Friday, November 30, 2012

Update: Crain's Chicago Business; Chronicle sports writer promotes the 49ers iPad edition inside column

Earlier this Crain Communications released a new app for Crain's Chicago Business into the Apple Newsstand (see original post here). The new states that it is powered by Redpoint Technologies, which gets ample credit in the "About this app" section of the new tablet app.

In my post I said that the app was "developed by Redpoint Technologies" – that prompted an email today from Aris Georgiadis, Assistant Managing Editor at Crain's Chicago Business.

"I just wanted to note one thing: The review implies that we turned over the development to Redpoint (excellent partners, by the way) and waited patiently for them to give us an app. That could not be further from the truth," Georgiadis wrote me.

"The bags under my eyes and the new patches of gray hair are not only from my 4-month-old son but from developing this app. We have a great digital team at Crain’s and we worked very hard on this product. To imply otherwise is simply incorrect."
So I stand corrected.

I would think that this good news in that, since the app was developed in house (in partnership with Redpoint Technologies), we can then expect any upcoming tablet edition for Advertising Age, another Crain title, to be more than simply a replica edition, as well. We'll see if the digital team at Crain follows the model set by this app for Crain's Chicago Business and creates an app that combines access to the website content plus the print editions as this app does.

AdWeek, AdAge's rival, launched a hybrid tablet edition back in October (see post here). That tablet edition is solely dedicated to offering a digital edition of the print magazine. The app charges $4.99 per edition, or subscriptions at $7.99 per month or $79.99 for an annual subscription.

It's almost the weekend and at this time of year that means football, both pro and college.

Reading a column this afternoon by Ann Killion of the San Francisco Chronicle I couldn't help notice how she ended her story on Alex Smith (the 49er QB who following a concussion has apparently lost his starting job).

After writing about Smith and his feelings about losing his starting role to Colin Kaepernick, Killion segues into a preview of an interview to be found inside the Chronicle's iPad magazine containing the paper's 49ers coverage, 49ers Insider.

"Friday's edition of the 49ers Insider digital iPad magazine features an interview with Hall of Fame quarterback Y.A. Tittle, who was involved in one of the 49ers' early quarterback controversies, beginning in 1957 when the team drafted John Brodie and culminating in Tittle's trade to the Giants in 1961," Killion writes.

Killion goes on to give more details and ends with "To read the complete story, download the iPad magazine, which is free for home-delivery subscribers, at"

That shortened URL was not live, which means this was all for the print edition of the paper and was simply posted online without changes.
Many reporters are a bit quesy about promoting other products, but Killion was not even promoting her own story in the tablet-only magazine but one written Graham Womack.

Nonetheless, I loved seeing the tie-in, though I wonder how the Chronicle feels 49ers Insider is doing. I believe the original price for the year was $4.99, which was a bargain, I see it is now only $0.99 – though maybe that reflects the fact that the season is already two-thirds done (though the 49ers appear to be on their way to the playoffs). (The reader reviews inside iTunes are universally positive.)

49ers Insider (like to iTunes), if you recall, is being built using Mag+. The latest issue weighs in at 243 MB and two issues are being produced a week – one pregame issue and one post game issue.

Apple warns its developers of the iTunes Connect holiday shut down period, December 21-28

Apple this morning sent out an email to its developers informing them of the holiday shut down period - iTunes Connect will be closed from Friday, December 21 through Friday, December 28.

Because so many TNM readers have Apple developer accounts, here is the email in full:
iTunes Connect will be temporarily shut down from Friday, December 21, 2012 to Friday, December 28, 2012, for the winter holidays. During this shutdown, the following functionality will be unavailable:
  • Access to iTunes Connect
  • Delivery of any apps or updates
Additionally, the following will be delayed:
  • Releases scheduled to appear on the App Store for the first time
  • Pricing changes scheduled through the interval pricing system in iTunes Connect
We strongly recommend that you do not schedule any pricing changes in iTunes Connect that would take effect between Friday, December 21, 2012 and Friday, December 28, 2012. Pricing changes scheduled to take effect during this date range will not be reflected on the App Store and your app or In-App Purchase will become unavailable for purchase until after the shutdown.

We also recommend that you do not schedule any apps to go live during the shutdown. Releases scheduled with a start date between Friday, December 21, 2012 and Friday, December 28, 2012 will not go live on the App Store until after the shutdown.


The App Store team

ACP Custom Media uses the Oomph platform to bring Coles Magazine to the Apple Newsstand

The tablet platform opens up incredible opportunities for custom publishing. Companies without their own branded magazines may well be open to a tablet magazine because of their interactivity, their ability to drive direct reader response.

Those companies currently involved in custom publisher, therefore, would be wise to enthusiastically jump into the platform before start-ups steal their customers.

ACP Custom Media, the custom publishing division of Australian publisher ACP magazines, recently sold to German publisher Bauer Media Group, is meeting the needs of its current customer Coles Supermarkets by launching a tablet edition of its print magazine.

