Friday, September 14, 2012

Follow-Up: Gannett's USA TODAY redesign in print

The previous post on Gannett's USA TODAY redesign concentrated on the digital products simply because that is the focus here at TNM. But I know many readers will still be interested in the print redesign.

Click for larger image
Most posts on the redesign are concentrating on the prototype. For instance, here is a good run through of the new design on the Creative Review website.

But it's one thing to look at a prototype, it's another to see the live edition.

If you can get a hold of a print copy of USA TODAY, at least the Newseum can help you see the front page (see right). (A PDF of the page is at the site.)

Gannett has also produced a video for the redesign which you can see below.

My experience with redesigns are that some never look as good in production as they do in conception. But it is also true that some improve over time. If the team at the paper is truly committed to using more infographics, and hire a good group of designers comfortable with modern print and digital publishing than what looks good in the prototype will look even better in the real products.

Retweet: Time Inc. is reported to have struck a deal with Apple to sell iAds; Time's new CEO wants her reps to sell print and digital across the company's portfolio of titles

Last night Bloomberg posted a profile of Laura Lang, the digital ad agency veteran who took over the reins of Time Inc. late last year. The story, written by Edmund Lee, is focused on the media executive's plans to "to unify its long-sparring online and print fiefdoms."

As always, rather than rehash the article here, I would encourage you to read the entire post on the Bloomberg site.

The part I would like to discuss, though, is Lang's efforts to change the way Time Inc. goes about selling combined print and digital advertising. Lang talks about linking editorial efforts with sales, though without Lang said the magazines won't go so far as to produce advertorial for clients.

Lang is also looking to allow sales staff to sell across Time's portfolio of titles for both print and digital, easing the buying process for advertisers and their agencies, while breaking down the walls between individual sales teams.

The approach is what you would expect from someone coming from the agency side – and it is most definitely the right approach. "Advertisers I’ve met with have all said the same thing: 'I love your print product, but find a way to let me do it with other channels,'" Lang is quoted as saying.

A small item in the story seemed to me to actually be a very big development, if proved true. According to Lee's story, Time Inc. has a deal with Apple to sell into its iAd network. Time Inc.'s CEO is not quoted on the subject, and the company is mum about the deal.

If Bloomberg's report is right about this, this is an interesting development. It is no secret that Apple has made a mess of iAds. Let's face it, Apple's way of doing business runs counter to effective advertising sales. My way or the highway is hardly a good approach to take when trying to sell space.

In conversations I have had with magazine association executives on both the consumer and B2B side I have inquired into their contacts with Apple and have always been surprised to find out that there have been, to all intents and purposes, none. Media executives almost always over estimate their ability to make Apple care about them – Apple's size and growth dwarfs media's.

But Apple has at least one area where it has failed: advertising. If Time Inc. really is going to be working with Apple on iAds then I will be very interested to see what results from the collaboration.

Retweet: Time Inc.’s CEO Aims to Unify Print and Online Fiefdoms

Gannett unveils a redesign and logo for USA TODAY's 30th anniversary, updated mobile and tablet apps, and a redesigned website to appear this weekend

This morning's edition of Gannett's USA TODAY sports a new logo and design, unveiled on the 30th anniversary of the newspaper's founding on September 15, 1982.

The newspaper, originally known for its short stories and use of color, today only has two longish articles on its front page as well as a notice concerning the paper's redesign. (You can see a readable PDF of the front page at the Newseum.)
Along with the newspaper and logo redesign, the paper has also issued an update to its mobile and tablet applications inside the Apple App Store, Google Play and Amazon's app store.

"We are making a real investment in USA TODAY, and putting a major focus on reinvigorating the value of print media while introducing new digital products," said Larry Kramer, recently named president and publisher of USA TODAY. "We want to provide our readers with a unique perspective and relevant context on a full range of issues, across all mediums. We are revolutionizing the way we cover and distribute the news in relevant ways that inform and entertain our readers."

The final piece of the redesign will be unveiled this weekend when the paper's news website goes live.

USA TODAY's existing website will get a makeover 
The paper's website is desperately in need of updating, so a redesign is most welcome.

Gannett's digital strategy does not appear to have changed, even as the look of the paper has. The paper's mobile and tablet apps are still free of charge, with no subscription required. Advertising is small and infrequently seen. The tablet editions are like those papers thrown at the door of hotel rooms: requiring no further commitment than a desire to read them.

Where the paper's team appears to be concentrating their digital efforts is on the editorial side where the paper promises "more color, photos and infographics."

Although the tablet edition of USA TODAY has not changed with the new logo, here is a brief walk-through of the iPad app:

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Nomad Editions said to be folding its remaining tablet magazines to concentrate on custom publishing

Adweek's Lucia Moses yesterday reported that Nomad Editions, the start-up launched by media investment banker Mark Edmiston, would shutter its three remaining digital magazine titles.

