Friday, March 9, 2012

Notice to readers: new category for tablet editions

Starting today, TNM has added a new category for stories about tablet editions. Previous, a story about a new magazine iPad app would use the categories "Magazines" and "Tablet/Readers". But starting today TNM will use the new category "Tablet Editions". That will leave "Tablet/Readers" to only be used when discussing hardware, such as the launch of Apple's new iPad.

It will take quite a long time to clean up the database, however, as the "Tablet/Reader" category was approaching 1,000 posts.

As TNM is entering its third year of publishing, several categories are no long used. They include "Photoblogging Friday", which was fun to write, and regularly was written by a guess writer, but did not seem to be of much interest to readers. Several other categories are rarely used, though remain in case they are the most appropriate way to categorize a post.

Retweet: LinkedIn study tracks industry segment growth or decline; data spans 2007 to 2011

If you haven't read this LinkedIn blog post, and you're in the media business, you've got to head on over to read the whole thing.

Scott Nicholson wrote this post that looks at which industrie are expanding (Renewables & Environment, Internet, Online Publishing) and which are most definitely not (Newspapers, Restaurants). The report was compiled in partnership with the Council of Economic Advisors.

There is also a related post at The Economist (dated March 10) that looks at job titles.

The best part of the LinkedIn post, however, is the graphic (seen below) which can't make those few remaining print advocates very happy.

But one word of caution: the data is from 2007 to 2011. Since we have been in a prolonged economic slowdown one can't see whether a trend is strictly caused by a declining economy, or is truly indicative of a growth industry – a bit of interpretation will be necessary.

In any case, great work by LinkedIn. Again, you can read the entire post here.
Photobucket

The New Republic gets a new majority shareholder in Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes

For the past decade The New Republic has seen its share of controversies – from support for the Iraq War to its over-the-top support of Israel – now the magazine which was founded in 1914 has a new publisher and editor-in-chief in Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes.


The 28 year-old Hughes is hardly qualified to hold those titles except for the fact that he is filthy rich. But those titles are not exactly working titles so much as what the person who is is bringing in the money is called at the magazine. Hughes won't be editing stories, I would guess, so much as setting the direction for the magazine. Because of this, staffers appear to be genuinely excited by the prospects.

"In the next era of The New Republic," Hughes wrote last night on the magazine's website, "we will aggressively adapt to the newest information technologies without sacrificing our commitment to serious journalism. We will look to tell the most important stories in politics and the arts and provide the type of rigorous analysis that The New Republic has been known for. We will ask pressing questions of our leaders, share groundbreaking new ideas, and shed new light on the state of politics and culture."

"The New Republic has been and will remain a journal of progressive values, but it will above all aim to appeal to independent thinkers on the left and the right who search for fresh ideas and a deeper understanding of the challenges our world faces," Hughes concluded.

According to the New York Times report on the Hughes investment in TNR, Hughes is a big believer in the future of tablet editions, telling the NYT that “five to 10 years from now, if not sooner, the vast majority of The New Republic readers are likely to be reading it on a tablet.”

The introduction of Hughes means that this is the end of the Martin Peretz era at the usually liberal magazine. Although the magazine has long been seen as a player in progressive politics, the magazine's stance on the Iraq War, and its support for hard-right Israeli politics, alienated many readers. As a result, TNR's circulation is only around 50,000, about a third the size of The Nation.

In fact, while The Nation was able to boost its circulation by being a foil to the White House under George Bush, TNR was often seen as supportive of important Bush administration policies, and therefore not an alternative voice. As a result, The Nation's circulation rose to 187,000 in 2006 at the height of anti-war sentiment.

TNR, on the other hand, which had a circulation of 101,651 at the end of the Clinton administration, has seen its readership drop 47 percent during the last decade.

It will be interesting to see if the magazine's tablet strategy does, indeed, change.

Currently, print subscribers are forced to pay again in order to access issues using the iPad app. As a result, reviews inside the App Store are at the two extremes: five-star reviews come from readers happy to toss their print editions away and only read the tablet version, while one-star reviews lament the requirement that as print subscribers they are forced to pay again.

Short takes: Google pressures its developers to use Google Wallet; NYT issues update to streamline its mobile app; Greece reaches deal with banks over debt swap

Google is reportedly pressuring developers to begin using its own payment service, Google Wallet, rather than third party payment services such as PayPal. Apps that do not comply risk being through out of their app store, now called the Google Play store.

"They told people that if they used other payment services they would be breaking the terms of use," Si Shen, founder and chief executive of Papaya, told Reuters. "Whether it's right or wrong, we have to follow the rules."

Although Reuters got a big "no comment" from Google, The Verge was able to speak to someone at Google who claimed that this does not represent a change in policy, but merely enforcing the existing one. There was, however, no direct quote from Google used in their story.


Photobucket
The New York Times issued an app update to its iPhone app last night.

The app update appears minor as the app description simply states that the update reduces the amount of space the app will use on your device.

The fix may be necessitated by the increased content the newspaper has been adding to the app since it went to a paid model a year ago.

The price for the website and iPhone combination subscription remains at $14.99 per month, while the All Digital Access rate is at $34.99 per month.



Despite claims that Greece's efforts to get their private-sector creditors to agree to a debt swap was progressing, many financial commentators continued to use Greece as their whipping boy every time the market was lower. "Fears of a Greek default" is the newest meme for the age old truism that markets sometimes go up, and sometimes go down.

Today, the Greek government announced that they have a go-ahead that represents 85.8 percent of the 177bn euros worth of bonds.

"On behalf of Greece, I wish to express my appreciation to all the creditors that have supported our ambitious programme for reforms and adjustments and who have shared in the sacrifices of the Greek people in this historic effort," Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos said this morning in Athens.

Creditors are being asked to swap their existing bonds for newly issued one. Agreeing to the swap means that that creditor will lose 74 percent of the value of that bond. The risk, of course, is that if a debt swap were not to occur, the Greek government might default entirely, making those bonds completely worthless.

