Friday, March 23, 2012

Introduction of the new iPad will, in fact, cause ripples in the publishing industry – but this time on the vendor side

It's been exactly one week since the FedEx lady stopped by and delivered me a shiny new iPad. "Shiny" because it was nice to see that new display without my grimy finger prints all over it – that lasted all of a couple of hours.

With any new iOS device release, or operating system update, one is always curious what the impact on publishers might be. With the launch of the new iPad the issue that seemed the most important was file size: how would the higher resolution of the iPad effect the file sizes of magazine or newspaper issues? Would this be a problem? or would some publisher stay lo-res, so to speak, and would this make their magazines look terrible on the new tablet?

"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."

Likewise Mag+'s Mike Haney was equally (seemingly) unconcerned, saying that Mag+ would work to keep file sizes down and that "we anticipate the payoff will be worth it for consumers."
Photobucket
Adam Hodgkin, co-founder of Exact Editions, writing on the company's blog, said: "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."

All these quotes appeared here in my preview post of March 6th.

A little over a week later other websites started to weigh in on the matter including David Sleigh's post at Stuntbox (well worth reading). Some of the other posts bordered on silly (it seems the that the larger the publication, the larger the insanity).

I suppose that file size isn't really the issue, download times and storage capacity are the real issues – at least as far as readers are concerned. But for publishers, the reader experience is the paramount concern.

Mike Haney posted a sort of reply to all this on the Mag+ blog page, but I'm not very satisfied with the piece. While acknowledging the issue, and admitting the production engines that generate pages as images is the source of the file size increases, he tends to dismiss the overall concerns a bit too quickly.

One reason he might be doing this is simply that everyone intimately involved in digital production of tablet editions can see where this really has to go: native text rendering rather than using the current image based approach.

David (Sleight) makes a point in his post that I completely agree with: being able to treat text as text (and not pictures of text) in digital publications would be great. Less for the file size, but for all the other benefits it brings: search, selection, dictionary, etc. Mag+’s first several issues were in fact built that way, using the text renderer on the device. And we abandoned it because frankly the text looked terrible and designers kept asking: “What’s the point of creating layouts in a program that allows pixel-perfect typography if the app is going to destroy it?” and “Why would people pay for something that looks like a web site?” We also then had to embed fonts in the app, which was unsustainable with advertisers each wanting their own. There are solutions to this and it’s one of our biggest development priorities, but I would argue that this is still not the biggest problem content creators have.
Yes, Haney is probably right that file sizes and whether an app uses text rendering is not the biggest problem publishers have right now. But it might turn out that it is one of the biggest problems digital publishing solution providers have right now (that and price, of course).

But I would urge caution right now. The new iPad has been out for one week and launched in many countries only today. There is time to work out these issues.

But I know in which direction Apple wants publishers and vendors to go in – iBooks Author is a definite clue.



One reason these issues are only now coming to the foreground is that for the past two years so many publishers have remained fairly uneducated about tablet publishing. To many, the iPad is simply another "monitor" which readers use to read their publications. This is why the most common question I get is "what's the best way to get my magazine onto the iPad?" as if it were just another distribution channel rather than a whole new digital platform.

While many publishers can tell you the weight and color value of the paper they use to publish their print magazines, few can tell you the difference between Xcode and X-Men.

Yes, the folks in charge of some of the largest magazine chains are certainly knowledgeable, but that hasn't stopped them from making some really bad tablet publishing decisions (I'll refrain from pointing the finger).

But many us know what we want and are still waiting to see whether it can be delivered – or whether Apple will intervene to help us out. But it has not yet been two years into this new platform, and look how impatient we all seem to be. No need to be, though, this all will get worked out, eventually.

Fast Company, other publishers rush out updates to support the 'retina display' of the new iPad

Slow down might be the message many publishers and developers should listen to as they rush to update their tablet editions. Lots of magazine apps are being updated quickly to include support for the new iPad's higher resolution display.

With the doubling of the resolution of the display, many publishers are finding that their digital magazines are simply not as eye popping as others and are quickly moving to upgrade their apps. Text, in particular, really reveals an app's sharpness – especially if the app does not render its text separately – that is, is embedded in a page's image. This is a problem for many replica editions, but also native apps where an art director has chosen to overall static text on an image, but then sets that image at a lower resolution than the new iPad's 2048 x 1536.

Among the publishers issuing updates to today, Fast Company stands out because while the update takes into account the new iPad's higher resolution, the app apparently does not fix a bug associated with the subscription process. As a result reviewers inside iTunes are hammering the app.

Lesson to be learned: fix the major bugs first, worry about resolution later.

Fast Company's tablet edition landed in the App Store at the beginning of March and right from the beginning the magazine suffered issues with subscription authentification. For print subscribers, having a higher resolution magazine really isn't that important if they can't access the issues to begin with, right?

Another magazine that has added 'retina display' support is the tablet edition from AOL's Engadget. Engadget Distro, as it is called, added higher resolution support and nothing else as the app appears to be working just fine, if judged by the high marks readers have given the app inside the App Store.

