Friday, July 6, 2012

Celebrate a Scot in the Wimbledon final with a wee dram, or Unfiltered from The Scotch Malt Whisky Society

The Brits are celebrating the fact that for the first time since 1938 a Brit will be in the Wimbledon final – of course, the Scots are pointing out that Andy Murray is really a Scot.
No matter, Murray is in, so congratulations.

And as if on cue, Connect Communications Ltd. has released an iPad edition of Unfiltered, the magazine from The Scotch Malt Whisky Society, which the app description proudly says is "the world's finest bottler of single cask, single malt whisky."

Well, we'll have to have a few glasses to see if that claim is true.

In the meantime, the iPad edition of the magazine is out and readers can be assured that the digital edition is native, and well done.

The app offers a short sample issue, which you can see below in the video (I was in such a hurry to get this post up I didn't realize I was creating a video of the sample, not the entire issue.)

Unfiltered is a quarterly a single issues can be accessed for £3.99 (US$5.99). The app description says a six-month subscription is available for £7.49 (US$10.99), but that doesn't make much sense if the magazine is a quarterly (what do you get, one and half issues?).

Enjoy Murray's victory with a glass of your favorite Scotch, and an issue of Unfiltered on your iPad - and don't think about what he faces in the final (Roger Federer).

British Journal of Photography's new iPhone edition: tailored design uses the new version of the Mag+ platform

Yesterday Map+ released a new version of its platform – see here. Version 3.5 is a jump from 3.2, the company says, because of the significance of the update. The new version allows users to export their work for multiple platforms, and for the first time, allows designers to create a native iPhone app, as well.
One of the two apps already released using the new version of the Mag+ platform is from the British Journal of Photography. The publication had previously released a very nice iPad edition using the Mag+ platform, but late last month released its first iPhone edition.

BJPhoto: iPhone Edition is not simply a replica of the iPad edition, but a natively designed app that gives readers who want to access magazine content on their iPhone an easy to read and navigate version, appropriate for the device being used.

The app and its content is free to access, so the app is the perfect way for developers and publishers to check out the platform's advantages. The results are impressive and should encourage magazine publishers to reconsider some of their previous replica edition attempts for mobile.

Left: the menu page seen at the app's opening; Middle: the navigation instructions; Right: articles typically open with a graphic and headline, though the photographs most often take up the full screen.

Apple says it has fixed server issue that led to updated apps crashing on launch; developer gets a lesson in the ways of modern tech journalism

Quite a number of apps that had previously been updated over the past few days have appeared again as new updates in the Apple App Store, possibly to encourage new downloads from users that found that many of these apps crashed upon installation and opening.

Apple acknowledged the problem yesterday and said it would be working on a fix. Later in the afternoon the company told the WSJ that “We had a temporary issue that began yesterday with a server that generated DRM code for some apps being downloaded."

The WSJ story that appeared late yesterday afternoon also correctly pointed out that the issue was first publicized by Marco Arment, the developer behind the popular Instapaper app. On July 4, Arment posted a story on his own site explaining the app crashing issue and created an extensive list of apps that were experiencing the crash problem.

That story was immediately picked up by many tech sites which, to the consternation of Arment, often did not identify or link back to the original source – him. Arment quickly tweeted about those sites that aggregated his story and whether they had attributed the story to him, or linked back to his site.

The large number of re-released apps may be related to the DRM code issue, but it would be inaccurate to assume that all the updated apps users are seeing this morning are because of the issue. Users would be advised to test out recently updated apps themselves to see if a new download is necessary.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

The Mag+ platform jumps to version 3.5: 'Multi-Device Export' includes support for creating iPhone editions

The digital publishing solutions company Mag+ has announced the release of version 3.5 which now includes "Multi-Device Export", including the ability to design and launch iPhone editions. The first new iPhone apps released using the latest version appeared at the end of June from the British Journal of Photography and Icon Global.

Writing on the Mag+ website, Mike Haney, Chief Product Officer, described some of the advantages of the new version (the previous version was numbered 3.2):

As many of you know, Adobe has introduced something similar to this in CS6 called Liquid Layout. It’s a very cool, very powerful tool, and we’ll support Liquid Layout settings in a coming release. But with this we’re aiming to do something that’s much simpler to learn and start using on day one, and that will work even if you’re on CS4 or 5. And because one of our core beliefs at Mag+ is that you need to design for the device your user is on, we wanted to give you the chance to optimize those Fire or iPhone layouts. With this feature, we hope that we’ve done 90 percent of the work for you—copying all assets and links to a new file, re-sizing everything—for moving your designs to new devices. You can even set up style sheets that transfer from template to template so you can have even more control over how the export will work.
The new version of the InDesign plug-in solution allows designers to create for both display resolution versions of the iPad, the Kindle Fire, two Android tablet sizes – 1024x600 and 1280x800 – as well as now adding iPhone support. The new version of plug-in will work with versions of Adobe InDesign all the way back to CS4.

