Friday, February 24, 2012

Retweet: L.A. Times announces its new "membership program" to launch March 5; yes, it's a metered paywall

Most newspapers have, somewhere around the middle of their online announcement, used the excuse for launching a paywall that everyone else is doing it, so why not us? The Los Angeles Times, once a million circulation daily newspaper, used the excuse in their lede.

"The Los Angeles Times will begin charging readers for access to its online news, joining a growing roster of major news organizations looking for a way to offset declines in revenue," said the LA Times's Jerry Hirsch in the paper's online post announcing the paywall.

But actually you aren't supposed to call it a "paywall", Hirsch says, it is a "membership program" because if you sign up to pay the $3.99 per week for unlimited access to the LA Times website you will aslo get "retail discounts, deals and giveaways".

But you can call it whatever you want, it is still a metered paywall the LA Times is constructing. Web surfers who go to the LA Times site, but do not pay, will be able to access 15 stories in a 30-day period.

For now, those that are accessing the online news through the mobile phone or tablet apps will continue to get free access, though the company warns that they will charge in the future.

Inevitably, any news story about a new paywall always refers to the New York Times (or WSJ) – Hirsch's story is no different, mentioning that the NYT has signed up 390,000 digital subscribers. Most (actually all) newspapers are not the New York Times.

The Los Angeles Times is no local paper in some podunk town, however. Having competed against the LA Times while at Hearst, those of us with newspaper experience in Southern California have always been in mortal fear of the giant newspaper. But the paper has seen better days. Its daily circulation, according the LA Times own story, now is around 575,000 – this NYT story from 2000, shortly after The Tribune Company bought the paper, reported that the daily circulation had recently fallen to 1,033,400.

Sunday circulation has not fallen as sharply, though it is now just over 900,000. To give you some perspective, the LA Times first broke the one million circulation mark on Sunday in 1961.

Hirsch's LA Times story contains some interesting numbers from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. That paper's paywall was launched on January 4th of this year.

According to the story, Elizabeth Brenner, publisher of the Journal Sentinel states that the paper has sold 8,800 digital subscriptions in the eight weeks since the paywall went up, and that 75 percent of those subscriptions were from outside the area.

I find that terribly interesting. Brenner, herself, attributes it to the Green Bay Packers.

"The reason is three words -- Green Bay Packers. That's what they want to read about," Brenner told the LA Times.

But if the number so far is 8,800, and only around 2,200 of these subscribers come from the local area, what does that say about the prospects of selling more local readers on paying for digital access?

On the bright side, the Milwaukee Brewers's Ryan Braun had his 50-day game suspension overturned yesterday. Maybe if the Brewers have a good season more people will pony up.

YUDU launches a new Newsstand app option for magazine publishers called Easi-App

The UK based digital publishing support company, YUDU, today introduced a new lower cost way for publishers to launch their magazine apps into Apple's Newsstand. Called Easi-App, YUDU says that a publisher launching a 72-page magazine would expect to pay about £350 per edition.

The way the pricing works is that there is an app fee, paid quarterly, then a fee for each edition based on the number of pages that issue contains. Based on this formula YUDU says a "typical 72-page monthly magazine is just £350 per edition." (Based on the value of the pound that translates to about $590 per edition.)

Any app using the new pricing model would be purely a replica edition, of course, as YUDU says on its website that adding in photo galleries, multimedia or any cross-platform capabilities would require an upgrade.

The good news is that there is no revenue share requirement with Easi-App, so publishers get to keep whatever sales they generate for themselves.

Below is the promotional video for the new YUDU Easi-App:

The Guardian and New York Times issue updates for some of their popular mobile and tablet apps; Apple reportedly buys Chomp, App Store reorg on the horizon?

The Guardian and New York Times issued updates to some of their popular mobile and tablet apps yesterday and this morning.

The Guardian issued updates for both its mobile app for the U.S. market and its popular photojournalism app for the iPad.
The Guardian for iPhone gets some additional content as the British daily added its U.S. website columnists Ana Marie Cox, Michael Wolff and Naomi Wolf to the Selected Columnists section. There was some additional content added for fashion and coverage of the U.S. election season, as well as the usual bug fixes.

The Guardian Eyewitness, the paper's popular photojournalism app for the iPad, also received an update over the past couple days. That update added in Twitter messaging improvements, as well as some bug fixes.

The Guardian's iPad app did not get an update – its last update was on December 19th.
The New York Times Company issued updates for its main iPhone and iPad news apps over the past couple of days. NYTimes, the main mobile app for the newspaper, basically got a seasonal physical, fixing bugs and improving the overall performance. The only feature oriented change involves the way one saves articles, adding them to a folder with a new icon now visible on each article inside the app.

