Friday, June 15, 2012

Microsoft announces 'major' press event for Monday in Los Angeles; past embarrassments will require that the company needs to deliver this time around

Monday may prove to be a huge day for Microsoft, the company that once held a near monopoly on the computing industry but today finds itself lagging behind Apple and Google. The company has announced that will hold a major event on Monday in Los Angeles where, if reports are true, the company will unveil a company built tablet.

It is sometimes difficult to remember what the tablet market looked like before Steve Jobs walked on stage to unveil the first iPad. But it's worth remember that weeks prior to that event the tech media websites (and TNM) was filled with reports of other tablet launches.

While everyone knew that tablets were coming, the atmosphere was filled more with concepts than actual products. The Skiff, for instance, promised a flexibel eInk solution for newspapers.

Microsoft itself had been touting its Courier tablet, a concept tablet that proved to be more vaporware than hardware. But at the time many still believed that Apple's tablet was the same, so why not continue to promote future concepts? But an actual launch date, when announced by Apple, changed everything. Not only could Apple promise, but it could deliver.

That is why Monday's event is fraught with danger for Microsoft. The Redmond company will have to thread the needle to get it right – while it has much to gain, a wrong move could be deadly.

Microsoft has generally depended on its manufacturing partners when it comes to PC hardware. The relationships it has with the major PC makers has been what has made the company. In fact, at CES in January of 2010, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer stood on stage and previewed an HP tablet that, in retrospect, showed how far behind the PC makers were to Apple.

But those relationships are strained now, due in part to the growth of the tablet market (that is, iPad) and the fact that Android was often the first option for the PC makers, not Windows.

But Microsoft has ventured into hardware, too – a loser with the Zune, it has been a huge winner with the Xbox. It still outsources production (as does Apple), but these products are original, custom.

Image and video hosting by TinyPic
The Skiff  was previewed before Apple
held its original iPad event.
But to succeed in the tablet market, and to seriously threaten Apple, Microsoft would have to be willing to get into custom components - something most PC makers have shied away from. Apple, because it can promise its suppliers millions of units in sales, and long production runs, can demand custom components that is allowing it to create innovative products.

But if Microsoft puts its money on this new tablet it could do the same. It also has to be committed as an organization to the product, as well. After all, it has been two and a half years since Steve Ballmer tried to show that Microsoft would be a player in the tablet market.

Based on leaks to the WSJ and others, it is apparent that Microsoft thinks it can compete now. But will Microsoft dare to piss off their hardware partners? will they offer only vaporware? or is this just another crazy, off-track rumor that has the event figured all wrong? We'll see what it has to offer on Monday.

(Note: Some tech sites are taking a middle ground on Microsoft tablet rumors, guessing that any tablet announcement would be geared more towards the Kindle Fire end of the market rather than aimed at the iPad. This would be a conservative approach for sure.)

Rogers Publishing releases a promising, but sloppy new tablet edition for its B2B magazine title 'Marketing'

The Canadian publishing firm Rogers Publishing Limited has launched its ninth magazine title into Apple's Newsstand this morning. Marketing, the ABC-audited B2B trade magazine for Canada's marketing industry, has a circulation of around 9K, but can has access to the growing audience for tablet editions.
Marketing Magazine is offering readers single issue downloads at $4.99 CAD, and the ability to sign up for an annual subscription at $64.99 CAD. Since magazine is published 18 times a year, this is a slight discount off the cover price, but not much of one.

The app is intriguing. In many ways it is a replica edition with enhancements. But at the same time it is clearly using a native design solution. The pages are laid out in a print format, complete with pictures that are cut off by the iPad's display – caused by the choice to offer portrait only reading.

Yet it is clear that there was plenty of production work done on the first issue available in the app. I suppose the cut off text (see below) and truncated two-page spreads can be chalked up to poor editing and design.

The app itself has promise, but the work here is less than first rate. If I were the publisher of Marketing I would be irate. But then again I always was a stickler for proper editing and design work.

Left: The single-sponsor ad from Metro pops up as the first page of the latest edition; Middle: the editor's column was, it seems, poorly edited – the text abruptly ends mid-sentence, something I have seen in other tablet editions lately; Right: the page looks like a replica edition with its first word hyphenated (1) until one seems the swiping navigation at the top (2). But the page layout philosophy is definitely replica as the picture is sliced in half (3) and the reader needs to move to the next page to see the rest of the layout.

Disney launches three channel apps for iOS, but you have to be a Comcast customer to access content

Watching television on your tablet or mobile device is becoming far more common as the networks continue to launch apps that support their channels. Normally, however, a network negotiates with several cable providers before deciding to launch their app.

HBO GO and WatchESPN are good examples of this. If a cable provider has not yet agreed the network might go ahead and launch, putting a little extra pressure on the cable company to reach an understand after the app has launched – this happened with WatchESPN which launched without an agreement with Comcast. Later the app was updated to include access for Comcast customers.
One has to wonder, did Disney swing a deal with Comcast that gave the cable provider an exclusive on its future new apps, even if only for a short time period?