Debtors have until March 23 to agree to the swap, but now that so high a percentage of debtors have agreed it is assume the vast majority of debt holders will now come on board.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

The new Apple TV interface: is it a horrible design mistake, or a big hint at major moves to come?

Someone accused me of being an Apple "fanboy" yesterday because I wrote about the launch of the new iPad. Well, so be it. I'd have considered it a far bigger over sight had nothing been written.

But in addition to the launch of the new iPad, Apple launched a new version of the Apple TV. I've long considered the Apple TV as maybe the best $99 tech product out there – that is, if you own an iPhone or iPad. If not, then I can see that it may not be worth the price.

But for $99 you now have a great excuse not to watch American Idol but to instead stream your own photos and videos to your HDTV. With another iOS device, an Apple TV can become just like those old slide projectors: the perfect device to bore your guests and make them decide to never return. "Look, there is Betty Sue sliding down the slide at the water park. Isn't that cute?"


Our Apple TV is used about as much as the Comcast cable box, and probably enjoyed even more.

But yesterday Apple issued a software update for the device that brings in a whole new look. Now, instead of a series of main categories – movies, TV, music, Internet, computer, settings – one gets a bunch of app icons.

But what looks fine on an iPhone, and passable on an iPad, looks terrible on the big screen TV.

Apple should have know how it would look when it bragged yesterday that the new iPad will have a higher resolution display than your HDTV.

When I first saw the new UI I thought, oh well, something new. But now, 24 hours later, I have feel that there are three possible reasons for the new look.

The first is that Apple is losing it. John Gruber loves to link to posts that say "Apple is doomed" or "this new iPad won't sell." Maybe he'll link to here if I say "my God, did all their design people leave for ..."

But I can think of two other reasons why they've moved to this new UI.

The first is that, since it in many ways mirrors the look of apps on an iPad, this is the first move of the Apple TV to a touch interface. If one employs a remote that mirrors what you see on the TV you would want to tap the icon, just as you would on an iPad or iPhone. For now, though, the remote app on your iPhone does not mirror what you see on the TV screen. Will this change?

The second possible explanation is that by using app icons this is setting the stage for third party apps. Users have been expecting this and have been disappointed that Apple hasn't rushed into this area. But Apple doesn't rush into things unless forced to. The company just last year launched the Mac App Store – one new app store a year doesn't seem like a bad philosophy. But is this year the year that the Apple TV gets its own App Store?

Probably not, but media folk who didn't give the introduction of apps on the iPhone much thought shouldn't be caught again – the Apple TV holds promise for media app if it is ever opened up to third party apps.

(Technically there are already third party apps on the Apple TV, but these are carefully selected, highly negotiated transactions, not the total anarchy of the iTunes App Store.)

So I return to option number one – its an ugly mistake. Maybe.

(By the way, I absolutely hate headlines that have a question mark in them. I'm slapping my wrist as you read this.)

Entrepreneur Media launches a new tablet app, updates its mobile app, that support the magazine's website

I once worked for a magazine company where the owner seemed to be obsessed with outsourcing. Whether it was website design and hosting or eventually ad sales, everything was subject to outsourcing. Eventually all the ad revenue was outsourced to the competition, of course.

Some publishers continue to feel that digital publishing is outside their main area of focus.
Photobucket
Whether Entrepreneur Media feels that way about their digital publishing is not known to me. But their previous tablet and mobile apps, replica editions from Texterity, did not make a good impression.

Now the company has released a new tablet app and updated their mobile app – both get their content from the web operations. Entrepreneur Daily is for the iPhone, and Entrepreneur Daily for the iPad is for, well, you get it.

Neither app is really necessary since the magazine's website looks just fine on the iPad's Safari browser. If the website was Flash-driven, or had a Flash-driven element that was just too important to lose, one could understand launching an app that could overcome this (remember, the iPad and iPhone don't support Flash), but this isn't the case.
Photobucket
Initially, to see how the website compare to the app, I clicked on the link in the app description – Entrepreneur Daily for iPad Support, and you can see at right what I saw. Lovely, isn't it.

The app was created by FreeRange 360, whose motto is "Serious Mobile Publishing". Better to say nothing else, I suppose.

When I try to think of why apps such as these are released I am reminded of the early days of web publishing. During the nineties I was involved with B2B media and many clients during the middle nineties were not very interested in the web. But some clients, starting around 1997, would ask out plans concerning the web. Luckily, we could talk a good game and could promise big things, eventually.

I'm sure the same sorts of conversations are going on now at magazines without mobile apps or tablet editions. An advertiser, or an interactive agency might check iTunes before the sales call and then ask their magazine rep "so, what are you guys doing in digital? I don't see any apps for you guys." Then the rep returns to the office and asks their manager "so, when are we going to launch an iPhone (or iPad or Android or Kindle) app?" That gets kicked upstairs and someone ends doing something about it. Problem solved. Or not.

Cosmopolitan's 100K in perspective: give 'em credit, they did it with one arm tied around their backs

AdAge's Rupal Parekh yesterday posted an article that proclaimed that Hearst Magazine's Cosmopolitan had reached the 100,000 mark in "paid digital subscriptions".

The Hearst Magazines title seems to have beaten other brands to the mark, reinforcing the idea that digital will be a big platform for Cosmopolitan. But it's also a good sign for magazines' digital ambitions in general.
Optimists will, of course, applaud the achievement, while cynics dismiss it. Both side's arguments have validity. The proponents of digital magazines, this site included, can point to Cosmo and claim that they are vindicated in their position that digital magazines, and tablet magazines, in particular, are the future. Cynics, this site included, can point to Cosmo as a bad example: with 1.5 million readers, reaching 100K equals less than ten percent, and besides, a magazine that puts "sex" and "abs" on the cover of every issue is at an unfair advantage, right? Try doing that for EndoNurse Magazine.
Photobucket
Cosmopolitan, as Parekh's article points out, has been on the Zinio platform since 2005, giving them a bit of a head start on other magazines. But Cosmo was not one of the first magazines to launch an iPad edition – it's first app did not appear until March of last year (11 months after the launch of the original iPad), though the app did migrate into Newsstand almost immediately.