NYTimes for iPad, the paper's tablet app, received the same updates.

The New York Times released an interesting app back in January that TNM did not write about at the time. OpenPaths is a secure location tracking app for the iPhone.

The app has kind of slipped under the radar, receiving only a handful of reviews so far in the App Store, all fairly positive. Here is how the NYT describes the service on the website:

Using our mobile apps you can track your location, visualize where you've been, and upload your data to the OpenPaths website. You can then download your data from the website in a variety of friendly formats, including KML, JSON, and CSV. The OpenPaths API enables you to integrate your own software with the platform, and you can import data from location-based services like Foursquare.
I haven't a clue what I would do with this app, frankly. But it seems pretty cool anyways. I'd use it while in Greece were it not for the data charges I'm sure I'd incur.

TechCrunch reported last night that Apple is using some of its vast cash reserves to buy Chomp, a company that has created apps to assist mobile and tablet owners find apps in both Apple's App Store and in the Android Market.

Certainly one of the biggest complaints iPhone and iPad owners have is finding apps and other media inside Apple's iTunes store. This acquisition, assuming the story is true, probably means that a reorganization of the store may be coming – or at least that Chomp's capabilities will be exploited in some way.

Chomp, according to its website, has received the backing of such venture capital and angel investors as BlueRun Ventures, Ron Conway and SV Angel, Aydin Senkut, David Lee, Brian Pokorny and Auren Hoffman.

Greece's April election will be less a battle between parties than a battle within the conflicted minds of the voters themselves

As TNM readers know, I have been watching events in Greece closely for the past year. I promise, however, that this will be the last post about Greece for a while – so those completely uninterested in reading anything about politics and world affairs can return soon to TNM without fear.

While we in the U.S. are headed towards an election in November that looks to be about sex, religion and oligarchy, the people of Greece will go to the polls in April in what may turn out to be one of the more interesting elections in modern times. Rarely are the choices so stark, the stakes so high, the conflicts so apparent.

The most recent polls show New Democracy, the center-right party leading, but with only around 20 percent or less of the vote. PASOK, the socialist party which won the 2009 election, trails badly but is in second.

PASOK, despite being the established socialist party, is hardly the darlings of the left, however. So that leaves room for a suite of leftist parties, as well as at least one right-wing party.

The two main parties, New Democracy and PASOK, have come out for the Eurozone bailout packages and currently have the votes in Parliament to pass the legislation necessary to implement the demanded austerity measures. Meanwhile, the lesser parties are growing because of the austerity measures being forced upon them - as well as the perception that the major Greek political parties are giving away their rights to the EZ finance ministers and the European Central Bank.

But, but, but... polls also show that a majority of Greek citizens want to remain part of the Eurozone. This is creating a major conflict, but that conflict is not between parties but between two conflicting goals of the voters: lessening the effects of austerity, and staying in the EZ.

If the polls are correct, and there is no way to prove they are or aren't, New Democracy would come out on top and be forced to partner with PASOK, its arch rival. Together, the two parties would still not reach a majority and would need one or more partners willing to cross over and support the bailout packages.

Up until recently that party was LAOS, the right-wing party mentioned above. But LAOS, under the leadership of George Karatzaferis, has come out against the bailout package. But this move was very convenient. LAOS only has 16 members in Parliament, so their opposition to the bailout did nothing to stop the package from winning approval in Parliament. The move was totally political, an attempt to gain in strength.

But the real opposition appears to come from the left, the side of the political spectrum seen as opposing the former military junta. But without PASOK the left can not win a majority in the election, can it?

This is where my own ignorance of Greek politics comes into play. As an outsider I don't understand how the desire to lessen the influence of the EZ and moderate austerity can be reconciled with the desire to remain an integral part of Europe. My guess is that many Greeks will hold their noses and vote for one of the two major parties rather than take the giant leap of faith that a return to the drachma would require.

As for whether leaving the euro is the right thing remains tough question. Few see how Greece can undergo a devaluation without having its own currency, yet the attraction of being an integral part of the Eurozone is strong. Further, withdrawing from the euro may mean withdrawing from the EU.

So what the hell does any of this have to do with New Media, and why the obsession with Greece here at TNM? Well, I admit I'm a news junkie, after all, my background was newspapers long before it switched over to magazines.

But the fact is that events in Greece could have an incredible influence on what happens elsewhere in Europe. This site has readers in Portugal and Spain, for instance – two countries that are having their own economic issues and wonder whether they will be part of any Eurozone in the future, or even if there will be a Eurozone in the future. For them, the Eurozone debt crisis is forcing much of Europe into recession and is causing tremendous pain in the media industry. That, in turn, is holding back investments in digital publishing.