Not surprisingly, one of the first companies to update the iPad apps to make them 'retina' compliant was Apple itself. Today the company updated its iTunes Movie Trailers app to increase the resolution of the trailers.

The new iPad goes on sale in 24 more countries today

If Apple's servers seem a little slow today, it might be because today is the day Apple launches its new iPad. Well, it is launch day if you live in one of the 24 additional countries where Apple is rolling out its introduction.
Photobucket
The new iPad will become available today in the following countries (those with Apple retail stores in bold): Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Macau, Mexico, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain and Sweden.

Retailers are not reporting shortages of the new iPad, though the wait for a new iPad ordered online is currently 1-2 weeks – so the retail option appears to be the best way to go.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Questions about tablet editions often get very different answers based on how the question is asked

Forums are filled with magazine publishing executives asking all sorts of questions about tablet editions, but most of the questions are centered on bringing their titles to Apple's Newsstand or the Android Market (or whatever it wants to be called now).

But no matter who is asking the question, or what the title is, the answers are pretty much always the same: it only depends on who is providing the answer.

I suppose it shouldn't surprise anyone that a vendor might say their digital publishing solution is the best one, but while there is often wide variation in the original question asked, there is consistency in the answers given. This is why, when you find me in one of these forums, I am usually trying to rephrase the question, trying to explore what the publisher is really asking.
Photobucket


The tablet edition for American Photo was created using the Mag+ platform.


For instance, how do you answer the question "I want to bring my magazine to the iPad, how should I do that?"

Simple enough question, but is it really what the publisher wants to do – bring their magazine to the iPad? If so, then clearly they are looking to replicate the reading experience of their print magazine, but in digital form. Are they already working with Zinio, I might ask (and if not, why not)?

Of course, the question is sometimes asked in a radically different way – "I want to create a tablet edition, how should I do that?" Again, the question needs to be qualified, do they really mean "tablet edition" or are they meaning digital edition, as in something approaching what was asked above.

But if "tablet edition" really is the goal then clearly one would point them to a digital publishing solution such as from Adobe, Mag+, Aquafadas, etc. This would produce a digital magazine that is designed specifically for the tablet environment, even if the raw materials used in the digital magazine originally came from the print edition.
Photobucket

Electronics Industry Update uses the replica solution from Yudu Ltd.


The third way I see this question asked is "I want to reach tablet readers with my magazine?" – this is probably the best way to ask the question, but the one I see least online. In this case the publisher might be saying that they are willing to look at creating a whole new digital product, or at least would consider it.

The question, asked this way, leads to lots of other questions that are often difficult to answer, at least today: "how many of your readers own a tablet?" "is your reader best served with a tablet edition (for instance, in the case of B2B, often readers use their tablets during leisure-time and may not want to read your business magazine after hours)?"

Unfortunately, online forums tend to attract vendors looking for new customers and who see their publishing solution as perfect for everyone.

A good example of this was the answer from one vendor who said their digital solution was perfect because it didn't involve apps and would work on any platform. Sounds great, but the solution is simply an HTML5 web solution – another form of a digital flipbook. Yes, you'll be able to read the product on an iPad or Kindle Fire, but it is not the branded experience the publisher really was looking for.

I've yet to see a digital publishing solution that didn't seem to be perfect for some publisher – but I've never seen one that is perfect for all publishers. To get to the right solution, though, publishers may want to spend more time on refining their questions first. Otherwise, they will be vulnerable to getting sold the wrong solution, over and over.

Zinio updates its iOS app to add 'retina' support; Netflix also updates its app, but some new problems have arisen

Digital newsstand company Zinio LLC today updated its iOS app in order to add support for the new iPad's 'retina display'.

The app update most effects how the app is seen on the iPad, but that app description says that there were other improvements made to the add to make download speeds faster and optimize the app's performance.
Photobucket
How the magazines look inside the Zinio newsstand will depend on the individual magazine, of course. Also, because most of the magazines are simple replicas of the print edition, they often remain hard to read compared to native designed tablet editions.

Nonetheless, the new iPad's higher resolution display should make many of these magazines somewhat easier to read compared to the same product on an older tablet.

The video below captures the opening animation on the updated Zinio app, as well as a brief look at the preview available for the magazine GQ UK.




Photobucket
Netflix also issued an app update today to its iOS app.

The update added higher resolution artwork in order to improve the general look of the app on the new iPad. It also is said to improve the playback on external displays.

Users, though, have noticed some new problems creeping into the app, so another update may be right around the corner.

It will be interesting to see if Netflix also makes changes to the Apple TV version of the app. With the new Apple TV, viewers can now sign up for a Netflix account right through their Apple TV. But the updated Apple TV now supports 1080p and films and TV shows bought through the iTunes app definitely look better – and seem to stream better – than before the update.

