Friday, July 20, 2012

Dow Jones announces beefed up Olympics coverage for the WSJ, dedicated app launched for Samsung products

This week has been the week many major media outlets released updates to their mobile and tablet products in preparation for the start of the Olympics in London next weekend.

Yesterday afternoon Dow Jones issued a press release highlighting the coverage that readers will see in the Wall Street Journal, stating that paper will have more than 20 reporters and editors in London to cover the game.

The only mention of mobile or tablets, however, was the curious decision to launch a dedicated app for Samsung devices. The app, WSJ Olympics News, is available at Samsung Apps and works on Samsung S2, S3 and Galaxy Note devices.

WSJ Live, which is available on many smart TVs and as a stand alone app, will also feature coverage. WSJ Live is generally a rather embarrassing affair – a camera shoots a couple of hosts sitting in chairs discussing topics they know very little about – so it will be interesting to see what footage the outlet can gather to brighten up its broadcast.

Shooting in Aurora, Colo. tests new digital strategies at major and local newspapers

I awoke this morning, just as I am sure you did, with the news that there had been another mass killing in Colorado, this time outside a theater in Aurora, outside of Denver.
My iphone screen revealed a notification from The New York Times that told the news in one sentence. One click later I was taken to the story by J. David Goodman that said that 14 had been killed when a man, wearing a gas mask, opened fire on movie goers some time after midnight last night.

The story had been recently updated and all the known facts seemed to be present.

I then went to several other sites including the Washington Post where the AP story on the shooting was the lead. (Actually, the mobile app for the WaPo had a story about anemia drugs as the first story, the shooting was listed second.)

The Denver Post mobile website, however, was a mess. The story, seen at right, contained spotty information, and read more like a series of notes than an edited article.

The Post's mobile app is built by Spreed, as Digital First continues to demonstrate a preference for outsourcing its digital media development. The lead story is about the drought, though the shooting does show up as the second story in the list. That story, however, is the most recent version of the story as seen on the website – about one hour old at the time I accessed it (it has since been updated).

It is interesting that all three papers I've mentioned also have the same philosophy concerning their tablet editions. The NYT, WaPo and the Denver Post each have launched tablet editions that mirror their websites – the NYT employing a paid subscription strategy, while the WaPo and Post offer free access.

For those papers, such as The Daily, the Orange County Register's The Peel or The Guardian, which see reading habits of tablet apps as more like print than the web, content updates can sometimes be a challenge. If a paper decides to be designed much like a magazine – The Daily, for instance – editors need to push an update to the app. If the app simply takes in feeds and formats them, then the update can be automatic.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Media app updates: CBS News adds live radio feeds to their iPad app; NYT updates iPad app for the Olympics

The app strategy for CBS News until now has been to let the local affiliates create their own apps with radio streaming. But today CBS Interactie updated its CBS News for iPad, as well as its mobile app, CBS News, to add in live streaming from CBS Radio News.
Until now I have used the universal app, CBS Chicago, to listen to my local news station. But that app, and doubtless, lots of other local CBS apps have apparently been pulled by CBS in order to promote this one app. (A search for the app for Chicago, San Francisco and Dallas all show that the apps are now out of the App Store.)

While one can understand the value of one national app for mobile or tablets, the withdrawal of the local apps means a loss of valuable advertising real estate.

Yesterday I posted a story about the updates being released because of the coming start of the 2012 Olympics in London. Both The Guardian and Comcast issued updates to their apps to make adjustments for the Olympics – either adding a new section, or changing the search function to help find Olympics programming.

Right on cue, the New York Times has updated its NYTimes for iPad app to add in Olympics coverage.

The app update description says that besides some bug fixes, the update brings in "enhancements to display Olympic event results, medal counts and live coverage in a rich and dynamic way."

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

With the Olympics right around the corner, The Guardian and other media firms update their apps to add coverage

The opening of the 2012 Olympics in London is in nine days and media companies with a connection to the games, such as local media and broadcasters, and scrambling to capitalize. As a result, some media app updates are appearing that add new sections or navigation tools to assist their readers and viewers find the appropriate content.
Today The Guardian updated its iPhone app, The Guardian for iPhone, to add a new Olympics section to its news offerings (see right).

The Guardian's iPad edition has not been updated to reflect any changes for the Olympics, its last update being in May to fix bugs. Likewise, The Guardian Eyewitness app was also updated in May, but to add retina support for new iPad owners. Adding an Olympics section, especially one with a sponsor, would seem like a great way to take advantage of their photojournalism tablet app.

Comcast also issued an Olympics related app update. The company's Xfinity TV universal iOS app was updated today to add a new Olympics filter in the TV listings found inside the app.

Not all apps need to be updated to bring in Olympics material, of course. No doubt many other media outlets are simply adding content through their existing apps without the need of an update. Updates become necessary when adding sections and new RSS feeds, or changing the basic layouts or navigation of an app.

Seven major Polish media companies unite to create paywalls through Piano Media

The paywall phenomenon is not limited to the U.S. as evidenced by the moe today by seven major Polish media firms – such is the desire to begin generating revenue from online readers.

