Friday, December 23, 2011

Yo ho, my boys! No more work to-night!

"Yo ho, my boys!" said Fezziwig. "No more work to-night. Christmas Eve, Dick. Christmas, Ebenezer. Let's have the shutters up," cried old Fezziwig, with a sharp clap of his hands, "before a man can say Jack Robinson."

You wouldn't believe how those two fellows went at it. They charged into the street with the shutters -- one, two, three -- had them up in their places -- four, five, six -- barred them and pinned then -- seven, eight, nine -- and came back before you could have got to twelve, panting like race-horses.

"Hilli-ho!" cried old Fezziwig, skipping down from the high desk, with wonderful agility. "Clear away, my lads, and let's have lots of room here. Hilli-ho, Dick! Chirrup, Ebenezer."

Clear away! There was nothing they wouldn't have cleared away, or couldn't have cleared away, with old Fezziwig looking on. It was done in a minute. Every movable was packed off, as if it were dismissed from public life for evermore; the floor was swept and watered, the lamps were trimmed, fuel was heaped upon the fire; and the warehouse was as snug, and warm, and dry, and bright a ball-room, as you would desire to see upon a winter's night.

Charles Dickens - A Christmas Carol

Morning Brief: House Republicans decide its best to move on, while PolitiFact chooses to circle the wagons; the FCC set to try and loosen media rules again

The NYT has already buried the story on its website – House G.O.P. Leaders Agree to Extension of Payroll Tax Cut – a sign that the whole House GOP fiasco was much ado about nothing. In the end, realizing that they looked foolish and isolated, the House Republicans reversed course and said it would now approve a two-month extension of the payroll tax cut and unemployment benefits.

The key, from the GOP's perspective, was to get the issue off the table as quickly as possible – and to get the story off the front pages as quickly as possible. They will have to deal with this morning's papers, but most newspaper websites have already moved on (only the WaPo seems to be keeping the story upfront, as the actual vote, possibly a voice vote, is set for later today).

If the House Republicans realized they were better off beating a hasty retreat, PolitiFact is trying a different tactic: digging in its heels and taking swipes at its critics. The St. Petersburg Times property caught the attention of the media world by giving the GOP a huge Christmas present by saying that the 2011 Lie of the Year was the claim that Republicans voted to end Medicare.

Writing on their website, Bill Adair goes after critics and quickly digs himself into a corner: critics of the decision are wrong because those who think PolitiFact made a bad decision are merely biased journalists who read and listen to biased news sources, calling such behavoir " life in our echo chamber nation".

Unfortunately, attacking the credibility of critics is a bit silly, isn't it? After all, the issue of the decision itself, which Adair fails to even try to justify except by saying that their competitors made the same choice (echo chamber?).

The whole silly mess reminds me of the way Poynter, another property associated with the Times, handled the Romenesko mess: dig in and deny. 2011 is not ending well for either institution.

The FCC is set to ease limits on cross-ownership of media properties in one market, according to a story this morning on the BusinessWeek website.

As the story points out, this is the second attempt to loosen media ownership rules, and it is bound to be met with similar objections as the first.

But while many think that media companies like Gannett might be helped by loosening the rules, I would predict that those who would take advantage of the ability to own multiple media outlets in a market might be companies that might employ a roll-up strategy: PE firms. Many existing media companies have scaled back their M&A efforts, concentrating on low cost new media properties rather than television stations or daily newspapers.

First the FCC has to successfully rewrite those rules, and beat back any challenges in court.

The new owners of the Chicago Sun Times have brought in Timothy Knight as CEO. Knight is the former publisher of Newsday where, as the NYT said at the time of his departure two years ago, he endured "a turbulent five-year tenure that included a circulation scandal, downsizing and changes in ownership and management."

Reports of the sale to a group of local PE executives mostly center on the possibility of a more technology driven approach by the new management team.

“This isn’t a newspaper acquisition. This is the creation of a technologically-enabled content company,” Knight is quoted as saying in the Sun Times story on the sale. “The platform, the brands that the Sun-Times has across Chicagoland are outstanding and unmatched.”

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Christmas – New Year's Day schedule

We're winding it down here at TNM, preparing to start the season's gift shopping. I know, I'm one of those that waits until just about the last moment.

But this year I have an excuse: travel, a near oven disaster, and TNM. The oven disaster has been solved thanks to the GE repair man and so all that's to prevent me from finally getting to the mall is TNM. Well, we won't let that happen.