But Hearst continues to risk negative App Store reviews by locking out its print subscribers, making them pay for a digital subscription, despite having already ponied up for print. This is one of the three approaches a publisher can take inside the App Store.
  • Make everyone pay: it cost you money to create that app, better charge for it
  • Make new subscribers pay, give away digital to your print subscriber
  • Give it away to every, hey, it's only money
The last option is, it should be noted, reserved for free publications, and those publications where the web team is controlling things (I suppose the Washington Post is a good example of this).

The second option – give digital away to print subscribers – is the one most publishers are using. It makes sense to many because distribution costs for digital do not escalate in the same way print does. Delivering 100K digital copies of your magazine is not significantly higher a cost than 50K (unless you are using a vendor that charges for delivery, in which case you should be asked "are you crazy?").

For veteran print publishers, rising circulation always puts additional pressure on the ad teams to justify the increase since both printing and distribution costs often rise much faster than subscription revenue. But with digital rising subscription revenue should more than make up for any additional costs encountered.

One of the first discussions found online among publishers was whether apps should be free or paid for – that argument was very quickly settled (give away the app, charge for the content). Only a few replica editions, created by third party vendors have the nerve to charge for the app, then again for additional content (often the first issue inside the app is free).

But by charging everyone for digital, including your print subscribers, Hearst is selling digital with one arm tied around its back. It is also risking alienating print subscribers (especially young ones).

But I also see this approach's advantages. For one thing, as financial matter, it forces the digital teams to perform. Having worked at Hearst myself, I imagine the NYC execs wagging their fingers at the digital guys demanding that they prove there is a future in tablets. After all, they're not exactly getting rich off the web, are they?

It also forces print subscribers to eventually make a choice. You are a reader that has invested in an iPad, or even a Kindle or NOOK, now you want something to read on it. While it may annoy you that you now have to pay yet again for content, you also know that the same thing also applies to television (which may explain why so many young viewers are eager to ditch their cable companies).
But pity the print circ pros who know their print levels will be sliding as many of their readers migrate to the tablet editions. I'm sure many are, or will be, arguing that the cost of maintaining print circulation is increasing where readers are forced to choose between print and digital.

"Make 'em pay!" sounds good to the ears of media executives that have had to deal with the consequences of free web access all these years – who wants to make the same mistake twice? But for some publishers, who are strong advocates of tablet editions, they want to see those numbers rise, and so giving away digital to print subscribers makes a lot of sense.

To the ad people, this second strategy is the way to go. The biggest single obstacle to tablet advertising – other than the agencies – is reach. Many publishers have had to go with a single sponsor approach to their initial tablet efforts, or else pull the ads, or give them away (not that!). A magazine that can present a decent looking circulation number has a chance.

On April 3 we will hit the two year anniversary of the launch of the first iPad, and while the digital subscription numbers may seem still small, one has to have a little perspective. While some media consultants were complete dismissive of the iPad at launch ("I simply don’t see a good use for the machine and don’t want to spend $500 on something I’m not going to use," one media consultant wrote on April 10, 2010), tablet sales have exploded. At this pace of sales we may be at the point where we will begin to hear of more publishers reaching the 100K milestone.



A little more perspective: the first television sets were produced for consumer purchase in 1947. In 1949, the third year, total television sets produced (not sold, produced) hit 3 million (PDF). Apple reached this level of sales in the first quarter the iPad was available.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Guest post: Once upon a time at Pub Expo

This guest post is by Peter Houston, Editorial Director for Advanstar Communications in Europe. It was cross posted from his own site, The Flipping Pages Blog, created to share Houston's thoughts on Flash-based digital magazines, though he now writes on all things related to digital publishing.

I opened my presentation at the Pub Expo in London last week with a little bit of a fairytale.

Once Upon a Time, not so long ago, there was an editor who served only one master… a monthly magazine. She worked hard, but found time for research, writing and occasionally even a long lunch. Then one troublesome day the magazine decided it wasn’t happy just being a magazine, it wanted to be a Brand…
I only had 15 or 20 minutes so I couldn’t really finish the story – the Earl’s Court audience will never know if everyone lived happily ever after. What I really wanted to highlight was the idea that while a full-blown multi-platform magazine brand has the potential to be a fairytale opportunity for the commercial team, the demands for content imposed by multiple platfoms can be a nightmare scenario for editorial people.

Let’s be clear, a brand is a far more powerful commercial proposition than a magazine. Think about Sports Illustrated’s Swimsuit Edition for a second. It was introduced in Winter 1964 to try to spark up a moribund post-holiday ad market. It was a nice idea and made great money for a single issue. Fast forward almost 50 years and the Swimsuit issue is no longer just an annual print edition, it’s a multi-platfom franchise making money in print, digital, broadcast and merchandising.

However, one thing brand evangelists tend to ignore is the stone-cold fact that brands on multiple channels have way more deadlines than magazines.

Magazines, by definition, are periodic, most monthly, some quarterly, a few weekly. Brands are happening all the time: you have an annual conference; magazine editions in print and digital; newsletters weekly, sometimes daily; your website is refreshed daily at least; your blog goes a couple of times a day; and your community and social media – they never, ever end.

So what’s a poor put-upon editor to do? Here are a few ideas from my presentation. They wont take away all the pain, but they might just keep you sane. Please add any other tips you have to the comments section below.
  • Recycle – use content in more than one place and in more than one form. Slice it, dice it, chunk it up. Remind readers what is buried away in your archives.
  • Love the process – tell the story of the story. Ask your readers to contribute questions. Share your research. Podcast interviews. Don’t wait for publication day.
  • Don’t be precious – you are not the only person that can write. Work with partners. Find experts to write for you. Curate other people’s content. Don’t dismiss advertorials.
  • Be promiscuous – share your content with everyone that cares. Make it easy for your audience to share your content through social media. Always link back to your website.
  • Join the dots – make sure all your staff know what you’re trying trying to achieve. Plan with them. Help them make the most of the processes and technology that you have.
My last tip… Forget long lunches. Those days are long gone.