Coles Magazine (U.A. App Store link) was updated a couple of weeks ago and the latest issue available is the new December issue. The app has been very positively received by readers inside the Australia App Store, and for good reason, the app edition is a very well designed and conceived native tablet edition.
Coles Magazine is distributed within the store locations so it can claim to be the most widely distributed food magazine in Australia, with 15 million copies.

The app edition uses the Oomph platform from Australian technology company Mogeneration. Both the app and the issues inside are free of charge, as you would expect from a branded magazine.

The December issue appears, at first blush, to be a slow download as the app does not reveal to the reader the size of the incoming issue, but looking inside settings one can see that the December issue is around 360 MB, so that download actually was fine.

The magazine can be read in both portrait and landscape, though the opening animation will only play if you have your iPad in portrait (which is why the video below shows portrait, have to have that music!).

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Microsoft sets the starting price for its Surface tablet with Windows 8 Pro at $899

One could say that Microsoft has done app developers a big favor: by setting the price for its Surface tablet with Windows 8 Pro at $899 it has pretty much signaled that it will be OK to sit on the sidelines, betting that the tablet will be like some early tablets that launched, then went away very quickly.

But that might be a mistake, there are a lot of developers for Windows out there, and no doubt there are some who have sitting on the sidelines during the app revolution, hoping, praying for a solution based on Windows.

The base model of the Microsoft Surface running Windows RT is $499 and so far sales have been, well, "modest".

The Windows 8 Pro model will look like the RT model but will run an Intel Core i5 processor and have a 1920 x 1080 display. It will also be able to run an external display at up to 2560 x 1440. Microsoft hopes this will appeal to buyers who plan to use their tablet as they would a small laptop, running a display while at their desk.

The problem with this approach, of course, is that the more a tablet tries to be a PC the more it competes with PCs. Hence the reason some PC makers are not really very happy with Microsoft now-a-days. It's bad enough that they plan on competing with them in the tablet arena, but the PC arena, too?

But I'm not sure any of this will matter if Microsoft's Surface can not attract a market, and right now users are not seeing a unified system here the way they do an iPhone and iPad, for instance.

But as both Apple and Google will attest, it is all about developers so you won't hear any predictions from me about whether their approach to tablets will work. But when I was asked about the Surface by a publisher the other day I simply asked a question right back at him: "do you have a tablet edition in Newsstand?" "No," he replied. "Then what are you worried about a Windows tablet for? Seems you have bigger issues to deal with."

Apple releases new version of iTunes, completely redesigned, with iCloud playback syncing, new store

Apple has released iTunes 11 this morning/afternoon, reaching its sel-imposed deadline of launching the new, much needed version of iTunes in November. They were cutting it close.

The new version of iTunes is redesigned with a new-look store that Apple says will make it easier to find music, books and apps. The new iTunes will let you play content directly from iCloud and see what songs are playing next.

But the real need with iTunes is what Apple does not preview in the app description, the need for a more stable, less prone to freezing application.
Regular users of iTunes will be disoriented at first as the options have moved from the side to the top of the app and the store has moved from being a part of the player to a separate button.

Let the reviews begin.

The Leveson Inquiry report: Journalists and politicians react swiftly to nearly 2,000 page report released today*

No one likes to have a mirror held up to their faces, least of app journalists. Lawyers make lawyer jokes, but reports make jokes about politicians and media executives. Few want to talk about those who have gone over to the dark side to work for Rupert Murdoch or are now aggregating news based on Twitter feeds. Journalism is a good and honorable profession – this despite the fact that a plurality of Americans describe the media as "immoral".

Many journalists have taken to Twitter today to criticize the finds of Lord Justice Brian Leveson and his inquiry, or warn of grave threats to freedom of the press. It is far too early to pass judgement on the Leveson report, all four volumes of it (though that, interestingly enough, isn't stopping journalists and media observers from doing so).

What interests me is the continued disconnect between journalists and media executives and public perception of the job they are doing.

In recounting the phone hacking scandal at the News of the World, Leveson had to say the obvious, knowing that so many journalists continue to be in denial:
"Most responsible corporate entities would be appalled that employees were or could be involved in the commission of crime in order to further their business. Not so at the News of the World. When the police had sought to execute a warrant, they were confronted and driven off by the staff at the newspaper. Cooperation, if provided, was minimal. The two that were sentenced to terms of imprisonment were paid very substantial sums as compensation for loss of employment when they were released."
As a publisher, one who has consistently been judged by the condition of his P&L, I am conditioned to view hard numbers as indicators of performance. If public opinion polls are not considered a fair judge of the performance of the press, both here in the U.S. and in the U.K., then maybe these numbers will get your attention:
This chart, included in the Leveson report, shows the pathetic performance of newspapers over the past decade.

Sadly, many media executives and journalists will simply pass off these circulation figures as the result of the effects of the growth of the Internet – and I will not get into a cat fight with critics who insist that all is well with their trade because I know that behind closed doors they complain about the condition of their industry.