Adobe report claims that marketers may be seriously underestimating the value of social media traffic

Adobe Systems this morning issued the results from its second Adobe Digital Index report which concludes that marketers "significantly underestimate the value of social traffic."

The report looked at over 1.7 billion visits to more than 225 U.S. companies’ websites in the retail, travel and media industries and found that the use of last-click attribution may be causing marketers to "undervalue social media’s website impact by up to 94 percent." Adobe also says that the use of first-click attribution models are more accurate in capturing the impact of social media in engaging customers earlier in the buying process.
Photobucket
“As an industry, digital marketers have been quick to add social media to the marketing mix, but have perhaps not considered new and better ways to measure this complex channel," said Aseem Chandra, vice president, product and industry marketing, Digital Marketing Business, Adobe. "This study shows that marketers tend to default to traditional direct measurement models. Better measurement of social marketing will lead to better ROI.”

Click here to view a graphic showing the significant findings found in the Adobe Digital Index report.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The Boston Globe releases a tablet edition that it calls a 'replica" but really isn't – and that's good news for readers

I can just imagine the kinds of conversations that occur at inside newspapers today. In-house battles, inside the bureaucracy, often lead to really poorly conceived digital products, or none at all.

One paper that has vocally proclaimed a commitment to digital, but in reality been slow to enter the App Store with offerings, is The Boston Globe. It's The Big Picture app hasn't seen an update since January of 2011, for instance.
Photobucket
Last night a new universal app hit the App Store, The Boston Globe ePaper, and as its name implies, and the app description proudly states, this is a "full replica edition".

Well, TNM readers know all about replica editions, and I've run out of cuss words to describe them. But this, thank God, really isn't a replica edition - well, not in the traditional sense, anyway.

The app opens up to the library where readers can download their issues. The "paper" will cost you $0.99 or $14.99 a month. The 99 cent price is way too high for one edition of a digital paper but that's not the fault of the Globe, Apple's pricing floor is 99 cents. Current print or digital subscribers get access for free.

Downloaders of the app get access to two free issues, definitely a great move on the Globe's part. Not only does this help cynical media writers like myself look at the app (hey, I'd have paid 99 cents) but it will invite readers in to check it out.

Once your first issue is downloaded you can tap on the cover image to open it. If this were a true "replica" they would have tried to fit the whole page onto the display screen, and hence prevented you have reading anything other than the headlines. But the paper is set to fit width-wise so that it looks good in both portrait and landscape.

PhotobucketPhotobucket
On the new iPad the page sparkles. On an older iPad it will still look fine but the new display really is a publisher's friend.

The stories and pages load somewhat slowly, but not unacceptably. Most importantly, as you can see from both the screenshots and the video below, the stories can be read in native tablet layouts similar to what NYT iPad readers are used to. Will the NYT's app soon adopt this look?

The app also features a text-to-speech option which will be nice for lots of readers.

If I were in Boston I would be an early adopter of this tablet edition. The look of a replica, combined with native text layouts, is certainly a better solution than a straight replica or the boxy look of so many newspaper apps. The use of the word "replica" might scare a small number of readers away who have already learned that native tablet products are superior to real replicas, but I have to assume that number will be small.



The video below will give a little more of an idea of the look and feel of the new Globe app as seen on the iPad:

Chicago Tribune inks deal with Agate Publishing to produce ebooks under the Agate Digital imprint

The Chicago Tribune has inked a deal to produce ebooks with Evanston, Ill.-based Agate Publishing Inc. The digital books will appear as part of Agate’s new imprint, Agate Digital.


“Our aim in working with the Tribune is to produce ebooks that can be brought to market very rapidly and satisfy readers’ growing appetite for material that can be purchased and read using their digital devices,” Agate president Doug Seibold said in the company's announcement.

“We feel this represents a great opportunity for us to experiment together in the fast-evolving ebook market. We’re very excited to bring our years of experience in publishing ebooks to bear on the Tribune’s behalf. We look forward to exploring innovative ways to develop, produce, and market ebooks alongside the Tribune,” Seibold said.

The new ebooks will get their content from Trib owned material and will appear in all the major ebook distribution channels, as well as through the Tribune's and Agate's own websites.

Books inside iTunes, such as I, Steve by George Beahm, appear under the author's name in Apple's store, though a search for "Agate" will bring up many of the titles currently available.

ABM reports the total B2B media revenue grew 6.9% in 2011; digital revenue led that way according to the ABM

The Association of Business Information & Media Companies, known as the ABM, reported that its latest BIN report says that total revenue for B2B media companies in the U.S. grew up 6.9% last year.

The report is a combination of data from various sources including the Center for Exhibition Industry Research (CEIR), Inquiry Management Systems (known to publishers as IMS), and Outsell, which provides information on data sales.


I've always been more than a little skeptical of revenue reports simply because they always tend to show increases due to printed rate increases and the reluctance on the part of publishers to admit publicly to rate cutting.

2011 ended just as poorly for B2B publishers as it did consumer publishers. The ABM's own report for December shows that ad pages tanked in the last month of the year, falling 6.57% over 2010.

