Friday, November 16, 2012

eMarketer estimates the tablet market at 99M units by the end of next year, with Apple's iPad still dominating

The digital marketing media unit eMarketer has released an infographic called US Digital Media Usage: A Snapshot of 2013. It's project was sponsored by ExactTarget, by the way.

The infographic covers such areas as Internet usage, ecommerce, online video, mobile and tablets.
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eMarketer estimates that the size of the U.S. tablet market will be 99 million users by the end of next year, and the Apple's iPad will continue to dominate the market with 70.5 million users, or 71.2 percent of the market. That equates to just over 22 percent of the population.

I would estimate that Apple is currently around 44-45 million units, maybe a bit more than that based if they come in with a blowout quarter. They would need to sell about 25-26 million iPads in 2013 to hit these numbers.

It appears that Apple is now doing well in China, so overall sales will be good in the next quarter, but publishers are obviously most interested in the tablet penetration numbers in the markets they are serving, more than simply in total sales.

Photography Week, a natively designed weekly tablet magazine from Future Publishing, tests the iPad's computing power

Among the some 60 apps updated by Future PLC this past few days was the relatively new tablet-only magazine Photography Week. Unlike many of Future's tablet editions, Photography Week is natively designed, taking advantage of the iPad's animation, video and slideshow capabilities.

The magazine app offers individual issues at $1.99 a piece, but also offers monthly subscriptions at $4.99 per month or $28.99 per year. New subscribers can test out the magazine by signing up for a subscription to get a free access for 30 days before their paid subscription kicks in.
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Photography Week is built using Future's own digital platform, FutureFolio. The platform promises publishers the ability to produce both replica, enhanced or interactive editions. The cost is £350 plus download costs, and there is an enterprise package available at £15k per year.

The latest issue weighs in at just under 270 MB, its sized moderated by the decision to go with portrait only page designs – the app, though, will work in landscape within the library and store until one starts reading the issues.

This is a well-designed native tablet magazine, and it is a shame that some of Future's other titles aren't going in this direction today, though I would guess that over time we'll see more and more of them do this as the proportion of print to digital subscribers begins to shift more towards the digital side.



Here is a brief walk-through a portion of the latest issue of Photography Week. The hiccups you see may be the result of low computing power of the third generation iPad I use. This continues to be a problem for native tablet editions as Apple is not giving its tablets enough memory or storage, something that I would think Apple would consider essential for making sure its tablets perform at their best when developers push the envelope with their apps.

Morning Brief: The ABC rebrands its self as the Alliance for Audited Media; Future PLC issues a boat load of app updates for its magazine titles; Condé Nast says it is averaging 540,000 digital circulation a month

Happy Friday, I certainly hope it is warmer where you are than here in Chicago. It's not even Thanksgiving yet (that's next week), and already we're freezing our tails off.

Yesterday the Audit Bureau of Circulations (ABC) unveiled a new name and look, a makeover for the auditing organization as it tries to adjust for the changing world of publishing. As of yesterday, the ABC is now the AAM – the Alliance for Audited Media.

"The ABC brand has served our organization and our industry well for nearly 100 years, but this represents much more than a name change," said Michael J. Lavery, president and managing director of the newly named Alliance for Audited Media. "With advancements in the media industry and the progress our organization has made in developing new digital audit services and cross-media expertise, we felt it was time to refresh our brand to better reflect our strategic role in the new world of media."

The AAM will release its newest digital publishing survey in December, but yesterday previewed it, reporting that 90 percent of AAM publishing members now provide content on digital devices like such as tablets and smartphones, up from 51 percent two years ago.

The AAM also announced yesterday that it had conducted an audit of the Adobe Digital Publishing Suite's analytic processes and key metrics. Honestly, I have absolutely no idea what that means, and I doubt they do either. I guess this is the equivalent of putting the Good Housekeeping seal of approval on the platform – not that anyone was holding their breath over this.

"The certification confirms the platform adheres to industry standards for interactive content measurement processes and delivers the transparency that’s so necessary in digital and mobile advertising today," said Eric John, vice president, AAM digital services.

OK, right. Got it (I think).


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it's tough enough managing a couple of magazine apps, but I can't imagine what it would be like to issue 60 app updates over a 24 hour period. But that is what Future PLC did.

The U.K. publisher issued 60 updates for its mostly universal iOS apps including updates for Mac Life Magazine and Photography Week. If you think I intend to list all of app updated here you're crazy.

The updates were issued to finally bring the apps support for iOS 6 and also the iPhone 5's larger display. All the app updates mention the added iPhone 5 support, even when, in the case of Photography Week, for instance, it is not a universal app – a sign that doing updates in bulk may not be a good idea.

Most of Future's apps are simple replica editions, a decision that was made, I suppose, because of the sheer number of titles they publish.

But apps like Photography Week is designed specifically for the iPad, so it is worth taking a closer look at, which I will do later today.



WWD reported yesterday that Condé Nast is averaging a monthly digital circulation of 540,000 issues across all tablet devices – this includes single copy sales and subscriptions. WWD is a Condé Nast title, by the way.

Condé Nast said that Cosmopolitan is leading the way, averaging 186,000 in digital circulation for the firs six months of 2012, with Wired averaging 69,000, The New Yorker 44.000.

