Friday, November 11, 2011

The Plain Dealer launches new tablet edition into the App Store; annual digital subscription priced at print levels

The Plain Dealer, Cleveland's major daily newspaper, has launched an iPad edition of the paper into the App Store this morning.

The Plain Dealer is a free app for the iPad that of offers current print subscribers free access to the tablet edition, but charges new readers at levels that are identical to the print edition: $3.99 per week. For some reason the six month charge of $99.99 is actually two dollars lower than the 1 year rate of $209.99.
The app is another of those Techanvia replica edition apps that so many newspaper publishers seem to have fallen in love with. Though the app is said to be "powered by", in fact it is simply an exact copy of the print edition with the usual enhancements you can expect in these lazy-publisher's-way-to-tablet-publishing® solutions.

The app description says "if we offer a free trial, any unused portion of the free trial period, will be forfeited when you purchases a subscription." They aren't, in fact, offering a free trial with the app at this point, and instead are only offering a "preview" of an old edition.

Doesn't seem like they have their hearts in this effort – too bad they wasted the name of the paper on this app.

Journalism spat makes it into the mainstream media

I didn't plan on posting today due to Veteran's Day, and while I try to avoid writing much about "journalism" rather than "digital publishing", I feel it would be wrong not to post something to TNM about this rather sad episode.

What is that they say about spitting (or whatever) into the wind? Well, as of today the Poynter-Jim Romenesko spat (sorry about that) has make it into the mainstream media thanks to an article on the Washington Post's website.

Last night Paul Farhi of the Post informed readers of the episode within the journalism community that started when Julie Moos of the nonprofit website went after their blogger Jim Romenesko, leading eventually to his decision to leave Poynter early.

Romenesko, a former reporter for the Milwaukee Journal (now the Journal Sentinel) and editor at Milwaukee Magazine, had started a media website after a stint as a reporter for the St. Paul Pioneer Press. That site was purchased by the Poynter Institute and Romenesko continued his work under the banner of Romenesko's MediaNews.

With his contract up, Romenesko was set to launch his own website next month when Moos penned her story that appeared yesterday. Moos took Romesnesko to task for "a pattern of incomplete attribution."

The Poynter website, like all media news websites, rarely gets more than a handful of comments per day, but the story has had over 200 comments and journalists have tweeted about the spat between the pioneering blogger and Poynter for the past day.

As the WaPo story points out, most journalists don't see what the big deal is – Romenesko's blog has always been about creating posts about media news stories on the web, utilizing large quotes from the stories, not by commenting directly on the material. Any personal opinion contained in the blog has always been discerned through what has been aggregated rather than through his own comments.

Both the Moos post and the Washington Post story infer that this whole mess was started when Erika Fry, an assistant editor at the Columbia Journalism Review, talked to Moos about Romenesko's blog and inconsistencies in the way he used quotes from the stories he was aggregating. If this is true then the CJR has to be feeling pretty lucky that Moos took the bait and posted first, otherwise we would be reading about how the CJR is getting slammed this morning.

(That hasn't stopped the CJR from stepping in it anyway. Justin Peters writes a post this morning that reviews the backlash the CJR helped create, and then goes on to say that "the fact is that all of Jim Romenesko’s Poynter posts carried Jim Romenesko’s byline, and, as such, it is reasonable to expect that those posts were his original work." Really? That is an odd way of looking at the practice of aggregating news.)

As for Jim Romenesko, he probably regrets emailing the Post's Farhi wondering "if they were trying to discredit me so advertisers wouldn’t touch me." That was unnecessary.

The Washington Post was not the only media outlet to write about the much-to-do-about-nothing spat between the two players. David Carr's Media Decoder post looks that the incident, as well, and comes to the same conclusion as everyone else: what's the problem?

"Mr. Romenesko was pilloried on Thursday for inadequately crediting the work of others, when in fact the new and not-improved version of the blog has become a kind of a roach motel — very easy to get into, but tough to get out of — with endlessly recursive links and little in the way of outbound referrals," wrote Carr.

Carr then links to a post on The Awl by Choire Sicha that really goes after the new Poynter website, calling it "whorey" for headlines that no longer pointed to the original story but were permalinks to their own site (this is rather unfair simply because this is industry standard practice and is the way blogs using Google's blogger platform, for instance, have always worked).

I don't see many readers outside the world of journalism really caring too much about this rather ugly episode. The world of journalism is always navel gazing – its two big themes being "the future of journalism" and the Pulitzers – and most readers find it all very boring.

But the real issue few talk about is how useless the media trade press has become. The demise, for all intents and purposes, of Editor & Publisher, the irrelevance of the magazine trade press, is a blight on the B2B media industry – we can't even create products that are of interest to ourselves, what does that say about the state of the trade?

But, from the perspective of new media, or should I say New Media, none of the traditional sources of industry news have stayed ahead of the curve, have led their industries rather than simply followed – often far behind. Do a search in iTunes and try and find Poytner, the CJR, E&P, Folio:...

