Friday, March 16, 2012

B2B publisher GIE Media releases universal iOS app for its horticulture division

The first third party mobile apps began appearing in 2008 when Apple introduced its second general iPhone and updated its mobile operating system. Publishers have been playing catch up ever since, with some segments quickly making the transition (consumer magazines), others struggling (newspapers) and still others practically ignoring the entire platform (B2B magazines).

One B2B that has begun to launch apps is GIE Media. The company released two iPad apps earlier this year and have now launched an app for its horticultural division. (Disclosure: a few years ago I was the group publisher of a competing group of magazines.)

GIE Media Horticulture is free new app that gathers up the RSS feeds coming from the publisher's magazine in the group: Lawn & Landscape, Greenhouse Management, Nursery Management and Golf Course Industry.
(I understand that GIE will be relaunching is landscape dealer magazine soon.)

The app works well on mobile platforms where reading news on the Safari browser can be less than ideal. On the iPad the app's main advantage is gathering up all the news feeds from the different industry websites. Both the mobile and tablet sides of the app appear to be single-sponsored by Dow AgroSciences, and the all GIE Media apps appear under their own name rather than that of a vendor (yeah).

The app is definitely web-oriented as the print magazines are not presented in either a replica or native design form. This is probably just as well as the app does not have a qualification mechanism in it – something important to control circulation B2B magazines.

We're still not seeing very many B2B publishers in the App Store, in any form – Cygnus Business Media being somewhat of an exception. The reason may simply be that so many of the B2Bs are owned now by private equity firms. The big players, who would have led the charge on mobile and tablets, such as Primedia, Reed Business Information or McGraw-Hill either don't exist anymore, have slimmed down to practically nothing, or have simply stopped investing in their B2B divisions.

What the U.S. B2B industry may need is a purely digital start-up that will apply the same pressure to build apps as VerticalNet did to pressure B2Bs to first launch websites.

Sporting News moves into the Newsstand; ABC Player updates its app for the new iPad's 'retina display'

Few publications have experimented as much with tablet editions as Sporting News, 125-year old sports magazine.

When TNM first spoke to the (then) new publisher Jeff Price Sporting News had just launched a free daily digital edition through Zinio (it had previously created a Flash driven flipbook for its website). Next came a branded app, also through Zinio. Next came its own branded app, released last fall. (You can read the original 2010 interview with Price here.)

This morning that same app, Sporting News, has been updated to move it into Apple's Newsstand.
Many readers told us to get on Newsstand as quickly as possible — well, we heard you loud and clear. As of today, The Sporting News is now available on your Apple iPad Newsstand. If you already use The Sporting News on iOS5, just download this version to move the app to your Newsstand. Every morning, your new edition will feature a cover image instead of the red SN app icon. Just make sure your iPad is connected to WiFi or a 3G network.
Sporting News has experimented with paid models, but this app and its content remains free to read at this time.

Another app that has just issued an update because of the introduction of the new iPad today, is ABC Digital.

It has just issued an update to ABC Player which the app description says "is now optimized for the new iPad retina display."

But in addition to the adjustment in resolution, the app also has added closed captioning, device content syncing, and most importantly, the app is now universal (meaning it can now be used on an iPhone or iPod touch). The app and its content remains free thanks, as the app description states, "courtesy of our sponsors".

Another Apple launch, more lines

You would think that by this time we would have moved on. But no, people still want to line up for the opportunity to buy the latest gizmo from Apple. The new iPad costs about two unemployment checks – apparently the sweet spot for tablet pricing.

Several tech sites are showing photographs of lines forming in the dark outside Apple, Walmart and Best Buy stores in locations like Paris, New York, Houston, etc. Funny, you never see pictures like that from my home town: Detroit.

Left: lines form to buy the new iPad outside a downtown store. Right: early arrivers stand in line too long and turn to stone.

Well, I'll be waiting for the FedEx truck today to deliver my new iPad. The driver, who dropped off the new Apple TV yesterday warned me that they have plenty to deliver and that I might want to consider signing the release form in advance. I have a feeling she is thinking of driving by and flinging the new tablets out her truck as if she were delivering the morning paper. I might throw a bunch a blankets out on my driveway in order to cushion the fall.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

The New York Times updates its iPad app, optimizing the app for the new iPads's 'retina display'; AMZA Mobile also releases an update to its Kindle app for the same reason

Because the introduction of the new iPad is not coming with a new version of the operating system with radically new functions, few updated media apps are appearing in the App Store prior to tomorrow's launch.

