Friday, April 6, 2012

NewspaperDirect releases a new version of its PressReader app for the iPad; buggy app still an improvement over previous version

The Canadian company NewspaperDirect has released a new version of its PressReader iPad app that, while buggy, is an improvement of previous attempts at creating a tablet reader for its catalog of newspapers.
The new PressReader, released today, should be familiar to many TNM readers who have checked out the new Boston Globe ePaper app. That app is but a single brand version of the new PressReader.

The app is an attempt to take the basic replica edition model and tweak it enough so that it works on the iPad. It starts with the exact look of the newspaper and builds in links and native text layouts of the articles.

As a publisher, I would probably look at this approach much the same way I look at Zinio – as a company I would want to work with to extend the reach of the title and to reach those readers who feel most comfortable reading a digital product that looks exactly like the print product (probably older readers).

The result is not what I would call a tablet edition so much as a conversion product. Does it work? Is it readable? Yes, thanks to the adjustable fonts and native layouts that can be created within the app.

Downloaders get to download seven newspapers free of charge before committing to a subscription – a great way to entice readers to continue to use the app.

Some of the best features of PressReader (besides the adjustable fonts) is the instant translation services and the ability to save articles through Evernote and Instapaper.

The app is a bit buggy, I should warn you. The app crashed several times on my new iPad, but was otherwise OK as far as speed and smoothness of the navigation and file loading.

TNM readers know that I am a huge proponent of the tablet platform and developing products specifically for that platform. But replicas will remain with us, and this is a highly advanced take on that approach. And like the Zinio digital newsstand for magazines, PressReader gives the reading public access to a large range of publications that might otherwise not be available. More importantly, the NewspaperDirect conversion is often going to be better than options being employed by the publisher.

For some publishers, such as the Orange County Register, the NewspaperDirect version of the paper is a nice compliment to their own native tablet application, The Peel, which takes a completely different approach to attempting to duplicate that day's paper.

Here is the promotional video NewspaperDirect has created to show off its new version of PressReader. They've also released a press release, but the quote from Alex Kroogman, CEO of NewspaperDirect, was so hokie I felt it was unusable. The video has some pretty outlandish claims, as well, but at least you get to see the app in action:

Immediate Media, owner of the former BBC Magazines titles, releases six new iPad editions inside Newsstand

Immediate Media Company, which is publishing titles formerly owned by BBC Magazines, has begun releasing iPad editions for their titles, as well as other tablet publishing projects. Yesterday British publisher released six new iPad apps: Olive Magazine, Gardener's World Magazine, 220 Triathlon Magazine, Cineworld Magazine, BBC Wildlife Magazine and Countrylife Magazine.
Each of the six titles, along with previously released apps for BBC Music Magazine and Focus Magazine, can be found inside Apple's Newsstand.

While all the apps are free to download, not all the magazines are currently charging for downloading issues or subscribing. BBC Wildlife Magazine, for instance, is charging a hefty $49.99 (£34.99) for an annual subscription, while Cineworld Magazine's April issue can be downloaded free of charge.

By the way, the app description for BBC Wildlife Magazine promises free sample issues but I could not find them anywhere inside the app. It is possible, I suppose, that they app went live before they were able to make sure they would be there for readers to explore.
The tablet edition of the April issue of Cineworld Magazine is the one featured here. The issue weighs in at a bit over 300 MB, which is pretty small when you consider the amount of video content to be found here.

Cineworld is hardly a Cahiers du Cinema, the influential, deadly serious film criticism magazine. Cineworld is instead, what a teenager might think of when considering what a movie magazine should look like.

The tablet edition of a movie magazine should be all about video, right? Well, this one is, and so one gets a glimpse of what the tablet publishing platform should be about: a new take on publishing which takes advantages of the new digital platform.

Immediate Media is clearly committed to tablets. It's home page makes sure to list "expertise in digital platforms" as one of its strengths. With 25 titles under ownership, Immediate Media will most likely be releasing new apps for a while.

Below is a quick look at the April issue of Cineworld in action:

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Gannett updates its USA Today iPad edition to support the new iPad

This afternoon the digital team at Gannett have issued an update to its USA Today iPad that adds 'retina' support for the new iPad, as well as fixes some minor bugs.
If you are not familiar with USA TODAY for iPad, it is a free app that resides outside of Apple's Newsstand. That makes some sense, I suppose, because it isn't really a tablet edition so much as an app that takes the RSS feeds from the newspaper website and reformats it for the iPad.

These kinds of apps, of course, make no sense whatsoever, as far as I'm concerned. First of all, the iPad's Safari browser does a perfectly good job of rendering websites. Only if a site is made using Flash would a separate app be necessary. This is one reason why I'm not much of a fan of those HTML5 solutions that turn your website into a group of boxes when rendered on a tablet. Second, by not creating a true tablet edition, the publisher is missing an opportunity to drive subscription revenue, but are instead duplicating the free web strategy that has not exactly proved to be a money maker for the industry. There is no sin in driving revenue and profits, but there is in laying off staff.

