Friday, September 7, 2012

Media App Updates: AOL's TechCrunch adds offline reading, auto download features to its iPad app; Blogsy releases another major update for its blogging app

As the weekend is approaching it is a good time to fix those bugs and add those features to a company's media apps. Several media outlets have done just that this morning.
TechCrunch, the AOL-owned tech website, has updated its iPad app. Unlike other tech sites that have launched iPad app, TechCrunch is not a tablet magazine but a tablet optimized version of the website, and while I'm no fan of the basic concept of duplicating a website, I will admit that TechCrunch's effort is very attractively designed. (AOL also has a true digital magazine for download called Editions by AOL.)

The new update for TechCrunch adds some nice new features such as offline reading of articles and auto download which can be turned on in Settings to download the most recent 40 posts – again, useful for reading offline.

The New Republic for iPad has been updated again, and although the update is very minor I mention it simply because I think it is good to see that they are constantly updating their namesake app.

Early app reviewers gave this app one-star reviews because print subscribers were forced to pay again for access to the digital edition. This policy was reversed with an earlier update. But publishers should be forewarned, negative reviews never go away, so a decision to make print subscribers pay twice should be thoroughly thought through and debated internally.

The Aston Martin Magazine app (see original post) has been updated only a week after its launch. The update fixes some bugs and offers "improved retina support."

Finally, Blogsy has released yet another major update with a whole slew of feature changes far too numerous to list here. The blogging tool app gets frequent updates which is nice to see since a user who chooses Blogsy to blog remotely would want to know that the platform is constantly supported.

Amazon rolls out new Kindles while continuing aggressive pricing strategy; will better Kindle Fire tablets make publishers see the platform as equal to Apple's iOS?

How many times did Jeff Bezos tout the Android operating system driving his new line of Kindle Fire tablets? About as many times as the word "Android" is mentioned in the online copy selling those tablets on the website. In other words, never.

In fact, this almost seemed like the point of the Amazon event yesterday, to differentiate the new Kindle Fire from other Android tablets to such an extent that buyers would see it as a complete separate platform – the Kindle Fire is supported by Amazon's app stores while all other Android powered devices are powered by Google Play.

As far as I can see, nothing is yesterday's product launches changes much for publishers. Most continue who do development in house will continue to develop for iOS first, Android and Kindle second. What may change, if Amazon can make the new Kindle Fires a hit, is that the Kindle's customized flavor of Android may be the second platform to develop for.

Since April of 2010 when Apple launched the iPad, publishers have wanted to know how many tablets were being sold, the idea being that only when the market was big enough would they care to develop for the platform. Apple is very open with its sales numbers, while Amazon is less clear. Ultimately, though, the important numbers for publishers, when it comes to tablet editions, is downloads first, then unique users. These numbers are not reliant on the device maker, the publisher can figure these out themselves.

Because of this, the battle between tablets is over size of market, which platform offers an audience worth developing for. Vendors, though, want no part of this, they will support them all, or at least try to.

Today J.D. Power announced that once again Apple's iPhone topped their smartphone satisfaction survey. It was the eighth time in a row that the iPhone came out on top (and really it wasn't even close, the iPhone came out on top in all categories). The iPad, too, has a high satisfaction rating, as shown in others surveys.

As any brand marketer will tell you, the ability to take away market share is related to how satisfied customers are with the product you are attacking. Amazon is in a great position to go after other Android tablets and to firmly establish the Kindle Fire as the strongest competitor to the iPad (they probably already have achieved this).

Beating the iPad, though, is tougher challenge simply because the iOS platform is so entrenched. If you already own an iPad, especially the new one, why buy another tablet? Unlike smartphones, that seem to have a two year product cycle based on contracts, the tablet market is more like a PC. If you already have a hundred apps, dozens of books and magazines installed on your tablet, changing platforms is a pain that only the most tech crazy person would embrace.

Update: Some sites are reporting that the Kindle Fire HD will display ads on its lockscreen and that Amazon will soon announce an option to get rid of them – presumably putting the ad-free model at a higher price point. This may change the dynamic a bit and make the new tablets far less attractive for some consumers. Strange that Amazon's CEO failed to mention all this yesterday, no?