The good news was that 2011 showed a small, but insignificant increase in ad pages of 0.36 percent – better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick, but hardly a robust recovery.
Photobucket
The problem for many B2B publishers is that they are hanging on by their finger nails after several seriously down years – 2009 being the worst of them. The year prior, the financial meltdown occurred, right in the middle of fall planning, no less.

As for 2011's revenue increases, most of the four segments measured recorded small increases except for digital. According to the ABM, this revenue number was estimated by the association using information from IAB/PricewaterhouseCoopers and other sources. It shows that B2B digital revenue growth last year was up 22.0 percent. Meanwhile, the Kantar Media report said that digital display advertising grew overall at a much slower rate of only 5.5 percent.

Of course, the difficulty in measuring digital remains that the measuring services are not nearly as exact as ad page count reports from firms like IMS – and they most likely will remain in this state for quite a while, making it exceptionally hard to get a clear picture of the state of the medium.

Soccer's governing body, FIFA, debuts new YouTube channel well ahead of the next World Cup in Brazil in '14

Soccer's main governing body, and the sponsor of the World Cup, today launched a YouTube channel that will host game highlights.
Photobucket
The video channel, FIFA on YouTube, will feature game action from FIFA events such as the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa and the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2011 Germany, and will no doubt be much visited when the World Cup returns to Brazil in 2014.

“FIFA is keen to engage with football fans beyond our competitions by sharing our rich visual content with them, and for this there is no better platform in terms of reach and penetration than YouTube,” said Joseph S. Blatter, President of FIFA, in the organization's news release. “We want to provide YouTube users with the greatest moments of FIFA World Cup history but also invite them to share theirs with us.”

“We are very excited that FIFA is launching its channel on YouTube,” said Stephen Nuttall, YouTube’s senior director of sports partnerships in Europe, the Middle East and Africa. “This new channel will allow a global audience to discover and interact with videos featuring the best footballers competing in the most prestigious tournaments. This is one more example that YouTube is increasingly the place for football,” Nutall said.

The FIFA channel will host videos, of course, but don't expect to share the content. FIFA has turned off the embedding function on its current content – even the video it created to promote the new channel – that, of course, makes no sense at all, especially if the organization is trying to show off its social networking know-how.

The Guardian introduces their beta Google TV app

The Guardian this morning unveiled a beta version of a Google TV app on its website.

The Guardian's Stephen Folwell introduced the new app that will work on Google's somewhat disappointing television product. Google TV is an Android driven add-on to either a Sony TV or it is also available through the Logitech Revue.

Apple, too, has its own AppleTV product. But where Apple has kept the AppleTV has a closed product that is intended to solely work with its iOS devices, Google has opened up its Google TV to third party apps – something most observers thought Apple would do by now.

Most television makers are moving to so-called "smart TVs" that contain their own apps, but The Guardian said they chose to develop this first app for Google's platform because development was relatively easy.

"We've focused on Google TV for now, because Chrome allows us to build an app quickly," wrote Folwell. "In theory, this means we can create and release new versions of the app as often as we want, avoiding the lengthy approval processes required by some other connected TV platforms. We'll experiment in real time with the content on offer and the user interface, tweaking both as we go."

The app opens with a full-screen image from The Guardian's Eyewitness photo journalism app before a menu appears with video offerings.

The WSJ last year launched its own TV app that features a live video stream. Because of the paper's name recognition, most television makers would welcome a strong news organization onto its platform. But in a closed environment, such as Apple's or most TV makers, getting onto the screen is a difficult and costly task. But where third party apps are allowed, the door becomes open for news organizations and other media properties to move onto the television screen through an app approach.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The ASME announce the 2012 National Magazine Awards for Digital Media winners

The American Society of Magazine Editors (ASME) and the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism announced this afternoon the winners of the 2012 National Magazine Awards for Digital Media. New York magazine won awards for both best website as well as the General Excellence award.

Here is a list of the winners:

General Excellence, Digital Media: Honors the best magazines published on digital platforms
New York
Adam Moss, Editor-in-Chief
Ben Williams, Editorial Director, nymag.com

Website: Honors the best magazine websites
New York
Adam Moss, Editor-in-Chief
Ben Williams, Editorial Director, nymag.com

Tablet Edition: Honors magazine editions published on tablets and e-readers
National Geographic
Chris Johns, Editor-in-Chief
Bill Marr, Creative Director
Melissa Wiley, E-Publishing Director

Design, Digital Media: Honors magazine websites, tablet and e-reader editions and utility apps for visual and functional excellence
Wired
Chris Anderson, Editor-in-Chief
Brandon Kavulla, Creative Director
For “Underworld Issue,” February 2011, iPad App

Website Department: Honors a department, channel or microsite
The Daily Beast
Tina Brown, Editor-in-Chief Newsweek and The Daily Beast
For “Book Beast”

Utility App: Honors single-purpose apps distributed on mobile devices, including tablets and smartphones
TIME
Richard Stengel, Managing Editor
For “PopuList” iPad Apps

