Friday, December 7, 2012

The end of Whole Living magazine at MSLO does not have to mean... well, the end of Whole Living magazine

I love writing headlines that I, as a publisher, would reject in a heartbeat. But when there is no one around to prevent you from making a mistake, well, just go with it.

Right now a lot of staffers at the Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia (MSLO) property are grieving the news late yesterday that the company has been unable to find a buyer for the title. According to a WSJ report, the title got an offer from a team backed by the PE firm OpenGate Capital, a rather low $2.5 million offer, but the deal fell through.

My guess is that the offer seemed low to MSLO based on what the new owners would get as part of the deal. At issue, generally, is future booked ads, future receipts, past liabilities, and the like. There are a lot of details that need to be worked out to close a deal and sometimes it just doesn't happen.

But Whole Living staffers need to keep their chins up, many titles miraculously find new owners shortly after the doors close. The reason is simple enough, what is sold after a title is closed is usually the branding rights, circulation lists and the things other than hard assets, past booked revenue and liabilities.
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You can almost hear that MSLO's chief executive Lisa Gersh is keeping the door open in the quote she gave the WSJ: "Whole Living is a terrific brand in a high-interest category," Gersh said. "Our valuable content will be leveraged across our media platforms and we will continue to look for strategic opportunities to further capitalize on it."

Whole Living has not turned out to be a good acquisition for MSLO. After acquiring the title for $6 million in 2005, the title has turned out to be bleeding red ink. One would think that the product would perform best in an environment like MSLO where there are like titles. But sometimes the opposite occurs, the title gets little bits of the ad schedules acquired by the other titles in the publisher's portfolio, often the title can not attract advertisers that want that particular title by itself.

If a new buyer can deal with a couple years of losses, and if those losses can be lessen through decreased G&A expenses, then maybe it will be a good fit for a new owner. With the last issue scheduled to be the January/February issue, we should find out if, like many of the Reed titles shut down at the end of '09, if a new owners steps up in the new year.

The web world enters the second stage of grief

The Kübler-Ross model states that there are five stages to grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. After denying that mobile and tablets (but especially tablets) were to be important digital mediums, the web-only promoters have entered the second stage.

"See, we told you so, tablet publishing has no future." Or so the webbies* are proclaiming, though not necessarily in those exact words.

The problem with the theory is that most of the web-only crowd continue to fail to find many good examples of old media companies succeeding online, at least in comparison to the Internet pure plays that have arisen since the beginning of the Internet boom. The promoters of the web often say that paywalls are the answer, yet few of the media companies that have built paywalls are recording revenue growth due to those paywalls, instead substituting small, incremental gains in paid digital subscription for dramatic declines in ad dollars – both in print and digital.

We'll soon see the web-only crowd enter the third phase of grief soon. There are simply too many companies committed to mobile and tablets to see the platforms abandoned.

One of those companies, Joe Zeff Design, released an impressive new tablet app which TNM looked at this morning. They also posted their own defense of tablet publishing yesterday on their company blog:

We remain convinced that digital publishing through apps will continue to thrive. As more people consume content on iPads and iPhones, there is increasing value in delivering content that is best-suited to those devices. It's all about strategies, and how innovation can help those strategies succeed.
As for The Daily, I doubt that many of those writing about its demise ever had to create a P&L. If they had they would have realized that its demise has nothing to do with digital media, tablets, the web, multiplatform publishing, or even the content and quality of the journalism of the Murdoch press product. It everything to do with math – the numbers were never going to add up.

No start-up can throw $30 million at an advertising dependent media product where $30 million in ad dollars are not available. Today I could launch a B2B print magazine for the construction industry, be backed with $30 million, and tell you where I'll stand at the end of the year – down at least $25 million. If I launched a tablet magazine I might be lucky to only be down $29 million (and if the product were web-only it might be even worse).

That is the world of tablet publishing The Daily was launched into, one where there were too few iPads in circulation in the U.S. (remember that only half of all Apple sales have been in the U.S.) and where very few ad agencies were directing ad dollars towards tablets. The situation is only slightly better today than it was when The Daily was launched.

Soon we'll see webbies begin to hedge their bets, that will lead to depression. Eventually we'll see a few of the web-only crowd come over to our side, the rest will be like those print guys who could not make the move to digital. In fact, I see very little difference between those who dismissed the Internet in the late nineties and those dismissing digital platforms other than the web today – each is so damn sure that there is room for only one successful digital medium.

It is fairly ironic, then, that Felix Salmon of Reuters wrote "When the iPad was first announced, there were lots of dreams about what it could achieve, and how rich its content could be. But in hindsight, it’s notable how many of the dreamers came from the world of print." In updates to his post one can see that he is already beginning to reevaluate his position.

In the end, it is the person who thinks the web will be the one and only successful digital medium that is in denial and is the most like print executives, not those publishing to tablets. On the contrary, the most interesting new tablet publications are coming from those not involved in print at all, but those who see the tablet (and mobile) platform as the place to express themselves.

It is rare for the advocates of one medium to embrace another. David Sarnoff may be one of the few who understood that promoting television, despite having invested heavily in radio, would make RCA millions. But even he attempted to kill off FM. But I think it wasn't philosophy that led him to try and stop FM – it was simple economics, and ruthless capitalism. In the end, Sarnoff wanted to control it all. And there, in the end, is the real lesson to be learned. One can be in denial, one can be angry, but one can't control it all.

* The term "webbies" is not meant to be derogatory, though it may come off sounding that way.

Media app updates: the Sun-Times updates its line of tablet apps; Netflix continues improvement of iOS app

The Sun-Times got to crow a bit as its rival, the Tribune announced that it would once again begin using the firm Journatic, despite having to suspend using the firm just five months ago for plagiarism.

The Chicago area daily newspaper also got around to updating its line of tablet editions: its main news tablet edition, Bears Extra, Bulls Extra and Splash.

The update fixes bugs and allows for faster rendering on the original iPad.
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Netflix updated its universal app to improve performance and fix bugs. Of course, sometimes it is hard to see the improvements to an app once it has been around for awhile. But it important to point out that the Netflix app's reliability is becoming pretty much taken for granted at this point.