It is not surprising that Prime Minister David Cameron's first reaction to the new report would be to resist new press regulations, even if those regulations are self-administered. It is hard to break old habits and the Prime Minister has been conditioned to play it safe with the media, especially the Murdoch press.

"I believe there may be alternative options for putting in place incentives, providing reassurance to the public and ensuring the Leveson principles of regulation are put in place and these options must be explored," the Cameron said in the House of Commons this afternoon in rejecting the findings and recommendations of the inquiry.

Just as unsurprising, opposition leader Ed Miliband spoke in support of the recommendations of the report, saying that the Leveson "provides a crucial new guarantee which we have never had before. He builds in a role for the media regulator Ofcom, to ensure that the system that is established passes the test we would all want applied to it: that it is truly independent and provides effective protection for people like the McCanns and the Dowlers."

(Background: it was the discovery that the teenager Millie Dowler's voicemail had been hacked by the Murdoch tabloid News of the World that sparked the inquiry. Dowler's voicemail was hacked and deleted after the teenager had gone missing, leading her family to believe that she was still alive, though she later was found to have been murdered.)

But Leveson (or as the NYT's style has it "Sir Brian") said at the conclusion of his presentation this afternoon "The ball moves back into the politicians’ court, they must now decide who guards the guardians."

* They are apparently very fast readers.

Foreign Affairs comes to the Apple Newsstand as a replica (and priced much higher than the Kindle Edition)

One of the reasons I consider myself not dogmatic when it comes to the issue of replica versus native designs for tablet editions is that I know that there are several situations where a replica solution might be appropriate – vast archives of back issues, for instance.

Another situation would be where the design of the print magazine is very close to the size and shape of the tablet's display – Reader's Digest comes to mind. So does the foreign policy magazine Foreign Affairs.

Last night the first tablet edition from the Council on Foreign Relations, the think tank behind Foreign Affairs, has released its first iPad edition.

The problem with the iPad version of Foreign Affairs is not so much that it is a replica edition of the print magazine so much as it is a rip off versus the Kindle Edition.
Foreign Affairs is a book-sized magazine that would, at first blush, be a perfect candidate for an iPad edition without much changes. But where most replica editions replicate the advertising well, but reproduce the editorial badly, the opposite is true here. The editorial pages work fine because the text heavy pages line up pretty much one-to-one so that pinch to zoom only has to be used if you are without your reading glasses.

But the ad pages do not work because a few of them are two-page spreads. But those are rare to be sure as Foreign Affairs is mostly reliant on subscriptions and single copy sales for its revenue.

The iPad edition is priced at $7.99 per issue, the same price as is found in Google Play. Online a reader can buy a PDF of the issue for $7.95. But on one can buy the Kindle Edition for $2.99.

This is precisely the sort of pricing shenanigans Steve Jobs wanted to avoid when Apple first set its pricing policies – it did not want to be undercut, especially when the iPad or iPhone version was no better than a replica or what could be found in the Android or Kindle version.

Readers would be better off buying the Kindle Edition and reading Foreign Affairs through the Kindle app.

Morning Brief: U.K. media braces for release of Leveson report; Next Issue adds 8 new titles to iPad catalog

The U.K. media and politicians alike are bracing for the release today of the Leveson report, a report titled "An Inquiry Into The Culture, Practices and Ethics of the Press" written by Lord Justice Brian Leveson.

The report will be released right around the time this post hits TNM and several U.K. newspapers will are live blogging the event including The Guardian and The Telegraph.

The report was sparked by the phone hacking scandal surrounding the Murdoch press and included testimony of 474 people over 97 days. The report is said to be nearly 2000 pages long, so it won't exactly be light reading.

Both the Prime Minister David Cameron and Nick Clegg, the leader of the Liberal Democrats, the Tory's coalition partner, will be making separate statements on the report – the big question being what, if any changes or strengthening of press regulations will occur in the U.K.

Next Issue Media, the joint venture formed of Condé Nast, Hearst, Meredith, News Corp., and Time Inc., today added eight new magazines to its iPad catalog: ESPN The Magazine, Fast Company, Food & Wine, Inc., Men's Fitness, Men's Journal, New York Magazine and Travel + Leisure.

next Issue now has 80 titles available. The new titles will be added to the offerings available through the $9.99 per month unlimited plan, while the Unlimited Premium plan remains priced at $14.99.

"These new titles augment key areas of our catalog, including men's interest and business, and enhance the value to unlimited customers by giving them an even broader selection of world class, category leading magazines for a single low price," said Morgan Guenther, CEO of Next Issue Media.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

comScore reports that Cyber Monday sales jumped 17% to $1.465B; digital content & subscriptions score big gains

The digital business analytics company comScore today released their estimates on Cyber Monday sales, stating that sales on November 26th will hit $1.465 billion, an increase of 17 percent.

"Despite some news reports suggesting that Cyber Monday might be declining in importance, the day has once again set an online spending record at nearly $1.5 billion," said comScore chairman Gian Fulgoni. "However, it is also clear that the holiday promotional period has begun even earlier this year, with strong online sales occurring on Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday. Now, we shall see the extent to which continuing and attractive retailer promotions are able to boost sales for the remainder of the week."

