Friday, January 6, 2012

Indy tablet magazine Citizen New York updates its iPad app, but ends up breaking it

Most app updates are introduced to fix bugs in the app – others, unfortunately, introduce bugs. That is the situation with Citizen New York, an indy tablet-only magazine originally launched at the end of 2011.
The app update, issued today, breaks the subscription mechanism, making it impossible for readers to buy the magazine. As it is, the publisher is only charging 99 cents for a subscription.

But one must assume that the app will be updated again really soon, like almost immediately. In the meantime, the app update's real purpose was to introduce vertical viewing of the indy magazine. Prior to the update the screenshots all show only landscape layouts.

Leaving the subscription bug out of the discussion for a second, the real reason to talk about Citizen New York is to discuss the idea of a tablet-only magazine and web support.
The first question I had upon stumbling on Citizen New York was "who is behind this magazine?" – followed by "what is the magazine about?"

Unfortunately, the links inside the app description all go to a home page with no information about the magazine other than a link back to the App Store. One has to go back to the nineties to find print magazines without a fully functioning website, so I think the same principal would apply to a tablet magazine: one should launch the website at the same time, or before the launch of the tablet magazine.

If you're interested in checking out Citizen New York you can download the app now, then watch for an app update in iTunes, or your iPad's App Store app.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

App Updates: NYT adds in election support to mobile and tablet apps; Google Translate adds in iPad support

The New York Times today updated its iPhone and iPad apps to add in live election results, a feature that had previously been a big selling point for its iPhone app, NYTimes Election 2012.
I suppose the app updates are inevitable, as one wouldn't want to handicap one's own main branded app for a supplemental app. Both the iPhone and iPad apps require a digital subscription plan to access all the content, though access to the lead stories remain free of charge.

The updates also claim to have fixed some performance issues that were causing some users to experience app crashes. The iPad app, for instance, continues to have twice as many negative reviews to positive one, though many users are complaining mostly about the high price the NYT continues to want to charge for adding the iPad app to their digital subscriptions. (I have to admit, it is rather ridiculous.)

Google also issued an update, but it may be too early to tell whether this one really is valuable.

Google Translate, which had been an iPhone-only app, is now universal, adding in iPad support.

The iPad version is identical to the iPhone version in looks – meaning that it is pretty minimal – but iPad owners will appreciate the update.

The app itself, however, is difficult to use in real world situations. Partially this is the fault of Apple, as its cut-and-paste function remains hit and miss. To test the app I tried to copy text from the Le Monde website in Safari and then paste it into Google Translate. After half a dozen tries I finally got the cut-and-paste function to work properly.

What resulted, of course, is the usual Google Translate results (as you can see if you click the screenshot at left).

What would be more helpful would be a version of Google's browser, Chrome, for the iPad – or alternatively, Apple incorporating translation into Safari.

NewsRight highlights the deep divide in modern journalism: newspaper executives want to be paid, while many newspaper consultants promote aggregation

While the consultants to the "digital first" movement continue to promote aggregation as a way to increase content and reduce cost (especially reduce cost), another segment of the trade are promoting paid content strategies that may interfere with that goal.

Hearst Newspapers today to announced their involvement with NewsRight, the alliance of media companies that have a rather vague mission. Is NewsRight a pseudo-wire service, or a new version of Righthaven? You decide.

“NewsRight’s mission," said NewsRight President and CEO David Westin, "is to make sure consumers continue to benefit from the all the original news reporting they want while ensuring those who republish content do so with integrity.”

“Working with NewsRight benefits digital innovators because they can license news content in their applications quickly and easily; news organizations that provide the content for those applications benefit because they can more efficiently license their content to a broader range of uses; and consumers benefit because they will have assured access to a robust supply of credible news and information in new and exciting ways,” said Mr. Westin.

Sounds like a paid content strategy to me. It does to Poynter's Rick Edmonds, who writes that the whole goal is to "license original news content and collect royalties from aggregators."

The media firms that have signed up are a pretty impressive group: Advance Publications, The Associated Press, Axel Springer Group, A.H.Belo Management Services, Belo Management Services, Business Wire, Community Newspaper Holdings, El Dia, Galveston Newspapers, Gatehouse Media, The Gazette Company, Hearst Newspapers, Journal Communications, Landmark Media Enterprises, The McClatchy Company, Media General, MediaNews Group, Morris Communications, Morris Multimedia, NPG Newspapers, The New York Times Company, Ogden Newspapers, Pioneer Newspapers, Schurz Communications, The E.W. Scripps Company, Stephens Media, Swift Communications, Times Publishing Co. and The Washington Post Company.

