Friday, December 16, 2011

Late afternoon news briefs: Stanford drops bid to build high-tech campus in NYC; Bonds hits another one out of the park; Pittsburgh Post-Gazette launches beta website

If you want high-tech you want Silicon Valley. If you want high-tech education you want Stanford. But that university, tied extremely closely with the tech community, has dropped its bit, the NYT says.

Stanford officials were frustrated by the city’s attempts to negotiate new terms after the university submitted its proposal in October, according to people briefed on the matter, who insisted on anonymity because they were not authorized to reveal private discussions.NYT report.
“We are in serious negotiations with several of the other applicants, each of whom has a game-changing project queued up," Julie Wood, deputy press secretary for the mayor is quoted as saying. "We look forward to announcing a winner soon. We thank Stanford for participating in our process and wish them good luck.”

Good luck? As if Stanford needs NYC? Listen, it may come as a bit of a surprise to New Yorkers, but people on the west coast, especially those in Silicon Valley, don't see NYC as the center of the universe. In fact, to the people in Cupertino and Mountain View, the center of their universe is right there – and Stanford is the center for higher education. Good luck New York.



So after all these years, all the hubbub and controversy, Barry Bonds is sentence to 250 hours of community service and a $4000 fine for lying to a grand jury.

Talk about hitting a home run.

Bonds is 47, but he'd still be the best bat in the outfield for the Giants if he suited up next year.



A comment was placed on an old story about the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's iPad app that appeared in April. My headline referred to their website, saying they'd be better off "revamping": their website.

Well, they are doing just that, according to the comment, launching a beta site that will presumably replace the current one. Here is the beta site, and here is the current one. Judge for yourself. (Minor complaint: I do wish they dedicated more real estate to their main stories rather than just listing headlines – that element is too much like their old site.)



Well, it looks like the government won't shut down as the House passed a budget bill. Negotiations are still ongoing for renewing the payroll tax cut currently in place and for authorizing jobless benefits.



You know I like to follow events in Greece here at TNM. The Guardian this afternoon has a new story up that says that investors pulled €12.3 billion out of Greek banks in the months of September and October, fearful that there would be no new bailout.

"This is part of the death spiral of the recession as a result of austerity measures. People realise that contagion has come to banks and they are very afraid of losing their deposits. On average around €4bn-€5bn in capital flees the banking system every month," Theodore Pelagidis, an economics professor at the University of Piraeus," told The Guardian.

Apps from Suisse newspaper publisher AZ Medien get updated; combine replica look with native app features

For the past few weeks it has felt like every time I look at a new media app I am coming across as an old, curmudgeon, blasting the app for either being an unimaginative replica edition or else being completely without a business model. Believe me when I say it gives me no pleasure to be so miserable about the media world.

But every once in a while something new comes along and I feel completely differently. That's why I write these posts, for the rare occasion where I can say "hey, look here, this is interesting and different.
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It's good to end the week with one of those kinds of posts.

The Suisse regional newspaper company AZ Medien has updated their series of iPad apps for their newspapers. Originally released in the late summer, they slipped by me at the time, but looking at them now, I find them very interesting, and enjoyable to read – something I haven't said many times recently. (The word "read" can't be taken literally, since I do not read German.)

az Aargauer Zeitung is one of the seven app updates released into the App Store over the past week – three of them earlier this week, four this morning. All but one of them leave the newspaper out of Newsstand, for some reason, with only Der Sonntag (The Sunday) utilizing Newsstand.

At first the apps appear to the yet another replica edition, but these have a definite twist.

Upon opening the free apps one immediately can see in the upper left hand corner a live news widget streaming stories to the reader (see below left). Oe this page readers can log into their existing accounts or can buy issues. The carousel library has a drawback in that one can easily end up buying the wrong issue, but I'm sure readers will quickly get used to this.

Once you have downloaded an issue you appear to be seeing a replica edition as the look and feel of the print newspaper is retained. One can read the headlines and text in this manner, I suppose, but tapping any story immediately takes you to a different layout, one more in keeping with tablets.

And that is what makes these apps special: they retain the newspaper look, but use the iPad's features to make for a better reading experience. Here you can adjust the font size so that you don't have to resort to pinch to zoom, one can share stories through Facebook and Twitter, etc. Tapping the front page picture at the upper left takes you back to the newspaper page (see below right).

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For publishers who just can't get beyond the idea that their front pages might look differently on a tablet this is a perfect compromise: you get the look and feel of the print edition, but the functionality of native tablet design.

So, what do readers think? Well, that's hard to say because the reviews on these apps prior to the updates were pretty harsh. Most complained of instability in the app and other issues, so it is hard to see whether these updates will address reader complaints until new reviews are written.

