Friday, December 2, 2011

Another travel day

First an apology: due to using mobile devices to post, the work here recently has been sloppy. A few bad typos, no doubt caused by "auto-correct", have slipped into TNM. Sorry about that.

The regular flow of posting will resume Monday when I return from the left coast. In the meantime, have a great weekend.

Update: Because of comment spamming, comment moderation had to be turned back on.

Morning Brief: Sally Preston named the new publisher of Real Simple; new CEO for Thomson Reuters

Time Inc. has named a new publisher for their magazine Real Simple. Sally Preston, formerly Group Publisher for Martha Stewart Omnimedia gets the nod, Evelyn Webster, executive vice president, Time Inc. Lifestyle Group announced yesterday.

"A media industry veteran and a dynamic leader, Sally is the ideal executive to continue to build on the success of the Real Simple brand across all platforms," said Webster. "Working closely with Managing Editor Kristin van Ogtrop, Sally will capitalize on Real Simple's achievements and will help lead the brand to even greater growth in the years ahead."

Preston will start in her new publisher position on January 3.



Tom Glocer will be leaving his position as CEO of Thomson Reuters at the beginning of the new year to be replaced by the company's current COZo, James Smith.

"By the end of the year, the organizational strategy and budget work I have been leading will be complete, and the transition plan I launched last summer will have achieved its objectives," Glocer said in the company's statement Thursday.

Smith is the former head of Thomson' U.S. newspaper division.



The BBC's Top Gear host, Jeremy Clarkson, is still in a bit of hot water following his comment that U.K. strikers should be shot - in front of their families. It was all just a joke, says Clarkson; 'fire him' says one union boss.

Complicating things is the fact that Clarkson is a friend of the current Prime Minister, David Cameron. "It was obviously a silly thing to say and I am sure he didn't mean that," Cameron told ITV television, according to the AP.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Retweet: DropVox lets you record on your phone and save audio files to Dropbox

If you own an iPhone or iPad and you are in the media business you probably use Dropbox, it is one of those essential apps that just plain works.


If you do interviews, as I do occasionally, one of the biggest issues on faces is recording them and then transcribing the quotes. To do this I usually use my iPhone and then later plug my phone into my computer, the audio file is then automatically transferred to iTunes.

But an app from Irradiated Software called DropVox might be another solution. The app costs $1.99 and this is how it works: you record using DropVox and when you are done the file is automatically sent to Dropbox – simple idea that makes a lot of sense.

Now, the reason this post is being called a "retweet" is because this app was called to my attention by the website journalism.co.uk. They review the app yesterday and gave it a five star rating. Maybe you read the review yourself.

But there is one big thing missing from the review that can be discerned from the App Store reviews: if you do not have a good Internet connection at the time you finish your recording you may, reviewers say, lose your recording. Gone, kaput, vanished, bye-bye.

I still think the idea behind DropVox is great and may be trying it out myself. But a lost interview recording would be very bad news, indeed. So proceed with caution and hopefully the developer will be reading the reviews and figure out a work around.

Apple TV rumors persist, but talk of overpriced sets may miss Apple's pricing trends (think 'iPad', not 'MacPro')

There continues to be a lot of talk about Apple introducing its own TV line. A recent post at a less than reliable website talked about a release in time for the 2012 holiday shopping season.

The talk is that Apple would come in with their sets at a very high price. OK, fine, since it is all speculation I suppose that is a legitimate point of view. Apple products do, in fact, remain on the upper end of the pricing scale.

But Apple products also remain on the upper end of the quality scale, as well, generally justifying a pricing premium (although haters of Apple would argue with this, of course). I recently was with my college age daughter in an Apple store showing her a MacBook Air, a possible computer choice when she is ready to ditch her Vaio. What impressed her most was not the OS, or its size, it was its weight and unibody design. Frankly, when it comes to quality...

But does that mean that Apple will charge an arm and a leg for an Apple TV? I don't think so.

There are two things that point to a more competitive pricing strategy: 1) Apple is buying displays in huge numbers and driving down its supply costs; and 2) the iPad's pricing shows that it can compete on price (it has taken a year and half for someone to under cut Apple's iPad pricing, though to do it they have had to cut corners).