One of the few publishers to issue an update is the New York Times which today updated its iPad edition.

The big reason of the update is that the app is "optimized for the new iPad's Retina Display", but there are other changes, as well.

The iPad app also adds in-app word definitions (for those who can never understand Tom Friedman), and article syncing improvements.

Another app that was just updated may be even more important to some owners: has pushed out an update to its Kindle app has is also claiming to have been optimized for the new iPad's higher resolution display.

Several iPad reviews today have mentioned that books are definitely a joy to read on the iPad and that Apple's iBooks takes advantage of this – mentioning that Amazon's Kindle app does not.

Well, I don't think Amazon liked the idea of their app not being "Retina" ready, and they've done something about that today.

(Apps from Amazon appear in Apple's App Store under the seller name of AMZN Mobile LLC.)

Update: details on the new app for Installation Magazine; a view from Viewbook on the impact of the new iPad

Update: Field Sells wrote back this afternoon to add even more information. It turns out that by "developed in house" what was really meant was that Installation Magazine was built using the Mag+ platform.

This post will serve as an update to yesterday's post about the new tablet edition of Installation Magazine, the Los Angeles-based art scene magazine.
Stuck in my spam folder was an e-mail from Field Sells, the creative director of Installation, who provided some information on the app's development.

"Installation Magazine was developed in house by our digital publishing company, Installation Media, with HTML5 as a core along with several licensed codes made by independent developers we contracted and/or licensed," Sells wrote. (See update at the top.)

The team worked with the Adobe DPS and WoodWing solutions but ended up developing on their own.

"We're currently hosting our binary with Amazon for superfast and reliant delivery to our readers devices, while hosting our other content (website, client log ins, ftp) with Media Temple and Viewbook. They serve as our domain registrar and hosting servers only," Sells said.

Installation Media LLC will be working with clients, galleries, artists and creative firms, as well, all under the company's name.

One question that I had was whether the appearance of the tablet edition inside Apple's Newsstand would mean the end of the print edition – apparently so.

"Installation was designed from the ground up specifically for the iPad," Sells said. "We originally launched Installation as a limited edition, signed, print based publication. While developing for the iPad as a complimentary product to our print mag, we realized that the digital counterpart was superior and one of the only ways to truly create a visceral and exciting experience with the art showcased."

"So we immediately decided to end our future print magazine and solely focus on the tablet based mag, something we think is the future of magazines, especially the art magazine. For the first time, performance art, light installation and video artists can have their work actually embedded into the mag, so a reader can be fully immersed in the experience," Sells wrote me.

Issue number two will be feature over 200 artists and more interactive elements, Sell said. It will be priced at $2.99 in the app, with an annual subscription available for $9.99. Supplemental issues are also planned with cooperation with local institutions and artists.

The Installation Magazine website says it is powered by the Rotterdam company Viewbook. I inquired yesterday as to whether Viewbook, which provides digital portfolio solutions for photographers, artists of all types, and companies, had anything to do with the new magazine app (no).
But Alrik Swagerman, co-founder of Viewbook, was good enough to respond to my inquiry. During our e-mail exchange I asked Swagerman about what the new iPad might mean for digital portfolios and other media products on the tablet.

"The higher resolution display will bring the 'daguerreotype' sharpness (ca. 1900) to the digital screen, which is pretty amazing if you realize that that is pretty much as sharp as the human eye can see," Swagerman said.

Swagerman also said that the higher resolution of the new iPad, and presumably future Macs, will have an "impact on the way images will be shot, prepared for the web, etc..."

Viewbook also has an iPad app available in the App Store, Viewbook Portfolio, that allows you to create mobile portfolios through the service.

New Mag+ contest offers cash awards for designing books, publications with Mag+

The digital publishing solutions company Mag+ is conducting another contest, this one called 'magnify your world' (get it?).