Marco Arment has updated his original app, Instapaper. Now priced at $3.99, the new update fixes bugs, some of which are listed in the app description – though only the techies would understand what Arment is talking about.

KIDS DISCOVER: another fantastic new iPad app from the studios of Joe Zeff Design

As I have written before, a new application from the studios of Joe Zeff Design is always a cause for celebration. Yesterday I discovered, thanks to a blog post on the company's website, that a new iPad app, KIDS DISCOVER, has been released into the Apple App Store, and it does not disappoint.

Joe Zeff Design is the studio some of the best apps available: Above & Beyond: George Steinmetz and more recently BAMM.tv. To learn more about this creative firm I recommend the interview with Joe Zeff conducted by Pedro Monteiro which appeared on this site back in May of last year.

The new app is designed for kidsdiscover.com, a publishing firm with the mission "to expose kids to all the wonders in the world—science, space, nature, history and culture—in one easy-to-understand, beautiful publication." Now they have an interesting new app for the iPad.
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The free app's business models is simple: download the app and gain access to one of the "issues" contained within the app free of charge. The free issue is Galaxies and needs to be downloaded once the app is installed. It weighs in at 392 MB due to its interactivity and animation.

Then, assuming you are happy with what you see – and most will be, that's for sure – then two other "issues" are available now for downloading at $2.99 a piece: Antarctica and Washington D.C.

The user can also choose to buy a monthly subscription at $1.99, this will gain you access to the other issues, as well as those coming soon: Cells, Weather, Oceans, Ancient China, Lewis & Clark, and Simple Machines.

The video below ends with the credits found in the new app, but the Joe Zeff Design blog provides a little more information:
Christopher Holewski was the project lead at Joe Zeff Design, collaborating with Ed Gabel, who created many of the computer-generated animations. Kids Discover involved its top people: Publisher Judith Princz, Director of Digital Development Ted Levine and Editor Jennifer Dixon.
The result is a wonderful app that should educate and entertain at the same time. It is safe to say that the apps developed by Joe Zeff Design are among the few applications that have a permanent place on my own iPad (though I must admit that means burning up quite a bit of storage space).

I guess the only other detail to mention is that the app was created using the Adobe Digital Publishing Suite.

Here is a little circular walk-through the app, from Index to some of the sections and back again:

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Glossi promises embedded magazines for all, but what it can deliver is completely dependent on the 'publisher'

How does the cliché go? Oh yeah: if it were easy, everybody would do it. But creating a great looking magazine is hard, that is why we have art directors. But that is not stopping vendors from offering do-it-yourself publishing solutions. From OnSwipe to now Glossi, there is a never ending supply of DIY solutions for would-be publishers. Take it from me, it's not that easy.

Glossi, which received a nice write-up from the NYT on Tuesday is the latest company to promise both professional and amateur publishers that ability to create great looking magazines. Unlike OnSwipe, that wants you to create HTML5 websites using their system, Glossi is sort of a DYI flipbook solution. The publisher creates a "Glossi" then can embed that digital product on the owner's website, just as one would a YouTube video.

I like the idea, a lot. But don't expect it to be easy to actually create a great looking digital magazine because it helps if you already a producing a great looking print magazine, or a digital one using another process.

I played around with Glossi this morning and immediately found that it did not work with Safari – I continually received a warning that said I had cookies turned off, I didn't. So I switched over to Chrome and started in on my first "Glossi".

The process is simple enough, though limiting. I created a new page using their page templates and immediately discovered that the text would not flow from text box to text, as it would in Word, or in InDesign or Quark. That was strange since that would be a natural way a template would normally work.

But overcoming this was easy enough and getting a fairly attractive page was not impossible.

Then came creating the cover. Yikes. Using their system allows you to create a cover, but would you actually want to publish it? Well, that is the problem, isn't it? If you create your cover using InDesign, like a pro would, you'd get a great cover (assuming you are talented). But using their DIY solution creates something that looks, well, like it was built using a DIY system.
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The "Glossis" that are featured on the website pretty much tell the story: you can tell which ones come from professional sources and which ones come from would-be publishers. And once you click inside these "Glossis" it gets worse.

But that doesn't mean that I don't see a use for the Glossi system. On the contrary, I bet a number of TNM readers would be able to play around with the system and create a perfectly good digital magazine. But can the average Joe produce a good looking product?

I've looked at a fair number of tablet editions released into the Apple Newsstand recently and see that there is a huge desire on the part of would-be publishers to create their own magazines. Using systems such as that offered by MagCast or other vendors, it is fairly easy to publisher something. But let's face it, many of these new magazines are like Etch A Sketch drawings next to a Rembrandt.

It's simply not that easy, even if everyone can do it.

The Washington Post updates its 'Politics' iPad app as it seeks to make app relevant to users after the election

One thing newspapers have never had to deal with in print is the issue of shelf-life. Print newspapers are not meant to have long shelf lives, in fact, the whole business model is built on this concept: you get today's paper, but you'll want tomorrow's paper, too.

Apps obviously don't work that way. A newspaper isn't going to launch a new app every day, it wants its users to open that app regularly, every day, if possible. For news apps, this is no problem, but for the special section or special interest app, this presents a challenge. What to do with those apps that aggregated the election news coverage of the papers?
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Both The Washington Post and The New York Times launched apps that aggregated its election news coverage, but the WaPo is in the best position to update its app and make it relevant in the post-election environment.

WP Politics is an iPad app that has been updated numerous times since its launch. With the Presidential election cycle so long, there is no such thing as releasing an app like this too early.

The app team has done an excellent job of releasing timely updates for this app – I'm written about updates to WP Politics at least three times because I thought the updates worth talking about.

Yesterday the newspaper issued yet another update, bring WP Politics up to version 1.5. Now the election content moves from a focus on polls and electoral college projections to historical information. And, what has to be a bitter blow, any reference to Mitt Romney's issue stances have been wiped from the app.
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Of course, a newspaper located in Washington DC is in a good position to continue to drive readers to an tablet app on politics. The New York Times, though, will have to move on and launch a new app.

The NYT app that iPhone owners gravitated to was NYT Election 2012. This app saw its last update shortly before election day and will either need to simply go away or have a complete overhaul to remain useful for readers.