It is hilarious to look back at the articles published at the end of 2010 which claimed that magazines were failing on the iPad. In December of 2010 WWD reported on Condé Nast's iPad circulation up to that point and described it as slumping. The original iPad was, of course, only released to the public that April.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

CITIES issues new iPad app for its second issue

The great joy of the tablet editions is not the quality of the magazines – though sometimes that is the case – it is the incredible variety of publications now available. Apple, and readers, face a dilemma in that finding new content to read can be overwhelming. But there is no doubt, now that the Newsstand has reached over 4,000 titles (for the iPad, over 2,500 for the iPhone), that anyone who complains that they have nothing to read is not trying hard enough.

For many publishers, and would be publishers, the iPad is their first choice, even before print. For organizations trying to get the word out, the idea of publishing a print magazine, mailing it internationally, seems not just old fashioned, but economically unjustifiable.

CITIES the Magazine, is a new iPad app that features the second issue of the title. The app description goes out of its way to tell potential readers that this is no fancy travel magazine, but a serious digital magazine that talks about issues involving the urban environment.
CITIES The Magazine is primarily made to bring authorship about urban development issues back to its protagonists: the citizens. Each issue of the magazine can be downloaded via this app at regular intervals direct to your Apple Newsstand.

Today, in global cities, there is a growing group of mindful and purposeful people that travel from city to city for work, study and leisure. Rooted in international relationships and a new urban mobility, this social group is rich in the kind of awareness that leads them to observe, explore and analyze global urban phenomena and local urban practices. The users in our community are typically interested in architecture, environmental issues, social infrastructure planning and design; have travelled and experienced different urban realities; are conscious urban explorers; are interested or part of urban subcultures; and are especially curious about the underlying mechanisms and structures of metropolitan life.

To make things clear, CITIES is not the usual publication about design, urban-related gear and products, music or architecture...
I don't know what platform the team used to create this new digital magazine but there the page loading is a bit slow, as you will see in the video below. This occurs even after the digital edition has been open for a while.

The file size is modest as there is very little interactive content that would have driven up the size, and the magazine only uses the landscape orientation (which I like, by the way).

I think this is one of those digital magazines that will sit there inside of iTunes, but those intimately involved in the subject matter will find it and appreciate its availability inside the Apple Newsstand (where it is a free app with its issues free of charge, as well).

Mag+ releases its App SDK, opening up its system to developers for creating customized magazine apps

While there are those publishers looking for the simplest, straight forward tablet magazine solution, others would like to customize their digital products, adding features and elements limited only by their own imaginations. These digital publishers generally prefer digital publishing platforms that give them a native tablet experience – and now one of those platforms, Mag+, has opened up its SDK for developers.

"Digital publishing may still be the new kid on the block, but this industry is moving at light speed," sais Gregg Hano, CEO at Mag+.

"Customers and app users are getting ever more sophisticated in their requirements. We’re excited to extend the Mag+ offering with the app software development kit so any developer can take advantage of the Mag+ system, while creating the app of their dreams. We’re opening a new phase in digital content creation."

The SDK can be found on the Mag+ website here.

The move points out the need for media companies to be able to take advantage of developments such as this. Recruiting staff capable of software and app develop is, it seems to me, the same situation media companies found themselves in when they began hiring IT personnel back in the early days of desktop publishing, front end systems, and the early days of web publishing. A company can outsource this but they are immediately limiting themselves.

Here are some of the examples of how Mag+ sees developers taking advantage of the SDK release:
Customized Magazine Apps
With the Mag+ SDK, publishers are no longer locked into a specific set of app features and user experiences. Now they can create a unique magazine or newspaper app fully aligned with their brand, while making use of proven, best-in-class components. They can customize the menu and navigation, build their own storefront, even add their own choice of analytics or social sharing services.

Music and Movie Apps
Next-generation liner notes! With Mag+’s support for simple embedding of video and our industry-unique built-in music playlist, artists and studios can now easily create apps that deliver more than just an album or movie. They can add premium content like lyrics, video clips, behind-the-scenes content, and audience interaction in a completely unique branded app.

E-commerce
Retailers can now create catalog apps that tie directly into their e-commerce system and present the shopping experience that’s right for their clients while designing beautiful pages using the Mag+ creative tools.

Super Apps
The SDK allows developers to easily embed Mag+ functionality into another app. So a brand could offer a single app that has shopping, games, tools and a magazine. Or existing apps can be augmented with a premium content channel, deepening the value of the app and the connection with the user.
"The best part of my job," wrote Hano on the company's website, "is seeing what people do with our tools—now there’s a whole new realm of things people can create that builds on top of what we’ve been building the past 2.5 years—in this case, specifically on the new codebase we introduced in 4.0, which allowed us to neatly organize the app so we could break out particular pieces like the MIB reader and Connect component."

"I love that it continues the Mag+ philosophy of openness, creativity and experimentation. I can’t wait to see what you all do with it," Hano said.

New tablet magazine, Photography Masterclass, designs for the iPad by using replica edition techniques

What do they say, oh yeah, once is chance, twice is coincidence, third time is a trend. Well, this is the second new photography tablet magazine TNM has looked at this week that is using the Magcast platform.

Magcast is basically a replica edition-like system where the publisher uploads PDFs to the company's servers, optimizes the digital edition (meaning adding any interactive elements) and then hits "publish". The cost is around $500 per month, though the company is currently offering a discount on that price.