Animated GIF (downsized) courtesy of Magie Aniamted GIFs.

So, the plan is to do a Morning Brief on Friday and that will probably be it until after Christmas. Monday the 26th is the official holiday (whatever that means), and so TNM will be back live on Tuesday.

The First falls on Sunday this year, that means no Rose Bowl and the other college games until Monday the 2nd. TNM will be back, therefore, on the 3rd. Got that? Good.

For BNA, creating 'reader' apps is the preferred approach

What approach should B2B publishers take in regards to tablet editions? Should they simply launch an iPad app and make their industry trade publications open to anyone who downloads the app? Or should they charge new readers for a subscription through the App Store while allowing current "qualified" subscribers to log into their accounts in the app to access the content for free?

A third approach might be to create a reader app – one that only allows content access to those customers who are already subscribers. This approach means that the app itself can not generate new subscribers, but the publisher won't be splitting revenue with Apple, either. Also, the new iPad app then serves as another way paying customers can access their content.
This is the approach BNA (The Bureau of National Affairs, Inc.) has chosen to use with its iPad apps.

BNA, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Bloomberg L.P., is a company that provides legal, regulatory and other business information to its customers through print and e-newsletters, the web, book, etc. The company has many products available in the areas of Legal and Business, Tax and Accounting, Environment Health and Safety and Human Resources. All or most of these could potentially become tablet products, should the company decide to go in that direction.

To date, BNA has released seven iPad apps, that latest being BNA Labor and Employment Law Insights, released earlier this week. Each app is free, but each app only allows downloaders to browse the articles and videos available, as well as see the author and speaker names and content headlines.

In order to fully access the content, downloaders will have to already have a subscription to the information service. In the case of the BNA Labor and Employment Law Insights app, the cost is $295 for a year's subscription. As you can see, BNA products are generally pricey, one reason the company would be hesitant to share a revenue split with another company (in this case, Apple).

Does this approach make sense for other B2B publications? Certainly, if you one of those B2Bs that are charging a fairly high subscription price for your print or web products. With your customers buying tablets you want to migrate with them.

But if you are mailing a monthly print magazine to a list of "qualified" readers, and not getting any, or little subscription revenue, then this would simply be an additional cost – sort of like those Flash flipbooks so many publishers have paid for. In that scenario, I would think that the hybrid approach is best: charging new readers through the app, while letting current "qualified" readers log-in for free access. As far as I know, Apple has not objected to this approach, though one could interpret their developer rules in such a way as to disallow this – I have yet to hear anything definitive to date.

App updates to Modern Luxury apps highlight the sameness of many apps from the same publisher

There is nothing like a side-by-side comparison of newspapers and magazines inside the App Store to show that, like your corner 7-11, many publishing products today are cookie cutter replicas of each other. Such a comparison wouldn't have been possible in the past.

BlueToad today issued more updates to the Modern Luxury replica editions including Atlantan for iPad, Dallas for for iPad, DC for iPad, and Angeleno, as well as many more. Since these are free magazines that do not require a subscription to access, readers are generally fairly generous in their reviews as few want to complain about getting a something for nothing.
In the past, magazine readers would visit their local Borders (no more) and see a few city magazines on the newsstand – generally their local magazine plus some for exotic destinations like Paris or Hawaii.

But thanks to digital newsstands, we can see how similar magazines are from the same publisher, how the same formulas are at play, and how expensive photo shoots can be justified when the expense is spread out among a portfolio of magazines. (To their credit, the editors did not make the mistake of using the same shot for their covers.)

Of course, this is the Modern Luxury formula at work, and I am in no position to criticize the approach as I have not seen their P&Ls, nor am I the target audience for these publications, being older and without an inheritance to look forward to.

But it is worth checking out Apple's Newsstand today and to wonder whether it is really a good idea to release a wave of updates for similar magazines on the same day.

Likewise, I've written about similar looking newspaper apps and how replica or native designed apps sometimes make newspapers, that otherwise have distinct personalities, look the same – usually bland.

Is this important? Probably not, though I'd personally have to wonder how much a newspaper or magazine really reflects my own local community when I can see inside the App Store other publications that appear to be clones.