I would agree that Apple will demand that it's TV be profitable and that it would be on the upper end of the scale. But to price a new TV line at double the going rate would be a recipe for failure, as well as something that goes counter to recent launches.

Morning Brief: Big PE firms mull bid for a Yahoo!; USA Today shuffles the deck; Hearst's Carey talks to Reuters

The stock market went a little crazy yesterday, didn't it? Don't expect a repeat performance today though as investors start to ask themselves if the move by the central banks in fact reflects a recognition that things really are going badly. This morning European stock markets are mixed which is about as good as one could hope for following yesterday's big run up in stock prices.

AP is reporting this morning that two of the giant PE firms, Blackstone and Bain are considering a bid for Yahoo. The number being thrown out there is $25 billion.

The bid, if it would occur, would see the two U.S. firms team up with China's Alibada Group and Japan's SoftBank to make the bid.

Well, as any B2B guy can tell you, watching the PE's come in is always very bad news, and usually a sign of future layoffs and divestments.



Investor group plans to bid for Chicago Sun-Times - Oh, oh, speaking of PEs. The Chicago Tribune is reporting that Michael Ferro Jr., CEO of Merrick Ventures, may team up with Madison Dearborn Partners Chairman John Canning Jr. to make a bid for the local tabloid daily.

But, for now, the official line is that the paper is not for sale. "We are not for sale, we have never been put up for sale," Sun-Times Media Chairman Jeremy Halbreich told the Trib.

Looks like a sale.



More headlines:

News media gives up on Cain campaign
USA Today shifts top editor, vice president of business development to new jobs
Hearst's Carey talks digital, new Time Inc. CEO
Android 4.0 Upgrade: Coming Soon To Your Phone
Motorola, Nokia Phones Summon Past Glories: Rich Jaroslovsky
Apps aren't cannibalising publishers' print businesses… for now

Finally, read this morning's column by Nicholas Kristof of the NYT. For me, it is the perfect answer to a relative I have who insists the whole world's economic messes can be laid at the doors of those usually minority homeowners who are upside down on their mortgages. The column talks about one banker's experiences in the late nineties and how the industry pushed subprime mortgages purely for profit, consequences be damned. My relative is beyond redemption, but maybe NYT readers can benefit.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

'Nerd Nite: The Magazine' is set to launch in January; combines 'the intellectualism of the Paris Review with the animal sex of the Discovery channel'

Nerds have something to look forward to in 2012, their own magazine thanks to the folks behind Nerd Nite. Nerd Nite: The Magazine is scheduled to launch in January of next year, and judging by the story layouts sent to me (see below) it looks like they are pretty well along in getting their first issue out the door.

As their announcement states, "Nerd Nite is a monthly, boozy gathering of nerds and non-nerds alike in 28 cities around the world. Crowds gather to hear expert presentations on anything from art forgeries to sure-fire strategies for killing zombies." So you can expect the same sort of mix of humor and intellectualism in the printed magazine.

(I asked why nerds would want a print magazine versus something digital, but was told not all nerds are tech savvy. Who knew.)
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“We saw an opportunity,” said Matt Wasowski, Nerd Nite's NY big boss. “Until now, no one has thought to combine the intellectualism of the Paris Review with the animal sex of the Discovery channel.”

Stories planned for the first issue include a fashion shoot inspired by the history of the jumpsuit, a fiery infographic on romance novel covers, a mathematical analysis of dating, and a cautionary tale about a vicious, thumb-splitting crustacean.

The plan is to publish six issues a year and to make the magazine available via subscription ($60 per year) and at Nerd Nite events. The magazine already has a page up in support so you can check it out there and subscribe, if you like.

Digitas CEO Laura Lang said to be named the new head of Time Inc. magazine division; Money's first iPad app

One of the media companies that has been most vocal in their support of the new tablet publishing platform has been Time Inc., which has said publicly that they plan to support the new tablets with magazine apps for all of its titles.

Reinforcing that commitment to digital, the company is expected to announce Laura Lang as the next head of its magazine division. Lang is currently the CEO at Digitas, a major interactive advertising agency.

Lang's role at the agency of record for such companies as Miller Brewing and Sara Lee, certainly reinforces the commitment to digital. But while Lang brings marketing and consulting background to the magazine publishing role, media veterans will no doubt question the lack of actual publishing experience in her resume.