The contest will award prizes of between $1,000 and $5,000 in the following categories:
  • BEST IN SHOW $5,000:-Chosen by a jury from the 7 categories below.
  • BOOKS $1,000: any type of book for the general public
  • BROCHURES & CATALOGUES $1,000: created for corporate use including brochures, 
annual reports, catalogues, media kits 

  • The contest will accept entries through June 1 with winners announced on June 20.
  • COMIC BOOKS $1,000: graphic novels, comic books
  • EDITORIAL $1,000: magazines, newsletters, newspapers, blogs, online magazines
  • MUSIC & MOVIE $1,000: bands, filmmakers, DJs, theatres, venues, albums, 
  • SELF-PROMOTION $1,000: promotion of services, experience or portfolio for students, 
designers, photographers, writers, PR/ad/interactive/design firms, law firms, etc.
  • PEOPLE'S CHOICE $1,000: (Note: NOT NECESSARY TO WIN): Social category where 
the winner will be chosen through public voting. 

The company also said that there will be a monthly prize, as well. The "Employee Pick of the Month" winner will receive an iPad and will be featured in a video on the company's website.

Mag+ ran a contest last year that saw Natasha Mead from New Zealand win for her entry MILK, a fashion magazine for the iPad.

NYT promotes its Android version of Election 2012 app

Strange e-mail in my in-box this morning: the New York Times wants me to know that it now has an Android version of its Election 2012 app in the Android Market, Google Play, or whatever they call that place now-a-days.

The thing is, though, that the app has been out since at least March 8, according to the Android store. That was two days after Super Tuesday, so they missed that deadline – and the e-mail is hitting my in-box two days after the latest GOP primaries, as well.

It's a minor thing, I suppose, but it does go to a point I've made in the past: newspapers are just not very good at marketing today.

When I first got in this business professionally, the airwaves in Los Angeles were filled with promotions from the L.A. Times and my paper, the Herald Examiner. Today, hearing a spot for the local paper is rare, indeed.

Here is an even more minor point: the photo you see here was in the e-mail. Dragging the photo to my desktop I see that it's name includes "iPhone" – oops.

I guess I just take it personally when I see newspaper promotions like this, being someone still very much committed to the medium.

Launch of the new iPad seems to fail to bring with it the added software features of other new product releases

Maybe I'm crazy, I admit that. But I've always maintained that tech sites put way too much emphasis on Apple's new iOS product releases, missing the impact that the updated operating systems have on the users experience.

On Friday (or maybe even today) the FedEx truck will be rolling by my door, stopping, and delivering some goodness.

But once those products are unboxed and plugged in what will I be able to do with them that I can't already do with my older iPad or AppleTV? Or asked more correctly: what can I do with them that I couldn't do with my older Apple products that have been updated to the latest OS?

Netflix issued a minor update to its iOS apps today.

That, you see, has been the real excitement for me: updating my devices so that I can do something new, something better, something faster. With each new iOS device release has come some new capability that has excited users and moved Apple's mobile platform forward.

Here is a quick look at some of those updates:

The Original iPhone: Like many old time Mac users, the introduction of the original iPhone felt more like a distraction. OK, great phone, but could you, maybe, do something with the Mac line?

But, of course, I was way off base. As the weeks went by and I learned more about the iPhone I realized that I wanted one, really bad.

The iPhone wasn't a phone, after all, it was a new kind of device. Suddenly my flip phone wasn't going to cut it.

The iPhone 3G: While much of the media was concentrating on the new lower price and the addition of 3G, the real game changer came with iOS 2 which brought third party apps to the iPhone.

With 600K apps now available one can hardly remember a time when there were literally only a handful of new apps to choose from. From 2008 to today, we've come a long way.

(The iPhone 3G is the only iPhone I have not personally owned, but the software update worked just fine on the original iPhone. In fact, with the introduction of this phone, Apple's updates would be free to owners of the older phones, making them almost like new again. This feature, regular updates, is what continues to differentiate the Apple platform from the competition.)

The iPhone 3GS: This phone came with a better quality camera in it as Apple must have realized that the camera wasn't just one of those things you throw into the phone just because the competition has it. Suddenly Apple got serious about this.

The iPhone 3GS was the first phone that could shoot video. Combined with the added memory and faster processing, the iPhone 3GS was the first phone that felt like you really could surf the web and take a call at the same time. That is to say that all those things Apple said you could do with your phone really were possible.

My old iPhone 3GS now serves as my alarm clock and music service on my night stand.

The Original iPad: April 2010 brought the first iPad and with it a whole new product line, and with it all new capabilities, and it ushered in the tablet edition. 'Nuff said.

The iPhone 4: The introduction of the iPhone 4 brought with a new design, better camera and other enhancements. But it was a few months later, at the September iPod event, that Apple introduced AirPlay. Since then, Apple has taken streaming very seriously.

