Friday, August 17, 2012

The New Republic updates its iPad edition, digital access is now free for print subscribers

One final note before cutting out for the weekend: The New Republic, which has a new owner and not that long ago lowered its website paywall, this afternoon issued an update to its iPad app.

The only thing mentioned in the "What's New" section is this: Access to this app is now free for TNR print subscribers.

Of course, if you are a print subscriber this is a big deal. I'm sure we will see some of those negative reviews switch to five-star ones – the update is so new now, however, that as I write this there are no new reviews in the U.S. App Store.

The New Republic for iPad is charging $3.99 for a monthly subscription, and $39.99 for an annual subscription. New downloaders get two weeks free.

The app, if you are unfamiliar with it, is a bit of a hybrid in that the content that makes up the app is a combination of the print edition and the website.

The problem with the app, though, is that one must pay to access the website content through the app, but the same content is free when found on the website. So while print subscribers will be very happy with the app update, web users will continue to find the app of no interest versus the website. That, I suppose, is the danger of creating a hybrid paid app.

English Premiere League teams are separated by more than their payroll when it comes to the App Store

The football season starts tomorrow. No, not the NFL. I'm talking about the English Premiere League (EPL). And while I have, in the past, talked about the new mobile and tablet apps released in support of sports teams – I think the first post was about the Boston Herald's baseball app – I've never ventured too far, only talking about U.S. sports teams and the newspapers that cover them.

But the EPL is the big time, if you are a soccer fan, and if you are in the business of professional sports teams. Teams like Manchester United are among the most successful sports franchises in the world. (Actually, Forbes ranked them at number one this year.)

Today, Arsenal, the London based club that plays at Emirates Stadium, released an iPad app for its sports program, Arsenal Official Matchday Programme.

The app brings Arsenal fans the team's magazine just in time for tomorrow's first game against Sunderland (there are 20 teams in the EPL). The app places the team program in the Apple Newsstand for automatic downloads, assuming one subscribes.

Because Arsenal is one of the EPL's storied teams, the team probably feels it doesn't have to give away anything. Because of this, the team is charging fans £3.99 per month, or £39.99 for the year (the season goes until mid-May).

The app description mentions that the first edition will be free and will be available this evening, so right now the app is only a shell.

Arsenal is a pretty powerful team in the EPL, so I wondered what other teams are moving towards bringing their team promotional magazines or programs to the Apple App Store.

Surprisingly, while there were plenty of developers trying to capitalize on the fame of Manchester United, I did not see any official apps from the team. Their crosstown rivals, Manchester City, which won the EPL title last year, is missing, as well.

Liverpool FC has a universal app, however, called Liverpool FC Match & News Centre, though it was last updated in February.

Many other teams seem to have outsourced their apps to vendors. Perform Group, for instance, a digital media company specializing in sports, has 17 iPhone apps in the App Store, many of them for EPL teams (as well as others). Sunderland, the team that will be playing Arsenal tomorrow, has an iPhone app that will cost you $4.99.

Fulham, the club that American Clint Dempsey plays for, has its team program in the App Store. The app, Fulham FC Programme, is one of four listed under the seller ProgrammeMaster Ltd. The link provided by the seller takes you to PocketMags, which is the name used by But the site seems to be dead. In any case, you know what you will get, a replica edition of the program for both the iPhone and iPad.

Unlike the NFL and other U.S. sports leagues, the EPL depends on its TV partners for bringing live streaming to fans. Fox Sports, for instance, has an online ad iPad app services. The app, FOX Soccer 2Go for iPad, requires a Fox Soccer subscription, currently at $159.99 for the season.

Blogsy updates its iPad app adding direct iPad photo support, Facebook integration

I have Blogsy on my iPad. the $4.99 blogging tool, but must admit that I do not use app for TNM. Nonetheless, the developers of Blogsy are constantly updating their app, adding more and more attractive features – if you maintain a blog and are constantly on the go, Blogsy is worth checking out.

Today, the app team, which the website site identify as Lance Barton, Sean Choe and Junsung Kye, updated their iPad app again, the current version being identified as 4.1.