One has to think so because this week Disney launched three new channel apps, WATCH Disney Channel, WATCH Disney XD and WATCH Disney Junior

If so, then that was a pretty creative way of getting Comcast on board, and a tactic other cable providers might employ going forward, assuming they think they have the same pull as Comcast.
Did Disney swing a deal with Comcast that gave the cable provider an exclusive on its future new apps, even if only for a short time period?
One has to assume that eventually other cable customers will be able to use these three new apps – and an Android app should be on the horizon, as well.

Of course, the issue that always comes up when they television channel apps launch is when will the major networks pull the cord on the cable providers and launch without their support? The answer may be never, or at least not soon.

One of the reasons for this is the complex nature of the contracts in place. Another is that the networks have a symbiotic relationship with the cable companies. In some case they are investors in those companies.

But more generally, the networks like the cable system because it is close. Even though there are hundreds of television channels, in reality the offerings are still limited. The networks own, after all, many channels, so those hundreds of channels do not represent hundreds of television companies.
In a world where anyone can launch a television app, the networks would find themselves in a tough spot. This is one reason why some think Apple will never open up its Apple TV to third party apps.

In an app environment, with no ties to the cable companies, anyone with video content could be a television network – yes, even newspaper and magazine companies.

This may be the future, but it probably isn't the immediate future.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Amazon updates its iOS Kindle reading app

Like Kobo before it, Amazon has issued an update to its iOS reading app. The Kindle app, with an equally ridiculous app name, was updated to bring allow for the reading of eBooks more enhanced that the usual text only products.

By the way, that dreadful app name, in full, is Kindle – Read Books, Magazines & More – Over 1 Million eBooks & Newspapers. Any longer and it would have to be broken up into paragraphs.

The app description breaks out the improvements made of the app into separate device categories:

iPad users:
- Read children’s books, comic books, and graphic novels with beautiful layout and full color. Over 1000 children’s titles are available including Brown Bear and Curious George and comics such as Batman and Superman.
- Improved reading experience on iPad: Smaller margins and a cleaner look help you focus on the author's words.

iPad, iPhone, and iPod touch:
- Search: Quickly locate your content by searching for a title or author.
- Google and Wikipedia: This update fixes an issue that prevented lookup of words on Google and Wikipedia.

The Huffington Post joins other web properties in launching a tablet magazine; weekly digital magazine skips the bells and whistles of other digital editions

The Huffington Post today launched its long anticipated weekly tablet magazine today inside the Apple Newsstand. The tablet-only magazine is offering a preview issue free for those who sign up for a subscription (possibly in hopes that those who are not impressed will forget to cancel their subscription).
The app description for Huffington. (with the period at the end) states that it is charging $0.99 for individual issues, but $1.99 for a monthly subscription, with an annual subscription priced at $19.99. Some buyers may be confused and think this pricing is wrong, not realizing that the magazine is attempting to publish weekly.

The dynamics of publishing a weekly tablet-only magazine versus a monthly require that the publisher commit to a dedicated staff to pull off the publishing schedule. Other web properties that have launched tablet-only magazines have gone for a less stressful publishing schedule which would allow for the existing web team to handle the digital magazine duties.

But like many of the other web into digital magazine ventures, this one, too, is a simple affair. Pages are designed much like print, and much like a replica edition. No, there are no page folios, but neither are their native tablet design features like scrolling text boxes, animation, or many other digital features seen in digital-only magazines such as Red Bulletin or Project.
Huffington. is a conservative digital magazine from a fairly liberal website. Edited by Timothy L. O’Brien, formerly the editor of the New York Times' Sunday Business section, the digital magazine is looking to repurpose some of its web content while enticing readers with original long form content written specifically for the tablet magazine. O'Brien described that approach as “a classic sort of Sunday magazine experience,” according to the NYT preview of the issue.

The preview issue is a moderate download that produces an issue that is to be read in portrait only. Once opened one can see that the digital magazine will be attempting to encourage the same sort of dialogue found online where typically gathers thousands of comments. In the end, this may be the magazine's most important contribution to the digital magazine form.

Here is a short walk through the beginning of the preview issue, dated June 10:

Time Inc. moves its magazine properties into Apple's Newsstand, now offering monthly & annual subscriptions

Time Inc. has made a change of direction, moving its magazine apps from a stand alone position into the Apple Newsstand. The magazines will also now start to offer subscriptions, as well.

Prior to the move, Time Inc. has used the App Store as a way to promote single copy sales. With the move into the Newsstand, Time Inc. is following the pack by going after digital subscribers.
Individual issues will still cost $4.99 for Time Magazine, but now readers can subscribe for $2.99 per month or $29.99 on an annual basis.

