Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Macy's partners with MyCityWay to create a feature filled mobile app for the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade

There is only one holiday that Americans enjoy more than Thanksgiving Day (that would be Casimir Pulaski Day, of course), so that means that I will have to bid my loyal TNM readers adieu for the week while I travel and begin the process of ruining the holiday feast (I always do the cooking, or at least most of it).

Thanksgiving Day used to mean family, the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, and really bad yams with marshmallows. The marshmallowed yams are generally gone now (here's hoping your household is free of them), but they have been replaced with three, count them, three NFL games on television.

Now I'm originally from Detroit, so Thanksgiving football is part of the holiday. But three games? Come on.
The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade still is around, however, but now that we have entered the app era there is a need for an iPhone app. Macy's has complied with Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade® 2012.
If you are attending the parade in New York you might think that having an iPhone app is a little ridiculous. You will change your mind, though, when you discover the app lists all the nearby restrooms. That has to make this an essential download!

The app also has subway maps, dining locations, nearby coffee shops (it might be cold out), weather forecasts, and more. It's quite an app, and its free.

Macy's partnered with MyCityWay to create the app, which one must admit is quite a tour de force, though users will be the final judge starting tomorrow.'s

Morning Brief: KQED ports its member magazine to the iPad in only 4 MB; MAGetc the latest vendor to launch titles under their own name rather than the publisher's

It's time to wrap things up before the beginning of the Thanksgiving Day holiday. There is food shopping to do, I need some new Christmas lights – you know how it is.

In the meantime, so many new digital magazines have hit the Apple Newsstand as replica makers are flooding the App Store, crowding out the natively designed publications to the point where finding anything that isn't a cheap PDF version of a print magazine is getting harder and harder to find. I spoke yesterday to one publisher of a natively designed tablet magazine and asked him if he thought it was time Apple dedicated an area of the Newsstand specifically for natively designed publications. He was diplomatic and simply nodded in agreement.

One of the few new magazines to be found inside the Newsstand this morning comes from the public television station KQED which has released its member magazine for the iPad. What's amazing about it is that I think they have launched the world's smallest magazine to date, at least as far as file size: 4 MB.

The latest vendor to show up inside the Newsstand with magazines under their name os MAGetc. This is an interesting digital publishing vendor because their website says that they use the Adobe Digital Publishing Suite to create their apps. That would, in theory, create native tablet editions.
The problem, though, is that my attempt to subscribe to their newest digital magazine, GoodChocolate, led to me getting an error message stating that there was nothing to subscribe to. This didn't prevent the app from charging me for the subscriptions anyways.

And notice that I keep calling it "their newest digital magazine?" The reason for this, of course, is that the publishers who contract with this new company sign away their magazines to the vendor and allow them to appear under MAGetc's name rather than their own. As I've said before, any publisher that would allow this should be out of the business – or at least be in porn, where hiding your name might be a good idea.

These apps may, or may not, be worth your while to check out. But my own experience has scared me away from them.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Amazon updates its apps to help holiday shoppers track their gift packages, launches Santa wish list iPad app

If you were like me, you grew up in a home where the arrival of the Sears and other retail catalogs around Thanksgiving Day meant that the Christmas season had arrived. I would leaf through those massive catalogs in search of goodies to beg my parents to buy.

Now retailers send catalogs monthly or even more frequently, so the thrill and anticipation is no longer the same. Today we have Amazon.

So it should come as no surprise that the nation's larger online retailer would find a way to drive its holiday sales though a more modern method of promotion – the app.
Today Amazon updated its universal iOS app, Amazon Mobile, to add some important new features for those shoppers concerned that their gifts arrive in time. In addition to some bug fixes, the app uses push notifications to send out alerts concerning deliveries.
Stay up to date on where your holiday gifts and packages are with delivery alerts. Turn on push notifications to get alerts on when your package ships from Amazon and when it’s delivered. Plus get a daily notification for lightning deals. – App description
Amazon also recently launched a new app for the iPad called Amazon Santa which lets children and parents "create personalized, holiday wish lists to share with Santa, and your friends and family."

It's way too late to complain about the commercialization of Christmas, so let's just marvel at the fact that only a couple Christmas's after the launch of the original iPad we now are in a position where we are communicating with Saint Nick through a tablet. I wonder when the first app will launch that will allow our kids to FaceTime with the bearded fellow?

Tactilize wants you to provide them content for this iPad app, what you get out of this is anybody's guess

The problem I've always had with Flipboard, Zite and the other apps that encouraged publishers and others to add their content is that it seemed like the only one who really benefited from the symbiotic relationship being promoted was the owner of the application. No matter how much I was told that creating a microsite or adding content would drive traffic to my own site, the more I felt I was being swindled.

Not a week goes by when someone asks me to write or share the content of TNM with them for free. Somehow this would benefit TNM because, well, it would. Just yesterday someone wrote me to say "Dan..." "As a (sic) see it it would be a perfect fit for TNW (sic)."

Gotta love the nerve of someone to get both my name and the name of the website wrong.