Morning Brief: Wave of bombings hits Baghdad; Robinson gets sweet exit package from NYT; Amazon pushes out updates to Kindle Fire tab OS and Kindle app for iOS

At least 14 bombings occurred in Baghdad this morning as a wave of sectarian violence shook the capital after the Shite-leg government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki issued an arrest warrant for the Sunni vice president, Tariq al-Hashemi.

The attacks followed closely the withdrawal of the last American forces in the country.

"I was sleeping in my bed when the explosion happened," CBS News quoted 12-year-old Hussain Abbas, who was standing nearby in his pajamas. "I jumped from my bed and rushed to my mom's lap. I told her I did not want to go to school today. I'm terrified."

Reuters is reporting that the exit package The New York Times Company will paying Janet Robinson to step down as CEO will total over $15 million.

The new agency quotes an unnamed source as saying that Robinson will receive a $4.5 million consulting fee, plus $10.9 million in pension benefits. But Reuter added this tidbit near the ned of its report:
But Robinson is getting less than half of the $37.1 million in severance Craig Dubow received when he retired as Gannett Inc's CEO in October, after six years at the helm of the newspaper publisher and amid similarly dismal financial results.
The New York Times Company continues its efforts to close a deal for its Regional Media Group made up of newspapers such as The Sarasota Herald-Tribune in Florida, The Press Democrat in Santa Rosa, Calif., and The Tuscaloosa News in Alabama.

Amazon pushed out an operating system update to users of the Kindle Fire, reportedly improving scrolling and other basic navigation traits.

Amazon also issued an update to its Kindle app for iOS which brings in magazines and newspapers Kindle Editions (generally replica or text versions). Users have complained, however, that the app update takes away the ability to archive previously read books and that the app is buggy.

MobileBurn posted a video of the changes to the Kindle Fire OS on its YouTube Channel:

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Engadget Distro gets update that pulls it into Newsstand; simple digital publishing model still works

The fairly new iPad magazine app from AOL owned Engadget, called Engadget Distro, received an update last night to bring it into Apple's Newsstand.
The update probably was forced on them due to a misunderstanding of Newsstand rules that do, indeed, allow for free publications to be inside Newsstand. But no matter, the update has now been issued and the app functions as advertised.

For the reader, whether you like this app will be totally determined by whether you enjoy Engadget's web content, since the app is a simple repackaging of the tech site's work there.

But for me, the app remains a great example of a simple digital publishing solution for the iPad that creates a logical, easy-to-read, easy-to-navigate tablet magazine. That doesn't mean its perfect, as I will soon point out. But it offers so many great lessons in what a publisher should be thinking about when designing their own digital magazine for tablets.

(This post, by the way, is not going to be much different than the original post I wrote in October when the app was first launched. But I think it is worth writing about this again.)

What makes this app work is its simplicity. First, there is a library page where all the issues reside – you've seen libraries like this a million times. There is a subscribe button at the top that when pressed quickly makes you a subscriber – since this is a free magazine no need to double confirm a purchase.

What could be improved here? A pop-up or a more prominent subscription promotion would be nice, to encourage subscribers, especially since this app is now in Newsstand. What else? Well, it would be nice to know how big these issues are when they are being downloaded. Many readers won't care, but I like to know how much space I have giving away to a publisher. My guess is that these issues are not that large, but it is still nice to know.

Left: The library page inside the Engadget Distro iPad app; Middle: the same full page ad that was seen in the first issue remains here in the most recent issue; Right: simple story navigation is consistent with other digital magazines.

Once the issue opens up one sees right away that the publisher has decided to create their issues in portrait only orientation. This saves space – quite a lot of space really. I can't criticize this decision as it speeds production, saves space, and replicates the print magazine experience. But other publishers might decide to go landscape-only, or put the time into make their digital magazines use both orientations. It will all depend on how much time and resources you have. For a weekly like Engagdet Distro it probably makes sense to go with one orientation only.

Inside the magazine the story flow is simple and consistent with other native designed magazine apps. In fact, this is standard magazine design, I would say. The readers scrolls within a story, swipes to get to the next story. This way of doings was outlined by Bonnier was back in December of 2009 in its concept video. You can see that video on the TNM YouTube Channel.

For B2B publishers especially, this way of making digital magazines for the iPad and other tablets seems ideal. It is simple, quick, and repeatable. For web publishers like me, this is just what I would produce if Mag+ or some other digital publishing solutions provider would go insane and make their digital publishing solution free.