Print subscribers will be able to sign in and access their issues for free, something many other publishers are not doing.

One would assume this would be good news for digital readers, but the early reviews still point to one other problem: Time Inc. has not yet adjusted for the new iPad, continuing to offer their digital magazines at the old, lower resolution.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Apple Smart Case a smart upgrade for iPad owners

Most readers (maybe all) of this website probably own an iPad, whether the generation of tablet that might be. And while it isn't the mission of this site to talk about products, such posts haven't been completely missing either.

Because of that, I thought it might be worth mentioning the introduction of the new iPad cover Apple introduced on Monday.

The Smart Case is a big improvement over the Smart Cover that was introduced at the same time as the iPad 2.

The Smart Case, unlike the previous product, protects the entire iPad, though I don't really think that is the improvement.

The original Smart Cover seemed like such a nice product because of those magnets that attached the case to the iPad – they also, of course, turned on and off the display.

But anyone who actually has owned one for a while knows that what seems cool at first can be quite a drag over time. Those magnets don't really secure the cover to the iPad very well, and in the most inopportune times the case will fall off.

The new cover is designed so that the iPad fits inside a unibody case. Although its major sales point may be protection, ease of use is probably its biggest attraction – no more inadvertent dislodging of the case.

The case costs $49 from Apple, and mine was order on Monday and was received today. I'd recommend the upgrade.

B2B ad page declines accelerate in March, down 10.75%, now down 7.25% for the year

There appears to be no good news for B2B publishers this year as ad pages continue to decline. According to the just released BIN report from The Association of Business Information & Media Companies (ABM), publishers saw the rate of decline in ad pages accelerate in March.

Ad pages in March 2012 fell 10.75 percent against the same quarter in 2011. Last year at this time B2B publishers were reporting ad pages that were essentially flat versus 2010, as some media observers began to hope that the worst was over for the beleaguered industry.
But ad pages are now down 7.25 percent for the year (PDF).

If there is any good news, it is that the trade show side of the business is not showing the same level of declines. According to the Center for Exhibition Industry Research, trade show revenue is up slight, 1.5 percent, to $2.99 billion in the first quarter of the year.

Antidotal evidence points to a continued weakening of second and third tier titles – those titles that are not number one in their industry. Recent copies of some B2B titles coming across my desk show folios of 28 to 32 pages total, with ad page counts barely breaking double digits.

Those publishers waiting for a recovery may have a long wait ahead of them, and since so many B2B firms are owned by private equity companies, there are probably many on the financial side of the business wondering if or when they will be able to exit their investments.

Online coupon provider, RetailMeNot, launches its first iPhone app; mobile solution offers lots of store discounts, but lacks brand specific promotions

It is a bit ironic, and more than a bit sad, that some newspaper companies are cutting back their daily print schedules to concentrate on certain days that remain profitable. One of those days, Sunday, are seen as worth continuing because of the inserts including in the edition – all those coupons that shoppers clip and save.

But while old newspaper companies look at their P&Ls for guidance, few seem to be looking at the future of couponing itself. Those old paper coupons will soon be gone, and only those newspaper executives seem to be unaware of this.
One online coupon provider, RetailMeNot, today launched its first iPhone app to deliver those savings to shoppers. RetailMeNot Coupons now delivers store savings right from your mobile phone, and without the hassle of cutting and saving bits of paper.

"This first iPhone app is only our initial offering, and we plan on significant improvements and new features to come to support consumers interested in saving money while using mobile devices to shop online or within retail stores," said Cotter Cunningham, CEO and founder of WhaleShark Media in the company's announcement for the app.

RetailMeNot, originally an Australian company, was bought by WhaleShark Media in 2010 as part of a coupon company roll up strategy. WhaleShark Media, and by extension RetailMeNot, has some serious backing from Austin Ventures, Norwest Venture Partners and Adam Street Partners. Prior to closing on RetailMeNot, WhaleShark had previously acquired Deals2Buy, Coupon7, Cheapstingybargains and

The idea behind RetailMeNot is the make coupons digital, and to tie them to your credit card. The shopper then makes their purchases with the card registered with RetailMeNot and the discounts are applied automatically. While many shoppers might be hesitant to use this method, RetailMeNot attempts to allay their fears by not forcing the buyer to enter their expiration date or security code information.

But, in some ways, RetailMeNot's solution is a bit more like GroupOn than old fashioned couponing. Shoppers rifling through their Sunday paper generally cut out coupons for individual brands. But the RetailMeNot discounts are for stores, in general. Stores such as Bloomingdales, Target and Kohl's offer 10 to 50 percent discounts that might expire in a manner of days, or are valid for much longer periods of time. This coupon approach is being used by many retailers as a substitute for sales (or in combination).