The update, once installed, will now allow you to ad photos directly from your iPad photo library. Users can even add the photos when offline, presumably they are then added to the site once you regain an Internet connection.

The update also adds Facebook integration: users can add photos to their blog directly from Facebook, as well as upload photos back to Facebook.

There are, of course, also a number of bug fixes.

The developers have created two videos about their update. I've embedded here the one about offline photos, if only because I found this most interesting:

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Pew Research Center report reveals 'broad-based declines' in the believability ratings for news organizations

A new report issued by the Pew Research Center claims that the "believability ratings for major news organizations have suffered broad-based declines."
PhotobucketFew news organizations came out looking good in the Pew report, though Gannett's USA Today and Fox News were at the bottom when it came to the public's belief that the news organizations produce believable reporting.

According to the report, Republicans, in particular, do not believe the news media, giving only Fox News and local TV news positive ratings. Not surprisingly, those who identified themselves as Democrats were not too keen on Fox News.

Although major news brands did not fare well in the report, the fact is that it is the media as a whole that showed declines.

But I'd like to propose something here: the two news organizations sited that showed the smallest declines in believability were "daily paper you know best" and "local TV news". These two nonspecific media brands share one thing in common: they are the two brands that the respondent is most familiar with. In other words, one may not have a positive impression of a newspaper or cable TV outlet, but there is also no reason to thing the respondent is a regular consumer of those brands.

Like the voter who says "vote the bums out" but then says that their own representative is OK, it may be that the Pew study is showing a growing distain for the news media overall, but it also may be showing that consumers are less likely to be reading or viewing much of the traditional media brands – but still look positively on those brands that they are still using.

In other words, the Pew study may be showing a growing side effect of the declining circulation of many major newspapers and the declining ratings of many cable new channels.

Food Network On the Road: new iPad app from the cable television network aims to create a social app for travelers seeking (and sharing) restaurant recommendations

If you are a cable television network looking to expand your brand onto the mobile and tablet platforms there are two ways you can go: you can negotiate with the cable providers so you can create an app such as HBO GO, or you can develop something new that builds off your brand and uses your available content. That is the approach the Food Network has chosen for its first three app.
The network's newest universal iOS app is Food Network On the Road (Official), a rather strange name since I failed to see any "unofficial" app by the same name.

Be that as it may, this is certainly appears to be the network's best and most inventive app to date. The app uses the iPhone's or iPad's geolocation services to pin point where you are so it can deliver restaurant recommendations using the network's various restaurant and city guides from its portfolio of shows. Users can add their own comments and recommendations, making the new app more social.

This new app, and the two others produced by the network should not be confused with the three apps produced by Hearst for the branded magazine Food Network.

For Hearst, the goal for their app is to reproduce the print magazine, and hopefully make it more interactive. The problem for the magazine app, of course, is Hearst's policy of making print subscribers pay for digital – either to drive them to digital, or simply to irritate them (having worked for Hearst I'm not really sure which is their actual strategy here). Because of this, and the fact that a food magazine is generally one that has a high percentage of subscribers (versus single copy buyers), the app gets tons of one-star reviews, damaging the brand and limiting sales.

But this new app from the TV network is another thing altogether and should enjoy very positive reviews.

Finally, it should be noted that both the app and its content are free to download and access.

Here is a brief video walk-through as seen on the iPad:

The Chicago Sun-Times releases its first tablet edition; app offers native layouts in portrait, but links out to website rather than embeds media

The Chicago Sun-Times, the daily tabloid that late last year was acquired by Wrapports LLC for $20 million, has launched a new tablet edition into Apple's Newsstand. Chicago Sun-Times for iPad is a natively designed digital edition that has both many things going for it, as well as some annoying deficiencies.
The digital version of the tabloid allows readers to buy a monthly subscription for $4.99, or to buy individual issues for $0.99 a piece.

The Sun-Times, which because of its tabloid size has been a traditional choice of computers, has created issue downloads that will create a warning on the iPads of readers on 3G (and without WiFi). On this particular app, the warning comes on to notify you that you are about to download a file using your mobile carrier. That warning, if you press "cancel" pops back up many times before finally disappearing.

