Friday, November 2, 2012

Who is buying ad space today? That's who publishers and their reps need to sell, not tech writers or media gurus

How many tech or media writers out there have made a sales call on an ad agency? How many media gurus, those folks that, for reasons that continue to baffle me, publishing executives continue to listen to and put on their advisory boards, have made a sales call on a media buyer? My guess is that damn few have.

No, the fact is that we live in a media world where the ad sales talent has fled to greener pastures – Google, Yahoo, and other media worlds where one doesn't need to be 'digital first' because digital is all they know.

But the sales folk at Internet pure plays are not succeeding through smoke and mirrors, they are delivering what media buyers want. Frankly, they are delivering what media buyers want because media buyers are, like they have always been, of a generation that is comfortable with certain kinds of advertising. Speaking their language and presenting products that can relate to is the challenge for publishers. Creating new products that they will buy is probably what the mission is for the next decade, not pushing the same old, increasingly less read products.

In those golden days of print advertising, or I think of them as golden days, I was a young guy who had it pretty easy. When I entered the offices of local ad agencies in Southern California, the folks who met me were my age – in their 20's. Their tastes were like mine, their media consumption was like mine. It was all print because that is what we consumed as readers.

Selling a print schedule to a media buyer was easy, meeting with the heads of the agencies and brands was the hard part. These people were in their 40s, 50s or even 60s. They, too, knew print, but they didn't necessarily knew or approved of my product. The trick was to know when to bring in our own old guys to meet them, or to work hard to win them over.
Great old ad for McGraw-Hill Magazines, but how
many media buyers today look like this guy?

In the late nineties, when I was managing the sales teams at magazines at McGraw-Hill and other magazine companies, the new thing was the Internet. Our competition in this area was the pure play – a company like VerticalNet, that only offered a web advertising solution. Yes, the web was the new, hot thing, but the buyers were still not comfortable with the medium.

Things have changed, but publishers have not. Today we have publishers lamenting the fact that today's media buyers are not enamored with their products anymore. Duh. Nothing has changed, just the media buyers have changed.

While there is an argument to be made that publishers and their associations can turn this situation around, my own sense is that this is a movie we've seen before. Every time newspapers and magazines experience a dip there are those voices that cry out that the medium needs to be sold more. It never works, but it makes those on the board of directors at the trade associations feel good.

Right now advertising is fleeing print. I don't think it is coming back simply because readers are fleeing, too. And the most important readers that are fleeing are the ones that are making the ad buying decisions.

The reason we continue to see big name brand magazines continue to sell well with some media buyers is that they can deliver something very similar to both digital and broadcasting, high penetration of the desired market.

Almost three years ago I predicted here that we'd continue to see the top magazine and newspaper brands continue to succeed, but that the growth of the new digital platforms would make it harder and harder for publications not seen as the leaders in their fields to sell space. I was partially right in that many of the big name books continue to sell while other fail. But what I didn't see was just how weak the sales leadership was at the big national newspaper and magazine companies. The emphasis away from ad sales and towards paid content strategies has accelerated the declines.

I think sales declines can be stemmed, but not old print product sales declines. Selling what media buyers want – digital, measurable, geolocation enabled, etc. – will lead to results. Some publishers simply don't have the necessary products to sell – they will have to build and launch them. Making you horse fun faster won't prevent customers from buying cars.

Tablet-only magazine uses the Newsstand to promote marketing services and as a custom publishing example, but uses replica edition approach to its design

I was certainly hoping to end the week with the discovery of a new, natively designed tablet magazine – a tablet-only magazine would have been even better, if using native design, that is. But are few and far between, though the good news is that they are appearing.

Instead I downloaded this new tablet-only magazine that is a real head scratcher: a tablet-only magazine that appears to be promoting marketing services, including custom publishing for the iPad, yet uses an old fashioned approach to getting there. It is a replica looking digital magazine without the print edition.

Success Best Practices is a new tablet-only magazine to be found inside Apple's Newsstand. Its publisher, Nick Nicholls, has a company in Houston, Texas called Digital Factor. The exact same site is also mirrored at Digital Marketing Tools.

The pitch online is that you, too, can publish your own tablet magazine for your business – in other words, he is selling custom publishing services.

The magazine, on the other hand, is all about marketing. It is as if his first custom publishing customer is himself, not a bad idea really.

The digital magazine, though, is a bare bones affair. The credits page lists Lise-Mari Coetzee for design and layout. A look at Ms. Coetzee's website shows that she is in the magazine design template business. For sa price, she will either give you access to a pre-made template, or create a template, app store images, videos, etc.
The problem here, though, is that these are all static pages, essentially PDFs. There is nothing native to the tablet platform, no scrolling within articles, no text boxes, no layers, only the minimum.

My guess is that there is a market for this level of publishing expertise. Some business simply want to get their brochures on to the iPad, and this kind of publishing approach would do the trick. Though since a business would already have the files from their print brochure, making PDFs of them to get them onto the iPad would be easy enough. Shoot, a business could even make eBooks out them since iBooks supports PDFs.

As for the actual quality of the new digital magazine's content, TNM tries to avoid these topics. But I would say that a more interactive approach – dare I say it, a more native tablet approach – to presenting the content would have been nice.