Further, others I talk to tell me that the slowing down of the economy in Europe, partially brought on my the debt crisis, is starting to directly effect the digital publishing business. Companies that have managed to eke out growth through their ability to attract business and partners in Europe now find it is becoming more difficult to get those companies to spend money on new ventures.

The situation in Greece has been one of the most interesting stories of our time – and by a strange twist in fate, it appears that I will be in Greece later this summer. What had once appeared to only be a vacation may turn into an opportunity to talk to journalists covering the events first hand (if events warrant).

Update (9 EST): Panos Kammenos, an MP that was expelled from New Democracy in November when he did not vote for the new coalition government, has announced that he will form a new political party.

The Athens News is reporting that the new party will be called Independent Greeks (Ανεξάρτητοι Έλληνες).

"Our movement is born. The Virgin Mary is our helper and protector. We are many. We are independent. We are Greeks," Kammenos was quoted as declaring – though I seriously hope something was lost in translation.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

comScore report highlights the digital ad dominance of Facebook; mobile sees explosive growth across the board

The new reports issued today by comScore should be required reading for any digital publisher or advertising executive. The digital marketing research company has issued reports that contain a ton of good data, as well as a few as some insights that will make you shake your head.

While many writers will dwell on the Apple versus Google market share information (yes, there are more Android phones out there, duh), I was intrigued by this chart, see at right. It shows something that has been true every since digital advertising first became an industry: the top sites dominate.

Now I could be argued that Facebook is a special case, but the numbers are astounding.

I've heard from some ad agency folk that the concentration of digital ad dollars into a limited number of properties was a result of the digital ad business being new, and that with time we'd see the same sort of diversification that occurs with print and broadcast. I'm not so sure I buy that anymore. (It is true that the top sites do incorporate multiple sites, if not brands.)

The next chart, seen at right, almost got me excited.

As a former classified ad guy, seeing any increase in the category gets one excited. But all the categories in mobile are growing at a brisk pace, and the growth in any one category does not mean that the once dominate print players in that category are seeing any real growth. No, in fact, much of that growth is coming at the expense of the traditional players.

Classified and mobile are a marriage made in heaven, why the newspaper industry has not seen it that was remains a mystery.

You can download the whitepaper, 2012 Mobile Future in Focus (direct link), on the comScore website.

Digital newsstand Zinio rolls out a suite of design and interaction tools for publishers – Zinio Fusion

San Francisco based Zinio, the largest digital newsstand company, today announced that they would be rolling out a new suite of design tools for publishers and advertisers. Zinio Fusion will offer three tools for enhancing design and interaction of their customer's digital magazines.

Below is a portion of Zinio's announcement, followed by a conversation with Jeanniey Mullen, Zinio's chief marketing officer, on what the company's new suite of tools will do for Zinio customers.

ZINIO FUSION™ suite offers publishers and advertisers three different approaches and products for enhancing design and interaction of any digital publication:

  1. FUSION Web: Introduces an online do-it-yourself web tool that enables embedding of rich media, including audio and video, across any Zinio platform
  2. FUSION Design: Offers a simple build-out for interactive and multi-layered pages, leveraging an Adobe InDesign software plug-in tool
  3. FUSION Link: Completes the offering by enabling seamless integration and content transcoding for external third-party authoring tools such as Woodwing’s Digital Publishing Solution

"In general, with our Fusion suite, we were looking to create a comprehensive suite of tools and services that would allow a publisher or an advertising of any size, scale, or budget, to be able to innovate with interactivity based on what they felt most comfortable with, what their goals were in the business, and the types of budgetary constraints that they had as to it relates to their design team," Jeanniey Mullen, Zinio's chief marketing officer, told TNM this morning.

"On the most basic level, we wanted to put something out in the market that enabled publishers that had PDF versions of their magazines but had other amazing content assets, whether it was audio or video or photo slideshows or even reviews, to simply enhance what they are doing in a drag-and-drop methodology," Mullen said.

Zinio has been offering its digital newsstand customers digital publishing tools to enhance their digital magazines for while and this new suite of tools, being offered free by Zinio, is an extension of that service Zinio customers have received. "We've been offering that base level of Fusion tool for a while now and we've had a lot of people who've been quite happy with it," Mullen said.

"Some publishers are using it almost as a stepping stone to validate with their audience that they really do want interactivity and that they will spend the time with it, and to test out from an operational standpoint what it means to get into interactive content integrating into magazines. Others have decided to use it because they felt their magazine content didn't really need tons of bells and whistles, they just wanted to add a little enhancement here and there."