“After struggling for close to three years, we’ve decided to discontinue the consumer-facing magazines,” Edmiston told Moses.

One of the Nomad Edition titles
as seen on the iPad in 201
According to the AdWeek report, the problem the company saw was that Nomad Editions could not attract enough subscribers to their titles, even though Edmiston believed that the threshold for success was only 10,000.

The original New York Times story on Nomad Editions  appeared on August 20 and stated that Edmiston thought of the idea for his start-up in 2009. As an "avid reader of books on his iPhone," Edmiston wanted to launch titles that could be read on multiple devices.

The original model for Nomad Editions was that the company would attract freelancers to create multiple titles. The freelancers would, in turn, earn 30 percent of the subscription revenue, per edition per week. Edmiston estimated that each freelancer could earn between $50,000 to $60,000 a year, assuming the title could attract 50,000 readers.

To make all this happen, Nomad Editions would use a publishing system with the cute name of Treesaver. The idea, at first, was that by using Treesaver, a web-based digital publication could be read on multiple devices - design once for all devices.

As early as December of that year I expressed skepticism about the design once approach, as well as the money freelancers could make. (Zeke Turner, writing for The New York Observer, wrote skeptically even before my post, centering his criticism on the 50,000 estimate for readership.)

Once the titles began to appear, the strategy shifted from a web-based model to concentrating on the iPad. In May of 2011 the company launched a stand-alone iPad app for Nomad Editions. Then in November of last year they began launching apps for each individual  title.

Eventually the number of titles dwindled, and now they all will be shuttered.

Leaving aside the idea of design-once, consume on multiple devices – which I consider to be an absurd idea – the problem with Nomad Edition's freelancer strategy was that it was attempting to use a model best seen in the book publishing business.

As someone involved with many magazine title launches, one knows the enormous effort, energy and money spent on creating one new title. In addition to writing, editing and production, there is the issue of marketing.

Book publishing, too, has all of these elements, but the model also says that the only way to succeed is through multiple titles – otherwise, one has to attract authors who already have a following. In other words, either attract Stephen King, or else publishing lots of titles from potential Stephen Kings. Since not every title will succeed, the model attempts to flatten out the results among the catalog, hoping that one or two titles will succeed wildly.

If Nomad Editions was to succeed, the company would have had to promote a title like Real Eats in a massive way, or else launch many, many more titles than it did.

To its credit, the team at Nomad did learn from its mistakes: it moved to the iPad when it realized that it readers were not enthusiast about reading on their desktop computers; and they learned the value of individual apps, and using the Newsstand.

But without more marketing might behind the titles, their only hope was to launch more titles, easier, and more frequently. To do this, Nomad would not have been able to attract enough freelancers, they would have needed to find content elsewhere. This content exists, and is easily accessible, but Nomad Editions couldn't see it (can you guess what I'm talking about?).

OpenTable updates its iPad apps, is one of the first to tout support for the soon to be released iOS 6; installing and testing out iOS 6 with its new Maps and Panorama apps

Apple will be releasing its newest version of iOS on September 6, but developers can download now the gold master (GM) version of iOS 6 from the developer site. Apple yesterday also emailed developers to encourage them to start submitting their new apps to the App Store.

Not surprisingly, a lot of new app updates have been issued over the past day or so, but few have actually mentioned that their apps are iOS 6 compliant.
One of the first apps to mention iOS 7 support comes from OpenTable which today issued an update to OpenTable for iPad. It's a good reminder that while all the focus this week has been on the new iPhone, the release of iOS 6 will effect the iPad, as well.

OpenTable's iPhone app, however, has not seen an update yet, though I suspect that will happen very soon, as well.

OpenTable Manager for iPad, the company's restaurant manager app received a rather important update earlier this week. Version 1.3 now let's users make reservations from the iPad and to combine reservations and waitlist parties onto one list on Floor View.

The inability to make reservations on the iPad was a big complaint with the prior version of the app.

I took the plunge and installed the GM version of iOS 6 onto my iPhone yesterday afternoon and all went well – though doing a restore is always a time consuming chore.

There is so very little different in the new iOS that some users may not even notice much. iOS 6 installs only one new app, Passbook, and the Maps icon looks so much like the old Google Maps icon that until Maps are opened one doesn't notice much of a difference.

The new Maps look very nice but I think a lot of iPhone and iPad users will really miss Google's Street View feature. But since Apple's maps includes 3D and flyover imagery many users many be in a forgiving mood - then again, maybe not.

The best new feature in iOS 6 is Panorama, the built in pano feature in the camera app, I've tested it out a few times already and can say that it is very impressive, and makes taking a pano so much easier than previous app attempts. Flicker will now be flooded with new panos, just watch.

B2B and City/Regional magazines might be in the best position to sell interactive ads into the new tablet editions

It is an unfortunate fact that smaller publishers are the last to adopt new technologies, due mainly to costs. The same is proving true to launching new, effective digital products such as mobile app and tablet editions (emphasis on the word effective).