Endadget's app is, in essence, a replica app. What it doesn't use, for instance, is in-page text boxes that allow for scrolling while the background image stays the same. Using Mag+ to build the app would allow for this. There is also no embedded video or audio, something that many publishers would insist on. In fact, this is something you would expect from a tech site.

So why write about such a simple app twice in three months? Because I see this app as what many publishers who are unfamiliar with tablet publications should look at first. This is like taking a baby step. But this app is far more instructive to look at than a normal replica app. This is lies somewhere between those hard-to-read PDF apps, and apps that try and use all the bells and whistles available to them. If a publisher starts with a simple vision of digital publishing, something like this app, then they are starting at a good place.

And readers seem to agree: this updated app is getting only good marks from those who have downloaded it – something not often seen inside the App Store.

Morning Brief: Some early presents for some, coal for others; paid legal fees for a phone-hacker, a patent win for Apple, a lump of coal for taxpayers thanks to House GOP

The time to unwrap presents may still be a few days away for most of us, but for some Christmas has come early.

Glenn Mulcaire, for instance, the man accused of phone hacking for Murdoch's News of the World, just won a court case that will save him some serious legal fees. The News of the World had originally agreed to pay his defense costs but then cancelled the contract – Mulcaire sued and just today the high court ruled that News Group Newspapers would have to continue to fund his legal fees, according to the Guardian report.

Apple won a ruling by the U.S. International Trade Commission that said that Android smartphones made by HTC Corp. violated an Apple patent. This is a loss for Google, as well. But the ruling is fairly limited, and two can play at the patent game. In fact, everyone is playing in the patent game, guaranteeing that eventually everyone will lose, especially consumers. But then again, consumers always lose when the corporations start playing their games.

U.S. tax payers got a lump of coal yesterday thanks to Republicans in the House. They voted overwhelmingly to kill the Senate compromise bill that would have extended the payroll tax cut by two months. As a result, taxes will be going up for U.S. tax payers come January 1st, and millions of Americans will lose their unemployment benefits. Further Medicare reimbursement fees for doctors will also be reduced.

But, none of those dire consequences are guaranteed, as the NYT story makes plain in its last paragraph (kind a way of burying the lead, if you ask me):
Republicans could decide to accept the two-month extension as is or with additional sweeteners, like a promise that a conference committee would meet to seek a longer-term extension, but such a move would require unanimous consent from the Senate. They could add another social policy rider, as is their tendency, and the Senate could toss it off the bill later, through a procedure that has been employed in the past. Or they could do similar procedural moves with a bill to extend the benefits for a year, which has been the goal of Mr. Obama and Democrats all along.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

News Corp's Australian division updates its portfolio of highly unpopular newspaper iPad apps

The Australian division of News Corp. has updated its slate of newspaper iPad apps, though readers inside the Australian App Store continue to complain about the lack of content and the high price users must pay for access.

The apps for The Daily and The Sunday Telegraph, The Courier-Mail/The Sunday Mail, The Advertiser & Sunday Mail, Herald Sun, and PerthNow, were all updated for a variety of reasons including bog fixes and added content.

But unlike many of its counterparts in the U.S. and elsewhere, these apps (released under the News Digital Media name) are not to be found inside Apple's Newsstand but remain outside as free standing apps.

Also, each of these apps are paid apps priced at $7.49 (Australian dollars), with the except of PerthNow, which is priced at $4.49. This is price is the one month subscription price – a six month subscription costs $34.99 ($24.99 for PerthNow).

Each of the apps have far more one-star reviews than 5-star reviews, as readers complain about pop-up ads, sparse news content (versus the websites) and, of course, the price.

This pricing and Newsstand policy seems pretty consistent throughout the corporation. The New York Post and Wall Street Journal all can be found under the News category, but not inside Newsstand. Similarly, The Times of London and Sunday Times are also free standing apps, though both are free to download.

Only The Daily breaks the pattern, remaining free and also incorporating Newsstand support.

My Christmas wish list: from tablet ad networks to new VCs; plus stock stuffers from Apple and Google

I like to wait until the last minute to do my Christmas shopping, it's mimics the adrenaline rush I used to get while working at daily newspapers. But time is getting short, and Santa needs my list if there is any chance of me getting what I want.