This is one reason why the AppleTV update is paired with the new iPad – with the higher resolution display will come higher resolution video.

Since the fall of 2010, the rate of major introductions has actually slowed, even as the schedule of iOS device introductions has remained the same.

Today (AppleTV) and tomorrow (new iPad) I'll be receiving new devices, but the big reason I'm excited to get the new products is so that I can begin mirroring the screen of the iPad – something I can not do with my original iPad. This will, hopefully, result in more media app videos here at TNM.

But I'm just catching up, what will the owner of the new iPad be able to do with their new device that they can't with their old one? I'm really struggling with that one, and it is leading me to the conclusion that this round of iOS device updates may prove to be a real snooze compared to previous device introductions.

Some pundits would point to the new higher resolution display as the big new feature that changes the game. We'll see, but to me this seems like an improvement, not a new capability. I can still read books and watch videos on my old iPad, what can I do totally new with the new one?

On the other hand, this conclusion could prove just as wrong as my initial thought that the launch of the iPhone was a non-event. Oops.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Short takes: another arrest in News Int'l phone hacking case; few surprised by former Goldman Sachs directors accusations; U.S. defense secretary unhurt after strange truck episode in Afghanistan

Yet another of those particularly British arrest-by-appointments has occurred. This one involves Neville Thurlbeck a former News of the World reporter.

Thurlbeck was arrested by police officers for "on suspicion of intimidation of a witness" according to British news reports. The officers are from Operation Weeting, which is what the cops are calling the phone hacking scandal surrounding Rupert Murdoch's media empire in the U.K.

This op-ed this morning from Greg Smith would have been considered earth shattering many years ago, but today...

Greg Smith is a former Goldman Sachs executive director and head of the firm’s United States equity derivatives business in Europe - "former" because he resigned today, and topped off his last day by having a broadside published in the New York Times.

According to Smith, Goldman Sachs is only interested in making money off its clients, not working in their interests.

No one seems to see this as either new, though the press is going through the motions of pretending it is.
Today, many of these leaders display a Goldman Sachs culture quotient of exactly zero percent. I attend derivatives sales meetings where not one single minute is spent asking questions about how we can help clients. It’s purely about how we can make the most possible money off of them. If you were an alien from Mars and sat in on one of these meetings, you would believe that a client’s success or progress was not part of the thought process at all.
Smith goes right up to the line of accusing the company of illegal behavior, but doesn't cross it.

The good news for Smith, of course, is that Goldman Sachs execs are well compensated, and no doubt Smith has already received his annual bonus. Compensation at this level in one year is about a lifetime's worth for the average Joe. Well, maybe a bit more than that, actually.

The lead story right now on the home page of most papers is that U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta is alive. That should tell you all you need to know about how things are going in Afghanistan.

Panetta was visiting Afghanistan following several incidents that have the Afghanis ready to take revenge on the American – first the burning of the Korans, then the massacre of civilians by a U.S. soldier (who BBC News is reporting has been flown out of the country).

The incident is rather sketchy: apparently a stolen truck sped onto the runway ramp of the airfield. The truck was shooting flames, but later it was revealed that no explosives were found.

The Guardian is calling it a 'suspected attack', while the NYT is saying practically nothing useful for its readers. Hey, maybe it didn't happen at all.

Swiss manufacturer, Franke, brings its custom content magazine, CoffeeBar, to the iPad and Newsstand

Custom content has always been part of the iPad's media offerings, whether is is magazines from automobile companies, or catalogs, companies have been pretty quick to use the popularity of the iPad as a marketing opportunity.
This morning the Swiss-based manufacturer Franke saw the magazine published in support of its coffee business, CoffeeBar, released into the App Store.

Franke CoffeeBar Magazine, as you'd expect from a magazine designed to promote a company, is a free app offering its content for free. Franke Coffee Systems is listed as the seller within iTunes.

CoffeeBar is published only twice a year, but in three languages: German, French and English. Because of this, creating a tablet edition means having to decide whether to create separate apps, or try incorporate the different versions into one. By choosing to go with a replica edition approach, Franke was able to sandwich all three editions inside the app.

CoffeeBar also was able to launch with the previously published issues going back to 2007 – ten in all as there is only one issue from 2009.

Of course, being a replica means that the digital version of the magazine is often hard to read – impossible in landscape. But this may be one case where going the replica route makes the most sense for the publisher.

