Thursday, November 24, 2011

Re-run: Part 2 of a conversation with Mike Haney on tablet publishing and the B2B publishing industry

Today is the Thanksgiving Day holiday in the U.S. so there will be no new posts. But here is the second part of the interview I conducted with Mag+'s Mike Haney at the ABM Executive Forum last month – in case you missed it.

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.

Re-run: 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

Today is the Thanksgiving Day holiday in the U.S. so there will be no new posts. But here is the interview I conducted with Mag+'s Mike Haney at the ABM Executive Forum last month – in case you missed it. Look for part two today, as well.

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."

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Morning Brief: Evening Standard reports James Murdoch has resigned from the board of News Int'l; Google conducts some 'spring cleaning', shutting down services

The Evening Standard is reporting this morning that James Murdoch, son of the the chairman of the board, and the man at the center of the phone hacking scandal in the U.K., has resigned his position as director on the board of News International.

The resignation, if confirmed, follows another appearance in front of a committee of Parliament where the News International executive was aggressively questioned concerning his role in the scandal that led to the closing of News of the World.

"Because it is inescapable that there will be some kind of censure from the Culture, Media and Sport select committee, it is inevitable that people will say maybe you've got too much on your plate, it makes sense to step back from some of the roles," Claire Enders, founder of Enders Analysis, told the Evening Standard.

It should be noted that as of 8:30 EST no other news outlets are currently confirming this report from the U.K. newspaper.

The AP is reporting that Australian police are investigating the allegations of a former senator, Bill O'Chee, who recently said told police that he was offered favorable news coverage and "a special relationship" in return for voting against proposed government legislation.

"I believed that (he) was clearly implying that News Corp. would run news stories or editorial content concerning any issue I wanted if I was to cross the floor and oppose the ... legislation," O'Chee said in his statement according to the AP story.

Google announced yesterday that it was conducting more "spring cleaning" by closing down some services. Those services including Google Bookmarks Lists, Google Friend Connect, Google Gears (though this was actually announced in March), and Google Wave.

Google Wave, which garnered a lot of attention at launch, has failed to live up to the hype. It was previously announced that the service would be closed down, but now it is known that as of January 31, 2012, Wave will become read-only and users won’t be able to create new ones. On April 30 Google will turn Wave off completely.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Media app updates: WaPo updates its iPad app but keeps it outside of Newsstand; Exact Editions issues updates for its magazine apps such as Jazzwise and Gramophone

The Washington Post continues to go its own way when it comes to its tablet apps, keeping them free of charge and outside of Newsstand.

The Washington Post for iPad was updated to fix a series of bugs with its video playback and to fix the Twitter story sharing feature.

The company's tablet strategy remains rather muddled, however. The app and its content is free, while many of its competitors have moved to paid subscription models. But this free access, the app says, is for a limited time. But unless they move away from a web strategy for their editorial readers won't want to pay for a tablet edition if the website has the same content and is free. Then the publisher would have to construct a paywall for the web, as well. This is why it may be smart to think of your tablet edition as not an extension of the web but as another version of the print edition.

Exact Editions, which has over 40 replica edition apps inside the App Store, has moved many of their titles to Newsstand. Two magazines I have inside my own Newsstand app are Jazzwise and Gramophone Magazine. These two magazine apps, along with many of their others, were updated yesterday to fix some bugs.

The problem with these magazine apps, however, is that the replica editions are more difficult to read than print, yet cost the same. As a result, almost every app one looks at is getting negative reviews from readers who consider them a ripoff.

The Starbucks card may not be a media app, but any publisher will tell you that without caffeine their publications would cease to function.

So it is worth noting that Starbucks has updated its main mobile app. The app now incorporates the mobile card app, so you can now delete that one if you have it.

This update fixes a log in problem.

Now the smartphone app includes your gift card, a My Rewards tab, eGifts, and the map feature.

Atex adds InDesign integration into its tablet publishing solution, Atex Tablet Publishing

Atex announced today that it will be integrating InDesign with its Atex Tablet Publishing (ATP) solution beginning in the first quarter of next year.