Don't confuse "Journal Communications" – the company behind the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, and a part of NewsRight – for "Journal Register", the company behind "Digital First", and conspicuously missing from this list.

"The news and information companies that have come together to form NewsRight believe strongly in the value of original content and its widespread consumption. But as we help content grow, we also need to uphold accountability and integrity—and that is exactly what NewsRight aims to do,” said Bob Nutting, President and CEO of Ogden Newspapers and Chairman of the Board of NewsRight.

Interesting that both quotes use the word "integrity", no?

Unmentioned in the other stories about NewsRight that I have read is any discussion about the prospects that the new organization has in securing payment from aggregators. Probably because the prospects are zero.

Online aggregators are in no position to be the cash cows for the newspaper industry. Only one company fits that description, and that is Google, and we already know how that story will end. Newspaper publishers who want to go after Google are quick to back down as soon as they are left out of search results, so who exactly are these aggregators who will be targeted? Probably other newspaper companies.

So NewsRight looks a lot like a protection racket to me: join or get targeted. That means that newspaper companies will be the ones paying to play, or playing not to play. But they will be paying.

I've always said that publishers are the easiest people to sell to.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Report: Former Adobe, Quantcast exec Todd Teresi hired by Apple to manage iAds mobile advertising efforts

Bloomberg's Adam Satariano is reporting (via Twitter) that Apple has hired Todd Teresi to run its beleaguered iAds efforts, the company's mobile ad network.

Teresi's background, according to his LinkedIn profile, is on the operations and analytics side of the business. If so, it would appear that Apple sees its iAds as more of an advertising service than an advertising network.

Unlike Time Inc.'s recent hire of former Digitas chief executive Laura Lang to run its magazine division, this hire seems to be less about actual sales than about operations and systems.

On the other hand, the hiring may well have everything to do with his time at Quantcast as Apple's current Director of Global Business Operations is also a former Quantcast executive.

The New York Times mobile app, NYT's Election 2012, passes its first big test in the Iowa Caucuses

Released a month ago, the New York Times's mobile election app got its first real workout last night with the Iowa Caucuses. The app, called NYTimes Election 2012, has been perfectly workable for the past month, but with the first election results to report last night, the app proved a very useful news app for anyone wanted to keep track of the vote totals.
Sure, one could have booted up the ol' laptop to keep track of the vote totals as they came in, but the NYT mobile app proved that a separate app has its place.

The app, free to download in Apple's App Store (there is still no Android version), featured all the latest news from the campaign, as well as the political blogs. But the self-updating vote counter is probably the best way to keep track of the results as they came in. The counter updates every two minutes, which was about the perfect rate of updating for something like the Iowas Caucuses.

While it is true that all the editorial content could be found on the NYT website, it is nice to have everything in one place inside this app – especially the live blogs such as Nate Silver's FiveThirtyEight.

TNM in 2012

Some TNM readers, but admittedly very few, noticed that TNM was offline yesterday. This little test confirmed my decision that TNM should be be shut down.

For the past year TNM's readership has continued to grow – both in total numbers and in geographic reach – but the site has never reached a critical mass where it could be considered a viable business.

That is OK, because TNM was never intended to become a viable business, instead it was an educational journey for its creator. The fact that along the way readers began to come daily to the site was gratifying.

But now it is time to move on.

Here is the plan: over the next 30 to 90 days TNM will morph into a new media site – less blog, more B2B. At the same time, at least one new site will be launched in a completely different area – more consumer, less media.

These new sites will launch under a different umbrella name and at different URLs. More details will follow over the course of days and weeks to come. Until that launch date, TNM will remain online in order to post the occasional news item or opinion. (I recommend subscribing to the Twitter feed in order to know when new posts have appeared.)

I also killed off the TNM for iPhone app in the App Store yesterday, but will go ahead and return it for those who sometimes need to delete the app and reinstall it (there is a bug that appears to be caused by the RSS feed from Feedburner that necessitates this). But the Kindle Edition has been taken out of (few were subscribing anyway).

More later.