Friday, July 27, 2012

Pearson reports lower earnings on higher revenue; Financial Times digital subscribers now outnumber print

Education and financial publisher Pearson today reported its quarterly earnings, reporting lower operating profits, but an uptick in sales. Pearson also let it be known that for the first time, digital subscribers to the Financial Times now outnumber print subscribers.

Pearson reported its first-half operating profit was £188 million version £208 million one year ago. Sales, though, were up 6 percent, with both the education group and the FT group reporting higher revenue.

The Financial Times reached a milestone with digital subscriptions increasing by 31 percent to more than 300,000, according to Pearson. Total paid circulation now stands at 599,000 when print and digital are added together. Ad revenue declined, however, as trade and recruitment advertising declined, with the outlook not bright.

While much will be made of the FT's move to dump its native apps in favor of web apps, the success of seen by the FT is (IMO) support for the idea that financial and trade publications are in the best position to promote paid content strategies. The FT and WSJ are both showing strong growth in digital subscription sales, while efforts to benefit from paywalls at other news websites are showing spotty results.

The FT has also done an excellent job of promoting its digital content through social media, especially Twitter – thus driving demand.

The Guardian Eyewitness gets an update that introduces a paid 'premium' option

The Guardian's photojournalism app, The Guardian Eyewitness, was a pioneer, of sorts. On the day that the original iPad launched in the U.S., The Guardian did not launch a news app, but instead launched a free photojournalism app that showed off the display potential of the new tablet.

The app, like The Guardian's website, has always been free – without any paywall at all. But now, The Guardian has decided to introduce a "premium" option that will cost readers £1.49 a month ($1.99 in the U.S. App Store).
Readers will continue to get the regular content for free but now readers can sign up for "Eyewitness Premium" and receive three more photographs a day. The app itself has been redesigned to organize the free and paid content into "Collections".

The Guardian has had a strange history when it comes to app development. It has often been one of the first to launch an app – its iPhone news app, for instance, made an early appearance in the App Store – but then seem to lose interest for long stretches of time. I suppose an alternative explanation would be that the newspaper has a hard time deciding what it wants to do. Its first iPad news app did not appear until a year and a half after the iPad's launch – though it came with much fanfare.

The Guardian Eyewitness seemed to launch and then get forgotten quickly, not getting any updates until just recently (the current version is only 1.2). The original app, like many others, was launched free, without any real business model. With The Guardian's commitment to keeping its website free, one would have thought that the paper was looking to eventually monetize the app via advertising, or at least sponsorship.

I think it is not a terribly bad idea* to experiment with a paid option for The Guardian Eyewitness, but it would be better to see the paper be a serial launcher of apps. The chances that the photojournalism app will generate significant numbers of subscribers seems slight.

After 28 months, The Guardian still has only its two iPad app. Like many other newspapers, it seems to see itself simply as a newspaper company, not as a digital publisher. (The New York Times is making the same mistake – it, too, has only two iPad apps currently in the App Store.)

If the paper is finding that app development is costly, then the real issue is the way it is developing apps. At this point the company should have a team capable of developing apps in a timely and cost effective manner. If it doesn't, it has wasted 28 months.

* Double negative, feels very British.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Vintazines delivers back issues of Popular Mechanics and LIFE magazines through its own Newsstand-like iPad app

Here is a fun app you might want to download to your iPad: Vintazines is a free app that takes the scans from Google Books of the back issues of Popular Mechanics and LIFE magazine and delivers them through its own newsstand.
The app is the product of Amsterdam based developer Stefano Secondo.

The app is easy to miss because it is under the Books category as there really is no proper place to put a newsstand-like app unless it contains newspapers (then the News category is obviously the right place).

Vintazines takes the back issues of the two magazines from November 1936 to December 1969 and puts them into its own Newsstand-like library. The app is free, as is the content, so the fact that the app is limited to just these two titles shouldn't draw too many negative reviews.

The scans are of a high enough resolution that reading the old magazines is pretty easy, though the reader is advised to stick to portrait orientation as each page is scanned individually.


