Friday, August 24, 2012

Amazon will now accept promotional images from developers to promote apps to customers

Online retailer Amazon announced this morning that they will now accept promotional images from developers. These images may be used by the marketing team at Amazon to promote the apps.

Developer should not include pricing or any offers in their promotional images, mostly in order to make sure they are timeless.

The promotional images should be 1024 x 500 pixels, and should be in the JPG or PNG format.

Full instructions on how to submit promotion images can be found on the Amazon mobile app distribution blog.

The GOP platform needs to include a call for a new Prohibition: it's time to end all things digital!

Maybe it's time to think about outlawing all things digital, including the web, smartphones, tablets and anything else that depends one ones and zeros. What better way to spur on a growth of print publications like newspapers and magazines.

Well, that was what came to mind when I heard that the Republican platform to be adopted in Tampa next week will include a call for a return to the gold standard. Exactly how far into the past the GOP wants to send America is anybody's guess, but there really needs to be something in that platform for us media types.

Media executives know what it's like to fear the future (and the present, too), too. Many publishers and other media execs are not exactly thrilled with a future that involves self-publishing, constantly new digital platforms being introduced, the loss of the traditional newsstand, etc.

Most just try to adapt the best they can, while others actually are leading the charge towards the new digital platforms (they must be communists, suffragists or something).

So as many Americans dream of a nation where gull bladder surgery costs two chickens and a gallon of unpasteurized milk, maybe it is time we publishing types started pressing for our own nostalgic vision of our industry.

So I am, right here and now, calling on the GOP to put the following in their platforms: the outlawing of all things digital and a return to the penny press.

Yes, it's time to realize that only through the steady progression of regression can we move backwards towards to new prosperity. So to all my media colleagues, let's pressure those conventioneers into slipping something for us into their campaign platform. Let's make sure we get this done before Apple introduces yet another new fangled gadget that gets the population all a twitter, and leads to yet more digital downloads.

Wind up the Victrola and sing along with me (to the melody of Yes, We Have No Bananas):
Yes, we have no tablets
We have-a no tablets today
The newspapers they're-a buyin',
Thanks to our guy Paul Ryan,
We have an old fashioned Selectric
But hardly any electric
But yes, we have no tablets
We have no tablets today!

Next Issue Media updates its iPad app, prepares to add more magazines to its offerings

The digital newsstand app for Next Issue Media, the joint effort of Condé Nast, Hearst, Meredith, News Corporation and Time Inc., has been updated this morning as the new company prepares to expand its offerings with more magazines from Hearst and Meredith.

Previously called simply Next Issue, the app now the rather unwieldy new name Next Issue – all the magazines you love – unlimited access. One fears that soon the name of the app will be longer than the app description.

The update fixes some bugs, as well, which is good because I found the app to crash consistently for me. This may be because I recently cancelled my subscription to the service so as to not to get hit with the charge (sorry, I simply can't afford to buy every magazine and every service in the App Store).

Since canceling the app would no longer open for me. Deleting the app and reloading the newly updated version solved this issue. But, of course, without a subscription plan, the app is just a shell.

The digital magazine newsstand service is still priced at $9.99 per month for what is termed Unlimited Basic, and $14.99 per month for Unlimited Premium.

If you are unfamiliar with Next Issue Media then a short recap is in order: one signs up with the service on the Next Issue website – this avoids the in-app purchase system of Apple. The reader then can download any magazine they want that is being offered with the exception of Entertainment Weekly, People, Sports Illustrated, The New Yorker or Time, which only come with the premium service.

The digital magazines inside the Next Issue service are only as good as the publishers make them, of course, though since the service is comprised of major publishers the reader generally gets a decent digital edition.

The new update prepares the app for the addition of some 30 new more titles. These are Cosmopolitan, Country Living, Details, Eating Well, Elle Décor, Every Day with Rachael Ray, Family Circle, Family Fun, Food Network Magazine, Good Housekeeping, Harper’s Bazaar, HGTV Magazine, House Beautiful, Ladies' Home Journal, Living the Country Life, Marie Claire, Midwest Living, More, O, The Oprah Magazine, Redbook, Road & Track, Seventeen, Successful Farming, Teen Vogue, Town & Country, Traditional Home, Veranda, W Magazine, Women’s Day, and WOOD. All these titles will be added to the basic subscription level.

Added to the premium level will be Golf World.