Later Update: No opt-out, according to Amazon. If you buy a Kindle Fire in the U.S. you get ads on your tablet. Good reason not to preorder that tablet, if you ask me. I love advertising, don't get me wrong, but not everywhere, and certainly not on the lockscreen of my tablet.

Unlike last year's launch, this year the
new Kindle Fires are being sold in Europe

Last year at this time there was much enthusiasm for the new Kindle Fire line then announced. The end product, though, proved a disappointment. Amazon sold a lot of tablets, but burned a lot of potential customers.

The new Kindle Fires seem like a major step up in quality and power. But we won't really know if Amazon has created a hit until after the Christmas season as the 8.9" model does not get shipped until November 20. By that time Microsoft will have launched (maybe) its new Surface tablet.

Those who had hands-on experience with the new Kindle Fires seemed to be satisfied that the user experience was an improvement over the older model.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

MediaNews Group launches a free iPad app for the Contra Costa Times that reformat the paper's website

First let's get the important disclosures out of the way: I used to work for the Contra Costa Times (CCT), though indirectly, through the newspaper chain that once was Lesher Communications. That chain was founded by Dean Lesher, a newspaper man who believed that the East Bay suburban county had great potential and so he launched a chain of papers including The Valley Times, a paper where I served as classified advertising manager, circulation director and finally advertising director.

Lesher was sold to Knight-Ridder. I was long gone when the sale was to McClatchy and onto MediaNews Group. Now MediaNews Group is part of Digital First Media. I am absolutely no fan of either MediaNews Group or Digital First.

OK. now that we are done with that, let's look at this new iPad app edition for the Contra Costa Times.
The new app, Contra Costa Times for iPad, does not start out well – at least from a reader and former employee's perspective. The splash page opens to the CCT's flag which now sports the slogun "An edition of the San Jose Mercury News."

I can't imagine that East Bay residents appreciate that their local newspaper, founded shortly after WWII, is now reduced to being an edition of a paper in another county. Contra Costa county has a population of more than a million people, after all.

But then the app opens up to the front page you see at top-right. Attractive, isn't it?

The new CCT app is another of those news app for the iPad that takes the RSS feeds from the paper's website and re-lays it out for the iPad. The idea is that the paper's website is insufficient for reading in the iPad's browser.

Are they right? Well, I am no fan of any of the newspaper websites produced by Digital First newspapers. The CCT's website is no worse than any of the others and it actually contains ads. So since the newspaper chain is now in the habit of declaring bankruptcy repeatedly I have to assume that the ads were considered something undesirable. You need not worry about ads in the new CCT iPad edition, there aren't any. And the content is free to access, as well.

As I mentioned above, the new app is being supplied by Spreed – don't ask the question why a company that says it is 'digital first' needs to use outside vendors to app development, that would not be polite - and many of the newer apps inside the App Store, including that for the San Jose Mercury News, are coming from the same developer. But there are also apps for California MediaNews Group papers by Technavia, DoApp and other developers, as well. In fact, one of those Technavia apps is an "e-edition" for the CCT.

It's anarchy in the App Store.

Left and Right: well, there is not much to see, is there?

Digital First Media, and by extension MediaNews Group, has been touting its newsroom reorganizations (that generally mean layoffs). The big name media gurus are behind this stuff 100 percent. So much so that another bankruptcy announcement does not seem to faze them in the least. The message is clear, they are not going to let a little thing like financial failure stand in the way of new caf├ęs inside the newsroom (how else will any of the few remaining reporters tied to their desks ever see a reader?). For the supporters of Digital First it is all about debt reduction and streamlining the newsroom.

But I'm a publisher, someone who is always judged by the bottom line. And I, frankly don't see it. How does eliminating ads, giving away content for free, improve the bottom line? How does creating tablet editions through which ever third party vendor walks in the door lead to a unified vision of digital publishing?

As you can see, this stuff gets me mad.