The way it is being used in the two magazines I've looked, first Vagabond, and now Photography Masterclass, makes this a cross between a replica edition and a tablet edition specifically designed for the iPad.
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The magazine, edited by Gill Roberts, and published into Apple Newsstand using the name Hysteresis LLP, takes a template designed by Lise-Mari Coetzee, and then creates pages which are made into PDFs and uploaded to create the app. Is this native design? Yes, I would say it is. It may be exactly the kind of simply solution many readers of TNM are looking for. (There does appear to be, by the way, a symbiotic relationship between MagCast and Coetzee.)

Most publishers of replica editions do the exactly same thing, but they design first and only for print. The problem, which is obvious to all readers, is that to make the page work for the tablet, the page needs to be reduced in size. The result is a page which is nearly impossible to read without a magnifying glass or pinch-to-zoom.

I wouldn't be surprised if we start seeing publishers reduce down their print magazine to a size very nearly that of the iPad. This would force art directors change their templates but would mean that the font sizes they choose for print will be replicated on the iPad – and isn't that what a replica edition should be, a replica of the print edition? Maybe we should start calling those tablet editions that shrink down their pages mini mags (or micro mags).

As for the first issue inside the app, the premiere issue weighs in at 170.14 MB, its size reduced through the use of portrait-only orientation. This becomes a bit of problem in sections where the photography is in landscape. But the orientation limit and the lack of video makes this a nice sized tablet edition.
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These kinds of PDF driven tablet magazines do, I most admit, make me a little quesy. I hate the idea of giving up scrolling text boxes, and even scrolling within stories, altogether.

But California Masterclass Magazine IS easy to read and navigate, and that is one of my biggest objections to replica editions. If Magcast would continue to refine its system so that it would allow for scrolling within stories (and then swiping to the next story), would add support for the iPhone and Android, I think I would seriously consider using it myself. The system does allow for AdMob and iAds, by the way.

There are now over 100 magazines inside the Apple Newsstand using MagCast, though you will not find them searching for the name as the system requires you to have your own Apple developer license. This is a major plus, by the way, as any publisher willing to have their magazine published under the name of the app developer deserves to go out of business.

Google issues update to its iPhone app for Blogger, adding iPad support (finally); Apple issues update to its own iBooks 3 app to stop unexpected crashes

Users of the iOS app from Google for its Blogger blogging platform have been clamoring for the addition of iPad support a long time. A very long time.

Blogger, the app, had previously only been designed for the iPhone, forcing users to download other blogging apps such as the Blogsy.

So today's update will be much appreciated, but... that won't stop users from finding things to complain about.

The newly updated Blogger app, for instance, will not allow you to schedule posts, so anything written would either need to go live immediately, or stay saved until you want to publish.

Also, for reasons that make no sense, Blogger still does not support the iPhone 5's larger screen size.
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One would think that both Google and Apple would be particularly good at the app game, and software, in general. But one has to admit, if you are a Mac or iOS users, that Apple has really fallen off lately when it comes to producing professionally written code.

iTunes, famously, remains a bloated, crashing, disastrous mess of a program. iOS 6 seem to be be causing developers serious problems with their apps. Need proof of this? Apple themselves has to constantly update their own apps because of problems.

Today Apple issued another update to iBooks 3, the company's universal eReader app. In the past, when Apple issued an app update one could count on new features, but this update is minor, merely fixing a bug that was causing iBooks 3 to "unexpectedly quit." Notice that Apple doesn't like to use the word "crash".

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Priceline updates its universal iOS app to add Passbook support and new hotel search by location or hotel name

There is probably no good reason to talk about a Priceline app update, it's not really media per se. But how can you resist that app icon? Come on, when is the next chance to have William Shatner on this website?

As of that app update, Priceline.com: Hotels, Flights & Rental Cars, the official name for the universal iOS app, now has support for Passbook. Book a hotel reservation and the app will add the reservation to the new Apple Passbook feature. I have a feeling most hotels won't know what to do with it on their end, but at least the user will know exactly where to find their reservation number and other information.
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The app already supports the iPhone 5's longer screen, as you can see at left. But the update also fixes some bugs, and adds a new search mechanism. Users can now search for hotels by an address, point of interest, attraction or hotel name. Search results will then be sorted by the distance from that location. This is extremely useful when searching for a hotel at the last minute – say after making that sales call and finding out you will be forced to stay an extra day.

Reviewers inside the App Store are of two minds about this app: most seem to like the app, a lot; while others really, really hate it, either because of the company's customer service or else because of bugs and confusion as to how the app works. Priceline was always a bit different as you really won't get better deals at the site unless you use the bid feature, and some find that hard to figure out and master.

Debating the business objections to native tablet editions

Not a week goes by that I do not get approached by a new company or the PR firm to talk and write about their new digital publishing platform. Those three words – digital publishing platform – always get my attention as no subject is as popular or controversial on this site than that.

It is always interesting to hear what these new companies have to say, do they have any new argument as to why a publisher should use their services other than price and ease of conversion? How they are differentiating themselves from the dozens of other companies offering similar solutions.

Most of the time the sales pitch boils down to "cheap and easy" – but not always. Low or even no cost solutions generally get the attention of publishers. Easy gets the attention of over worked art directors.