No coincidence: Gannett announces stock buyback program on same day it announces local paywalls

Gannett's new CEO Gracia Martore is clearly no dummy. The media giant's chief executive yesterday outlined the company's new paywall strategy and at the same time announced a 1.3 billion stock buyback program.

Not surprisingly investors cheered and Gannett's stock rose in trading.

Martore made the dual announcements at an “investor day” conference in New York. Martore rolled out plans to put its local newspapers behind paywalls, and effort Martore says will generate $100 million for the company.

“News in printed form is in secular decline,” the NYT reported Martore as saying. “However, news delivered the way consumers want it is growing and thriving.”

“While Gannett isn’t particularly well known as a ‘digital powerhouse,’ I’m here to tell you we generate over $1 billion in digital revenues and have double-digit growth and double-digit margins,” Martore pronounced.
I have been pretty clear about my own views on paywalls – I'm not totally against them, but I see only two scenarios where they can succeed.

The first is where the reader feels they have a financial interest in receiving the news behind the paywall. Financial newspapers such as the WSJ or FT fits this description. Also, certain B2B websites would fit this model, as well. McGraw-Hill's construction news websites, if they offered bid news, would be a "must buy" for contractors wishing to bid on new projects, for example. Some B2B websites might also fit this model, though to be honest, far too many B2B websites are where press releases simply go to die.

The second scenario is where the news is clearly superior to that offered on free websites. The NYT might fit this description, as would local news sites that offer vastly superior coverage of local news. One could argue that this second scenario is simply extension of the first in that the reader again feels that the value of the information demands the investment in spanning the paywall.

Based on these two scenarios Gannett would have to argue that its local news is of such value that readers will be happy to pay to access the news found on the other side of the paywall. Based on Gannett's editorial cutbacks over the years it would be hard to argue that Gannett is committed to putting out a quality editorial product and that their readers see their local papers as head and shoulders ahead of any local web based news products.

In other words, putting Gannett's papers behind paywalls is good news for Patch and other local news sites.

But investors loved the news, no? Well, some media outlets saw it that way. The editor who wrote the headline for Variety clearly did, though it should be said that Jill Goldsmith's article clearly mentions the stock buyback announcement right in the lede.

It was a smart move on Gannett's part to pair these two announcements. Otherwise the news would have simply been that Gannett was building paywalls and, well, what really are the chances that this strategy is going to work? If they really thought that why isn't USA Today, the company's flagship, also going behind a paywall? (Because it is the one news site with decent traffic numbers and the company doesn't want to risk losing its digital ad dollars.)

Shanghai court sides with Apple over iPad trademark dispute with Chinese company; White House to promote an online consumer privacy 'bill of rights'

The Shanghai Pudong New Area People's Court (yep, that's its real name) today issued a ruling denying a Chinese company's attempt to stop Apple iPad sales in an ongoing trademark dispute with the consumer electronics giant. Proview Technology says it owns the trademark on the iPad name, while Apple has said that it bought that same trademark in 2009.

Apple argued yesterday in court that Proview is now simply a shell company. "Proview has no product, no markets, no customers and no suppliers. It has nothing," Apple's Chinese lawyer said yesterday according to Reuters.

"Apple has huge sales in China. Its fans line up to buy Apple products. The ban, if executed, would not only hurt Apple sales but it would also hurt China's national interest."

The Shanghai court apparently agreed though the battle over the trademark will continue as Proview attempts to wrestle money from Apple over the use of the name iPad.

The White House yesterday unveiled a consumer online privacy "bill of rights". The document, which can be found in PDF form on the White House website, attempts to provide the Congress with a blueprint for future legislation.

"Strengthening consumer data privacy protections and promoting innovation require privacy protections that are comprehensive, actionable, and flexible," the proposed Privacy Bill of Rights says.
The Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights advances these objectives by holding that consumers have a right to:
  • Individual Control
  • Transparency
  • Respect for Context
  • Security
  • Access and Accuracy
  • Focused Collection
  • Accountability
You can find the individual sections of the "bill of rights" detailed after the break:

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Ouch! HP reports revenue and profit declines

The new CEO of Hewlett-Packard, Meg Whitman, got the honor of delivering the bad news today in an earnings conference call: revenue and profits were down sharply. Net revenue for HP's Q1, which ended January 2012, was $30.0 billion, down 7% from the prior-year period, while net earnings were $1.5 billion, down 44 percent from the prior year.

"We are taking the necessary steps to improve execution, increase effectiveness and capitalize on emerging opportunities to reassert HP's technology leadership," said Meg Whitman, HP president and chief executive officer in the company's earnings announcement.

HP's computer group reported steep declines in sales, down 15 percent overall, with both desktop and laptop units reporting declining sales – 18 percent and 19 percent respectively. The Imaging and Printing Group also saw sales decline with revenue down 7 percent with consumer printers units sold down 15 percent in the quarter.