"By making it easy to optimize for several devices, we help publishers justify creating more digital content and experimenting with multiple platforms," said Gregg Hano, CEO of Mag+. "By improving analytics, we’re giving them the ability to learn from that experimentation, refine their offerings, and collect the data that will help bring more advertisers on board."

An at-a-glance video of version 3.5 of the Mag+ platform can be seen here.

A new version of the Mag+ Reviewer app will soon appear in the App Store once it gets through the Apple app review process.

Here is a video from the British Journal of Photography which looks at their new iPhone digital edition:

Foodservice Equipment & Supplies: former Reed Business Information title survives under new ownership, launches new replica edition iPad app

In the first few weeks of this website in 2010 the news was dominated by reports of the sales or closing of B2B titles at Nielsen and Reed Business Information. Many of the titles that could not find buyers, like Editor & Publisher or Construction Equipment, were closed down, then sold off for pennies on the dollar.

On April 16, 2010 this site passed on the sad news that 23 RBI titles would be closed down due to not finding a buyer willing to pay the going rate. Many of those titles eventually found new owners, including Foodservice Equipment & Supplies (FES) which is currently being published by The Zoomba Group out of Elmhurst, IL.
That company is headed by Maureen Slocum, who left RBI to join Zweig White before founding her new company. Slocum had been the publisher of Foodservice Equipment & Supplies from 1999 to 2007.

(Disclosure: I was at RBI, in Oak Brook, for a short while during this time.)

The company reintroduced FES in June of 2010, and recently started up a new magazine that has lots of promise, Restaurant Development + Design (there is more money to be made in restaurant design and construction than in actually running the restaurant).

Just before the Independence Day holiday a new tablet edition launched for the B2B title: Foodservice Equipment & Supplies Magazine+. The "+" at the end of the name should not lead you to assume that this is a native app using the Mag+ platform. No, this new app uses the Paperlit platform which produces a replica edition.

The app and the issues to be found inside are all available for free. There is no qualification requirements, despite the magazine being BPA audited, and no new pay model. The issues are standard flipbook stuff, and though the issues are fairly easy to read on a new iPad, I would think that owners of older iPads would find reading the contents designed for print more of a challenge.

Nonetheless, it is good to see another RBI title surviving outside of management of Reed. The new July issue is a bit thin of ads and no doubt RBI management would not have allowed the publisher to print 100 pages if the magazine was still owned by RBI – but that is one of the advantages the new publishers have, the ability to set folio sizes without sticking to some bureaucratic formula.

Left: The library page of the new B2B app; Middle: a strange way to do embedded links; Right: like all replica editions, font sized for easy reading in print are smaller and harder to read in the digital edition.

New Media app updates: Nomad updates dwindling number of digital magazine apps; web pure plays Huffington and TechCrunch update their tablet apps

A rather surprisingly small number of important media app updates were issued over the past two weeks. I felt like I didn't miss much, and therefore, neither did you.
Nomad Editions, which seems to be winding down its operations, or else gearing up for something new, issued updates for its two remaining digital titles. Both Snooth Wine Buyer's Guide and Uncorked received updates on June 24.

Nomad Editions, founded by media banker Mark Edmiston in 2010, and launched its first magazines in December of that year. The concept was simple enough, though ultimately flawed. Nomad Editions would entice freelance writers to create their own magazines using their platform which would allow for the reading of the new digital publications on any device.

Nomad's platform, called Treesaver, created odd layouts, depending on the device. The idea that one could design once for multiple platforms is very exciting for publishers, but the results end up being a compromise.

The business model, too, seemed half-baked to me: by bringing in freelancers to produce the content, one could launch a digital magazine at a low cost, but unless Nomad Editions launched a high volume of new titles, reaching a critical level of sales seemed hard to achieve. The two alternatives to this model would be to either have one of the freelancers be a high-profile writer, or to have a large promotion budget – both would have required solid financial backing.

Magazine launches, even digital ones, remain a low-success, high-failure business – just like restaurants.