American Media launches a tablet edition for the iPad of its supermarket tabloid National Enquirer

I have, in the past, wondered how different the development of tablet publications would have been had Apple allowed pornography onto the iPad. Like it or not, the fact remains that the entire film industry owes its success with video and DVDs to the porn industry (according to a Merrill Lynch study, quoted in a University of Texas paper, porn video tapes accounted for half of all sales in the late 1970s).

With such a powerhouse industry backing the tablet platform, not only would Apple have sold millions more iPads, but the tablet publishing platform itself would have grown at lightning speed.
So if you can't read porn on your iPad, I suppose the next best thing would be supermarket tabloids, and American Media wants to make sure you get your fix.

Today American Media launched their ninth app for the iPad, this one for their supermarket tabloid National Enquirer.

It is kind of a mystery to me why this one wasn't released much earlier. All the American Media tablet editions have been unimaginative replica editions, difficult to read because they are designed exclusively for print. An app not in the Newsstand for Shape is probably the best of the bunch.

But the National Enquirer doesn't require a natively designed application. Satisfying the prurient interests of a tabloid reader doesn't require scrolling text boxes, animated stories or embedded video – an unflattering picture of Tom Cruise or Katie Holmes will do.

I certainly can't criticize American Media for their approach here, they are going for the big bucks: an annual subscription costs $99.99, and each issue will bring in $3.99. For some iPad owners, a little too embarrassed to throw a copy of the National Enquirer into their shipping cart at the grocery store, this new app may be the perfect solution.

Morning Brief: Amazon event today wraps up week of product launches before next week's Apple iPhone 5 event; Zinio adds push notifications to its iOS digital newsstand; TPM updates PollTracker

Tablet and cell phone makers, trying to one-up Apple, scheduled a series of product introductions this week, hoping to upstage the Apple iPhone event next week Wednesday.

Nokia looked like they had a winner of an event for its new Windows phone driven Lumia 920yesterday until Nokia CEO Stephen Elop mentioned that there was no set launch date and no pricing to announce. This sent Nokia's stock diving as the company continued the string of phantom product launches, now all too common among tech companies. The event even included an appearance by Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, who himself held a launch event to show off its Surface tablet, again without being able to have a solid launch date or pricing.

But things got worse for Nokia when The Verge posted a story exposing the fact a new commercial for the Lumia, which was all about showing the video capabilities of the new smartphone, were actually faked – forcing the company to issue an apology and back tracking on the commercial. The move was not only embarrassing, but will prove costly (I assume ad agencies continue to charge for their work).

Today Amazon holds, what one hopes, will be a more significant product launch event today at 10:30 a.m. PT (1:30 p.m. ET) in Santa Monica. The press conference is expected to center around new Kindle Fire launches, but I suppose they could surprise us with something else.

The Kindle Fire was an instant hit last Christmas season because of its aggressive pricing and its tie to the online retain giant. But users (like myself) have found the tablet a bit of a disappointment once in use. Whether buyers will flock to a new Kindle Fire, or else simply wait for Apple's anticipated release of a smaller iPad, may be what determines the new product's level of success.

Zinio updated its universal iOS app this morning. The update will seem pretty small for many users initially, but may be important in the long term. The new version of the app, version 2.2.5, now sports push notifications (something I didn't even realize was missing).

With notifications, which are turned on by the user in settings, the Zinio app can not let readers know they have new magazines available for reading inside the app.

It's pretty interesting that the app was missing such a fundamental bit of coding, but the addition will be appreciated by many readers.

Apple, probably in preparation for the release of iOS 6, today issued an update for its own Apple Store app. The app not only allows you to buy Apple products directly through the app, but serves as a self check out for a customer once inside a physical Apple retail store.

My daughters are always fascinated by the way the app works and allows users to scan their own purchases and walk out of the store without ever be in contact with an Apple employee (it feels like stealing to them).

I find it interesting that so many reviewers inside the App Store complain about this app because the app lacks iPad support. I suppose this is a sign that some iPad owners walk around with their iPads as they would an iPhone.