But it is also true that those publishers who have sales staffs that interact directly with their advertisers, often acting as their ad agencies, are in the best position to sell the new digital ad platforms.

While many B2B publishers are very dependent on ad agencies who work with their advertisers, many B2Bs, especially small publications, have an intimate relationship with their clients. The advertisers depend on the publications they use to design their ads, to create campaigns, to even set budgets.

Most ads in B2B tablet editions are of no value, like
 this unreadable ad from the replica edition of BD+C
Because of this, these publications are in the best position to design new, more interactive ads that would appear in the publisher's digital tablet editions.

Others publishers, outside of B2B, are in a similar position. City/regional magazines, for instance, often have to work closely with their advertisers to create copy. Small newspapers and niche consumer magazines are in the same spot as few small businesses can afford to hire an ad agency.

Unfortunately, most tablet editions are designed specifically to support the print editions. This is why so many publishers opt for replica editions. The problem with these digital flipbook-like apps is that they do nothing to generate either revenue or more qualified readership, and in fact add costs to the publisher's bottom line at a time those publishers can least afford to absorb more expenses. (I actually know one publisher that promised their staffs new iPads but had to cancel the initiative after they spent the money instead on a replica edition iPad app for the magazine.)

But in order to sell new tablet magazine ads one must first stop giving them away for free. This is a hard transition when the current app is a replica edition.

The best strategy is to figure out where you want to go with advertising before launching the app in the first place. But for many they are already past this point. OK, fine, then move on.

Some publishers have taken a unique approach by creating a new news app that contains the replica edition within it. I like this as it creates real estate for ads, like a new website, while enticing the reader to use the app by offering digital copies of the magazine. Of course, those magazines are still pretty much worthless, but at least it is a compromise position to take.

The best thing a small publisher can do is to ask themselves why they want to create a tablet edition in the first place. One publisher, when I asked them this question, responded by saying they wanted to save their print magazine. I responded by saying that if they were lucky a new tablet edition would kill off their print magazine.

No B2B or small publisher has yet to give me the only good answer to that question (why create a tablet edition). So, after over two years I will spill the beans as to the only good answer: to make a profit (it's the same reason they are producing the print magazine).

So if a profitable new digital publication is the goal, then learning to sell those digital ads is vital. That means making your sales team and managers part of the development of any new tablet edition, right from day one.

New WSJ universal app opens up some news content while locking down the rest; design mimics print while still being native to the tablet and smartphone

Sshould a digital publications designer mimic print design? or should the old models be thrown over board when designing a new tablet or mobile app?

Looking at the home page of the new Wall Street Journal universal app for iOS, one could argue that the designers tried to keep the look and feel of the print edition, failing to reimagine what a newspaper should look like on a tablet (or smartphone). But one could also argue that throwing out over 100 years of design experience would be foolish, editors have had to construct newspaper pages for years and know how organize and prioritize the news.
The new app, simply called The Wall Street Journal, has been getting mixed reviews inside the App Store, but the criticism from readers is not about design but functionality. The app does not support Apple's Newsstand, for instance. Also, the updated app means that users of the prior version will lose their archived issues, though saved articles are preserved.

The app charges $1.99 per issue through the app, but otherwise the app is best used if you have an existing digital subscription (this is why the app does not support Newsstand, Dow Jones is trying to avoid Apple's commission as best they can).

One of the nice things about the app is that it allows readers to choose other editions of the paper, very useful for readers with a special interest in news from Europe, for instance.

The app lets readers access some content for free, basically breaking general news stories, while locking down the rest. The strategy is a good one as it makes the app somewhat useful for non-paying readers, while constantly encouraging digital subscriptions.

This is a far better strategy than that being employed by the New York Times. The NYT digital strategy forces readers to choose between devices, an absurd idea if there ever was one. As a result, while I downloaded the NYT iPad app, it remains unused.

If a newspaper combined both strategies, though – creating a Newsstand supported app that has some some open content but the majority locked – a publisher should be able to drive more subscriptions while also keeping the casual reader looking in occasionally. Of course, this works best for big national papers that can produce lots of valuable content.

Top Left: The WSJ apps lets you choose editions; Top Right: articles with a key displayed are locked down and require a digital subscription to access; Bottom Left: articles are laid out in a native tablet design; Bottom Right: the app gives you instant access to financial information.

It should be noted that the Wall Street Journal's apps for Android are a bit of a mess, which is typical on the fragmented OS. This is certainly one area where the developers at the WSJ have been able to take advantage of the unified iOS platform.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The Tribune's tablet magazine for the Bears goes for the middle ground in file size, uses single-sponsor approach

If the Chronicle's 49ers Insider, with its 400+ MB files seems to big, and the Sun-Times Bears Extra seems to short change readers with files sizes too small, then the Chicago Tribune's BearDownload may take the perfect approach for many.
Like the two other new tablet magazines, Tribune Interactive has decided to use the Mag+ platform to create its digital sports magazine. All three new tablet-only products share a certain look and feel that comes with the platform. But all three papers made somewhat different decisions that effected the final product.