The new digital publishing solution will allow Atex customers to create tablet publishing products using templates through InDesign.

"Media companies already have to do more with the same or fewer staff, so streamlining the production workflow to take advantage of new revenue streams from cross-channel publishing is critical. said Anders Weijnitz, VP of Product Management, Web CMS.

“By combining the benefits of both design and template driven tablet publishing, this new version will enable media companies to publish premium tablet products, transferring the values of a printed edition into the digital world of the tablet with minimal overhead in production time and cost," Weijnitz said.

Warning, next up for your entertainment: iPad 3 rumors

The worst part about running TNM is having to read up on what the tech sites have to say about smartphones and tablets. The obsession with 'who is up and who is down', and analysts, analysts, analysts, is not a pleasant experience.

Sales predictions for Apple products are like those TV sports reporters and their football game predictions: viewers pay attention to them before Sunday, then quickly forget how wrong they were on Monday. Come the following week viewers pay attention again as if the faulty predictions of the previous week never happened.

Take the silly story (no link, because they don't deserve on for this garbage) this morning from Business Insider, a leader purveyor of junk tech news and aggregated content. An "analyst" has cut their Apple iPad sales estimate to 14 million from 17 million. Oh my.

But I seem to remember everyone's shock that Apple was able to sell almost 20 million iPads in all of 2010. So obviously the fact that Apple will, this analyst says, only sell 14 million tablets in this next quarter is cause for concern, right? These guys need to get a life.

But wait, things are about to get worse in the tech media: next up will be iPad 3 rumors. It was, after all, about this time of the year in 2009 that the rumors began in earnest that Apple would be releasing its first tablet, or iSlate, or whatever. The first post on TNM, though at the time invisible to readers, was written on December 3 with the headline Time previews Sports Illustrated tablet magazine which talked about what SI would look like a product that did not, at that time, exist.

Rumors, rumors, rumors. There will be plenty of them to keep us all entertained until Tim Cook announces the iPad 3 launch event, surely to occur some time between the end of January and the end of March.

Monday, November 21, 2011

MPA releases new survey of tablet owners; new digital devices are boosting magazine reading, engagement

Another survey released today comes to us from association representing magazine publishers. The MPA–The Association of Magazine Media commissioned the research firm Affinity to conduct the survey which had 1,00p magazine readers as respondents.

What the survey found was that 90 percent said that since buying a tablet or eReader they are consuming as much or more magazine content, and 63 percent said they want even more content to be in digital form.

The best news from the survey may be in the area of advertising where 59 percent of those surveyed said they would like to have the ability to buy directly from ads, while 70 percent said they like the idea of direct purchasing from editorial content (ar you listening B2B publishers?).

“Digital magazines are taking the medium to the next level,” said Christopher Kevorkian, EVP/Digital, MPA. “While various research has long proved that print magazines drive purchase behavior, digital magazines hold the promise of creating a direct link between purchase intent and actual transaction. The study proves that consumers look to magazine media to create that opportunity.”

By the way: I'm really glad to see this kind of research, thanks MPA. But now we need research that goes deeper, that helps publishers know more about the preferences of tablet readers. For instance, my hunch is that younger readers want more interactive magazines, more native apps, while older readers (and publishers?) are satisfied with digital replicas. But it is also possible that, as Jobs said, that many consumers don't really know what they want until someone shows it to them. In other words, publishers need to be more out-front when it comes to publishing technology and less reliant on vendors.

New PublicMind Poll attempts to show which media outlets produce the best informed viewers; 'there is something about watching Fox News...'

According to a poll conducted by Fairleigh Dickinson University, New Jersey residents who listen to NPR or watch the Sunday morning news shows are far more likely to be informed on currently events, while those who depend on Fox News or local TV news are far less likely to have a good grasp of events.

"Because of the controls for partisanship, we know these results are not just driven Republicans or other groups being more likely to watch Fox News," said Dan Cassino, professor of political science at Fairleigh Dickinson and an analyst for the PublicMind Poll. "Rather, the results show us that there is something about watching Fox News that leads people to do worse on these questions than those who don’t watch any news at all."