Morning Brief: Bradley Manning to appear at court hearing today; author, essayist Christopher Hitchens dead at 62

Bradley Manning, the Army private accused of passing thousands of U.S. documents to WikiLeaks will in court today at a pre-trial hearing. The press, which reported the documents, and ran for weeks and weeks on the information contained in the leaked documents, have pretty much ignored his case and his continued imprisonment.

The hearing will take place at Fort Meade, Maryland.

Manning has been in detention since May of last year and only now is receiving his pre-trial hearing, a 14-month period of time before appearing in court to face court martial charges.

People:

Author and essayist Christopher Hitchens died last night at the age of 62. Hitchens, as the Financial Times obituary examines, moved from Trotskyism to neoconservatism, from anti-war to war proponent, during his long and often controversial career.

Graydon Carter, writing on the Vanity Fair website: "He was a man of insatiable appetites—for cigarettes, for scotch, for company, for great writing, and, above all, for conversation. That he had an output to equal what he took in was the miracle in the man. You’d be hard-pressed to find a writer who could match the volume of exquisitely crafted columns, essays, articles, and books he produced over the past four decades."

Janet Robinson will step down as chief executive of The New York Times Company at the end of the year, a post she has held since 2004. While the NYT's own story expressed surprise at the time of the announcement, the WSJ is reporting that Robinson's retirement should be comfortable – she will receive $4.5 million next year "consulting" for the Times.

Martin Gottlieb, global editions editor at the NYT is moving over to The Record in New Jersey as the paper's editor. Gottlieb managed editorial operations for the International Herald Tribune while at The New York Times Company.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Amazon's own newsstand may lag behind Apple in total numbers, but it beats it in organization

With the Apple Newsstand breaking through the 1,000 level (for iPad, iPhone is at a little under 700), it seemed like a good time to check out the competition at Amazon and at the Android Market.

The Android Market has no "newsstand", but it does have a News & Magazines category, but things remain a mess in that app store. The emphasis is on "Top Paid" and "Top Free", not organizing the apps to ease finding them.

Inside Amazon.com, smartphone and tablet owners have two areas to search: the Kindle Store and the Appstore for Android. Inside the Android store things are pretty wild, with the News & Weather category probably the place to start finding media app – there are 438 of them.

But inside the Kindle store you will find Amazon's own Kindle Newsstand. As of today there are 354 magazines listed. Most are Kindle Editions – generally designed for Amazon's earlier versions of the Kindle, not the newer Kindle Fire.

PEOPLE Magazine comes up first, however, and is an honest to goodness Android app. That's the good news; the bad news is that because it is an Android app – that is, developed for most Android devices, it does not work on the Kindle Fire. That, of course, has some readers more than a little confused – here it is in the Kindle store but it won't work on a Kindle Fire, huh?
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Most other magazines are simple Kindle Editions. Amazon, though, does a good job of helping its buyers find the right product by creating subcategories for magazines: Arts & Entertainment, Business & Investing, Internet & Technology, Lifestyle & Culture, News, Politics & Opinion, Regional & Travel, Science, Sports.

If you add up all the magazines in the subcategories you get 474 magazines, why there is a discrepancy I don't know and was too lazy to find out (I assume some magazines are in multiple categories).

There are 159 newspapers to be found in Amazon's Kindle Newsstand, broken out by region. This is a helpful way to quickly find local papers, but it does show Amazon's continued lack of international reach – there are only 26 European papers and 11 Asian. Interestingly, Amazon breaks out the U.K. into a separate category, though those papers can be found inside Europe, as well.

Where Amazon.com is unique is in its Blog category, something that Apple has not provided a solution for, as of yet. There are over 13,000 blogs and news feeds in this category, including one for the NYT (as well as one for this site).

As time has gone on, one can see from the reviews that readers' expectations have increased to the point where simple Kindle Editions are not seen favorably. Few newspapers, for instance, get good marks for their Kindle Editions, but the complaints are usually the lack of graphics or limited content, something that would have been more acceptable a year or two ago.

Many Kindle Fire owners, having recently received their tablets, are dismayed that most magazines and newspapers available for the Kindle Fire are Plain Jane text versions. This will continue to present an issue for publishers: does one create multiple versions for multiple Kindles?



With over 1,000 different publications now inside Apple's Newsstand, the need for tools to help iOS device owners drill down to the right publication becomes more important. Already one can search for some magazines by both Newsstand and its category – for instance, one can find Black Enterprise both under the Business category and inside Newsstand.

If you are on your iPad, and you enter the Newsstand store you will find that there are subcategories just like the Amazon.com store – 21 in total, more than in the Kindle Newsstand.

But if you are in iTunes, the subcategories go away, for some reason. Adding those back in, and also breaking out the newspapers by region, would be a good step in the right direction, I believe.