HP's earning press release with more details can be found here.

Retweet: Starting an online store is not easy (in Greece), the English language website of the popular Greek newspaper posted an article by Alexandra kassimi on the challenges of starting an online business in Greece.

Starting an online store is no easy business is a good place to start when attempting to understand some of the challenges facing the nation.

"It took 10 months, a fat bundle of paperwork, countless certificates, long hours of haggling with bureaucrats and overcoming myriad other inconceivable obstacles for one group of young entrepreneurs to open an online store," Kassimi begins her piece.

The journalist looked at the travails of several online entrepreneurs, including Fotis Antonopoulos, one of the co-founders of

“An online store is more complicated than a regular store basically because of the way payments are carried out,” Antonopoulos said.

Kassimi chronicled the steps the founders of the online retail store had to take to launch their online retail business.
Antonopoulos and his partners spent hours collecting papers from tax offices, the Athens Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the municipal service where the company is based, the health inspector’s office, the fire department and banks. At the health department, they were told that all the shareholders of the company would have to provide chest X-rays, and, in the most surreal demand of all, stool samples.

Once they climbed the crazy mountain of Greek bureaucracy and reached the summit, they faced the quagmire of the bank, where the issue of how to confirm the credit card details of customers ended in the bank demanding that the entire website be in Greek only, including the names of the products.
In the end the new site chose to work through PayPal and foreign banks, finding then easier to work with.

Of particular interest to me was Antonopoulos's experience with U.S. agencies such as the Food and Drug Adminstration (FDA).

"I contacted the FDA and they sent us an e-mail with directions immediately," Antonopoulos told Kassimi. "I filled in an online form and was done in five minutes. We received the approval 24 hours after making our application.”

Like elsewhere, Greece is seeing huge growth in online retail sales. The U.S., for instance, saw online retails jump 13 percent last year to a record $161.5 billion, according to comScore. In Greece, Kassimi reported, sales rose 30 percent in 201, though total sales are still very small compared to the U.S. – 1.7 billion euros, or a little over $2.2 billion. is website for the Kathimerini English Edition, which is distributed with the International Herald Tribune (IHT), now a property of The New York Times Company. The IHT has its own tablet edition, International Herald Tribune for iPad, which is modeled very much on the NYT app.

Kathimerini also has a tablet edition thanks to NewspaperDirect. The ePaper edition, Η ΚΑΘΗΜΕΡΙΝΗ ePaper, can be found in the Greek App Store (it is not in the U.S. App Store) and is a replica of the print edition.

The publishers have so far not developed their own mobile or tablet editions at this point, something that I have found to be typical of the Greek media today.

It might be fair to say that economic conditions in Greece are severely restricting investment in digital media efforts.

Dennis Publishing's The Week US iPad edition climbs to the top of the charts in Apple's App Store

Back in December Dennis Publishing released its first iPad app in support of The Week. TNM praised that app, The Week UK, for its simple design and approach to introducing a tablet edition into the App Store.

Two weeks ago, a new app for the U.S. market hit the App Store, The Week Magazine US. The app takes the same winning approach by offering free issues inside its library in order to entice readers to eventually subscribe.
The issues in the US version of the app are free thanks to a single sponsor approach; in this case the sponsor is Rolex. Since all the issues are free, the issue of price really isn't important, at least for now. But the only price listed is $4.99 for single issues, no subscription price is listed. I assume that after April 30, when the free trial period ends, a subscription price within the app might be introduced.

The Week UK is still available inside the App Store, as well. That app has just switched over the paid model and individual issues can be bought for $3.99. When the UK app was originally released, and the issues were available for free, the price for individual issues was listed as $2.99 – so you see that the publisher may change their prices when the free trial period comes to an end.

The subscription price inside the UK app is $28.99 for three months (£19.99 in the UK App Store). This doesn't represent much, if any, discount over the print price. It will be interesting to see if the digital edition is eventually discounted or whether the publisher feels they can maintain this price level.

But the tablet edition is definitely the way to go if you are an iPad owner. The layouts are simple, but effective, and the navigation is excellent.

Because the app was only released on the 9th, there are only a few reviews** to be found inside the App Store (all positive), but the UK app has been out since December (and was updated in January). Inside the UK App Store the reviews have been very positive. One reader did mention the lack of interactive content, but producing a weekly tablet edition doesn't leave much time to add in interactivity. But over time, as the production team gets used to producing the digital issues I wouldn't be surprised to see the creatives stretch out, so to speak.