The PublicMind Poll asked questions of respondents on events in Egypt and Syria, as well as about the OWS protests. These results were then compared with the news sources the respondents said they consumed.
"Sunday morning news shows tend to spend a lot more time on a single issue than other news broadcasts, and they are less likely to degenerate into people shouting at each other," said Cassino. "Viewers pick up more information from this sort of calm discussion than from other formats. Unfortunately, these shows have a much smaller audience than the shouters."

But the poll may be simply finding the "chicken or egg" part of news: viewers very interested in current events may be viewers of the Sunday news programs, or listen to NPR, while those with a political bent may be watching or listening to news sources that reinforce their own biases.

No surprise then that viewers of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart tend to be informed – viewers interested in political humor are more likely to already be informed of currently events, otherwise the humor would make little sense.

"Jon Stewart has not spent a lot of time on some of these issues," said Cassino. "But the results show that when he does talk about something, his viewers pick up a lot more information than they would from other news sources."

The poll also found that New Jersey residents are still misinformed when it comes to the Republican candidates for President, no matter what their new sources. Only 55 percent of those surveyed could correctly identify either Mitt Romney or Herman Cain as the Republican candidates most recently leading in the polls - and watching Fox News, the news network associated with the Republicans, didn't seem to help.

"Given the amount of time and effort the media spent covering these candidates, the fact that only about half of the public can name one of the front-runners is embarrassing," said Cassino. "The fact that Fox News, the preferred media outlet for many of the candidates, doesn't do better in informing viewers is very surprising."

A look at the Kindle Fire: new tablet promotes Amazon, does little to promote the Android platform

Looky here, a new tablet. Or rather a new Kindle. Kindle, tablet, Kindle, tablet. Which is it? Which does it want to be?

The new Kindle Fire will dramatically change the tablet landscape, and I believe will be the first new tablet to actually effect Apple iPad sales. But this will be caused simply by changing the rules of the game: the Kindle was an eReader, not its a tablet, but it is still very much a Kindle.

The Kindle Fire, and most likely the new NOOK from Barnes & Noble, do less to promote Android tablets than they do to promote their own retail ecosystems – neither Amazon nor B&N are getting into the tablet game in order to be tech giants, but rather to protect their main franchises.

The Kindle Fire – the consumer product

TNM doesn't get into tech product reviews, but let's start with the tablet itself.

The launch of the Kindle Fire was well promoted, but the launch was a fuzzy mess. Some buyers received their new tablets a day ahead of the launch, others (like myself) got their Kindle Fires packaged up with previous orders. I was shocked to receive my tablet on Saturday along with a few early Christmas presents. I may have ordered by Kindle Fire over a month ago, but it came with an purchase made only last week.

Contrast that with the way Apple handled its launch of the iPad where Apple made sure everyone who preordered the original iPad received it on the same day via UPS. The launch of the iPad was an event. The launch of the Kindle Fire, on the other hand, was just another Amazon purchase.

The way Amazon sees the Kindle Fire is clear with its design. Start up your new Kindle Fire and the first thing that hits you is that your tablet knows who you are and already has your previous purchases (if there are any) staring at you in the carousel found on the home screen. Significantly, buyers of the Kindle Fire receive a free month of Amazon Prime, the company's free shipping, video streaming service.

The Kindle Fire is considerably heavier than previous Kindles, no surprise there. But since it is a 7-inch tablet it is light 14.6 ounces (the iPad weighs 1.33 pounds, or about one third heavier).

Users will find very little work necessary to get their new Kindles ready to go other than identifying a network to join (as the Kindle Fire does not support 3G).

The Kindle Fire does not feel cheap, unlike some other 7-inch tablets, though it is terribly unfortunate that Amazon chose to include a black power cord rather than the standard Amazon white USB power cord. Because of this, out of the box, your Kindle Fire is completely isolated – it can not be plugged into your computer in order to manage it media content. "Cutting the cord" is a good idea, burning the cord and throwing it away it a bad one, and so I immediately went to Best Buy to buy the USB cable.