Personal Service, Digital Media: Honors service journalism on digital platforms
MensHealth.com
David Zinczenko, Senior Vice President, Editor-in-Chief
William G. Phillips, Editor
For “The Skin Cancer Center,” by Adam Campbell, Executive Editor, and Amy Rushlow, Senior Editor

Reporting, Digital Media: Honors excellence in reporting for digital media
Wired
Chris Anderson, Editor-in-Chief
Noah Shachtman, Digital Editor
For “FBI Teaches Agents: ‘Mainstream’ Muslims Are ‘Violent, Radical,’” by Spencer Ackerman, Senior Writer

Commentary, Digital Media: Honors excellence in opinion journalism on digital platforms
The American Scholar
Robert Wilson, Editor
For “Zinsser on Friday,” by William Zinsser

Multimedia: Honors the use of interactivity and multimedia in the coverage of an event or subject
Foreign Policy
Susan B. Glasser, Editor-in-Chief
For “The Qaddafi Files: An FP Special Report”

Video: Honors the outstanding use of video by magazines
The New York Times Magazine
Hugo Lindgren, Editor-in-Chief
For “My Family’s Experiment in Extreme Schooling,” by Julie Dressner, Shayla Harris and Clifford J. Levy

The awards are known as the Digital Ellies. James B. Meigs, editor-in-chief of Popular Mechanics and Editorial Director of the Hearst Men’s Enthusiast Group, was in charge of judging, assisted by 90 industry professionals.

New jewelry magazine launches inside the Apple's Newsstand; digital-only magazine is built as if it were print

The ability to imagine, create and launch a digital magazine for the iPad is getting easier – but it is still not "easy". Good, native digital publishing solutions are not cheap, and the companies behind them are struggling to make a go of it – which is why they don't give away their services to just anyone (including TNM!).

As a result, a lot of really terrible replica editions get released into the App Store each week. Just today, for instance, Great Lakes Publishing released replica editions for Ohio Magazine, Cleveland Magazine and Lake Erie Living Magazine. Released through PixelMags, these are from a professional publisher who should know better but doesn't – and so, in my opinion, their apps are fair game for anyone who wants to write about them. (I don't really bother anymore, what more is to be said about these digital replicas?)
Photobucket
Then every once in a while someone produces an independent magazine and one has high hopes that they will come to the new platform with a fresh vision. When they don't one is torn about whether to write about the app or just let it go. One must decide whether being "nice" by not writing anything is really the right way to go, but the same standards apply to everyone? I really don't know, to be honest – what one should expect from a commercial publisher should be more, right?

Another app making its appearance today in the App Store is this independent, digital-only magazine named Design Jewelry and Accessories. The magazine was created in support of an online jewelry website and is edited by Sandra Kemppainen. Kemppainen is the manager of the online of the web shop, and also a photographer – a very handy combination when creating a magazine for the jewelry trades. The magazine is from Finland, but is in English.

Sadly, there is not much to say about the tablet magazine except "congratulations", and then move on. But I suppose, dear readers, you expect a little more than that from TNM.

PhotobucketPhotobucket
Briefly, this app is a mess. The design makes little sense for a digital magazine; for instance, the pages contain folios for left and right pages, but since this the magazine app can not display more than one page at a time, even in landscape, this makes no sense. There is a two page ad early in the magazine, but again, it can not be viewed in total because of the way the magazine is displayed on an iPad.

If a magazine were available in print then there might be some merit in creating a replica, but if it is digital only... Then again, maybe the people behind this magazine originally thought about print then went digital only, who knows?

As for the company behind the app one can only guess. The link in the app description goes to a log-in page for a company that I've not heard of, and a Google search comes up empty.

Well, that's enough about Design Jewelry – I sincerely wish them the best of luck and hope they find their readership. Really.

Another magazine was earlier released by the same company behind Design Jewelry and Accessories: ProBody is an actual print magazine, but it has also received the replica treatment. The magazine is in Finnish, but the app description states that an English version is in the works. If they plan on using the same app building mechanism they really shouldn't bother. Really.

NOTE: I probably should have written about this new magazine instead: American Gentleman Magazine. The problem, though, was that I couldn't stop myself from laughing at the ridiculous stories to be found in it.

This is from the app description:
This is a publication that echoes the transcendent values of the traditional gentleman while bringing him fully into the 21st Century by addressing the many opportunities, choices and triumphs existing today. This innovative blend of substance and style is what separates American Gentleman from the pack, elevating us into a league of our own, and guaranteeing enduring success.
Wow. The "traditional gentleman"? Isn't that someone who has been dead for 200 years?

Well, maybe this is the perfect magazine to have on your iPad when you are out on a fox hunt (assuming you can get a good 3G connection).

Red Foundry launches new app building product: Fusion Studio offers publishers free tools for building their apps

Red Foundry recently announced that they have launched a new product for building and adding to apps: Red Foundry Fusion. Fusion offers publishers and developers commercial and non-commercial building blocks called Elements, that can be incorporated into their apps.