While the Chronicle's 49ers Insider chose to support the new iPad with its higher resolution, the Sun-Times chose to cut down on file size, but sacrifice a bit of legibility.

The Tribune app, like 49ers Insider, has 'retina display' support. But the Game 1 issue inside the app weighs in at 205.1 MB, less than half the size of the Chronicle's digital edition. Both magazines only support on orientation: BearDownload goes for portrait while 49ers Insider is landscape (the Sun-Times Bears Extra is portrait). Both magazines are about the same size so it is hard to understand why one digital magazine would be so much larger than the other.

BearDownload also takes a middle ground approach to pricing, as well. Individual issues can be bought for $0.99, while a monthly subscription is $1.99 per month. The Chronicle is offering 49ers Insider for one price of $4.99 for the year, while the Sun-Times chose to offer their digital magazine at no charge.

All three magazines support the Apple Newsstand so if the reader subscribes they can count on their issues being downloaded automatically.
Another area where these three digital magazines differ is in their business models. 49ers Insider is ad supported right from the beginning, while the Sun-Times app is ad-free, at least for now.

The Tribune is again taking a different approach by going with a single-sponsor. The Game 1 issue is sponsored by the Illinois Lottery.

There are plenty of design and font differences, as you'd expect. I think that both the Chronicle's and Tribune's digital magazine are the better looking magazines. But because 49ers Insider is sticky, maybe caused by the file size, the Tribune's BearDownload is the best reader experience.

But because none of the three new digital magazines went for a simply PDF approach for their tablet-only magazines, readers should find these products enjoyable reads.

We'll see over time, though, which business model proves enduring.

Here is a walk-through of the Game 1 edition of BearDownload:

Both Chicago dailies launch digital magazines for their Bears coverage; the Sun-Times goes free with its effort

If you read the post below about the new app 49ers Insider, you know that I am a 49ers fan (Giants, too) – this despite the fact that many years ago I moved from the Bay Area to Chicago.

To say that the sports scene is different in Chicago, when compared to California, would be a major understatement. While fans are very loyal out West, they are rabid here in Chicago. Any town that could tolerate the ravings of Hawk Harrelson...
So it shouldn't be surprising that the local papers, Tribune and Sun-Times, would want to make sure they are feeding their readers craving for more and more sports coverage.

This year the two papers have gotten on the tablet publishing bandwagon with their own Bears digital magazines. This post is about the effort from the Sun-Times, later this afternoon we'll post about the Tribune's effort.

Bears Extra by Chicago Sun-Times makes an interesting comparison with the Chronicle's 49ers Insider. While the 49ers digital magazine weighed in at over 400 MB, the Week 1 issue of the Sun-Times digital title was under 40 MB.

One might chalk this up to different digital publishing platforms, but the fact is that both digital magazines are using the Mag+ platform.

The two newspapers have taken different approaches here: one magazine is in landscape-only (49ers), the other in portrait-only (Bears); one magazine supports the new iPad's high resolution display (49ers), the other reduces file size by going low rez (Bears).

The Sun-Times Bears magazine brags that it has video highlights inside the digital magazine, which would make you wonder how the file size could be so small. But as you will see in the video below, the video link takes you outside the app to the NLF Network website. There you are get a pre-roll ad.

In fact, advertising is another way to differentiate the two apps: while the Chronicle app includes fullscreen ads from local advertisers, the Sun-Times app is ad-free (except for the ads that appear on the outside websites accessed through the app). The Chronicle app also is charging for access, $4.99 for the season (year), while the Sun-Times app is free-of-charge. This also differentiates it from the Tribune app for the Bears.

It would be interesting for the two production teams to get together to compare their apps. Like any product launch, choices have to be made that impact the finished product. These two digital magazines, so similar in many ways, end up taking very different approaches to the business model, resolution and orientation.

But both can't help including pictures of the cheerleaders.

Here is a short walk-through the Week 1 issue of Bears Extra by Chicago Sun-Times:

The San Francisco Chronicle uses Mag+ to design and launch new weekly tablet-only magazine for the 49ers

When I graduated J school many years ago I bolted the Midwest and moved to Los Angeles, ending up working for the Hearst daily newspaper. Those were glory years for Southern California sports as the Dodgers and Lakers won championships, and the two Pac 10 schools regularly won the Rose Bowl – and as newspaper man I often was there to see it all happen. (Thanks Ann for all those Lakers tickets.)

During my time in L.A. we even had a team win the Super Bowl, though we needed to steal Oakland's team to do it. But one team up north constantly held back the Rams - those damn 49ers, led by Joe Montana.
So when I moved to the Bay Area I really didn't want to like the 49ers. But I was easily wore down (winning will do that) and eventually adopted all the Bay Area teams as "my teams" - and they still are.