Today's edition weighs in at 113.2MB despite being designed for portrait only reading. The choice of portrait-only, which immediately drew a negative review inside the App Store, is a smart one – the paper is a tabloid, so portrait makes sense, besides saving file size.

But, oddly, the tablet edition uses the web for its multimedia content. A story that appears to have an embedded video actually brings up the paper's website when tapped. The decision saves file space, so I understand the motivation behind not truly embedding the content, but why not store the video on a server that can deliver a video player (such as YouTube, etc.)?

The Daily Video Digest features actually does this, so I see no reason why it can't be standard operating procedure.

If there will be a standard complaint about the tablet edition, other than download sizes, it will be the lack of sections. The tablet edition is one long stream of digital pages. The only way to navigate the app, other than simply swiping, is to tap the page to bring up the thumbnails along the bottom. The cover wisely contains some links to other parts of the paper such as Sports, but otherwise there is no navigation tool at the top such as a TOC.

The Sun-Times has been turned into quite a brain-dead rag by the paper's new owners (despite having one of my favorite tech writers, Andy Ihnatko). But other than the complaints mentioned above, this new tablet edition is a pretty interesting attempt to create a natively designed digital edition for iPad owners. Many of the problems with the new app, such as navigation, can be corrected with an update. As for the editorial content, well, the owners will learn soon enough whether Chicago readers want to pretend they are on the subway in NYC reading the Post.

(In the mid-80s Hearst brought in a New Yorker to their paper in Los Angeles and experimented with creating a tabloid, better to attract LA commuters who took the subway to work – except there was no subway. Eventually the experiment was abandoned and a couple years later Hearst closed down the Herald-Examiner. Luckily for me I had already left to join Copley in Santa Monica.)

The Guardian creates a video to promote its 'Eyewitness'

The Guardian's photojournalism app, The Guardian Eyewitness, has been available for download since a month after the original launch of the iPad in April of 2010. Originally a completely free app, a recent update introduced a premium subscription plan which offers additional content.

The original app, if my memory serves me well, was single-sponsored by Canon. But despite almost a million downloads (according to The Guardian) the app has not exactloy garnered a flood of advertising support. Now the UK paper is attempting this modest pay model in hopes of generating some income from the pioneering app.

Now the paper has produced a video to sell the new features of the app. See for yourself:

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

NPR issues a second update to its mobile NPR News app to fix crashes; Guardian updates 'Eyewitness' again

A couple of new media app updates have been issued to previously updated apps that attempt to fix some important bugs.

NPR has issued a new update to its iPhone app, NPR News. The update has been released following a series of reviews that reported crashing.
(This one caught me by surprise because the app has been performing flawlessly for me – hopefully the new update doesn't actually introduce bugs!)

The last update was issued on August 9 and I pointed out at that time that NPR's app's have some of the best app descriptions to be found in the App Store. Not only does the app description beautifully describe the app, but the "What's New" section is very complete and helpful.

The Guardian also recently issued an update, this one for its The Guardian Eyewitness app, but have had to issue another new one today to fix a problem with its new subscription features.

Its last update introduced a new premium service that gives readers additional content (for a price, of course). The Guardian's latest update supposedly resolves a problem with images not appearing for those subscribers who have opted to pay the extra money. (Also, they have a bad typo in their app description. Oops.)

Target makes major enhancements to its circular app but releases update with major bug

Retailer Target last night issued a major update to its iPad app. The app is a digital version of its circular, but with many more features. If the app were without a major bug, it might be precisely what gives newspaper ad executives nightmares – and it will be once the developers fix the app.
The update to Target for iPad brings in weekly circulars for Seattle, Chicago and Los Angeles. But the app's store locator function is broken (see screenshots below) which pretty much makes the app useless for local shoppers – but that will no doubt be ficed soon, either through an app update, or a fix to their internal system.

The update also brings the app up-to-date with the new iPad making it 'retina display' compliant.

The core of the app is the local circular, and until the store locator service is fixed users will find the app worthless, causing many to abandon the app.

The Sunday inserts remain one of the main reasons that newspapers can still count on the weekend paper to be profitable. Newspaper chains that are cutting the frequency of their print runs are keeping the Sunday newspaper.