But without exception, most of these vendors usually agree with me when I say that the reader experience of replicas is not optimal. Yes, they will say, but we're just not there yet when it comes to native tablet publishing platforms.

I always press them on this, what do they mean? Their answers usually boil down to costs, difficulty or time spent in producing these native tablet editions.

After hearing these arguments over and over I find that I simply don't buy it. That is, I don't buy those arguments. Nonetheless, it is impossible to ignore the huge barriers for most publishers between a highly satisfying reading experience and a profitable tablet edition.



We're Just Not There Yet

Nothing could be further from the truth. Yes, many of us would love to see Apple come up with a magazine publishing platform similar to iBooks Author. Something that is familiar, easy to use, and best of all, free!

But you can't say that there aren't viable platforms out there. Whether you are using InDesign or Quark, there are solutions that are producing beautiful tablet editions. And they aren't hard to use, either. In fact, the transition to using an InDesign plug-in solution like that from Mag+, or Quark's own App Studio is a far easier transition than that faced by art directors when they first encountered PageMaker.

Digital Publishing Platforms Are Too Expensive

It's easy to buy into this argument. But agreeing to this is like agreeing with a global warming skeptic on a cold winter day. It's all too easy until you really starting thinking about the issue.

Looking back at some P&Ls from a 70K circulation magazine where I was publisher I can see what production costs looked like, especially when combined with distribution costs. Depending on the size of the magazine, the size of the circulation, the size of the publishing company you worked for, costs per reader can be anywhere within a range of $1 to $3 per magazine published. In the case of this 70K circulation book, published at a small to medium size company – remember, big publishers get better deals from the printer – the cost ran around $1.10 per magazine published and delivered. Editorial, advertising and G&A raised this to over $2.60.

What does the typical native publishing platform cost? Well, it obviously varies, but one of the most popular platforms will cost you far less in a year than one month of the print magazine.
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Left: a page from a recently released replica edition;
Right: the natively designed page from Esquire.

So the issue is not cost, it is ROI - return on investment.

That $70K magazine was generating around $6K per ad page, and was running at better than 50/50 ratio of ads to editorial. So the margin on that book was pretty incredible. But the P&L looked good because of those paid print ads.

But if you are publishing a typical tablet edition you will be reproducing those print ads free of charge. So any cost that is not offset by at least some revenue looks bad from an ROI perspective.

This is the real reason many don't go down the native tablet edition route. It is also why some like the idea of a single sponsor. With your typical platform, even getting the equivalent of one or two full page ads, that is that revenue, will justify going with a native solution. So ultimately the issue is advertising unless one can be sure they can sell enough paid subscriptions to turn the tab edition's P&L from red to black.

There is no doubt that ROI is the big reason companies like Magzter are issuing new replica edition apps every day. Their model is revenue sharing. The publisher is offered an app edition for free in exchange for giving a cut of the paid subscription to the vendor. Even when that cut, plus Apple's 30 percent cut, is factored into the scheme, there is at least something that can be called profit resulting.

Boston.com rolls out new 'Insights' advertising program to attract local clients who are blogging their own content

To attract potential advertisers who are blogging their own content, Boston.com from The Boston Globe has launched a new advertising program called Insights. Advertisers are featured within an ad placed in various locations on the Boston.com website and are linked to their own blog posts.

Boston.com's sales team are offering three ad packages which can include a dedicated business page, mobile-optimization, print listings and Boston.com Insights badges for client blogs and websites – each package includes promotion on appropriate web pages of Boston.com.

"We were looking at the needs of small and medium businesses, that is where we started, and the paying point we identified was that an awful lot of them were blogging," said Thomas Cole, Executive Director of Business Development for The Boston Globe and Boston.com.

The new program is one of the few new digital newspaper products I've heard of that has its origins outside of either the editorial department, or the web or app development teams. At the center of the program are the medium rectangle ads that drive readers to their advertisers content.
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The new ad program is not being sold by a specialized digital sales team, but is open to the staff to sell.

"It's something that is open to the floor, and we have a subject matter expert out there," Cole told me yesterday. That 'subject matter expert' is Jennifer Tyrrell who is listed on the product's media kit.

The advertising is priced at a flat rate based on the package bought, rather than by any performance metric. The pages and ads have been live for a while now, though Cole believes those getting the best results are following simple marketing rules.

"We are finding the blog posts that get most attention are the ones with the headlines that are most engaging. That if you write something that sounds interesting you have a much better chance of attracting attention," Cole said.

"It's a fundamental publishing principal, write things that people are interested in."



Here is the promotional video that Boston.com has on its site to promote its new Insights advertising program:

Dave Pell updates his app for the NextDraft newsletter, adds support for the iPad and iPad mini

I'm not sure that creating a tablet edition for a blog makes much sense, which is why you won't find an iPad edition of Talking New Media. But newsletters, especially e-newsletters are something different.

This is probably why creating first a mobile app for NextDraft, and now making it work for the iPad and iPad mini is a good idea.
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NextDraft - The Day's Most Fascinating News got a big update yesterday that added that support for Apple's tablets. The iPad version is simple enough, and different enough from the iPhone version, that it works. The entries are minimal in design, but since there is no online equivalent, one can certainly see why this is a good option for a newsletter.

In any case, readers are overjoyed and have given the update a big thumbs up.