But the actual design of the pages is clean and attractive. The font sizes are fine, and for the most part won't require pinch-to-zoom to read. But the layouts are definitely inspired by print. The tablet-only magazine that get me excited forget as much as they can about print, and explore the tablet platform itself.

If a customer is eager to see what a tablet magazine can do for their brand, I would recommend checking out the car maker magazines inside the Newsstand.

The car brands are an interesting situation to look at. Since the car companies have large marketing budgets, they can get their agencies to create very interesting examples of the platform.

A brand magazine for the tablet, more over, shouldn't mimic a print magazine simply because the tablet can do so much more. A brand magazine can serve as an interactive catalog, as a way to see different models or versions with the tap of a finger, to be able to communicate directly with the brand, to track orders, etc.

The Washington Post Co. reports higher earnings as broadcast revenue spike, print revenue and education continue to be a drag on performance

The Washington Post Co. this morning reported its Q3 earnings: net income was $93.8 million versus a loss of $6.2 million in Q3 of 2011. The company reported that broadcast revenue increased 44 percent in the quarter, thanks to political advertising and the Olympics.

Print revenue continues to slide, however. Print revenue fell 11 percent to $51.4 million. But unlike the NYT, the WaPo was able to report that digital revenue grew in the quarter 13 percent to $26.9 million (versus $51.4 million for print). These revenue numbers include

Circulation, too, continues to fall, with daily circ down 9.2 percent, and Sudnay circ down 6.45 percent. The WaPo said that circulation now stands at 471,200 on weekdays and 689,000 on Sundays.

The company has, in years past, been highly dependent on its paid education division, Kaplan. So much so, that many have complained that the media company has a conflict of interest in this area – promoting government support for for-profit education at the expense of public education, all the while decrying "big government".

But Kaplan's performance was weaker in Q3, with revenue falling 17 percent, and operating income falling to $1.5 million in the quarter, citing “reflect weaker market demand over the past year.”

Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia puts title on the blocks, announces layoffs

It is never good news to hear about layoffs in our business. Yesterday's announcement by Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia (MSLO) seems oddly timed, as if Hurricane Sandy might provide PR cover for the media company.

The details are that MSLO would be laying off 70 employees, about 12 percent of staff. The company has also said it would make Everyday Food a supplement to its main title, Martha Stewart Living, to appear five times a year. Everyday Food has its own iPad edition, which has gotten pretty poor reviews due to bugs - whether that survives as a stand-alone title in app form is not known. Finally, MSLO would seek a buyer for its Whole Living title, and if can not be found the title would be shuttered.

"We have taken decisive action to drive the Company's return to sustainable profitability, in part by reducing our costs for production and distribution and in part by creating even more engagement with our audiences, and better and more valuable opportunities for our advertisers," Lisa Gersh, President and Chief Executive Officer, said. "The initiatives announced today, coupled with those we've taken over the past year, further the emphasis we have been placing on digital, mobile and video platforms, reflecting our commitment to put our expert lifestyle content in closer reach of consumers, with greater frequency and in the ways they demand today and will expect even more in the future."
MSLO is shopping Whole Living

(One does wish that media executives would stop using digital as an excuse to chop heads. The issue here is not media transformation, but the fact that both publishing and broadcasting revenues were down hard. Clearly there are problems with publishing management here.)

But portfolio adjustments are not necessarily a bad thing, even though they obviously effect those involved. The problem with MSLO as a magazine company is that it basically has one brand – Martha Stewart – and therefore is not diversified. While I'm sure that those within the company see the titles other than Living as unique unto themselves, readers don't.

What MSLO needs is a few successful properties not associated with its main brand. It could do this by taking its knowledge of building a successful enterprise built around a personality to extend this to someone other than Martha Stewart, for instance.

The problem here might be that all the brands tend to attract the same advertisers. MSLO probably needs to broaden its base, grow its list of potential advertisers. It's obviously hard to tell if this is the case without a complete ad page report, but this is what I suspect, in any case.

In the meantime, rolling up a title into another title is not being committed to digital, it is the old media way of handing a consolidation. If MSLO's president were serious about taking a New Media approach the announcement would have talked about the Everyday Food app edition surviving as a 10-time a year tablet edition.

ABC Player updates its universal app, new settings allow for throttling bandwidth over WiFi and cellular networks

A nice update has been issued by ABC Digital for its network television app, ABC Player. In addition to bug fixes and stability improvements, the update also adds support for the new iPhone 5's larger support.

The app update also adds settings that allow the user to control the quality of the streamed video, and most importantly, the quantity of data used. The setting allows the user to throttle the bandwidth over both WiFi and cellular networks. At least on my own iPad, the cellular setting was set to Off as the default. Turning on content streaming over cellular then presents the user with several different quality settings that would limit the amount of data the viewer is burning up. Very handy.

Early reviews of the updated app include the inevitable claim that the app is now broken. iPad owners often forget that their tablet is a computer that needs rebooting occasionally, and app updates often do not work properly on an unstable machine.

Other negative reviews continue to complain about video quality, something that can deteriorate over slow networks, or if the settings are set at a lower level. At least one 5-star review complained about a lack of AirPlay support. That user might not be aware that they can simply double tap the home button to reach the AirPlay controls and then mirror their display to any television with an Apple TV attached.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Apple releases its first update to iOS 6, new version fixes laundry list of minor annoyances

Apple released its first update to iOS 6 this afternoon. Version 6.0.1 contains lots of fixes, and no new features (which is common for an update of this kind).