**Update: As I was writing this post, and switching back and forth between the US and UK App Stores, I noticed that a lot of new reviews had been posted by users. 100 five-star reviews are now to be found, and only a handful of negative ones – a great start for The Week US.

Twitter issues yet another update to its iOS apps

Users have been complaining about the official Twitter apps since the demise of Tweetie and the new app updates issued yesterday don't seem to quite end the complaints.

The new updates brings Twitter's official iOS apps up to version 4.1. The app description shows only changes to the iPhone app, which, again, will not make iPad owners very happy as the tablet app has never been seen to be as good as the mobile app.

Here are the listed change to the iPhone app:
  • Swipe shortcut
  • Copy and paste for tweets and profiles
  • Press and hold actions on links in tweet details
  • Font size settings
  • Direct Message improvements
  • Confirmation alert for Find Friends
  • Improved startup time and general performance improvement
  • Improved image quality in tweet detail
  • Accessibility improvements
  • Profile shows whether a user follows you
  • Verified badges in people search results
  • New language: Turkish
  • Lots of other polish and bug fixes
App Store customers are a tough crowd to please, as many developers will attest, and not surprisingly, the early reviews for the new updates apps are mixed at best. The very first review probably sums it up best: "Still really bad, still sad to see Tweetie gone."

Twitter is said to be also issuing a version for the NOOK this week, and an Android version is also available for Kindle Fire owners, as well. The apps, of course, remain free of charge to download and use.

Update: Opps, forgot to add that I have not updated my own Twitter apps because of the complaints of users, so I am using a screenshot from the app description. NOT updating an app can prove hard since I update my apps through iTunes on my desktop rather than directly through my iOS device. Both the Twitter and Facebook apps remain not updated to this day.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Rumor of imminent launch of Office for iPad is denied by Microsoft; going without Office is the new norm

Some of the rumor sites over the past 24 hours have been reporting that Microsoft would be releasing a version of Office for the iPad. The Daily, Murdoch's tablet-only newspaper went so far as to say that the release of Office was "imminent".

The rumor came only a few days after I was thinking about the issue of Microsoft and Office. To me, it appeared that the old gang at Microsoft had taken control again and were pushing the idea that they could keep Office exclusive to Windows run tablets, thus differentiating their own OS from Apple. It is, and remains, a very bad idea as Microsoft is essentially training people to live without Office.

The rumor that Office would be launched soon for the iPad was, therefore, a blow to my idea that Microsoft was retreating back into its self-destructive way of thinking. But with the denial by Microsoft that a version of Office will soon launch, well, it appears Microsoft hasn't changed.**

For years, like many, I was a slave to parts of the Microsoft software empire. Word, Outlook, Excel, PowerPoint, you couldn't live without these products, could you?

As a Mac user I knew that there were alternatives, especially the alternatives from Apple, but these simply didn't do the trick.

Amazingly, though, even though it was obvious that Apple was going to continue to refine its own version of Office, iWork, somewhere in the past few years I moved to a place where I suddenly no longer need a Microsoft product (or at least a major one). Word has always been horrible, and Microsoft seems genuinely proud of how bad Word is. For something that has been around for so many years you would think that Microsoft would have improved its layout abilities, but no.

Excel and PowerPoint remain industry leaders, though I know many who swear by Keynote now.

The one indispensable software was always Outlook, but when Lion forced me to choose between Mail and buying a new copy of Office I went with Mail and haven't looked back. Outlook was the last piece of Microsoft on my desktop computer. If it is not there I certainly won't miss it on my iPad.

** By the way, I wouldn't be all that surprised if a version of Office does, in fact, arrive for the iPad. It would show that someone in Seattle has there head screwed on straight. Would I buy it? No, simply because I no longer use any of the programs on my desktop.

OC Register updates 'The Peel', issues & subscription remain free 'for limited time'; Mag+ updates Reviewer app

The Orange County Register has updated its iPad edition, now called 'The Peel', and moved it into Newsstand.
The app, OCRegister The Peel, remains one of the better tablet editions being produced by a daily newspaper. It retains its afternoon edition philosophy. So users accessing the app in the morning will be disappointed to see that the previous day's edition is the latest available. But the strategy makes sense when one looks at reader studies, and since readers can always access the website during the day, it is not as if the OC Register is not without a presence prior to the latest edition hitting reader's iPads.

The app allows readers to subscribe and access the individual issues for free – according to the app description, though, for a limited time. So the subscription I signed up for is without any sort of defined time, I suppose.

One thing I noticed with the app is that once you have subscribed the latest issue downloads automatically. But I had previously downloaded that same issue. This is a bug that should be fixed in the future, I hope.

The latest issue is 55.6MB in size with the issues working in both portrait and landscape.