I suppose one reason to create the app is that the USA Today website is so God awful – check it out, it's just a list of headlines.

As for the iPad edition, well, it is at the mercy of the website, so as you can see in this screenshot, what you get isn't so much news as a digital publishing version of morning television in newspaper form. Read that headline about the hurricane season, who wrote that one?

Then there is that little ad in the upper right hand corner – you're right, I don't see it either.

Listen, writing snarky posts can be fun, and there is nothing more fun than writing about Gannett these days. Except it stops being fun when you have to put in news items in the Short Takes section about people having to take an unpaid week off. That's not fun, and it's not fair, especially when you read elsewhere about what those in the corporate offices are making.

Like other iPad owners, I like that USA TODAY for iPad is free of charge. But the reality is that I rarely open it, there are simply better things to read on my iPad. But when I look at the print edition of the newspaper, care of the Newseum, I see that I might want to read that product. Give me that in tablet form and we might be on to something. And guess what, I might even pay for it.

Retweet: thoughts on the Pew e-reading study

Yesterday was a very busy day, so much so that I did not get a chance to read in full the new Pew Internet & American Life Project study on the rise of e-reading. Pew's work, as always, is invaluable and worth reading in full.

Several websites mentioned the study and a few took the time to do a good evaluation. I would like to point out this blog post from Martyn Daniels as particularly well reasoned.

The basic takeaway from the Pew report is that the ownership of e-readers is growing at a dramatic rate – very dramatic rate. The authors of the report, Lee Rainie, Kathryn Zickuhr, Kristen Purcell, Mary Madden and Joanna Brenner, say that 28 percent of adult Americans now say they own an e-reader or tablet. E-reader ownership, such as the Kindle or Nook, grew from 17 percent of Americans to 19 percent just since the holiday season; while tablet ownership, devices like the iPad or Kindle Fire, grew to the same 19 percent level.

(I understand that a two percent increase doesn't seem like much, but the short time frame and the fact that we are talking about the entire adult population means that we are seeing huge adoption rates for e-readers and tablets. By comparison, it took TV a full decade to reach the same kinds of numbers we are seeing with tablets in only a couple of years.)

But most reporters have focused on the fact that 21 percent of adults now say they have read an e-book, and again this number grew dramatically from the pre-holiday time period. Further, those who now own an e-reading device, e-reader or tablet, say they are reading lots of books.

But this shouldn't be a surprise, after all, wouldn't some who buys such a device be, in fact, an avid reader? Of course.

But the Pew report said something I found to be very interesting, and a bit suspect: there was basically no difference in book reading habits between e-reader owners and tablet owners. I think the reason for this may be that many people bought the Kindle Fire as an upgrade to their old Kindle (I know I did this thanks to a trade-in program from It would be logical that these owners treat their new tablet exactly as they did their old Kindle, as primarily an e-reader, considering the other features as a bonus. The only way to confirm this suspicion would be a study designed to differentiate between Kindle Fires and iPads.

Like most publicly released studies, different people will take different things away from the study. For instance, some seem particularly relieved to find that print continues to be the preferred publishing platform for many readers. But again, should this be a surprise?

Similar findings were found when a Zinio sponsored study looked at magazine readership. It should that most people preferred tablets to desktop computers for reading a digital magazine, but print still was the preferred platform overall. Whether this ever changes is debatable, but it certainly could not change dramatically until tablets and e-readers are found in a vast majority of homes. When that happens, and when a vast majority of Americans have read a digital copy of a book, magazine or newspaper, then a study may show far different results.

B2B tablet publishing: the return of the 'bingo card' & other old school ways to drive reader response for advertisers

I sometimes express sympathy to those currently in the B2B media industry who have only just started their positions. Today's editors, sales reps and production people have to take on the work of three or more people in order for the executives to be paid their salaries and the PE owners to milk their profits prior to the eventual sell-off (does that sound snarky enough?)

To grizzled old veterans, the glory days of B2B publishing had to be the 90's on into the last decade. Then the wheels came off and publishers have been spending the past few years trying to figure out where those wheels went off to.

The venerable 'bingo card' could return
The fundamentals of B2B magazines were pretty rigid a decade or so ago: a magazine had to have its circulation audited and prove, day-in and day-out, that it was reaching the right audience (buyers); it needed to drive response for its advertisers through those annoying, but effective "bingo" cards; and the publisher, editor and sales reps needed to be knowledgable about their industries and an active participant in it.