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Apple releases iOS 5.0.1 update that supposedly fixes battery issues, may improve performance for Sprint users

Apple has released an update to its mobile operating system that should improve the battery performance of iOS devices currently running iOS 5.

The app is also the first that will test Apple's over-the-air (OTA) updating of software. Reports are that the system is working well so far.

But media developers that have been on beta software should plug their devices into the computers as usual as an OTA update will not work for them. Once they have fully updated, however, OTA should work as advertised.

Although the battery issue will get most of the headlines with this update, there are a couple of other reasons for the update. First, some Sprint users are reporting better performance after the update, though this is not an advertised feature of the update. Also, original iPad owners will find that the update gives their devices additional multitasking gestures.

Another feature of the update is that supposedly Australian iPhone 4S owners will find improved voice recognition. Anybody want to report back to tell us if this is true?

If you use Comcast for your phone service – most likely because you use the company for your cable TV and Internet – they have added a nice little feature.

Now with Xfinity you can have receive an email transcript of any voice mails that you have. You can also have the voice message sent you to via email as an audio file.

While you can always forward the phone to your mobile when out of the office, there are time when you might prefer not to do this. Getting an email transcript of any voice mail is a nice way of making sure you didn't miss a call.

Net neutrality issue continues to expose the wide political divide; Senate votes down move to limit FCC role

With much of the media's attention focused on the European debt crisis, the Rick Perry debate fiasco, or the scandal at PSU, today's vote in the Senate on net neutrality has gotten little attention.

S.J. Res 6 ("Disapproval of Federal Communications Commission Rule Regulating the Internet and Broadband Industry Practices") was voted down this afternoon 46 to 52. The resolution was an attempt to prevent the FCC's order that promoted net neutrality from taking effect on November 20.

The issue of net neutrality, one would think, would cross the ideological divide simply because the concept is to keep the Internet free from control. But so powerful is the concept that government should not interfere in business, even when it involves something like the government created Internet, that all Republicans voted for the resolution, while all Democrats voted against it (one Democrat, Dan Inouye (D-HI) and one Republican, John McCain (R-AZ), did not vote).

Andrew Breitbart's Big Government ran a column today before the vote calling the FCC position "an egregious overreach".

On the other hand, the reaction from other quarters was one of relief that the FCC rules will now be implemented. The website District Dispatch from the Washington Office of the American Library Association praised the vote result.

"The defeat of the bill sends a clear message that libraries and those they serve (the public) not only care strongly about this issue but also depend upon a free and open internet to provide unfettered access to all types of information," wrote Corey Williams, Association Director, Office of Government Relations for the ALA.

It appears that the issue net neutrality is, and will remain, a political football.

Report says Amazon has increased its Kindle Fire order to 5 million units, but ...

Several tech sites are reporting today that Amazon has upped its order for Kindle Fire units to 5 million for 2011. That would be a very impressive number of tablets, if true.

The problem for me is that whether it is or AppleInsider, they are all sourced back to this original post from Digitimes.

Sorry, but I have a serious problem with this. After all, just last month Digitimes said on the morning before the Apple earnings conference call that iPad sales would come in at 13 million units – they came in at 11.1 million. Gee, what's two million between friends, right?

This repeating of information is, I guess, the way of the Internet as one site copies another, who copies another. But rarely do I see writers take a second to wonder about the validity or track record of the original source. Often it is enough that another tech site has repeated the news.

Has Amazon upped its sales expectations? Who knows, but this report just won't convince me one way or another until confirmed by Amazon – and they simply don't like to report actual units sold.

Digital publishing solutions employed by publishers are often influenced by the domestic vendors

After more than a year and a half since the first newspaper and magazine tablet editions began appearing in the iTunes App Store, one can see a distinct pattern emerging based on the dominant vendors based in each country.

In the U.S., one can see that the main solutions being employed either mimic the original NYT iPad app which, while a native app, streams content from the publisher's website and are more tablet versions of the web rather than true tablet editions taken from the print product. Other publishers, like the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, are taking the easy way out by creating replica editions from such vendors as Technavia. These apps are essentially the print newspaper in PDF form, often with some minor enhancements such as text versions of stories. Publishers love then for being cheap and easy, readers hate them for being so hard to read and poor translations of the print product for the tablet.
In Italy quite a number of publishers are working with the Florence based company Virtualcom Interactive. These newspaper apps are replica editions that often charge around 3,99 € to 36,99 € for subscriptions.

What I find very interesting is that while one might think that the expectations of readers might vary widely from country to country the fact is that the reviews inside the Italian App Store show that readers in Italy are just as disappointed in these tablet conversions as readers are in the U.S.

Having said that, though, for the most part the biggest complaint Italian iPad owners seem to have about their newspaper apps is simply that they crash or are slow to load or are expensive. Rarely do I read a negative review that talks about designing specifically for the iPad, though some seem to hint at that issue:

L'applicazione non consente de evidenziare o salvare articoli. Si allinea con le altre presenti sui mercato senza offrire alcun valore aggiunte.