All these titles are from the same group of publishers so at least for now, the list of publishers involved with the project has not expanded. But since the service promises "more titles are being added all the time" one has to wonder whether at some point about the business model involved here – without raising the price of the service the money divided up would get spread thinner and thinner if new publishers were to be added. Obviously the service is counting and an ever growing number of subscribers.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

The Guardian updates its main iOS news apps

The Washington Post is not the only major media company busy issuing app updates today. The Guardian today issued updates to its two main iOS news apps.

The U.K. daily newspaper's iPad app, The Guardian for iPad (officially its called Guardian for iPad) has the most noticeable change in that new interactive content can be launched from within the app. I'm assuming, and I may be wrong here, that previously the material would pop up a window to an external source rather than being able to display the content embedded into the app.
The paper was a bit tardy in launching their iPad app compared to other major newspaper titles, but when it did it made a big splash with it.

The tablet edition, for me, has proved disappointing in that the home page of the digital edition often looks like it has been forced into the design – notice that the two lead stories (below-left) are without artwork). Flexibility was supposed to be the tab edition's biggest advantage, it isn't necessarily working out that way.

Updating the iPad edition seems to re-trigger the app offering you some free editions before being required to subscribe – as good a reason as any to update.

The Guardian for iPhone has also been updated.

There are several changes with the update that readers might not at first notice. The app now does not automatically load the galleries for offline reading. This will no doubt speed the launch of the app. This feature, though, can be changed in settings which is nice if you frequently look at the galleries.

The app update also says it offers a "better offline reading interface for first-time readers" – whatever that means.

The Guardian's iPhone app is crammed with lots of content, most of which has to be put behind the "More" tab. I've often wondered if breaking out content into separate apps isn't the way to go in these circumstances. If one doing the development completely in-house this would be workable, if much of the work is outsourced it might prove an expensive option.

The Guardian recently updated its Android news app, but still has no Android apps specifically designed for an Android tablet, with both the iPad news app and The Guardian Eyewitness currently unavailable on Android. It does have a crossword app for Android and no iOS equivalent, though.

The Washington Post issues an update to its WP Politics app that adds a Twitter content aggregation feature

Last night The Washington Post issued an interesting update to its iPad political news app, WP Politics. The update adds a new section to the app called "The Forum" which aggregates the tweets of political leaders, journalists and pundits, and organizes them in a logical and attractive layout.

To access the content, the user will not need their own Twitter account, though to join the conversation by replying to a tweet the user will need to sign into their existing Twitter account or create a new one.
Image and video hosting by TinyPic
WP Politics remains free with a "premium users" option, priced at $2.99 per month. The app had been previously updated in July to bring in election maps, and again a few weeks later to add in polling data. Now, with the conventions upon us, and the Presidential election only ten and a half weeks away, the WP Politics app has gained quite an impressive amount of content and interactive features.

"The Forum enables new and experienced Twitter users alike to quickly see what the political experts, office holders and newsmakers are saying without so much as creating a Twitter account, let alone finding, following and organizing hundreds of people,” said Beth Jacobs, General Manager of Mobile, The Washington Post. "The best part of this tool is that we can apply it to countless other topics, instantly creating a framework for users to access great content from expert Tweeters."

Ken Dodelin, Director of Mobile Product Management at The Washington Post, said the new "The Forum" feature will enable the people who do not use Twitter to access the content and discussions found on the social network site.

"We've tried to make it easy for them to get a positive experience with the content of Twitter without having to set up a Twitter account, not having to follow people, put them in lists, organize those lists, all that sort of stuff," Dodelin told TNM yesterday. "We've done that work for them."

The Forum is organized into six groups: News Outlets, Campaigns, Partisans, Office Holders, Fact Checkers and Jesters. Each area has at the top the trending tweets with the individual media outlets or campaigns found below. The user can shift the position of these sources, these tweeters, to place them in any order the user desires.
Image and video hosting by TinyPic
In essence, The Washington Post is acting as the curator of political discussions, news and commentary on Twitter.

"We think this will be a unique presentation of the political content of Twitter," said Dodelin.

The app was developed in partnership with Bottle Rocket, which has put its name on a long and growing list of very good apps such as the app from NPR, PBS, Discover HD for iPad, AARP. Food Network in the Kitchen, and many others.