Today, much of this is simply impossible. Publishers and editors (not to mention sales reps, art directors, etc.) manage multiple titles, in multiple industries, with predictable results.

But the introduction of the new digital platforms is presenting B2B executives with some interesting opportunities to return, in a different fashion, to some of their old practices.

Take the venerable bingo card – otherwise known as a reader response card. Many magazines have dumped these, often for some good reasons: more people are going online to directly learn more about companies, and those cards cost money to print and bind in the magazines.

Looking at some old cards I noticed that those from the late nineties required readers to place a stamp on the card before mailing. Ones far older actually would pay for postage.
B2B ad with response number
The reader response card was the lifeblood of the industry for years. Magazines may have been judged by their BPA audited circulation and the rates they charged, but when times got tough many magazines were taken off the schedule simply because the marketing manager counted fewer leads coming in from potential buyers that bore the name of that particular magazine.

One magazine, which shall remain nameless here, started sending all reader responses to every advertisers, regardless of whether that reader had any interest in that product at all. Small advertisers thought it was great, but eventually I got my reps to talk to the big, full-page advertisers using that magazine to discuss why they spent so much money in that book when a one-eighth page ad would generate the same number of responses.

Few B2Bs have been very active in creating mobile and tablet editions. But once the practice becomes ingrained – and it will soon – creative publishers will realize that the interactivity inherent in the platforms can substitute for some of the older practices used in print.

Take the qual-card. The qualification card, of course, is used when someone decides he/she wants to subscribe to the magazine. Since the magazine is usually free, the reader must prove that they are qualified to receive the magazine. Questions on the card not only include name and address, but also things like title, size of the business, areas that person are authorized to buy goods and services. If a reader doesn't have the authority to buy an asphalt paver they can't subscribe to Asphalt Contractor, for instance.

But binding qual-cards into a tablet edition is, well, difficult. But it is not possible.

The trick is to get that reader to give the publisher their information. In the past the reward was a subscription. Today it can be information – for instance, a newsletter, push notification, etc.

Digital publishing providers hustle through their program revisions to support 'retina' display on new iPad

Publishers are not the only ones scrambling to adjust to the new iPad's higher resolution. Digital publishing vendors, too, are making adjustments to their platforms in order to make sure their clients will be able to improve the look of their tablet editions.

Aquafadas, the French digital publishing software company today updated its viewer app for iPhone and iPad development, myKiosk for iOS. The app is used in conjunction with their system to preview tablet editions on the developer's device.

The company also updated its app making platform AVE AppFactory to version 1.4.5. The new released, like the viewer app, was updated to add support for the new iPad's higher resolution display. The update also makes Aquafadas compliant with Apple's new requirement that apps no longer rely on the Unique Device ID (UDID) to identify the users device.

Mag+ will also soon update its platform, as well. Last night the company announced on its website blog that their expected update that would add in retina support will be delayed until April 11 as the company also works to comply with the Apple UDID issue.

According to Mag+, the delay will allow the company to add some additional features into the next update. From the blog post:
  • Any inclusive issue: You will now be able to select in Publish any issue as a free issue for people downloading your app for the first time. And you will be able to change that issue as a live option anytime. We’ve seen that the ability to sample content drives up buy conversion rates considerably, so you’ll now be able to give new readers a sample issue, a back issue or a special issue to try.
  • Disable double-tap: One of the unique things about Mag+ is the dual-layer architecture you can build your designs on. Now, we’re making it even more flexible with the option per vertical to design a dual-layer layout, but disable the option for the user to double-tap and turn off the A layer.
On March 22 the digital newsstand company Zinio announced that it had made the necessary changes to support the new iPad.

It remains up to publishers, of course, to update not only their most current issues, but to decide whether they feel they should update their past issues, as well.

Additionally, editors and photographers are discussing specs. Should photographs designed to be displayed online be changed to display at a higher resolution on the new iPad?

Linked photos here at TNM simply do not look as sharp on the new iPad since they are often 800 to 900 pixels in width or depth. It's all a work in progress, isn't it?

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

B2B publisher Macfadden Communications Group releases a new iPad edition for its title Pizza Today

The B2B publishing company, Macfadden Communications Group, publishers of Grocery Headquarters, has just released a new iPad edition for its trade industry journal Pizza Today. Pizza Today Magazine iPad Edition is a free app that also offers readers free access to the specially designed tablet issues – and because it resides inside Apple's Newsstand, readers can also subscribe for free in order to have their monthly issues download automatically to their tablets.
Pizza Today is a BPA audited monthly with a circulation of just over 40,000. The magazine goes to owners of pizzerias, as well as manufacturers and suppliers tied to the industry. The monthly is also the official publication of the National Association of Pizzeria Operators, a designation I think they will can count on keeping since Macfadden is clearly showing a dedication to keeping up with new digital media platforms.