So far at least, none of the developer sites has unearthed anything unusual in the update – though I do find it interesting that this update should be released today, after word came that the long expected iTunes update would be delayed into November. Apple often issues software updates that at first appear minor, but only later look like they were necessary updates to accomodate an update for another piece of software. For instance, iTunes usually gets a minor update just prior to the release of every major new version of iOS and the Mac OS.
As for that iTunes update, it can't come too soon. Of all the Mac software I use, it is the only program that consistently freezes (hangs, is the term Apple likes to use) and needs a force quit.

Back to iOS: users are very much conditioned to download and launch these frequent updates. It is always entertaining to hear new iPhone owners in particular express surprise and actual joy when informed of an update. For users of other smartphones, who rarely if ever update their device's software, the update feels like getting something free. For me, I'm just happy to get to the message seen above-right, and cross my fingers that when the update process is done all will be well.

I can report that this update downloaded and installed in record time.

Here is the list of changes you find in iOS 6.0.1:

  • Fixes a bug that prevents iPhone 5 from installing software updates wirelessly over the air.
  • Fixes a bug where horizontal lines may be displayed across the keyboard.
  • Fixes an issue that could cause camera flash to not go off.
  • Improves reliability of iPhone 5 and iPod touch (5th generation) when connected to encrypted WPA2 Wi-Fi networks.
  • Resolves an issue that prevents iPhone from using the cellular network in some instances.
  • Consolidated the Use Cellular Data switch for iTunes Match.
  • Fixes a Passcode Lock bug which sometimes allowed access to Passbook pass details from lock screen.
  • Fixes a bug affecting Exchange meetings.

Advertising dilemma: are tablet editions for expanding the reach of the print edition? or to attract new digital ads?

"What exactly is the purpose of your new tablet edition?" I often ask magazine and newspaper publishers when I have a chance to talk to them. You'd be surprised how many times I get a rather vague answer. The real question I usually want answered, however, is what is your advertising strategy?

Tablet editions present both newspaper and magazine publishers with a dilemma: is the purpose of the new digital edition to extend the reach of the existing print product, or is it to create new advertising real estate?
The answer, of course, depends on the kind of digital edition created. I have argued in the past, and would today, that The New York Times does not yet have a tablet edition. Instead, what the NYT launched way back in 2010 was an extension of their website – a newly reformatted website to be read on tablets. Because of this, the ads that appear inside NYT for iPad have no tie to the print edition, it is essentially web advertising.

Likewise, replica editions do not create new advertising real estate (in general). The ads one sees in the digital edition are usually unchanged from the print edition.

It is those natively designed tablet editions that present new opportunities for advertisers – either to buy into a new digital publications, or to swap out their static print ads for interactive digital ones.

One issue facing publishers is that their circulation strategies are in conflict with the ad strategies.

In the newspaper world, publishers are trumpeting their gains in digital subscriptions. The problem for many, however, is that losses in print are not translating into gains in digital advertising – of it they are, the gains do not offset the losses.

The New York Times, for instance, is reporting huge gains in digital subscribers. But the paper is very much dependent on national advertising. So what we are getting is a confused message. The ABC, for instance, just this week issued new circulation numbers that showed that the NYT now has 896,352 paid digital subscribers, and though print readership declined to 717,513 , the end result was a gain in total paid circulation.

A few days earlier The New York Times Co. released its Q3 earnings and the report showed ad revenue down to $182.6 million, a decline of 8.9 percent. So while the paid content advocates are cheering on the paper's digital efforts, the shareholders are no doubt screaming.

The key to digital ad revenue gains in tablet editions is either getting existing advertisers to pay more for their tablet ads, or to get new advertisers into tablet editions. Both are proving difficult; nay, almost impossible.

For some publishers, though, the tablet edition is working as an extension of print. By recording increases in tablet circulation, melding that with print, some publishers are attempting to created a single branded ad platform. If Hearst, for instance, which is forcing its readers to choose print or digital, can successfully move their readers towards their digital editions, they can save production costs while maintaining their rate bases.

Others who are giving away their digital editions to print readers, are hoping for the same results.

The ABC, which has had to be somewhat flexible in its rules for tablet editions, still is wedded to the concept of the replica edition – the digital edition where all the content and all the ads are the same. This is an outdated approach to a very complex issue. The rules, for instance, demand that the general flow of a digital magazine replicate those of the print edition. This rule alone would be enough for many digitally savvy publishers to consider that it is time to dump the ABC and its restrictions.

Most B2B publishers who have taken the leap to tablet editions are pursuing, at least for now, replica strategies. But here the publisher is facing a new problem: qualifying readership. While advertisers are pretty sure who is reading the print edition, assuming the publisher has abandoned their BPAs, knowing who is reading digital editions in impossible if the publisher launches a free tablet edition.
No advertiser will pay more to see their
2-page spreads shrunk down to tab size.
For now at least, Apple has not set down rules for qualification schemes inside tablet editions – and the ABM, which appears to be abandoning the interests of publishers for those of brands, has not aggressively pursued this issue with Apple (at least as far as I understand – I've asked and gotten no solid information back).

A few publishers have attempted creative solutions by including questionnaires in their tablet editions. These questionnaires are sly attempts to qualify readers. They do not prevent unqualified readers from download their apps and accessing the issues, but they do provide the publisher with some useful reader information.