It's fate is further complicated by the fact that access to its full content is tied to the digital subscription options offered by the paper. For me, who has a digital subscription, I found it somewhat useful. But the reviews in the App Store are pretty negative because of this tie-in.

The other problem with election apps is that editors are loath to make the content seen in the app exclusive to the app. Anything seen in the app is probably to be found online. It's taken editors a long time to become web-first advocates, to make sure that any content seen in print is also online - now we see that the same principal is effecting apps, as well.

As a result of this, apps such as NYTimes Election 2012 don't bring much new to the table. Their main benefits are that they gather up all the content of one subject into one area, and that they can archive important content for easy searching, as well.

As Hearst Magazines launches new tablet editions, company heads appear in denial over where to place blame for bad reader reviews

Hearst Magazines has been busy replacing their original magazine tablet editions, originally built by ScrollMotion, and replacing them with new apps using the Adobe Digital Publishing Suite – a big blow for the vendor, but a very logical move for a company wanting to stay relevant in the digital publishing era. You can't outsource forever, despite what some publishing executives I personally know seem to believe.

Unfortunately for ScrollMotion, the company seems to be in denial over the unpopularity of their app editions. Sure, some in the tech media have been beating up the company over large file sizes, but if you read through their posts you'll see that they really don't like tablet editions in general, constantly pushing the web, HTML5 and other digital medium... as long as it isn't mobile or tablets, and is the web. And besides, going with Adobe directly doesn't change much about file sizes.

"The industry overshot the interactivity early on. What we discovered is that most people just want the product itself," Hearst Magazines President David Carey said at a Mashable conference last week.

To Mashable, that was a good excuse to claim that Hearst believes "tablet readers don't want interactivity," the headline they put on the story. I'm not sure I'd want to return to a Mashable conference if I were Carey. "Overshot" is hardly the same as "don't want." Mashable made it sound that Carey had jumped the shark.
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What ails Hearst's tablet efforts, if you are to actually read the reviews inside the App Store, is not that the app editions are giving the readers too much, it is that it is costing them too much, when they failing to deliver a stable product. New apps solves only half the issues.

Hearst's policy has been consistent from Day One, anyone want to read the tablet editions will have to pay, even if they are current print subscribers. There is only two possible reasons for such a policy: 1) to move print readers to digital editions in order to save money; or 2) because Hearst doesn't want to spend the money on subscription verification services. I suppose the third option would be distain for their customers, but I'd like to believe they are not that crazy (though since I once worked for Hearst I can't rules this out completely).

But the move to create cheaper, digital editions, with less work required is too enticing for bean counters. This isn't want readers want. What they want is there favorite magazines in a new, digital, easy to read product. Let me repeat that: when a reader says they want their digital editions to be just like the the print edition they mean it. They want them readable, just like print.

But most replica editions are NOT like the print editions, they are smaller and harder to read. A reformatted digital edition, even when designed like the print edition, with no new interactive elements, is not the same as delivering an exact copy of the print magazine – fonts are chosen based on what looks good on the tablet's display, not the print page's specifications.

To do this, the production staff can not completely avoid some work. But do readers need all the bells and whistles thrown in, too? No, that was simply a phase as editors toyed with the platform. Does that mean readers don't want interactivity? If you believe that and you are a publisher you are setting yourself up for a fall. I firmly believe that in the future a music magazine without music will seem as crazy as a film without sound seems to my daughter today. Who would, other than Mel Brooks or Guy Maddin would make a silent film today?

One of the new apps released by Hearst Magazines is for Esquire. The app has gotten an update just yesterday that adds background downloading, a nice addition.

Until now, the Esquire app has received over 700 one-star reviews to less than 200 five-star reviews. Readers called the exiting app unstable and frustrating. But their biggest complaint is that as print subscribers they are being asked to pay again for digital.

One of the only five-star reviews of the most recently written reviews of the apps says this: "This app does not work at all... may be (sic) the worst magazine app I have ever used. Issues do NOT download. Waste of time and money." Obvious hitting "five-star" was a mistake by the reader.

One other five-star review, though, says this: "Way better than google (sic) magazines," the reader writes, referring to the replica edition seen in Google Play. "This newsstand has way more features, videos and music. Totally blew me away."

MyStream launches Android version of app; mobile app allows for sharing of playlists over WiFi or Bluetooth

The mobile to mobile music streaming app, MyStream, is coming to the Android platform, the company told TNM yesterday. The iPhone/iPod touch version of the app has been available in the App Store since March of this year, but now an Android version will be released into Google Play.
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The app allows users to share their music through streaming content between devices using WiFi or Bluetooth. Users, both with the MyStream app, can listen to each others playlists, avoiding the need for headphone splitters, or worse, the sharing of headphones (just curious, when did you clean your ears out last?).

I first tried out MyStream yesterday and found it very easy to set up and use. Upon installing the app one can choose a put in a user name. By default the app will simply display your phone's name (such as "TNM's iPhone"). A user then selects the playlists they will allow others to access.

When two people have the app open and are ready to stream music the other person's phone will appear as available. From there it is pretty self-explanatory.

While the app will stream using either WiFi or Bluetooth, it definitely works best when the two users are using the same WiFi network and Bluetooth is turned off. Otherwise the app tends to want to use Bluetooth and there are occasional cutoffs. This may be caused by a number of factors, but I found that they go away once Bluetooth is turned off.
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For now, both the Android and iOS versions of the app are free of charge to download. The app, developed by ADEV Inc, which has the ConXfer contacts transfer app in the App Store, has a banner ad running along bottom of the home screen. Whether they intend this app to be supported by advertising, or whether they will really decide to charge for the app later will probably depend on how many users they can get to download the app.

As a side note, at the time I tested the MyStream app I had absolutely no music on my iPhone 5. When at home I tend to access music via my phone through the iPhone's music app, then stream the music from my computer to my iPhone, or alternatively, from my computer to my stereo system through the Apple TV, often using the remote app on my iPhone (how techie).