But in Europe, where the Sunday paper is not chalk full of advertising circulars like in the States, the Sunday paper is fair game for be eliminated. This could easily happen here in the U.S. if advertisers and readers get together through apps such as this one from Target.

Newspapers have known for at least two years that they were vulnerable to new digital advertising platforms such as tablets and especially mobile. The best known initiative is the Associated Press effort iCircular. The product is in "pilot phase" with a slate of publications and retailers, but the effort is moving at a snail's pace – or should that read "at newspaper pace."

The iCirculars program was, at one time, integrated into the apps of newspapers such as the L.A. Times, but a glance of the mobile app shows no such integration now.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Despite very limited content, magazine trade pub Folio: will put its website behind a metered paywall

The magazine trade publication Folio: today announced that it was putting its website behind a metered paywall starting immediately. Readers who visit will be able to access eight stories per month free of charge before they are forced to pay for an annual subscription to the print magazine ($69.95) or sign up for a monthly digital subscription ($14.49).

"At the core of our decision was this: We felt that it's very important to place a clear value on our content, and to recognize the value that our best customers see in what we do," wrote Bill Mickey, editor of the B2B pub. "Also, as a brand that covers the digital-media transformation, we seek to not just reflect what the industry is doing, but to lead it as well."

I often make fun of Folio: for its fawning editorial – the story that I remember most is "Why Marc Teren Matters", a 2000 profile of the soon to be fired RBI CEO – but it is one of the only trade publications left that cover the magazine business.

But the idea that Folio: would go behind a paywall is pretty strange. The question that has to be asked, seriously, is if a reader could find eight new posts in a month on the site? Right now there is a post written on the death of Helen Gurley Brown, but the next most recent posts are from the 9th. The most recent story under "Editorial" is from July 25.

"As a leader of the digital-content marketplace, we to need to adapt to the changing times," wrote Mickey to readers.


Mag+ launches its own production services: Mag+ Studios

The digital production platform company Mag+ has expanded its publisher services by launching its own creative services program. The new production services may allow some publishers to launch new tablet and mobile editions faster while working to train their own staffs, or may serve as a publisher's own outsourced production staff, if necessary.

Mag+ Studios will offer three "packages" of creative services support:

Mag+ Studio Package #1: Optimized Print – this package will produce a simple replica edition with interactive enhancements;

Mag+ Studio Package #2: Optimized Print Plus – this package expands the first level package by adding custom design up to a third of your magazine title to create a more customized look and feel. It also offers creative consultation services;

Mag+ Studio Package #3: Full Custom Design – this package involves working directly with the publisher's production staff to create a fully customized digital edition, and will create sample page designs to assist with the creation of the new mobile/tablet edition.

The move is a logical one for Mag+ as no doubt many small to mid-sized publishing companies are finding themselves stretched thin due to reduced staff sizes. Adding tablet editions, for instance, to the duties of an art director already responsible for multiple titles would be quite a burden.

By providing creative services, even if only at the beginning of the process, will be a welcome addition to the services any digital media vendor can offer.

Sjællandske Medier releases three universal media apps for their newspaper titles, apps as if from another time

It is very difficult for some writing in the States to get a feeling for the market penetration of tablets and smartphones in another country unless one visits the country themselves. In Europe, the U.K., France, Italy, Germany, Switzerland, Spain and the Netherlands all have physical Apple stores while residents in other countries must depended on authorized sellers.

My recent trip to Greece was not very enlightening simply because I tended to be in areas frequented by tourists. During two weeks I saw one Kindle and lots and lots of iPads.
So when a newspaper publisher decides to release mobile and tablet editions of their newspaper I would guess that judging the kinds and numbers of devices in the market would be hugely important. But when releasing something for a specific device, such as a Kindle or iPad, the nature of the digital edition should be tailored in some way for the device.

But, of course, many publishers just don't think this way. The urgency to release a tablet edition, for instance, seems to drive them to make strange decisions.

The original release of the iPad in Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Finland occurred later than in other European countries – December of 2010. But Apple's own App Store in iTunes is in English, which is generally a sign of something (though what that is I don't know). After all, the French App Store is in French, etc.