Tech and media sites live blog the Apple iPad event, with mixed results; Engadget tops the bunch

I had a bit of fun this morning making fun of the tech sites on Twitter. Every silly, predictable move by Apple, such as taking down its online store, was repeated on Twitter as if it were some momentous event.

Each website was, of course, trying to out do the other, but it was a pretty futile exercise, everyone would be hearing or reading the news about the new iPad at the same time, so efforts to post something one or two seconds before everyone else was rather juvenile.

In the end, the main event was live blogging – everyone seems to be doing it. Eventually the tech and general media will realize that it is time to do pool reporting, but for now we have lots of live blogs.
Photobucket
Today's winner, for me, was Engadget – simply because they did not crash. It was smooth sailing from just before the event right on through. I also love the way they have a scrolling photo gallery at the top of the live blog. This keeps the text posts clean, and allows readers to scroll through photos that are important to them.

For others sites, notably Ars Technica, live blogging was a disaster. The tech site used ScribbleLive, which apparently couldn't handle the traffic. The site, though, continued to Tweet updates and managed to keep the show rolling. Hey, it can happen to anyone, right?
Photobucket
The Verge also had a live blog – and though they, too, suffered outages – but I liked the way they "pinned" important announcements to the top of the live blog. The casual reader could then keep up with the event without dedicating all their attention to it.

In the end, I shut down all the live blogs with the exception of Engadget's so that I could follow just the one live blog plus my Twitter feed.

News organizations should see if they might, with enough pre-planning, combine specially compiled Twitter feeds with a live blog as a way of reporting and aggregating news during more important news events.

Apple today unveiled the "New iPad" and a new Apple TV; pre-order taken now, available on March 16

This post was written on the fly – apologies for any typos or other mistakes. I'll try and clean it up later in the day.

The surprises were few today at Apple's iPad introduction event, but the products unveiled – the new iPad, a new AppleTV. plus new software products and updates – all appeared to be on the upper end of the rumor scale.

The new iPad will, indeed, sport a "retina display" with double the resolution of the previous models: 2048 x 1536. Also, 4G LTE will be available as an option, running on AT&T, Verizon, Rogers, Bell, and Telus and networks.

I'm sure there will be those who express disappointment in the new iPad, but when you find them don't forget to call them idiots as I bet they are the same people who said the iPhone 4S was a disappointment, as well.

Apple will sell millions of these despite the lack of a new design, despite the lack of a price cut. The reason is simple: Apple has managed to up the most important specs for their tablet – the processor, the camera, the memory – while retaining the ecosystem that customers are now comfortable with.


The two big upgrades are the A5X processor with quad-core graphics, and the new display. The processor upgrade is absolutely necessary in order to support the higher resolution display and the larger files that will result from it. Apple usually doesn't like to play the spec game, but CEO Tim Cook mentioned the processor almost immediately.

The new, higher resolution display will cause some publishers some worrying thoughts: will my publications look good on this new tablet? For those who have thought that taking the cheaper, easier way out ... well, it was bound to happen, right?

The new 2048 x 1536 resolution shouldn't really be a production issue. An 8 x 10 photo, at 300 dpi is 2400 x 3000 pixels, after all. So for those with replica editions, your future issues should look great! But those previously released issues ... better get working on reissuing those.

One consequence of the new resolution is that Apple has increased the maximum 3G download app size limit from 20MB to 50MB.

There were lots of other goodies Apple announced at today's event – new iWork and iLife updates– but it was probably the introduction of iPhoto for iPad that will be the most important for media workers.

Photographers are already noticing that the iPad has become a great tool for proofing shots taken in the field. The new iPhoto, with its ability to handle hi-res shots up to 19 megapixels, will be an invaluable tool – and a far better one that than the crippled app released by Adobe. That app, Adobe Photoshop Touch can only handle photos up to 1600 x 1600 – nice to play around with, but hardly a professional grade tool. I criticized Adobe when it was first released, reminding readers that the new iPad would make it obsolete one week after its launch. (OK, I was wrong, with the new iPad being available March 16, it will be obsolete a couple weeks after launch.)

I suppose the lack of any additional major surprises is good news, overall, for publishers. Dealing with higher resolution apps, new requirements from vendors, may be more than enough for now. Today's event did not introduce any new operating system, and new developer requirements, etc. Apple CEO Tim Cook didn't even bother talking about new categories inside the App Store like Catalogs – way too minor to be mentioned.

But the impact, if any, of new higher resolution tablet publications won't really be noticed until they begin being released. My guess, it will be minimal. But, like the anticipation of the iPad itself, we'll see soon enough.

Expect Apple's iPad event to include seemingly minor announcements that may have a big impact on media

Today's Apple event will focus mainly on the introduction of the new iPad – to be named the iPad 3, the iPad HD or Doug's New iPad. But in addition to the main event there will, no doubt, be other, minor product introductions, as well as possible software updates and changes to the App Store.
Photobucket
One of those changes may have been leaked late yesterday when several observers noticed that there appears to be a new category inside the App Store. Catalogs, which have become a big new tablet publishing focus may receive its own category today. Already many digital catalog apps are showing
"Catalogs" as their category, but so far, at least, the category is not showing up in the menu in iTunes.

But clicking on "Catalogs" in the IKEA Catalog for iPad app, for instance, will take you to a page that has an unfinished look to it. You can see a modified version at right (the top columns have been altered to bring them closer together.)

One might guess that Apple may decide to use a digital catalog in its presentation today to showcase the higher resolution display of the new iPad – we'll see, which is what could be said for a lot of the speculation being voiced.