In addition to this tablet edition, there is also a show guide for the just completed International Pizza Expo, available inside the App Store. An Android app for Pizza Today is also inside Google Play (the old Android Market) which actually came out slightly before today's release of the iPad version – "kind of a back-end test to see what would happen," Michael Davis, director of digital services at Macfadden Communications told me. All these apps are using the Mag+ platform - an InDesign plug-in based system that makes creating tablet editions fairly easy for publishing teams.

While Pizza Today is published out of Louisville, Kentucky, the apps are being developed using Mag+ by Davis and his team in New York. In addition to Pizza Today, Macfadden also has iPad apps for Dance Magazine and Dance Spirit, released in February. Because Macfadden, like some other B2Bs, was put together through acquisitions, not all the apps can be found under simply the "Macfadden" name – Dance Spirit and Dance Magazine can be found, for instance, under DanceMedia LLC, while Cesar's Way iPad Edition is developed under he Imagine That II, LLC name.

The plan is, according to Jeremy White, the editor-in-chief at Pizza Today, to have the art directors at the company go to New York to learn Mag+ and to create their own tablet editions going forward. In this case, it will be Josh Keown. "Josh is very savvy in this department," White said.

The MPA's President and CEO, Nina Link, discusses the new voluntary guidelines for tablet magazines

On Monday, the Association of Magazine Media (MPA) announced their new voluntary guidelines for tablet magazines, designed to drive the growth of adverting on the new digital platform. The guidelines and the set of definitions for tablet magazines were the work of the MPA Tablet Metrics Task Force, which included representatives of seven magazine companies – Bonnier Corporation, Condé Nast, Forbes, Hearst Magazines, Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, Meredith Corporation and Time Inc.

The task force came up with five recommended metrics that it hopes will be used by their magazine members, as well as ad agencies and clients:

  1. Total consumer paid digital issues
  2. The total number of tablet readers per issue
  3. The total number of sessions per issue
  4. The total time spent per reader per issue
  5. The average number of sessions per reader per issue
I asked Nina Link, the president and CEO of the MPA, about the origins of the task force.
"As member companies have gotten more and more active with the Newsstand and selling subscriptions," Link told me yesterday, "there was more and more of a need to have advertising support the tablet platform, to bring some clarity and understanding of what the experience is for readers on this wonderful new tablet platform, as well as what language we should be using to describe this experience – because there were so many different words that were being used to describe the same things on both the publisher's and advertiser's side, to bring some consistency in reporting."

"We also saw the growth curve of the adoption of tablets – and of course new entrants, in addition to Apple – that we felt like this was really going to expand and there would be a bigger and bigger universe, so it was a very good time for us to get started in the first phase of this project," Link said.

Link addressed the issue of advertising, or rather the lack of advertising inside tablet editions, last month at the assocation's digital publishing conference in NYC, "MPA Digital: Swipe".

"As I read my digital magazines on the plane, I realized something very important was missing: where were the ads? Study after study has shown that people like the ads in their magazines - in fact they consider the ads as part of the content," Link told attendees. "But on the tablet, there were far fewer ads. Many of the ads I saw were static and unimaginative. They didn't come close to matching the sheer visual magic and innovation of the magazine content."

In December the task force began its work and the initial list of recommendations and guidelines are the first results.

"We certainly did not want to go the way of the web, which is a very different experience, the click mentality, very low CPMs, that's not the way people are experiencing magazines," Link said.

Next Issue launches new Android newsstand that offers pay-as-you-go subscription model

Once a year I write a post about Next Issue – I guess today is the day I write the 2012 post. You see, back in 2009, technically before this site publicly launched, I wrote about the formation of Next Issue.

Formed by Condé Nast, Hearst, Meredith, News Corporation and Time Inc., Next Issue said they wanted to "develop open standards for a new digital storefront and related technology that will allow consumers to enjoy their favorite media content on portable digital devices."

Six months later I wrote about Next Issue finally getting around to hiring a CEO. One year after that I wrote about the launch of its digital newsstand – one that worked only on the Samsung Galaxy Tab.

Today, right on cue, Next Issue is back, this time with a digital newsstand that will work on Android tablets running Honeycomb and Ice Cream Sandwich, though it can't seem to list those tablets by name.

The new Next Issue app can be found inside Google Play here, but not inside the Amazon app store, nor, of course, inside the Apple App Store – which means the app will appeal to media writers but not actual readers.

Ken Doctor, writing on Nieman Journalism Lab calls the new Next Issue app "a model-changing product for publishers."

While I agree that a Pandora for magazine approach has some much merit, I strongly disagree with the whole concept of Next Issue.

First, the approach has been all about maintaining the near monopoly the large publishers have over the industry. With the demise of the physical newsstand, the big players feel seriously threatened by an open digital publishing model.