While consumer electronics sales grew a very healthy 24 percent, according to conScore, the big winner were those selling digital content and subscriptions – this category grew by 28 percent, according to comScore.
"The term ‘Cyber Monday’ was coined by in 2005 to refer to the significant jump in e-commerce spending that occurred following the Thanksgiving holiday weekend as consumers got back to sitting in front of computer screens at work," explained Fulgoni.

"At the time and for several years afterward, Cyber Monday was often misconstrued as the heaviest online spending day of the year, when in fact it barely cracked the top ten days of the season. However, with the passage of time, the day grew in importance as a result of an increasing number of retailers offering very attractive deals on the day and extensive digital media coverage making sure that consumers were aware of them. As a result, Cyber Monday has assumed the mantle of top online spending day for the past two years – a trend we expect to hold once again in 2012," Fulgoni is quoted in the comScore announcement of their findings.

Crain Communications launches iPad app for Crain's Chicago Business, developed by Redpoint Technologies

This post has received an update which you can read here.

Crain Communications has not been a big believer in the mobile and tablet platforms, its ad news magazine Advertising Age still missing from the App Store except for an old mobile app released by Polar Mobile. It's an old story, those that should be leading their industries, AdAge, Folio:, E&P, are the most backwards when it comes to embracing the new digital publishing platforms.*

Today, however, Crain Communications has launched a new and very good iPad app for Crain's Chicago Business. I doubt this means that anything is changing at the publisher as the new app was developed by a third party, meaning that there remains little evidence that the company plans on developing its own digital solutions.

But this new app, developed by Redpoint Technologies, is an excellent all-in-one styled app. The app reformats both the financial tabloid's print publication into a new design, but also the paper's website.
Like all all-in-one apps, however, there are a few oddities one will observe. For instance, since the tablet page design is a series of boxes if there are not enough stories in a section the boxes simply remain empty. It looks strange, but doesn't really take away from the usefulness of the app.

The reason publishers decide to go in this direction is that the production of this kind of app is automatic, the content simply flows in from the backend system of the publication. Because of this feed driven mechanism, all the article layouts will be the same. In the case of this app, stories with photos will place that photo at the top-left of the article. The second piece of artwork goes lower and on the right of the article.

When the app opens there is a long sync period as the app grabs all the content from the server, there is no download needed, though there is a manual download button found on the lower-left of the screen for updating the app.

Also at open one sees the companies that are sponsoring the app: Deloitte, Land Rover and Wintrust Commercial Banking. As one swipes through the stories one runs across their ads. As a publisher it is nice to see that advertising/sponsorships have been built-in at launch.

The app will require you to be a print or digital subscriber to Crain's Chicago Business in order to access the content, or alternately you can subscribe through the app for $11.99 per month or $59.99 per year. I don't know if the app's appearance inside Apple's Newsstand caught the developer by surprise or not but I found that I could access all the content without having a subscription – one has to figure this will get locked down at some point since the app description does not mention any free trial period.

Those that are currently print subscribers, and who may have received a discount over the listed price for a print subscription of $99 should make sure they convert that sub to a print and digital subscription – offered now at no extra charge. That will guarantee you continued access to the iPad app.

* It's hard to convince advertisers to support tablet magazines when their trade industry magazines don't appear to be big supporters of the platform either.

Time Inc. launches centralized digital video unit, brings in Meredith's chief video officer, J.R. McCabe, as Senior VP

Speaking of video for tablet editions... Time Inc. this morning announced that it will be creating a new centralized digital video unit, tasked with the job of managing digital video production for the Time Inc. brands. Leading that new unit will be J.R. McCabe, brought in from Meredith Corporation where he held the title of VP/Chief Video Officer, National Media Group.

McCabe gets the title of Senior Vice President, Video and will report into Todd Larsen, Executive Vice President and Group President, News and Sports at Time Inc., who will lead the new unit for Time Inc.

"This is a growth priority for Time Inc. and we’re investing in people, capabilities and studio space," said Larsen in the announcement. "Digital video is one of the fastest growing categories for advertisers and with our scale and breadth of quality journalism; we think we can make an impact. We also think we can bring our brands to life for consumers in compelling ways with signature digital programming."

McCabe's background is television sales. Prior to joining Meredith in 2006, McCabe was with CBS Paramount Television in New York where he was in charge of the Eastern regional syndication sales team.

Larson was brought in from Dow Jones & Company in September was he served as president before resigning in June of this year. He was at Dow Jones for 13 years, but was passed over for the CEO job there with the hiring of Lex Fenwick.

The move brought the news and sports groups back together which may prove useful for a time as new digital units are created that can serve both groups – whether they stay together for long is an open question.

First look: Panna, a video cooking 'magazine' for the iPad

It has been my position for the past couple of years, since the launch of the original iPad, that food magazines (as well as music, film and other genres) would be dramatically changed by the tablet platform. So far the changes have been minor and incremental. Many publishers have simply created replica editions of their print food magazines, others have added some interactivity.