Apple's Newsstand reaches the 1,000 mark; Hearst Communications releases replica edition for Road & Track

That didn't take long: Apple's Newsstand, introduced with the launch of iOS 5, has reached the 1,000 mark – over one thousand iPad apps are now inside the U.S. App Store version of Newsstand.

I don't know whether this should be a reason to celebrate or be depressed. The 1,000 mark was reached with the release of a bunch of new magazines, most of which were not released under the publisher's name but under the names of the vendors that created them.

It can't truly be said that publishers have embraced the new medium of tablet publishing as much as it can be said that companies have found something new to sell publishers.


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One of the newest magazines now available inside Newsstand comes from Hearst Communications: Road & Track. Hearst's magazine division now has 17 apps available for the iPad, and seven of them can be found inside Newsstand (Seventeen Magazine's app was updated yesterday to move it into Newsstand).

The app, Road & Track Magazine, is free to download, with subscriptions inside the app sold at $1.99 per month or $19.99 per year. Individual issues can be purchased at $4.99, though I would guess that most readers who own an iPad know that the best way to test out a magazine that does not offer a free sample issue is to subscribe using the monthly option, then cancel when they come to the conclusion that they don't like the magazine, or the app.

Road & Track is one of those magazines that I enjoy reading while getting my tires replaced. This month's cover features a Ferrari, so that was enough for me to check it out.

But after only a few pages I was reminded of the magazines I see at the dentist's office, or rather the dentist experience: it was painful to read.

Two-page spreads up front made no sense whatsoever at first as the second page of the ads were missing until you swiped. Because while one can read this app in both portrait or landscape, the type is designed for the dimensions of a print magazine, not a digital one. So keeping the magazine in portrait at least gives the reader a fighting chance to read the copy.
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"Fighting" is exactly what the reader have to do: one must constantly move their tablet between portrait and landscape, zoom in and out.

It's a lot of work to read the magazine in this app, one that quickly became not worth the effort. But even zooming in has a limited effect as one can only move in so far, so reading the page seen above-left proved difficult, to say the least.

I'm sure enthusiasts will be happy that there is now a tablet edition of Road & Track, but the use of a replica edition publishing solution will no doubt limit the audience that will be attracted to it.

After 20 months of the iPad, it is obvious that many publishers just don't like tablets, and maybe they should stay away from the medium. It would be better for iPad owners if there were far less magazines available inside Newsstand, not more. That way it would be easier to find magazines that are readable and more enjoyable on their tablets.
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Left: The library page where readers can subscribe or buy individual issues; Middle: The Table of Contents contains one of the few interactive features in the app – live links to the articles; Right: A two-page spread from Mazda makes little sense in portrait as the right-hand page contains the copy.

Morning Brief: Dems cave on tax on millionaires; Iraq War officially declared over, President says he's OK with law permitting Americans to be shipped to Gitmo; Australian committee recommends overhaul of media regulations

Tell me if you've heard this one before: the Democrats are caving. I know, I know, a real surprise. This time the surrender involves caving into demands from Republicans that there be no new tax on millionaires.

The proposal was never serious to begin with, of course, since such a proposal stood absolutely no chance in the House, where Republicans hold a solid majority. But the proposal made good politics, Democrats thought, and so it was proposed.

I'm sure quite a number of Democrats, including the White House, are now glad the proposal is now dead and the Congress can now move on to more serious proposals, like how to wrench more money from the poor and the middle class.



The AP is reporting that Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has "formally shuts down US war in Iraq" – quite a trick since no declaration of war was ever announced. But I'm sure the AP is referring just to the costs of the war.

In that regard, the AP sums up the war: 4,500 Americans dead, 32,000 wounded, over 100,000 Iraqis killed. Panetta concludes that the war "has not been in vain." Well, that makes me feel better.



Speaking of caving in: the President said he would not veto a new defense bill that allows for the indefinite detention of Americans and the right of the government to send these Americans to Guantánamo Bay.

I have nothing else to add about this.



The Athens News reported this morning that unemployment in Greece has jumped to 17.7 percent in the third quarter of this year, from 16.3 percent in the previous quarter. Yes, that number is accurate, 17.7 percent.

"Public support for austerity and reforms will be difficult to keep with the economy in a deep recession and unemployment at a record high," said Diego Iscaro, at IHS Global Insight.



Police in Victoria, Australia raided the offices of The Age, the daily broadsheet published by Fairfax Media, according to a report by Agence France-Presse. Police were investigating charges that the newspaper had hacked into the computers of the ruling Labor Party.

A later report in the Sydney Morning News said that the paper was granted an injunction by the Victorian Supreme Court stopping the police from taking hard drives and other materials.