Apple also updated its Podcasts app, an app I have not personally used. This is one of those rare Apple apps that users have trashed with their reviews inside the App Store. Reviewers are complaining about virtually everything about the app from design, bugs, crashes, etc.

Talking Points Memo issued an app update for its iPhone app PollTracker. I think the most significant thing about the app update is simply that it has occurred so soon after the launch – a good sign that TPM will take app seriously.

TPM, it seems to me, would a really good candidate to launch its own digital tablet magazine. The political website is in a good position to create a political weekly or monthly that can do longer form reporting and features. (Call me Josh, we'll talk about it.)

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Digital First Media announces that Journal Register Company has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy

The CEO of Digital First Media, John Paton has just informed staff that Journal Register Company has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy and will be sold. The company has accepted what Paton calls "a signed stalking horse bid" for Journal Register Company from a hedge fund. (A stalking horse bid is usually defined as a bid for assets chosen from a list of bidders by the company.)

The buyer was identified by Paton as 21st CMH Acquisition Co., described as an affiliate of funds managed by Alden Global Capital LLC, a New York-based hedge fund which actually bought the company last year, so this looks like more musical chairs with a media company.

Paton, without any sense of irony, puts the blame at least partially on the company's digital efforts when explaining why the company has chose to file of Chapter 11 bankruptcy, stating that digital expenses were up 151 percent since 2009.

But for the most part, Paton said that print advertising revenue had declined 19 percent and that print ads still accounted for more than half of the company's total revenue.

Ultimately, however, Paton blamed the high debt load the company has been shouldering.

I have been a frequent critic of anything and anyone claiming to be "digital first" while actually not enthusiastically launching new digital products. The Journal Register Company seems to me to be no exception: it is a company obsessed with all things digital as long as it involves the newsroom, but is lagging behind most other media firms when it comes to all digital platforms including the web (the company's newspaper websites and tablet editions are nothing to write home about).

I find it especially galling when a company uses becoming "digital-focused" as an excuse for layoffs (as Advance Publications has done), while again not announcing any new digital initiatives. One would think that this would at least me a common courtesy for those losing their jobs, a sign that the company is being serious in what they say.

Here, at least, Paton has laid out his thinking clearly and honestly.

Update: here is a blog post from Steve Buttry, Director of Community Engagement & Social Media at Digital First Media. Buttry attempts to explain today's Chapter 11 filing and shore up the troops. I guess I would say I'm not buying it – it reads too much like one of those statements from Advance Publications.

This sentence early in the blog post was really the one that got to me: "JRC is making great strides in developing a healthy new business model for the digital marketplace."

I have no idea what that means, though I suspect he is talking about the moves being made in the newsrooms that, in the end, will have absolutely no effect on the company's declining revenues. To me it is window dressing. Something that is said as employees are laid off.

One look at the newspaper websites, or a search inside Apple's App Store, is all that is necessary to know that "digital initiatives" is being used in an all new and creative way.

It is truly a shame that the company name, "Digital First," was taken by an old media company saddled with tons of debt. It makes it seem, not unreasonably, that the term 'digital first' only is about firing four guys and telling the two remaining to start aggregating content. That might be a new way to manage the newsroom but I don't see what that has to do with digital.

I really hoped a digital pure play might have grabbed that name - one with developers, as well as editors and reporters. Further, I hoped that company was as sales and advertising oriented as Google and other successful digital companies, not led by advocates of "paid content" who have never sold an ad in their entire careers, and wouldn't know a P&L or a budget if one fell on their head.

Because, you see, there are at least two parts of a P&L – revenue and expenses – and those that seem only concerned with expenses appear to be driving the bus right now – and there looks to be no guardrails ahead.

NYT updates its iPhone news app to add in banner ad slot, goes out of their way to make that change quietly

The New York Times today updated its main news app for the iPhone, adding in a banner ad while keeping the focus of the update pretty quiet.

NYTimes for iPhone is, of course, part of the trilogy of digital products that make up the NYT's digital subscription offerings (online, mobile and tablets). Because of this, readers now must pay to have complete access to any of the digital platforms and, hence, are less receptive to advertising intruding on their reading experience.