This Twitter aggregation feature is a bit of a bold move for a newspaper in that a large portion of the content is not their own. Newspapers have experimented with aggregated content, often gathered and presented by third party entities. This new addition to WP Politics, though, is curated and designed by the paper. It certainly is a better way to use content from a social network than the clumsy efforts of news outlets such as CNN.

“The Forum is a great example of how publishers can use Twitter to add value to their storytelling,” Adam Sharp, Head of Government, News and Social Innovation at Twitter is quoted in the press release for the app update. “The Washington Post is a trusted source for political analysis that Twitter users will benefit from during this year's election.”

Here is a short video that walks through parts of The Forum section of WP Politics:

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

New tablet editions released under the developer's name, Picsean Media, but appear half-finished

Over the past few days nine new apps have appeared inside the Apple Newsstand from a new vendor, Picsean Media. At first blush the apps appear to be a complete disaster. In fact, I had to delete a completed post that tore into the apps for the obvious mistakes that can be seen.

But the story, it turns out is more complex than that. These new tablet editions for the company's publishing clients are not simply replica editions, but native designed digital editions that remind one a bit of the look and feel of iBooks Author.
Last night and this morning there were about a dozen new tablet editions that appeared for the previously unknown (to me) vendor. Two of those apps for sports publisher ASM Publisher have apparently been pulled, but the rest remain.

It is probably the case that all these apps have appeared prematurely as a look at both the app descriptions and the apps themselves show obvious errors and omissions. But the vendor's digital publisher solution does show some promise. These are, or at least will be, good digital editions.

I downloaded a bunch of the new apps including one that has since been pulled (The Giant Insider). Most contain the same errors that involve orientation. If you hold your iPad in landscape the library page will open in portrait. This is no big deal, except the splash page, which appears only for a split second, is upside down. One might be appalled that such an error could occur, but it is far more common that you might image. In fact one developer was so upset with me for pointing this error out on their app that they harassed me for weeks demanding that I pull my post.

The apps also open with an annoying prompt to rate them in the App Store. No matter how many times you open the app you will get this prompt (which in my opinion only pushes readers to downgrade the apps).

As TNM readers know, I have a fetish about the issue of the "seller" name in which apps appear. The Dispatch Printing Company is the owner of The Columbus Dispatch and their app for the daily newspaper appears under the paper's name, surely these new apps could have used that Apple developer account to avoid making it appear that the magazines have been sold off?

The apps were released with generic screenshots that gave readers the false impression that these apps should be read in landscape. But I believe these screenshots were simply placeholders because while I am writing this it appears that new screenshots are appearing.

The problem, as many developers know, is that one never can be sure when their app will get approved and appear in the App Store. One morning you wake up and find that your app is live and you suddenly have to scramble to change out your screenshots or update your app description.

As for the app seen here, Columbus Crave Interactive, the app is pretty sticky, meaning that navigation can be difficult. Also, there are orientation issues that seem to be inherent in the system. The library, for instance, can only be seen in portrait. Most apps that contain digital editions designed for portrait-only still have library pages that can be seen in landscape – this is why the splash page appears to be upside down, it is designed to be seen sideways in portrait, but how would you know that?

The actual digital edition requires you to pay $4.99 for a single edition or $9.99 for a six month subscription. This seems like pretty steep which makes me wonder if the developer is being paid on a revenue share basis.

I think it is probably best if we chalk up many of these errors to growing pains. I like the look of the actual digital editions here so the other issues may seem like minor annoyances once fixed.

In any case, Picsean Media has also released an app that showcases sample pages from its tab editions, Publishing ++. The app description says the app contains "free sample pages", but amazingly this app requires you to buy an issue or subscribe. Yes, you must pay to be sold by these guys!

I don't know, my publishing colleagues, there are sharks out there in the waters. Be very careful.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Are we now "Post PC"? There is a reason some applications remain purely desktop rather than tablet

A publisher tried to impress me the other day by telling me that they were recalling all their laptops from their editorial and sales staffs and issuing iPads. Cool idea I said. But, I asked, how old are those laptops?

If you've worked for a publishing company at all during the past couple decades you know that one of the biggest sore spots many employees have is the outdated technology they are forced to work with. Rather than spend $500 to $1500 to outfit an ad rep expected to make their million dollar budget many publishers tell them to make do and maybe next year there will be money in the budget. (This is major reason why publishing staff should own their own hardware.)

Buying a bunch of iPads is cool, but turning in the laptop is not, especially if the person working the equipment needs to do some heavy computing.