The 49ers have had some rough years lately but they are definitely back. The team went into Lambeau Field last Sunday and beat the Green Bay Packers, pretty much confirming that last year's improvement was not a fluke.

To capitalize on the renewed interest in the team, the San Francisco Chronicle has released a tablet-only magazine into the Apple Newsstand: 49ers Insider.

The new app promises a weekly digital magazine for 49er fans – though the press release says the app will actually deliver a twice-a-week reading experience – and at a very modest price of $4.99, as well.

The new digital magazine is being edited by Susan Fornoff, who is probably doing the work as a freelancer as she has her own online magazine called GottaGoGolf. That magazine is an online flipbook, which we know is the least popular digital platform for readers.

This new digital magazine for the 49ers is built using the Mag+ platform.

The new app was released just in time for last weekend's first game and contained a season preview issue. Today readers can find an issue that covers the first game of the season.

That new issue weighs in at 449.1 MB, an enormous file size for a digital magazine that only supports landscape and contains no video content. The app does support the higher resolution of the new iPad, though, and may account for the heft of the issue.

The reading experience is a bit rough as I found the navigation 'sticky' – pages are slow to move when swiped and occasionally pages fly around as the app tries to catch up. The video below took a while to capture as several times the app reacted in a haphazard fashion.

But these problems can be overcome through some optimization, and the designers getting comfortable with the digital publishing platform.

The magazine pages themselves are well designed and take use the fairly standard practice of scrolling within stories and swiping to reach the next story. Jeremy Yingley is credited as designer, and Luanne Dietz as photo editor. Again, both appear to be freelancing the project. (Attempts to reach the editor have so far not been successful.)

Editorially the issue is fairly interesting, though the idea of adding a "Cheerleaders Gallery" was pretty juvenile. Worse, believe it or not, there is an ad for "Erectile Disfunction" in the middle of the feature. (What would ESPN say? "Come on, man!")

The new tablet edition contains a number ads, which as TNM readers know, I consider a good sign (no ad bashing here at TNM).

Guardian News and Media updates its iPad app to now become 'The Guardian and Observer iPad edition'

Most American have never seen The Observer, the Sunday newspaper that is the companion newspaper to The Guardian. Occasionally The Observer can be found on newsstands – but with newsstands disappearing, the paper is becoming a harder find here.
The Sunday newspaper is one of the oldest in England, first appearing in 1791. Now it has a tablet edition, of sorts.

Guardian News and Media Limited today updated its iPad app for The Guardian adding in the Sunday paper starting this week. The app will now go forward being called The Guardian and Observer iPad edition.

Sadly, it appears that The Observer will be using the same design as The Guardian for tablets. The daily paper was rather late to the iPad, claiming that they were searching for the right look and navigation. But what was launched has proved disappointing – at least to me – as it is an unattractive collection of boxes, mostly empty.

The new app description also says that "user-experience and design enhancements" have been added to the app, though I will leave it to subscribers to discover these as my subscription ran out long ago. Users, though, have been complaining about problems with their subscriptions, it is possible that this update will address their concerns.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Kantar Media report shows modest ad growth overall, but continued bad news for newspapers, magazines, and even Internet; TV, radio & outdoor ads up slightly

For many media companies, even modest growth is better news than what they've experienced in the last few years. Kantar Media has released its newest report on ad expenditures and its shows that ad spending in the second quarter of the year was up less than one percent (0.9 percent), while for the year we are running just below 2 percent in growth (1.9 percent).

"Ad spending growth sputtered during the second quarter and was unable to sustain its early year momentum,” Jon Swallen, Chief Research Officer at Kantar Media North America said in the company's statement. “The advertising market is mirroring the tepid, slow growth performance of the general economy. Third quarter results will get a short-term boost from the Summer Olympics and political advertising but sustained long-term improvement will probably be linked to the health of consumer spending on the goods and services that marketers provide.”

Television, radio and outdoor advertising are the strongest so far this year, do doubt due to election advertising. Television ad spending was up 4.4 percent for the quater, 6 percent so far in the first half of the year. Radio and outdoor advertising enjoyed smaller increases.

Newspapers and magazines continue to see tough times. While local papers saw their ad spending decline by a modest 1.9 percent, national papers saw a disastrous 10.7 percent decline in advertising spending. Even Spanish newspapers, which have not seen the same level of losses, saw ad spending go into the red 2.5 percent in the quarter (though ad spending remains up one percent for the year).

Magazines, both consumer and B2B saw ad spending fall 2.6 percent in Q2, and although ad spending is only down 1.6 percent for the year in B2B, it should be remembered that losses have been occurring year after year, compounding the misery for many publishers.

Possibly the most depressing numbers in the report, however, involved Internet display advertising. Kantar Media is reporting that digital display ads were down 5.4 percent in Q2, and for the year the category is down 3.9 percent.