Notice what's different?
It is probably because of this that the NYT's app description for NYTimes for iPhone is complete devoid of any mention of what the update is about, though some reviewers have already figured it out.

Advertising is, of course, vital still to most newspaper's business strategy. But it is safe to say that both editorial and digital teams tend to be more than a bit queazy whenever the subject of advertising comes up.

One could complain that the new banner ad, located along the bottom of the home page, will take up too much real estate. But a new iPhone with a slightly larger (longer) display would result in about the same amount of space dedicated to editorial content.

In fact, the ad banner added is 640 x 100 in size. The current iPhone has a display that is 640 x 960 pixels, while the new iPhone is rumored to sport a display 640 x 1136 in size. As you can see, the new iPhone will be adding 176 pixels in height so the end result would be that the reader will see more, not less, real estate for news content on the iPhone 5, even with the addition of the banner ad.

B2B Day: Rogers Publishing launches a new tablet edition for Canadian Grocer, modeled on the original print design, but modified to provide a good tablet reading experience

With the demise or decline of such once-powerful B2Bs as Reed Business Information, Nielsen, McGraw-Hill and others, the U.S. B2B industry doesn't seem to have companies that can provide leadership when it comes to exploring the new digital publishing platforms of mobile and tablets.

Rogers Publishing, on the other hand, part of the giant Canadian media conglomerate Rogers Communications, may be in a unique position to invest in the tablet publishing platform. The company has a portfolio of both consumer and B2B title. Probably its most famous, Maclean's, first appeared in the App Store with a tablet edition in January of 2011.
The design of this tablet edition for Canadian Grocer looks oh-so much like a replica edition that one is very tempted to call it that. The tablet page looks just as you would expect the print edition to look but without the page folios at the bottom of each page.

But when you compare the Zinio version of Canadian Grocer to the iPad app version the differences start to appear.

Yes, those page folios are gone, but the text and layouts are ever so slightly different. For instance the TOC almost look identical but the page numbers that are layered onto the pictures are missing. Further along you see an ad gone, then the stories appear similar as in print but not exactly.

This, then, is a digital edition designed to replicate print in look and feel, but redesigned just enough to make reading easier and more attractive on the iPad – certainly more attractive than having the print page reduced to fit the iPad's screen.

All the ads are all from Unilever, so it appears that a single-sponsor model is being employed, a very good solution to the problem of how to incorporate ads into the first tablet edition one produces.

Canadian Grocer is a free app that also is offering the first issue found inside for free. But unlike many other B2B titles, this one will be charging going forward: $59.99 CAD for an annual subscription, or $11.99 CAD for single issues (expensive, but still less than the print subscription price).

But current print subscribers will be able to log into their accounts and access their issues for free.

I looked all around the magazine's website and through its media kit and could not determine if Canadian Grocer is a 100 percent paid circulation magazine. This is an important point because if some readers are getting the magazine for free because they part of the Canadian grocery business then this app is employing the kind of strategy I have advocated for many U.S. B2B magazines: charge for the issues but let current subscribers gain access by logging into the app.

I really like many of the decisions the publishing team has made here (Jennifer Litterick is the publisher, Rob Gerlsbeck is the editor, and Rhonda Wrong is the art director), whether the team was free to make their own choices or were following a corporate dictate I don't know as my calls to the magazine were not returned.

Because the app offers the August issue free, I would strongly recommend that other B2B publishers take a good look at this new app from Canadian Grocer as it might be a good model to follow when launching their own first tablet editions into the Apple Newsstand.

B2B Day: Cape Media launches its first tablet edition for Roads Ahead, the title that started the company

The South African B2B publisher Cape Media, which sells its apps under the name Kaqala Media Ltd., has been very busy launching new tablet editions for its portfolio of titles. In May the company launched apps for BBQ - Black Business Quarterly (post on BBQ here) and Service Magazine.