My own computer equipment is almost perfectly designed for my own set of requirements. I have a laptop, which doesn't get used as much as in the past, two iPads (the new one is on my desk), a Kindle Fire, an iPhone. My main PC is a Mac mini with two old Apple displays with matte finishes.

Many people think that computers have reached a point where they are over powered but this isn't quite true. My own mini, for instance, may have Intel chip in it, but it is hardly a beast.

Mac Pro envy
When I was finishing up my iBooks Author project I discovered near the end that my computer was seriously sluggish. I could no longer drag pictures from iPhoto or a desktop folder directly into the program. I could hear the hard drive spinning and see my cursor attempting to create a thumbnail of the picture, but it simply would not move into iBooks Author.

My only two choices was to sit there a wait (eventually it would move into the project) or use a work around (no need to go into that here).

I was seriously envious of those with a Mac Pro. Of course, Mac Pro owners are crazy with fear that Apple is dumping them. The Mac Pro line used to get updated every year but now it has been several years since the last major update.

But if Apple wants users to be able to create their own books and other media for their iPhone and iPad products, they will need to keep those Macs updated.

For the most part, for 99 percent of projects, the current computer equipment is adequate. The real issue is whether we are beyond needing PCs at all.

I say no. We're getting there, but we are definitely not there yet.

The death of magazines is making a good story, but it all may turn out to be merely good fiction in the end

There is a good reason why birth notices, if they are published at all, are put in the back of the newspaper, while obituaries can sometimes find their way to the front page: they make for a better story. Today the death of magazines, or newspapers for than matter, is getting alot of attention. It would make for a good story for the cover of, say, a big magazine, don't you think?

The latest avalanche of death notices probably got their start with the release of the latest Audit Bureau of Circulations report. The headlines could have read "Magazine prove very resilient in the face of tough economic times," and could have recapped the one percent gain in overall circulation the industry experienced. But thanks to a post by the New York Times's David Carr, with the provocative headline Wondering How Far Magazines Must Fall, media observers seem to have pounced.

I like Carr's work a lot, so I have very little negative to say about his column. But his one mistake, noticing that newsstand circulation had fallen ten percent, but not noting that overall circulation was up slightly, had to quickly be corrected by NYT editors. Carr has moved on, as he should. But that isn't preventing other media observers from writing those obituaries and citing Carr's column.

Mag circ was up slightly in the last
ABC circulation report.
These are, indeed, tough times for magazines. And it is true that one must wonder about the long term future of many publishing firms. But I don't lose any sleep worrying about magazines.

Magazines are simply a collection of articles, edited and compiled by editors. The line between a newspaper and a magazine (and a book, for that matter) is a thin one. If anything, the magazine idea is expanding. TV networks create television magazines, websites are now creating tablet magazines, and anyone with a PC can now both print and digital products that are like magazines.

The truth is that the death of the magazine makes a great story, the same way Judith Miller can weave a great tale.

It is easier, I suppose, to talk about the death of someone or something than it is to talk about the changing nature of that same subject. If a great personality dies one can recount their lives and achievements. A story written in medias res requires the subject to be interviewed, or the topic to be analyzed.

Thanks to the new digital platforms of mobile and tablets I have great hope for magazines. But between now and sometime in the future, much pain will be felt by magazine publishers. Many, especially in the B2B area, have seriously lost their way. Many publishing firms have cut back so much that they have thin benches and are forced to bring in inexperienced managers from outside the industry. The new CEO of Time Inc., for instance, immediately brought in consultants once hired. One would think that a new CEO would be hired for what they bring to the job.

My biggest concern is that the ad community is losing faith in the magazine platform. Rather than new advertisers flocking to the new digital tablet editions, many are simply leaving magazines (and newspapers), in general.

This is, by the way, a serious mistake. The whole reason to advertise in a particular title is targeting. But too often we get obsessed with overall circulation numbers – it's a bad measurement of a magazine's worth as an advertising vehicle, though it is the easiest for many reps to sell.

The dark, dirty secret of many B2B titles, of course, is that much of their circulation is wasted. A trade journal, for instance, that has a circulation of 75,000 will fight with one that has 80,000. Both will claim to reach the needed decision makers, even if there are only 10,000 of them or less. How many people are there in the market, one needs to realize, that have the ability to buy an asphalt paver? If there were 80,000 of them the entire country would be paved over.