If you are a reader of NextDraft, and especially if you are not, the newly updated app version is worth checking out – it is, after all, free to download and access.

Project Magazine updates its app as reviewers inside the App Store scream bloody murder

Life can be good when your app is popular in the Apple Newsstand, but it can get a bit tense once the complaints start rolling in. For the past few weeks Project Magazine, the tablet-only magazine originally published by Virgin Digital Publishing, has been hearing from readers complaining about its app.

Originally released in November of 2010, Project was one of the very first tablet-only magazines created. It got lots of notice for pushing the envelope, so speak. Now a joint venture with Other Edition, the magazine stumbled a bit when it went into the Apple Newsstand as there were app issues tied to subscriptions.

Similarly, the app has been hammered by readers recently who complain about issue downloads. "Does not download. No support. You have been warned," reads one reader review. "Could never access magazine. Now they charged me for another year!" reads another (guess this guy needs to learn how to turn off automatic renewal).

But today the publisher has issued an app update that one would presume will take care of the complaints. The app description simply says that the app is now "compatible with iOS 6" and that it fixes "other minor bugs". No doubt this issue was iOS 6 as many other apps have found that the software update did serious damage to their apps, something that used to be unlike Apple, but now is becoming more common, unfortunately.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

DownBeat comes to the iPad in the form of a replica

Oh, how the mind begins to wander when I think of what the future holds for music and film magazines. I dream of all that audio and video, the performances videos that will find a home in the magazine form... interviews, live events, reviews that sing and show their content. Oh, how I dream!

But back here on Earth we are stuck with what publishers dream about: incremental increases in paid circulation, easy digital publishing, and no-to-little new costs.



Today the venerable DownBeat entered the Apple Newsstand. DownBeat is legendary. No jazz fan hasn't heard of it, even if they haven't seen an issue in years. Can you think of another magazine that has an About Us section that goes on for 11 web pages?

But since my local Borders closed last year I haven't seen a copy of the magazine in print form for a long while, and since the magazine did not have a tablet edition in the App Store until today there was no way to see it in digital form.

DownBeat Magazine, the app, is a replica edition that prices individual issues at $1.99, with an annual subscription priced at $19.99.

The app description does not give a clue as to what the reader will find inside: no third party vendor is listed, and the screenshots are of the issue covers along with one shot of the library page.

Although I am no fan of replicas, and find them hard to read, I think DownBeat would be one of those titles that would ripe for releasing a second app that featured its archives, which are rich beyond description – at least to us jazz fans.



I called the publisher to learn more about their new app but as of the time I am writing this post have not heard back. I'd like to think that he is still not up yet after a long night of clubbing and hanging around with jazz musicians. But since the title is published in Elmhurst, Illinois, down the road from my office, I tend to think he might be at lunch.**

But I can dream, can't I?

**Later: I just spoke the publisher, Frank Alkyer, who told me that the company behind the replica is Better Press, which the publisher seemed very happy with. So there you go, now you know.
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Left: the library page for the tablet edition; Right: being a replica, reading in landscape is a non-starter, though portrait is not exactly an easy read either.

LinkTV World News, a serious video news aggregation app for the iPad, presenting content in an easy to navigation, in-depth and professional manner

Video aggregation apps are all the rage, it seems. The first video news app to appear here at TNM was Newsy from the Media Convergence Group. Just this month NowThis News launched.

Both video news services aggregate video content and add their on-air hosts in order to make it feel like you are watching another television network.

Also recently launched at the end of October was LinkTV World News - Free Videos from Link Media. Link TV is supported by The Bertha Foundation.

To understand LinkTV it seems obvious that you have to understand The Bertha Foundation. "To create change in the world, we believe you need activists, lawyers, storytellers and social entrepreneurs," the organization's website reads. That website contains a quote from Peter Gabriel: "In this age, when the mass media rest in fewer and fewer hands, we must have strong, vital, independent voices if we ever want to hear all the stories or seek justice. We have an incredible opportunity to change lives."
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I think these statements are helpful in understanding how LinkTV is different than many other video aggregation services. It is this mission, I think, that also helps this app distinguish itself from others. It is a serious news service, with a mission to inform, as well as entertain.

As a result, LinkTV World News is designed in a simple, professional manner. Navigation is consistent and well conceived. There is a lot of content here, but the user will not get lost in the quantity of video due to the way it is organized and presented.

Sections are created within the app to curate content into in-depth news sections containing videos from a wide variety of sources including Al Jazeera, the BBC, Reuters, CNN, France 24, The Guardian, The New York Times, etc. The app also promises raw user-generated video. A section of the app is dedicated to documentaries. No doubt the app benefits from the content available through LinkTV's own material available through their channels found on DirecTV and Dish satellite services.

Of course, one of the things that differentiates LinkTV's app from the others is the absence of embedded hosts. Those hosts are there, I suppose, to justify the aggregation of content from outside sources. It is like they are saying "see, we didn't steal your content, we enhanced it. Fair Use!"

LinkTV World News does away with hosts, and good riddance to 'em.

"The LinkTV World News app does the heavy lifting so users don't have to," Paul S. Mason, president and CEO of Link TV, said in the company's press release for the new app. "A team of seasoned journalists using the best semantic 'smart search' technology sifts through thousands of newscasts and raw videos to bring people the stories that matter most."
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The app itself was developed by the brand marketing agency Method, a company with offices in San Francisco, as well as NYC and London.