Prior to joining Digitas is 1999, Lang held product and brand management roles at Quaker Oats Co., Bristol-Myers and Pfizer Pharmaceutical Co., so she knows the client-side, as well as the agency, side of the business well. This background and experience is be counted on as Time Inc. courts digital advertising for its properties.

Time Inc. currently has tablet editions for its major brands such as Time Magazine, Fortune and People, and just last week released its first iPad app for Money Magazine. The app has gotten overwhelmingly positive reviews inside the App Store, despite keeping to Time Inc.'s strategy of not supporting Newsstand and charging for single issues only – in this case $3.99 per issue. It shows that that the financial community is obviously less sensitive to pricing for digital editions than that average reader.

Zinio app update adds automatic issue downloads

The digital newsstand provider Zinio this morning updated its iOS apps, fixing some bugs and adding automatic updates.

The app update allows users to now automatically download the new magazines as they are released. The downloads occur over WiFi and most be activated in the devices Settings.

The automatic updates now allow Zinio's app to function in a similar fashion to Apple's Newsstand.

Zinio also notes in its app description that this update will be the last one that will support devices running iOS 3 and below. This shouldn't be an issue as iOS device owners are more likely to update their device's operating system than owners of other mobile devices.

Morning Brief: Central banks work in tandem to stem credit crunch; U.K. public workers strike over pensions; RIM will begin offering iPhone and other handset support

The credit crunch in Europe is reaching crisis levels (one of the reasons TNM continues to mention events in Morning Brief). The Italian bond rates, for instance, spiked well over 7 percent this week, causing observers to wonder if there was any way the country could avoid default.

Today six central banks acted to try and stop the run up in bond prices. The banks, the European Central Bank, U.S. Federal Reserve, the Bank of England and the central banks of Canada, Japan and Switzerland, are working together, it was announced.

The remedy is to make money cheaper to get for lenders facing rising bond prices. The move begins next week, which is a little strange. It is as if the banks are hoping that the promise of easy credit will be alone enough to ease the markets.

Stock markets in Europe are reacting to the news, with the German DAX up over four and half percent, back over the 6,000 level.



In what is being called the biggest strike in 30 years, public sector workers in the U.K. have walked off their jobs. The dispute involves pensions (whatever they are).

As in the U.S., the British conservative government is targeting public workers – teachers, police, fire, government employees – in the name of reigning in costs and lowering government debt obligations.

The move often works as the civilian workforce, which rarely enjoy pension benefits themselves, rarely support public employees who have negotiated these benefits in the past. Whether the Tory government, led by David Cameron, will be able to implement their plans remains to be seen.

Meanwhile, in the U.S., voters in Ohio recently reversed the law passed by the Republican government and legislature, while in Wisconsin, signatures are being gathered in an attempt to recall Governor Scott Walker.



It hasn't been often lately that you could say Research In Motion has made a good and logical move, but this is one: RIM says they will begin support iPhones and other smartphone handsets in an attempt to save the relationship with their corporate clients.

According a Bloomberg report last night, the new device-management software, called BlackBerry Mobile Fusion, will be available early next year and will run along side, or in place of BlackBerry Enterprise Server networks RIM now operates for its clients.

The move recognizes something that it seemed RIM didn't, at least until now, that their business was as much about serving business clients through services as it was selling handsets. Losing the handset wars didn't have to mean losing business clients if, and this is the big "if", if RIM worked to incorporate non-RIM systems into their corporate support services.

This move may be too late for RIM, however, since so many clients have had to move towards support of popular smartphone systems without RIM.



The India edition of the Wall Street Journal is reporting that Pakistani cable operators have begun blocking the BBC World News from its cable channels following the Beeb's airing of a two-part documentary, "Secret Pakistan".

The documentary series portrays the Pakistani army as collaborating with the Taliban.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

BiblioLabs releases new iPad app for the British Library's 19th Century Collection: Victorian Christmas

With the Thanksgiving Day holiday now past us, and with crazy American shoppers busy pepper spraying each other over two dollar waffle irons, one knows that we are entering the Christmas season.