Most importantly, these Elements can be added free-of-charge with the publisher sharing revenue generated from the features – when the reader books a hotel room, or makes a restaurant reservation, for instance.
Photobucket
Red Foundry continues to offers registered users the ability to build their apps from the ground up, but now the company looks to assist publishers and developers with preexisting apps, or apps created using different solutions.

I spoke with Stan Monlux, Red Foundry's VP of Business Development, who explained that with the first version of Red Foundry's platform the focus was on first time developers.

"One of the ways we made it easy was we introduced these modules, components and templates to make it easier," Monlux said. "People really latched on to that. But it was most attractive to people who were building an app for the first time."

Red Foundry now has over 8,000 developers building over 200 apps a month, Monlux claimed. Now the company wants to target those developers who have already started or launched an app, and need to add more functionality to their offerings.

"Now the publisher can work with Red Foundry, not just when they're building their first app or building a prototype or kind of at the beginning of the app cycle, but at any stage of the app cycle," Monlux said. "You can still build your app complete from the ground up using Red Foundry – we think its a premiere platform for doing just that – but we didn't want to limit ourselves to being only an app building platform. No we're kind of a tool kit, if you will, to make your apps perform better."

Monlux said that the company realized that the modules being created through the process of creating new apps could be shared and exploited by other publishers and developers.

"If we could grab these components and make them available to somebody who has already built an app – maybe they've built it in Objective-C or they've built in in Phone Gap, or another method – we wanted to make Red Foundry a source that they could go to to grab some components that we've created and insert that into their app," Monlux said.
Photobucket
"The thought was that we could save the developer a ton of money and we could also introduce a lot of really intricate functionality into apps which would have taken them a lot of time if they wanted to code it from the ground up, which would also generate some revenue."

A good example of this approach is Random House's apps for Fodor's which not only include hotel and restaurant reviews, but built-in modules that allow the reader to make reservations. These "Elements", such as ones for OpenTable and TicketsNow, can be added into an app for free using Red Foundry's new solutions.

"The thought was that we could save the developer a ton of money," Monlux said, "and we could also introduce a lot of really intricate functionality into apps which would have taken them a lot of time if they wanted to code it from the ground up, which would also generate some revenue."

Monlux said the advantage of this approach is that the publisher or developer has only one SDK to deal with. This SDK contains a library of elements to work with, but the result is an app that dos not suffer from app bloat, as Monlux describes it. Further, with only one SDK, the developer does not have to work to keep every platform managed and updated, Red Foundry does that for you.

"If you're Fodor's and you say I'm going to put in OpenTable integration, I want to do ticketing, and I want to do hotel reservations, in the past you'd have to go out master all those different interfaces, manage and maintain them over time. It's really laborious and kind of cost prohibitive."

Boston Consulting Group says that the Internet economy will continue to grow by 10% a year through 2016

A new report published by The Boston Consulting Group (BCG), as part of its Connected World series, finds that in the developed markets of the G-20 countries the Internet economy will continue to grow at pace of more than 10 percent a year through 2016.

The full report, The $4.2 Trillion Opportunity: The Internet Economy in the G-20, can be downloaded at www.bcgperspectives.com.

“The Internet economy offers one of the world’s few unfettered growth stories,” said David Dean, BCG senior partner, and the report's co-author. “Policymakers often cite GDP growth rates of around 10 percent per year in the developing markets, but they look past similar, or even higher, rates close to home.”
Photobucket
The so-called Internet economy contributed most to the overall national GDP in the U.K., accounting for over 8 percent of total economic activity. In the E.U., in general, the Internet accounted for 3.8 percent.

Overall, the Internet economy will contribute a total of $4.2 trillion to the G-20’s total GDP in 2016, The Boston Consulting Group study projects.

“If it were a national economy, it would rank in the world’s top five, behind only the U.S., China, India, and Japan, and ahead of Germany,” said Dean.

"The results are eye-opening in the sense that they demonstrate how completely the Internet has ingrained itself into daily life almost everywhere,” said the report's co-author Paul Zwillenberg, a BCG partner. “We assessed its value by how much consumers said that they would have to be paid to live without Internet access. In the G-20, they would need to be paid $1,430 each.”

Monday, March 19, 2012

Apple says it sold 3 million iPads at launch

Apple issued a rare press release to brag about its iPad launch. According to the release Apple sold three million iPad units in the first weekend of sales. This, coincidentally, is the same number of tablets Apple sold in all of the first quarter of the iPad's existence (and most analysts were shocked at how good those sales numbers looked).

Earlier today Apple announced a dividend and stock program that seemed designed to please Wall Street. That move was met positively by the financial press, though users used forums to express their concerns that the company was moving in a dangerous new direction away from being customer-focused and more financial performance focused.