"This morning a team of six Victorian police arrived at The Age at Media House in Melbourne," said Fairfax CEO Greg Hywood. "The police have served search warrants and are presently conducting searches of electronic and hard copy files in relation to The Age's reporting of information on an ALP database prior to last year's Victorian election."

"This was a story with significant public interest -- a powerful, highly influential organisation collecting private information on voters without their knowledge and giving campaign workers, including, it seems, volunteers, access to it," said the paper's editor, Paul Ramadge.



The Morning News in Sydney is also reporting that a government commission will recommended that Australian media laws be scraped and rewritten.

"The media laws in Australia were largely put in place 20 years ago, and this is an opportunity to bring them up to date with all the technological change we've seen," said Glen Boreham, chairman of the review commitee. "This is just a chance to take a clean sheet and start from scratch."

According to the current regulations in place, a media company may own two properties in any given market – whether they are radio, television or newspaper. The regulations require "five diverse media voices in each capital city and four in a regional area, according to the Morning News story,.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

CBS Local Digital Media and Examiner.com enter into content partnership

It was announced today that CBS Local Digital Media and Examiner.com have entered into a content partnership agreement which the companies say will "tightly integrates both teams’ editorial staff to create original lifestyle content for local audiences."

The content will be published on CBS local properties, radio and television station websites.



Leonard Brody, President, Clarity Digital


“Over the course of the past 18 months we’ve built a platform that quickly garnered interest from millions of users searching for the best local news, information and entertainment,” said Ezra Kucharz, President, CBS Local Digital Media.

“Taking our vision one step further by working with a stable of contributors with expertise in their field will greatly enhance the audience’s experience. This is not just about telling you where to go and what to see – it’s providing ‘insider access’ to a city you may be visiting or have lived your whole life that you can’t get anywhere else,” said Kucharz.

"We look forward to working with CBS to enhance and expand its lifestyle editorial to better engage with valuable local audiences," said Leonard Brody, President of Clarity Digital, the parent company of Examiner.com.

"Examiner.com has the unique ability to mobilize our national base Examiners at a moment’s notice to produce the most engaging and relevant stories, articles and posts,” Brody added.

Greece may have receded from the front pages of many U.S. newspapers, but the effects of austerity continue on

The past few weeks the focus of much of the media world has been on the continue Eurozone crisis as it effects Italy, as well as the much publicized rejection of a deal by the U.K.'s Prime Minister David Cameron.

But it would be unwise to think that the situation in Greece has somehow improved, or that the installation of a technocrat to replace Prime Minister George Papandreou has suddenly merited the country's lack of coverage. In fact, things seem to be heating up anew.

Last night the Athens News reported that the country's budget deficit had widened, despite the severe austerity measures thrust on the nation. In fact, the News used the term "austerity-fuelled recession" in recognition that the budget cutbacks that have resulted in layoffs are holding back any recovery, not leading to improvement as their advocates had predicted.



New Greek Prime Minister Lucas Papademos is a former
vice president of the European Central Bank.


But the advocates of austerity are in control now as witness the International Monetary Fund's envoy Poul Thomsen's call for more layoffs. "Greece might have to accept involuntary redundancies ... and address the legacy of too high and inflexible wages," Thomsen is quoted by the Athens News as saying.

So the beatings will continue until morale improves.

Meanwhile, pharmacies are closed today in Greece as the Panhellenic Pharmacists Association called a strike. Their grievance is that pharmacies can not function due to "the discontinuation of credit by suppliers and the social security funds' failure to pay the money owed to the pharmacies," said the News in its report.

No, things don't seem to be improving just because you are hearing less and less about events in Greece in the local media.

Note: for a good discussion of the issues austerity are creating in Greece, read this post. What I found interesting was that the article quotes from the same articles and the first comment is "The beatings will continue until morale improves, so say the overlords" – rather similar to what I wrote here. Believe me, I didn't read this linked to post until well after writing this post.

Miami Herald and Seattle Times launch replica editions produced by Olive Software for their print subscribers

The Seattle Times today launched a replica edition app into Apple's App Store – even calling it The Seattle Times Print Replica.


The app was created by Olive Software, though the paper released it under its own name, leaving the paper the option to release a native app at some later date.

The app, along with one released last week by McClatchy's Miami Herald, is intended strictly to be read by print subscribers – sort of an added-value for those readers.

Upon opening the reader is immediately told that they can not access the current issue unless they sign-in. If they are not a print subscriber the user can then access older issues.

The app from McClatchy's property, called The Miami Herald Print Edition, is the second app for that title. The other app, The Miami Herald iPad Edition, is a NYT-styled app that charges a discounted fee of $0.99 per month to access the daily content.

Neither the native designed app, nor the Olive Software app, support Apple's Newsstand.