In any case, today a Danish newspaper publisher, Sjællandske Medier, released three universal apps for three titles and the fact that the apps seem so rudimentary I found curious. Why would a publisher release such awful news apps?

All three new apps, Dagbladet, Frederiksborg Amts Avis and Sjællandske, were developed by Visiolink, a Danish technology company providing online services for print media companies.

The mobile and tablet editions are purely replica editions in their purest form: images of pages without any evidence of interactivity. They are, to be brief, impossible to read (unless one has a fetish for pinch-to-zoom).

The app for Dagbladet contains three regional editions. Print subscribers can access the digital replicas for free once they sign in, but individual issues are quite expensive at $2.99 at piece (18 Danish Krone).

Are all Danish news media app so backwards? No, it turns out that like any other market, there is a wide variety of media apps to be downloaded. Dagbladet Børsen, for instance, is a universal app that offers readers of its business newspaper easier to read layouts in addition to replica pages – sort of like the NewspaperDirect apps such as that of The Boston Globe.

Almost two years, during the very early days of tablet editions, there was some discussion that expresses the view that European readers, more than American readers, would prefer replica editions. I never really bought into the idea, though early app releases certainly showed that European publishers were moving in that direction. But really good app releases by other publishers, especially newspaper apps from Germany, seemed to negate that line of thought.

I don't know for sure where European digital editions are heading, but I seriously doubt they are heading in the direction of these new apps.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Revenue Series #1: the new sales management two-step

The discussion in media circles continue to revolve around paid content strategies in face of declining ad dollars. Here is the first of an occasional series that is just about advertising, sales management, and what it might take to reverse revenue declines. Today's topic is the dreaded new sales manager:

If there is one story I've heard a hundred times in the past few years it is the one about the new sales manager who comes in and immediately starts handing out outrageous sales quotas leading to the inevitable staff turnover. The strategy generally is considered what young sales managers do in order to clear out the old staff, but it doesn't turn out that way, it simply leads to turnover.

But if performance is the judge, rarely does the new team really outperform the old one. So why do so many sales managers continue to use this tactic?

Its tied, I believe, to the way sales management is brought in.

Recruited and ultimately overpaid management is becoming the norm – not only in tech, but in traditional media, as well. The recruit is clearly the rain maker (God, I hate that term) and is brought in with rave reviews by the recruiter and the candidates themselves. Once hired, the rain maker then is expected bring in the desired results (which are often pipe dreams to begin with).

For many of these newly anointed superstars, changing the company's strategy is not possible – they've been brought in by executive management to implement the existing strategy, not change it. To get hired, the candidate had to show their total buy-in, otherwise another candidate would have been hired. So with strategy off the table the only place to look is with the sales staff.

This is not so different with most other areas of management. Many newly hired executives find it far easier to chop heads than to re-imagine the business and change direction. Heads rolling out the door is the litmus test of the truly serious executive today. If you can't chop fast enough you're not management material. (That's generally why private equity owners prefer to recycle CEOs, they are experienced and chopping heads and making the P&L look a little better, if only for a short while anyways.)

But many new and old media companies are finding that they are simply recycling staff – our new staff was someone else's old staff, after all. Few ad sales pros can stay at a property longer than a few years without facing new sales management, along with the outrageous demands that come along with that change. Surviving new managers is the stuff of late night bar conversations.

How to stop the madness? It all has to start with the CEOs or executive managers doing the hiring.**

Rather than being enamored with the candidate that knows the name of a few media buyers (who are likely to change in the coming months anyways) it is better to discuss how they changed and implemented sales strategies at their previous positions. What problems did they encounter and how did they solve those sales problems in the past? If the answer is strictly limited to staff turnover you know the type of manager you will get. If the answer involves positioning, presentation and product development maybe you are on the right track.

**Unfortunately, many CEOs are brought in without much of a concept of how to change strategy themselves, and all too often resort to the same kinds of behavior seen in new sales management. The other alternative for these new executives is often to outsource as much as possible, calculating that while they are without a clue as to how to solve a problem surely the company brought in will be able to turn things around.