The future, of course, for the category is video. This is probably obvious to many editors, who know obtaining good video will be a challenge. But the web has demanded video, so tablet editions simply will reinforce the trend.

This has created an opening for start-ups who launch tablet editions from the ground up, unencumbered by the legacy of print. One of those start-ups is Panna, a food magazine that is all about video, so much so that some magazine editors might question whether this really can be called a magazine at all. The app description, is pretty sure it is: Panna is the first-ever video cooking magazine for the iPad and iPad mini.

Launched earlier in the month, the app was recently updated to fix some video issues – obviously no bug would be as annoying as one concerning video with this app. Created by David Ellner, a 49-year-old veteran of the music industry, Panna requires an annual subscription of $14.99, though individual issues can be purchased for $4.99 (a $1.00 discount over what the app says the regular issue price will be).

Both the app and its video are very well done. The video is professionally shot and edited and feature very well-known chefs. The actual video player is getting some criticism, however, as users of the app can not scrub the video, only move forwards and backwards a set amount of time – some users have complained about the player, though I think in practice it works.

If I have an issue with Panna it is simply that I don't think it really understands what attracts people to food magazines. The obvious answer, many would say, is recipes. But that is a simplistic idea of the format. Home chefs have an endless supply of recipes online, what they need from a food magazine is what they need from any magazine: an engaging, entertaining read. But any editor of a food magazine in print should definitely check out Panna and be familiar with its premise and the way it delivers its content.

I think there is both a need and room for a food app completely focused on video. But I think that innovative editors who can combine the best elements of their print magazines with smart, instructive, entertaining cooking videos will do great on the platform.

(I continue to think that Saveur is in the best position to create an exciting tablet edition, though their current one is a major disappointment.)

Creating a video of tablet magazine that itself contains video is difficult because of technical issues associated with streaming the iPad and recording its screen. So this short video will introduce you to the navigation and general layout of the new Panna iPad app, taking you right up to the point where one needs to subscribe:

Morning Brief: Microsoft owned Skype adds support for it own accounts; TuneIn Radio issues big fix update

The Skype mobile and tablet apps for iOS have been updated to add support for Messenger, Hotmail and Outlook contacts – in other words, support for Microsoft accounts. Microsoft acquired Skype in May of last year for $8.5 billion.

Microsoft is killing off its Messenger app, pushing users to Skype, so this update would be necessary to keep Microsoft users within the family, so to speak.

The iPhone version of Skype had previously added iPhone 5 support, while the iPad version had previously updated its artwork for the new retina displayed iPad models. There is a third Skype app called Skype WiFi which is designed to get users online via WiFi when traveling, but users are rather confused by the mission of the app, and in any event don't seem to find it very useful. We'll see if Microsoft continues with this companion app.
TuneIn Radio issued an update to its universal app which is designed to fix some persistent bugs users have encountered. The biggest issues the update is designed to address are stream stuttering and playing problems caused when other apps are open and being used.

For me, TuneIn's biggest issue remains station availability. Some of my favorite stations, such as KCSM in San Mateo, a jazz station, are listed as unavailable, which I find rather strange. The key to these radio apps is, after all, being able to access any station that streams.

TuneIn's app description is promoting its ability to stream the upcoming college football bowl games. The app description points users to look under "Sports", though one would think that a clever developer would see the need to create instant categories – categories that appear suddenly when needed but disappear later. Examples of this use of categories would not only be "Bowl Games" but "Holiday" for stations dedicated to broadcasting holiday music at this time of year.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Update: Denver Post Colorado Ski Guide

I think it is really important to update the story on The Denver Post's first self-produced tablet edition, Denver Post Colorado Ski Guide (see original post here). I think their effort is far more interesting and exciting now that I know more what they are doing in Denver.

First off, my assumption that the Ski Guide was an existing special section was wrong – instead, it was simply a feature that was part of the travel section. That makes what the team produced for its iPad much bigger and more complex. Also, because it was not a pre-existing section, the business model was not already established. There would be no dedicated ads tied to the section that would naturally transfer to the tablet edition, no single-sponsor already lined up.

The original guide appeared in the travel section in October, then online in November, and now in a far more comprehensive manner for the tablet edition.

"We're obviously trying to capitalize on all platforms, and this is our first foray into tablets, iPad applications, and we hope to be able to produce a suite of products beyond this," Steve McMillan, the editor of the Ski Guide told me this afternoon.

McMillan was also able to tell me that the team producing this first tablet app used the Adobe Digital Publishing Suite, which one assumes they will continue to use in their future efforts.

Now, I still have some questions about the business model and why advertising wasn't intimately involved in the creation and sale of advertising or sponsorships – but this is something that is sadly common at newspapers today, the ad side is left out in the cold and then people complain about digital advertising sales trends. I don't think many newspapers will be able to truly create profitable digital products until they stop thinking like a newspaper – with newsrooms and advertising on separate floors – but more like magazines, where the publisher or team leader can interact with each department with editorial not afraid of interference by the ad side, but with advertising informed of the sales opportunities and able to contribute ideas that will lead to a profitable new product.