The application does not allow saving of highlights or complete articles. Aligns with the others on the market without offering any added value.
The leading news apps in the Italian App Store are from Corriere della Sera from Milan, La Gazzetta dello Sport, National Geographic-International and La Repubblica, from Rome. With the exception of the National Geographic app, all are pretty much replica editions, though sometimes with additional features added to make them interactive or to take advantage of the iPad abilities.

The situation gets more interesting looking at the Italian version of Newsstand (Edicola in Italian). Here, where as of today there are 457 publications available, so many of them are in English such as ELLE Magazine UK, NYTimes for iPad, etc.

Sprinkled about in Newsstand, however, you can find Corriere dello Sport HD, or Mac magazine Italia, but they are definitely crowded out by other publications.

But while many Italian reviews appreciate finding their favorite publications inside Newsstand, there is still that issue of replicas versus native apps:

"Nulla di eccezionale e pagare più di 2 euro per dei PDF non mi sembra il caso," writes on App Store user review which complains about having to pay for reading what is essentially a PDF of the original print publication.

Retweet: CJR posts epic story about the San Jose Mercury News and its failure to seize the digital future

Michael Shapiro has written an epic post about the San Jose Mercury News entitled The Newspaper That Almost Seized the Future.

For someone who worked in the Bay Area at a daily newspaper it is a story that is particular interest to me, though the same story could be written about the Chronicle or the papers in Contra Costa County – all of the were in a position to seize hold of the future and all of them have failed miserably in that task.

At 16 web pages, though, I would suggest that using Instapaper to save the story for reading on your tablet over the weekend.

Morning Brief: Rioters target media over firing of football coach; Papdemos becomes the new Greek prime minister; James Murdoch testifies before Parliament

Groups of students rioted in downtown State College, Pennsylvania last night after word was spread that the football coach of Penn State was fired by the board of directors. The firing occurred following the arrest of Jerry Sandusky, the former defensive coordinator, on charges of sexual abuse of minors.

One of the targets of the unrest was the media which some see as enflaming the scandal. A news van was toppled and newspaper boxes overturned as rioters threw rocks and fireworks at police.

There is certainly irony that some PSU students would riot over the firing of a millionaire football coach but not skyrocketing tuition fees and the increasing debt students must accrue in order to get a college education.

The last home game of the season occurs on Saturday and it promises to be a media circus.

Greece finally has its new prime minister. This afternoon Athens time, a new government was announced with Lucas Papademos as the new prime minister. Papademos is a former vice president of the European Central Bank and was widely expected to be named the new prime minister before talks between the major parties broke down yesterday. (Photo of Papademos courtesy of Athens News.)

The delay in the formation of the new government was a huge embarrassment for the parties involved in negotiations and led to more uncertainty at a time when the Italian debt crisis was also growing.

Markets are up in Europe following the news from Greece.

The campaign of Rick Perry continued to implode following a debate performance where the Texas governor could not remember the name of the agency he wanted to cut. Apparently that third agency is the Energy Department, the other two being the Commerce and Education Departments.

James Murdoch is testifying again this afternoon (London time) before a Parliament panel about the phone hacking and spying scandal that has engulfed News Corp. and led to the closing down of the News of the World.

Murdoch is getting tough questioning about the activities of Murdoch owned newspapers. Murdoch has been asked if, for instance, he will close The Sun if it is found that the same activities that occurred at the News of the World also occurred at The Sun.

Unlike at the previous testimony, James Murdoch sits in front of the panel alone, without the presence of his father, Rupert Murdoch.

The Fairfax family has sold its stake in Fairfax Media, according to the WSJ. The family's stake in the Sydney-based newspaper company came to 190.1 million Australian dollars.

"We believe this decision is prudent as transitioning to a more balanced and diversified investment portfolio is in the best long-term interests of our family," Marinya Media Chairman John B. Fairfax said in a statement. "That said, given Marinya's longstanding relationship with Fairfax and Rural Press this decision was not easy."

And finally this morning I see that it's snowing outside. Yuck.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

A week away from launch time, Amazon plays up its app portfolio for the Kindle Fire

Next week the Kindle Fire is launched by Amazon, so today the company issued a press release to play up some of the apps that will be ready on the first day.

Making launch day will be Facebook, Twitter, Pandora, Netflix, Rhapsody, games from Electronic Arts and others.

"We started talking to app developers everywhere the day we introduced Kindle Fire, and the response has been overwhelming,” Dave Limp, Vice President, Amazon Kindle is quoted as saying in the announcement.

Other apps mentioned include Allrecipes, Bloomberg, Cut the Rope, Doodle Fit, Doodle Jump, Fruit Ninja, Jenga, LinkedIn, Zillow, Airport Mania, Battleheart, Pulse, The Cat in the Hat, Quickoffice Pro, Jamie’s 20-Minute Meals, IMDb Movies & TV, and Monkey Preschool Lunchbox. Noticeably missing, however, were publications such as newspapers and consumer magazines specifically designed for a color Kindle tablet.