All-in-all, LinkTV World News is an excellent app, which sadly can not be said for its presentation with the App Store. It starts with its app icon which, to be generous, looks like it was created by a grade schooler. The screenshots are also a big mistake. Some app developers like DoApp think it is a good idea to put cutesy designed screenshots into the app description – no, it is not cute, and it is certainly not helpful. Any real screenshot from this app would sell the app to users, these do not.

I think the presentation with the App Store is scaring away potential users.

Also, I have a minor quibble about the name of the app. It reads "LinkTV" in the title, yet it reads "Link TV" throughout the app description. It is almost as if someone not directly tied to LinkTV was put in charge of the app submission. This is too good an app to be treated so badly within the App Store.

There is also an Android equivalent released into Google Play at the same time as the iPad version. While the reviews inside Apple's App Store are all very positive, there are no reviews to be found inside Google Play. I wonder if this is caused by the fact that so many Android apps are designed for mobile first, where as the Apple App Store effectively separates mobile apps from those designed for the iPad.



Here is the traditional short walk-through the app. There is lots and lots of video, of course, so I limited that portion of the walk-through for the sake of brevity:

Wanderful Media, backed by major media companies, acquires iCircular from the Associated Press

One of the major obstacles to successful digital publishing for newspaper companies is the Sunday circulars which remain popular and prevent many readers from canceling completely their print subscriptions. For many, the big hope of retaining those paid advertising circulars has been iCircular, the mobile ad service from the Associated Press.

Today it was announced that iCircular has been sold to Wanderful Media, is a digital advertising company based in Los Gatos, Calif.

Wanderful Media, previously known as ShopCo, owns “Find n Save”, 275 local shopping websites. The company is backed by 12 media companies including Advance Digital, A. H. Belo Corporation, Community Newspaper Holdings Inc., Cox Media Group, The E. W. Scripps Company, Gannett Co., Inc., GateHouse Media, Inc., Hearst Corporation, Lee Enterprises, MediaNews Group, The McClatchy Company and The Washington Post Co.

It appears that many newspaper companies are content to outsource their digital circulars business just as they did their classified recruitment and automotive business – getting marginal revenue boosts from digital while losing all of their print classified revenues. It is a dangerous strategy and one that could bring in huge profits for start-ups, while decreasing the same for the media partners.

Digital publishing platforms issue updates to systems; Aquafadas, Mag+, Zinio issue updates and revisions

The French digital publishing platform company Aquafadas, recently acquired by Kobo, has today announced a new ePub capabilities inside its system 2.5.

Users of the Aquafadas system can now export in two different types of ePUB3 – reflow layout and fixed layout:

Reflow format: Use ePub Reflow when text is the most important part of your document. Text reflow describes the ability of text to wrap, or adjust itself to an allotted space. Text reflow enables text to better on fit mobile screens. Enables full text search and notes. Aquafadas System generates ePUB Reflow files which are validated by ePUBChecker, the official validation tool of IDPF, including video, audio, read-aloud, slideshows, MotionComposer’s animations and Web View.

Fixed Layout: to preserve your original layout. You can add a lot of interactivity: video, audio, read-aloud, slideshows, MotionComposer’s animations and HTML5 animations. Enables full text search while preserving text styling and layout
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Version 2.5 is now capatibly with iOS 6 and the new iPad mini, and has templates that will support retina displays.

• Mag+ today issued an update to its Mag+ Reviewer app which fixes MIB rendering (the file type produced). The Mag+ system, originally created by Swedish publishing firm Bonnier, launched its version 4.0 in September which supports the iPhone 5 and iOS 6, as well as dynamic ad serving.

• Zinio today updated its iOS newsstand app. Zinio now supports sharing through Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn and is now optimized for iOS 6.

• iBuildApp says that users can now publish their apps for Android with one click, and can add sharing of music from SoundCloud in mobile apps. It is not known when or if iBuildApp will begin supporting the new iPhone's larger screen. The company continues to prevent customers and the media from communicating with the company without paying them for the privilege. All attempts to contact this company through email, Twitter or through their internal system have been rebuffed. Nonetheless, I still get press releases from them and will continue to remind the company of their god awful customer service policies.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Follow-up: NYT's iPad mini optimized app

I realized as I was ending the day that I had not as yet followed up on an earlier post about the updated apps from The New York Times. Both NYTimes for iPad and NYTimes, the paper's mobile app, received updates this morning, but it was the iPad update that got everyone's attention.
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The newly updated iPad edition states that it has been optimized for the iPad mini, and indeed, it has – though even side by side with a regular sized iPad the difference is hard to tell.

But there is a difference with the fonts and spacing – subtle, but a definite improvement over a non-optimized app.

Rarely do developers make such subtle changes, but the conservative nature of the change for the iPad mini is just what the doctor ordered. I'm not a big fan of the NYT's tablet strategy, as TNM readers know. The Tribune Company and others are way ahead of the Old Gray Lady in the area of tablet publishing. But when it comes to making sure iPad mini owners are taken care of this update will do just fine.