Meanwhile, the media consultants have been advising their old media clients to stay away from Apple, and even that the iPad is worthless and should be returned. Search for "Digital First", for instance, and you will not find any apps under that name, and the apps found under the other names formerly used by the publishers will reveal only stale, poorly designed replica editions.

In other words, if you want leadership in the area of digital look elsewhere other than the old line companies and their so-called new media consultants.

ADP unemployment report soothes a nervous market

Stocks in Europe are getting hammered today, and US stock futures have been down throughout the morning in anticipation of the release of the ADP National Employment Report. But the report, finally released at 8:15 this morning, shows pretty decent employment numbers – and with that the fear of a huge sell off when Wall Street opens this morning was eased.

The ADP report showed that U.S, nonfarm payrolls increased 209,000 last month, and the estimates for January and February were revised up to +182,000 and +230,000 respectively.
Nonetheless, markets in Europe remain down sharply, with the German Dax down nearly 150 points, or over 2 percent. Other European markets such as the British FTSE and the French CAC 40 are also down sharply in afternoon trading in Europe.

Investors appear to be concerned about the Fed's belief that no additional financial stimulus will be necessary as the U.S. economy appears to recovering. However, the view is not universally accepted, what with Europe appearing to be sliding back in recession and unemployment rising across the continent. An economic slowdown in Europe would most like put a damper on U.S. exports.

The November election is set, its Romney versus Obama; an update on the new Appelberg tablet edition

Two weeks ago Rick Santorum was well ahead of Mitt Romney in the polls in Wisconsin, but a blow out loss in Illinois seems to change the minds of many in the northern Midwest state and yesterday it dealt a death blow to his chances at the nomination.

Wisconsin is often considered a swing state that generally leans towards blue in presidential elections. In 2008, Obama carried the state 56.3% to 42.2%. But supporters of the GOP have grown far more conservative and now are major supporters of the Tea Party movement. Polls show, for instance, that those that identify with the Republicans remain strongly supportive of their Republican governor, Scott Walker, despite his attacks on public unions. Wisconsin, one should remember, has been seen in the past as strongly pro-union and progressive in its politics. No more. Today the state is as severely divided as any state in the union (if "union" is even an appropriate term to be used today in the U.S.).

Yesterday, Mitt Romney defeated his opponents in all three GOP primaries and it appears all but certain that he will be the Republican nominee in the fall, and it sets up what could be the most bitter and divisive election this country has seen in quite some time.

Appelberg's new app, before it was pulled.

Yesterday I wrote about the new app from Appelberg Publishing Group, a custom publisher from Sweden. They had just released a new version of their digital magazine that now was natively designed and resided in the Newsstand – their previous app being a replica edition outside of Newsstand.

Well, according to the art director from Appelberg, Johan Nohr, that app was not really supposed to go live, but was instead intended for Apple's review process. The app was approved, of course, and immediately went live.

I guess its hard to get a media app by TNM, because I saw it, downloaded it and posted about the app within minutes of its appearance. Because I concentrate on the design and development of media apps, rather than their actual content, I missed the fact that the app was really just a shell, a prototype of what the tablet edition will really look like when it is released again later this month.

"The version of the app that got released yesterday was intended for Apple's review process only," Johan wrote me this morning, "and the final version will be more sophisticated and include lots of more material such as stories, images, animations and video (for instance, the cover image begins with a film from the photo shoot). Hence why the app you saw and reviewed is so light and starving for content."

So if you're looking for the new app from Appelberg Publishing Group this morning you won't find it, they've pulled the app and will re-release it into the App Store on the 20th. In the meantime, I will take the opportunity to get more information on the app and will post a new story when it appears live in Newsstand again in two weeks.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Digital publications still have to climb the advertising hurdle, learn to sell products other than print

No matter how much you proclaim yourself committed to digital – whether that's "digital first" or merely "customer-centric selling' – the issue of ad sales will eventually rear its ugly head. If publications are to succeed selling mobile and tablet publications they are going to have to learn to sell digital editions.

Although some companies have bragged about growing their digital revenue, most of these dollars are not coming from the traditional print ad sales teams. Many magazine companies have begun selling data and other digital products and in this way have grown their digital revenue.

Don't get me wrong, creating new data products, especially digital products, is a damn fine idea. But for the most part, new teams have been put together to sell these items. In the meantime, ad teams tasked to sell full page ads in monthly magazines continue to concentrate on that task, while adding in web advertising as value-added items, or as steeply discounted up-sells.

The problem is an old one: how to get your team to sell something new.

Many modern media gurus like to say that the problem started with the rise of the Internet, but that is silly. I can trace this back to my own professional beginnings – and I'm quite sure this issue goes back even farther.