But RetailMeNot is not going to threaten the old fashioned paper coupons just yet when it comes to the kinds of coupons most shoppers still use. A search for "bacon", for instance, brought up Dominos and Papa Johns. In other words, this is a retail coupon solution, not a CPG one.
To get these kinds of brand specific promotions from the CPGs, online and offline media companies often to sell their solutions to the individual brand managers, their teams and their agency partners. This is a level of penetration of the clients that is still a bit difficult for many new companies.

Additionally, new media solutions to the problem of retail shopping behavior will have to take into account such issues as geolocation, shopping lists, etc.

But all this is coming, and soon. One of the items Apple previewed in its WWDC keynote on Monday was Passbook, a new app that gathers up an iPhone owner's boarding passes, tickets and other redeemable items. A user, for instance, will be able to buy a ticket using Fandango and then have the ticket appear on their lockscreen the minute they arrive at the theater. Ticket buying, boarding passes and the like are used today, but the addition of location and timing is the new part.

Clearly the future of couponing is location and timing, combined with buyer preference. Give me a coupon for the item I want, when I want it, and where I want it. I don't need a coupon for bacon, for instance, until I have arrived at the store. The coupon then can serve the dual purpose of providing me with the discount, but also reminding me that I want to buy that item.

App update news: Washington Post, Smithsonian tweak tablet editions; Kobo enhances eBook app; digital newsstand app Lekiosk makes a mess of English

Now that the giant WWDC roll out is over, Apple and developers can get back to creating and updating apps. No doubt the large number of app updates today were submitted prior to the beginning of WWDC, but finally today they are beginning to appear.
The Washington Post today issued an update to its iPad app. The app, The Washington Post for iPad, is a free news app that simply reformats the paper's website. The app, as I've said in the past, seems be to redundant as the iPad's Safari browser does a fine job of reproducing the paper's website.

Since the app does not generate subscription revenue, the only business model that would support it be advertising. But, at least on my own iPad, the only ads to be seen were house ads.

The update to the app appears to be minor: fixes to eliminate crashes and memory leaks.

Smithsonian Magazine from the Smithsonian Institution has also been update. The app update supposedly brings the app 'retina' display support for those who own new iPads.

The first review to be found after the update seems to dispute this, though this may be a case of newer issues being presented with 'retina' support, while older issues remain as they were.

PBS has updated its PBS for iPad app, as well. The new update brings in more local programming. For many viewers this may be a good thing, though I must admit that my local Chicago PBS is the worst I've encountered. (I believe that the station thinks only those over 70 watch, maybe they are right.)

Lekiosk, the French digital newsstand, has updated its iPad app today. The app has gotten a fair amount of attention from media industry websites who believe their sole purpose is the reproduce press releases (does that sound too snarky for you?).

The news here was supposed to be that the app will now make available UK magazine titles, but the app only mentions this in passing. At the top the Lekiosk app still talks about its "600 french titles" (sic), but in the "What's new" section it finally gets around to mentioning the "Londres" newsstand. (That is the way the French spell "London".) Yikes.
Finally, it should be mentioned that Kobo Inc. has released a nice update to its eBook reading app, which still has one of the worst app names out there – Kobo - 1 million FREE Books – Read eBooks!. The app update brings in support for more enhanced eBooks, as well as the usual bug fixes.

Among the enhancements mentioned are "richly illustrated content" from comics, cookbooks, and more, support for read-along books, support for books with embedded audio and video, improved menus, and search.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

For employees of the Times-Picayune, 'digital first' means filing for unemployment; Alabama papers to lose 400 positions as Advance implements new publishing strategy

Today was D-Day for employees of the Times-Picayune in New Orleans – the day they found out just how many of them would be retained by one of the two new companies formed by Advance, Nola Media Group or Advance Central Services Louisiana. In the end, 201 employees, or about one third of the total, have been let go.

"Among the more notable names on the list of newsroom employees slated for layoffs are are award-winning restaurant critic Brett Anderson, longtime sports columnist Peter Finney and religion writer Bruce Nolan," wrote Jaquetta White, in the Times-Picayune online post concerning the terminations. (Sadly, the comments section of the story online is filled with trolls and those who enjoy the misery of others.)

The paper used the term "lay offs", though this would be incorrect, these are jobs that will never come back. Of the 173 newsroom spots before the terminations, 84 were eliminated today.

Expect more such news today at Advance Publications as the company rolls out its own version of austerity among its papers in the southeast.

"We regret that we will not be able to offer employment to all of our current staffs in the new companies. We are providing our departing employees with as much advance notice as possible and offering to them a generous severance agreement and outplacement packages," said Pam Siddall, president of Advance Central Services of Alabama, of the two companies Advance has created for its Alabama newspapers where 400 employees are said to be losing their jobs today.

The daily newspapers owned by Advance announced on May 24 that they will cut back on the days in which they will publish their papers, limiting them to Wednesday, Friday and Sunday.

As with most 'digital first' strategies announced by old media companies, the real goal here was cost reduction as no new digital initiatives accompanied the announcement of the moves.