Unlike Apple, which promised that those who pre-ordered the first iPad would all receive their tablets on launch day – quite an accomplishment – Amazon is simply stating that the Kindle Fire is launching on November 15. Ships dates vary so it is not known when TNM, for instance, will receive a Kindle Fire to write about. It will be interesting to see if Amazon makes sure those who preordered their tablets receive them on launch day as Apple did.

Street Press Australia: A look at two more tablet editions that use the Oomph platform from Mogeneration

The Australian publisher Street Press Australia has updated their two tablet editions inside the App Store to add the magazines to Apple's new Newsstand app.
Both Three Magazine, an iPad-only magazine, and Drum Media received the iOS 5 updates.

As the publisher's name would suggest, both tablet editions are free to download, and individual issues are free, as well. iPad owners can also "subscribe" so that their issues will download automatically.

I've written a few times about apps that are using the Oomph digital publishing platform, as these two apps do. Maybe I'm being a little dim, but I'm still at a loss for exactly how the platform works – is it a plug-in like Mag+, or what? I really need to check this out, but because of the time difference it is a bit hard to communicate in a timely fashion with anyone in Australia. Maybe I should take a trip, what do you think?

In any case, like the apps from Hardie Grant, these are simply conversions that seem to work well for the reader. They are best read in portrait as the landscape pages are simply blown up versions of the portrait pages. It is an interesting digital publishing solution, and one obviously being employed more and more by Australian publishers.

Left: The use of scrolling within a page; Middle: another typical layout in the latest issue of Three Magazine; Right: the library page for Drum Media were issues can be accessed and where the reader can subscribe for free.

Lunchtime news break: Coalition talks in Greece collapse (will resume tomorrow); Italy sees its borrowing rates soar

Ah, if only we had a third party here that could speak the truth to power! That is what the leader of a small third party has done in Greece.

The leader of the far right party, Popular Orthodox Rally, Giorgos Karazaferis "stormed" out of meetings involving the two major political parties claiming that the two leaders from the major parties were engaging in "tactical games", the Athens News reported this afternoon.

Because of this all meetings were postponed until tomorrow.

The meetings were supposed to work out the details of a new coalition government, purportedly to be led by the former European Central Bank vice-president Lucas Papademos. But neither the outgoing prime minister George Papandreou, nor the opposition leader Antonis Samaras seem to be able to work out the final details.

Meanwhile the Italian debt crisis is reaching a critical stage. Borrowing costs for Italian debt have broken through the 7 percent level, increasing the costs for the government to pay its debts, and increasing the likelihood that Italy may need its own bailout.

But Italy is Europe's third largest economy and the thought that it might need a bailout is causing major indigestion among investors and politicians alike (is there a difference?).

Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi yesterday said he would resign after the passage of certain budget measures, but few think it will be as easy as that to get rid of Italy's richest man.

This is again leading many commentators to speculate that the Euro is a dead man walking.

But while the financial community wonders about what the world looks like without the Euro, European countries continue to implement austerity measures that are dragging down economic growth.

Why the U.S. media has not been leading the charge for more stimulus is beyond me, because while Italian bond rates have risen, U.S. rates remain at historic lows. The 10-year rate today is still below 2 percent.

What that means is that the cost to borrow is low, meaning that stimulus spending carries lower costs.

So why do I point to the media? Our industry? Because only with stronger consumer growth will advertising grow. By continuing to embrace the austerity mantra the media is cutting its own throats.

Social Media & Display Advertising

Today's guest blog post was written by Matt Rhys-Davies, a UK-based digital consultant and can also be found cross-posted on his own website.

It’s absolutely doubtless that social media is a major player in the web scene, most companies / people / consultants use it as a tool to brand build rather than as a fertile ground where one can purchase advertising, but what sort of results can you expect if you do happen to go and throw some budget at display?

The power and the reach that social media has, makes it one of the most valuable sources in one’s digital arsenal. Whilst still being a new medium, how it’s being used by key brands and one-man bands has already gone through a rapid process of maturing. No longer do people throw out post after post of direct linking to their site; spamming people with products and giving them the hard sell. Now it’s all about interaction, community and giving your brand a personality for users to get to know, like and hopefully to love.

Bearing in mind that the medium of social is all about encouraging people to get involved with what you do as a brand and what you stand for, does it make sense to essentially broadcast adverts at your target users, reverting to a one to many (broadcast) communication in the ideal place to engage in one-to-one communication?

My contention is that it does not.

Whilst you, as an advertiser, are equipped with the power to segment and target to a level of granularity that would have been unfathomable a few years ago, you are still simply putting product under their eyeballs. I previously ran a small campaign for a client across Facebook in my capacity as a digital consultant to trial the traffic and conversion that the campaign yielded, below is a brief run through of the level I was able to drill down to.

When setting up the campaign I was able to ensure that only the following saw my clients' adverts: women, with a degree, aged 25-45, earning over £40,000 and based in London. Then the icing on the cake was that I was able to seek out similar brands to my clients' on Facebook, and ensure I only targeted adverts to those users who fit the above criteria AND liked brand X. Incredible.