Today Piano Media, a Slovak-based company, announced that Agoura, Murator, Polish National Radio, Swiss-German Ringier Axel Springer Poland, British Media Regionalne, German Polskapresse and Edytor will begin using the Piano Media system beginning immediately.

“Poland allows us to demonstrate how well our system works in larger markets,” said Piano’s Chief Executive Tomáš Bella.

"For us, Piano’s system is the next step in building our Internet publishing strategy for our press titles, which in turn will help us to continuously deliver – both online and offline - the premium content provided by our editorial teams,” Agora’s Digital Content Publisher, Michał Gwiazdowski, said.

The Polish media companies will use the system in various ways, some will provide ad-free versions of their site to subscribers, while others will offer premium access to exclusive material.

For now, readers simply see the Piano Media logo at the top of the media firms's website. In August free trial programs will begin, and in September the full paywall system will be implemented.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Google Chrome for iOS takes away the one real advantage the browser has over Safari, built-in translation

Because I hop around from one website to another, often finding myself at a Spanish newspaper site or a German magazine site, I use Google Chrome as my default browser. I find that the differences between Safari and Chrome simply aren't enough to not use Chrome with its built-in translation service.

But off hours, or on my iPad or iPhone, Safari is the browser of choice.

But Google recently released its first iOS version of Chrome and those who are used to using the browser on their PCs have been downloading the browser in large numbers and have been giving the app good marks inside the App Store.
The biggest advantage to Chrome on iOS devices really only appears when one wants to sync bookmarks. If Chrome is your browser of choice on your PC then this makes sense.

But my problem with the iOS version Chrome is simply that the new app lacks translation services, and that eliminates the sole reason for me to use it.

Nature Publishing Group releases a natively designed tablet edition for Scientific American; also a first eBook released as a Kindle Edition, iBook and a NOOK book

In late December of 2010 Nature Publishing Group released a special edition app for its title Scientific American. That app, Origins & Endings, was, I thought, just a teaser for an app edition for the magazine itself.

A year and a half later that app, Scientific American, has finally been released and it was certainly worth the wait.
Both existing print readers, who will be not forced to pay again to access the digital edition, and new readers will find the tablet edition well designed, easy to read, and a joy to navigate. The editors have gone out of their way to make sure readers new to the iPad will be able to move around the articles.

The free app can be found inside the Apple Newsstand with annual subscriptions priced at $34.99. Individual issues can be bought at $5.99, but the app comes with a free preview issue, July, which will allow readers to get an idea of the quality of the production work inside (as well as the editorial content, of course).

In addition to the new tablet edition, the editors of Scientific American have also published their first eBook: The Science of Sports. The new digital book has been released simultaneously as a Kindle Edition, an iBook, and as a NOOK book – all three priced at $3.99.

Here is a brief look at the July issue of Scientific American, available free inside the new iPad app:

The Guardian and Observer report losses of £44.2m for last year; point to app development as contributing factor

While The Guardian's iPad app got lots of attention upon release, in the end it was no revolution in tablet publishing. But the Guardian Media Group is pointing to the development of its iPad. Facebook and Android apps as a contributing factor in reporting a loss of £44.2 million last year.

Despite reporting a 16.3 percent increase in digital revenues last year, losses grew for the British daily and Sunday papers. Last year the Guardian Media Group reported a loss of £31.1 million.

In the end, it was expenses that drove the increases losses. While revenue fell to £196.2 million from £198.2 million the year before, losses grew as the outfit launched a U.S. website and launched new apps.

As a result, Alan Rusbridger, editor-in-chief, said the newspapers would attempt to save £7 million through cuts in the editorial department, and would seek between 70 and 100 "journalist redundancies" - Brit talk for firing reporters.

What the Guardian Media Group needs instead is a P&L savvy publisher as a watch over operations. (Yes, I'm volunteering.)

Meanwhile, like many other titles, the Guardian and Observer are leaking print readers. In its earnings announcement the papers, which are owned by the Scott Trust, reported that Guardian circulation was down 10.7 percent to 211,511 copies a day from one year ago, while Observer circulation was down 10 percent to 243,946.

City magazine, The Ann, releases tablet edition through WoodWing partner Aysling Digital Media Solutions

It is not uncommon to find replica editions released under the name of the digital publishing vendor. It is all part of the deal, for a low cost the vendor will release your magazine into the App Store, but then the publisher must split the revenue with the vendor (as well as Apple, of course).
It is far rarer to find an app show up under the name of a native development company, however. A search for WoodWing, for instance, will not reveal any apps other than its own app. But, it turns out, there are a number of apps where the seller is listed as Epyx & WoodWing México S.A. de C.V. – these, I assume, are from the Mexican division.

Moving Media AB, the company behind the Mag+ platform, also has one app under its name other than its review app – an app of the photographs of Tina Bauer.

Because it is so rare, it caught my attention that an app for a city magazine, The Ann, showed up in the App Store this week under the name of WoodWing's U.S. partner, Aysling Digital Media Solutions. Aysling is headquartered in Ann Arbor, Michigan so it shouldn't be too surprising that they should help out a magazine from their home town.