While at Hearst Newspapers the issue I faced was that of a management team too conservative to consider creating new print products. When I moved to the Bay Area, however, the President at the chain of newspapers was more innovative. Realizing that we were losing money to ADVO, the marriage mail company, we started our own marriage mail program: buy a print ad and expand the reach of your marketing with a mailed piece delivered to non-newspaper households. This matched the reach of ADVO, but involved a combination of print and mail.

For some newspaper customers, this was a dream come true as they were committed to newspaper advertising but realized that they were missing customers. For the ad teams, however, selling marriage mail went against everything they had learned. Wasn't the sale pitch of the newspaper that it delivered superior demographics and that those non-subscribers weren't important to reach?

Ad teams had to learn to be flexible in their approach and to understand the goals of the client. If reaching a large percentage of households was important then a combination of print and mail seemed the right thing to sell.

"But what if the customer only wants mail?" sales reps started to ask their managers. That was a problem, you see, because the whole mail program was created to save print ads, not to switch the business. Now managers were the ones having to get their heads around the idea of selling a new medium.

Today, many publishers are wondering how they are going to sell tablet advertising, and how they are going to get a fair price for that advertising. The MPA's metric recommendations is a step in the right direction in getting the terminology straight, and influencing what the metrics will be in evaluating that advertising (more on the MPA tomorrow).

But the issue is still one of sales.

It's been exactly two years since the first iPads were delivered by UPS to their owners. On that day the number of tablet edition subscribers was zero, making selling ads into tablet editions, well, rather difficult.
Mac|Life's approach with their first tablet edition was a smart one: get a single sponsor, either charge them a nominal fee or give it away to them as a reward for their print schedule. Publishers knew it would be a while until they reached a critical mass of readers through the iPad or other tablets. We're still somewhere between zero and that magic moment when tablet editions can be sold on their own.

Looking at how publishers adapted to the web will not provide much guidance. I look at most B2B websites, for instance, and I see very little advertising – and what there is looks to me to be simply small add-ons to the schedules of the major print customers or ads coming in from networks.

One sure sign that a team has turned the corner in selling digital is when new accounts are broken that buy digital only – just like that mail customer who told their rep they wanted mail only, no newspaper space.

Often the solution is what I used to call the Nordstrom buy.

If you are positioning your print product as a premium buy then you will lose customers who are too price conscious to pay your prices, right? Sometimes they will buy a modular ad, but for the most part they are left on the sidelines – kind of like making a choice to buy clothes from Nordstrom or Walmart. The customer knows the quality is better at the luxury retailer, but in the end it is just a pair of pants and so the sale goes to Walmart.

"But what if I could tell you that you could buy that full page ad into my premium magazine, but only pay a fraction of the price? Would you be interested?" You get the idea, right?

Appelberg Publishing Group shows off its chops for clients with its own digital magazine; new iPad app is released that supports Apple's Newsstand

If you are a custom publisher, custom content producer, ad agency or other marketing firm, you want to demonstrate to your potential clients that you can handle the new digital publishing platforms. So what better way to do that than to launch an app into the App Store or one of the Android stores.

The new app resides inside Newsstand.
This was surely the thought behind the new app released today from the Swedish firm Appelberg Publishing Group. The publisher today released a brand new iPad app, Appelberg, that is a natively designed version of its print magazine.

Appelberg specializes in creating print and digital magazines for its clients. These custom publishing projects produce interesting magazines that are not merely promotional pieces but are sometimes compelling consumer magazines in their own right.

Naturally, Appelberg would want something that reflects its own company, as well – hence the magazine Appelberg.

Prior to the launch of this new tablet edition, Appelberg had released a previous app under the title Appelberg Publishing. That app was strictly a replica affair. What would have impressed clients would have been that there was an app at all available for readers who own an iPad. But the replica edition was hardly a showcase for the company.
The old app was a replica edition.
Now Appelberg has a new natively designed version of the magazine, complete with scrolling and swiping pages. The tablet edition is fairly small, and it can only be read in portrait. This keeps the size of the file down to only a little more than 10MB, and creates a rocket-fast download experience.

The experience of creating this version of their magazine, though, will enable them, in the future, to create similar digital magazines for their clients. This is precisely the advantage publishers have that invest in learning the new platform. For other publishers and agencies that continue to farm out digital production, they will remain at the mercy of the skill sets their vendors decide are important rather than growing as the new digital platforms grow.

Philadelphia newspapers sold to local politicians and business interests for bargain basement price

Journalists will tell, right there in print, that they are objective observers of the truth and free of political bias. The other guys in the newsroom across the street, on the other hand, are driven by greed and political motives.

So it goes in the world of journalists, where "digital first' proponents can be against digital editions, and for laying off their fellow journalists, as long as they, themselves, continue to get a paycheck and are listened to.