While it is nice that the publishers of the Seattle Times and Miami Herald are offering an added-value to print subscribers, it is unlikely readers will find these editions of much value as they are bare boned apps that force the reader to pinch to zoom in order to read the issues. But maybe that is the point, to offer digital readers a product that will not compete with the print product but will merely serve as a convenient way to read the paper on the go (even though this isn't really the way most tablet owners read, and it isn't very convenient).

My distain for replicas is obvious, but the best case for them continues to be situations where there is no real alternative – such as old, out-of-print books or other publications, for instance. That, obviously, isn't stopping vendors from selling replicas to publishers struggling to figure out the new digital platforms and the right business model.



It is interesting to me that Apple is prominently promoting the Miami Herald's new replica app in the News category. This is an example, among many, of occasions where Apple has promoted apps that I'm sure the company does not think are the types of apps developers should be creating. You just know what Steve Jobs would have thought about a non-native designed app like these replicas.

Nonetheless, Apple is helping promote the app inside the App Store. Good for them.

Morning Brief: Time picks 'The Protester' for its Person of the Year; Tribune Company updates its iPad apps, leaves them outside Newsstand; Markets and Euro fall at open

Time Magazine said it had chosen "The Protester" for its Person of the Year when it unveiled the cover for its year end issue.


While many lobbied for Steve Jobs to get the nod, his death is highlighted in the Farewell section of the issue.

Time doesn't have its marketing quite in order, however, as the issue is not available as of yet inside its own app, though the cover story is leading the magazine's website. (Apparently they won't sell you the issue, but will give it away free online! How old media of them.)

These Person of the Year covers for Time are very much like the Pulitzer Prizes: watched very closely by the media but largely irrelevant to readers.


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Tribune Interactive updated both of its iPad apps for the Chicago Tribune and the Los Angeles Times.

Both apps, though, remain outside of Apple's Newsstand, which is probably a wise decision as they are more an extension of the individual paper's websites than a true alternative to the print product. But the decision to launch these apps without any subscription charge, and with as much content as it does have, will only make it that much harder to launch a paid version sometime down the road.



The stock markets opened moderately lower today, following up on a pretty bad week so far for investors. The Euro, too, continued its fall in value, dropping below the $1.30 mark.

You know people are worried when live blogs appear online to follow the market and other financial developments. The Guardian, for instance, is leading its U.S. website with the live blog, which is being edited out of the U.K. The U.K. version, however, is leading with about the country's unemployment hitting a 17 year high. The live blog is right up there in the main group of stories, however.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Applied Market Information, a U.K. consultancy and B2B publisher, releases its four titles into Apple's Newsstand

During my time as a B2B publisher I've had quite a number of rather dull sounding magazines under my management: Roads and Bridges, Industrial Paint and Powder, Outdoor Power Equipment. As uninteresting as these titles may sound to outsiders, they were (and in some cases are) very much of interest to their readers and advertisers.
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So when I see a group of magazines inside the App Store titled Compounding World, Pipe and Profile Extrusion, Film and Sheet Extrusion and Injection World my eyes don't gloss over they brighten with interest.

Published by Applied Market Information Ltd., a U.K. market research consultancy, and seen inside the App Store under the AMI Plastics name, these four titles are among the latest magazines to become available inside Apple's Newsstand.

While very few U.S. trade publishers have braved the new world of mobile or tablet publishing, publishers in Europe are more adventurous (is the U.K. still part of Europe? I'll have to check the latest news reports).

That doesn't mean, however that these four new apps have broken any new ground, unfortunately. All four are replica editions, and none of the four require that the readers downloading the apps either qualify to read the magazines or pay the publisher to access the content. All the apps are identically designed, and though there is a mechanism inside to register, the process is completely voluntary.

But there they are, nonetheless, inside the App Store and available to be downloaded.

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Left: The splash page from the app for Compounding World; Right: the opening notices that pop-up when accessing Pipe and Profile Extrusion's new app.


So how can Newsstand work for a B2B publisher who normally only distributes their magazine to readers inside a particular industry?

I would suggest (again) that the way this can be done is to create an app that demands that the reader pay a subscription fee or else log-in as a current print subscriber.

The problem with this is that Apple has said that publisher's can't charge for a subscription inside the App Store if the product is available for free outside the store. But many B2B's already charge "non-qualified" readers to subscribe, only giving the magazine away for free to its qualified readers, so I don't believe this method is a violation of the developer rules (though if a publisher knows differently than I'd like to hear about it).

Afternoon news briefs: Google and Apple in buying moods; more toys for the rich, complete with app; the NTSB recommends total ban on cell phone use in cars

A couple of reports are today that Google and Apple are in a buying mode. I suppose that's better than the typical news about patent lawsuits and the like.