NewBay Media work to piss off their readers, one app at a time; reader complaints consistent across mag portfolio

If a publisher releases a badly buggy magazine app, one that prevents readers from actually buying the issues you would think they would stop before releasing more tablet editions using the same system – unless, of course, the publisher isn't paying attention to reader reviews inside the App Store.

NewBay Media today released a new app for its title Guitar Player that is bound to frustrate both loyal readers and new ones alike.
Guitar Player Magazine++ opens to a message that the user must fill their library with issues the Catalog, the bottom middle button in the app. The app gives on the impression that ads are free because an option to download immediately is apparent.

OK, so nextyou download the issue, that does not mean you can read it. Instead one is presented with an option to log into the app or Purchase. But pressing the purchase button gives you a warning message "Product Not Found." At that point you have to back out of the dialog and go back to the Catalog to subscribe.

When I did that I received the error message you see at left-above. Actually, it's not an error message so much as an endless working message.

Hard closing the app improves the situation somewhat as eventually I was able to reach a dialogue box that told me that my only option to buy Guitar Player through the app was through an annual subscription of $18.99.

Are all the NewBay Media apps this bad? Apparently so. Reviews of all the other magazine apps released are exclusively negative, even though some of the apps were released as far back as August 1.

It's probably just as well. The publishers appears highly disinterested in the tablet platform and was probably dragged into the format kicking and screaming. Each app has only one screenshot of the digital edition and based on the covers it looks like no adjustments were made for the tablet editions. Paying for an annual subscription to a buggy replica edition is not my idea of enjoyable reading – and I'm sure readers of these magazines feel the same way (at least that is what their reviews are saying).

Self-publisher Coran Woodmass launches his own wine magazine for boutique wineries in Australia

The ability to self-publish digital magazines is still not as developed, streamlined and easy as Apple has made it for book publishing. Prospective citizen magazine publishers are still reliant on third party vendors to provide a simple platform to get their digital magazines into the App Store, and hopefully into the Newsstand.
One of the newest entries into Apple's Newsstand is from Aussie Coran Woodmass. Using the MagCast platform, Woodmass has launched his own digital magazine called Boutique Wine Magazine.

The new digital magazine is about as simple as they come. Creating PDF pages, and having his own Apple developer account, Woodmass has been able to launch his new magazine under his own name.

The new app creates a library and store where readers can download issues and subscribe to the new title. Individual issues are $4.99, while a 1-month subscription is $1.99 per month.

The magazine comes from an Internet marketing and SEO professional, not a designer, and the pages show this. The layouts are about as simple as they come. The file size would be minimal were it not for the embedded video that the publisher used on his column and elsewhere.

But because the PDFs were created for eventual display on the iPad, not print, the font sizes make sense, improving the reading experience of this digital magazine versus many replica editions that must depend on pinch-to-zoom to get the text large enough.

If there were one piece of advice I'd give the publisher, though, is to not make it so obvious that he is a novice - not at creating a digital magazine, many are new to the platform - but that he is a novice at wine, the subject of his magazine.

The MagCast platform is exclusively for the iPad at this point. If I were to make a recommendation it would be that they add Kindle support first, leaving other Android platforms for later.


Google releases new YouTube iPhone app as agreement with Apple expires; new app's icon will confuse some

As the tech media world gets ready for the frenzy that is a new iPhone launch, Google has been busy preparing for the loss of some valuable real estate.

Google's deal with Apple that pre-installed an app for YouTube expired and now Apple is making life a little more difficult for Google by pulling their app and making users download and install a new one on their own.
My guess is that most iPhone owners will consider a YouTube app as pretty much a required app just like the Kindle app is from Amazon.

The new app, simply called YouTube, sports the same icon as the mobile app icon for YouTube. That means some downloaders will suddenly see the same icon twice on their iPhones, wondering which icon is for which app.

But the new YouTube app is good enough to replace that old mobile website icon.

The key to any app like this is ease of use, and ease of searching. So, of course, I searched out videos from this site as you can see in the screenshots below.

The app encourages users to use subscriptions to make accessing favorite videos easier. But even some who simply searches for videos, without favorites or subscriptions, should find the app very easy to use.


If the key to newspapers is content, then many companies are letting go the key to future digital success

You can file this story under "Flogging a dead horse". But once again I plead with media executives to stop looking at their content talent as an expense but as an opportunity to become "serial launchers."

If content is worth paying for, then quality content should be a profitable commodity. If the news staff is what is producing that content, then having a fully staffed newsroom should be a money maker.

Ah, it only things were that easy, right?

Not a week goes by that another paper is reported to have instituted layoffs in its news room. Likewise, not a week goes by when some news executive touts their paid content strategy – make the readers pay, the mantra today is, even as readers angrily decry the declining product they are being forced to pay for.

Like any for profit business, newspaper executives have to manage their P&Ls – lower revenue will force lowering expenses, and on and on. But often these same execs are saying that in order to institute new digital initiatives, in order to become "digitally-focused" cuts in staff will be necessary.