Here is the press release in full, found after the break:

Pew's The State of the News Media 2012: tablet and smartphone ownership grows, but consumers still are using their computers during the day to access the news

More and more media outlets are now paying attention to the release of Pew's State of the News Media report, and that is definitely a good thing. I recommend spending some time with the report at your convenience – you can find the report here.

Each year The Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism releases a fairly broad report that looks at the various segments of the media landscape in the U.S. While the report is supposed to be a snapshot at the world of journalism, those who probably benefit most are media executives looking for market

So I thought rather than rehash the report I'd try to find one simple take away for those media professionals involved in the New Media.

Much of the report recaps previous information such as the ad page reports for the newspaper and magazine industries taken from the various ad monitoring services. Both industries ended up with a disappointing 2010, though the newspaper industry's numbers are particularly alarming.
Photobucket
The one thing I have found most interesting so far in the report are the raw numbers concerning tablet ownership contained in the areas focusing on digital.

According to Pew's report, the market penetration of the tablet stands at around 18 percent. While this may at first appear low, it is an incredible number knowing that the two year anniversary of the iPad launch in the U.S. in not for another two weeks. To reach this level of market penetration for one kind of device is an incredible achievement – last year's launch of the Kindle Fire certainly has contributed to the tablet's fast growth.

What this number will look like in next year's report may be the highlight everyone reports next year. My guess is that it will hit the 25 percent mark (or burst through it).

The Pew report seems to show that when it comes digital news consumption that the computer is still kind. But when you combine the ownership numbers with the comScore report (also contained in Pew's report) on when a news consumer uses their devices to access news you get a better picture of news consumption activity.

Here is the chart from the comScore report that shows that device owners use all their digital devices equally in the morning to access the news, but their computers more during the day, and their tablets and smartphones more in the evening:
Photobucket
This tells me that most consumers are leaving their tablets at home right now, a trend that may over time change, but for now seems to be exactly what media executives have predicted. The tablet remains a leisure-time device.

This is probably good news for magazine and book publishers, but I think newspaper executives need to be cautious in thinking that their news products should mirror their websites – readers should continue to access those sites during the day using their computers. Therefore publishers need to be creating leisure-time products for the tablet, whether that is more magazine-styled products such as The Daily, or newly envisioned news products still probably needs to be tested.

American Business Media unveils its Neal Award winners; Advanstar wins mobile award for its 'dvm360 for iPad'

The Neal Award winners were announced last week by American Business Media (ABM). This contest presented by ABM is named after the trade association's first managing director, Jesse H. Neal.
Photobucket
The "Grand Neal" went to McGraw-Hill's Architectural Record (affectionately known as ArchRecord). It is a nice, though insufficient reward for a magazine that saw the AIA move its "official" designation to Hanley-Wood's ARCHITECT magazine when the contract expired with McGraw-Hill at the end of 2010.

(McGraw-Hill had previously taken away the AIA contract from BPI's Architecture magazine. That magazine was then bought and closed down by Hanley-Wood to make room for ARCHITECT. What goes around, comes around, I guess.)

In the area of digital media, the pickings were a bit slim. But here is a rundown of the winners on some of the categories you might consider New Media:

Category 10: Best Website Class A: Up to $3 Million
Winner: 
GreenSourceMag.com

GreenSource
The McGraw-Hill Companies

Category 10: Best Website Class B: $3 Million to $7 Million
Winner: 
dvm360.com

dvm360.com
Advanstar

Category 10: Best Website Class C: More than $7 Million
Winner: 
ENR.com

Engineering News-Record
The McGraw-Hill Companies

Category 11: Best Integrated Package Class A
Winner: "GreenBuild 2011: Toronto"
GreenSource
The McGraw-Hill Companies

Category 11: Best Integrated Package Class B
Winner: "Firehouse 9/11 Anniversary Coverage"
Firehouse
Cygnus Business Media

Category 11: Best Integrated Package Class C
Winner: "New York: The Death and Life of a Great American City"
Architectural Record
The McGraw-Hill Companies

Category 12: Best Blog
Winner
"Automaton"
IEEE Spectrum
IEEE Media

Category 15: Best Use of Video
Winner: "Health Monitor"
SmartPlanet
CBS Interactive

Category 16: Best Use Of Mobile
Winner: "dvm360 for iPad"
dvm360.com
Advanstar

Category 17: Best Recurring Webcast
Winner
"SPARVlog"
SPARPointGroup.com
Diversified Business Communications

Category 18: Best Use of Social Media
Winner
"ArchRecord.com: Building a Community"
Architectural Record
The McGraw-Hill Companies

dvm360 for iPad is an interest take on the replica edition. The app is from Advanstar and Pixel Mags, and like most replica editions, it can be found under the developers name (PixelMags) rather than the publishers – something that continues to irritate me to no end.

Like all the PixelMags apps I've looked at, this one offers stuttering navigation, even on a new iPad.

But Advanstar has taken the form seriously here by building the tablet edition in landscape and loading it with interactive elements including hot links and video. Because of this it hides its origins fairly well.

