newsstand allows for this if the publisher sets up a subscription pricing level for their Newsstand compliant app within the App Store, but then allow current (or future qualified) subscribers to log into their accounts within the magazine app.

"They open up the app, there is an optional window that pops down that says 'my account' or 'sign-in'," Haney confirmed. "You sign-in and that pings the back-end subscription provider and goes "OK, Doug has has been a subscriber since 2010, he has access to all these back issues and the next 12 issues going forward' or whatever entitlements you want to set."

This means that B2B publishers need a system, either internally, or through a provider, that can provide this kind of subscription verification.

Media app updates: Guardian updates its 'Eyewitness' photojournalism app; Tribune Company remains outside of Newsstand with its L.A. Times app update

The Guardian has updated its The Guardian Eyewitness iPad app, one of the earliest media iPad app released, and one that seldom sees an update.

The app still is not incorporating AirPlay support directly through the app, though I suppose those with newer iPads can simply mirror their display through their AppleTV to achieve the same thing – viewing the photographs on their HDTVs.

Tribune Interactive has updated its app Los Angeles Times App for iPad. The update fixes some of the bugs that have annoyed readers using the app.

The update, though, does not bring the L.A. Times into Newsstand, or add any paid model to the existing app. (There are now 312 iPad apps that are Newsstand compliant now in the App Store.)

Google continues to update its Google Catalogs app, which some users have complained crashes. The app description seems to suggest that the update will fix these.

The portfolio of catalogs to be found in the Google app continues to grow. As of today the app contains nine categories of catalogs: Women's Fashion, Jewelry, Beauty, Home, Men's Fashion, Kids & Baby, Gifts, Gourmet and Intimates (nope, no Victoria's Secret as of yet).

Yahoo! acquires advertising and technology solutions company interclick for $270 million

Digital media company Yahoo! this morning announced that it had acquired advertising and technology solutions company interclick in an all cash tender offer valued at $270 million.

"This investment underscores our focus on enhancing the performance of both our guaranteed and non-guaranteed display business across Yahoo and our partner sites and, combined with Yahoo!'s reach and advertising leadership, will deliver a powerful solution for marketers," Ross Levinsohn, EVP, Americas region said in the company's acquisition announcement. "interclick's innovative platform will allow Yahoo! to expand its targeting and data capabilities to deliver campaigns with stronger performance metrics."

Yahoo! expects the deal to close by early 2012. GCA Savvian Advisors, LLC served as advisor to interclick on the deal.

Morning Brief: Greek PM calls for referendum on bailout deal; even old-school transportation companies get into mobile apps; Time Warner looks to scale back digs

In a move that has shocked European leaders, and upset the financial community, Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou has called for a referendum on the new Eurozone bailout package. According to the English language Athens News, Papandreou said it was "the time for the citizens to reply responsibly. Do they want us to implement it or reject it? If the people do not want it, then it shall not be implemented. If yes, we shall proceed ... we never resigned from our responsibilities."

The plan, as announced by the prime minister, is for there to be a confidence vote held on Friday of this week, followed by a referendum scheduled as soon as the final details of the package are worked out.

“If the Greek people don’t see the necessity of backing Papandreou we have a whole different ballgame,” Otto Fricke, the budget spokesman for Germany’s Free Democratic Party coalition partner, said to BusinessWeek this morning.

“If he doesn’t get a majority, then there’s no second aid package, no voluntary haircut. We’d have a potentially explosive situation, one that leaves us today baffled as to what we could possibly do next,” Fricke added.

The news has caught investors completely off guard. As a result, European markets are falling hard, with the German Dax down over 4 percent in trading today. U.S. stock futures are also down.

Rail shipper CSX has launched a its own iPhone app that allows its customers to track freight shipments and trains within the CSX network.

"The ShipCSX application makes planning and tracing shipments easier than ever, enabling customers to better plan for the arrival of scheduled shipments," said Eddie Chesser, director e-business CSX in the company's announcement. "Designed with our supply chain and logistics-conscious consumers in mind, this application continues our commitment to make rail the most cost-effective and environmentally-friendly way to move freight."

CSX Corp. is a Jacksonville, Fla. based transportation company with a network of rail and rail-to-truck shipping services.