Now Nomad Editions last updated its iPad app in March, but now two of those titles – Real Eats and BodySmart – are no longer to be found in the App Store. Nomad appears to be concentrating on a custom publishing approach, selling other publishers on its platform. It's only other app to be found in the Newsstand is for Hemmings Custom Wheels, launched in mid-June.

Another approach to creating new tablet editions is to leverage an existing website. Web pure plays such as Engadget and The Next Web have launched their own digital magazines for the iPad by taking advantage of their large content libraries.

Two of these pure plays, The Huffington Post and TechCruch, updated their tablet editions, though only one of these could be called a digital magazine.

Huffington was updated this morning but the early reviews inside the App Store warn readers that the update may have introduced more bugs than it fixed. (As I write this, it appears that the update may have been pulled.)

The Huffington Post's biz model is to sell single issues and subscriptions, while some other web properties are staying with a free model.

TechCrunch, another AOL property, is using this approach. It's app isn't really a digital magazine, so one wonders about the thinking behind the app, but at least users seem to be pretty happy about the app's performance.

Greece, New Media, the view from abroad

Well, that was fun: two weeks without having to face a blank screen, wondering what to write, not checking the App Store every hour for new media apps, never once reading a tech site for the latest rumor about Apple (they are all the same anyways).

One is tempted to return with quickly formed conclusions that probably will prove false in the end, to think you have some unique answers to issues that are dogging a nation, an industry, a people. But ...

The iPad

If you've travelled anywhere by airplane lately you know that the the iPad is the tablet of choice of both business and casual travelers like. But travelling abroad one is struck by just how dominate Apple's iPad really is.

Finding a visitor powering up a PC is now so rare that I felt like asking the user why they still bother bringing that ol' device along. The exception to this seems to be the MacBook. Travelling does reinforce the notion that buying Cisco stock instead of Apple in 2002 was a life changing mistake.

ProtoThema's iPad replica.
But in two weeks in Greece I don't remember anyone reading a Condé Nast magazine, or a digital newspaper on their tablets. I know I shouldn't draw too much of a conclusion about this, but I found it strange, and more than a little disconcerting.

But, as always, when I see evidence of the success of the iPad, or read the sales figures, I inevitably get angry. The media consultants who dominate our industry were so sure the iPad was a useless new device that they stuck their necks out a mile to proclaim it a failure. Yet, just like those who sold us on the Iraq war, you can't get rid of these so-called experts. These gurus continue to get a platform in newspapers and on television to tell us all about the future of the media world. The Guardian and others quote them, put them on stage at their events, and ultimately promote them as the experts in digital media.

They are not, they are clowns and self promoters.

Media Owners

I spoke to a number of professionals inside the Greek media world who are huge advocates of the new digital platforms. Their frustrations with the slow pace of change was obvious. But, really, are things really that different in Greece?

What is different is the pace of change. While I may decry the slow pace of change in the U.S. media world, the perspective from Greece is that the media world is evolving quickly and Western Europe and North America are miles ahead.

But media owners are the same the world over: too conservative to invest in their futures until such a time when panic sets in. In Greece, few newspapers or magazines have launched interesting digital editions. But then again the typical newsstand is filled with print newspapers that far outnumber a similar newsstand in the U.S. While one can get the NYT or USA Today at any airport newsstand in the States, dozens and dozens of choices are available at the same newsstand in Greece.

I'd like to be optimistic and think that with the diversity of media choices still available surely one of these companies will lead the charge in digital – i.e. tablet – development. The talent to lead such an evolution is clearly available at home in Greece. All that is necessary is vision and bold leadership.

Things move slowly, quickly

You would think that that in our 24/7 media world that one can't escape for two weeks without missing something. But I feel like I missed nothing by being away – at least nothing important.

What is the talk on the tech websites today? Rumors of a 7-inch iPad. Geez, wasn't that what was leading the news a year ago? And what are sources for these rumors? Asian websites. 'Nuff said.

I don't really doubt that Apple may launch a smaller tablet, I just doubt that an old rumor is really what one should be reporting unless they have something concrete to report on.

As for the rest of the news, well, we're still fighting over austerity aren't we? As one Greek media observer said to me "we in Europe are playing Russian roulette with our economies and now it seems the U.S. wants to get into the game, too."

Starting Monday I will be writing one post a day on my trip abroad, if only to get it out of my system. I hope you don't find them irrelevant, or worse, boring.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Back from Greece! But Talking New Media will remain closed for summer break until July 5. Thanks for reading TNM.