(Disclosure: I was, for a brief time, the publisher of a B2B magazine inside the coffee industry. The poor title – not to be named here – has seen more publishers and editors come and go in its short history than most titles do in a century.)


Amazon promotes its deal with Discovery Networks that brings nearly 3,000 titles to its Prime Instant Video service

The online retail giant announced a new deal with Discover Networks, splashing across its home page the announcement that the deal will bring "nearly 3,000 more titles to Prime Instant Video."
The addition of Discovery Networks will bring into Amazon's streaming service TV shows from Discovery, TLC, Animal Planet, and Science. has bundled a series of services into its Amazon Prime offering. In addition to streaming video content, the service also offers subscribers access to Kindle books from the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library, as well as free two-day shipping on all orders fulfilled through

Amazon Prime costs $79 per year to subscribe and was offered free for a limited time to those who purchased the Kindle Fire last fall.

Installation Magazine launches as a tablet edition of their art magazine inside the Apple Newsstand

A new tablet-only magazine launched inside Apple's Newsstand last night: Installation Magazine is an art magazine that is offering its premiere issue free of charge inside the app.
The Los Angeles based magazine plans to publish quarterly and readers can get every issue by buying an annual subscription inside Newsstand for $9.99. According to the magazine's app description future issues will "range from $2.99 - $4.99".

The "California" issue, the one available today inside the app, weighs in at 205.8 MB and is a fairly quick download. The tablet edition itself supports both portrait and landscape layouts, though portrait is the preferred orientation as not all content is available in landscape.

The magazine sports a native design, much easier to accomplish as a quarterly, that's for sure.

The issue opens with a video embedded into the background of the cover and proceeds with articles with embedded scrolling text boxes.

The app was a little sluggish on my original iPad, but I'm sure would be smooth reading on a new model. I am trying to determine how the magazine was produced, but the time difference with L.A. will force me to include that information in an update. The magazine's website credits Viewbook, the Rotterdam-based developer of portfolio solutions, but I don't sense that Viewbook had anything to do with this tablet edition.

As for the magazine itself, searching online reveals that the magazine was launched as a print magazine last summer. The current digital issue appears to be that same issue reformatted for digital. The FAQ on the magazine's site seems to suggest that the magazine will continue in print, as well as digital, but we'll have to wait and see if this is the approach they want to take.

A. Moret is the magazine's editor, with Field Sells listed as creative director. Sophia Kercher is credited with Facts & Research. All three are active in the arts / publishing industry in Los Angeles.


Google Translate adds new language support

If there is one area where I think iOS falls short it is in regard to translation services. Unlike Chrome which has this function built-in, Apple's Safari is still absent translation services.

The best alternative remains Google's own app, Google Translate.

The app, up until now, hasn't been a perfect solution because of the way copy, cut and paste work on iOS devices – getting the right text remains difficult, at least for me – but now Google has updated the app (which is universal, so can be used on the iPad, as well).

The new update, issued last night, brings in translation support for more languages, adding Thai and Slovak text to speech, and Arabic and Hebrew voice input.

But most significantly (for most users) the app now has a tap to copy translation function that might well make it easier to copy those translation results into texts and emails.

So far the app is getting great reviews inside the App Store – well, except for those one-star reviews from users still upset that the app doesn't accept Filipino voice input.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

iPad sales perspective: market penetration will take on more importance now than simply total unit sales

A little less than two years ago the first iPads were released and I decided to go back to look if TNM posted any sales estimates for its launch – no, just as now, we're just not that into predictions. In fact, at that time, the first week of April 2010, the big issue was still 'would tablets even make an impact?' – TNM, you might say, bet the farm that it would.

The day before the first iPads were delivered by UPS (a Saturday), this is what iPad excitement looked like:

(For the record, the iPad 2 was far better for making salsa than the original iPad.)

Apple sold 3 million iPads that first quarter, a level of sales that would be considered a disaster if it occurred this year.

A round up on the CNN Fortune website of sales estimates show that analysts are talking about 2012 sales for the iPad coming in above 60 million. OK, they're analysts, which means that don't know squat. But still, we're looking at lots of new iPads being sold this year.

But unlike in previous years, when total sales meant just about everything, now audience penetration is where it is at. On Friday of this week FedEx will be delivering me a shiny new iPad, but the market will not gain another household. Sure, is true that the old iPad will still be used in my house, but it is not quite the same thing, is it? We'ver certainly reached that point with the smartphone. Again, in my house, we buy two new smartphones a year, but still only have four in circulation.

