Friday, December 14, 2012

A multi-platform approach to digital publishing always made sense; but thanks to the redesigned app stores, it is now absolutely essential

When it was announced that The Daily would fold a lot of poorly thought out  commentaries hit the web that tried to explain why the tablet-only newspaper failed. One of the theories was that tablet-only publications simply can not succeed.

Since I've never been an advocate of anything-only publishing, the idea that a publication would only reside inside a tablet app never had much appeal to me. But the changes to the Apple App Store, and the way both Google Play and work, makes me even more sure that to succeed on a tablet one better try and succeed online, as well.

The accountants are taking over

But before we move on to tablet strategy and online publishing, let me make a comment on what may be happening in the big app stores.

Have you gone to Target or another big retailer and wondered why there are 100 boxes of the same brand of toothpaste on the shelf when it would make sense to you if the retailer put half that number of the same product on the shelf and left the rest of the space for something else? Well, if so, you're not thinking like a retailer.

For big retailers, limiting the number of products reduces costs. But the real key is that the retailer knows, through their own research, that if they put 100 of the same brand's product on the shelf they will do sell more in that category than if they had far less of that brand and had more space dedicated to other brands.
There are limits to how much of this you can get away with. But you can see the thinking behind Apple getting rid of space dedicated to new apps, and handing that space over to big brands like People Magazine or Time. Apple knows it will sell more People subscriptions over time than that start-up tablet-only magazine. (But really, couldn't Apple at least put a button on the page that links to "All" apps in a category?)

But we are now in a world where the big tech companies have become like the big retailers, letting the number crunchers rule the roost. The result is that it is becoming harder and harder for new products to get noticed. Rather than redesigning their stores to make it easier to find something, they've made it hard – on purpose.

That means it will be harder for tablet magazine like Project Magazine (the app icon seen at the top of this story) to be found in the App Store in the future.

But it also means that those tablet magazine start-ups that are supported by a robust website - like TNW's tablet edition – will have a big advantage.

The problem, as any print circulation manager can tell you, is that browsing titles has been eliminated or greatly reduced in the app stores.

On a physical newsstand there are two battles to be fought. The first is getting on the newsstand to begin with, this is the hard part. Later, there is the fight to get positioned better on that newsstand. The first part means you can have some sales (since not being on the newsstand precludes any single copy sales). But better positioning will greatly increase those single copy sales.

Now, start-ups will have to depend exclusively on their own marketing of their tablet editions until they can get the attention of Apple or Google – then they can get a little space on the shelf of the app store. Until then their apps are in the storage room hoping someone searches for it.

Apple App Store design changes may result in new publication app launches coming to a screeching halt

Apple just can't seem to stop shooting itself in the foot, and maybe this time the wound will be fatal. Over the past few days, maybe weeks, Apple has slowly been rolling out a redesign of the App Store that eliminates the area where a consumer would find "All" the apps in that category, sorted by release date. Instead, the consumer would continue to find the "New and Noteworthy" area, which has never been where the newest apps could be found, but is simply an area where Apple features apps it likes and that are somewhat new.

Category by category the "All" area was eliminated. By yesterday it still existed in Newsstand, but this morning it was gone from Newsstand, as well.

At first I thought this was simply a design mistake, surely Apple isn't telling developers of new apps to take a hike, are they? But with the elimination of the "All" area of Newsstand it looks like this was a strategic decision – Apple will tell its customers what is available, and new apps will have to be marketed aggressively outside the App Store so that they eventually gain the attention of Apple so that they are included in their featured areas.
I've been working on this issue all week, simply too disbelieving that Apple would be so stupid. The iOS platform has succeeded because of developer support, how could it continue to dominate without the developer community? I think we'll soon find out.

So how did I find these two recently released apps for Filmmaker Magazine and Direct Selling Insider, two new Newsstand apps released in the last 48 hours? I went into the Canadian App Store, where the changes have not yet been rolled out.