The New York Times is reporting that Time Warner is looking to trim costs, and one of the first things to go will apparently be its location inside the towers of the Time Warner Center.

Time Warner has not been the same company since its infamous acquisition of AOL in 2000, now Bewkes is looking to right the ship. “The idea is to take money being spent on insignificant things out and put it into significant things which are programming, journalism and digital translations of our products,” Mr. Bewkes told the NYT.

“There was a burgeoning overhead reaching $500 million a year, including this edifice you’re sitting in,” chairman and chief executive Jeffrey L. Bewkes told Times reporter Amy Chozick.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Mag+ at ABM: Part 1 of a conversation with Mike Haney on the origins of their digital publishing platform and his move from executive editor of Popular Science

Last week American Business Media (ABM) held its a Executive Forum, "Content Matters", which concerned ways publishers and marketers could maximize the use of their print and online content.

One of the newest associate members of ABM is Moving Media+, the Bonnier Corp. spinoff that produces the Mag+ digital publishing platform for touchscreen tablets. Speaking at the event was Mike Haney, U.S. director and a part of the original concept team.

I spoke with Haney about the origins of the Mag+ project and his move from executive editor of Popular Science magazine (part one), as well as the challenges of presenting the new digital platforms, and specifically Mag+, to B2B media executives (part two).

Part One

One of the very first magazine apps developed for the brand new Apple iPad was from Bonnier. The Popular Science iPad edition appeared in the App Store on Friday, April 2, 2010, one day before the first iPads were delivered by UPS to eager buyers. Because of this, my post about the app had to use the screenshots Bonnier had provided in its app description!

One of the key players in the team that developed the digital publishing solution used in that app, and in many of the Bonnier and other magazine publishing company's tablet editions that have followed, is Mike Haney. Previously an executive editor at Popular Science, Haney, a graduate of Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism, is now touring the country promoting the Mag+ platform.
When I caught up with Haney at the ABM Executive Forum in Chicago, I asked him about the originals of the platform and his move from magazine editor to digital publishing promoter.

"At PopSci, because both our publisher Gregg Hano and our editor Mark Jannot are both very forward looking people, very entrepreneurial, and our creative director – Sam Syed, is that way, as well. We had already, even in the couple years before tablets really came on, started to look at what digital publishing might mean," Haney told me.

"At that time, our context was Zinio, which was our platform," Haney said. "We had started by looking at the iPhone, but really had trouble wrapping our brains around how a magazine, especially like PopSci, infographic heavy, information dense, would translate to the iPhone – so really our frame of reference was the desktop."

This led the PopSci team to begin developing products specifically for digital.

"Sam (Syed) really started exploring what more could you do with Zinio as a platform – they were starting to add some interactivity, some Flash-based things to it – and what happens if you start designing, if you use this platform and design things specifically for the screen they are going to be consumed on."

"That led to a project where we did three special issues on Zinio, they never existed in print. We used Zinio as the distribution method, we called them the PopSci Genius Guides. We initially tried to sell them and then we gave them away," Haney told me.

"They were really our internal experimentation, on the marketing side, the consumer revenue side, a little bit on the ad side," Haney said. "It's a very different way of both presenting and consuming information."

By experimenting with digital platforms, the Popular Science team was one step ahead of a lot of other magazine publishing teams, and had were already thinking about how these digital platforms required a different approach.

Because the editorial and creative teams were leading the charge, it is probably safe to say that they were looking at the issues involved in digital publishing differently than a publisher might.

Back in Sweden, the Bonnier R&D team were moving in a similar direction.

"We learned some very valuable lessons, but that experiment got us on the radar of the R&D team and the folks over in Stockholm who were starting to think about going down this direction," Haney said.

"There were about five or six magazines, across the company globally, where there was an editor and a designer who were part of this early concept and research phase."

I asked Haney about the origins of the tablet concept video that was created in late 2009. The Bonnier video, which featured Jack Schulze from the digital design firm BERG, was first posted on this site in January of 2010.

"The fall of that year (2009) was when we kicked off the project – Sara Öhrvall, head of R&D moved from Stockholm to San Francisco – we started doing conceptual work. At the same time, we contracted with a firm in London. a digital design firm, BERG – a brilliant, brilliant, little firm – and sort of tasked them with doing the same thing along side us," Haney said.