We're now at the mercy of household surveys (and robo calls by survey companies).

A year or so ago the biggest asked of me by publishers in Europe was how many iPads were in circulation in a given country. Sometime over the past year I stopped getting those questions – I think there is significance there. People can see the audience penetration at the local coffee shop, or on an airplane.

When Hearst Magazines brads about 100K digital subscribers the follow-up question is still "is this a good number?" Would it be significantly more if there were more tablets in the market? or would it be better if our app were better? It is still hard to answer those questions, but it may be easier by the end of this year.

The Apple App Store check list for publishers making the leap into branded media apps

You would think that two years after the launch of the iPad, three and a half years after the appearance of the first media apps for the iPhone, that most publishers would be familiar with the rules of the app game, but it doesn't appear so by looking at many apps being launched inside the App Store. So let's create a handy little check list for publishers thinking of launching their first apps – in this case, your those thinking of outsourcing their app development.

The Third Party Vendor check list:

You've decided to outsource your app creation, great, there are lots of vendors out there happy to sell you their services. In fact, that vast majority of newspaper and magazine apps are created by digital publishing service companies rather than the publisher themselves. So what do you have to know, and what do you have to do?

First, remember that your brand is, well, your brand. Protect it.

The first way to do this is to tell your vendor that YOU will name your new app. If the name of your magazine is XYZ Magazine, you need to know that you can only name one app with that name. It might not be a good idea to waste that app name right off the bat. You vendor, though, has probably sold you on the idea that you need to get an app into the store under that name. But you have to remember that you own your brand name and any app that tries to sneak in there under that name can be pulled by Apple if they learn there is someone else who owns that brand name. TNM has pointed out apps to publishers that were trying to steal a media brand's name and each time that app was pulled.

Second, how is the "publisher", you or your vendor. Many media apps appear under the name of the developer not the name of the publisher. Take this new app released today for NERO Magazine. NERO is an Italian magazine on contemporary culture that publishes quarterly.

But the app appears under the name Other Edition, the company that developed the app. In fact, the app description link for support doesn't go to the publisher, but to the home page of the developer – providing neither support nor any way to communicate with the publisher.

So what to do? Get an Apple developer account - it only costs $99 and allows you to have apps appear under your own name. If a vendor doesn't allow this don't work with that vendor. It's your magazine, why are you giving away your brand?

This new app for NERO also gives you a couple of other lessons in the hard world of app publishing. Look at that app icon? Is that really an icon, or is it just a black box with white lettering?

The App Store allows you several ways you can promote your app: your app icon, your app screenshots, and your app description.

The NERO app has an excellent app description – it describes the magazine and clearly tells the reader the cost of a single issue purchase or a subscription. Make sure you either write the app description or sign off on it before it appears in the App Store. The good news is that a bad app description is easily corrected.

Likewise, you need to approve and sign off on the app icon and the app screenshots that are to be used for your app. The NERO app is a disaster as it contains zero screenshots from the actual app. How would a reader know they want to buy this magazine?

What will your app actually look like? Obviously, this is key. A publisher would never allow an issue to go to print without receiving proofs from their printer. Are there proofs in the app game? Absolutely.

A new app can be placed on an iOS device without it being live in the app store. These apps are placed on devices that have been registered with Apple int he iOS Provisioning Portal. As a licensed app developer you can load new apps onto your own device for testing.

However your vendor wants to handle this step may depend on them, but personal app testing is essential. If the company you are working with simple assures you that everything will be alright than a red flag should go up immediately. Test your own apps.

Short takes: Apple guarantees the retail store photo-op; Time Inc. CEO brings in Bain; candidates are reportedly raising and spending less money this election cycle

Word throughout tech-media-land spread fast: if you want a new iPad this weekend you'll have to go to an Apple Store (or some other retail outlet). What a surprise, right?

The marketing strategy of limiting online sales and therefore driving customers to the brick and mortar locations is an old one by now. Each time Apple launches a new edition of the iPhone or iPad we can expect to see pictures of long lines outside Apple stores. As well as the hordes of media folk reporting same.

Lines outside an Apple Store, like this one in Tokyo last fall for the launch of the iPhon4 4S, are now a common site each time Apple launches a major new product.
Photo by Kim Kyung-Hoon/Reuters

One has to admire Apple's ability to generate so much publicity by doing so little.