According to a WSJ report, Google has bout the Alfred restaurant recommendation app maker Clever Sense. Their iPhone/iPad app was updated just today ("Hi, I'm a lot less buggy people!" the app description says.

A TechCrunch report passes along a report from the Israeli site Calcalist that claims that Apple will be buying Anobit, an Israeli semiconductor company that provides flash storage solutions.

The price tag mentioned is $400 to $500 million.

The two moves have some logic to them: Google's acquisition can be integrated into their other products like Google Maps, etc.; Apple's acquisition would lock in supply and lock out competitors, especially those wanting to introduce competitive ultralight laptops.



There has been a few posts about this product around the tech sites today and yesterday: the Topbrewer from Scanomat. If there needed to be more proof that the rich simply don't have enough things to buy, this is it.

I'm a big coffee drinker, but I know my coffee makers tend to break down after one year or less. Can you imagine the headache of trying to repair or replace this model? But then again, when you own the world, what's a few thousand dollars to replace your coffee maker? After all, it comes with an iPhone app!





Some of the better financial blogs, including FT.com/Alphaville are looking at the falling value of the Euro and calling it "a rout". (The Euro stands at a bit over $1.31.)

But it is funny how a little perspective is helpful. A year and a half ago the Euro was at the same level, and going back further the Euro was priced below one dollar (that was a while ago, I know).

In any case, if you are thinking of a trip to Paris for the holidays, now might be the time to go. (Have fun.)



My iPad made a funny little noise as an alert came in from USA Today about the NYSB recommendation that cellphone use be banned except in an emergency. The story has been picked up by many other outlets since then.

CNN's little story is less than 100 words but there are almost 1400 comments already on the story. Amazingly, to me, most are in favor of a total ban. The same people who complain about government intrusion in their lives don't bat an eye when told they can no longer use their cell phones in their cars. I suppose they will change their tune when told my Sean Hannity that this is another example of big government. But for now, ban cell phones!



Retweet: Rebecca J. Rosen penned a nice post on The Atlantic's website about a recent ruling that has more than a few bloggers up in arms. The headline is "Why We Should Stop Asking Whether Bloggers Are Journalists" and it argues that the recent Oregon ruling by Judge Marco Hernandez that a particular blogger couldn't claim to be a journalist is both more and less than it appears.

While it was nice to see some in the mainstream media come to the defense of the blogger in question, it was less nice to see them do so in quite such a hurry – many are stepping back now to reexamine their initial thoughts on the case.

If you are not familiar with the Oregon case Rosen's piece will get you there.

Attack in Liège: Belgian dailies launch live blogs to keep readers informed of events, death toll

The first news of a grenade attack in the Belgian town of Liège came through tweets. But soon the newspapers Le Soir and De Morgen were up with their stories and live blogs.

The French language daily, Le Soir, started a live blog almost immediately, in order to keep track of the rumors and official announcements.

In the past, news organizations outside of the area of the news event would be mostly blind until they could get their reporters to the seen or watch TV coverage. But more and more reporters are now used to tracking local news organizations for current information. The use of Google's Chrome browser, with its translation capabilities, is making this easier to accomplish.

As this post is being written, De Morgen says that the attack by Nordine Amrani, a local with criminal record, has claimed the life of three citizens, plus the attacker (four in total), and has injured 75. The attack was carried out with grenades and a Kalashnikov.
15u23: Nordine Amrani is dus geen onbekende bij de politie. De 32-jarige man is al veroordeeld geweest tot een celstraf van 58 maanden. Er waren tientallen wapens bij hem ontdekt, alsook 2.800 cannabisplanten.

3:23 p.m.: Nordine Amrani is no stranger to the police. The 32-year-old man has already been sentenced to 58 months in prison. Dozens of weapons were discovered with him, as well as 2,800 cannabis plants.
– Google Chrome translation.

Retail sales come in lower than expected

A week ago the media was all over a report that the Thanksgiving Day holiday weekend sales had been a blow out. I almost wrote about that then since my cynical nature is to not believe these reports.

It seems to me that every year, following Black Friday, there are reports that sales have been enormous. Shop, shop, shop, 'cause everyone else is doing it.


But how is it possible that in the middle of recessionary times – even if few are calling it technically a recession – that sales can boom?

Well, it turns out that retails sales are not exactly booming. The Commerce Department released new figures today that showed that sales grew, but only at 0.2 percent. And remember, last year wasn't exactly a boom year either.

I don't rejoice at the news, despite it confirming my instincts. No, I'd love to see a return to the late nineties boom years, despite the fact that the voters rejected those good years for a decade of income shifting to the rich.

But the report reinforces a criticism I've had of the media for many years: their cheerleading for holiday shopping that ends up distorting reality.

Want some examples, what John Gruber would call claim chowder?