The Adobe Digital Publishing Suite Team releases new whitepaper on digital catalogs and the tablet market

The Adobe Digital Publishing Suite Team has released this afternoon a new whitepaper on "The future of shopping: Digital catalogs and the omnichannel consumer" that advocates that "mobile devices – specifically tablets – can help retailers and direct merchants address" the challenges of increasing competition, creating a consistent brand experience, rising distribution costs of physical catalogs and "showrooming".

The whitepaper is available as a PDF download.

Adobe's report reviews the growing tablet market and the attractive demographics of tablet owners, then argues in favor of capitalizing on the growth of the new tablet platform:
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"Early studies show that tablets are a promising platform for e-commerce sales," the whitepaper's authors state. "An Adobe study found that tablet users shopping on retail websites on average purchase 20% more than web visitors and 50% more than smartphone users.4 That’s a promising start for “t-commerce.” A highly designed digital catalog could move the sales needle even further by enhancing the shopping experience with interactive features that leverage the tablet’s functionality."

One of the new tablet catalogs mentioned by the Adobe team is that from ASOS, a stand-alone universal iOS app. "Early returns have been positive: the average basket size for online orders placed through the app is approximately 30% higher than orders placed directly through the website," said the report.

Not surprisingly, the Adobe team advocates for creating new tablet catalogs. With that recommendation, the Adobe team also offers some advice on what to include in that new digital catalog product:
To optimize the consumer experience with your digital catalog, consider these eight core elements:

Interactivity: Immerse customers in the product experience through customizable interactivity.
T-commerce integration: Include integrated e-commerce functionality within your app to drive sales when readers consume your content.
Social sharing:
Drive new customer acquisition with “tear-away” pages that can turn shoppers into advocates.
Geo-targeted merchandising: Drive traffic to physical stores with product offers based on a user’s location.
Multiplatform content: Repackage content and deliver it to consumers on whatever device they are using—PCs, laptops, smartphones, or tablets—so they can access content anywhere, anytime.
Loyalty tools: Integrate user authentication with existing customer databases, including loyalty programs,
to deliver customized offers and other special promotional material to drive affinity and incremental revenue.
Analytics: Retool content based on user activity and engagement to present the best offers and products and make changes on the fly.
Personalization: Forge greater connections with customers and display relevant offers that drive results through 1:1 personalization.
You can download the whitepaper on the Adobe website, or access the PDF directly here.

MPV Magazine: a natively designed national sports tablet magazine exclusively for the iPad

Regional  digital sports publisher, MVPToday.com, in late October launched its first tablet magazine effort – and rather than stay regionally focused has taken their sports coverage nationally.

MVP Magazine is a natively designed tablet magazine for the iPad. Ron Matejko is the president and editor of the new digital magazine, while Dean Norris is listed as Director Business Operations, and is listed as the "seller" on the app (the app can be found under "MVP Media").

The new tablet-only magazine plans on publishing six times a year, and an annual subscription is priced at $5.99, though the first issue inside the app can be downloaded for free (a good idea for a start-up).

The magazine claims to be the "first national sports publication that is developed, designed and created exclusively for the functionality available on the iPad." There are enough qualifiers there that one hesitates to dispute the claim.

The magazine is designed for landscape only reading. Many publishers are choosing to go with one orientation if only to cut down on file size – this first issue is safely under 300MB.

Which orientation to go with is always a tough decision. For me the question has to do with whether a digital magazine will have lots of video or landscape photography, or whether it is designed to be read while doing other activities like cooking or woodworking – all good reasons to go landscape. On the other hand, long form editorial makes a magazine more book-like and is a good argument for portrait.

MVP Magazine is heavy on landscape photography and contains minimal video. Combined with the absence of fancy animations, the digital magazine can remain at a reasonable file size.

Otherwise, the native design allows for scrolling text boxes, slideshows and other native digital publishing techniques that clearly show that this is a magazine designed first and foremost (in this case, exclusively) for the iPad.



The app description links back to the publisher's website, MVPToday.com. Unfortunately, the website actually appears to be for a previous digital publishing effort, a regional news site for Arizona sports. The last news items seen on the site are from this summer, and there is reference to a non-defunct digital magazine which last published August 2010. That links to a Flash based magazine of sorts.

This is a good reminder that when launching any type of mobile or digital publication it is a good idea to at least have a live landing page ready to go – preferably well in advance as one never knows for sure when the new digital magazine app will make it through Apple's app review team.



Here is a short walk-through the beginning of the premiere issue of MVP Magazine:

California photographer launches her own tablet magazine using the PDF-based MagCast platform

While publishers continue to search for the perfect digital publishing platform that will easily and inexpensively create their tablet editions, many others are going the replica route for those very same reasons. Meanwhile, self-publishers, often with no professional magazine experience, are able to launch their tablet magazines thanks to these very same replica platforms.

Mary Bartnikowski is from Palo Alto, California, but as the name of her new tablet magazine suggests, she is a world traveler. Vagabond Photography Travel Mag has just been released into Apple's Newsstand and features the photographers work in a simple presentation.
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"So there I was in the heart of Palo Alto, California, down the street from Steve Jobs, home of all things silicon chipped, 25 years of a successful photography career: great clients, author of a book, what was missing?" Bartnikowski writes in her new digital magazine.

"I didn't know the name of it yet but when my 18-year-old son asked me to visit him in Nepal while he was a volunteer teaching I said hell;, yes!"

The contents of Vagabond, then is the product of her travels, as well as her thoughts on living on the road.