Those who ordered the new iPad online last Wednesday – or at least tried to – know that Apple's website was not exactly Amazon-like in its efficiency. Many buyers encountered an unresponsive site and gave up. Jason O'Grady, ZDNet's reporter who stomped his feet like a child when he was once again passed over for an invite to the iPad event, bitched and moaned about Apple's online site last week:
The person in charge of Apple’s online store should be summarily fired. Like yesterday. That’s what Steve Jobs would do. I’m sure he’d roll over in his grave if the iPhone they buried him with had enough battery to launch the Apple Store app during the embarrassing pre-order fiasco.
But how could be be a fiasco when Apple managed to sell out of iPads online, and simulataneously guaranteed themselves a photo op this Friday?

The only down side I can see from continuing to use this marketing strategy is that it is getting tired. Samsung, who would be thrilled to see customers lining up for a new product launch (they have so many, which launch would you line up for?), is doing a pretty good job of pushing the message that lining up for an Apple launch is pretty uncool.

Time Inc.'s new CEO, Laura Lang, was brought onboard because of her digital advertising experience, having run the interactive agency Digitas. Critics of the hire pointed to her lack of magazine publishing experience.

Now the New York Post is reporting that Lang has decided to bring in a consultant – and not just any consultant – Bain & Co.

My own experience tells me that there are only two reasons to ever hire a consultant: you are without a clue what to do, or you are looking for cover.

Having been a consultant for a short time, I probably shouldn't make fun of the consultant industry. But, really, I've never been involved in a situation where a consultant has come in and advised anything interesting. For the most part they advise whatever the CEO wants them to advise – that's how they get retained and paid. Few CEOs hire a consultant to come in and tell them to do something they don't want to do.

But most times consultants are used to provide cover. As the Post article points out, usually this means layoffs. New CEOs rather want to be blamed for coming in and chopping heads.

It's possible that this is the case now, but it doesn't really matter. The CEO of Time Inc. is supposed to be a leading authority in their industry. The CEO of Time Inc. is supposed to be who Bain goes to when it wants expert advice, not the other way around.

Polls show that tonight's primaries in Alabama and Mississippi will be close affairs with Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich currently splitting the conservative vote, leaving plenty of room for Mitt Romney to possibly squeeze out a victory.

Both states, of course, are solidly red, so no matter who wins tonight the eventual GOP nominee can count on both states in the fall.

But despite the apparent enthusiasm of Republican supporters to oust the sitting president, money raised by the campaigns is actually down. According to a Washington Post report, the leading GOP candidates in 2008 – Sen. John McCain and former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani – had raised nearly $310 million and already spent $278 million though the early primaries.

This year, the GOP candidates have only raised $146 million and spent $133 million. Many assumed that the new Super PACs would make up the difference, but so far they have spent $37 million.

“There seems to be very little excitement among voters in the donor class about these candidates,” the WaPo quoted David Donnelly, the executive director of the Public Campaign Action Fund. “What that gets replaced with is this new phenomenon of people writing huge checks in support of the candidates. You’re replacing excitement with those who have a huge amount of money."

For media companies, this is also bad news. Every four years newspapers and local television outlets located in hot primary states receive huge influxes of campaign ads. The last thing these outlets expected this year was ad spending to be below previous years.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Kantar Media reports that advertising spending was essentially flat in 2011; cable TV and Internet display lead the way, while magazines spun their wheels

Kantar Media released an advertising expenditure report for 2011 that showed that as an industry as a whole, ad spending was essentially flat, growing 0.8 percent on the year. But cable television enjoyed a good year, growing revenue 7.7 percent, while network TV revenue lost 2.0%.

As a publisher, I am leery of ad revenue reports because of the variables involved, but because the Kantar Media report includes major industry segments, the report does provide a good way to compare mediums.
2011 was not a good year overall as even Internet advertising slowed, growing only 0.4 percent for the year. Paid search even recorded a down year, according to the report, down 2.8 percent, though display did grow a healthy 5.5 percent.

As reported elsewhere, the consumer magazine industry saw advertising slow in the final quarter of last year. According to Kantar Media, consumer magazines ended up 2011 exactly where it ended 2010, while B2B magazines continued to see declines, though less than one percent for the year.

Newspapers were particularly hard hit because not only did they see print advertising fall, but Sunday magazines also declined in 2011, down 7.2 percent (not included in the chart I created here).