But I love what I am hearing: a newspaper inside MediaNews Group is experimenting with the tablet platform, driven, McMillan tells me, by Gregory Moore, the Post's editor. What's there not to get excited about?

"This is our first product out of the gate, we really want to build on this and put together a suite of digital products that capitalize this richer environment," McMillan said. "We want to lay in video, audio, photo galleries, interactive maps, everything you can do on a tablet that is exciting to readers."

If you missed the video walk-through of the new tablet app from The Denver Post here it is for you again:

Morningstar launches its first iPad app for their flagship equities newsletter, Morningstar StockInvestor

When TNM was launched in January 2010 one of the categories I was so sure I would be writing about at length was digital newsletters. I was wrong, it has proven to be the least active category on this site. Why is that? Why have eNewsletters been so stagnant these past few years?

These questions came to mind when I saw that Morningstar Inc. has released its very first iPad app. The idea makes a ton of sense: tablets make it easy to access and archive newsletters, while at the same time finding new readers for your publications. The obvious downside is that Apple will be taking a bite out of your revenue, but the cost to find and sell new newsletter readers is not cheap. Simply being in the Newsstand should generate some new revenue, right?

This first app from Morningstar is for their flagship equities newsletter, Morningstar StockInvestor. I fully expected a Plain Jane replica of the print newsletter, and was fully prepared to praise the decision. After all, most print newsletters are printed on pages around the size of the iPad's display, so a replica edition choice would work for most newsletters.

But Morningstar built a better app than than, allowing readers to adjust the font size of the text. It is still a fairly simply app, but it works perfectly fine.
The Morningstar StockInvestor app is free to download, of course. There is no option to buy individual newsletters, simply an option to subscribe at $9.99 per month.

New readers can get access to two issues free of charge as a trial. Choosing this option leads to a place where you can sign up for email alerts, and nice way of getting those email addresses.

Existing subscribers to the print newsletter can download the iPad app and access their newsletters at no additional charge.

I'm surprised it took Morningstar this long to launch its first app, but at least that first app is a very good product and both new and existing subscribers should be very happy with the effort.

So why haven't we seen more eNewsletter products in the Newsstand? One reason may be that many B2B publishers have been producing their newsletters and supplemental products of their print magazines. These eNewsletters are a bit of a pain for editors to produce and rarely generate much additional income.

But some B2Bs, especially those with strong sales teams, are doing quite well in this area. A tablet edition of the newsletter might make a lot of sense to these B2B publishers.

For a B2B magazine one could create a tablet newsletter that would be free to existing subscribers but paid to new readers – thus encouraging qualified subscriptions. Just as importantly, any digital ads sold for the eNewsletter would create copy of use in later tablet editions.

Of course, the biggest obstacle to creating eNewsletters for tablets remains the reduced staff sizes to be found at most B2B media firms today. Nonetheless, just as I would have predicted almost three years ago, one has to guess that we will one day see lots of eNewsletters available for tablets. For existing print newsletter companies I would think that the prospect of dumping the USPS would be reason alone to go digital and to go tablets.

Disney releases a series of Wreck-It Ralph! digital books and game apps for iOS in time for the holidays

With the holiday shopping season upon us smart publishers are making sure that they have app products available for new owners of tablets and smartphones. For parent thinking of buying their children and teenagers an iPad (lucky kids) one would want to think about adding a few apps to that digital device.

Disney Publishing has launched a couple of new book apps in support of its Wreck-It Ralph franchise, as well as a game.

The game is simply called Wreck-It Ralph and is priced at $1.99. Games, being outside the domaine of TNM, we'll concentrate on the digital books.
Wreck-it Ralph: Hero's Duty Interactive Comic is the comic prequel to the Wreck-It Ralph! movie and is priced at $1.99. The app is universal, perfect if you've decided to buy an iPod touch, for instance. It is simply constructed and works exclusively in portrait orientation.

The app was recently updated to fix some bugs, but the update did not include support for the iPhone 5 – probably because it was designed and developed over the summer before the iPhone 5's launch. As it is, the app weighs in at 95 MB, a typical size for a digital book of this length.

The Big Kahun is Wreck-It Ralph Storybook Deluxe. It, too, is a universal app, but this one really works best on an iPad tablet. The app costs $6.99 and weighs in at 262 MB, so you know there will be a lot content here.

The digital book features read-along text and full narration, as well as six clips from the movie.

The other half of the app is the game side, which means that the app will have shelf life.
Disney warns App Store customers that the app is not compatible with the iPhone 3GS or 3rd generation iPod touch – though, as I said, this one is especially good for new tablet owners.