Since this is the second holiday season since the introduction of the iPad, one would imagine that developers are ready with some new apps to celebrate the season. The one that is getting the most play inside the App Store is the $6.99 app from Loud Crow Interactive, A Charlie Brown Christmas. The universal app has received good reviews from buyers, discounting complaints about the price of the lack of audio (probably the fault of the user).
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So let's ignore that one and instead look at a new app, released today, from the British Library, released under the BiblioLabs LLC name. Victorian Christmas is the third app released by BiblioLabs, and the second one that is clearly for the British Library's 19th Century Collection.

That first app was free and gave readers access to over 30,000 books from its collection, with the more books added over time. The app gives the reader access to some material, but to access the entire digitized collection a $2.99 per month subscription is required. (You can read more about that app here.)

The new app takes a different approach in that there is a one-time fee of $9.99 (£6.99 in the UK App Store) which then gives the reader access to the collection.

The app gives the reader a portrait only reading experience which is probably justified both by the fact that the books were digitized this way, and that it really is an eBook experience one gets with the app (the app is found under the Books category, as you might expect).

There is a lot of material here so I would say that the price certainly is justified, but we all know how price sensitive App Store buyers are, so it will be interesting to see their reaction.

There are six categories of material here: Christmas Past, Drama, Music, Novels, Poetry, and Short Stories. And yes, you will find Dicken's A Christmas Carol here (in its 1869 edition), as well as other familiar classics. But the adventurous reader will also find material written in Latin and French, and lots of unfamiliar and interesting published works.

Of course, the real value here is that now a reader can access work only found within this collection, and without the cost of a flight to England.

By the way, this is the second paid app from BiblioLabs. The first was Library of Witchcraft and Magic, released before Halloween. That app also cost $9.99 but didn't seem to gather much interest from the public with only two reviews inside the UK App Store, both of which was full of complaints. We'll see if the Christmas spirit makes iPad owners more generous with the comments concerning Victorian Christmas.

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Left: the main menu which appears after the splash page; Middle: the Music book category; Right: the Novels category with Dicken's A Christmas Carol.

Colbert applauds CNN's New Media moves (and layoffs)

With recent media studies showing that Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert are viewed as more authoritative news sources than many traditional news outlets, this favorable verdict from Colbert should be considered validation by the folks over at CNN:

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Stephen Colbert's me Reporters
www.colbertnation.com
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical Humor & Satire BlogVideo Archive

Morning Brief: It's 1979 all over again, as Iranian students invade UK embassy; American Airlines files for bankruptcy protection while Facebook looks towards a possible IPO; British Newspaper Archive now online

In what appears to be a new college tradition, Iranian students are reported to have invaded the U.K. embassy, pulling down the Union Jack and throwing documents out of the windows.


No word of hostage taking, after all, this is only a reenactment of the 1979 U.S. hostage crisis, not the real thing (we hope).

The Iranian Parliament voted Sunday to expel the U.K. ambassador and students began yesterday to protest in front of the embassy demanding he be sent home immediately. The vote followed a move by the British government to cut all financial ties with Iran over concerns about its nuclear program.

Concerning that program...there was a report of an explosion in Isfahan near a nuclear facility. These reports have not been confirmed, but CNN yesterday reported on a previous explosion at a military compound, mostly likely an accident involving the mixing of rocket fuel.



American Airlines has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection as a way of getting out of its labor agreements, following the example of United and Delta.

“Our board decided that it was necessary to take this step now to restore the company’s profitability, operating flexibility, and financial strength,” Thomas Horton, the company's new chief executive, said in its statement.

American Airlines lack of profits, I'm sure, has nothing to do with the way it treats its flying customers. Yeah, can't be that.



Facebook is considering an IPO that would raise about $10 billion and value the company at $100 billion. (As a point of reference, Apple's market cap is a little below $350 billion.)

“It’s obviously a very steep valuation,” Josef Schuster, founder of Chicago-based IPOX Schuster LLC, said in the Bloomberg report.

Facebook may begin the process by the end of this year in order to go public early in 2012.



The British Newspaper Archive, consisting of up to four million pages of articles from newspapers dating back to 1700, has been digitized and will be available online for searching, reading and downloading.