The new apps used a hybrid approach to design: the advertising remains as seen in print, while the editorial was redesigned specifically for the iPad. The biggest problem with BBQ, as far as I could see, was the enormous download size of the issue inside the app.
Cape Media's newest app is for Roads Ahead, the B2B title for the trucking industry that launched the company in 1997. The new app, Roads Ahead Magazine, continues the company's approach of redesigning for the iPad, but in a far more simplistic fashion.

With Roads Ahead Magazine, the ads are all missing (I am assuming there were ads) and so the edition found inside the app weighs in at less than 30 MB.

This app deals with many of the production issues facing B2B media firms by simplifying things: there is no multimedia here, no animations, no slideshows. This cuts down on both the file size and the amount of work involved, but allows the publisher to create an easy to read tablet edition.

The app and its content are free, and readers can subscribe through the app and receive their new editions free because the app resides inside Apple's Newsstand.

(Roads Ahead, the print magazine, is distributed to members of the Road Freight Association (RFA) in South Africa and so probably doesn't deal with the issue of qualification. On the other hand, it does not appear to be an "official" association magazine as I see no editorial from the RFA.)

While the new app supports the magazine brand, the app certainly lacks any business model because of its lack of advertising and no paid options. But this is just the latest app from Cape Media that has seven other titles in the Apple Newsstand: Blue Chip, Mining Prospectus, Ubunbtu Magazine, SA Medical Journal, Leadership Magazine, as well as BBQ and Service Magazine mentioned earlier.

Because of this, Cape Media will be in a good position to see what works and what doesn't for its industry audiences in South Africa.

B2B Day: Publishers of trade publications face issues of replica vs native, paid vs free, and ad problems galore

The next two posts will talk about new tablet editions from publishers of trade magazines. B2B media companies have been the slowest industry segment to adopt both mobile and tablet platforms even though the new digital platforms probably present these companies with their best shot at reversing their slow decline (for some it hasn't been so slow).

B2Bs face serious issues, some of which will probably prove impossible to overcome. The biggest issue involves ownership: so many B2B media firms are currently owned by private equity firms that have been trading around their companies as if they were baseball trading cards.

But those B2Bs brave enough to move forward with the new digital platforms face other issues beyond management questions. Should a B2B title create new designs using a native digital publishing platform, an expensive option; or should they create replica editions, a cheaper but far less reader friendly choice.

A tab edition from the U.S.
B2B publisher Macfadden.
Then there is the issue of free versus paid. Most B2B titles use a controlled circulation strategy which delivers the print edition to a targeted audience that is qualified, either through the reader service card or telemarketing. These qualified readers get the magazine each month free, while those outside the industry – or outside the country – must pay for a subscription.

Apple's rules are a bit fuzzy about how one might design an app edition that gives the magazine free to those who have qualified via the magazines website or through the print edition, while charging for everyone else via an in-app purchase. Most publishers have simply punted and offered their tablet editions for free to anyone who downloads the app.

Then there is the issue of digital ad sales. Few B2Bs have gotten very good at selling online advertising, making scant progress since launching their websites over a decade ago. Most still sell packages that combine print and digital. Others, sadly, are still giving away web advertising as an added-value addition to their print schedule.

Now, with the rise of tablet editions, B2Bs must start to present their customers with yet another new digital product – often one with very little supporting data to justify the ad buy.

But some B2Bs, especially those outside the U.S., are moving forward. The next two posts will look at two new tablet editions just released this week into Apple's Newsstand.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

The death of 'The Peel', the iPad app from the Orange County Register, gets examined in new blog post

According to a blog post by Doug Bennett, writing on his own blog, The Peel, the unique experiment in newspaper iPad app editions, was axed by the new management team at Freedom Communications based on a desire to concentrate on existing profitable products.

Understanding that the tablet reading experience would be more of a leisure time one, the OC Register for iPad app (link to my original story) did not try to duplicate the paper's website or serve as a digital edition of the morning print paper.
"There is a sense to this that we are bringing back the afternoon paper, but its just not paper," Claus Enevoldsen, then marketing manager at the Register, said. "During the day you have the web, and 24/7 you have your phone, and the phone is really what you use for breaking news."

