Monday, December 24, 2012

Morning Brief: Stock futures lower on budget concerns; Apple shuts down iTunes Connect for the holiday, Maybach to the Newsstand with a new app

It's Christmas Eve day, and I assume many TNM readers are enjoying an extended holiday. As for me, well, I have fond memories of working on the day before Christmas so am happy to be here to continue to talk about New Media.

One of the great things about working in the newspaper industry – back in the days when the newspaper industry was in better shape – was working Christmas Eve. No matter whether you were in the newsroom, the advertising department, or production there was always the next day's paper to put out, so few complained about working that day, after all, there would be those working the next day, as well. So, we all made the best of it, and found ways to actually enjoy the experience, wishing our fellow workers a good holiday, and doing things like cracking up some wine, that today would be against company policies.

So to those working in media on Christmas Eve, a hearty welcome to TNM.

Wall Street will have a shortened day of trading today because of the holiday. Stock futures are down, as one would expect, as investors express concern over whether Congress will be able to get its act together before January 1 to reach an agreement that will prevent automatic tax hikes and spending cuts from being implemented – the so-called fiscal cliff.

I wouldn't bet on Congress.

Apple has shut down iTunes Connect for the week. One hopes that while their system is down they are working behind the scenes to fix some of the issues involved with the App Store.

The biggest issue, however, remains the design of the U.S. App Store, which now overwhelmingly favors the apps from big publishers at the expense of small, independent publishers. Finding a new app without already knowing the name is now nearly impossible – as a result, I now spend most of my time outside the U.S. store in the other international App Stores that have not abandoned developers as of yet.

Before shutting down things for the holiday, Apple rushed to make sure new apps and app updates that were in queue were released into the store.

One of those apps is from long time TNM reader and independent publisher Christopher English. His new app for Maybach Magazine hit the store on Friday afternoon, as did quite a number of other new titles. (The Maybach app icon, which is the cover of the January issue, can be seen above-right.)

The new Maybach app was created using nov8rix which English chose because of the Newsstand support.

Many of the new apps are coming from the U.S.-Indian firm Magzter. The DIY solution has become popular for many smaller publishers because of the lack of upfront costs – Magzter instead employs a revenue share strategy. It is a tough deal, however, as publishers must split their subscription revenue with Magzter, a split that occurs after Apple gets its 30 percent. That means for every dollar of sales the publisher only sees 35 cents.

For ad driven business models this is not so bad, after all circulation usually, at best, just covers expenses. But for those new digital magazines trying to make a go of it through subscription sales, the two splits – one with Apple, one with the vendor – pretty much eats up any chances at the publisher seeing a profit, let alone a livable wage.
As a result, many of the new digital magazines being released a being forced to price their issues and subscriptions quite a bit higher than other digital magazines, in order to eke out some revenue. This puts these new titles even more at a disadvantage inside the App Store. Maybe after Christmas we will awaken to see that Apple and these vendors have been visited by the Christmas spirits and things will be changed. (I put the odds of that happening about the same as the House GOP coming to their senses.)

One of the new digital magazines released late last week was Büze Magazine, a new drinks magazine that is most definitely using a more interactive digital publishing platform than many of the DIY new releases.

TNM will take a closer look at this new digital magazine start-up after the holiday.