November Retail Sales Show Black Friday Was Even Better Than Expected
– Business Insider

Black Friday sales hit record, says report – CNN

Much of this misinformation can probably be traced back to this press release: Black Friday 2011 Sets New Retail Sales Record.

I suppose the same media sites that claim that Apple quarterly sales were a disappointment because they came in lower than some no-name analyst's forecast can be expected to put out these retail shopping propaganda – but do they have to do it every year?

(For the record, retail sales grew in November of 2010 by 0.8 percent, CNN's headline was "Strong kickoff to holiday shopping season." Yikes, a less than one percent gain, and that headline. Come on.)

Morning Brief: Scientists present their evidence from the LHC proton-colliding experiments; photographing light itself; Microsoft launches OneNote, a bit late, but whatever

The media is trying, trying really hard to get their readers interested in a presentation that is occurring right now. Scientists are announcing the latest results from the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) located at the Swiss-French border.

The question the press is asking is have scientists found the "God particle", otherwise known as the Higgs boson.


I've tried to follow the news coming out of the experiments, but I find it mind numbing.

In the end there appears that won't be a huge "ta da" moment today anyways as The Guardian quotes one scientist as saying that there has been progress in the experiments but no true scientific discovery.

"The results indicate we are about half-way there and within one year we will probably know whether the Higgs particle exists with absolute certainty, but it is unfortunately not a Christmas present this year," said Prof Stephan Söldner-Rembold, Head of the Particle Physics Group at the University of Manchester. "The Higgs particle will, of course, be a great discovery, but it would be an even greater discovery if it didn't exist where theory predicts it to be."



The NYT has another science story this morning that I find even more fascinating. The Times is reporting on the work being done at M.I.T.’s Media Lab. As the NYT begins, this lab was the one that began using strobe lights to create stop action photographs of such things as a bullet piercing an apple, the drop of a milk into a glass, and other amazing photographs.

Now the lab is trying to photograph the movement of light itself. It is doing so by taking photographs at the hard to believe shutter speed of 500 frames per nanosecond, or a billionth of a second. My Nikon doesn't have that setting, I can tell you that.

“When I said I wanted to build a camera that looks around corners, my colleagues said, ‘Pick something that is more safe for your tenure,’ ” Ramesh Raskar, an associate professor of media arts and sciences at the Media Lab told The Times. “Now I have tenure, so I can say this is not so crazy.”



Microsoft has finally decided, apparently, that it needs to supply office software for the iPad, or else someone else will.

Yesterday it launched Microsoft OneNote for iPad, a free app that will be the first in a line of Office apps designed for Apple's tablet.

"Today, just in time for the holidays, we’re releasing OneNote 1.3 for iOS" Michael Oldenbur wrote yesterday on the OneNote Blog. "Since the launch of OneNote for iPhone nearly a year ago, a recurring request from our customers has been for a version that can be used more easily on the iPad's larger screen. We're happy to announce that today's new release of OneNote for iOS devices includes a version that's tailored for the iPad."

At this point, having bet the farm that the iPad would be a bust, and probably fearful that launching apps for the device would be harmful to their Windows franchise, it is probably best if Microsoft simply commit to launching tablet apps regardless of the OS. Since April of 2010 I've had to live without Microsoft Office on my iPad and it has led to me beginning to live without it on my desktop and laptop computers. That is, the absence of Office has trained me to live without it altogether.

When Microsoft does launch a full line of Office apps they will have to compete with already established, low-priced apps created because of the absence of Office. Denial is not a great business strategy.



By the way, developers, Apple last night released a new beta: iOS 5.1 beta 2 (if you are keeping track), along with Xcode 4.3.

I've logged into my developer account and found the new beta but honestly can't tell you what new features you will find inside.

Apple also released a new version of its iTunes software yesterday that was supposed to clean up some issues with iTunes Match – something I am not subscribing too at this time either.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Publishers need to match print content if they want to charge for their tablet editions: German publisher updates Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger iPad app, moves it into Newsstand

This morning I noticed a number of new newspaper and magazine apps inside Newsstand as the number of publications available on the iPad version of Newsstand is close to reaching the 1,000 mark. One of those new additions is the Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger.
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The publisher, M. DuMont Schauberg, has updated the app for the Kölner Stadt-Anzeige while its sister app for the Frankfurter Rundschau awaits the addition of Newsstand support.

As both apps appear to be native in design, rather than PDF replicas of the print paper, I was struck by the fact that readers are rather divided in their opinions of the apps. The iPad app for the Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger, for instance, has quite a number of five-star reviews, but an equal number of one-star reviews. What are readers complaining about?

Two things stand out in the negative reviews, and publishers would be wise to take the complaints seriously. First, many readers complain about the limited content to be found versus the print edition.