But I will load up my phone with music just before traveling. The MyStream app will certainly come in handy in situations where two or more people are traveling and all the travelers have the app on their smartphones.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Beats Magazine: indy publisher, Charles Bowen, brings his print titles to the Apple Newsstand

While most media observers are focusing on the big name publishers, it is the independents that are finding the Newsstand and tablet apps most useful. For some, the future is creating tablet-only publications, while others are hoping the platform gives new life, or a boost to their existing print products.

Charles Bowen, who is publishing his universal apps under the name Snaso Inc., is publishing his magazines under the name Bowens Publishing.

In the past few days Bowens has launched three new tablet magazine apps into the Apple Newsstand. What's Really Good! Magazine is a replica of his print magazine launched in 2008 that concerns mix tapes.
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The Fishbowl appears to be a start-up and is described as "A magazine providing care, love and encouragement for the pastor and his or her family through informative articles, education, and humor. Our vision is that all pastors and their families feel cared for, be strengthened, and be a little more equipped to live out their unique calling."

Beats Magazine, released last night, is also a replica of a print magazine. I don't know how long the magazine has been in existence, but the app has three issues to be found inside.

Bowens is not thinking really big here. The issues inside these apps sell for $0.99, and an annual subscription will cost you $10.99. The website for Beats Magazine brags that it offers "the lowest magazine ad rates anywhere." Full page ads can be had for as low as $240 a page, so he may be right.

Beats Magazine is described in the app description as "the magazine for Hip Hop / Rap Producers," and while I don't think Future PLC or Rolling Stone are shaking in their boots, the fact remains that the future of the tablet edition may be decided and shaped more by the independent publishers pursing the platform than by the big name publishers that get all the attention. I'm not sure these are good examples of the form, with layouts that are pretty amateurish in design, and apps that are merely replicas. But independents are showing that there is great enthusiasm for the space and a great desire to make it work.
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For the past couple of days the tech and web-first crowd has been doing a bit of crowing about the demise of The Daily, though it should be noted that even the most pro-tablet advocates never thought Murdoch's tablet venture had much of a chance. This has led to a bit of piling on, best exemplified by the post from M.G. Siegler.

While I may agree with many of the points Siegler is making in his TechCrunch column, I also think that most of the points made can be refuted by simply pointing at other examples of the art form. In the end the biggest problem I have with the column is the headline which he probably didn't write – Why Magazine Apps Suck - they don't, though some do.

But one point Siegler does makes hit on something important. He points to Marco Arment's new tablet magazine: "To put it simply: Arment, as a one-man shop, made a much better product than all of the multi-million dollar publishing houses could. And it’s directly related to point two."

But all the things Siegler likes about The Magazine can be found in lots of other independently produced tablet magazines, digital magazines that have been for a while now.

File sizes are, in fact, coming down (and not just for replicas like Beats. If tech writers think magazine apps suck they simply aren't trying hard enough to find the ones that don't.

The Wild West days of the Apple App Store return; developers take advantage of increasingly lax app reviews

Not every post has to be a serious one, does it? I mean, occasionally one runs across an app edition that has you scratching your head and wondering, what were they thinking?

The problem, though, is that many times many readers don't get the joke. I've written many a post that talked about replica apps produced by some of the less than credible vendors out there, pretty much laughing at the efforts and wondering what the publisher was thinking when they approved their app. But TNM readers usually never saw those posts, usually I delete them before they hit the sight, worrying that some won't get the message, or because I feel I might be repeating myself.
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A lot has changed in the almost three years since Steve Jobs stood on a stage in San Francisco and introduced the iPad. In the early days of the App Store there were controversies galore over the apparent censorship of the app review teams at Apple.

Probably the biggest one centered on the satirical app created by Pulitzer Prize winning cartoonist Mark Fiore. Apple rejected that app because it made fun of political figures – which, of course, is exactly what satire is about. In rejecting his app the Apple team wrote:
Thank you for submitting NewsToons to the App Store. We’ve reviewed NewsToons and determined that we cannot post this version of your iPhone application to the App Store because it contains content that ridicules public figures and is in violation of Section 3.3.14 from the iPhone Developer Program License Agreement...
Eventually Apple, having gotten a black eye for its own conduct, asked Fiore to resubmit his app, but that didn't stop media observers from beginning the cry of "walled garden" and other now clichéd criticism (much of which, I might add) we no longer hear.

This led to Apple's memorable revised developer guidelines published on the developer site in September of 2010:
We’re thrilled that you want to invest your talents and time to develop applications for iOS. It has been a rewarding experience – both professionally and financially – for tens of thousands of developers and we want to help you join this successful group. This is the first time we have published our App Store Review Guidelines. We hope they will help you steer clear of issues as you develop your app, so that it speeds through the approval process when you submit it...
  • We have lots of kids downloading lots of apps, and parental controls don’t work unless the parents set them up (many don’t). So know that we’re keeping an eye out for the kids.
  • We have over 250,000 apps in the App Store. We don’t need any more Fart apps. If your app doesn’t do something useful or provide some form of lasting entertainment, it may not be accepted.
  • If your App looks like it was cobbled together in a few days, or you’re trying to get your first practice App into the store to impress your friends, please brace yourself for rejection. We have lots of serious developers who don’t want their quality Apps to be surrounded by amateur hour...
Ah, the good old days. You can see by the app above that those days are long gone. Today the App Store, and the Newsstand, in particular, accepts just about any ol' app.

The above app is from Sergey Rudnev who has, in quick succession, launched three magazine apps into the Newsstand. None of the apps have any screenshots of the actual magazine pages, merely covers. Readers don't have clue what to expect.

The first was called Magazine "Baby and mother', I can find no evidence of a print equivalent or a supporting website. The next was Magazine "Shut up' which does have a website, though no contact information or other clues to its origin.

Finally today we get Magazine 'Pick up'. The app description has the great line "The magazine will have a wonderful time." Now that would be a great trick.

I don't know about you, but I doubt that if Steve Jobs were alive today that these apps would find their way into the Newsstand. No, I'm not one of those that looks for any sign that Apple is going down hill after the death of Jobs, but clearly the app review standards are not what they used to be.