"We're taking a magazine approach. We believe in this design, and the design drives the story. Whereas a lot of the RSS based apps out there are automatic," Enevoldsen, who is not at Next Issue Media, told me. "It's not a compromise, it's a choice, we're sacrificing some of the instant updates with RSS feeds over design and curation and this finite experience."

According to the Bennett post, The Peel, as the iPad app eventually became known as, was killed as the new management team brought in as part of the sale of the company, wanted the focus to be "on subscribers and profitable products."

Bennett says that the app got about 125,000 downloads and what he called 5,000 "uniques" per week – what was undoubtedly the real readership of the app. Both numbers are pretty disappointing, and the low readership number would have proved a hard sell to prospective advertisers.

Among the lessons learned by the launch Bennett lists using the paper's existing content management system and workflow. "What a mistake. Most legacy publishing systems start with a page-layout system that does not understand HTML5 or high-res images; we spent countless hours each day trying to make our desired functionality work within a system that didn’t want to accept it. We had wanted to focus all efforts around the needs and expectations of the end user, and not what the system would or would not do. Sounds naive, but we missed many opportunities to grow upon content functionality due to being held back by the publishing system," Bennett writes.

The Orange Country Register still has an iPad app inside the App Store, a rather dismal news app built off the paper's RSS feeds. The app was developed by FreeRange360.

Nordstrom's new iPad app combines an online-like retail experience with an archive of its interactive catalogs

Marketing apps can a difficult thing and no less costly than marketing anything else – which is probably why you don't see 30-second ads for apps on network television. Another thing about apps is that one can not always be sure about exactly when their app will appear in the App Store, making marketing and releasing press releases difficult.
I often receive press releases or media inquiries about an app well after it has appeared in the App Store or in Google Play. The Nordstrom for iPad app, for instance, was released in plenty of time for the Labor Day holiday but yet the press release has just come out - you'd think the retailer would have wanted the release of this app more well known to assist its holiday weekend sales.

The new app for Nordstrom is actually the second app bearing the retailer's name. A previous app, Nordstrom The Catalogs, was released just in time for the Christmas shopping season last year. That app came from Synapse Group which has a couple of other apps in the App Store including one for SkyMall, the in-flight shopping catalog.

The new Nordstrom app combines an online-like shopping experience with an archive of the catalogs. The app works in both portrait and landscape, though the catalogs continue to be designed from the print editions and so really do not work well in landscape, the text being totally unreadable.

Retail brands such as the auto companies often produce some of the best apps seen on the iPad. But retailers, other than Amazon I suppose, still are a ways behind the rest of the industry.

As a marketing tool this app lacks any pizzazz, any imagination. How this app is any better than the website is hard for me to see. The website works perfectly well on the iPad's browser – in fact, I think it is a superior experience as this new app's scrolling is pretty choppy, at least on the front page of the app. Once inside things improve considerably.

Since we are on the subject of brand marketing... did you see the ad from Canon on the home page of the NYT today? It's pretty cool, but unfortunately it is Flash and that leads to some performance variations.

In any case, here it is in case you missed it:

Apple creates 'iTunes Content Dispute' system for developers to report possible intellectual property theft

This morning Apple launched an area of its website where developers can report suspected violations of their intellectual property rights. The new paged, titled "iTunes Content Dispute" allows developers to report the apps suspected to Apple's legal team.

Strangely, though, the site is out in the open – that is, not behind the firewall of the developer site, where you would expect it. My fear is that this might lead to some funny business. But Apple has probably thought of this and has created a system where the complaint gets forwarded directly to the developer of the offending app. The developer, in this way, is put on notice. Apple then emails both parties so that they can work together to solve the dispute.
When the iPad first was launched, and before that the iPhone, quite a number of apps slipped into the App Store that blatantly violated trademark rights (for instance, calling a news app by the name of the newspaper where the content originated, yet the app was coming from an outside developer).

Several newspapers, after reporting here at TNM, had to contact Apple to get those offending apps pulled from the App Store.