“People will find this archive extraordinary on both a personal and historical level. For the first time people can search for their ancestors through the pages of our newspapers wherever they are in the world at any time," Ed King, head of the British Library’s newspaper collections told Emma Barnett of The Telegraph.

“But what’s really striking is how these pages take us straight back to scenes of murders, social deprivation and church meetings from hundreds of year ago, which we no longer think about as we haven’t been able to easily access articles about them,” King said.

Searching the archives will be free of charge, but there will be a subscription charge ranging from £6.95 for 48 hours of access, to £29.95 for 30 days, or £79.95 for an annual subscription. A subscription will allow the user to download PDFs of the articles.

The Telegraph article does not mention whether this new digitized archive will become part of the wonderful British Library 19th Century Collection app currently available for the iPad, or whether a new app might be expected, or if the collection will remain a web product only.

The British Library today released a new iPad app, Victorian Christmas, which will be looked at in a separate post later today.



More headlines:

Mag+ launches its own single issue tablet publishing solution (for only $199), while introducing a new pricing plan for larger publishing houses

The digital publishing solutions provider behind Mag+ has introduced a new single-issue tablet publishing solution called Mag+ Go. The new pricing format costs $199 for a single-issue app that may prove the perfect solution for a catalog, e-book or special magazine issue. More importantly, it may be a good way for magazine publishers to experiment with tablet publishing.

Mag+ Go allows publishers to issue corrections to their app at no additional charge and to add more apps for other devices at the same low price.

In addition to Mag+ Go, the company has also announced that it has launched another pricing level for larger publishing houses, Mag+ Lead. For one standard price of $3,000 per month, this level will allow for the publishing of multiple apps and issues at one simple pricing level. For a magazine publisher with multiple titles this level would put a cap on their production costs for digital publishing for tablets.

The former pricing structure remains in place but has been renamed Mag+ Grow. This would involve an initial cost of $2,500 for a branded app. This would cover the cost of the app and the first five months of publishing. Thereafter the cost is $500 per month, though you are only charged the $500 for months where you actually publish.

The Mag+ publishing tools remain free to download on the company's website and the Mag+ Reviewer app can be found free to download in the App Store.

The full press release from Mag+ is after the jump.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Retweet: Readability, a trend that seems to be going in two directions at once

John Gruber linked to this post by Brent Simmons on his site inessential which talks about the readability of websites.

The future is, one way or another, readable.

Because that’s what readers want, and because the technology is easier to find and use and learn than ever. That trend will continue because developers live to give people technologies that make life better.
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That's hard to argue with, but the author is talking about websites, and he is indeed right that the trend is towards creating sites that are readable.

But I must say that I see the opposite occurring in apps. Publishers seem to have little concern that their audience can not read an 11-inch tall magazine that is shrunk down to under five inches on a 7-inch tablet. Readability seems the farthest thing from their mind.

Instead the goal seems to be simply extending the brand to as many devices as possible even if the audience finds the product being produced worthless.

"Well, at least we're on the (name the tablet)."

I'd like to be optimistic about all this, but many of the publications I see being released for the iPad, and most of the publications released for Android, are almost unreadable.

Note: Screenshot from the recently released iPad app for San Francisco Magazine.

Introduction of the Kindle Fire by Amazon does not lead to a rush of native apps from publishers, at least not yet

The news and tech sites continue to be obsessed with market share stories that involve Apple and other makers of smart phones and tablets. The latest stories surround a couple of research studies that go out of their way to ignore Apple's iPad so as to make it appear that their is a real battle for dominance in the tablet market. If you just ignore the iPad then things look pretty competitive apparently.
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OK, let the online media have their fun, but what does the real picture look like for publishers? Has the introduction by Amazon.com of the Kindle Fire led to a rush of new Android apps from publishers? Well, it depends where you look.

As of this morning Amazon's Appstore for Android still only has 418 apps total under its News & Weather category. Worse, there are only 35 apps under Magazines.

But apps specifically for the Kindle are in a different area of Amazon.com – under Kindle. There the picture looks a little different with 178 different magazines in the Amazon's Newsstand.

But just like for the iPad, the digital editions being produced for the Kindle Fire vary considerably, though most are simply replica editions.

One magazine that is a good case study is Popular Science, the magazine from Bonnier. On the iPad the app uses Mag+ and is, not surprisingly, called Popular Science+.