So I have come up with a list of things I'd like to see under the tree Sunday morning, as well as a few items I think Santa should consider giving others. Here we go:

1) Small item first: please, Santa, can you find a way to put a stop to those market share stories the media, especially the tech media, like to write about Apple and Google and Samsung and you-name-it? I know it sounds trivial, but I really don't know if I could stand another year of Business Insider saying "Apple is doomed" on day before they report on Apple's record earnings.

OK, now for the real goodies.

2) Santa, I could really use an inexpensive tablet publishing solution – and so could a lot of TNM readers. If I were a well funded start-up, Adobe's outrageously priced solutions would work; a not as well funded start-up could use Mag+; but what about the rest of us?

3) Oh, and throw in a new tablet ad network or two. I may be a big believer in in-house ad staffs, but most start-ups need an ad network to sell ads at the beginning, especially bloggers moving their titles onto a tablet.

4) A newspaper, just one, that recognizes that geolocation and local businesses are a match made in heaven. I'm still waiting for some newspaper company that realizes that digital subscriptions will only get you so far, that the print media world is making a big mistake, a fatal mistake, by giving up on advertising models. Mobile phones + classified advertising seems so made of each other. Come on ad guys, get in the game!

5) Santa, I know you don't like it when someone wishes bad things to happen to others, but we in the media world could really use the complete collapse of the PE industry. We don't need another PE firm coming in and buying up properties, laying off staffs and then selling the titles off again (or declaring bankruptcy). No, what we need is what we had in the late nineties, a VC community willing to invest in new businesses. Far too many investment firms are only interested in finding the next Facebook, even though they wouldn't recognize it if it stood in front of them. No, we need money spread around to new media start-ups without a PE guy added to the board.

OK, now how about a few stocking stuffers:

From Apple: a new iPad with Siri, a higher resolution display, and a faster processor. (You know, this might be the only gift I actually will get.)

From Google: support staff. Period. (I still have unresolved issues with Google that are two years old. I couldn't imagine the same thing happening with any other company.)

Finally, since this is the season of giving, so here what I'd like Santa to give others:

The Democrats: a spine. The Republicans: sanity, if that's not possible then a heart.

Greece: a winning lottery ticket; the U.K.: an expired Eurorail pass.

The Giants (S.F.): a bat; the Colts (Indy) a new neck for Payton; Les Habs (Montréal) a 21-year old Jean Béliveau; the Clippers (L.A.): oh, I think they've gotten their Christmas presents already.

The WSJ editorial board: a subscription to The Nation; The Nation: an advertiser; Patch editors: a raise; Bankers: a cut in pay.

To everyone else: peace and prosperity, love and best wishes.

Morning Brief: Publishers continue to clean up their apps prior to the holiday; NYT updates add in live election results in preparation for the primaries; local markets contemplate the sale of their NYT-owned newspapers

Publishers and developers continued to use the week before the Christmas holiday weekend to issue updates to their media apps at a furious pace.

Today Future PLC issued updates for 64 apps, somehow Linus Format's update slipped into the store earlier. All the updates say that they are adding iOS 5 support so that the owners tablet or mobile device will no longer delete issues when space becomes low.

The updates also improve the reading experience by having the magazines leave off where the reader ended reading them, rather than return to the cover; and the library now shows the issue size when the reader edits their issues to clear space – all good features.

Now, if only someone at Future could improve these app icons – yuck.

The New York Times issued updates for its iOS upps, adding in live election night voting results in anticipation for the primary season (The Iowa caucuses are on January 3.)

The Android app, NYTimes app for tablet, was last updated in June, so an update should be expected for that app very soon, as well.

Zinio also updated its universal app, fixing crashing bugs (it hopes). The app description says that this will be the last app update that will support iOS 3.

One wonders who it is that might still be on iOS 3. My guess would be those who own an iPhone but treat it like an old flip phone, rarely if ever running apps other than the phone app itself.

Another candidate would be those, like my in my family, who still use the original iPhone, as well as the iPhone 3G and 3Gs, as converted iPod touches. I use an old iPhone as a music streamer and alarm clock. My daughter still has my original iPhone which she uses to listen to music.

The news that The New York Times Company is planning to sell off their regional newspapers is sinking in where the company owns papers. In the Bay Area, the Chronicle (still owned by Hearst) reported on the sale news, mentioning that a sale would effect the Santa Rosa Press Democrat and the weeklies North Bay Business Journal and Petaluma Argus-Courier.