Apple is also expected to announced the availability of a new Apple TV. The Apple TV is one of those products that seems to split consumers – many consumers just don't see it as an important buy for them for a number of reasons, while users of the Apple TV can't live without it.

For someone who owns an iPhone or iPad (or both) the Apple TV is a no brainer to buy. For only $99 the user gets a device that allows them to stream photos and videos from their mobile device to their televisions, allows them to watch Netflix, YouTube and other content, rent movies, etc.

The new Apple TV is expected to be able to display higher definition content – it is currently limited to 720p – and will sport a faster processor which will certainly be useful.

For me, buying a new Apple TV means I get to use the old one elsewhere, which is will be very handy, indeed.

What else? Well, much of the goodies Apple delivers are found in the software updates it delivers, and one can expect at least a minor update to its iOS – maybe an end to the "beta" tag for Siri?

It is often the software updates that effect media companies the most. In fact, I'll go further: if you are in media ignore the hardware introductions and concentrate on the software ones.

Why? Well, imagine if the iPad were simply a keyboardless laptop, one that ran Mac's OS X and only didn't include third party apps? Would a publisher seriously care about tablets in that scenario? Doubt it.

It was not the iPhone nor the iPad that revolutionized digital publishing, it was the introduction of third party apps that did the trick. But allowing publishers to launch their own apps they created new publishing platforms. This begs the obvious question: if this is so, why would a publisher not also be an Apple (or Android) developer? When I meet a publisher who hasn't also become an Apple developer I immediately ask them why they remain in the publishing business (jsut to get to see the strange look that comes to their face when they are amazed at the audacity of the question).


One thing that Apple could introduce – but is not being rumored anywhere – would be a magazine or newspaper equivalent to their iBooks Author software. I know many digital publishing vendors who would immediately faint at the news. But it is not out of the question that Tim Cook or another Apple presenter could utter a simple sentence like "Oh, and there is a new version of iBooks Author called ..." that would appear like a throw-away line, be completely ignored by most of the media, and would end up being the most important thing to come out of the presentation.

I watched the 2008 iPhone 3G presentation the other day and had to rewind several times find the spot that mentioned third party apps. Everyone that day concentrated on the fact that the 2nd generation iPhone would now have 3G and that the price was being lowered. The introduction of third party apps was not ignored in media reports, but it wasn't the lede – it should have been.

Updated post: American Athlete Magazine launches its premiere issue for the iPad

Yesterday I struggled to install the recently launched app for the newly launched magazine American Athlete. You can read the original post here if you want to make fun of my struggles.

I'd never encountered a situation where I could not install an app, and after several attempts I wondered if the problem lay in the app itself. In the end, I think the issue must have been with my iPad, or else I simply was being psychotic.
Photobucket
The app, American Athlete Magazine PREMIERE ISSUE, once installed, will settle into Apple's Newsstand. Sold under the name of the interactive agency, DavidHenry Agency, the app is free to download and is free to access and subscribe to, as well.

The president of The DavidHenry Agency is David Fink, who is listed on the tablet magazine as publisher

(Thank you to Konstantinos Antonopoulos for posting a comment on the original post with feedback that he was able to successfully download and install the app.)

Much of what I initially found strange in this app can be pretty much dismissed now that I can finally install and see the app.

The premiere issue opens with a video, which helps explain why the issue weighs in at 560 MB. Layouts can be read in both portrait and landscape, and there is embedded video throughout.

The magazine's design uses the nearly standard navigation of scrolling within stories, and swiping to get to the next article. There remains plenty of discussion about whether this should be the way one navigates a media app but I've always found it the most natural approach. It is possible that those who argue only for swiping are not thinking about tablet magazines, but are taking their eBook and website preferences to the tablet.

Design-wise, as you'd expect from a tablet magazine designed by an agency, this one is very attractive.

(TNM rarely discusses content, but the premiere issue features Orlando Hudson, second baseman for the San Diego Padres.)

If you or your company are considering making the hefty investment in the Adobe digital publishing tools this might be a good magazine to look at – not only because it is free to access, but because it is very well done.

If I had any criticisms they would be minor: adding "Premiere Issue" to the app name means an updated app needs to appear – though this might be a strategy decision, and might be the way to go; the app description is far too short – come on, you're an agency, sell your product; the app icon is a landscape shot – I found this confusing when installing, and may have led me to miss the app inside Newsstand, where the actual icon was in portrait.

You can find the media kit for the new magazine online here in PDF form.

PhotobucketPhotobucket

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Google looks to transform its Android Market into a robust alternative to the iTunes store and Amazon.com

Google today relaunched its Android Market into the Google Play store just days after reports that music sales for Google have so far been disappointing.

The move is a logical move to create a one-stop retail site similar to what can currently be offered by both Apple with its iTunes and Amazon.com.

The new site itself is not dramatically different than the old one, though the emphasis is now media rather than strictly apps. The idea, which has merit, is that Android phone and tablet users will be exposed to more buying choices with Google play than with the Android Market.

Google Play itself refers to the new cloud-based service the search giant hopes will stoke music and media sales. Just as Apple's iCloud offers content that can be read or listened to on multiple devices, Google Play offers the same sort of service, while integrating the whole package with its Google+ social networking service.

And, of course, there is a promotional video:

American Athlete Magazine issues its premiere issue in a new iPad app

This post is already outdated. A new post that looks at the new American Athlete tablet edition can be found here.

In all the times I've looked at new media apps downloaded from the App Store I've never encountered one that simply would not install on my iPad. This is certainly a first.

The DavidHenry Agency has released a magazine app with the rather long name of American Athlete Magazine PREMIERE ISSUE. The app is free, and I assume the content is, as well.

But it is certainly a strange app. First of all it simply will not install on my iPad. I downloaded it, pressed "sync" and nothing. I did that several times and it looked like it was installing, then nothing. Dragging the app onto the iPad won't work either, something that does for all other apps.