The New York Times Co. announces dismal Q2 results: $143.6 million operating loss, ad revenue falls 6.6%

The New York Times Co. posted a net loss of $88.1 million, impacted by the write down in value of, and continuing decreases in ad revenue. The operating loss for the second quarter was $143.6 million, versus an operating profit of $31.5 million a year ago.

Advertising revenue from print fell 8 percent in the quarter, but online ad revenue fell, as well – a 1.6 percent decrease to $52.6 million.

At the NYT and Herald Tribune success with the company's digital subscription efforts meant that circulation revenue now exceeds ad revenue – $194 million versus $171 million. Paid digital subscriptions rose 12 percent in the quarter to 509,000.

The Boston Globe, another New York Times Co. property, were up 28 percent to 23,000 subscribers.

“Our second-quarter results reflect our ongoing strides in repositioning the Times Company for an increasingly multiplatform future,” Arthur Sulzberger, Jr., chairman and chief executive officer, The New York Times Company, said in the company's earnings statement.

“While the advertising market remains challenging, the rate of decline for the Company’s total advertising revenues moderated, due primarily to improved digital advertising revenue trends, compared with firstquarter 2012 levels. This was mainly due to more favorable advertising trends at the About Group, particularly for cost-per-click advertising. Although we recorded a non-cash charge in the quarter, the About Group continues to execute on its turnaround strategy and we expect it to be on track to post continued meaningful improvement in the second half of the year," Sulzberger said.

Yesterday Reuters reported that The New York Times would no longer support its BlackBerry app, citing a lack of usage. "It's a matter of usage of our apps, and we dedicate our resources where we think there's the highest level of usage," Reuters quoted Eileen Murphy, a New York Times spokeswoman. "We've seen a drop-off."

The Times did not, however, completely rule out developing an app for BlackBerry 10 when it is launched.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Media app updates: The Economist works through bugs on its tablet edition, Saveur ads iPhone support, TNM fixes bugs; Apple issues updates to its iOS apps

With the release of the new Mac OS, Mountain Lion, one would expect a slew of updates to Mac apps, but quite a number of important updates have been issued today to media apps and Apple iOS apps, as well.
The Economist today issued what it termed a "critical update" to its iPad app, The Economist for iPad. The update fixes some, but apparently not all of the issues that are preventing readers from accessing all the content. The developers promise another update to address lingering problems.

Saveur, Bonnier's international food magazine, which chose to issue a disappointing tablet edition that was a replica, rather than follow the technology group by using the Mag+ platform, has issued an update that adds iPhone support. The update to the universal app Saveur now includes the ability to read two-page spreads in landscape as well as portrait.

The cooking category, though, is still waiting for its killer tablet magazine.

The Next Web, which is one of several web properties that have launched companion tablet magazines, has updated its app TNW Magazine. The update fixes bugs and updates the interface. TNW is taking a rather unique approach by asking readers to subscribe, yet offering the issues for free at the same time. We used to do this in the B2B magazine business as a way of asking readers for financial support. (It usually generated few takers.)

Apple has not only launched its new Mac OS today, and updated its Mac iWork apps, but it has also issued updates to the iOS versions of iWork, as well – Pages, Numbers and Keynote.

The updates are necessitated by the way the new Mac OS, Mountain Lion, allows users to save documents to iCloud for accessing on their iOS devices. The Mac updates, in other words, require updates to the iOS apps for the system to work.

Each of these iOS apps is a large download, with each app being over 200 MB in size.

Apple launches Mountain Lion and a slew of other app updates including a new version of Safari

One day after reporting is Q3 earnings, Apple launched its latest version of its Mac operating system, Mountain Lion.

The new OS is available in the Mac App Store for $19.99, though those who recently purchased a new Mac will be eligible to upgrade for free.

Owners of older Mac hardware older will be left out, however. The models that will run Mountain Lion are the iMac (mid 2007 or newer), MacBook (late 2008 Aluminum, or early 2009 or newer), MacBook Pro (mid/late 2007 or newer), MacBook Air (late 2008 or newer), Mac mini (early 2009 or newer), Mac Pro (early 2008 or newer), Xserve (early 2009). (Not surprisingly, my old 2001 MacBook Pro, which is functioning fine, is not eligible.)