But for the Kindle Fire the app is a simple replica of the print edition. Reading the magazine on a Kindle Fire is a real challenge, especially since the page images only fill up about 4 3/4 inches of the screen – so even on a display that is 7.5-inches in height, only about two-thirds of the screen is used to display the magazine. (It is then that the Kindle Fire's stuttering zooming comes into play as users struggle to read the pages.)

Apple's App Store will soon break the 700 mark for publications inside Newsstand, but Amazon currently has 81 newspapers available for the Kindle, in addition to the 178 magazines. But, but, but, this is again where it gets confusing as many of these are text-only products originally designed for earlier Kindles.

In short, the Kindle Fire has made the whole non-iPad tablet market only more crazy and fragmented. Do you design an Android app? a traditional Kindle app?

For me the market looks backwards: while the iPad's larger display makes replica editions easier to read than on a 7-inch display, most replicas are being produced for the smaller screens. As much as I dislike replica editions on my iPad, they are positively impossible to read on my Kindle Fire. Maybe if I were 20 years younger ...

So if digital publishing is the future why is it that publishers are not experimenting more with different formats, more native design? My own theory is that very few publishers consider programming an integral part of their production departments yet. Production still is limited to trafficking ads and designing print pages in InDesign or Quark, not creating digital pages for devices. This would not only take an investment in digital publishing solutions but a reinvention of the production process itself. Some are there, most are not.

Two Belgian newspaper iPad apps show the wide range of possibilities of the tablet platform

I've come to the sad conclusion that there is not much innovation coming from American newspaper publishers compared to their European brethren. The Europeans may complain and whine about Apple's App Store policies but they seem to then move on and produce some interesting apps. American publishers meanwhile seem determined to take the easy way out by leaving app creation to their vendors.
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Two new newspaper iPad apps from Belgium are good examples of how publishers in Europe seem to get that the iPad can create some interesting new opportunities.

La Libre Belgique is a free app from the French language newspaper. Inside readers gain access to news from the website as well as a PDF version of the newspaper. Lastly, the app also lets you listen to radio station Twizz.

The cost to access the newspaper is $0.99 per day or $11.99 per month.

In contrast to La Libre, the Dutch language newspaper app that serves the Flemish community, De Standaard HD now supports Apple's Newsstand thanks to its recent update.
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The app lets reader choose between a tablet edition and a replica of the print version. The app is free while requiring an in-app purchase to access the content.

The idea of combining a native designed tablet edition with a replica of the print edition is interesting, and would seem to me to be the way to go for vendors who now only push replicas.

The De Standaard HD app continues to get negative reviews inside the Belgian App Store from users who complain about the app being buggy, while praising it's overall design. The Le Libre Belgique app is brand new and therefore has far less reviews from Belgian buyers, but so far the reviews are all positive.

Morning Brief: Christmas shopping season begins with pepper spray and Cyber Monday; voters to the polls in Egypt with little optimism that the violence will end

The Thanksgiving Day holiday has come and gone, and so, here in America, we begin the season where the nation celebrates shopping and consumer consumption. It is an ugly sight probably best exemplified by the incident at the Porter Ranch Walmart in Southern California where a woman used pepper spray to make her way through the line to purchase an Xbox. The woman, still unidentified, turned herself into the police this weekend likely to face battery charges.

(Imagine what the scene would have been at that Walmart if iPads were sold at a 50% discount.)

Today, of course, is Cyber Monday, the day the online retailers try to grab back the attention of shoppers by offering real and imagined deals. But for many Americans it is simply another reason to continue shopping while at the office. Amazon.com has taken the absurdity one step further by promoting "Cyber Monday Deals Week". Monday is now a week. Give me a break.



Egyptians are going to the polls today to vote for their representatives in Parliament with the Muslim Brotherhood expected to win a large portion of the seats. But despite the turnout observers fear further violence at the military has rejected calls for a shift transition to civilian rule.

“It won’t be a working Parliament. It will be a Parliament that people want to overthrow,” the New York Times quotes one Egyptian.

The fear is that the newly elected Parliament will merely be seen as an extension of the military generals who current control power, and that those elected to Parliament will want to hold onto their positions and so will cooperated with the military.