The issue might be that I have an original iPad, something I hope to remedy very soon. But if this is the problem, then this is the only magazine app I've had that problem with. Other apps that require a camera won't install either, for obvious reasons (the original iPad doesn't have a camera) but a warning message usually appears.

The problem certainly isn't my version iOS. My iPad is a development tablet so it is always on the latest operating system (sometimes it has beta software on it, though not at this time. (I also rebooted my iPad to make sure it was working properly. Finally, another app that I downloaded at the same time installed fine.)

There are other things strange about this app, as well. For instance, it seems to be following the rather outdated method of releasing a new app for every issue. This is one is called "American Athlete Magazine PREMIERE ISSUE", that means they'll need to issue a whole other app when issue 2 comes out. Also, I don't see any in-app purchase, which means no subscriptions. Finally, the app is outside of Apple's Newsstand.

As for the app description, well, there simply isn't much to read.

Clicking on the app's support page doesn't give any information, either – it only asks questions like what iPad are you on? It lists, believe it or not, the iPad 3.

Another interesting thing: there are four reviews inside the App Store, all five-star reviews, and several from people who have never reviewed anything else – I always find that a bit suspect (though I certainly can't prove anything).

Maybe this app wasn't meant to be released now. You tell me, can you download and install this to your iPad, especially your original version iPad? Let me know.

iPad 3 preview: what new features may mean for publishers; higher resolution display may increase file sizes, but digital service companies say they can adjust

Publishers probably don't like to admit it, but they are very much at the mercy of advances in publishing technology. No matter how much we like to believe our industry is steeped in tradition and little changed, printing and publishing technology continues to change our world.

Two years ago today there were exactly zero tablet magazine apps on the market. Five years ago there were few real mobile media apps, certainly none that look like today's smartphone apps.

I'm saddened to admit that I remember hot type and the move to cold type. I'm prouder to say that I was very much a part of the move to desktop publishing (I should never have allowed my wife to get rid of my Apple 2e!)

Tomorrow Apple unveils its third generation iPad. We don't know whether CEO Tim Cook will announce that the new tablet is the iPad 3, the iPad 2S or whatever, but analysts are already predicting outrageous sales for Apple (probably because their initial estimates for the original iPad were so wrong).
Photobucket


Apple's online pages promoting the iPad
include a page dedicated to News apps .


Most tech and media sites are obsessed with potential sales figures, new features, and the like. But behind the scenes publishers and the companies that serve them are already considering the impact of the latest Apple tablet.

What we think we know is actually still speculative. For instance, the new iPad is expected to sport a display that will have double the resolution – instead of the current configuration of 768 x 1024 the new tablet is said to be 1536 x 2048.

While that may translate to doubling the resolution, in reality that means four times the pixels (do the math). As a publisher, that would scare me: many users already complain about slow download speeds and large issue files inside the App Store, won't larger files sizes be a problem?

Some are optimistic.

"The rumored higher-resolution display is going to be absolutely amazing for digital publications," Mike Haney of Mag+ said this morning, "giving them a unrivaled platform to show off the incredible visuals that are a real strength of the magazine experience. The back-lighting and bright colors of the iPad display, combined with the print-quality resolution, will create a visual environment that simply has never existed before in the digital realm."

Haney said that Mag+ would work to keep file sizes down and said "we anticipate the payoff will be worth it for consumers."

"File size is always a challenge we're working to overcome," said Shawn Duffy, Managing Director at WoodWing USA. "But we're also pleasantly surprised by how well magazines are accepted on the iPad, even with file size into consideration. So I think the market will react positively to all the cool things that are coming out in the iPad 3."

Sean Keefe, Director of Publishing Technology Hearst Magazines, said that "We're always conscious of file size and we are always try our best to keep the size to a reasonable amount. But that being said, we also weigh the importance of what we are putting into the app, whether it is video, whether it is another kind of enhancement that is going to increase the size, versus the time it's going to take a user to download."

I still think this could be a problem, especially for those magazines that currently are not delivering their downloads at acceptable speeds. A 500 MB file is tough enough to download, but will we start seeing magazine issues larger than a gig?

Adam Hodgkin, co-founder of Exact Editions, writing on the company's blog, sees a definite upside for some magazines in higher resolution levels.
This new iPad will be very good for all magazines, but it may have a particularly dynamic effect on the quality end of the market. I am thinking here of those ‘high end’ magazines that have particular prestige in the domains of fashion, design, art, poetry, environment and architecture. There are lots of such magazines. Some of them are highly popular and influential and some are priced at a level well above the consumer magazine norm. Magazines such as Purple, Disegno, Frieze, Monocle, Architecture Review, The Burlington Magazine, Eye etc.
Hodgkin says that he believes these magazine "would all look spectacularly good on the next iPad."

There is no doubt that readers of most replica editions would find higher resolution magazines an improved reading experience, assuming their magazines are upgraded to accommodate the new iPad. Older issues, though, that have poor scanned pages now will be that much more fuzzy on a "retina" display iPad. Publishers might want to consider redoing some of their files now in preparation for resubmitting them down the road.


AT&T's coverage map


One thing that might improve download speeds is the introduction of 4G. Many rumors point to Apple including 4G capability.

Apple is a bit conservative when it comes to adopting cellular technology – you remember the original iPhone, right? No 3G, that didn't come until the iPhone 3G a year later.

But I think there is a good chance Apple may include 4G, after all, it is an instant argument against claims that doubling resolution will equal slow download speeds.

The trouble, as usual, lies with the carriers. Both AT&T and Verizon offer 4G coverage (and once again AT&T lags behind Verizon in coverage). But unlike the iPhone, the iPad is an unlocked device. That means that business travelers can use their tablets overseas by swapping out the sim cards (your U.S. iPhone is locked unless jailbroken).