The above segment was a way to instantaneously hit our target market with offers, deals and the products on sale without going through the rigorous research process of where they reside, negotiating CPM / CPC rates and defining metrics to measure. So this should perform exceptionally well, right? Unfortunately not. I'm hesitant to divulge spend, but from over 2500 clicks we saw 0 conversions. From a site that traditionally converts at about 1.2% across all channels (affiliate, organic, PPC etc) this clearly fell well below expectations.

In conclusion, drawing from my experience of running both high and low spend campaigns across Facebook with various end goals (e-commerce conversion, affiliate leads, data capture), I have not found direct spend on the site to produce converting traffic. If a client were to ask my advice on dedicating budget towards social media – depending on their desired outcome – I would suggest either using the monies to hire someone to manage their social media presence, or to deploy applications designed to benefit the community the brand has built up, such as WildFire to run competitions and collect data.

Incidentally, my parting gift is that: I have personally found data collected from the Facebook community's of brands to be remarkably high converting when placed into a sophisticated e-marketing system.

A ~40% click through rate can often make e-marketers drool.

Matt Rhys-Davies is a digital consultant located in London, UK. He has a working knowledge of application development, project management, site analysis and marketing, accompanied by hands on technical and creative skills. He can be contacted here.

Morning Brief: Olympus admits hiding losses in big merger payouts; voters go to the polls to determine major ideological issues in Ohio and Mississippi

In what may be one of the largest corporate scandals to be revealed, Olympus has admitted that it made more than $1 billion in merger payouts in order to hide investment losses. The NYT called the news of the growing scandal "one of the biggest accounting fraud cases in corporate history."

At the center of the case is Michael C. Woodford, the former CEO who was fired when he exposed the fraud. The board of directors, at the time, said that Woodford did not understand the Japanese corporate culture and had to go. Woodford had worked for Olympus for 30 years.

The report released from Olympus is the first crack in that corporate stonewall. “It is true that there were inappropriate dealings,” the new president of Olympus, Shuichi Takayama, is quoted as stating in a news conference. “Our previous statements were in error.” Unfortunately, Takayama did not go so far as to admit corporate fraud, opening to door to further revelations and more scandal.

It is always the cover-up that has the most repercussions.

Yesterday was election day in the U.S. and several ballot measures appeared on state ballots that were a perfect reflection of the state of the politics in America.

In Ohio, voters were asked to validate the attack on public employee unions. Led by Republican governor John Kasich, the legislature had, by one vote, passed an anti-union measure that severely restricted the rights of state workers. Ohio, a swing state in most presidential elections, but also a manufacturing state, has a long history of support for union rights.

The voters overwhelmingly rejected the Republican restrictions in a strong rebuke to both the governor and the legislature.

In Mississippi, voters were asked to support a measure that would define human life as beginning at conception, virtually outlawing abortion, as well as most forms of contraception. That effort, too, went down to defeat by a wide margin.

But while Americans voted against efforts to restrict their rights, they voted back in the same politicians who were behind the efforts to restrict their rights in the first place. The big exception was in Arizona where voters in Mesa were on the verge of recalling their state senator, Russell Pearce, a highly influential state politician, and a major player in promoting the state's controversial immigration law.

At 2pm EST there will be a 30-second test of the Emergency Alert Sys­tem which will involve all television and radio stations. Because the test will involve "live code" there will be no warning that this is only a test.

Remember, this is only a test folks.

Adobe kills off mobile Flash

It is hard to believe that this was such a point of controversy – should Apple and other mobile device makers incorporate Flash support? For so many tech writers this was the sign that Apple didn't know what it was doing, that the iPhone and other mobile devices would fail because they did not support Flash.

As they say, that was then, this is now.

If you haven't heard, Adobe Systems is killing off mobile Flash and will instead concentrate on HTML5.

John Gruber of Daring Fireball was quick to jump on the story:
Apple didn’t win. Everybody won. Flash hasn’t been superseded in mobile by any sort of Apple technology. It’s been superseded by truly open web technologies. Dumping Flash will make Android better, it will make BlackBerrys better, it will make the entire web better. iOS users have been benefitting from this ever since day one, in June 2007.
The issue, of course, was always performance and security. For Mac users, and those with iOS devices, the problem was not about Apple versus Adobe, it was about crashes, power and battery drains, and security – fix Flash was most often the call.

Now Adobe will move on to delivering better technology which is a good thing for all mobile device owners. Unfortunately, a lot of Adobe employees, 750 it is reported, will be losing their positions in the move, let's hope we find them doing other work real soon.

Google said it would be dropping its support of its Gmail app for BlackBerry. This is a week after launching, and then withdrawing its new Gmail app for iPhone.

"Users may continue to use the app, if installed, however it will not be supported by Google, or available for download starting November 22," Google said in a blog post. Google will avoid the whole app solution for Gmail by pointing users to its mobile website for Gmail.