The first TNM post on this app appeared in April of last year and featured an interview with Claus Enevoldsen, then Freedom Communications’s Director of Interactive of Marketing. Enevoldsen is currently Senior Marketing Manager at Next Issue Media.

Left: Look, traffic's not bad in Orange County... at 6 in the morning; Right: the app features native design for story layouts.

Mag+ has updated its Mag+ Reviewer app today.

The newly updated app features, according to the app description, the following changes:
  • Pop-up support.
  • Ad Marvel integration.
  • Links inside embedded HTML elements can now open in a separate browser window.
  • Contents button disappears if no custom designed Table of Contents is present.
  • Minor bugfixes.

The art of the deal: Eurozone ministers approve new bailout funds as negotiations stretch into early morning

For some journalists it was a terribly long, long night, as they waited word from Eurozone ministers about whether they would approve a new bailout for Greece. Like waiting for the Sacred College of Cardinals to decide on a new pope, the journalists gathered to see if the EZ ministers and Greek representatives could agree on new terms.

At 11pm the bar stopped serving beer and a flood of tweets appeared in disgust.

But by early this morning the ministers could announce that a new deal had been struck.

“We have reached a far-reaching agreement on Greece’s new program and private-sector involvement,” Jean-Claude Juncker, the prime minister of Luxembourg, and head of the EZ group announced. The $172 billion deal will require private investors to take a bigger "haircut" than previously agreed to, and requires a major leap of faith when it comes to Greek economic growth.

Only the NYT's Stephen Castle seemed willing to give the deal much of a chance. "The agreement could be a new turning point in the European debt crisis, which has raised questions about the viability of the euro itself," he wrote last night (or this morning, if you will). Maybe there is enough vagueness in that sentence to please the NYT, should the deal prove not enough.

In fact, few commentators have been willing to take that leap of faith. Felix Salmon of Reuters was first to post his doubts. The biggest problem he sees is that once again the players somehow believe that continued austerity will suddenly lead to growth.

"The effect of all this fiscal tightening? Magic growth!" Salmon wrote. "A huge amount of heavy lifting, in terms of making the numbers work, is done by the debt sustainability analysis, and specifically the assumptions it makes. Greece is five years into a gruesome recession with the worst effects of austerity yet to hit. But somehow the Eurozone expects that Greece will bounce back to zero real GDP growth in 2013, and positive real GDP growth from 2014 onwards."

It should be remembered that the Greek economy contracted by over 7 percent this past quarter as austerity measures were implemented. The new deal calls for new pain so why should the results be any different? Maybe the Confidence Fairy will finally appear.

Despite the doubts that the new deal will actually lead to Greece turning around its economy while remaining in the Eurozone, it was not in any way a surprise that the ministers should reach a deal.

Anyone who has been involved in M&A will tell you that once all the players are assembled the deal is usually concluded. The EZ ministers all were there, as was the unelected prime minister of Greece and the finance minister, who has visions of being one PASOK's new leader. Each came to the table to reach a deal, even if there was some room to negotiate the exact details.

When a media company buys a property the deal is first presented to the executives who decide whether to take the deal. Once it is passed on to the players, usually the financial team and the lawyers, the deal is bound to get done. I never had a deal fall through that reached the lawyer stage. In fact, from that point it was a piece of cake.

Last night each of the players wanted a deal: the EZ ministers all have a vested interest in the continuation of the Euro, while the Greek representatives had nothing to gain from withdrawing from the Euro. Certainly the Greek finance minister, Evangelos Venizelos, did not want to return to Athens empty handed.**

And so the new round of layoffs will, according to reports, begin in June. But before that date we are still supposed to have elections. A poll, released yesterday, shows that New Democracy, the center-right party that much of the mainstream media believe will take the reigns of government, is polling at 20 percent. PASOK, the party that has been in power since 2009, is at just over 13 percent. That leaves the vast majority of the electorate looking elsewhere – and that has to scare EZ ministers. But canceling the election would surely be the equivalent of staging a coup, and the Greeks have long memories.

Greece remains caught between the desire to remain part of the Eurozone, to feel and believe strongly that they are part of Europe, and the need to have a currency that can be devalued so that a real recovery can take place. The two goals can not be reconciled, choices will need to be made. But when the decisions are being made by players with an interest in the outcome, the results are preordained. The players were gathered, all that was necessary was hashing out the final details. And on we go, this story is far from over.

** The same dynamic applies to labor negotiations, I believe. If a union negotiators is sitting across the table from someone who was hired to break the union you know there will be no deal until the man is replaced with someone who was hired to reach a deal. After that it is only a matter of time.

I was hoping the NYT's Paul Krugman would weigh in on Greece, if only to get him off his obession with the anti-Keynesians. Not surprisingly, Krugman finds himself agreeing with Felix Salmon's point-of-view.