I am not a prude, so I could care less if the App Store ended up a home for porn or other material. But I do think Apple has a vested interest in promoting developers that use native app development to launch digital magazines that contain interactivity and show off the platform. If the review team wants to let in 'Pick up' or other apps, so be it. But in the meantime the digital magazines and native apps from good developers are being crowded out. It is nearly impossible to find any new or original apps, and the App Store changes just instituted actually make it much, much hard to find them, too.

Apple needs to hire, as I've said many times in the past, industry liaisons who understand both what Apple is trying to accomplish and what their partners need and want. Not understand the world outside Apple is why the company struggles in areas such as iAds. It is a problem that can be easily solved if Apple makes the effort.

Morning Brief: UK Chancellor predicts more contraction of the UK economy for 2012; the FCC delays ruling on cross ownership rules; EU commission levies record fines on screen producers

The UK Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne gave his fall statement in the House of Commons, giving MPs the bad news that the UK economy is now predicted to contract in 2012. Yet onwards the British government will march, continuing its policies that have not yet gotten the country out of recession.

Current GDP projections are that the economy will contract 0.1 percent in 2012, but will grow 1.2 percent in 2013, 2 percent in 2014 and 2.3 percent in 2015. All these estimates are revisions down from previous projections, and not exactly reflecting a booming economy. But onward the government goes.

In the U.S., the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) said on Tuesday that it would take more comments on its new proposed cross-ownership rules, delaying a vote until at least January.



FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski is proposed easing rules that prevent the same media company from owning a television station in the same market when the media company owns a daily newspaper. The proposed changes would make it easier for a media firm to own multiple properties, so long as the televisions station is not in the top four stations in the market.

The new rules have drawn fire, however.

“These rules were put in place and have remained in place because they support diversity, competition, and localism in the public interest,” Senator Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) said in a letter criticizing the new proposals.



A EU commission today levied huge fines on cathode ray producers, accusing the first of forming a cartel. The fines of €1.47 billion, or almost $1.96 billion, will be levied against Philips, LG Electronics, Samsung SDI, Toshiba and Panasonic.

The firms are accused of fixing the price of cathode ray tubes used in televisions and computer screens, though the technology has pretty much been replaced by LED flat screens.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Pandora reports revenue growth of 60% over prior year, but forecast has investors heading for the exits

The Internet radio service Pandora reported Q3 earnings this afternoon, reporting that revenue great at a brisk pace. But it was its revenue forecast that is causing investors to dump the stock in after hours trading.

Pandora reported that total Q3 revenue grew more than 60 percent to $120.0 million in the quarter, while mobile revenue more than doubled to $73.9 million. Active listeners continued to grow and the company now claims 59.2 million.

The company reported net income of $2.052 million, or $0.01 per share. For the year the company has lost $23.591 million. The company says it still has a little over $80 million in cash on hand.

But the Q4 revenue forecast is between $120 million and $123 million, and that is not making investors happy. The stock, which closed today at $9.45 per share, is currently at $7.80, a drop of over 17 percent in after hours trading.

comScore U.S. mobile market share report shows reinforces bad news for weaker platforms

The newest comScore mobile market share report, released late last week, shows continued growth by the dominate platforms of Google's Android and Apple's iOS. But like ad page data, one sometimes sees things far too close up. A 5 percent change in a category, for instance, doesn't see like such a big deal unless one sees the historic data, as well.

The headline news from the report is that Apple has climbed over other cellphone makers to become the number two OEM in the U.S. with 17.8 percent of the market for the iPhone. To do this LG had to fall from 18.4 percent to 17.6 percent. Overall, however, there still appear to be room for more than just a couple of brands when it comes to hardware. Platforms are another story, however.
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While the latest report compares platform market share data from October 2012 against that of July 2012, I thought adding in information from 2011 would be more enlightening.

As you can see, the big moves occurred over the past year and this report is merely reinforcing the trends. As spring turned to summer last year Research In Motion (RIM) still had almost a quarter of the smartphone platform business. It was also still a Top Five OEM.

Today RIM's market share has fallen to 7.8 percent, and things are still not popping for Microsoft, though that may change if Windows 8 can catch hold.

The comScore report also tracks what owners of smartphones are doing with their devices. The answer is simply "more", using their smartphones for far more than simply making calls. While texting continues to be the number one activity, using the smartphone's browser has grown in popularity, from less than 40 percent of users in May of 2011 to 52.7 percent today. But all categories of usage, from apps and games to music and social networks and blogs are growing as owners see their devices less as a cell phone and more as a computing and communications device.

Haymarket Business Media and Dennis Publishing release new tablet editions that use the Pugpig framework

Keeping on the theme of the Brits, here are two new tablet editions released today. Each was built using the Pugpig app framework, and each is offering readers a chance to sample the new tablet editions free of charge for a limited time.

Campaign Magazine is published by Haymarket Business Media and is the weekly trade journal for the advertising industry in the U.K. Think of it as the AdAge of Britain, I suppose. Because of this the magazine has the challenge of either developing a tablet magazine format app, like AdWeek's tablet edition, or else go to an app that automates more of the process, similar to what Crain launched for Crain's Chicago Business (and one assumes they will launch for AdAge).
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The solution is to create an app that is more like a mobile app, with sections that bring in the articles using feeds. Some critics of this approach say that this is pretty much what a website does, and since search is a problem within apps, this doesn't really solve the problem.

But one could argue that this is true mostly for free publications and free websites. Once a paywall is introduced than the goal is to create the most attractive and easy to read tablet edition and to sell subscriptions – this app does both efficiently.

Campaign Magazine may be B2B, it it is a paid circulation magazine, so it does not deal with the issue facing many B2Bs media firms, how to bring their qualified circulation magazine to the Newsstand. Here a 3 month subscription is £44.99, while a 6 month subscription is £89.99, pretty much the same price as the print product.
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Auto Express comes from Dennis Publishing, and it, too, is a weekly publication. This consumer magazine is charging £17.49 for a 3 month subscription, £34.99 for a 6 month subscription, and £69.99 for an annual subscription.

The publishing team at Auto Express have opted for a more magazine-like look for their tablet edition. Even though the app can be read in landscape, its true design is portrait. The one issue available inside features several interactive ads, which is interesting if you think about it – the advertising trade magazine launched ad-less while the consumer magazine has interactive ads from Mazda, Jaguar and Remington.