PhotobucketPhotobucket
The app would be so much better built with a native digital publishing platform, but it is, I suppose, not a bad compromise.

The fact that this won in the "mobile" category can be chalked up to the fact that there was no tablet category, and that number of decent entries must have been rather small. The two other finalists were Cygnus Business Media's Sustainable Construction (first written about here) for the iPad, and Farm Progress's Farm Futures app.

It appears that only the Cygnus app was actually developed in-house and published under their own name.

Speaking of... Cygnus recently released what could safely be called a custom publishing app for one of its important customers. Farm Forum is an iPad app produced Case IH farm equipment. Anyone publishing a B2B magazine for the construction or farm industries knows how important the big equipment manufacturers are – and Racine-based Case is certainly one of the biggest.

Another winner was McGraw-Hill for best website with its site for GreenSource, part of the company's construction portal.

You can view a gallery of the winners and finalists on the ABM website here.

Project Magazine suffers some growing pains as it tries to serve readers inside Apple's Newsstand

A tablet-only magazine that TNM has kept its eye on since its original release in November of 2010 is Project Magazine, from Richard Branson's Virgin Digital Publishing.
Photobucket
The original digital magazine was a created in partnership with the content agency Seven Publishing Group. But since then a joint venture between Virgin and Other Edition Limited has been created.

The app, simply called Project Magazine, was recently updated but users continue to complain that about the magazine's subscription issues since the app has moved into Apple's Newsstand.

"Used to be so simple and beautiful. Tried to be clever with an update and lost all my previous purchases, new interface is awful."

"Terrible update. Won't recognize my subscription, or download any previous issues I had bought. Not had a new issue in ages and the recent ones have been a far cry from the standard of the first issues."

– reviews inside the App Store
The publisher is well aware of the issues with the app as evidenced by the app description:

"Welcome to this issue of Project. Our sincere apologies for some of the newsstand and back-issue matters that might have caused some of our readers hassle. We have sorted out the newsstand teething issues which have beset most publishers; and we have now brought our deliver systems in-house. In the interim, we will continue to provide our readers, SOUNDS magazine with our compliments for the next three months – the most exciting music magazine to launch and giving you nearly an album of the best music to enjoy in each issue."

Issues inside Newsstand are $3.99, with an annual subscription costing $19.99.

The latest issue features Clint Eastwood on the cover along with the usual introductory video. But whereas the video was creatively embedded into the cover, this video is just a player window. The video itself is also just a repurposing of the ad from Chrysler that made its first appearance during halftime of the Super Bowl this past year.

The app can only be used in portrait, but nonetheless still weighs in at 626 MB. Imagine how large this issue would be had it been optimized for the new iPad's "retina display"? Though some digital publishing vendors have been assuring me that issue size won't be a problem, it is hard to see how it won't negatively effect some publications. The download of this issue was slow enough as it was, what if it had been over a gig? Would I even have bothered?
PhotobucketPhotobucketPhotobucket



Update: Mike Burgess posted a comment to this story that pointed out this post from the UK edition of MediaWeek. That story mentions that Virgin's previous publishing partner, Seven, is claiming to be a creditor of the new company formed by Virgin and its new partner, Other Edition. Thanks Mike.



I have created a video recently and it certainly shows in the one below. But inside the video, at about the halfway mark (its three minutes in length) you will get a glimpse of the Eastwood issue of Project Magazine.

I fear Apple is about to make a massive mistake: will investors get the money or will Apple continue to invest?

I can't think of a worst thing Apple could do with its massive cash reserves than to pass on a big portion of it to its shareholders. But that might be exactly what Apple might announce today.

For past months, as Apple's cash reserves have grown, cries from inside the investment community have grown that Apple should share the wealth with its shareholders by issuing a dividend. These same investors, who weren't investing in Apple when the company really needed the money (that important cash infusion came from Microsoft), have been benefitting hugely from the run up in the stock's price. They want more. They demand more.

Reuters is reporting this morning that Apple will discuss the notion of a dividend – either a one-time cash outlay, or a recurring dividend – at a meeting today. I hope this untrue, but I fear Apple's CEO Tim Cook is far more vulnerable to the cries he hears from the wolves at the door than Steve Jobs would have been – who most likely would have told those same investors to stick it. He would have asked them "where were you when I need you?"


Apple's stock price may have run up in value due to the explosive growth in revenue and profits, but speculation is also part of this run up, as will it always be part of any company's stock price. To play this game with its cash reserves is a bad sign. If and when the company reports a disappointing quarter, and the stock price tanks, is it in the intention of the company to defend the stock price? Investors will surely demand it, but it is the beginning of the same cycle that kills off so many companies.

Apple's cash should be put to the same use in the future as it has in the past: R&D and investments. Siri is but one of the many examples of a technology bought thanks to its healthy bank account. If Apple decides it is time to "give back to the investors" then maybe it really is time to short the stock.

Update: a dividend has been confirmed. Clearly the Steve Jobs era is dead, dead, dead.