Super Tuesday: While many in GOP hope for a clean sweep, many in media hope for a muddled mess; financial community remain concerned with European debt levels

One of the uglier traits of the media business is its glee in reporting the pain of others. Whether it is intruding on the pain being experienced by the families of tragedies (which is at the core of the phone hacking scandal in the U.K.), or interviewing the running back who fumbled away the game, the media sometimes seems to enjoy the pain of others. Of course, this may explain why the media loves stories of its own demise.

One painful situation that is making good copy right now is the Republican primary race. The group of contenders that resemble the Keystone Cops now face the voters today on what is euphemistically called Super Tuesday. Looking at the expected results – with Mitt Romney expected to win many of the races, but both Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich also expecting win – it looks like the race will continue on into the spring, if not the summer.


The GOP, on the other hand, want this all to come to a close so that their candidate, and the party itself, can begin concentrating on the general election. If Romney can win in Ohio this may well happen. And while many journalists relish the idea of a brokered convention, it is unlikely that any modern political party could survive such a thing.

Journalists seem to love to cover disaster stories. For now they have one, we'll see if that changes tonight.



Stock index futures are down this morning, and European stock markets are falling, as well. While it is never certain as to the causes of such things, the financial newspapers are pointing to continued unease over the situation in Greece, and the large amount of debt held by European companies that is coming due over the next few years.

A report in this morning's Wall Street Journal reviews the situation.

"A wave of leveraged-buyout debt is beginning to crash down on Europe's shores," writes Dana Cimilluca in the Murdoch-owned financial paper. Cimilluca writes that a new report estimates that $550 billion worth of loans to European companies will come due over the next five years.
The scale of the maturing debt is daunting in itself, but a number of additional factors—including weak economies in Europe and tightening capital requirements for banks—could make it particularly acute for lenders and borrowers, according to the report, titled "Negotiating Europe's LBO debt mountain."
Meanwhile, the markets are on apparently on edge as Greece faces yet another important deadline – Greek creditors have until Thursday to accept the latest bond swap deal. Creditors must accept huge losses on their bonds in hope of getting something back on their investments.

Reports this morning appear, however, to show that the bond swap is progressing well. But despite this, the German DAX down almost one and half percent, with markets in the U.K. and France down sharply, as well.

Monday, March 5, 2012

New media apps: with a little imagination, a bit of strategy, and some creativity, some apps could be vastly improved

Each day more and more media apps appear inside the App Store: some are from titles you have never seen before, like Business People Vermont; others are familiar brands that you are surprised have not launched an app before now, like Mashable.
Photobucket
Business People Vermont is a replica app that can now be found inside Apple's Newsstand. The app is free, but the app description says that a 1-year subscription costs $14.99.

But once inside the app one finds that they can download the issues for free. The app inside iTunes also does not show that there are any in-app purchase options – so either the app description is wrong or else the developer screwed up by not incorporating in-app purchases in the app.

The app has no credits on it, but I assume the app is coming from BlueToad simply because, before the publisher's site went offline, one could see that they had Flash flipbooks available from BlueToad.

The app is what you'd expect, a simple replica edition with no enhancements and no accommodations for the tablet's display size. But since these kinds of apps are made using PDFs from the publisher one must ask the question why do the PDFs have to be the same ones that go to the printer? For instance, the cover of the magazine here is has the same shaded area where the address label goes. Couldn't this file be swapped out for one without the shading?


Photobucket
Another new app that has appeared inside the App Store recently is from Mashable, the digital and social media news site founded by Pete Cashmore.

I would have assumed Mashable would have launched an iPad app by now, but hey, not everyone has an iPad app, right? (No app from TNM, for instance!) Mashable for iPad is a free app that very simple is structure. It is driven by the website's RSS feeds such as Social Media and Technology. As a result, the experience in the app is really no different than the experience in the iPad's Safari browser.

The promotional video suggests that the app version is better because the app version does not contain the "obstructive advertising". Of course, that obstructive advertising is what pays for the website. So what pays for the iPad app? Who knows, but since the app and its content are free, one only knows what the business model here is.

The problem I have with apps like this is that they attempt to improve on the web experience one has on the iPad, but does not reimagine the content. As a result one may get an app, but not really a new reader.

That is why the attempts at tablet magazines from Engadget and The Next Web seem more adventurous – they are creating a new product for the tablet, rather than simply jamming their websites into an app.

There is a promotional video available on the website of the interactive agency behind the app, Cody and Theory.

Hearst Magazine's head of publishing technology talks about their move to WoodWing's Enterprise system

Last week Aysling Digital Media Solutions, WoodWing's US partner, was able to announce a major new client as Hearst Magazines moved from using K4 to WoodWing's Enterprise system.

"Two years ago we started looking at our opportunities to change the publishing system that our brands use to manage the process of creating their content, initially for print, now for digital editions of the magazines, as well," said Sean Keefe, Director of Publishing Technology Hearst Magazines.
Photobucket


Hearst Magazine's Popular Mechanics iPad edition


According to Shawn Duffy, Managing Director WoodWing USA, "what WoodWing brings to the table is flexible technology to be able to manage the content and manage the workflow to reach those channels without having to spinoff new silos, resources or people."

"A lot of publishers – I'm not saying Hearst did this – but a lot of publishers spun up all new floors of people (do manage the web)," said Duffy. "You see that in newspapers, you see that in magazines and so forth, they've got new departments to handle the online presence. You don't want to spin up a new silo every time a new publishing channel starts up in the market."

Aysling Digital Media Solutions, WoodWing's US partner, began a pilot project involving Hearst's Food Network Magazine in May 2011 to test the capabilities of the WoodWing Enterprise system. With the success of the pilot project WoodWing's solution will now be implemented across Hearst Magazine's portfolio.

According to Hearst's Keefe, the biggest challenge facing them going forward is "creating highly designed content that will work across multiple devices."

"The one thing currently distinguishing tablets from the web is the fact that brands definitely want full ownership of the content that is on the tablet, and they want full ownership of the design of the content that's on the tablet," Keefe told me late last week.