I contacted the company to see if we can expect more apps under the Aysling name but I did not receive a response.

As for The Ann, the app is not a tour de force or a showcase for what can be done with the Adobe digital publishing suite. Instead the app presents a modified replica editions with a minimum of enhancements. Because of this, the magazine is sometimes difficult to read, even on a new iPad.

The one issue available weighs in at 90 MB on the new iPad and can be read only portrait. Both the app and the issue inside are free to download in keeping with the magazine's free distribution model.

Left: the library page; Middle: the TOC which also has navigation instructions; Right: a normal looking page which then reveals biography information when one taps a name.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Broadcast revenue growth saves the day at Gannett as newspaper ad revenue falls 8.1% in Q2

The publisher of USA Today today announced its Q2 earnings, recording profits that beat analyst estimates, thanks in large part to strong broadcast revenue.

In the second quarter of the year, Gannett's broadcast revenue grew 11.4 percent to $205.4 million. This led to the company being able to record 56 cents per share of earnings, beating the forecast of around 52 cents.

Of course, things remain dire at the company's publishing divisions. Newspaper ad revenue fell another 8.1 percent in Q2 compared to Q2 of 2011. While slightly less than the 8.4 percent decline seen in Q1, the company continues to hemorrhage ad dollars in its newspaper division.

"Broadcasting results were positively impacted by significantly higher core and politically related ad demand and retransmission revenue," Gracia Martore, president and chief executive officer said in the company's statement.

"Company-wide digital revenues were up 13 percent reflecting higher demand for digital solutions and the early success of our new subscription model. Publishing revenues reflected uneven advertising demand. We anticipate that Olympic and political spending and increasing revenue from new initiatives will bolster company-wide results in the second half."

The closing of News Corp.'s The Daily (if it happens) will mean far less than many will claim; the economy, politics, scandal all have weighed on the first tablet newspaper

At an event at the Guggenheim in February of last year, Rupert Murdoch launched his digital daily newspaper for tablets, The Daily. Now, thanks to a piece that ran last week in The New York Observer, media observers are beginning to count down to a possible closing of the first real attempt at creating a digital newspaper exclusively for tablets.

The first thing that should be said about this talk of The Daily's demise is that it is probably still very premature. The economics of the launch of The Daily never made much sense to begin with. With its costs said to be running at $500,000 per week, at least initially, The Daily always had too much overhead to break even within the first couple years. But once launched, it is easy to see that a bit of overhead control could lower this number.

It should be remembered that the story that started this talk was really about the end of Newscore, the internal newswire created to fill the content needs of News Corp. properties, and to lower external news wire costs. The hope at the company was that other news organizations would sign on to Newscore, though the combination of light news content combined with the stench that comes with any news content originating from News Corp. was enough to kill off that venture.

But The Daily is a special case. The Daily has had the full support of both Rupert Murdoch – to the tune of at least $30 million per year – and Apple. Eddy Cue, Apple's VP of Internet Services, attended the launch event in 2011, filling in for Steve Jobs who had just announced his second leave due to his health. Since its launch, The Daily has been actively promoted by Apple within the App Store, and the result has been over 100,000 subscribers.

At 100k in subscribers, the financial model of The Daily becomes pretty simply to understand. 100K times $39.99, minus Apple's take adds up to just under $2.8 million in revenue – far below what would be necessary to survive. Single copy sales, which are priced at $0.99 per issue, might double this number. But total revenue from circulation would be between $5 and $7 million – max.

I doubt the original P&L drawn up by News Corp. counted on this level of readership, nor would they have believed that advertising would make up the difference. My own guess is that the executives working on this project would have hoped for far higher readership, this in turn would have driven better advertising results, as well.
The audience for The Daily was always limited simply because the editors forced it so. Right from the beginning the editors, who came over from the Post, tried to duplicate the Fox News approach to news. One of the first major news stories that filled the digital pages of The Daily involved the battle in Wisconsin over union busting. The Daily did not try and play in down the middle, but immediately backed Governor Scott Walker, while at the same time demonizing teachers and fire fighters alike.

For me, this appeared to signal that The Daily was less about trying to figure out the dynamics of tablet publishing as much as it was an attempt to create an extension of Murdoch's political influence.

Today, reviews inside the App Store are all one-star and five-star, depending on your political point of view. For every five-star review there is one that claims that The Daily is part of "the Republican noise machine."

Launching a digital newspaper is a daunting enough task, but limiting one's audience was hardly a brilliant move.

Adding to the woes of The Daily is the slow pace of growth both of the economy, in general, and digital advertising. The past two years have seen growth slow to a trickle. On top of this, Apple's iAds efforts have been poor.

Then there is the issue of News Corp.: the company has now been split following the News of the World debacle. With publishing on one side, and entertainment on the other, there will be increased pressure to trim costs and maximize investments on the publishing side. Some think this will lead to a rethinking of properties after the November election.

All these factors lessen the lessons that can be learned from the launch of The Daily.