To be honest, I've never seen the purpose for these apps anyway as users can add their Gmail account to the iPhone's Mail app with no real difficulty – why use a separate app? I have to assume the same thing can be done on BlackBerry devices.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Black Ocean relaunches LMK topic aggregation iPhone app after acquisition from Hearst Entertainment

Digital media and investment firm Black Ocean has acquired a majority stake in LMK ("Let Me Know"), a mobile app that delivers news and information based on topics of interest to the individual user. The iPhone app has been relaunched in beta into the App Store as a free app, and an Android version will be launched into the Android Market later this month.

"We're very excited by the space," Oliver Ripley, co-founder and CEO of Black Ocean told TNM this afternoon. "One of the things we've done is invested and become part of a business called App Nation. App Nation is really developing into the front running conferencing business around apps."

"Hearst had done an excellent job with LMK to get it to where it was," Ripley said. "What really excited us about the actual app itself was, you know, there are a lot of apps for tablets to aggregate and look at news, however there wasn't really an app dedicated to the mobile device."

"If we think about the mobile device as something that is linked to us throughout the day – in our pockets, or in our handbags, something we always have with us – it's become so integrated into our daily lives that soon payments will be done through mobile phones, and that will be the quintessential piece of technology that we all carry."
Unlike news aggregation apps, such as Flipboard, Editions or Zite, LMK is topic-driven. Users customize the news streams by scrolling through pre-loaded topics across five categories: business, entertainment, life, news, and sports. Within each main category are additional subcategories.

"This app is really about speed to content," Ripley said. "This app is really about providing a user with the ability to follow not aggregated news, but news based around topics. Topics that he or she is interested in. This canbe actors, actresses, this can be sports teams, this can be particular companies."

"One of the issues I have with a lot of the tablet aggregators out there – whether its Flipboard or others out there – it gives you a general overview of what's out there in the market. But I specifically wanted to know what is going on with my favorite football team or my favorite basketball team I don't have that ability to do that."

The app, when owned by Hearst, was a paid app, with up to 70 individual apps on various topics. Now the  newly relaunched app is free and will be advertising supported.

"What's great is that because you are telling what you are interested in and what you want to hear about we can serve and match ads very well to you. And at the same time one of the key things is not to not disrupt your user experience," Ripley said.

BBC Newsnight report claims that News of the World surveillance was conducted 'on an industrial scale'

The BBC has posted a preview of the news report it will air tonight on its Newsnight program. The report claims that the Murdoch owned News of the World "engaged in covert surveillance on an industrial scale."

Over an eight year period of time the paper spied on celebrities ranging from members of the royal family to footballers.

The BBC's Newsnight correspondent Richard Watson interviewed Derek Webb who is claimed to have been paid to followed 90 targets over the eight years of his involvement with the British tabloid.

"I was working for them extensively on many jobs throughout that time. I never knew when I was going to be required. They phoned me up by the day or by the night... It could be anywhere in the country," Webb is quoted by the BBC.

"The News of The World employed me to do a job, I did the job to the best of my ability. I didn't infringe on private ground, on private property... I never did anything which is unlawful," he said.

The Newsnight report will air at 22:30 GMT, or 5:30 EST.

Short takes: In Italy the prime minister tries to hang on, while in Greece the banks foreclose on the government

Update: Reuters at 1:50 EST is reporting that Berlusconi will, indeed resign, but only after he wins a vote of confidence on the budget. That would mean he would step down in a couple of weeks. A lot can happen between now and then, including new deals that would shore up his government.

Frankly it's a boring day in media news today, but a fascinating one in international politics. While events in Europe might be considered outside the scope of TNM one of the great joys of publishing a website is throwing out the book and doing what you like.

In Italy, the prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi has just won a budget vote. That's the good news for the PM; the bad news is that his absolute majority is now gone, and his coalition partner has asked him to resign.

But the wealthiest man in Italy may not do as he is told. For one thing, with so many accusations about his behavior losing power may be very dangerous, personally. Look for him to try and figure out how to cling to power.

In Greece, meanwhile, the Prime Minister George Papandreou is out. Having one a confidence vote on Friday, Papandreou lived up to his promise to exit. Who is taking over? It looks like it will be Lucas Papademos, an economist and the former Vice President of the European Central Bank.

In other words, the banks have foreclosed and are now in control in Greece. That should make the banks happy, but what happens out on the streets is anybody's guess.

Back in the U.S., where economic catastrophe is not something the general populace gets excited about, the news is all about Michael Jackson's doctor and a Big Ten football coach. One looks like they are going to jail for a while, the other may soon have plenty of time on their hands to go to the store to buy Depends.

Consumer Reports reverses itself on iPhone recommendation: so is 'antenna-gate' now over?

Despite the glee that some tech sites expresses over the issue, Apple's antenna problems with its iPhone were always overblown. The fact that Consumer Reports brought up the issue simply gave many tech writers cover.