Apple also released version 6 of Safari, which like Google's Chrome browser, now merges the search field with the URL field. Newly updated versions of iWork, iPhoto and iMovie can also be found though Software Update.

If you're wondering if should bother to upgrade, maybe Apple's video will help you decide (see below). For an epic review of Mountain Lion and its new features, John Siracusa's review at Ars Technica is certainly complete (as well as a test of endurance).

For me, I'll wait until the first reports come in to make sure I know what I can expect to encounter in the update.

Onswipe brings its touch platform to the Kindle Fire; Bonnier, Vibe and others launch similar looking sites

Onswipe announced yesterday that it had added support for the Kindle Fire to its touch platform, landing publishers such as Bonnier, NewBay Media, Vibe and The Investing Channel.

Onswipe's usual box shaped web design can be seen here with the website for Vibe, though as you can see on TechCrunch's report on Onswipe, the website for Cycle World looks almost identical.

“The web wants to touched and shared. Our Kindle Fire support opens up touch to a whole new audience that will get to experience the web as it should be,” said Jason Baptiste in the company's announcement.

Onswipe and other HTML5 solutions for tablets tend to blur individual branding efforts into the same look and feel. But for those publications that remain heavily dependent on Flash for this design, these types of web solutions are a godsend.

In other cases, for instance the website for Cycle World, touch solutions seem totally unnecessary for the iPad versus the publications main website. On the iPad, the design is reduced to a collection of boxes, with the desktop sites two advertisers, and one house ad for subscriptions, missing.

Vibe's design on the iPad, however, is much more attractive than Cycle World's boxy look, though again the advertising is missing from the design – another sign, no doubt, that the revenue folks are either out of the loop when it comes to decisions regarding digital media, or are missing in action.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

The staff of the Athens News calls a 24-strike to protest not being paid

Greece has been largely out of the new in the U.S. thanks to rising Spanish bond prices. But that does not mean that the situation has suddenly changed since the election of last month.

Witness the news this afternoon that the staff of the Athens News, the English language news website and weekly newspaper, has called for a 24-hour strike for June 25.

According to a post on the newspaper's website, the staff has not been paid in nearly two months:
Staff took this decision because they have not been paid their salaries for almost two months. Nor have they received their statutory summer pay entitlement.

In addition, freelance staff at the newspaper were last paid in April.
The Athens News is just the latest newspaper to find itself in financial trouble. Eleftherotypia, an Athens daily newspaper with a wide circulation, declared bankruptcy in December of last year, and since that time its website has stopped being updated.

As for the Athens News, the staff promises that the paper will appear as scheduled on Friday, and that on the 26th the website will once again be updated.

Apple's Q3 earnings disappoint analysts; $35.2 billion in revenue and 17 million iPads, 26 million iPhones sold

No doubt Business Insider and much of the tech press will be having a field day this afternoon, now that Apple has released its Q3 earnings. It turns out that the "analysts" and the tech folk wanted more.

Let's look at the numbers:

Apple earned a quarterly profit of $8.8 billion versus $7.31 billion a year ago. Revenue rose to $35.2 billion versus $28.7 billion a year ago.

Of course, all this is bad news so the stock is getting hammered.

Now I know all about expectations, but who sets those expectations? Apple? No, of course not, Apple beat its own guidance. No, its those "analysts" again.

As for iPad sales, they hit another all time high, somewhere around 17 million (I'll update with the real number once Apple releases their statement). That makes over 84 million iPads in the market – minus, I suspect, the one Jeff Jarvis sent back.

2010 Q3 3,270,000
2010 Q4 4,188,000
2011 Q1 7,331,000
2011 Q2 4,694,000
2011 Q3 9,246,000
2011 Q4 11,123,000
2012 Q1 15,434,000
2012 Q2 11,800,000
2012 Q3 17,042,000

Total units = 84,128,000
The real news from the earnings call is that Apple will begin shipping Mountain Lion tomorrow. For owners of an Apple TV, the nice new feature is that you can now mirror your Mac to your Apple TV just as you can your iPad or iPhone.