Tablet magazines, with their interactivity, their ability to be archived digitally, will make a fantastic advertising platform. Try it and see.

But some media observers are already writing the obituary of the tablet magazine platform, proving that nothing is too young to be seen as dying in the eyes of some people. It must be hell living with these writers.

Berliner Zeitung launches first tablet edition that offers a NYT-styled iPad design plus a replica of the print edition

Many newspapers have suffered through the experience of changing ownership, internal melodramas and the like. But the Berliner Zeitung seems to have all that, as well as the external dramas associated with being a newspaper from East Germany that must transition to the new capitalist realities of modern Germany. It has been quite a roller coaster ride.

Founded in 1945, the newspaper was bought by Gruner + Jahr, the Hamburg-based media giant, right after the fall of the Berlin wall. When the publishing giant decided to leave the newspaper business the paper was sold to another newspaper firm, only to be sold again in 2005 to a British company along with the PE media firm Veronis Suhler Stevenson. Well, you know my attitude about these media bankers.
Finally, the paper was sold off to M. DuMont Schauberg (MDS) when things didn't go quite as planned due to the debt games played by PE-backed media companies. As MDS is one of Germany's oldest publishing firms, one might expect things to settle down a bit.

(American Journalism Review did a nice review of newspapers vying for supremacy in Berlin in June.)

Today Berliner Zeitung sees its first tablet edition hit the Apple App Store. The app looks and feels a bit like the New York Times tab edition in design and navigation. The app features the ability to update the content with the tap of a button, and the section navigation is easy to understand and utilize.

Like many publishers, the publisher has decided to also include a replica of the print edition for, as the app description says it, "fans of the newspaper layout." The replica, of course, depends on pinch-to-zoom to read, and while the print design in attractive, it simply doesn't work on a tablet – though telling media executives that seems to be a fool's errand.

Subscriptions will come in three flavors: €13.99 for one month. €39.99 for three months, and €159.99 for a full year. 24-hour access is granted for €0.79. The app resides inside Apple's Newsstand, so new issue downloads should be automatic for subscribers (or at least the automatic download of the new issue image inside the app).

I did not see, however, any way for current print subscribers to log into their accounts, so I expect a number of negative reviews inside the German App Store once readers begin to find the app. Right now, there is only one review, a five-star rating from a reader who is clearly happy to see the new tablet edition hit the App Store.


Monday, August 20, 2012

U.S. District Court judge orders Google to try again to identify anyone they are paying to write on their behalf

The U.S. District Court judge who had requested that Oracle and Google disclose who they were paying to write on their behalf has ordered Google to try again.

United States District Court Judge William Alsup today gave Google until Friday at noon (Pacific Coast time) to comply with his August 7 order.

Last week Oracle said that FOSS Patent blogger Florian Mueller consulted for Oracle. The news motivated paidContent to call Mueller a "patent propagandist" and a "sock puppet.

Google, meanwhile, said it had not paid anyone to comment on the case.

But Judge Alsup was having none of it stating that "In the Court’s view, Google has failed to comply with the August 7 order."

At issue here is payments that may have influenced reporting or commentary, rather than a strict "quid pro quo."

"Google suggests that it has paid so many commenters that it will be impossible to list them all," Alsup writes in his order. "Please simply do your best but the impossible is not required. Oracle managed to do it."

Oracle sued Google over its use of Android, the case being heard in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. Oracle won a minor victory, but now Google is asking that Oracle pay Google's legal fees – meaning Oracle could stand to actually end up being the loser financially.

German publisher Axel Springer launches its first mobile and tablet editions for its weekly Sport Bild

There is no doubt that it is easier to publish a tablet edition if your publication is a monthly, as opposed to either a daily or weekly. That is why most daily newspapers have chosen to either go the replica edition route, or else build apps that take the content directly from the publication's website.

The German publisher Axel Springer, therefore, had a dilemma when creating its first native app for its weekly sports publications Sport Bild.
This morning SPORT BILD + is making its debut in both the Apple App Store and Google Play (the App Store link is to the US store, the Google Play link goes to the German store, just to mix things up for you).

The app description warns readers, in German, that because the tablet and mobile editions (the iOS version is universal) contains added photographs and other interactive materials, the download will be a bit slow. I encountered a few other issues such as buttons that stubbornly wouldn't work.