The Boston Herald couldn't help themselves, asking when the Boston Globe might be sold off, as well.

No one really has anything original to say, it appears, simply rehashing the financial results for the past few years – without, of course, mentioning their own paper's results over the same period of time.

It is an odd thing about the newspaper business: journalists lament the passing or sale of a newspaper after it occurs, but relish planting knives before the actual event.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Rogers Publishing updates four magazine iPad apps to add Newsstand support; those who update their apps need to read the app description for instructions

'Tis the season for app updates as many media companies continue move their publications into Apple's Newsstand.

One of the latest to issue updates is Rogers Publishing Limited which issued updates for Maclean's Magazine,

The app updates come with a rather disturbing warning:

ATTENTION PRINT SUBSCRIBERS: you will need to go to Settings --> Delete Account ID, to reset your subscription then click the red Activate button and enter your account ID. This will unlock all of your issues.

By installing this update, you will temporarily delete all of your previously downloaded issues. Please see instructions below to restore your magazines.

If you are an Apple subscriber and you update your app, upgrade to iOS/Newsstand or delete and resintall (sic) your app, you will be able to sign in with your account ID and retrieve all previously purchased magazines. There is also a "Retrieve Magazines" button in your app settings panel that you can tap on to retrieve previously purchased magazines.
If you are unfamiliar with Maclean's you should know that it is a leading Canadian news weekly, founded over 100 years ago by Lt.-Col. John Bayne Maclean. The iPad edition is a good way to get acquainted with the publication, though you should ignore the app description pricing: it says print subscription pricing is higher than single issue pricing (it's not).

New York Times in talks to sell off its regional media group to Halifax Media Holdings; the journey to the NYT for a lot of journalists and ad execs just got longer

The New York Times Company confirmed today that it is in discussions with Halifax Media Holdings LLC regarding its Regional Media Group.

The story broke because of the sharp eyes of Jim Romenesko (or one of his readers) who noticed that Halifax was listing the NYT properties on its website. That page was swiftly taken down, but not before a screenshot was taken.'

The properties in question include mostly mid-sized dailies like The Press Democrat in Santa Rosa, Calif., The Gainesville Sun in Gainesville, Fla., and The Tuscaloosa News in Tuscaloosa, Ala.

For as long as I can remember, these properties were seen as choice landing spots for many journalists and advertising managers – a way into an elite organization other than through the doors of the NYT itself. While reality often led those I know who have worked for the Regional Media Group to express disappointment – there is only one NYT – those I spoke to were always happy to say they were working for The New York Times Company rather than ____ (fill in the blank).

So why is the NYT selling? Because it remains difficult for most regional newspapers to make the transition to digital, or said another way, many don't see a successful transition ahead.

The reality is that few newspapers can continue to sell print while also forcing readers to pay for digital. The financial newspapers – the WSJ and FT, for instance – are finding success selling digital subscriptions. My guess is that the NYT really aren't doing as well, but they are doign better than other consumer newspapers. (So many of the NYT's digital subscriptions remain discounted that I am still reluctant to pronounce the Times's metered paywall an unqualified success.)

So if the way is not clear for the NYT, what does it look like for regional papers? Well, not good unless the model changes – and getting a newspaper to change its model is almost impossible. Few papers have taken advantage of the geolocation services in mobile devices to launch localized advertising products, few have launched tablet editions that are more than mere replicas, and few have energetically embraced app development to become serial launchers of new digital products.

The future of regional and local newspapers will be dismal for many traditional print publishers, what with new digital competitors biting at their heels. But there is a future for some, and no doubt that is what the investors behind Halifax Media Holdings is hoping (or they will simply sell off the pieces).

No surprise that Jim Romenesko landed this news first – he has been landing stories like this for years. But it is ironic (or maybe it isn't) that this story broke one month after his departure from Poynter.

Jim is not time stamping his stories on his new website, so it is a little hard to tell exactly when he posted his story, but it obviously quickly forced the NYT to respond with its own press release. That, in turn was picked up by others, including Poynter, which would not link back to Jim's news site as a source. (You can make of that what you will.)

Mag+ announces its creativity contest winner: 21-year-old New Zealander Natasha Mead wins with 'MILK'

Mag+ announced the winner of their creativity contest this morning: Natasha Mead, 21, won for her MILK entry. Mead, from New Zealand, will receive a $2,500 digital publishing deal with Mag+.