While I understand the need to sometimes reduce expenses, blaming digital is both wrong headed and less than honest.

What I see is a failure to see the newsroom as a resource for profits. Too many newspaper executives see profits in ad revenue and circulation, as if these things happen by themselves. What we are seeing is a failure of imagination – call it a failure of seeing digital media's true potential.

Each section of a newspaper, each columnist, each blog, each ad category, can be a potential new product when one thinks of digital media. The key is creating a newspaper company that can exploit this fact.

This is the major reason I have criticized the outsourcing of app development to third party vendors – I'm not talking publishing systems here, but total outsourcing. Outsourcing increases costs and in no way contains them. The company that gets the contract must turn a profit and so must pass on any costs plus an addition amount that will make the project profitable. The cost to launch dozens of apps, or create new websites or mobile products ends up being prohibitive.

But once the capability to launch a mobile, tablet or web product is created, product launches can follow.

Why don't more papers launch new digital products? Today's launch of Splash, for instance, may be modest (and the product laughable) but the idea is sound. In fact, the only questionable part of the launch is the print part!

A great example of digital thinking is SB Nation, formerly known as Sports Blogs. SB Nation is owned by Vox Media, the same company that launched The Verge.

SB Nation is a collection of 300 separate websites that together grab 100 million page views monthly. Very simply, the company utilizes the individual talents of a group of bloggers to create a business unit that can succeed in the digital media arena. The one site I have bookmarked is McCovey Chronicles, the blog written by Grant Brisbee that covers the San Francisco Giants (that's "first place Giants" to you).

The concept of SB Nation is pretty simple to understand: each bloggers one or two posts a day can be exploited when the traffic attracted can be combined with the traffic of other bloggers.

Any reporter, columnist or blogger can be a "brand", producing news not only for a print product, or posts for a website, but for their own digital products.**

Unfortunately, newspaper execs see this talent as useful only for "feeding" into the existing products. The focus is too often on the number of stories that can be produced for a website, the number of tweets that will drive readers back to the paper's website – it's not New Media thinking, it's old media thinking about digital.

(This is why I find myself so amused by our newspaper gurus who say they are "digitally-focused" while they actually appear to reside in a time warp that sends them back to the late nineties and the start of the web. They are fighting the last battle, working hard to drive traffic to legacy brands while new digital products are leeching away readers and ad revenue.)

Here is a real world example of what I'd driving at: I certainly applauded the NYT's move to bring on Nate Silver, the blogger behind FiveThirtyEight blog, but the move was made exclusively to help the paper's existing print and web products. The true potential of "FiveThirtyEight" is lost within the greater NYT brand, limiting the potential. So, two years later, when the NYT launched a mobile app for the 2012 election, the paper chose to brand it as the New York Times and simply incorporate Nate Silver's content. A more "new media" move would have been to launch a FiveThirtyEight mobile app that would not only incorporate NYT content but would be free to move beyond the NYT into new areas that could include all sorts of ventures.

** Many news folks hate the word "brand" – but here we are talking about creating products around talent, but just using that talent to promote the existing products. Think "brand' the way a CPG does: the main company can be anonymous, while its brands are where the profit is.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Media companies issue vital updates to iPad apps to work-out major bugs, add-in important features

The Economist has once again updated its tablet edition app, The Economist for iPad, as the publisher works to fix major issues with the magazine's app that is leading to numerous negative reader reviews inside the App Store.

Readers have been complaining about issues that won't download, subscriber log-ins, and the lack of retina display support.

But by far the biggest complain has surrounded the subscriber log-in process. Users have complained that they must resubmit the information every time they use the app, or must delete and reinstall the app in order to make the subscriber log-in work.

I imagine getting these bugs fixed is proving as frustrating for the publisher as it is for their readers.

Update: The Economist today released their ABC Consolidated Media Report which shows 88,131 paid digital editions for the reporting period January through June 2012. Of those 54,762 are listed as non-replica, I would assume these are the tablet editions inside Newsstand. They also are reporting over 600K "unique devices" – that's not a very important number as far as actual readers are concerned, but they give you a good idea of the total number of downloads.

Comcast Cable has issued an update to its XFINITY Connect app to fix bugs that can cause the app to crash.

The update to the universal app also adds a full screen email mode for the iPad and improved font sizes, as well.

User here, too, have been complaining that following a previous update the app stopped performing properly, crashing frequently. The update is new so let's hope it fixes the problem this time.

A much smaller company has also issued an update. The magazine app Overnight Buses Travel Magazine has been updated in order to add in the ability to have a second issue!

The original app launched in April (see first post here) and was a stand-alone app that just serviced the one magazine found inside.

Now the app has been updated to add in a library page in order to download past and future issues. Because the app does not support the Apple Newsstand, at least with this update, the publisher has to hope readers will see the app icon on their iPad and be reminded to download future issues.