Auto Express is definitely thinking advertising here: "Auto Express iPad edition is the perfect platform for advertisers wishing to create ground-breaking interactive campaigns, with unique adverts from Jaguar, Mazda and Remington Touch all booked prior to its release," said James Burnay, publishing director in the magazine's own post on the new app.

As mentioned above, both apps were created using the Pugpig app framework. What one notices is that for native apps they both are creating fairly modest sized issues: Campaign's current issue comes in around 108 MB, while Auto Express is only 83 MB in size. The Auto Express app has tons of video inside, but this is merely links to outside served content. The result is less than optimal in that there is quite a lag between touching the video player and it delivering the goods (as you will see in the walk-through video below).

The Auto Express tablet edition is also a bit of a challenge for my third generation iPad to handle. The navigation was stickily and lagged occasionally. I would assume the performance would be better on a newer tablet.

The British are coming (again): Mail Online hires two U.S. digital executives to run North America sales efforts

Here they come again, the British want a piece of the American media landscape. Mail Online, the UK website of the Daily Mail, has hired two veteran digital sales executives to lead North American sales, "signaling an emerging strategy to monetize its strong audience growth in North America," the company announcement proclaims.

Rich Sutton, who previously was the Global Head of Sales at CBS Interactive Music Group, will oversee advertising as Chief Revenue Officer. Sean O'Neal, who served as President of Vizu Corporation, the online ad research company, will head marketing as Global Chief Marketing Officer.

Rich Sutton and Sean O'Neal
Both executives will be based in New York and will report to Mail Online Publisher Martin Clarke.

Mail Online is attempting to monetize its current U.S. web traffic, rather than building a new U.S. website as The Guardian has done. "Mail Online traffic is growing by 5% a month, as well as enjoying huge mobile and video growth. I am excited to begin the journey of marketing its highly attractive audience to the advertising community and introducing the site to new consumers," said O'Neal in the press statement.

Series of Sun newspapers (Canada) eEditions appear in the Apple Newsstand, built by NewspaperDirect

This was a tough way to start my day, looking in the Apple Newsstand and seeing new apps for the Sun newspapers from Canada. These new tablet editions, or eEditions as they are called here, are like walking into a carnival tent and being presented by all the deformities humanity has to offer. These papers are the bearded ladies and Siamese twins of the newspaper business. Only here we get Sunshine girls and raving right-wing rants.

For unknown reasons a whole series of new apps appeared in the Newsstand today as new releases despite the fact that many of them have release dates that are a month old. The apps are Calgary Sun eEdition, Edmonton Sun eEdition, Ottawa Sun eEdition, Toronto Sun eEdition, and Winnipeg Sun eEdition. Two other apps for Journal de Montréal and Journal de Québec appeared earlier. Each of the apps are universal.

The app descriptions on these apps look like they were an afterthought with no real screenshots, and in some cases terrible typos (the app description of the Winnipeg Sun has the city missed spelled in one place.)

Like all of the new apps coming out of NewspaperDirect one could see these apps for the Sun tabloids as merely replica editions, But these apps have a button called SmartFlow that transforms the app into something that looks more like the NYT's iPad edition.
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Fans of the Murdoch press and Golden Dawn no doubt love these newspaper tabloids but I can read more than a page of two without my stomach turning. This is the face of the industry that few journalists like to talk about when discussing press regulations or the public's opinion of the industry.

The Toronto Sun, for instance, this morning blasts out the headline "Bullies!" for a series of stories attacking teacher's unions for having anti-Islamophobia seminars as in the view of the Sun, teaching hatred is itself a hateful thing. The next page blasts out "MAD WITH POWER" and claims that teacher's unions "want to wage war against the government at any cost."

No doubt I would be considered a "Lefty" by the editors of the Sun newspapers – a term seen frequently in the pages of these newspapers to describe just about anyone.

The Sun newspapers are part of the Quebecor media empire and apparently are not doing very well. Last month the company announced that 500 positions, approximately 10 percent of the workforce, would be laid off due to declining revenues.

"Although our circulation revenue has stabilized due to strategic pricing increases, the advertising sector continues to experience declines through the news and media industry," chief executive Pierre Karl Peladeau said at the time of the announcement.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Both USA Today and Starbucks (finally) get around to adding iPhone 5 support to their iPhone apps

Based on some of the reviews seen inside the Apple App Store, it looked like some iPhone 5 owners were taking the lack of support from both Gannett and Starbucks for their phones rather personally.
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Apple released the iPhone 5 back in September, but it took until today for both companies to get around to updating their apps. The Starbucks app has already been updated once to add in support for Apple's new Passbook feature, but for some reason iPhone 5 support (for the larger screen) was missing from the update. You'd think the company got caught not paying U.K. taxes the way some reviewers raked the company (actually, they did get caught not paying U.K. taxes, a situation the company now says will be changed).
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As for the USA TODAY for iPhone app, well I suppose there was no other reason to update the app until now. But after updating my own app what do I see when it is opened? John Boehner's mug. (He was rolling out the GOP's grand plan to raise the age when a citizen will qualify for Medicare. Thanks John, maybe you could propose term limits, while you're at it.)

The USA Today app, I must say, is very attractive. It's use of black as a background and gradations works very well.

As for the content, I have a bit of a beef with that story about how the public views the ethics of Congress. A recent Gallup Poll, the same folks that missed it big time at presidential election time, asked people's opinions of Congress and found that only 10 percent rated the honesty and ethical standards of the institution as "very high" or "high".

Buried further down in the story is the news that only 24 percent rated the ethics of journalists "very high" or "high". Maybe the headline should have read "Congress rates poorly on ethics; but don't believe us, we're journalists."

Two new tablet-only magazines, Book Marketing Mag and Symbolia Magazine, take very different approaches to designing for the new digital platform

The trickle of new self-published magazines from citizen publishers is quickly becoming a flood thanks to prospective publishers becoming more familiar with the platform and new vendors introducing solutions.

Taking a simplified approach, Sharon Williams has launched her own B2B tablet magazine called Book Marketing Mag.