“It was an extremely tough decision, but the jury ultimately picked Milk as its Design Contest winner for a few reasons," the Jury wrote on the Mag+ website.

"First, it’s a smart idea for a tablet-first publication, with a narrow focus and a natural use for digital story-telling tools like video and slideshows. Second, on that same point, it really took advantage of Mag+, using the layered architecture to really show off beautiful photography and the seamless integration of rich media to help deliver the content. Finally, it’s just a beautiful design. It made us all want to go out and DIY our own fashion! We congratulate [insert name], and thank all the entrants for inspiring us with their novel ideas and designs”.

There were three finalists for the award including BLACK, a home-brewery guide by American Ryan Hoback, and VINTAGE MUM, a craft and lifestyle magazine by Swedes Diana Ortsheid and Marie Stübner.

You can read an interview with the winner on the Mag+ website, and read more from Mead on her blog, Milk & Mead.

Mag+ said that the website recorded over 10,000 votes during the contest. A video demo of MILK can be seen below. Congratulations, Natasha.

Media app updates: The Guardian issues update that will add in magazine; Maybach moves into Newsstand; Netflix app causes some users log-in trouble

With less than a week before Christmas, this probably isn't a good time to releasing new media apps, but it's a great time to issue updates – assuming they don't make matters worse (see below).

The Guardian today issued an update to its iPad edition.
I'm really torn about this app: it is the one tablet edition of a newspaper that I regularly open (it's currently free), but sometimes I open the app up and am just amazed at its design.

Today's edition is a good example: a lot of empty space. If the reader scrolls one screen down the look is much better, but the top of the page this morning just doesn't work.

The app description informs readers that update will add in the weekend magazine next month, and now readers can post articles from the app directly to Instapaper.

Maybach, the men's magazine from Tablazines, has been updated to move the tablet-only edition into Newsstand.

I assume that Chris English, the publisher, is now using Alligator Digital Magazines for Maybach, as there is a whole new look and feel to the app's library page.

New issues now cost $0.99, and a six month subscription is now $4.99. Three issues are currently available, with the first two – October and November – free of charge.

Twitter got a lot of criticism when it issued its app update on the 8th, and now Netflix is getting some negative feedback now for its update issued this weekend.
We understand that some of our members may be having trouble signing into the Netflix app. We're deeply sorry about the inconvenience and we'd like to work directly with you to figure out what is causing the problem.

We have a workaround that has been helpful for some members:

1. Try adding a space after the last character in your password, and
2. Verify that you can login to site but not phone (if neither works you will need to contact support.
Ooh, that's not good. Users probably can expect yet another update very soon.

Morning Brief: State media announces Kim Jong-il death; Czechs mourn the passing of Vaclav Havel; Virgin Media inks deal with the BBC for expanded Olympics coverage

The North Korean news agency KCNA today announced the death of Kim Jong-il of a heart attack. State media said the death occurred early Saturday morning.

Kim Jong-il's presumed successor is Kim Jong-un.

"Little is known about Kim Jong-un," the BBC reported. "He was educated in Switzerland, is aged in his late 20s and is believed to be Kim Jong-il's third son - born to Mr Kim's reportedly favorite wife, the late Ko Yong-hui."

The Czech Republic will hold a state funeral for its former president, Vaclav Havel, who died in his sleep this weekend after a long illness. Havel, a playwright who was instrumental in his country's transition of democracy.

“It’s a great loss, though we expected it because he was so sick,” Business Week quoted Miloslava Ticha, who joined fellow Czechs at National Boulevard to show her respects. “He was a real personality. He doesn’t have a worthy successor. There’s nobody of his stature on the Czech political scene.”

“It’s a great loss, though we expected it because he was so sick,” said Miloslava Ticha, 64, who came with her husband Frantisek. “He was a real personality. He doesn’t have a worthy successor. There’s nobody of his stature on the Czech political scene.”

Virgin Media, which has 222,000 TiVo service subscribers in the U.K., has penned a deal with the BBC to give its customers extra coverage of next year's London summer Olympics.

Virgin Media subscribers will now have access to all 24 streams of coverage of the games, as well as other events before and after the games such as Formula One racing, Wimbledon tennis, and Euro 2012 soccer, according to The Guardian report on the agreement.