The goal, of course, is to be able to claim that a certain number of readers of the tablet edition are of value to industry advertisers. Caterpillar Paving, for instance, wants to reach someone who can buy a very expensive piece of asphalt paving equipment, not some kid who happens to like looking at construction equipment.

Since B2B publishers are generally pursing replica strategies, the goal is to be able to keep justifying those ad rates, even when the BPA may be showing a decline in circulation (or the BPA has been eliminated entirely).

Hearst updates its iPad app, Esquire Magazine, to attempt to program out bugs; new technology forces launch of a stand-alone archive app for back issues of the magazine

If Hearst didn't have good brands it would be hard to see how they could enjoy much success in Apple's App Store. The company really tests the the loyalty of its readers with digital magazine apps that are buggy and a subscription policy that forces current print readers to double down to access digital. As a result, Hearst apps consistently gets some of the lowest ratings from users of any major publisher.

But those brands, Esquire, Good Housekeeping, Redbook and others continue to popular with readers. I'm sure somewhere at Hearst there is some executive that inherited these titles pretending they have something to do with their success today.

One of those buggy apps, Esquire Magazine, was updated last night to try and fix some of its problems. To be honest with you, I've never encountered too many problems with the apps, but readers have been complaining, and the new update doesn't seem to have solved all their problems.
The digital edition found inside is a hybrid app, one where the print ads are as seen in print, while the editorial is reformatted for the iPad. The approach works for readers, though I'm not so sure it is the right approach for advertisers. Certainly wise agencies and advertisers would want to swap out those print ads for new interactive ads designed specifically for tablets. The problem here, of course, is that many of those agencies that are buying print are not pushing tablet ads. Both advertisers and publishers are hurt by this – and I think readers, as well.

(I should add this, though: there are now two page spreads in the digital edition. That means that the ads were, in fact, swapped out for single page ads, or else all the spreads were deleted. I'd have to have a print copy of the magazine to tell, and since my local newsstand closed down this is currently impossible – another reason to go digital.)

Because Esquire has updated the technology used for its current digital editions, the app, when launched, wipes out any back issues. This certainly couldn't have been very popular with readers, but those back issues can be downloaded within the new app. But Hearst has gone a step further. In addition to the tablet edition found inside the Newsstand, Hearst also recently launched an app to house the magazine's archives: Esquire Archives: Oct 2010 - Oct 2012.

The stand-alone app will current digital subscribers to download the back issues from the time of the first iPad editions, but also allows new readers access, as well.

But back to the new issue, November 2012. I think readers will find the digital issue easy to read and navigate, with page layouts designed specifically for the iPad's display. There is enough audio, video and animation here to satisfy readers craving the bells and whistles, but not so much as be superfluous.

The Telegraph to launch metered paywall that will leave site free for UK readers, but charge international readers

The Telegraph is taking the usual metered paywall and flipping it on its head. Instead of launching a metered paywall that would effect its more frequent readers, it is instead instituting a paywall designed to charge only its infrequent readers – and since it is a metered paywall, it is hard to see exactly who will end up paying.

Both The Guardian and are reporting this morning (actually, afternoon U.K. time) that The Telegraph will be launching a metered paywall where international readers would have access to 20 articles per month before being required to pay £1.99 a month for access to the website and its mobile apps. U.K. readers, meanwhile, would still have access to the website free of charge.

"From 1 November, the Telegraph is extending its subscriber offer to its international website readers by adopting a metering approach similar to the model currently used by the New York Times," The Telegraph is reported to have said in its announcement.'

It's a strange way to go about building a paywall. I suppose one could say that the approach will probably do no harm, though. International readers, who are generally casual readers, will either not hit the article limit or else fade away, while domestic readers won't be effected. No wonder the paper is not promoting the paywall on its website – either the reports are wrong, or even The Telegraph see the new paywall as a nonevent.

In fact, the subscription page of The Telegraph currently mentions unlimited website access being included in the paper's Mobile Pack digital subscription option for both domestic and international readers. This page either needs to be updated or better yet deleted and rethought out.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Bulls Extra by Chicago Sun-Times has some fun with the digital magazine format

A week ago the Chicago Sun-Times released a second digital magazine in support for its local sports team coverage. Bulls Extra by Chicago Sun-Times, as the name implies, will be the digital magazine for the Chicago Bulls, and like its Chicago Bears equivalent, appears to be using the Mag+ platform to create its issues.

On the 23rd, when the app first appeared in Apple's Newsstand, the app did not contain any issues, however. A few days later the first issue previewing the new season finally appeared in the app. This was a bit unfortunate as launch day is usually the most important day for any new app. But since the first issue is now available it seems fair to take a look.

The Sun-Times is offering its new digital sports magazines free of charge. A reader can subscribe to the digital magazines inside the Newsstand app so that their issues will download automatically.

The first issue, featuring the often hurt Derrick Rose on the cover, weighs in at 102.4 MB. The magazine is to be read in portrait, saving a bit of file space.

The production staff seems to be getting comfortable with the Mag+ platform used to create the app (I am assuming this is using Mag+, there is no licence notice in this app). The layouts are creative and definitely native for the tablet platform.