The digital magazine can be found inside Apple's Newsstand and uses the increasingly popular MagCast platform. MagCast is a fairly inexpensive self-publishing app solution that requires publishers to become registered Apple developers. This is, of course, a good thing because that cost is low and the result is that the apps launched appear under the name of the publisher rather than the developer.
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For small publishers who may not be able to recoup the monthly fees through paid subscriptions or advertising, even a few hundred dollars could prove too much eventually, of course.

Book Marketing, in order to try and offset those costs, charges $3.99 per issue inside the app, or $2.99 per month for a subscription.

The MagCast platform can be used for replica editions, but some self-publishers are using it to create tablet-only magazines. Most I have seen at first blush look like replica editions, but because the designer has used the iPad display specifications rather than a print magazine the fonts end up being properly sized for easy reading in the digital edition.

The drawback of the system, however, is that it is still based on an image file so the pages are static except where some multimedia element is sometimes added. They are, in essence, digital flipbooks, but ones that are designed exclusively for the tablet.



Taking a very different approach is Symbolia Magazine. In the Newsstand the tablet magazine is sold under the Symbolia name. The editor and publisher of the digital magazine is Erin Polgreen, the creative director is Joyce Rice – both Chicago-based.

The digital magazine is quite different from Book Marketing in several ways.

First off, the magazine takes a different approach to thinking about tablet magazines, creating an illustrated news magazine rather than one based on text. In fact, the full name of the new digital magazine is Symbolia: The Tablet Magazine of Illustrated Journalism – a mouthful, but a good description of the end product.

Where the PDF based system creates a very small magazine file, the native app approach of Symbolia Magazine creates a modestly larger file – in this case 270 MB.
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Where the B2B magazine duplicates the print look, with the user reading the book in portrait, Symbolia is designed in landscape and feels at home on the iPad.

The publishers here, too, will try to recoup their investment by charging for a paid subscription – $11.99 annually for what is planned to be six issues a year.

But the second way this digital magazine differs is in marketing itself. The publishing team at Symbolia has taken a bit more professional approach to their new digital magazine, making sure there is a functioning website in support of the venture, and offering a way for readers to subscribe to a PDF version of the magazine in order to reach non-iPad owning readers.

Both digital magazines probably achieve the goals set out by their publishers, but since getting readers to find and download the new apps is so difficult the approach taken by the team at Symbolia has increased the chance of success and sustainability.

Publisher's Weekly has a much longer post here on this new app, including where the publishers got the funding ($34,000) to launch the tablet magazine (and also how they plan to pay contributors).

Here is a brief walk-through of Symbolia Magazine:

The obligatory obituary for The Daily

Anyone surprised by the new that Rupert Murdoch will be closing down The Daily, the company's experiment in tablet newspapers, has never launched a new publications. The odds are long, even when properly funded.

But now that the words is out, The Daily will be shuttered on December 15, its app already pulled from the App Store, it is time to rehash the reasons why this first big experiment did not pan out.

Too Big

Every start-up wishes they had the funding that The Daily had. Back in July, when the first rumors of The Daily's demise were first heard, estimates were that the digital newspaper was costing the company half a million dollars a week. That is an incredible commitment by News Corp.

But that number, $500,000, is also the biggest reason The Daily never had a chance. That level of funding is incredibly old school, what a media company would expect to spend on a print start-up, not a digital start-up to be read by tablet owners – which in early 2011 was a pretty damn small market. In fact, at the time of The Daily's launch, there were only seven or eight million iPads in circulation in the U.S. – did Rupert Murdoch know this at the time? At the time of The Daily's launch he spoke of 50 million Americans owning iPads, though exactly when was not specified.

Apple only revealed its U.S. iPad sales when forced to at trial. Up until recently the only sales number available for the first three quarters the iPad was available said that 15 million units had been sold - but that was the worldwide figure.

"Unfortunately," Murdoch admitted in the company's announcement today, "our experience was that we could not find a large enough audience quickly enough to convince us the business model was sustainable in the long-term."

The right approach, if it were to have succeeded long term, would have been to go small: a small, dedicated staff supplemented with the power of other News Corp. media outlets.

One reason the go-small approach wasn't taken was that if The Daily had the content input from the WSJ and other titles those publication's own tablet efforts might have been compromised. But having a large staff, estimated initially at 100 people, and a budget of $30 million, while a good thing from a production standpoint, doomed the digital paper from the start.

A Small Market Made Smaller

So if the iPad market was pretty small in early 2011 then the only way to succeed would have been to appeal to as wide an audience as possible. I'm sure that many years ago, when Rupert Murdoch first started in the business in Australia, this principal was ingrained in his thinking and shaped the products he created.
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Hired to run The Daily were staff from the NY Post, a widely read, but unprofitable tabloid. Estimated to lose $70 million a year, the Post is not the poster child for modern profitable newspapering.

News Corp. newspapers may be said to appeal to a "wide" audience, with their dumbing down of the news, their sensationalism, and their extreme right-wing slant on events, but it is not a broad market approach as evidenced that the company is splitting off its newspapers to protect the profits generated by its film and broadcast properties.

By bringing that approach to digital newspaper, The Daily was already carving out a niche in a market too small to be niched. One day this might work, but certainly not in 2011 and 2012.

Remember, we are talking about digital-only newspapering – not multi-platform products. The Daily could only reach a total market the size of NYC. To get the high number of subscribers needed it would have to appeal to a very high percentage of them.

I cancelled my own subscription to The Daily early on, outraged by its editorial content and partisan politics. One wondered immediately if the purpose of the tablet-only newspaper was simply to extend the reach of the Murdoch press into the digital arena created by the iPad, not to find a profitable way to produce a tablet newspaper. Is it a coincidence that The Daily is being shuttered right after the 2012 Presidential election? Probably, after all the move is certainly tied to the split of News Corp, no new company would want to be saddled with such a money loser – but the same could be said of other News Corp. newspaper titles, as well.

Production

Many newspapers, such as The New York Times, chose to go in a completely different route when creating its first tablet editions. Instead of creating a natively designed tablet publication with custom layouts, many papers went with apps that brought in the RSS feeds of the paper's website. The other option was the replica edition.