The Kindle Fire has access to apps though, but not the Android Market – at least not without a change its settings. There will be some complaints about this, but only a minority of users will actually miss much. Once a platform hits a few thousand apps the user begins feeling comfortable that they will find what they want – after all, Pandora, Netflix, Angry Birds, they are all here and available.

I could go on and on and continue to review this tablet but there are hundreds of reviews out there that pick apart the Kindle Fire, so there is no need to do that here.

The bottom line: this is a 7-inch Kindle tablet – as opposed to a tablet that has a 7-inch display. In other words, the Kindle Fire feels like a Kindle first, a tablet second – that is the way publishers should look at the Kindle Fire.

The Kindle Fire – the Android tablet

On its Kindle Fire store page the word "Android" appears only twice – once in a review, and once again when referring to the Amazon Appstore for Android. Nowhere does Amazon promote its operating system. There is a good reason for this: the use of Android is all about plugging into the Android platform, they are leeches, not fanboys.

The Kindle Fire continues to fragmentation of the Android platform. I don't know how many TNM readers are active Android developers – my guess if far less than for iOS – but it is worth downloading the Android SDK in order to better understand the issues with Android.

Fire up the Android SDK Manager for the first time to install the tools and you are presented with nine different flavors of Android: Android 1.5, Android 1.6, Android 2.1, Android 2.2, Android 2.3.3, Android 3.0, Android 3.1, Android 3.2, Android 4.0.

Developers for iOS know that while we are currently on iOS 5, there are still plenty of iPhone and iPad owners that are still on iOS 4. Their challenge, therefore, is to make sure that their apps work on two generations of iOS.

For the Android developer, though, the problem becomes even more difficult knowing the Kindle Fire
uses a customized version the Android 2.3 Gingerbread OS. Why would Amazon do this? Why wouldn't they make the Kindle Fire a Honeycomb (3.0) tablet? I guess the answer would be "why would they?" or "Why is this important?"

I asked myself this and tried to put myself in the shoes of an Android developer and I simply couldn't say why this would be important to Amazon. Amazon wants to sell books, music, videos, apps, it can do this just fine with Android 2.3 – a well-worn, reliable OS.

The Kindle Fire, unlike the iPad, stands alone – it is not part of a greater ecosystem. Amazon wants to create its own ecosystem, not integrate the Kindle Fire into a bigger system. The Kindle Fire doesn't want to stream videos to your TV, have you share photos on through an Apple TV, or have you play music through your stereo system. The Kindle Fire is, well, a Kindle.

But if you are an Android developer this all presents a problem: you have to get your apps into both the Android Market and Amazon's Appstore for Android. But if you are a publisher you have to make a decision, as well: do you create native Android apps or do you create replica editions that will find a home within the Kindle platform?

The Kindle Fire – Kindle Editions

Publishers will smile the first time they launch the Kindle Fire: the first tablet on the upper left says "Newsstand". The Kindle Fire is a media purchasing machine, and most publishers already inside the ecosystem are treating it that way.

As a result, what you will find to buy, if you are a reader, is tons of replica editions – hard to read on the iPad's 9.7-inch display, and now much worse on the Kindle Fire's 7-inch display.

So what should a publisher do? After all, if millions of readers will own these devices should they get on board? Yes. But the question I would ask is how does the introduction of the Kindle Fire change your digital publishing strategy.

For now I would think that it doesn't, simply consider the Kindle Fire as a new Kindle, not as a new Android tablet. That means that the Kindle Fire is good news for Amazon, and good news for publishers committed to the Kindle – it is irrelevant to the Android platform, however.

But that last statement may need to be modified at some point. For publishers who have nothing currently available on the Android platform and who have developers or vendors working on the platform this might be the time to jump in.

What seems to be developing (if you don't mind me using that word) is two distinct platforms for publishers – not so much Android versus iOS, but replica versus native, with most of the native apps appearing on Apple devices. Sure, the Apple App Store has lots of apps that are actually selling replica editions, but there are few tablet optimized native apps for publications on Android – and maybe that is the way to go.