The business model here, one would assume, is to create some new real estate for advertising (at least, I hope there is a business model here). While the competition to the Sun-Times, the Chicago Tribune, is charging for its own digital sports magazine Bears Download, the Sun-Times has decided to go free. It's a logical way to go, though I'd like to have seen more ads here, though it may be that the sales team is still gearing up.
The content here is obviously related to what the Sun-Times is producing for its print and online products. But this digital magazine app is strictly an iPad affair.

For the iPhone, the Sun-Times has launched a stand-alone app, Bulls Extra for iPhone by Chicago Sun-Times, in partnership with Inergize Digital. The app is a standard news reader app.

The Sun-Times could have attempted to use Mag+ to create a digital magazine for the iPhone, but decided here to go with the news approach.

It makes sense, though the unfortunate part of the new app is that the new iPhone 5's screen size is not supported. For an app released at the end of October, well after the release of iOS 6, it seems strange that a third party developer would release an app without iPhone 5 support.

Here is a brief walk-through part of the new digital magazine:

Italian magazine publisher Editoriale Duesse releases seven new titles into the Apple Newsstand

The Italian magazine publisher Editoriale Duesse has released seven new universal app editions for its titles today. The publisher has in its portfolio 12 trade journals and a hand full of consumer titles.

Launched today into Apple's Newsstand are Trade Bianco, Trade Consumer Electronics, Tivù, Progetto Cucina, Box Office, and Ab-Abitare il bagno. All these new app editions can be found in the News category, with the exception of Tivù, which is to be found in Entertainment. All, of course, are also in the Newsstand category.

The Italian publisher also has a few magazine titles to be found in Google Play as well as the BlackBerry App World. But none of the new app titles are there as of yet, which probably means that like many publishers they are releasing for iOS first, other platforms later.

All the apps from Editoriale Duesse are universal, and like many B2Bs, the publisher is allowing access to anyone through the app without charge.
Editoriale Duesse, which was founded in 1992, had previously released a couple of apps for its movie magazines. Those app descriptions could be found in English in the U.S. app store, but now all the app descriptions are in Italian – which is just as well as being able to read the language comes in handy here.

Unfortunately, all the apps feature replica editions. One wonders whether Italian readers are more forgiving in this area, or whether the economics of native tablet and mobile editions does not work well for some European publishers. Most of the Italian publications I have seen in the App Store, whereas German publishers seem to be more eager to design for the new digital platforms.

Thinking digital first means being a launching machine; the special section needs to move to digital platforms

When I was growing up in the Detroit area, sports championships were a once in a lifetime occurrence. My Tigers won in 1968, but we had to endure a riot the year before as part of the deal. The Lions had Milt Plum at quarterback, and if you don't quite remember the name, well that's part of the problem (though, he really was a pretty good QB).

The East Coast has the Yankees, and the West Coast has the Dodgers, so when I moved west the local teams were, I guess, in a different league. In the years I live in L.A. we had World Series, Super Bowl and NBA championships (though we needed to steal the Raiders to get that Super Bowl win). After I moved to the Bay Area watching the 49ers win Super Bowls was almost to be expected.
I worked in newspapers at the time and after each championship was the inevitable championship commemorative special section – there was one produced before the event, as well. It was easy money, all the advertisers wanted to be part of it. I'd get calls from angry clients complaining that their rep didn't call them about the section. I'd ask the rep about it and they'd say that they did, indeed, call, but they wouldn't respond. Usually the client admitted their mistake and said it wouldn't happen again. That was all good and well except that those championship sections were hard to budget for.

I remember going into budget sessions and management would ask me why I wasn't budgeting for a 15 percent gain in January or February? I'd say that we won the Super Bowl and did a section in that month. So do it again this year, they'd respond. Sure, you can guarantee me another Super Bowl win? Newspaper managers, you can't reason with them.

Every year Sports Illustrated creates a commemorative special section to sell to fans of the winning sports team. It's easy money as they can sell it at a high cover price.

I know the Chronicle is planning to publish a commemorative book about the 2012 San Francisco Giants' championship season, featuring the work of its beat writers and photographers.

But we are now in the age of mobile and tablet publishing. One can create a section on a property's website for news about a World Series or Super Bowl win, but it's not the same as a printed special edition. But you can see where I'm going, I hope.

Will we see the San Francisco Chronicle produce a paid app for the Giants World Series win? Are they set up to fire off a new paid tablet edition? Will "A Return to the Pinnacle", the name of that planned commemorative book, appear as an eBook or special app?

There are exactly eight newspaper iPad apps from Hearst Newspapers currently in the Apple App Store, the only one of which in any way resembles the printed special section is the recently released 49ers Insider. I praised that app because I felt it was what good old fashioned (read: profitable) newspapers used to do and should do now.

I look forward to seeing the Giants World Series commemorative special iPad edition, priced to sell, and filled with ads from local merchants who want to be part of the celebration. That is what profitable newspapers do, and I'm sure the management at the Chronicle or Hearst Newspapers wouldn't let a great opportunity pass them by, right?

By the way, the victory parade starts at 11AM PDT today – light posting ahead!

App Life Magazine puts a spotlight on the digital publishing platform used to create it, it might regret that

For most digital publishing platforms, the best sales tool they to convince publishers to use their platform are the actual titles published using their system. Mag+, for instance, could point to the Bonnier titles like Popular Science that used the platform in order to convince other publishers to give it a try.