I asked both Hearst's Sean Keefe, and WoodWing's Shawn Duffy about the whether the new iPad 3 would create some new challenges. Specifically, rumors say that the iPad 3 will sport double the resolution, and hence files size of tablet editions can be expected to grow.

"File size is always a challenge we're working to overcome," WoodWing's Duffy said. "But we're also pleasantly surprised by how well magazines are accepted on the iPad, even with file size into consideration. So I think the market will react positively to all the cool things that are coming out in the iPad 3."

"We're always conscious of file size and we are always try our best to keep the size to a reasonable amount," Hearst's Keefe added. "But that being said, we also weigh the importance of what we are putting into the app, whether it is video, whether it is another kind of enhancement that is going to increase the size, versus the time it's going to take a user to download. We really try hard not to put features in just for the sake of putting features it, we want to make sure we are giving readers quality content not just with the words on the page but with the enhancements, as well."
Photobucket

The tablet edition of Road & Track


I asked Keefe to give me a picture of what Hearst's magazine production looks like.

"For magazine production, for print and digital edition magazine production – I'm differentiated that from out web production – it is fairly centralized. For print we do not have production people at the magazines. The designers are responsible for designing their files and for creating print ready-files," Keefe said.

Hearst still maintains a separate web production team, however. That being said "there is a fair amount of central vision and crossover days, though."

"What WoodWing enables us to do is manage that workflow the same way that we are managing out print workflows," Keefe said. "It's the same editorial and design teams, and in addition to that with some of our titles we are using the WoodWing digital magazine tools to create enhancements to our digital editions."

I asked Keefe about Hearst's publishing philosophy as it concerns tablet editions.

"I would say it is evolving," Keefe told me. "Chris Wilkes who is the VP of our 'App Lab' group, which is responsible for our digital editions, has a say in the decision in whether we are going to do a replica edition of our magazine or do a fully redesigned version of it for tablet, or do a combination of replica with some enhancements."

"It also comes from the brands. A brand like Popular Mechanics obviously it makes a lot of sense for them to have a fully enhanced tablet edition, since that is very much their audience," Hearst's head of publishing technology said.

New Pew study suggests that a newspaper's culture determines success or failure at digital ad sales

The Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism this morning released a new study that looks at the issue of digital ad sales at newspapers and concludes that newspaper's themselves, their culture and management, is a determining factor is whether the paper can make the transition to digital.

Pew's study looked at 38 newspapers from six different companies and found significant differences in ad sales performance.

"These variances suggest that the future of newspapers, rather than being determined entirely by sweeping trends, can be significantly affected by company culture and management-even at papers of quite different sizes," Tom Rosenstiel and Mark Jurkowitz write this morning of the Pew study.
Photobucket
Growth in digital ad sales, the study found, varies considerably, with the majority of those papers surveys showing growth of between 11 and 20 percent. Pew looked at the papes that gained the largest percentage of growth in ad sales and chalked up the success to the culture of the papers which supported and encouraged digital ad sales and incorporated that into the overall sales strategy of the newspaper.

"All of our staff sell digital. Almost everything we sell has a digital component," said one newspaper executive.

"Probably the most difficult thing is to change a corporate culture because you don't really have the power to do it," Pew quotes a newspaper executive as stating. "You can change CEOs, executive VPs, digital VPs. You can wave this magic wand all you want. But at the end of the day, the troops in the field hunker down. From our company, and I would venture for other organizations as well, the most difficult thing to do is change it."

In the end, Pew found that the newspaper remains a battleground of conflicting attitudes involving print and digital. Pew quotes John R. Kimberly, a professor of management at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton business school, who says what is happening inside newspapers is fairly typical of those industries "undergoing disruptive change".

"The problem is not hard to understand at one level," Kimberly said. "You have developed a set of skills that have been valued and all of a sudden, this isn't so valued anymore." The pace of change at each news organization, he said, will largely depend on "who are going to be the leaders and who are going to be the followers."
Photobucket
Pew found that of the newspapers it surveyed, mobile revenue growth remains slow. Of the newspapers surveyed, 22 reported no mobile ad sales at all. This despite the fact that mobile has been a viable platform for newspapers at least since the introduction of third party apps back in the summer of 2008.

Newspaper executives surveyed appeared to understand the importance of mobile, but acknowledged that they still need to "figure mobile out."

"I've got a nineteen-year-old and a 14-year-old at home and ... nine out of 10 things they are doing is on their phone. My son will come to me and say, ‘Hey did you hear about that volcano in Switzerland.' He didn't get it from sitting in front of a computer and he didn't get it from picking up a newspaper; he got it on his phone."

The study's summary fo findings can be found online at Journalism.org.

April Madness: Mobile and tablet owners can use free apps to file their returns, but add-ons will cost you

You've heard of March Madness, that time of year when college basketball holds its post season tournaments. But April Madness, tax season, is far more serious a time. Since the traditional day to file your taxes falls on a Sunday this year, the government has moved the date taxes filing is due to Tuesday, April 17.
Photobucket
Filers have lots of choices of electronic ways to compute and file their taxes, with new mobile and tablet apps now available, as well.

H&R Block has just issued an Android version of its H&R Block At Home program. It versions that can be found in Apple's App Store for iPhone (called H&R Block At Home EZ2011) and iPad (called Free Edition).

Intuit has a complete line of apps for file preparation. Just last week it updated its biggie – TurboTax 2011 Tax Preparation – Complete and Efile Your Income Tax Return – maybe the iPad app with the longest name in the App Store. Intuit also has an iPhone app for those who file the 1040-EZ form called TurboTax SnapTax – Taxes made easy for simple tax returns.

All these tax apps have one thing in common, a new pricing model. The apps are free, it is the add-ons that will cost you, including actually filing the return. They also generally include up grades for more complicated tax returns, or fees for filing your state returns, etc.

The things that are guaranteed in life: death, taxes, and hidden fees.