All this is my own prelude to saying that reading the reaction to the sale of Philadelphia Media Network, publisher of The Philadelphia Inquirer and The Daily News by various newspaper outlets was an exercise in frustration.

New's report on the sale was not at all subtle: the newspapers had been bought by a Democratic party boss (George Norcross) for political advantage. Only mentioned in passing was the fact that other members of the new ownership team play politics on the other side of the street.

Not surprisingly, the comments on the story are all about the horrors of the liberal media and how Norcross is a "liberal hack". Mission accomplished.

This is from a newspaper that goes to great length to hide its ownership by Advance. Even its "About Us" page says nothing about its ownership.

Forbes magazine is not known being afraid to show its political stripes, but its media coverage continues to be excellent.

The Forbes story, written by Brian Solomon, gets right to the most important single point of the Philly paper story: its sales price, $55 million.

The short piece simply reminds readers that it was only in 2006 that McClatchy, having recently bought the Knight Ridder chain, proceeded to sell off some of the properties. That year it sold the Philly dailies to Brian Tierney, a PR executive, for $515 million. It was a good deal for McClatchy, it turned out, as the Tierney reign proved to be a disaster, and the sales price was revealed in 2010 to have been – shall we say – a tad high.

That year, 2010, the papers were sold again this time to financial players who probably thought they were getting a good deal at $139 million.

But if there is one group that knows the value of media least it is the PE firms that invest in media. If they had a clue about what they were doing they wouldn't currently own so much of the B2B media industry, and wouldn't spend all their time trying to sell it off to other PE firms.

Only two years later the papers are once again in new hands, and the valuation of the papers has again fallen.

But the Solomon story missed one great opportunity: it fails to mention that another well known business had recently been sold but at a somewhat different valuation. The Los Angeles Dodgers was just sold to a group of investors for a sum somewhere around $2 billion. The contrast in the sales prices tell you all you need to know about where newspapers stand today: if you have fans you have value, even if you are a perennial loser.

Only billionaires can afford to buy sports teams. Maybe the press should layoff the mere millionaires that are forced to settle for buying newspapers.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Harrods brings its magazine to the iPad with a native designed tablet edition

The highlight for any first time visitor to London is a trip to Harrods, the department store that can trace its history back to 1824.
But if you can not get to London then at least you now can access the store's own branded magazine thanks to the firm launching a tablet edition into Apple's Newsstand (it also has a shopping iPhone app simply called Harrods.)

Harrods Magazine is free of charge, as is the content, as you'd expect from a custom content magazine.

The magazine's tablet edition can only be read in portrait and is a rather slow download (this is one area where it definitely can be improved). After that, the only downside I would say is that the high resolution artwork loads fairly slowly, but I think readers / shoppers won't mind as this is definitely one of those leisure reads that shouldn't be rushed into or out of.

The current issue available is April and it makes its appearance in Newsstand before it has actually appeared on the company's website.

Below is a two-minute walk-through of the start of the app with its embedded video and animated opening. No annoying voice over by me this time around.

MPA announces voluntary guidelines for tablet editions including a common set of definitions, tablet metrics; goal is to spur the growth of advertising into tablet editions

The Association of Magazine Media (MPA) this morning announced that, working with senior magazine executives, it has created a set of voluntary guidelines concerning tablet editions. These include a set of definitions and guidelines for tablet metrics.
The tablet guidelines have been created to recognize the need within the advertising community for greater insight and understanding into how to best leverage this powerful new platform,” said Nina Link, President and CEO, MPA.

“Tablets are one of the fastest-growing consumer electronic devices in history. They are ideally suited to leverage the incredible strengths of magazine media content. Tablets create a highly immersive experience for readers; a dynamic, new environment for advertisers to connect with magazine audiences; and almost unlimited opportunity for our brands,” Link said.

The voluntary guidelines were developed by the MPA Tablet Metrics Task Force and included representatives from Bonnier Corporation, Condé Nast, Forbes, Hearst Magazines, Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, Meredith Corporation and Time Inc.

The first five recommended metrics that the group wants to see used when evaluating tablet editions are total consumer paid digital issues, total number of tablet readers per issue, total number of sessions per issue, total time spent per reader per issue, and average number of sessions per reader per issue.

The goal, of course, is to increase advertising in tablet editions.

“This initiative and the increased transparency it provides will enable Ford and our agency partners to better leverage our marketing dollars in this growing consumer media platform,” Matt VanDyke, Director, Marketing Communications U.S., Ford Motor Company, was quoted in the MPA announcement.

The complete MPA announcement can be read after the jump:

Mad Magazine launches a (cheap!) tablet edition into Apple's Newsstand

Making just enough adjustments to their tablet edition to make it more easily read, DC Comics has introduced Mad Magazine into the Apple Newsstand.
The app, Mad magazine (Cheap!) – yep, that's really the name – is free to download and gives you access to tons of issue of the comedy magazine for $1.99 per shot (this is also the monthly sub price), or a subscription is available at $9.99.