Update: Gambit, the New Orleans alt-weekly, late last night posted this story about the layoffs at the Times-Picayune.

Besides the sad retelling of layoff notices, this paragraph stands out:

No one from Advance Publications or Newhouse, the parent companies of The Times-Picayune, was on hand to deliver the news — leaving the job to the paper's editors in brief individual meetings with those whom they supervised. The paper's new publisher, Ricky Mathews, was not seen in the building.

What happened to the much rumored Apple TV update? Tech and media writers make their best guesses

Apple had a full agenda yesterday at the opening of their Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) as the company previewed new laptops, the next generation Mac OS, as well as iOS 6. Most Apple launch events are right around an hour and a half, but yesterday's keynote lasted nearly two hours.

Despite this all the goodies previewed, one item seemed missing: the rumored update to the Apple TV's operating system. Rumors swirled before the opening of WWDC that Apple would open up the Apple TV to third party apps. Such a move, while anticipated for quite some time, would be potentially revolutionary. It has to happen, doesn't it? Certainly someone will do this, why not Apple?

But it didn't happen, and tech and media writers are scratching their heads trying to understand why it didn't.

GigaOM's Janko Roettgers speculates that the reason is that the Apple TV doesn't have enough penetration in the market yet. For Roettgers, "a smaller device footprint equals less money and opportunities for developers."

But this is a chicken and the egg argument. The Apple iPhone, it could be argued, didn't break through UNTIL it opened to third party apps, why not do the same to the Apple TV? And if Apple really is waiting until the Apple TV reaches a critical mass before opening it up to third party apps, what would make this happen? Wouldn't it be, in fact, more app choices?

Jay Yarow of Business Insider is, I think, a bit closer to the truth when he says that Apple will want to give such a move its own event. Opening up the Apple TV to third party apps, Yarow believes, would be worthy of a separate event. I agree.

One could certainly argue that mixing in a brand new development platform with an event that also was about the unveiling of a new Mac OS and a new iOS would simply be too much.

Along these lines it is important to remember that the latest version of the Apple TV, the hardware, was just recently released. The third generation Apple TV came out along side the new iPad in March. One might postulate that opening up the Apple TV to third party apps would require new hardware.

The issue is storage.

The first generation Apple TV was more of a DVR device, initially with 40 GB of storage, later with 160 GB of storage. Consumers didn't see the point, why not just use an old Mac mini (many did).

The second generation Apple TV was a different animal: smaller, cheaper, with no storage. It's main purpose was, and still is, to stream content to the TV – either from their owners iOS devices, or from a select group of apps that Apple creates or allows.

At $99, the device is a bargain. Owners who also own an iPhone or iPad understand the merits of the device – and many want more of the same through third party apps built specifically for the Apple TV rather than through AirPlay.

Why can't a developer simply build an app for the iPad and encourage streaming? I know many newspaper and magazine publishers who think this way - they are they ones that think replica editions are the way to go.

But mixing platforms is never a good idea. The iPad is used by many as a reading device, by others as a browsing device.

If the issue is the Apple TV itself, and its need for added storage, then we won't see the introduction of third party apps until at least the Christmas season, if not later.

The other issue is the much rumored Apple HDTV. If Apple really is going to launch a new television set – and I remain skeptical about such a move – there would be no reason to update the Apple TV until that time. The reasoning would be that Apple would be presenting high end buyers an all-in-one solution with a new HDTV, and other buyers with a modified Apple TV – both products would be capable of delivering the new features Apple believes would revolutionize the platform.

The introduction of an Apple HDTV would require its own event, its own SDK, and its own Apple App Store.

The new features many speculate will be included in an Apple built HDTV would also be required of the current Apple TV: an onboard microphone for Siri, a front facing camera for FaceTime, etc.

There is also one more school of thought: Apple doesn't want to open up the Apple TV because of the possible consequences of such a move. The thinking here is that network and producer partners understand what is at stake in a world where anyone can build a "channel", where any developer can become a television broadcaster.

But that is precisely what most think the future holds: the television platform, many believe. is even more ripe for revolution than the music or film industry was.

No, a new Apple TV is coming, even if it doesn't come from Apple.

TNM and the Summertime Blues

Call it the after WWDC blues, a state of depression that follows a major event when the realization sets in that it is now back to writing about the media world. Writing about tech, it seems obvious, is more exciting and interesting than writing about the media industry. Tech is optimistic, the new – it is sometimes juvenile, but always interesting. Media writing, on the other hand, is about layoffs, mergers and acquisitions, and other depressing events.

Then there is the fact that it is summer.

In 2010, around this same time, I decided that after six months it was time to close down the site. I never intended to make this a full time venture and so maybe it was time to call it quits. I probably should have taken my own advice, because two years later TNM is still here.