IDG Australia takes a simple approach with its new tablet edition for ComputerWorld magazine

The new tablet edition for IDG Australia's bi-monthly ComputerWorld is an interesting example of designing for tablets, but keeping things simple – very simple.
The new iPad edition, ComputerWorld, is a free app that also is offering its issues for free, as well. The current issue available, April/May, weighs in at only 19 MB because it contains page images only. Yet, these are clearly not replica pages, but newly designed pages to make reading on the iPad easier than a reduced down print page.

The solution has merits in that not every magazine converted for the tablet has to have scrolling text boxes and be loaded with multimedia content.

The publisher here, however, goes a bit too far with simplicity. The app description, for instance, reads "Australia's publication for IT leaders." That's it, nothing more.

Additionally, there is only one screenshot of the magazine to be found inside.

Now one might chalk this up to the app just launching, but a look at other apps released by IDG Australia shows that the company is not very good at writing app descriptions or creating appropriate screenshots. The folks in Australia might want to look at the apps coming from IDG out of the U.S. or U.K. for inspiration.


Monday, July 23, 2012

Update: Haaretz English Edition for iPad video

Here is a follow-up to the post this morning on the new tablet edition from the Israeli daily newspaper Haaretz, the first Israeli newspaper to become available inside the Apple Newsstand.

In its website promotion for the new app, Haaretz English Edition for iPad, the paper has included a video. While I was not able to get the video to play on my browser, Lior Kodner, Head of Digital at Haaretz, forwarded me the YouTube link.

Bloomberg Businessweek updates its universal iOS app to add in retina display support, improve issue archiving

Bloomberg has just released an update to its Bloomberg Businessweek+ universal iOS app. The new update finally adds retina support for those owners of the new iPad.
The app also adds a new option for auto-archiving issues older than three months.

The app was originally released in April of last year and has consistently received good reviews inside the App Store with the biggest criticism either coming from downloaders expecting something for free, or else those that have troubles with the subscription process.

The tablet edition can be read in portrait of landscape and is very easy to navigate and read – especially now with retina support.

Monthly subscriptions are still $2.99 per month, with an annual subscription priced at $29.99. Those new to the app can download an issue for free to test out the app – the issue being the previous week's edition.

If you are new to the Bloomberg Businessweek+ app, here is a brief look at the latest issue:

Haaretz releases first tablet edition for the iPad; app content mirrors the website, offers limited free access

Israel's oldest daily newspaper, Haaretz, has launched its first iPad edition for its English edition.
Haaretz English Edition for iPad offers limited free access, just as the newspaper's website does.

The paper recently launched iPhone apps for both its Hebrew and English editions, though there is currently no Hebrew edition for the iPad. (One might guess that a Hebrew version of the iPad edition will launch soon.)

The app, like the New York Times and Washington Post iPad apps, mirrors the content of the website. Readers can access much of the content before running into the paywall. Monthly subscriptions, which will give you full access, costs $12.99 per month, an annual subscription costs $129.99 per year. A subscription to the iPad edition will also gain you full access to the website.

Current digital subscribers can log into the app to access the content for no additional cost.

The developers appear to have made some mistakes, however, with the subscription process. The app description says that subscriptions start at $2.50 per week, yet inside the app only the monthly and annual options are seen.*** Further, there is a "Buy Edition" button on the front page of the app, tapping that button brings up an error message.

There are other minor errors, as well. Tapping the lead story about Israel demolishing 8 Palestinian villages brought me to a page inviting me to download the iPhone app which forced me to circumvent the app to get back to the story. (Lior Kodner, the head of digital for Haaretz says this confusing ad will be removed.)

The app allows you to archive editions, a useful tool since the content could change unexpectedly since it is tied to the website rather than the print edition.

Because the reader is not downloading the content, file size is not an issue. As a result, the app allows readers to read in both portrait and landscape.

***The $2.50 per week price refers to the annual rate divided by the number of weeks in a year - a bit confusing, but technically correct. Also, the original headline included the word "buggy" which I changed since I really only found one error (the Buy Edition button).