The app also comes with a preview "issue", which isn't actually an issue but simply four pages of content. The preview comes as a disappointment after having to wait to download over 40 MB of content. That's right: 40MB of high resolution content only equates to four magazine pages, revealing the consequences of the new higher resolution iPad display.

But while there are some complaints about the preview inside the App Store, loyal readers should be happy with the digital edition as it makes just enough changes to make sure the tablet edition is readable.

Mad Magazine is the fifth app now available for the iOS devices, the others being Vertigo Comics, Hero Factory, Green Lantern Comics and DC Comics – all these other apps are universal. Mad Magazine (Cheap!), therefore, is the first app released that is specifically for the iPad.

The Sunday Times drops a bombshell, but their story resides behind paywall driving traffic to rivals

Just how far will the citizens of the UK allow their government to snoop into their email and Twitter and Facebook accounts? That is the question this morning as both the UK and US news outlets reacted to a story in The Sunday Times which revealed that the Tory government would request sweeping powers to monitor Internet communications.

The story, which was published on Sunday, April Fool's Day, had some believing that it was all a joke. But Murdoch's News Corp. has put the Times behind a solid paywall, preventing most readers from judging for themselves and driving all the generated web traffic to the paper's rivals. In the end, it is certainly no joke.

"Under plans expected to be announced in the Queen’s Speech next month, Internet companies will be told to install thousands of pieces of hardware to allow GCHQ, the Government’s eavesdropping centre, to scrutinize on demand every phone call, text message and email sent and website accessed in real time.”

Still from the German film The Lives of Others

For a country known for its cameras on every street corner, there is apparently a limit to what can be accepted.

“It is not focusing on terrorists or criminals. It is absolutely everybody. Historically, governments have been kept out of our private lives,” Tory MP David Davis said in a statement.

But the government appears seriously considering introducing the new measures: ""It is vital that police and security services are able to obtain communications data in certain circumstances to investigate serious crime and terrorism and to protect the public," a spokesman for the Tory government said yesterday.

Greece should bet on the Internet to spur economic growth, Boston Consulting Group says

The global management consulting firm Boston Consulting Group says the Grek government should look to South Korea as a model on how to move its economy forward, investing in online technology.

The consulting firm said that while the South Korean economy ranks first in online retail and high Internet usage, with 7.3 percent of its gross domestic product (GDP) tied to the Internet, Greece lags far behind with only 1.2 percent of its GDP tied to online business, or 2.7 billion euros in 2010.

The Boston Consulting Group study, "Internet Production: The Internet as a growth engine for the Greek Economy" was sponsored by Google and presented last week in Athens to political and business leaders.

"This holds a tremendous opportunity," said Stephen Loukakos, Google head of Greece, "the Internet can offer much to the growth and competitiveness and contribute to the recovery of the Greek economy - promoting exports and improving business productivity."

According to the report, the tremendous gap between imports and exports – Greece imports 1.8 billion euros worth of good, while only exporting 0.7 billion – can be traced to the lack availability of many goods through Greek retail channels online.

To improve this situation the study suggests that small and medium enterprises (SMEs) should move online, that the online infrastructure should be improved, that the government should promote online retail, that the government itself should move online, and there should be greater investment on education using digital media in order to "development of knowledge and confidence in the new media."

"The Internet will not solve all the problems in Greece. But it may serve as a powerful tool for promoting economic growth and create new jobs, particularly for young people. The Internet may indeed be a lever to accelerate recovery of the economy," the study concludes.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Bloomberg Businessweek issues update for their app, then warns users not to actually update their app

I know of a few cases where publishers have issued an update to their media apps then recognized that another update would be necessary. In those cases the publisher says 'oops, sorry about that, we'll fix this soon.'

But the app for Bloomberg Businessweek+ contains the unusual warning "iPAD USERS: DO NOT UPDATE. We are investigating a bug that is affecting people who update."

I'd like to tell you exactly what that bug is. but I've decided that the publisher knows best and have not updated my own app. But some of the new reviews give a clue what is going on:
It won't open...all I get is a black screen for 15 sec then I am sent back to the iPads home screen.
The bug seems to only effect iPad users, while iPhone users are reporting no problems associated with the update.

Needless to say, expect the publisher to issue a new update this week.

This does go to an issue all iOS users deal with: do they mindlessly update their apps, or do they update them one at a time after carefully reading the reactions of other users? I would guess that most people just hit "update all" and move on.

Lately, I've begun to be very careful with hitting the update button, especially after both Facebook and Twitter issued very poorly thought out updates.