Another good idea is to put out your own apps and your own digital magazine in order to show off what your platform can do. Sometimes this is a great idea, other times it might lead to results you did not anticipate.
This morning a new digital magazine appeared in the Apple Newsstand from Tablisher, Inc., which although it does not say it, appears to be really TapEdition, a digital publishing platform. This is the third app released under the name Tablisher, the first two were the TapEdition Brochure and the other was a publiscation for Chabad Yale Building Campaign.

The new digital magazine is called App Life Magazine and actual magazine publishers would feel it is generous to actually call it a magazine as it is only six pages in length. As it was created to promote the platform the app and its content is free to access.

The editor of the new digital magazine is Sean A. Foley, whose LinkedIn page lists as a sales person at TapEdition. This is his first job listed after graduating from St. John's University.

If the digital publication is supposed to show TapEdition in a good light... well, I'll leave that up to you.

It should be pointed out, however, that the new app is universal, but as you can see above-right, the iPhone version does not account for the screen size of the new iPhone 5.

In essence, TapEdition is another of those replica makers. What you get, if App Life is an example, is very basic indeed. But TapEdition is not a low cost (or no cost) solution. The cost to produce a monthly magazine using TapEdition is $7,000 per year, weekly will cost you $13,000.

Normally I only produce a video of the first few pages of any digital magazine. But in this case, I reached the end so quickly that I couldn't avoid showing you the entire digital publication.

The digital magazine is rudimentary at best. The issue is supposed to contain an audio file, though I could not get it to work. There is a video, though why it was included is a mystery.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Amazon gets developers ready for the release of the Kindle Fire 8.9" model by launching emulator beta

Late this afternoon Amazon informed developers that its Kindle Fire HD 8.9" emulator is now available in an email.

The emulator, of course, is used to test and debug apps.

The emulator is available as a beta, and the company warned developers that "the user interface and functionality of the beta emulator may not match the experience available in the Kindle Fire HD 8.9" when it is released later this year."

Obviously the issue here is that developers won't have actual hardware to test their apps on until the actual launch of the larger version of the Kindle Fire is released on November 20.

For new developers, the way to get started is to visit the Amazon Mobile App Distribution Portal where you can download the Amazon Mobile App SDK, create a developer account and submit your new apps for review.

Latest ABC circulation report pegs digital at 15.3% of total newspaper circulation, though continuing declines in print readership bring down total circulation by 0.2%

Digital subscriptions now account for 15.3 percent to total newspaper circulation, according to the new report from the Audit Bureau of Circulations (ABC). Overall, newspapers continue to see circulation fall, though with gains seen in digital, circulation only fell 0.2 percent.

Some papers, such as The Boston Globe, managed to see their total circulation increase during the reporting period. The Globe's paid circulation increased by 11.9 percent.

"These numbers build on a trend we first saw this spring, when the Globe’s paid circulation grew for the first time since September 2004," said the Globe's publisher Christopher Mayer. "This reflects our readers’ commitment to our award-winning journalism, no matter what the platform."

But The Globe continues to see erosion in print readership, with Sunday circulation down 6 percent, and daily down 9 percent over the same period last year.

Both The New York Times and Wall Street Journal also recorded big gains in total circulation thanks to their digital subscription efforts. The WSJ now claims 794,594 digital subscribers, while the NYT now has 896,352, with only 717,513 in print.

Other major daily newspapers, though, are lagging far behind the big national papers in attracting digital subscriptions. Gannett newspapers, in particular, have few paid digital subscribers claimed in the latest report.

The New York Daily News and Washington Post posted overall decreases in total circulation of 11.5 and 8.9 percent each.

There is a lot of good news in the latest AC report, but I wonder what the effect of the continuing decreases in print seen at the major papers will have at newspapers maintaining their print circulation.

National advertisers, if they see that the big newspaper brands are not good vehicles for their print ads, will likely pull those schedules nationally. As a result, a newspaper such as the Arizona Republic, which has very little paid digital circulation, and is trying to maintain its print circulation, might see national ads fall off simply from the perception that newspapers are no longer a good vehicle for such ads.

It's possible, I suppose, to make an argument that magazines might benefit from this – though that might be a stretch.

Gramophone brings a thousand back issues to readers through its Exact Editions apps

This year marks the 90th anniversary of Gramophone, the magazine that has been the bible of classical music lovers for most of that time. Founded in 1923 by the Scottish author Compton Mackenzie, Gramophone is today owned by the U.K. publisher Haymarket.

Today the magazine is promoting its incredible archive of a thousand back issues, available through its app from Exact Editions. Archives of back issues, especially when they are as valuable to readers as these, are the exact right use of replica editions.

"We are delighted to launch this unique new magazine archive that traces the history of recorded classical music with our partners at Exact Editions," Luca Da Re, Brand Manager of Haymarket Media Group said. "Making all of the 110,000 pages of the archive searchable and available on PC, Apple and Android devices is a real breakthrough and we know classical music lovers will get hours of pleasure exploring Gramophone from issue 1 in April 1923."

The Gramophone Magazine app (iTunes link) is available for the iPad and Android tablets, as well as for the PC. Readers must subscribe directly through the Gramophone website as the app will only deliver a select number of pages to nonsubscribers.