The app is still over 80 MM in size, so I would assume the first issue of the magazine is still included in the app. The second issue, though, is available for download through the library.

Scripps Media releases a dozen new iPad apps for its newspaper properties into the App Store

The E. W. Scripps Company released 12 new iPad apps in support of their newspaper properties across the country. The new apps mirror the content of the paper's websites but in a reformatted design for the tablet. All the apps for the media company appear under the name Scripps Media, Inc.
Released today were identical apps for the Abilene Reporter-News, TCPalm/Treasure Coast Newspapers, Times Record News, Record Searchlight, Anderson Independent Mail, Knoxville News Sentinel, Naples Daily News, San Angelo Standard-Times, Ventura County Star, Kitsap Sun, Courier & Press and Caller-Times. A separate app, with a somewhat different look, exists for The Commercial Appeal.

The news apps are stand-alone apps that allow the reader to access the content free of charge, creating a little bit of new real estate for advertising. Whether the apps are really necessary is a matter of taste, I suppose, as the existing websites display fine on the iPad.

Each of the newspaper properties here also have an "e-edition" app built by Technavia, which has been very successful at selling their replica edition apps to newspaper publishers. These awful apps reproduce the newspaper as seen in print, while also offering readers text versions of the articles in the paper. But the kerning of the text is way off and often bizarre in many of the apps.

These e-editions, too, are being offered for free at this time – though how this helps the bottom line is anybody's guess.

Because the replica edition apps also do not support Newsstand, they would stand next to the website apps on a person's iPad. From a marketing perspective, this is a bit confusing – which app should a reader download?

Scripps reported improved earnings for the last quarter thanks to political advertising boosting its television division. But newspaper ad revenue decreased 4.7 percent in Q2, with print down 7.2 percent and digital down 3.3 percent. Circulation also declined 3.7 percent.

None of the new apps look designed to address shrinking paid circulation as the company has yet to launch a digital product meant to test their readers willingness to pay for a digital subscription.


The Chicago Sun-Times launches a 24-page society Sunday magazine in both print and digitally through a free tablet edition inside the Apple Newsstand

This Sunday the Chicago Sun-Times launched a 24-page society magazine that was inserted into the tabloid newspaper, as well as the paper's suburban publications. Led by PR veteran Susanna Negovan, Splash is basically a collection of pictures of smiling faces of rich attendees of social events in the city. If you like People you pretty much know what you'll get, only in 24-pages.
The interesting twist, though, is that the struggling Chicago tabloid, under the new ownership of Wrapports LLC, has launched an accompanying tablet edition into the Apple Newsstand at the same time. The tablet edition of Splash, Splash by Chicago Sun=Times, was launched this morning into the Apple Newsstand and is free of charge to all readers. Readers can subscribe to Splash, as well, also at no charge.

"Producing a 24-page society publication on a weekly basis completely changes the model for this content category in our city," said the owner of the Sun-Times, Michael W. Ferro, Jr., in the press release issued before the debut of the first Sunday magazine. "Combining the volume of Chicago's civic and philanthropic events with the speed of a dailynews organization enables Sun-Times readers to get fresh and timely information about happenings around town with unparalleled breadth and depth."

"Chicago's social and philanthropic community is one of the most prominent in the nation," said Susanna Negovan, editor of the society magazine. "I'm thrilled to beleading the creation of a new local product that captures the spirit of our city and suburbs in a way that is beautiful, interesting and consistently relevant."

(I wonder if people really talk like this at these society events. I bet they do.)

The digital magazine is a simple tablet magazine, similar to a replica edition, but with some slideshows and scrolling text boxes. Since producing a weekly tablet edition is difficult enough, the publisher here has simplified the process by creating a portrait only digital magazine and keeping most layouts to the basic design found in the print edition.

The Sunday magazine version of Splash is an extension of the society feature of the same name that appears each day inside the tabloid newspaper, Daily Splash.

Left: The splash page for Splash; Middle: the library; Right: a typical story inside the magazine, lots of smiling faces looking straight into the camera.

Apple anchors big name food magazines to the top of its Newsstand search results in possible policy change

The Apple Newsstand has a slightly different look this morning, one most users probably won't even notice: this morning several big name magazines now are listed on top of all other tablet editions no matter whether the user is sorting the titles by name or release date.

The magazines that are getting the favored treatment are Hearst's Food Network Magazine, Cook's Illustrated Magazine, Condé Nast's Bon Appetit, and Martha Stewart Everyday Food. It is interesting that all four are food magazines, making one wonder if this is the result of a change in policy where search results can be fixed, or an experiment of some sort.

In any case, magazines that have release dates of September 10 are now listed behind magazines with updates from April, May and July.
The jungle that is the iTunes App Store is due for a redesign, this would include an easier way for readers to find individuals titles inside the Newsstand and elsewhere throughout the App Store.

One possible solution is subcategories. Another, preferred by larger companies, is paid anchoring of apps.