But this morning Consumer Reports, in a blog post, reversed itself.
The Apple iPhone 4S is among the recommended models in our newly updated Ratings of smart phones. Apple’s newest smart phone performed very well in our tests, and while it closely resembles the iPhone 4 in appearance, it doesn’t suffer the reception problem we found in its predecessor in special tests in our labs.
But despite the fact that the iPhone consistently scores first in customer satisfaction, Consume Reports could not quite get itself to rate the new iPhone first in its ratings (that went to several Android phones including the Samsung Galaxy S II and Motorola Droid Bionic).

Whatever. When you compare products based on features rather than user experience that is what is going to happen. Sadly, even after four years at this, many media companies still don't understand the concept.

Morning Brief: Oops, that mic's not on, is it?; Demand Media still in the red, just less so; ABC mobile survey

If Ronald Reagan's famous open mic line – "We begin bombing in five minutes" – reflected more than a little bit of truth about how he felt about the Soviet Union, then the remarks by French President Nicolas Sarkozy and US President Barack Obama may also reveal a bit of their true feelings.

Speaking about Israeli prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, the French president said to Obama "I cannot stand him. He's a liar," in reference to the Israeli prime minister. According to reports the US president responded "You're fed up with him? I have to deal with him every day."

Apparently neither head of state was aware that they had microphones attached and live. Oops.

The remarks probably won't hurt Sarkozy simply because his popularity is already low (a recent poll revealed that 60 percent of the French surveyed disapprove of this leadership), but Obama is running for re-election and there is no doubt that those who say Obama is not a strong enough supporter of Israel will pounce on the remarks.

Demand Media reported its Q3 earnings last night. The company was able to report that it lost quite a bit less money in this year's third quarter than it did last year – $4.1 million versus $8.7 million.

The pared losses helped the stock recover a little bit of its value, though at $8 per share it is well below its IPO launch price of $17 per share.

The Audit Bureau of Circulations (ABC) and ABC Interactive released their third mobile survey yesterday which shows that publishers continue to fill out their mobile media strategies. According to this year's survey, 50 percent of those media companies surveyed say they have a well-developed plan for mobile, as opposed to 28 percent in 2009.

"This year's survey results show the great strides publishers have made during the last two years and how they are preparing for a future where smartphones and tablets are a ubiquitous part of everyday life," said Neal Lulofs, executive vice president and general manager, ABC Interactive.
Eighty-five percent of survey respondents said they currently have mobile content for smartphones, e-readers or tablet devices, up from 76 percent last year. Newspapers (88%) were most likely to have mobile initiatives in place, followed closely by consumer magazines (83%) and business publications (79%). Publishers cite development and maintenance costs as the primary reason they did not have a mobile presence. – from the ABC survey announcement.

Zillow issued an update this morning for its iOS apps. The app description state that the app update fixes several bugs.

Hopefully the app update will fix the one bug that annoys me most: every time I check the Zillow price of my home it shows that the price has gone down – that can't be right, can it? (ugh)

Monday, November 7, 2011

Nomad Editions begins launching individual branded apps

The digital publishing company Nomad Editions has changed the way it has approached its publishing model several times since the company was first launched. The digital publishing start-up headed up by Mark Edmiston originally intended to bring its partnered magazines to all digital devices – the desktop, mobile and tablets (see original TNM December 2010 post here). But the model soon changed to concentrating on the iPad.
In May of this year, to reflect the new are of concentration, Nomad Editions launched its first iPad app, a digital newsstand in the vein of Zinio or Magzter.

Now Nomad Editions has started releasing individual branded apps for the magazines that use its platform. Four individuals apps were released late on Friday for Uncorked, Real Eats, BodySmart and Wide Screen. Each app has the words "by Nomad Editions" added to the end of the name.

The basic idea behind Nomad Editions is that each magazine uses the same publishing platform – the company calls it Treesaver – and also the same publishing business model. That model gives the writers/editors of the individual magazines a 30 percent split of the subscription revenue generated by the title. Originally the magazines were priced at $6 for three months, but now that Nomad is iPad centric the price is 99 cents per issue or $9.99 for an annual subscription. With each add the reader is allowed to download on issue free in order to get a taste of what the magazine has to offer.

The move from a centralized iPad app for all magazines to individual apps makes a lot of sense. In order for the centralized app approach to work Nomad would have had to drive readers to that one app. Based on the total number of reviews inside the App Store it didn't look like that was happening.

Now, however, each title can be promoted on its own, and because the new apps are Newsstand compliant, each title will show up in two categories – its editorial focus (such as Lifestyle, Health & Fitness, Entertainment, etc.) and the Newsstand category itself.

Left: each new branded magazine app opens to the page where readers can download one free issue, buy individual issues, or buy an annual subscription; Right: the platform used to design magazine issues sometimes creates pages that would make an art director cry.

If there remains a major issue with the Nomad Editions, it remains the publishing platform itself. The approach is too much like a digital flipbooks, one in which some of the pages don't really fit the display. Articles spill over on to almost blank pages – some fill the display, some are housed in only a sliver of the page.