"So we're coming at it as magazine makers and thinking in our space, and they're coming at it as digital designers because they really know the digital space. And all of us are wrestling with what should the magazine be? – and doing these conceptual exercises. How do you represent a story? What does it mean when you can touch? What does it mean when your page is much smaller?"

"So that video is really the product of that work. That was the product of that first three or four months."

Here is that original video:

"Really our idea behind that was 'we're doing all this stuff let's put it (the video) out on the Internet and see what people think. What we got from that was a lot of validation that the ways war were thinking about this were resonating with people. They understood the idea that a magazine experience shouldn't just be a PDF."

The Independent releases its first tablet edition; free app, offering free content, modeled after the NYT iPad app

Almost 19 months after the release of the first iPads by Apple, 17 months after the release of the first iPads into Europe, it is increasingly rare to see the launch of truly bad apps from newspaper or magazine companies – and those are usually from newspapers who are sold on the idea of PDF versions of their papers by vendors who are exceptionally good at sales, and exceptionally bad at technology.
But the app released this morning from The Independent is the "trick" in "trick or treat", an app that somehow made it through the management team at the UK newspaper.

The Independent is a free app that also offers its content for free. Identical to the original New York Times app released in April of 2010, the app is a collection of boxes sometimes filled with content, and sometimes, as you can see in the screenshot, filled with missing code.

The Independent probably has licensed the digital publishing solution directly from the NYT as it contains the same navigation, font adjustments and article sharing mechanism that the Times app has. The problem, though, is that NYT has been less than enthusiastic supporters of the mobile and tablet platforms. I've always felt that they have been dragging kicking and screaming into the modern digital publishing era, brought onboard more by the weight of expectations rather than any real love of digital publishing. So adopting a digital publishing solution from the NYT is like taking communion from Richard Dawkins.

As a business proposition, this app is a publisher's nightmare: free, free, free. The app also does not support Apple's Newsstand - either because it is free, or because it is being used solely as a marketing device – and this only adds to the retro feel of the app.

Even the app description inside the App Store is a mess: two pictures of the splash screen, one in landscape, one in portrait. Simply putt, the first tablet edition of The Independent is one of those apps that simply leave you shaking your head.

After the well conceived tablet edition released by The Guardian released three weeks ago (which has gotten raves from users in iTunes), one would surely have thought that The Independent can do better than this.

Hearst Magazines UK signs deal with Zapper to bring augmented reality to their covers; the NYT's David Carr looks at the issue of sex ads and Village Voice Media

Readers of Hearst's UK covers will soon be able to use an app from Zapper – the video below shows how you use the company's app to make a magazine cover come alive.

Zapper better move quickly, however, because as of this morning their app is has not been released into the App Store or into the Android Market. (The press release links are dead in a good example of PR fail.)

Cosmopolitan, Company and Harper's Bazaar will all feature covers using augmented reality starting with Harper's Bazaar issue to be on sale starting on Thursday of this week.

For Harper's Bazaar, users can watch an exclusive behind-the-scenes clip of the much talked about December covershoot which took place at the Savoy earlier this year as part of a short film for Duran Duran directed by Jonas Akerlund, in association with Swarovski. The Bazaar December cover and behind-the-scene Zappar content features supermodels Naomi Campbell, Cindy Crawford, Eva Herzigova, Yasmin Le Bon and Helena Christensen as well as cameo appearances from designers Domenico Dolce & Stefano Gabanna.

Watch Carefully on WIRED from Zappar on Vimeo.

The NYT's media reporter David Carr today reports on the migration of sex ads from Craig's List over to Village Voice Media's classified network VVM is facing a bit of pressure to stop accepting ads for sex services and the like, but the lucrative category won't be given up easily, according to Carr's story.

“We have always had a very libertarian approach to advertising,” Jim Larkin told Carr for the story. “We don’t ban cigarettes, we take adult advertising. We take ads that sell guns.”

The comments section on the NYT story is pretty interesting, with many readers siding with VVM on this issue. One reader, though, said – tongue firmly in cheek – that should be shut down because after looking through the site he could not see any ads for his local area. "The web site was a HUGE disappointment!" the reader wrote.