The Omaha World-Herald releases a new iPad app, and I guarantee you, Warren Buffett is not going to like it

A couple of weeks ago Warren Buffett, when asked about his investment in the Omaha World-Herald told CNBC's Squawk Box that one problem newspapers have, that they can overcome, is that they have been giving away their products for free.
"Newspapers have been giving away their product at the same time they’re selling it, and that is not a great business model. So when they put papers up on the internet and you get it free, you’re competing with yourself," Buffett was quoted as saying in the Forbes follow-up story.

That story, written by the talented Jeff Bercovici, then asked whether Buffett was really referring to the Washington Post because Bercovici concludes that "very time the Post has taken a public stance on the question of free vs. paid, it has always reiterated its commitment to the former, even as its profits continue to plummet."

Well, maybe he got wind of this new iPad app from the World-Herald and was really referring to that fact that his is another giveaway.

The new app,, is (as the name implies) really about the paper's website. For some reason many newspapers seem to believe that they need an iPad app that duplicates the content of their website. But the website looks just fine on the iPad's Safari browser, so why the app?
Certainly the website works far better than this app, anyways – as you can see from the above screenshot from the app. There is some cleaning up to do, either with the app, or the RSS feeds, before this will be a usable tablet edition.

But Buffett won't like that the app is free, and accessing the content doesn't require a subscription either.

What motivated the launch of this app may be that the newspaper also has a replica edition app courtesy of Technavia. That app, Omaha World-Herald ePaper, is also free, and based on the App Store reviews a bit buggy. Writes on Jags12us: "This think is buggier than a 3 day old raccoon."

That app, too, contains an interface, as well as access to a replica of that days paper. But the key thing is that neither app seems to want to charge for its content (and neither app are placed inside Apple's Newsstand).

Maybe the paper is saving that option for when the paper launches a more workable, native designed iPad app.

Tribune Interactive launches a tablet edition of its Chicago tabloid, RedEye; subscription priced at $1.99 per month

The Tribune Company's Chicago area tabloid, RedEye, has just launched its first iPad app – a native app that will test whether young buyers of the daily publication will be willing to purchase, even at a low price, a digital publication that is otherwise free on the streets.
RedEye was launched in 2002 by the Tribune Company as an attempt to lure younger readers age 18 to 34-year-old. The tabloid has gone from free to paid to free again, and in print the publication has circulation of around 250,000.

Launching a tablet edition of RedEye, because of that younger readership, would seem to make a ton of sense. The question is what to do about pricing. The Tribune Company could have chosen to launch that app inside Apple's Newsstand but make the subscription free-of-charge – this would allow for daily delivering at no cost, but would not have created a revenue stream, nor would it insure that readers would actually read the digital publication.

The decision, at least for now, is that RedEye for iPad will have a $0.99 per issue price tag with a low $1.99 per month subscription fee. Unfortunately $0.99 is as low as Apple lets you go, so the Trib was in a bit of a bind pricing individual issues. When the print edition had a price tag on it readers paid only a quarter in the street boxes. So this means that the tablet edition is four times as high – will that be a problem, or will most readers decided to buy the monthly subscription?

Many newspaper publishers, especially alt weekly publishers, should probably keep a close eye on how this works out for the Tribune Company as this app should be a good test.

Tribune Interactive has created an app that readers should fine easy to read as it is not just a PDF conversion of the print tabloid. Most layouts employ a similar, easy to duplicate layout which should make is easier to produce a daily product. The Monday edition contains a spring fashion section and weighs in at a little over 70 MB – not an instant download, but small enough that it should be quickly downloaded in any environment.

The digital edition can only be read in portrait, which probably makes perfect sense since the tabloid almost fits nicely on an iPad's display now. A landscape mode could have been employed – assuming their production solution allows for instant conversion of the layouts – but the added size is probably not worth it.

RedEye for iPad is a more attractive effort than the Tribune's own daily newspaper apps. The apps for the L.A. Times, Chicago Tribune, South Florida Sun Sentinel News, and others have a sameness that forces the papers to lose their individuality – a problem faced with most newspaper chains. In addition, the layouts look very web-like – not surprising since they are a feed driven.

A tabloid newspaper, though, can use a model closer to Murdoch's The Daily where the paper is designed more like a magazine app. The real issue, though, is whether that tablet edition content will be driven by the website feeds, which would constantly update the app, or whether to go for a more magazine look and feel where the content is locked in for the day.