On the other hand, the platform may be more attractive to other editors who would like to launch their own titles affordably. Launching a title with Nomad Editions would shift the burden of app creation, as well as ad sales, onto Nomad – assuming, of course, that Nomad would be interested in your title.

But if Nomad Editions is to succeed it really needs to get moving with ad sales – neither of the two titles I read contained any advertising. Without advertising, the model is dependent on reader revenue – and at 99 cents an issue, split between Apple, Nomad and the editor... well, that seems a difficult business model to succeed at.

Ambiguity, uncertainly make the Android platform difficult for publishers; B&N launches new NOOK Tablet

This morning Barnes & Noble unveiled a new NOOK that is aimed squarely at Amazon's Kindle Fire. Priced at $249, $50 higher than the Kindle Fire, the new tablet offers more storage and its own Nook Newsstand.

The new tablet will be available in stores by the end of this week and is essentially identical in appearance to the NOOK Color.

At this price point, Barnes & Noble are probably breaking even on its tablet sales – something that might not be said of Amazon's Kindle Fire. With this launch, the seven-inch tablet market becomes even more crowded, as well as unprofitable.

But the sudden rush to market of the NOOK Tablet reinforces the impression that the Android platform is the Wild West of tech segments, with new products being introduced quickly and unpredictably. Worse, it is difficult to keep track of the many variations of the Android platform and whether one can and should develop for it. Will an app that runs on the NOOK Tablet run on a XOOM or the Kindle Fire? For Time Inc., a company that has promised to bring all its titles to tablets, Android remains a difficult platform.

Additionally, none of the major Android tablet players are very transparent when it comes to actual sales numbers. Samsung continues to talk about products "shipped", while the book retailers talk about "millions" of sales.

The one question I continue to get asked by publishers is "how many tablets are really out there?" I generally end up quoting Apple quarterly earnings reports, and then talk about Android tablets in more vague terms.

Update: Here is Kate, and she's excited:

The Washington Post and Chicago Tribune get iPad app updates, but do not move into Apple's iOS5 Newsstand

Both the Washington Post and the Chicago Tribune iPad apps were updated this weekend in order to make them iOS 5 compliant. But while both apps received updates, neither app moved into Apple's Newsstand.
The Washington Post for iPad remains a free app that in essentially an app version of their free news website. All content is free to access and there is no required registration mechanism.

Users have complained that the newly updated app crashes for them, but I have not encountered any problems with the app myself.

The Chicago Tribune App for iPad similarly is an app that replicates the web experience rather than attempts to create a new tablet publication. The free app gives its users free access to the online content from the Trib and also gets very little back from its readers in the way of either revenue or information. Again, some users have complained of some crashes with the newly updated app, but that was not my experience. (Maybe these users need to reboot their tablets to clean up the performance of their iPads?)

Both apps are perfectly fine apps, though as business models it is a little hard for me to see that they will be hugely drivers of ad dollars – the only revenue model that seems built into these apps.

The advantage of these apps, from the perspective of the publisher, is that once they are built there is very little additional work necessary on the part of the editors. The content simply flows into the apps and that is that. As I am not a fan of either paper's website designs, these apps do serve as legitimate alternatives to the browser versions, and is probably why the developers are keeping them out of Newsstand – they really aren't publications in any sense of the term.

Morning Brief: Disney signs partnership deal with YouTube; Le Monde gains total control of its web properties; Finnish publisher's consolidation plans

The Walt Disney Company has inked a deal with Google owned YouTube which would include Disney creating an original video series for the online video site.

The deal is interesting that it was signed with the Google property rather than Apple and its AppleTV vehicle.

Disney will be responsible for selling the advertising on its YouTube channel, and will split that revenue with YouTube. Disney will be able to tap into consumer uploaded video to feature on its new channel, and will be able to host the original video content that it produces on its own web properties, in addition to YouTube.

Media companies are consolidating its holdings everywhere, not just in the U.S. Another example of this is Sanoma Magazines, on of Finland's leading publishers. The company announced last week that it would be closing both Prosessori and Sara magazines.

Our decision to end these titles is part of our overall efforts to ensure that our portfolio remains competitive, and will free up resources for developing," Sanoma Magazines' Managing Director, Clarisse Berggårdh, said in the company's announcement. "In today's challenging market environment, we want to concentrate on our leading brands and on launching new titles, which are so important for keeping the magazine sector dynamic. At the same time, it will also put us in a better position to weather the introduction of VAT on magazine subscriptions due next year."

The French newspaper Le Monde has bought out the minority owner of its digital namestake, Le Monde Interactif.

The NYT reported this weekend that Le Monde has acquired the 34 percent stake that was owned by the French publisher, Lagardère.

The drama in Greece is drawing to a close. Out will be current Prime Minister George Papandreau, in will be former European Central Bank Vice President Lucas Papademos; out will be the idea that the Greek people will vote to endorse the latest bailout, in will be full compliance with the terms of the deal. The banks and investors are applauding the latest developments. As for the Greek people, well, we'll see.