But what is driving these efforts, of course, is the knowledge that publishers and others want to get their content in front of iPad owners. So when the next app solution comes along that promises self-publishing on the iPad everyone gets excited, the tech sites write about it, and then the reality hits you square in the face. What's in it for me?

Tactilize is the next big thing, or so some of the articles say. "Tactilize enables you to discover, publish and share interactive content on iPad, easily and instantly," the app description reads.
How it works is that one creates a user name on the company's website, reserving your unique name – like TalkingNewMedia. Then you download the iPad and begin searching for and creating new content.

It's all very easy, and all pretty meaningless. The pages are called "cards", which are essentially like web pages. These pages can then be searched for and read.

Of course, all that content is shared on the Tactilize app, so all the traffic benefits, and presumably advertising revenue, will benefit the app start-up.

If this is the next big thing it must be pointed out that like Flipboard and Zite there is no barrier to entry, any number of these could be created which inevitably would lead one to realize that the desire to get content on the iPad can be satisfied in any number of ways including creating your own apps that have your own name attached to it. (Not the mention that the iPad has a browser, which opens up content through the web.)

Williams-Sonoma slowly modernizing its promotional efforts, delivering media-like content to customers

I have personal experience with Williams-Sonoma, the retail and online kitchen wares store. For months I attempted to work with the company in the early naughts, trying to push the company towards incorporating online video in its promotional efforts. It was a hopeless waste of time and effort as the company is one of the more insular firms out there.

But about three years after I stopped trying to sell the company online video it's channel finally appeared on YouTube, and though they are still five years behind everyone else in the space, they are at least progressing.

I suppose it is a good thing that Williams-Sonoma is so backwards, if they weren't a lot of magazine publishers would be trembling in their boots for fear of what the company would do to their readership, and to a lesser degree, their advertising.

Company catalogs are fast becoming interactive and more magazine-like. This has been the case for a number of years as retailers learned that engaging their customers with editorial content keeps those customers coming back. But in the era of tablet publishing, the next move towards creating more magazine-like reading experiences is a natural next step.

Strangely, it is magazine publishers who own food titles that often are the ones out of touch today. Few tablet magazines from big publishers have made the jump to video, even when they have the content available, often settling for replica editions of their print magazines. This not only is opening the door to start-up titles who will use video content from Day One, but also retailers like Williams-Sonoma who can engage their customers with product demonstration videos and, of course, cooking videos.

This morning I received yet another email from the retailer. Williams-Sonoma are notorious spammers. No doubt the retailer has spreadsheets that say this is paying off, though some things can't be measured I would argue.

Today's email features iPad stands and a Bluetooth speaker, an obviously new line for the retailer. The iPad stand products demonstrate several things beyond just product extensions. It is a recognition that cooks are using their tablets in the kitchen. The result is that publishers need to realize that if their cooking magazines do not make an adjustment that those that will find their way into the kitchen will not be those with only nice photography and plenty of recipes, but also those that can layout their features in way that will take advantage of the tablet platform.

I have argued for a while that publishers need to see in the video opportunity not only its potential to add multimedia content for their tablet editions, but a step towards broadcasting. As more and more TV viewers cut the cord, new broadcast content is appearing from publishers such as the WSJ. AirPlay and GoogleTV streaming options are opening up the family room television to publishers – and, it should be added, to retailers who see the potential of creating content that can be viewed on the family room television.

HP takes $8.8 billion charge 'linked to serious accounting improprieties' at Autonomy; PC and print sales slide

These are not good days at Hewlett Packard (HP). Today the company announced its Q4 earnings, and while the financial papers will most likely focus on a comparison of the company's performance versus predictions from beanie wearing analysts, the fact is that the company is seeing revenue decline.

HP reported that revenue fell to $30.0B from $32.1B one year ago, and that for the year revenue was down 5 percent.

Earnings were seriously impacted by a massive write-down of $8.8 billion associated with its acquisition of the UK software firm Automony, an acquisition under taken by former CEO Léo Apotheker.

"The majority of this impairment charge," HP said in its earnings announcement, "is linked to serious accounting improprieties, disclosure failures and outright misrepresentations at Autonomy Corporation plc that occurred prior to HP's acquisition of Autonomy and the associated impact of those improprieties, failures and misrepresentations on the expected future financial performance of the Autonomy business over the long-term."
HP's core businesses of PCs and printing were down significantly in the quarter, with PC sales down 14 percent, total units down 12 percent, consumer printer hardware down 22 percent.

But HP is demonstrating that M&A and good due diligence is fast becoming a lost art, and that PC makers will continue to struggle in an era of mobile and tablets.

Monday, November 19, 2012 to unveil new microsite tomorrow examining the issue of tablets versus textbooks in the classroom

The nonprofit public issues website has created a microsite to look at the issue of tablets in the classroom versus the continued use of printed textbooks. The microsite will be officially unveiled to the public tomorrow via the public issuing of a press release.