Once again this year TNM will go on sabbatical, closing down for almost two weeks starting next Thursday and continuing through July 4 as I travel through Greece. There were some thoughts that I would make this a bit of a working vacation, possibly meeting with new media professionals in Greece to discuss the digital media environment, but... now it is just a vacation.

And a vacation is just what TNM needs because writing day to day about media can be a downer – yet digital media should be more like tech. What TNM needs right now is to recharge the batteries and to get excited about things. Maybe after the July 4 holiday I will return optimistic, energized and excited about the future of media.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Freedom Comm. completes divestment of properties with the sale of its flagship, the Orange County Register

In the very early eighties I was a young pup working for Hearst Newspapers in Los Angeles when word came down that our newspaper, the Herald Examiner, was no long the number two paper in the southland, we'd been passed by the Orange County Register. It was a sign of the growth of the suburbs and the further decline of a once dominant newspaper. A few years later Hearst closed down the Herald Examiner and the Register we on to live happily ever after.

Well, not quite.

Today, Freedom Communications, which has exited bankruptcy just last year, announced that it has completed the sale of its newspaper properties, ending a divestiture process that started in November with the sale of its television stations to Sinclair Broadcast Group.

The flagship, the Orange County Register has been sold to 2100 Trust LLC, a company led by Aaron Kushner which had attempted to buy the Boston Globe.

Last month Freedom announced that it has sold its four midwest newspapers – The Telegraph in Alton, Ill., The Journal-Courier in Jacksonville, Ill., The Sedalia Democrat in Sedalia, Mo., and The Lima News in Ohio – to the Versa Capital Management LLC. Arond the same time the media company sold its Texas papers – The Brownsville Herald, El Nuevo Heraldo, The Harlingen Valley Morning Star, The Monitor in McAllen, The Odessa American and The Mid Valley Town Crier in Weslaco – to AIM Media Texas LLC, a newly formed company. Finally, Freedom sold off its papers in the southeast, papers located in Florida and North Carolina, to Halifax Media Group, a PE backed media company that has been pursuing an aggressive acquisition strategy.

The sale leaves the newspaper scene in Southern California completely transformed from just a couple decades ago. In addition to the exit by Hearst, the L.A. Times is now owned by the Tribune Company (when it was formerly owned by Times-Mirror), the Daily News, which has been bought and sold several times, forms the flagship for the MediaNews Group division Los Angeles Newspaper Group, and now the sale of Freedom Communication's property in Orange County. The transformation even goes further: Knight-Ridder used to own the Long Beach Press-Telegram, Copley owned papers in Torrance and Santa Monica (The Outlook was shuttered in 1998) and papers in the San Gabriel Valley have all changed hands.

WWDC event unveils a ton of updates, but very little that will put a charge into new media pros; no Apple TV 3rd party apps for now, no new authoring tools unveiled

Apple's CEO and a series of executives previewed major updates to the Mac OS and the mobile OS, introduced updated laptops, including a fantastic new MacBook Pro – but in the end, this WWDC may be remembered for what didn't get discussed.

The rumored opening up of the Apple TV to third party apps did not happen. It will be left to others to parse the meaning of this – maybe it is because Apple wants to continue to hold back until the company releases either a new Apple TV or an actual television, or maybe its because they simply don't want to go there – but for now, the anticipated revolution to the television will have to wait.

Apple also did not introduce more authoring tools such as iBooks Author. No surprise, I suppose, since the rumor mill did not include this one.

But because of these two omissions, I found this WWDC keynote to be the least important to publishers in a long, long time.

That is not to say that there weren't lots of great announcements. No, there were plenty. But very few will really impact the media world.

The new MacBook Pro with 'retina' display
To recap:

Apple has launched an updated line of both MacBook Airs and MacBook Pros. The updates are impressive, but not nearly as impressive as the brand new top end MacBook Pro which will sport a new, slimmer design, and a high resolution (retina) display. The machine looks to be killer – but since sales of the top end laptops are so small, it will impress tech writers far more than consumers. The real impact of the new MacBook Pro will be minimal until the specs start to migrate down the product chain.

Apple reviewed both the next version of the Mac OS, dubbed Mountain Lion, as well as the next version of its mobile operating system, iOS 6. Both have fantastic upgrades and new features, including the much rumors new mapping solution.

Consumers will love the new features such as FaceTime calling over cellular, Twitter and FaceBook integration, enhancements to Siri, new maps with turn-by-turn navigation, etc.

But what I found interesting was how little of all this got developers excited. Most of this was the creation of internal Apple development teams and didn't seem to excite those in attendance.

But developers will have new betas to work with now, and lots of new APIs. Over time, this WWDC may appear to have been more important than my first impression of it have been. But, for me, all these great new features seem to be only for the benefit of Apple, making their money making mobile devices that much better and more desirable.