"Now we have another round of austerity — which is assumed not to do too much damage to growth. The triumph of hope over experience," Krugman writes on his NYT blog.

"What’s happening is that nobody is prepared to take the plunge into either of the paths that might eventually lead out of this: sustained aid (not loans) to Greece, or departure from the euro, leading eventually to higher competitiveness and faster growth. Both options would be politically catastrophic, which means that they can’t be taken until there is literally no alternative," Krugman writes.

"So Greece will be strung along some more."

Monday, February 20, 2012

Developers continue to take advantage of newspaper publishers and their lack of imagination concerning digital

David Earnest's app, Newspapers for iPad, has been out for quite a while now, but it is still appearing occasionally in the top ten paid apps. At 99 cents, it is not much of a burden on buyers, but with 947 five-star ratings, and only 28 one-star ratings, it remains one of the most popular news apps for the iPad.
PhotobucketThe idea behind the app is incredibly simple: the app gathers up in one place web links to newspapers from around the world. As of this morning there are 5,380 different newspaper links available.

As for the app itself, it does very little. Really.

Clicking on a newspaper link one is taken to the newspaper's website. The website is neither reformatted, nor translated (if it is a news site that it is not in English).

But the app reinforces several assumptions: one, that iPad owners want access to the news on their tablets; and two, that they want that news in a format that is easy to read.

Many younger news executives are not able to remember the early websites that tried to replicate print. The first NYT website tried awfully hard to look like the print edition until the web team finally learned their lesson.

Because the developer's app does so little one could complain that they are ripping off their customers. But at 99 cents, they have priced their service at a level that is appropriate for what is being delivered. Few complain at spending 99 cents when they know they do not have the time to gather up over five thousand links.

I decided that a good newspaper to look at would be the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. The paper's website is not bad, as you can see above. Consequently, its representation inside this iPad app is the same. But the paper also has its own iPad, built by Technavia – one of those awful replica editions that tries to cram the full size newspaper into the iPad's 7 3/4 inch long screen.
Like the newspaper aggregation app, the Journal Sentinel's app does not support Newsstand – I would assume that Newspapers for iPad would not be allowed inside Newsstand since it is an aggregation app and the developer does not own the rights to the content. Further, since the Journal Sentinel app requires that you are already a subscriber, readers can not casually access the app and buy a copy of the newspaper.

It is, in essence, a very, very poor idea of what an iPad app should be.

I continue to believe that a built-in translation service would be an iPad killing application. If my Kindle Fire, for instance, had a browser with built-in translation like the Chrome browser, I would be happy to put my iPad down more often. With hundreds of foreign language newspapers available in Newspapers for iPad, this is one area where Apple is vulnerable.

Price of the next bailout for Greece may be democracy itself; EZ ministers meet to approve new agreement

To day is President's Day in the U.S., meaning that the work week will begin with very little news coming out of the America. But in Europe, all eyes are on a meeting in Brussels between Eurozone ministers today.

The meeting is set to approve the latest bailout package for Greece – a 130€ billion package that may include a requirement that Greece make the ultimate sacrifice, a cancelation of their upcoming April election.

“The Greek people send to Europe the message that they have made, and will make, the necessary sacrifices for our country to regain its position of equality within the European family,” Greece's Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos said, according to the New York Times.

But rumors have been rampant all weekend that some in Europe want Greek elections to be cancelled, fearing that the April election would become a referendum on the bailout agreement.

In fact, two seemingly contradictory rumors have been circulating: one states that the finance ministers really wouldn't mind Greece leaving the Euro, the other that elections might force Greece to leave the Euro. But really the issue at hand is not so much about if Greece leaves, but how.

A Greece that exits the Eurozone through progressively more severe austerity would be slow, and could be controlled in a way that would protect the interests of the finance community and other EZ nations. A more abrupt exit would mean that EZ interests would no longer be a consideration.

The head of the Euro group, Luxembourg's Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker, has been saying all the right things lately, claiming that no one wants Greece out of the Eurozone. This is necessary if Greece is to continue to play along. Without this kind of assurance, the Greeks on the street won't see any reason to agree to further austerity measures.

So what happens if the EZ ministers approve the latest bailout package? If the agreement comes with no new surprises then things may settle down for the next few weeks, assuming Greece is given time to implement the new austerity measures. If not, then one can count on further unrest on the streets of Athens. With unemployment already over 20 percent, the further layoffs demanded in the new agreement will only make matters worse. Does anyone really think the austerity measures will be carried out prior to the national election?

But if the price of the new agreement is a cancelation of the April election then many will see this simply as a coup, and all bets are off.