Die App hatte Potential wenn - und das ist ein großes, alles entscheidendes wenn - sie tatsachlich den gesamten Print Inhalt hatte (tut sie nicht) und einen ordentlichen, evtl. regional anpassbaren Lokalteil hatte (tut sie nicht). Beides ist eigentlich unverzeihlich.

The app had potential if - and this is a big, crucial if - they actually had the entire print content (it does not) and a proper, possibly regionally customizable local section had (it does not). Both are really inexcusable.
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This complaint probably wouldn't be voiced if this were a paid app. But the expectation for any app requiring a subscription is, of course, that the digital product deliver the same (or more) content than the print version.

The second complaint, which most publishers are probably used to, is cost – that is, the price is too high – or, at least, too high based on the amount of content delivered.
Als Abonnent der Papierausgabe sind die Kosten für das Abo deutlich zu hoch. Die Grenze liegt bei mir bei 5 euros. Zu dem aktuellen Preis wird die App. ein Gimmick bleiben, dass man allenfalls nutzt, wenn im Ausland keine Papierausgabe greifbar ist.

As a subscriber to the paper edition, the cost of the subscription is clearly too high. My limit is 5 euros. At the current price of the app, this remains a gimmick that you use mostly, if are abroad and the Paper edition is not available.
One way many publishers overcome the price issue is to give the digital version away free to print subscribers – those that charge their print customers for digital usually face a torrent of criticism. Those that force the customer to choose often discount the digital slightly to encourage digital delivery. But if they don't they had better make sure they are delivering all the sections of the paper or else readers will shy away.

The International Herald Tribune updates its iPhone and iPad apps, bringing them into Newsstand

The International Herald Tribune (IHT) tablet edition and its mobile application have been updated to add Newsstand support and other features. The newspaper is owned by The New York Times Company.
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As you would expect, the apps are very similar to the NYT iPad and iPhone apps, as its approach to reader access of the content.

Like the NYT iPad app, International Herald Tribune for iPad gives readers access to the front page news free of charge, but then requires a subscription for accessing other sections of the paper. In the case of the IHT, that is quite a number of sections: Page Two, Asia-Pacific, Europe, Americas, Middle East & Africa, Views, Global Agenda 2012, Business with Reuters, Technology & Media, Culture, T Magazine, Fashion, Sports, Health & Science, Cartoons, Business Navigator, Video, and Day in Pictures.

There are two subscription options inside the IHT's iPad app: for $24.99 per month the reader gains full access to the iPhone and iPad apps from the IHT, as well as unlimited access to the NYT website; for $14.99 per month, the reader gains unlimited access to the IHT for iPad app alone. The iPhone app subscription options are priced at the same levels as the iPad option.

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Top-Left: A "full-page" ad from Ferragamo; Top-Right: A section, in this case "Europe", that will require a paid subscription to access (with the pop-up weather widget); Bottom-Left: an article in a locked section displays the newspaper's subscription promotion; Bottom-Left: the IHT's subscription page.

The BBC updates its iPlayer apps for iPhone and iPad; promises new Android version in the future

The BBC updated its iPlayer apps for the iPhone and iPad. Both apps are available in the U.K. App Store. There continues to be no equivalent app for the U.S. App Store.

The newly updated app introduces some very important features. First, the app becomes universal, bring streaming television to the iPhone and iPod touch. Second, the app incorporates AirPlay which will allow users to watch their favorite programs on their TVs by streaming the content to an Apple TV. Finally, the app now allows for 3G streaming, allowing users to watch programming while on the go.
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"We have developed a neat live channel switcher so you can easily flick between channels just like on your TV or radio," wrote David Madden on the BBC's Internet Blog.

"If you want to see what else is on right now just tap on the ‘Live Channels’ button while you watch. So, if I’m watching BBC One on my phone and want to see what’s on BBC Two, I just tap on ‘Live Channels’ to switch over. It’s an easy way to see what’s on now and flip over," Madden wrote online today.

The BBC is still working on an Android equivalent and promised to release the new app early next year. In the meantime, the older Android app continues to allow for streaming through WiFi-only.

Thanks to the tangled broadcast rights in the U.S., there continues to be no U.S. BBC iPlayer app (which is too bad since my daughter is a huge Doctor Who fan).

Earlier this year Luke Bradley-Jones, BBC.com managing director, explained to The Guardian what is holding up a U.S. app.

"The rights picture for the US is a little bit more complicated," said Bradley-Jones. "The nature of the agreements with our rights partners are different, and the windows across our existing business are older than they are in Europe. From our side, we have to jump through a few more of those commercial and legal hoops. We could have launched in the US with a product this week, but there would have been a few too many missing parts."

While apps released for the BBC are listed in the App Store under "BBC Worldwide" the apps in the U.K. App Store are available under the name "Media Applications Technologies Limited".