As for the digital magazine, it was created using MagCast, a third party vendor that takes the publisher's PDFs and creates a digital magazine. The cost is $497 per month (though the company is currently taking $200 off that price) and whatever revenue you can generate is yours.

MagCast apps require that you have an Apple developer license, so this app and others appear under the name of the publisher. For now at least MagCast is iPad only, but it does support the Newsstand.
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Because it is PDF based, the quality of the digital magazine will completely depend on the quality of the PDFs and whether the designer is thinking iPad or is still thinking print magazine.

Here, with Vagabond, the photography is absolutely gorgeous, as you'd expect. But the pages contain text almost seem like the original destination was a print magazine as the font sizes are too small. A magazine designed for digital first shouldn't require pinch-to-zoom in order to read. This can all be adjusted, of course, in future issues.

What is interesting about using a PDF platform for a tablet-only magazine is that the goal is to hide the fact that it is PDF based and try to look 'native'; while the goal of using the same platform for a replica is to hide the fact that it is digital and try to replicate print.

Vagabond issues are $3.99 a piece, and there is a two-month and annual subscription option.

The New York Times updates its iPhone and iPad apps; iPad app now 'optimized for the iPad mini'

Well, I think this is a first: The New York Times has just issued an update to its iPad edition that say it is "Optimized for the iPad Mini" – notice the error on "Mini", which shouldn't be capitalized – we'll see that a lot I think.

Both NYTimes for iPad and NYTimes, the paper's mobile app, received updates this morning. The iPhone/iPod touch app was updated to improve the app's stability and to fix bugs.

So what does "iPad mini optimized" really mean? I can't tell you but I will be trying to find out. It will be interesting to see if there is a difference between the standard iPad tablet edition and a mini tablet edition.

Stay tuned.

Major app updates for TRVL, United Airlines and Circa News; Spreed issues updates for Journal Register apps

The travel tablet magazine TRVL, which has migrated off of Adobe and Woodwing tools and created its own system, has issued an important update to its app this morning.

The tablet app, officially called TRVL free Travel Magazine, has been updated to fix stability issues. The digital magazine is now using its own platform, called PRSS, to create its issues, and has converted its back issues to the platform, as well.

The app description asks readers to "wait for the store to finish importing the updated magazines," as the publisher is apparently hurrying to load the archived issues for downloading.

PRSS, the platform created by TRVL, is to be offered to others interested in making their own tablet editions, though the company is only accepting requests at this point, no actual product. TNM has signed up and hopes to look at PRSS when it becomes available (hint, how about a sneak peak?).

Another new media that has gotten some attention, Circa News, has also issued an update to its iPhone app. The update fixes a number of issues involving refreshing of story lists, push notifications, etc.

The app description also says that Circa News will soon have story sharing features come the next update.
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United Airlines has issued an important update to its iPhone app today. United Airlines now supports the iPhone 5 and is iOS 6 compliant, including Passbook.

OK, you may ask, didn't United already update their app back on October 19 to do all this?

Yes, but apparently that update introduced bugs that made the app all but useless. This update doesn't say it fixes those bugs, though that has to be the reason for this new update.

Call it a do over.

Spreed is issuing updates to the Journal Register Company apps it has such as The Oakland Press for iPad.

The updates involve a new weather module and bug fixes.

The Journal Register Company is, of course, part of the Digital First Media umbrella, and these app updates wouldn't be of much interest, but I always take every opportunity to point out that these apps are completely worthless and indicative of the company's backwards attitude towards the new digital platforms.

U.K. MPs to question Google, Amazon and Starbucks about the small amount of taxes they pay

It might come as a surprise to some, but not every country has the same attitude towards corporate taxes as does the U.S. While corporations are lauded here for their ability to avoid paying any tax at all, some nations look down on deadbeat companies. In this regard, the U.S. is a lot like Greece, I suppose.

But the in the U.K. there is growing pressure on U.S. companies who are apparently taking their tax avoidance culture overseas.

Google, Amazon and Starbucks, who do big business in the U.K. will today be asked to answer a few questions by the Public Accounts Committee – one of them being how they get away with paying so little in taxes. Starbucks, for instance, paid only £8.6 million in U.K. tax over the past 13 years, according to reports. Meanwhile it sold £3.1 billion in retail sales. (In the U.S., the standard answer would be that there is a difference between sales and profits, profits being seen as the end result of bad accounting practices.)

"It is hard for the ordinary person to believe it's fair," Margaret Hodge, Labour MP was quoted by Reuters. It makes people incredibly angry in the current fiscal climate."

The U.K. is not the only country where the government is questioning tax avoidance behavior. Other Eurozone countries, feeling a squeeze thanks to debt burdons and newly imposed austerity measures, are seeking new revenue, even while their own tax revenue is declining thanks to the continuing recession (not to mention those self-defeating austerity measures).

Here in the U.S., the focus is almost entirely on the Bush era tax cuts and which of them will be repealed, if any. Not up for discussion is corporate taxes, which both parties feel are out of bounds – unless, of course, the discussion is about how to cut them further.



Corporate America is not the only entities that better watch their backsides. Italy apparently plans to go after the ratings services.

Italian prosecutors are investigating S&P, Moody's and Fitch after both downgraded the nation.

If recent history is any judge, you don't want to go to trial in Italy.