The rationale behind those decisions is simply that the production process is automated. RSS feeds populate preexisting layouts, or replicas take PDFs of preexisting print pages and creates a new tablet edition.

The Daily did it the hard way, creating a portrait tablet magazine-like publications, close in look to newspaper tabloids. The Daily was attractive (at least initially) and custom built. This required staff, of course.

Many weekly magazines have been slow to move to tablets for precisely this reason – production. No surprise, then, that Crain Communication would want to create an app that automates the process rather than try and reformat their weekly trade newspapers into a native tablet design.

Advertising

Well, there wasn't much advertising going on in tablet editions back in February 2011, and sadly, not much has changed. The ad agency community has gotten on the digital bandwagon, but that has not translated to tablet editions. Most ads appearing in tablet editions remain digital copies of the print ad, not brand new copy specifically designed for the tablet experience.

This will change, that much I am sure of. But it will take time. The ad game is a young person's business, and young people are going digital. But tablets skew upscale, which is why iPad owners are not simply an under 30 crowd. Eventually this will work itself out, but in the meantime tablet publishing is not a new gold rush.

The News is Changing

Some argue that the way consumers get their news means that publications that mimic the print experience, as The Daily did, are out of step with readers.

I'm sure I agree with this, but I certainly can not say it is 100 percent wrong either. Certainly a digital newspaper, produced by print veterans seems like a recipe for disaster. But it is not the case that The Daily did not have bright digital as some personnel came from digital properties.

But the approach was certainly taken from the existing Murdoch press – whether that approach is valid has not been proven.

Too Early

In the end, Rupert Murdoch spent $30 million+ on The Daily, good for him, nice try.

But the experiment was like putting down $100 at an arcade where the prize if you topple all the bottles is a $2 stuffed animal. The investment never could match the possible return – at least not yet anyways.

News Corp. announces Robert Thomson will be the CEO of new. independent publishing company following split; The Daily will be shuttered on December 15

News Corp. this morning announced that Robert Thomson, the managing editor of The Wall Street Journal, will become the CEO of the new publishing company to be created through the split of News Corp. into two independent companies on January 1, 2013.

This announcement follows hard on the heels of the news that Tom Mockridge, CEO of News International, Rupert Murdoch's head of newspapers in the U.K., had resigned suddenly.

"This is an incredibly exciting time, for me personally, and for our companies' ambitious futures," said Rupert Murdoch in the company's announcement. "The challenges we face in the publishing and media industries are great, but the opportunities are greater."

Thomson has served as Editor-in-Chief of Dow Jones and Managing Editor of The Wall Street Journal since 2008. Bedi Ajay Singh, who most recently served as President, Finance and Administration & CFO for MGM Studios, will assume the role of Chief Financial Officer for the new publishing company. Gerard Baker, currently the Deputy Editor-in-Chief of the WSJ, will take over the title of Editor-in-Chief of Dow Jones and Managing Editor of the WSJ.



As part of the major announcement concerning the split of News Corp. the company announced the end of their tablet newspaper experiment, The Daily.
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"As part of a digital restructuring initiative, the company will cease standalone publication of The Daily iPad app on December 15, 2012, though the brand will live on in other channels. Technology and other assets from The Daily, including some staff, will be folded into The Post," the statement announced.

News Corp. launched The Daily on February 2, 2011 as the world's first tablet-only daily newspaper. The launch was much hyped and was generously funded.

"I'm convinced that in the tablet era there is room for a fresh voice," Murdoch said. "New times demand new journalism. Simply put, the iPad demands that we completely reinterpret our craft," Murdoch told the press gathered for the event in 2011.

Apple's Eddie Cue attended the launch event, filling in for Steve Jobs who had recently gone on medical leave.

Morning Brief: Cygnus Business Media releases series of updates to tablet editions; Murdoch's UK newspaper chief resigns suddenly; suburban Chicago newspaper reports on the success of digital magazines in area libraries

The B2B media firm Cygnus Business Media has released updates for its tablet editions inside the Apple App Store. The updates are all associated with changes within the Adobe Digital Suite.

Cygnus has 15 iPad apps in the App Store, all of which are stand-alone apps rather than utilizing the Newsstand. Several apps are for events, but the magazines have been updated in the past week, including one released this morning.

The apps are Firehouse Magazine, Law Enforcement Product News, Law Enforcement Technology, Security Technology, Security Dealer & Integrator, EMS World, Sustainable Construction, Aircraft Maintenance, and VehicleServicePro Tool Chest.

In most cases Cygnus has created native tablet editions to be read in landscape, though at least one of the apps is a replica edition.

The four apps for events, Firehouse World 2012, Officer World Expo 2012, Firehouse Expo 2012 and EMS World Expo 2012, are all universal apps created with Core-Apps, probably the leading developer of apps for events.



Tom Mockridge, CEO of News International, Rupert Murdoch's head of newspapers in the U.K., has resigned suddenly after only 18 months in the job.
"His decision to step down is absolutely and entirely his own," a News Corp. statement pronounced.

News Corp. is spinning off its newspaper division next year and faces the prospect of having its papers report on the trials of several of its own executives involved in the News of the World phone hacking scandal.

According to the Financial Times, Mockridge, a native New Zealander, sent out an email to staff stating that "the new structure does not offer me a role I am comfortable with and, after 22 years with the company in five countries, I feel I have made enough of a contribution to make a personal choice to go."



The Daily Herald, a suburban Chicago daily newspaper, this weekend reported on the success of the Vernon Area Public Library’s digital magazine service. The service began two weeks ago and already more than 100 patrons have signed for the service.

The news report walks through the process for their readers, one very familiar to TNM readers I'm sure:
The library subscribes to a digital service called Zinio to share magazines with customers. After downloading free software, people simply need to use their library cards to check out magazines they want to read.

Available titles at Vernon Area include Consumer Reports, Rolling Stone, Men’s Health and Seventeen. Most are for adults, but a few magazines for younger readers are available, Savage said.

“There are just a ton of titles,” Savage said.
The Daily Herald report, written by Russell Lissau, states that the Zinio service cost the Vernon Hills library district less than $5,000 to establish and that several other area libraries are also using the system.