Disney now has exactly 100 apps in the Apple App Store for the iPhone, and 106 designated for the iPad (obviously, some of these are universal apps). A parent can find book and game apps in a number of categories including Education, with prices from Free to $6.99, with the majority of them in the $1.99 pricing slot. Disney has also launched the Wreck-It Ralph game for the Android platform, though these two apps seen here are missing from the platform, though I did see three Kindle Editions from Disney Book Group for the Wreck-It Ralph franchise on

These digital books and games consistently are receiving high marks from users, though since they tend to have lots interactivity, a parent should make sure they are not trying to load these onto older iPads or iPhones. Each app description will give the downloader a warning about compatibility.

The Denver Post releases an iPad edition of its Ski Guide; native tablet page designs and features, a first for a company previously dependent on third party vendors

This post has been updated here. The update contains important background information on the creation of the Ski Guide, as well as where the Post team hopes to go from here.

Sometimes a wonderful new tablet edition comes out of nowhere – sometimes the app grabs your attention because of its features and design, sometimes because it comes from an unexpected source.

Denver Post Colorado Ski Guide launched this morning and is a fully native tablet edition that blew me away because it comes from a company that has recently launched a series of news apps through a third party vendor, Spreed – and has, until now, not exhibited much ambition when it comes to the tablet platform

One assumes that The Denver Post produces a ski guide every year. The paper's website shows that this year's guide hit the website on the 18th of this month.

Special sections like this one can have a number of different business models: they can be ad supported;  single sponsored; or the editorial itself can be paid for by the ski resorts included in the guide.

This one has me baffled and I have put a call into the editor to find out exactly what model is being used here because I do not see any advertising, and while some of the articles come from freelancers (which is what you would expect from an advertorial section) most comes from staffers.

Since the tablet edition of the Denver Post Colorado Ski Guide is free of charge, then the only business model left would be if the resorts paid to be included. This is an important question because so far I have yet to see any evidence that the Digital First parent company has a clue as to viable business models involving digital – despite their name. In fact, at least one of their editorial advisors has been famously against all things iPad and all things Apple.

My guess is that this is strictly an editorial product, produced simply because skiing is important to the area and its readers. The fact that there is no advertising here, or even a single sponsor would be shocking if it were not for the fact that I continue to see newspapers fail to understand the business potential of the new digital platforms.
As for the tablet edition itself, it is a winner – by far the best thing I've seen out of MediaNews Group or the Journal Register Company (which make up Digital First Media).

The layouts are simple, but effective - designed specifically for the iPad's display. There is good use of slideshows and other native tablet features. The navigation is smooth and logical, and though the instruction page was slow to load, the rest of the tablet edition flowed and rendered quickly.

The editor the special section is Steve McMillan, and Jeff Neuman is credited with design, as well as graphics (along with Thomas McKay)

The tablet edition weighs in at less than 100 MB, so it is a very quick download, yet still includes plenty of photography and some video. The design is portrait only, which saves file size and helps with the reformatting from print.

The app places the special section inside Apple's Newsstand. All of the Spreed apps are stand-alone apps. Because of this I was a little surprised that a token charge was not assigned to the download (say $1.99, for instance). It is certainly worth it and would break the pattern of free apps and free access to content so typical of the Digital First Media mindset.

Here is a video walk-through of part of the new special section tablet edition from The Denver Post:

Morning Brief: Mag+ Reviewer updated; the IHT for iPad gets iOS 6 compliance update; NowThis News drops audio opening; Google Voice app adds iPhone 5 support

While the U.S. enjoyed the four day Thanksgiving Day holiday (except those in retail, that is) many developers were busy submitting updates to their media apps. Yesterday afternoon quite a number of those updates hit the App Store.

Mag+ issued an update to its reviewer app to fix a number of bug issues. Here is what the app description has to say:
Many bug fixes and MIB rendering improvements including:
- A layer minimum height properly calculated
- Navigation teeth and bookmark no longer get stuck on screen after using the sharing menu
- Better handling of inline videos
- Transitions on the B layer should no longer stutter or lag
The International Herald Tribune for iPad has been updated to bring the app up to iOS 6 compliance – yes, that seems a bit late to me, too.
The app is similar to the NYT's iPad edition, of course, and the subscription plan's All Digital Access will give you unlimited NYT access, as well. The basic subscription cost to the IHT for iPad is $14.99 per month, though casual readers have access to seven articles per day from the front section of the app free of charge.

NowThis News updated its universal iOS news app to remove the audio that sounds at the opening of the app. Apparently users complained about that feature.

The problem with audio, video and animations that play at the launch of an app is simply that they replay whenever the user returns to the opening or cover. It seems like this is something that could be fixed by Apple so that developers could program their multimedia openings to play once upon opening and not repeat.

Users of Google Voice will want to update their universal iOS app this morning. The app, Google Voice, has been updated to add support for the iPhone 5, and make the app iOS 6 compliant. The app also will require that users be at least up to version 4.3 of iOS, which seems a pretty safe bet.