The app description also tells readers that the new digital issues will be available after the last Bundesliga game is played on Sunday (the Bundesliga is the German soccer league, of course). That means that the digital edition is going to be quite different than the print edition.

The plan appears to be to sell the new digital edition separately from the print edition, with a special discount available if print readers would like the digital edition, as well. It's a good idea that I wish more publishers would pursue. By thinking of its digital edition as a new product the publisher can begin to think about their publication freshly. A new digital product opens up new revenue streams, and if necessary, the publisher can always change their minds and offer up the new digital edition for free to print subscribers at a later date.

News websites deal with the fringe, meanwhile the fringe get fed a daily dose of crazy from scammers

The comments of one crazy candidate for the U.S. Senate are getting loads of attention this morning. But newspapers, and other news websites, have been dealing with the crazy for quite a long time, and many have succumbed to a flood of comments from those on the fringes of the political spectrum.

In case you are not up to date: the GOP candidate for the U.S. Senate, Rep. Todd Akin, running against Democratic incumbent Claire McCaskill, inserted his foot into his mouth so far during an interview with a local television station that he will be spending the rest of the week extracting it.

During an interview candidate Akin attempted to justify his opposition to abortion even in the case of rape: "If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”

Signal the fireworks to begin.

Today, presidential candidate Mitt Romney distanced himself, or at least tried to distance himself from Akin. Romney went so far as to say that abortion, in the case of rape, is justified.

I can tell you that this won't go down well with the far right who are rather dogmatic on this issue.

But that is not what got my attention this morning. What I noticed  was a Twitter thread by someone from Missouri who was not very happy with Akin's point of view. The person was forced to block users who were flaming the account. Who were these people? And do they really hold the extreme views they were tweeting?

Following the threads and looking at these Twitter users tweets, one found a boat load of links to crazy articles posted on strange websites, websites with names that were very unfamiliar. No, these sites were not right-wing political sites, but sites that were created specifically to host these crazy stories – stories such as the one that says the Supreme Court is currently hearing a secret case that will prove that President Obama was born overseas and came to the U.S. as an exchange student.

OK, so it's a wild story. But why is it online? A couple more clicks provided my answer. It was a phishing website, created to lure the most gullible web users. The thinking must be that if you are a birther you probably will believe anything.

(Sorry for the lack of links, but I hope you will understand that I don't want to out the Twitter user, or drive traffic to clearly bogus websites.)

This hits home. There is someone in my family who is especially susceptible to Internet scams. For whatever reason, this person seems to be lacking a gene that allows them to recognize a scam that would be obvious to anyone else. This has led me to want to learn more about Internet scams.

It turns out that Microsoft is interested, as well.

Nicholas Thompson, writing for The New Yorker, tells of a study conducted that answers the basic question of why many of these email and Internet scams are so outrageous. Why would anyone fall for an email scam that starts out with "I'm from Nigeria?"

The answer is simple: very, very few do fall for the scam. But the few that do are the most vulnerable, the most trusting, the ones with that metaphorical gene missing that helps them sniff out fraud. If you send you a million emails, after all, you don't want to get thousands of replies, you only want the few that will lead to the money.

Where do these scammers find their prey? Now I know of at least one place, birther websites.

One might feel a bit smug and dismiss the people who would click on a website simply because it claims the President is a foreigner. But these same people end up on the websites of local and national newspapers posting comments. They attend political meetings, and shout at their representatives. One party, in particular, is having to deal with enough of these crazies that they appear to be influencing local primary elections.

The New York Times clearly is cognizant of the problem. It moderates the comments on its website to a degree that a comment may take hours to appear. As a result, it is virtually impossible to have a conversation on its site – a comment that appears now was posted hours ago, my reply won't appear for hours.

Other news sites, such as the Washington Post, moderates its comments with a lighter hand. But the result is that the comments thread can quickly become a flame war, and move more and more in the direction crazy.

Many political commentators have asked who is backing this move to the crazy, is it being funded by corporate interests, for instance. Those on the left, in particular, see dark forces such as the Koch brothers at work – those on the right generally point to George Soros.

I have no doubt that monied interests are feeding some of this, but it clear that those looking to make a quick buck are also playing the field. That article about the secret Supreme Court case seems invite the reader to clink over to a phishing website, for instance. That story has now been forwarded to thousands of potential victims by one true believer. Few will actually fall for the scheme. But they have targeted an audience for a reason, a group they think is the most vulnerable.