Here is are two examples where little things may add up to bigger things down the road for developers – and possibly media companies developing apps. First, a new Apple app called Passbook will be a gathering place of boarding passes, store cards, movie tickets and the like. Think of it as a Newsstand for transactions. A second area involves social media integration. The new OS updates will deeply integrate FaceBook and Twitter in ways that publishers may be able to take advantage of (think article sharing, etc.)

WWDC continues for the next few days, but it is clear that nothing, other than new hardware, will go live this week. Apple CEO Tim Cook mentioned that Apple is basically shutdown this week. Other announcement are possible, such as updates to both the Mac Pro and mini line – both of which were rumored. (In fact, Apple quietly released Mac Pro updates when the Apple Store went back online. The update is very minor, however, only a processor change.)

This year's WWDC keynote has had more than enough introductions and previews to keep the tech sites writing or a while. But as for enhancements for publishers, or opening up new areas for development like the Apple TV, that is for the future. For now, this is what you get – a lot of great new stuff to play around with, but no revolution. (Investors weren't very impressed either, Apple stock is falling in late day trading.)

IAB reports that Q1 Internet ad revenue hit new heights, up 15% over the same quarter in 2011

Last week the Newspaper Association of America announced that newspaper digital advertising growth had slowed to a trickle. Newspapers, in fact, saw their digital revenue grow by only 1 percent, and the NYT and Washington Post even recorded declines in the category.

But if newspapers thought that the slowing in digital could be chalked up to the economy, the IAB today delivered some sobering news: first quarter Internet advertising revenue set another new record, $8.4 billion. This represents a 15 percent increase over the same quarter a year ago.

“More online consumers than ever are taking to the internet to inform and navigate their daily lives—by desktop, tablet or smartphone,” the recently returned President and CEO of the IAB, Randall Rothenberg, said. “Marketers and agencies are clearly–and wisely–investing dollars to reach digitally connected consumers.”

The advertising report issued by the IAB is unaudited, but its historical information clearly shows the trend. While many media gurus continue to push paid content strategies and try to convince their clients and readers to abandon ad dependent publishing strategies, the pie for digital continues to grow.

WWDC pre-game show for publishers

It is sometimes hard to keep track of all the Apple special events, so I thought it might be worth giving TNM readers a bit of a preview of what to expect, and what to pay attention to, in all the WWDC hoopla.

First, it is important to remember that Apple's Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) is not a new event, it's been around for years. The purpose of the event is to present to developers new software, training, updates. Before the introduction of the iPhone, the WWDC was exclusively a Mac event. But since 2008, at least, the event has been targeted more and more to iOS, and consequently the event has been an instant sell out.

Apple has, though, used the WWDC keynote as an opportunity to introduce hardware. This year may be no exception as rumors are rife that Apple will update much, if not all, of its Mac hardware. But the iPhone now has its own launch event (in the fall) and the iPad event is earlier in the year.

So while much of the tech world will be talking about new hardware like updated Mac Pros (long over due), it is the software updates that should grab the attention of publishers.

Most rumor sites agree that the new version of Apple's mobile operating system, iOS 6, will appear in beta. If history is any guide, it should be available to download shortly after the WWDC keynote today (you have to have a developer license, of course). A new version of Safari, and the first appearance in public of Mountain Lion, Apple's new Mac OS, can be expected, as well.

As I wrote on Friday, the Apple TV would be my headline grabber. The Apple TV runs iOS, but unlike other iOS devices, the Apple TV is currently not open to third party developers. An open Apple TV would instantly transform the device from a streaming tool to a major gaming platform.

For publishers, an open Apple TV would also mean that the television is now open to new forms of publishing products. If digital replica editions of print magazines are the rage on the iPad, I suppose we can expect similarly unimaginative products for the Apple TV. But creative publishers would certainly think of better and more appropriate ways to "publisher" to the HDTV (or at least I hope so).

My one and only prediction for today's big WWDC event is this: we won't see Jony Ive, Apple's British design guru (and now "Sir" Jony Ive) until late in the event. After all, the England-France Euro 2012 match won't be completed until late in the presentation.

For Lekiosk, the future is the past; 3D digital newsstand pushes replica editions; company to launch UK newsstand

Usually I tend to ignore posts on new media websites that push the press releases of tech companies, but occasionally one gets my attention. This post on The Next Web is one of those cases.
The subject of the post is the new U.K. digital newsstand from Lekiosk. The French company, founded in 2008, has had an iOS and Android app for awhile now (its iPad app launched in early 2011).

Like its U.S. counterpart, Zinio, the app is very popular with mobile and tablet devices owners as it is an entry point for many new device owners to access magazines for their phones or tablets.

The gimmick of Lekiosk is its "3D Newsstand", and it truly is a gimmick. When launched, the Lekiosk app opens to an animated illustration of a physical newsstand. The user can twirl the newsstand around, though one guesses the only reason to do so is to look cool. Otherwise one would be better off simply searching for their titles, or looking for them under the categories.
What one finds when the reader selects a magazine is a digital replica edition of the print magazine. In other words, Lekiosk is about as retro as one can get: a replica of a newsstand selling replicas of the print magazines. The big news, I guess, is that now the company will be offering some UK titles.