There is no subscription page in the app, instead once a reader navigates through a few sample pages they then stumble upon a place where they can subscribe. It is terribly confusing, and not at all the standard way a reader subscribes in the Newsstand.
If you can read this your eyes are better than mine.
But choosing a replica approach to archives makes perfect sense – there is simply no reason why someone would reformat 90 years of print magazines.

But the problem is that reading these replicas is a real pain – and while the effort may be worth it for issues from the 20's, it is not a very intelligent solution for today's issues.

The digital replicas do "contain" multimedia links. Tapping a link takes you out of the magazine to iTunes, where they are stranded.

Music and movie magazines are a great place where start-ups can dominate the digital field. A modern music magazine should be about text anyways, at least not on a tablet or smartphone, it is about audio (and video). So while I'm definitely grateful that 90 years of back issues of Gramophone are now available, but whether I feel it is worth the price of admission is questionable since the approach to today's issues is, well, antiquated.

Blockbuster Entertainment in the U.K. releases an iPad edition with native design of its brand magazine

While the movie rental retailer Blockbuster at one time had over 4,000 store locations, the company been reduced to a shadow of itself. In the UK, the brand continues and today that entity released a digital version of its brand magazine into the Apple Newsstand.

Blockbuster Magazine is a free app for the iPad which offers free access to the digital version of the custom publishing product to its customers.

The first issue available in the app's library weighs in under 90 MB – kind of an in between size, too small for a truly interactive digital magazine, too large for a replica edition.

In fact, the new app, credited to Unipro, is a natively designed digital magazine, with both portrait and landscape orientations. But because of the way the video is presented, landscape would be the preferred way to read the digital magazine.
As you will see in the video below, the first issue opens with a video. Because it really is a video, rather than an animation, it looks odd in portrait. After the opening one gets a lot of advertising for Blockbuster and just a bit of content, something that I suppose should be expected with a magazine designed to promote the brand.

There is video here, and it is embedded rather than simply linked to outside sources, so viewing the trailers are possible while outside of an Internet connection – I tested this to make sure.

But because the video is embedded, the amount of video is pretty limited. This keeps the file size down, but will disappoint a lot of readers expecting more video from a magazine that is, after all, about the movies.

A hurricane hits Chicago? NASA releases amazing satellite photograph of a huge Hurricane Sandy as the East Coast continues to feel the storm's effects

Ok, this is simply ridiculous. A hurricane hits Chicago? Well, not really, as Hurricane Sandy is no longer actually considered a hurricane. But as you can see by this picture released this morning by NASA, the enormous size of the storm that hit the Mid-Atlantic yesterday is so huge that its clouds have reached the windy city.
But while clouds are what one sees in this photo, what one doesn't see is the wind, of course. Large gusts are hitting the midwest this morning due to Sandy, though those on the East Coast remain the ones in danger.

The New York Times lead is "A Region Crippled" as flights continue to be canceled, many of the bridges remain shutdown (though a few have reopened), and millions remain without power.

The storm's death toll is at least 13, according to reports – the deaths caused by trees falling or car accidents caused by the storm.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie couldn't avoid controversy, accusing the major of Atlantic City, Lorenzo Langford, of encouraging the city's residents of riding out the storm at home.

"That is absolutely false and the governor needs to be challenged. He is dead wrong," the major shot back.

The NYT has been running a live blog on the storm which can be found here's effect.

Update 10AM CDT: Chicago officials are now warning residents to stay away from the Lake Michigan shoreline as the winds have picked up significantly this morning.

Pandora's app update adds bug to universal iOS app: iPad owners longer can use landscape, company promises another app update due soon

Update: Pandora released an update (Thursday 3PM EDT) that fixes the landscape issue.

The anticipated new app update from Pandora Media was released yesterday after noon and, oops, it contains a major bug. The app redesign was created for users of the iPhone and iPod touch, but apparently the developers made a mistake and turned off landscape for iPad users.

The update comes with long list of new features for mobile users. But will get most of the attention is the fact that most iPad users will be a bit upset that they can no longer use their tablet in landscape with the app. Fortunately, Pandora is on the case: "An issue with this update and iPads running iOS6 prevents using Pandora in landscape mode. We will have a fix shortly," the app description begins.

What is particularly interesting to me is that the new app update was hyped by several major tech websites. Massive stories with screenshots appeared on sites, yet the nothing was mentioned of the bug. What this tells me, I'm sad to say, is that the tech sites are willing to write about apps they can't actually test.
That is a problem for both the websites themselves and the developers who then release apps or app updates that contain bugs. While it is, admittedly, sometimes fun to point out mistakes in apps, the real purpose of preview posts should be to alert both developers and users to real issues.

Suffice to say that tech media failed big time on this one.

Here is the laundry list of new features that the digital radio company added to its universal app for iPhone version:
• Share your latest discoveries with friends on Pandora, Facebook, and Twitter
• Discover new music by following others on the Music Feed
• Re-discover your favorite music on your profile page
• Explore the artists and music you love directly on your device
• Full lyrics for the songs we play
• Artist biographies and discographies
• Detailed track features from the Music Genome Project
• Find even more music you'll love by adding variety to your stations
• Enjoy constantly updated and expertly curated genre stations

... and other great updates:
• Timer added to the track progress indicator - drag the player controls up to reveal the timer
• Support for the taller iPhone 5 screen
• Support for new BMW vehicles with the “BMW Apps” option, see for more details
• Numerous stability and performance enhancements

Monday, October 29, 2012

The iPad version of Red Bulletin US gets an app update with its November issue

Back in May of last year the beverage company Red Bull launched a magazine and a digital equivalent as a way of promoting its brand – it's theme is adventure. That first issue, seen here, featured S.F. Giants pitcher Tim Lincecum on the cover and was also distributed in print form in some newspapers. The magazine is now published in four editions – English, French, German and Spanish and I haven't seen a print copy since that first issue.