Today apps that blatantly steal a media property's trademark are rarer. In some case, such as the Drudge Report, some level of trademark stealing seems to be encouraged as a way to drive additional traffic back to the website.

But most media properties are not thrilled to have their content stolen by apps that do not link back, or provide a complete story with only a token link thrown in.

But many media companies are not very good at intellectual property issues, commonly allowing e-newsletters and other aggregators to take their content wholesale (while others call this aggregation, I call it theft).

So it might well be that the biggest user of the new Apple complaint form will be game developers who feel the look and feel of their app, if not the code itself, has been hijacked by another developer.

The Association of Magazine Media launches a new website design for

The Association of Magazine Media (MPA) has launched a new website design as its URL of The new site design is being touted as better showcasing "the strengths of magazine media and improve user experience on one of the most trusted destinations for industry data, trends, research, guidelines, events and more," the association claimed through its official announcement.
"We have greatly improved the information architecture and searchability of the MPA website for easier access to online resources magazine media brands need to help them navigate the rapidly evolving media landscape," Frank Costello, EVP/General Manager, said in the announcement.

Here is what the association says web users will find new or redesigned at the website:

  • Insights & Resources: This section is a one-stop destination for quality research, data, trends, publications and guidelines pertaining to magazine media. Insights & Resources is also the online home of the Magazine Media Lab, which provides MPA members with a creative and productive environment for education, inspiration and digital innovation, and the popular Magazine Advertising Case Studies, a database of ad campaigns that ran in magazine media properties that have proven particularly effective.
  • Industry News: MPA’s news page aggregates industry-related headlines—from MPA, member companies as well as external sources—in the form of press releases, blog posts, social media feed and press articles. The exclusive “MPA Daily News Roundup” members-only newsletter has been translated for the web, updated by its editors live throughout the day, with its archives incorporated into the site’s search.
  • Advocacy Issues: MPA’s Washington office carries out a comprehensive governmental affairs program to promote and protect the interests of the magazine media industry in the nation's capital and the 50 states. A new website feature allows users to easily filter relevant documents and articles via issues such as advertising, consumer protection and postal policy.
  • Events & Training: Over the course of the year, MPA offers a host of targeted conference and professional development seminars that serve to educate and empower magazine media professionals on a variety of areas, from the print to the digital aspects of the business. The site continues to offer a full-year calendar as well as online registration.

Swarovski updates its digital magazine app Swarovski Elements to add support for Apple's Newsstand

Retail brands have been fairly quick to understand the marketing potential of both the new mobile platforms and tablets. In addition to bringing their catalogs to the devices, other brands have brought their consumer and B2B magazines to the digital platform.
Last week Swarovski AG, the Austrian jewelry and crystal design company, updated its iPad app for SWAROVSKI ELEMENTS Magazine to add Newsstand support and subscription services.

The digital magazine itself was launched late last year and an app version was released in April of this year. The magazine is, I would assume, aimed at designers and retailers who would use the line of crystals in their own jewelry creations. Like other B2B magazines, the editorial focuses on those end-users, the designers.

The iPad version of the magazine is interesting in that their is one native tablet design being used, yet the app supports portrait and landscape. The layouts look most natural in portrait, yet may be easier to read in landscape. Font choices, therefore, seem to be a compromise between the small size seen in portrait and the blown up sizes seen in landscape. (The video below shows landscape.)

The app and its issues are free to download and access, of course.

The download for the latest issue is rather slow, and while the September issue can be found online it has yet to appear in the iPad app's library.

The tablet edition and online magazines are identical in content right down to the photographs that can be enlarged with a tap (or click). Since there is no print version of the magazine, the designs are native all the way, which makes the reading experience much better than most magazines converted from an online version.

But research shows pretty clearly that readers are not that fond of online magazines, rating them at the bottom of their choices of platforms. Print is still number one, of course, but eReaders/tablets are the next choice, with phones and PCs bringing up the bottom. Much of the research in this area was conducted early on in the life of tbalets so I'd love to see an update of this type of research, but I think that it is safe to say that anyone currently with an online digital magazine would be silly not to launch a tablet version.