The most innovative thing about Lekiosk is that, like Next Issue, Lekiosk has a subscription model where the reader can get a package of 10 magazines for £9.99 per month – same price in Euros. Only select magazines are available, however, so the appeal of this option is lessened. No doubt popular magazines opt out.

For magazine publishers it is an easy decision to become available on these digital newsstands. Zinio, Magzter, Lekiosk, they are a dime a dozen at this point, and any magazine publisher would be remiss not to be available most of them.

But if what Lekiosk is offering is supposed to be the future, then I wonder why readers haven't migrated to all digital replica editions like flipbooks years ago - after all, flipbooks have been around for a long time now. (The reason, of course, is that research shows readers don't like them, listing them as their least favorite way to read a periodical.)

Adobe updates its iOS version of Photoshop Express, adds in-app purchase options for photo effects

Adobe Systems this weekend updated its iOS version of Adobe Photoshop Express, adding in-app purchase options to assist photo takers with special effects, borders, etc.

The app update brings three different in-app purchase options:

  • Adobe Effects Pack brings users after photo effects – the pack costs $2.99
  • Adobe Camera Pack includes noise reduction, a self-timer, and an auto review feature – the pack costs $4.99
  • Adobe Border Pack introduces 40 borders and frames – the effects pack costs $1.99
Adobe is playing catch up here now that Apple has launched a version of iPhoto for its iOS devices. While Apple's photo solution is priced at $4.99, Adobe has been giving away its Photoshop Express app.

Adobe recently launched a more feature rich version of Photoshop for the iPad with Adobe Photoshop Touch. That app costs $9.99 and was initially without higher resolution support, but an update upped the resolution support to 2048x2048, though the default is still at 1600x1600.

Adobe has also launched today a mobile app for Adobe Presenter. PresenterMobile supports its software solution that assists users enhance PowerPoint files into interactive presentations and training courses by use of a plug-in. Adobe Presenter 7 costs $500 for the PC.

Morning Brief: Spain's bailout deal is not without strings; Euro 2012 provides much needed diversion; looks like the U.S. will soon have new commerce secretary

Saturday Spain agreed to a €100bn deal to recapitalize its debt-laden banks. Spain congratulated itself on having swung a deal without having to sign a memorandum such as Greece did. The financial community applauded the deal and today European markets are up.

But Reuters and other news agencies are reporting today that in fact Spain will face supervision by international lenders.

The EU Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia was quoted by Spanish radio as stating "Of course there will be conditions. Whoever gives money never gives it away for free."

The Spanish state is taking the loans, Spain will be responsible for them... There will likewise be a troika. There will of course be supervision to ensure that the program is being complied with, but this refers only to the restructuring of the banks," German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said, according to the Reuters report.

While European stock markets opened higher, and bond yields fell, the market has moderated now, with most government bonds pretty much unchanged. The Euro, which rose at open, is now around $1.26, about two pennies higher than levels seen last week.

The attention of the European media, and the public, is split between the events in Greece, Spain and other countries in the Eurozone, and the Euro 2012 soccer tournament.

Euro 2012 opened this weekend and today the last of the 16 teams play their first matches. The marquee match up this morning (U.S. time) is between England and France. Spain and Italy have already played to a draw, and the Greeks and Poles drew, as well.

The hopes of the Irish were dashed yesterday by a 3 to 1 thumping at the hands of Croatia.

If soccer isn't a diversion enough, there is this: David Cameron accidentally leaves daughter in pub.

Back in the States, it appears the Obama administration will soon be looking for a new Commerce Secretary.

The man currently in the post, John Bryson, was cited in a felony hit-and-run case in California this weekend. According to reports, Bryson rear ended a vehicle waiting for a train in the city of San Gabriel – stopped and spoke to the passengers of the car, then drove off. Bryson was then found unconscious behind the wheel of his car after it apparently struck yet another vehicle.

One would think there may be intoxicants at play here, but reports currently say this is not the case.

Update: Turns out the culprit was a seizure, according to Talking Points Memo. This still doesn't explain leaving the scene of an accident, though it would explain being found unconscious behind the wheel. We'll see how this shakes out.

While Europe is obsessed with the Eurozone mess and soccer, the tech media world will be looking to San Francisco today as Apple kicks off its Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC). While the event does have the glamour of an iPhone or iPad launch event, it usually proves to be far more important due to the new software introductions.

There are the usual rumors about hardware and software updates, but it is most likely the case that Apple CEO Tim Cook will try and narrow down the focus of his keynote which will start at 10AM PDT / 1PM EDT.

Tech sites such as Ars Technica, Engadget, The Verge and others will be live blogging the event. TNM will have its reaction to the WWDC opening soon after Cook leaves the stage.