IPC releases new app for Wallpaper*, moving the app into Apple's Newsstand while leaving the editions unchanged

The UK publisher IPC Media, a wholly owned subsidiary of Time Inc., continues to issue new Newsstand compliant apps for their portfolio of magazines. Today the company issued a new app for Wallpaper*.

The new app, Wallpaper Magazine North America, is identical to a previous app but now the new app moves the magazine in Apple's Newsstand.
IPC Media had previously launched a new app for the UK edition of the magazine that placed the new app, Wallpaper*, also into the Newsstand.

Wallpaper* was originally launched in 1996 by Winnipeg-born journalist Tyler Brûlé, with Time buying the magazine the next year. Brûlé left the magazine in 2002 and now edits Monocle.

The appearance of Wallpaper* inside the Newsstand might encourage downloads. The magazine is one of those readers often discover on a neighborhood newsstand, but with those declining in number it must be harder and harder to find the magazine.

The magazine is not a cheap buy: individual issues are available for $9.99 a piece, with a monthly subscription priced at $7.99 and an annual subscription at $49.99. The good news is that if you are already a print subscriber accessing the digital edition will not cost you more.

If you are interested in the magazine the tab edition is worth checking out as it does contain additional interactive content.

Retweet: 'Wondering how far magazines must fall'

The sky is falling, or at least that seems to the message from media writers recently. On Sunday David Carr, the New York Times's media reporter penned a column which seemed to conclude that magazines are in serious danger. Earlier in the week Adweek asked 'are tablet-only publications dead?"

I've already made enough fun of Adweek's silly piece, there is no reason to pile on here. But Carr's new column is bound to get plenty of attention.

Carr look's at Newsweek and the struggles the magazine continues to have under Tina Brown. Carr points out some of Brown's week ideas but ultimately gives her a pass concluding that the problems at Newsweek, and at magazines, in general, are that the platform itself is suspect.

The problem is more existential than that: magazines, all kinds of them, don’t work very well in the marketplace anymore.

Like newspapers, magazines have been in a steady slide, but now, like newspapers, they seem to have reached the edge of the cliff. Last week, the Audit Bureau of Circulations reported that newsstand circulation in the first half of the year was down almost 10 percent. When 10 percent of your retail buyers depart over the course of a year, something fundamental is at work.
Carr recounts the latest ABC circulation numbers and sees disaster.

But strangely, Carr seems to be confused by the ABC report. While newsstand sales did, indeed, fall dramatically (9.6 percent), overall circulation was flat (rising 0.1 percent). If this is the end of the platform someone had better tell readers because they continue to subscribe.

If newsstand sales are falling just about everywhere – and in this Carr is right as only four of the top 25 magazines reported an increase in newsstand sales – then there must be something else at work.

One could point to the rising digital sales as one factor. 5.4 million digital replicas were reported in the new ABC report, a 170 percent increase over last year's numbers. But, of course, that didn't stop some media observers from writing negatively about that number.

But I think the problem with newsstand sales is simply the decline of the newsstand, in general. Retail outlets are giving far less space to magazines, and in the case of Borders, the newsstand has disappeared altogether (along with books, CDs and DVDs, of course).

What few media commentators want to admit is the fact that magazines are a discretionary purchase. One can live without the latest issue of People or Cosmopolitan. This, along with fragmentation, explains the decline in ad pages, as well. Advertising is falling for all print products, and will continue to do so until the economy picks up. When, and if that ever happens, we might see a bump in advertising across the board, with print possibly picking up a piece of the new business.

There is no doubt that the new digital platforms will force magazines (and newspapers) to evolve. But burying the whole print platform because sales are falling in the midst of a weak economy is extreme.

No, what we are seeing is a definite evolution of publishing. But until RR Donnelley announces the closing of its last printing facility I would not write the obituary of print magazines just yet.

Update: The NYT has just posted a correction to the Carr column, pointing out that the ABC circulation figures quoted only apply to newsstand, not overall circulation.
An earlier version of this column incorrectly characterized circulation figures from the Audit Bureau of Circulations. It reported last week that magazines’ newsstand circulation in the first half of the year was down almost 10 percent, not their overall circulation.