The new microsite, Should tablets replace textbooks in K-12 schools?, runs through the arguments both for the use of tablets, as well as the advantages of printed textbooks, provides an historical background section, as well as videos, photos and footnotes.

In favor of tablets are such factors as 1) Tablets help students learn more material faster; 2) 81% of K-12 teachers believe that "tablets enrich classroom education."; and 3) Tablets can hold hundreds of textbooks on one device, plus homework, quizzes, and other files, eliminating the need for physical storage of books and classroom materials. Fifteen separate arguments are made in favor of tablets in the classroom.

In opposition are such arguments as 1) Handheld technological devices including tablets are associated with a range of health problems; 2) Using tablets is more expensive than using print textbooks; and 3) Tablets have too many distractions for classroom use. (citing the use of apps). Seventeen arguments in total are made in opposition.

The website contains 43 different Pro-Con microsites on issues deemed controversial such as Standardized Tests, Elections and Presidents, Social Networking and Alternative Energy. (One assumes this new one makes 44 such sites.)

The organization says its mission is "Promoting critical thinking, education, and informed citizenship by presenting controversial issues in a straightforward, nonpartisan, primarily pro-con format."

Gannett releases version 3.0 of USA TODAY for iPad

Gannett's USA Today has released a new version of its tablet edition for the iPad. USA TODAY for iPad is now on version 3.0.0.

The update allows readers to choose one of two looks: a list view or a grid view. The difference between the two views is not dramatically different, to be honest, and a lot of front page real estate is wasted in any case.

The app is not a replica or reformatting of the print newspaper, but like The New York Times iPad edition, is really an app developer's idea of what the reader would want in a reformatted website. I'm sure of the logic of these kinds of tablet apps, but I'm sure many readers are opting for this free access to USA Today rather than subscribing to the print newspaper – a circulation director's nightmare.

The app features more and more content, with more and more sections, which is why it remains on my own iPad. Because the app is not related to the print edition, Gannett has decided to continue to have this app stand-alone rather than have it reside in Apple's Newsstand.

There is a separate mobile app for iOS, USA TODAY for iPhone. These apps, plus several others including USA TODAY College app, which is for the iPhone, can be found under the USA TODAY name rather than Gannett, which is how you find the apps released by the media company for its regional newspapers and television stations.

Here is a brief walk-through parts of the newest version of USA TODAY for iPad.

Reports claim millions of cyber attacks on Israeli websites in retaliation for Gaza Strip air raids

Media outlets including Al Jazeera and The Guardian are this morning reporting that million of hacking attempts have been made on Israeli websites in retaliation for the ongoing air raids on Gaza. Meanwhile Anonymous has posted a video (below) warning of future hack attacks against Israeli web properties in response to efforts to limit Internet access and control the media message.

via Twitter
Most of the cyber attacks have been unsuccessful, according to Israeli officials, though at least one hack did briefly take down a website and replace it with a message in support of the Palestinians.

"The ministry's computer division will continue to block the millions of cyber attacks," Israeli Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz said. "We are enjoying the fruits of our investment in recent years in developing computerised defence systems."

This morning there are reports via Twitter concerning an attack by the Israeli air force on office that had contained journalists. The office was cleared prior to the attack, though journalists fear they are quickly becoming targets for Israeli air raids. One Twitter poster identified the building struck today as the Shourok building which houses Arab television facilities, as well as Al Aqsa TV which is tied to Hamas.

Morning Brief: Clearing the queue of updates before the Thanksgiving Day holiday; American Airlines adds Passbook; Pandora adds sharing options to iOS app

This week will be a bit light in new posts thanks to travel, appointments and the like. I suspect that U.S. developers, and Apple and Google as well, will be clearing the app queues as best as possible before they get to Thursday.

This morning American Airlines released an app update for their universal iOS travel app. The update puts AA in the category of those airlines that have added the Passbook feature to their app.

But unlike many other airlines, AA's app is universal meaning it will work on the iPad, as well. That brings up the topic of Passbook, which is not an app featured on the iPad. But with the release of the iPad mini I would suspect that a lot of travelers who own the mini would use that tablet much like a travel organizers or Day-Timer. Those users would want Passbook on their devices wouldn't they?

This is a good example of Apple keeping tight controls of the app environment of their devices yet not really thinking through the consequences of their decisions and making their customers angry. The discussion and support boards are filling up with complaints about Passbook and the iPad mini.
Pandora has updated its universal iOS app this morning, too.

The update adds social networking tools. These not only including sharing through Facebook and Twitter, but adds a Pandora Music Feed which can be shared, as well.

The app update also adds support for BMW's new navigation system, iDrive 4.2, as well as support for the iPhone 5's taller screen.

The universal app for Nxtbook Nxtstand has been updated to add support for the iPhone 5. Nxtbook is the company a lot of publishers have used to created those Flash flipbooks for their websites. The iOS app brings those flipbooks to the iPhone and iPad.

If you're a Comcast customer you should know that the company released a pretty important update to its XFINITY Connect app this morning that fixes email synchronization issues and makes the app iOS 6 compliant.