Monday, November 26, 2012

The Guardian launches a new version of its mobile website designed for smartphones and small tablets

The Guardian today launched a new mobile website for its newspaper that redesigns the mobile experience for readers using smartphones or small tablets. The new mobile experience replaces the standard listing of articles with a more sophisticated look and feel.
"We have rebuilt our mobile site from the ground up, focusing on improving user experience, reliability and download speed," wrote Chris Mulholland on The Guardian's U.K. website. "Our aim is to provide the best user experience for reading our content, whatever your device. The new mobile website is a major first step towards that responsive goal, though it is currently only optimised for smaller screens: smartphones and tablets up to seven inches. If you view the site on an iPad or anything larger, you will still see the desktop site."

The new website features responsive design and is optimized specifically for seven-inch displays, though it scales down for use on any size screen.

"Rather than release a site with every feature built, you'll find this site will continue to grow and evolve. We've released beta versions of this site early and will continue to push out updates often to continue to test and improve it," Mulholland wrote.

McGraw-Hill to sell its education business to Apollo Global Management, rename itself McGraw Hill Financial

Back in the early nineties I was recruited to McGraw-Hill to run a trade publication. My own impression of McGraw-Hill was that it was a publishing giant, but I was wrong – the company, instead, saw itself as a financial services company burdened by a portfolio of publishing titles. Slowly the company has transformed itself by selling off much of its portfolio including BusinessWeek, and today its education division.

Today McGraw-Hill announced that it had sold off its McGraw-Hill Education business to investment funds affiliated with the private equity company Apollo Global Management, LLC. The sales price is $2.5 billion.

"After carefully considering all of the options for creating shareholder value, the McGraw-Hill Board of Directors concluded that this agreement generates the best value and certainty for our shareholders and will most favorably position the world-class assets of McGraw-Hill Education for long-term success," said Harold McGraw III.

The sale will now allow McGraw-Hill to rebrand itself as McGraw-Hill Financial with expected revenues of $4.4 billion annually. Total revenue for 2011 was $6.246 billion. The company's leading brand names will be Standard & Poor's, Platts and J.D. Power and Associates.

The company still has some divisions that will be hanging on including McGraw-Hill Construction which includes the Dodge products, Sweets, Engineering News-Record and Architectural Record. This is the division I worked for back in the early nineties. One could visualize the company retaining this division as part of its financial services repositioning, though a sale to another PE is not out the question either (and has been expected by some observers).

McGraw-Hill has been a major player in the education market – both in pre-K to 12 and in higher education. But the textbook field is in transition to digital media and McGraw-Hill has been slow to adjust, and in fact has lagged behind many other media companies in this regard.

1100 Media releases tablet edition for Scottsdale Magazine, reformatting editorial pages for the iPad

My minimum expectation of any self-respecting art director is that they would insist that any digital editions created would have their editorial pages reformatted for whatever device the reader will eventually use to read the magazine. The argument used would be simple: let's makes sure our readers can actually read our new digital editions.

That simple principal is what 1100 Media is using for its new tablet editions. During the Thanksgiving Day holiday the city/regional publisher has released a new tablet edition for Scottsdale Magazine, the twelfth app to be found inside the App Store.

1100 Media is taking a minimalist approach to tablet editions: the new digital magazines look a bit like replicas in that they are portrait-only designs with very little interactivity. There are no scrolling text boxes, no scrolling within stories, etc.

But the content to be found here has been reformatted for the iPad's display, making it easy to read without resorting to pinch-to-zoom. A few interactive tricks are employed, such as slideshows, and in on one case a cute little animation/video.

It works. That is the important thing. It works.
It's fun to flip through some digital magazines that employ all the bells and whistles that the platform can offer an adventurous art director or developer, but this approach is not right for every magazine and every publisher.

Scottsdale Magazine is a free download inside the Apple Newsstand, and individual issues and subscriptions are available free of charge, as well.

Morning Brief: Media grapple with Catalan vote meaning; Cyber Monday deals push tablets, other electronics

Catalans went to the polls Sunday in regional elections that had, at its center, the issue of independence from Spain. Political parties that advocated holding a referendum on independence won a majority of seats, though media outlets seems to diverge on the true meaning of the election.

The Guardian, for instance, saw the election as a "blow" to the party of Catalan president Artur Mas, his party losing 12 seats.

But other parties that advocated a referendum on the issue of independence own seats, giving those in favor on independence a majority. "Flying pro-independence flags - a lone star against yellow and red stripes - Catalan voters on Sunday handed 87 seats, almost two-thirds of the local parliament, to four different parties that want a referendum on secession," the Reuters report concludes.

Today is Cyber Monday, the online equivalent of Black Friday, and not surprisingly, Amazon is pushing tablets, offering a discount on its already rock bottom priced Kindle Fire. Shoppers are expected to spend as much as $1.5 billion today online.

Apple, too, is promoting its tablets, though one won't find much in the way of discounted pricing on its website. (Strangely, Apple is promoting free shipping when it normally offeres this online anyways.)

Apple's refurb store is also offering better discounts on older model Macs than other outlets, as well, including Amazon's Cyber Monday section.

Best Buy is discounting Samsun and Asus tablets, though one wonders how they will do with that strategy.