The new issue is November 2012 and some things have changed a bit. The digital edition is now landscape only (and has been for a while) and the app adopted Apple's Newsstand when that feature was introduced last year. As a result, the back issues do not go all the way back to that first May/June 2011 issue.

Video and animation is a big part of the digital magazine, as you will see in the short walk-through see below. I had some technical problems, so only one feature can be seen here, but you'll get the idea.
If there is one thing I find pretty amazing is that the download is now only 190MB, reduced certainly by the use of one orientation only. But it is quite a change from the large file sizes originally seen. The app and the issues found inside remain free to access.

The iPad version of the U.S. magazine, The Red Bulletin US, was updated today to bring in an attractive new library page.

There is also an Android version of the magazine, but unlike its iOS cousin, it has gotten bad marks inside Google Play, with at least one reviewer asking if the app is compliant with the latest version of Android – platform fragmentation being a continuing issue with the platform for all developers. The only version found inside Amazon is the print edition, and that will cost you $12 if you subscribe.

NBCUniversal locks up the English Premier League for both its channels and website

A new broadcasting contract to air English soccer matches might have gone completely unnoticed a few years ago. But the deal struck by NBCUniversal to have the exclusive rights to broadcast the English Premier League (EPL) is getting a bit of attention this morning.

The new contract is an interesting result of two events. The first was the purchase of Comcast owned Versus. The sports channel had started to become an important player in the sports broadcasting world, and the acquisition was all the more important as Comcast became a majority owner of NBCUniversal.

The second part is simply that soccer continues to grow in the U.S. Quietly, steadily, and mostly through youth, high school and college sports, soccer is a big activity. High schools are acting like training grounds for young U.S. players, and colleges are not only offering scholarships to U.S. players, but attracting students from around the world. Like American football, colleges are the sport's minor leagues.

Because of this, NBCUniversal's $250 million, three-year deal may look like quite a bargain in a year to two. The deal will allow the broadcaster to air games on NBC, NBC Sports Network (formerly Versus), Telemundo, mun2 and (Both ESPN and Fox were the other networks most interested in carrying the EPL.)

Notice those web rights? You should, because those are huge.

Major League Baseball (MLB) reserves its online rights, knowing that this has become a major way fans watch the games now. Also, those MLB contracts are nonexclusive as contracts have been inked with ESPN and Fox. ESPN, for instance, has an 8-year deal worth $5.6 billion, while Fox is paying less now, its contract is expiring and the broadcaster will probably have to pay a pretty penny to retain its rights.

So $250 million for an exclusive deal lasting 3-years is definitely a bargain.

Morning Brief: East Coast braces for late season cyclone; flood of media app updates released including real estate pure play Zillow's universal iOS app

A common complain to those of us who are interested in sports and either reside on the West Coast, or still have loyalties there, is that the East Coast media generally ignores or downplays the teams there. A World Series not featuring the Yankees or Red Sox then is pretty much considered a dud.

But the East Coast media can be forgiven on concentrating on other things than sports this morning as it mid-Atlantic to New England brace for the landing of Hurricane Sandy, a huge late season storm.

"If you don't evacuate, you are not only endangering your life, you are also endangering the lives of the first responders who are going in to rescue you," New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg warned residents. "This is a serious and dangerous storm."

More than 6,400 flights have been cancelled, all but completely shutting down East Coast air travel.

Apple cleared out a lot of app updates over the weekend, flooding the App Store with new updates.
One of the more interesting, at least from the perspective of this former classified ad manager, is Zillow's update. Real Estate by Zillow is a universal app (on iOS, that is) that has now added foreclosure property information.

It is an interesting move when you think about it, and probably is one of those moves made because so many small competitors have sprung up to serve the needs of those trying to gather this kind of information.

Zillow knows this is an important new update as it explains in their app description:
Get FREE access to foreclosure listings in your area, including pre-foreclosures, foreclosure auctions and bank-owned properties. These listings are not freely available on any other real estate site. Sign in to start searching for foreclosures!
A bunch of B2B tablet editions got updates. Canadian Grocer and Marketing Magazine, both Rogers Publishing trade journals, got an expected update to make the app iOS 6 compliant. Professional Builder, on the trade titles formerly owned by Reed Business Information, but divested during the great sell off (and close off), also received an update that added some new features.

Sadly, both apps are unimaginative replica editions, with the app from Professional Builder even mentioning that it is built off a PDF.

Another replica, Decanter from IPC Media, was also updated to make the digital replica work with the newest iPad's retina display. One can now also attempt to read the magazine in landscape, though having 20-20 vision is no guarantee of success.

The New York Times has issued an update for one of its few specialty apps, NYTimes Election 2012. The apps is now iOS 6 compliant and will now work properly for the iPhone 5. The app also adds in push notifications, though why they wouldn't have been there from the beginning is a bit odd.

Finally, Air Canada is one of the latest to add in Passbook integration to its iPhone app.