For someone like me, who writes about the newest tablet editions and mobile apps, this is a major inconvenience, but one I can probably find work-arounds for. There are RSS feeds for new apps, and monitoring services.

But for someone thinking of launching a new tablet edition, for all the vendors out there trying to sell their services to both commercial publishers and would-be publishers, this is Armageddon. If the App Store is essentially shutting itself off to new apps and new developers, at least those without the financial muscle to market their apps, there is no market for new digital magazine inside the Apple ecosystem.

"When I noticed the change I found it pretty aggravating," a person who works at a digital publishing company told me this morning. "I used to use the app store for prospecting to find new customers, if you see a new app then maybe they are looking for a new platform, something that will work before for them."
This is a problem that also exists with Android with Google Play, but it hasn't come to the forefront because Android tablets have not yet reached any level of market penetration that would make this an issue.

But the Kindle Fire is growing in popularity so at Amazon this is far more important. Amazon's online store is more friendly to finding new apps and new magazines than Google Play (and now the Apple App Store), but only somewhat. There is a sort mechanism labelled "New and Popular" but this is pretty worthless for finding the newest entries – after all, something released just recently simply can't be "popular" and "new" at the same time. Because of this the first magazine app listed is People, which was released over a month ago.

But there is a way to pull up the apps released in the past 30 days, this is somewhat helpful for finding newish apps, but it is a crap shoot.

The problem with developing for Amazon products, however, is that their developer program is not good, and they are becoming very restrictive in what they are accepting into the store.

If Apple insists on its new policy I can not think of a single policy decision that would influence a developer's thinking about how to launch a new digital magazine. Prior to today a media app developer knew that their app would be hard to find, but at least for a few days, maybe a week, their app would show up under New. Now that one place where all apps are created equal has been eliminated from the U.S. App Store.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Southwest Airlines updates its iPhone app but skips on Passbook integration

Southwest Airlines this afternoon issued an update to its iOS mobile app that features quite a number of new features or tweaks. But it is what is missing that some early reviews inside the App Store are noticing: the update does not include integration of Passbook.
In some ways this may become the norm, as many companies are beginning to wonder if Apple is serious about Passbook, or like the Apple TV, this kind of function is just a hobby, something launched because people expected Apple to come up with something if it wasn't going to include NFC.

In the past, Apple would generally launch its own app that would showcase a new function, but that is a little hard with Passbook.

Nonetheless, it is still strange to see an airline pass on Passbook, it was one of the most obvious uses for Passbook. The other is movie tickets, but as I've seen in my own use, a lot of movie theaters have not yet adopted scannable tickets at all, so Passbook is just one more scannable solution they have not invested in. Even Starbucks, another obvious example of a use for Passbook, did not adopt Passbook until a short while ago – but then again, they just recently updated their app to add support for iPhone 5, as well. Not everyone, it seems, jumps whenever Apple does an iOS update!

Back to the subject of the post: the updated Southwest Airlines iPhone app does come with quite a number of changes. Here is what the app description has to say:
What's New in Version 1.11

Rapid Rewards Customers can now log into their accounts to book flights using points, make Companion Pass bookings, access saved trips & much more. See complete list of new enhancements included in this release below:

1.Book & modify flights using Rapid Rewards points
2.Modify search during air booking process
3.View & book flights using saved trips
4.Book flights using promo certificates
5.Make Companion Pass bookings & add Companion Pass passengers to existing bookings
6.View all eligible Rapid Rewards promotions

Within the Upcoming Trips section of the Rapid Rewards account, you can now also do the following:

•Save frequent trips
•Check flight status & set up notifications
•Add a car
•Add Companion Pass passengers to bookings
•View existing car & hotel reservations
•Change & cancel existing air reservations
•Add EarlyBird Check-In to existing air reservations

'Played in Britain: Modern Theatre in 100 Plays' brings theatre lovers six decades of British theatre history

The theatre, the theatre, what's happened to the theatre? (Hey, it's Christmas season so why not start a post with a quote from White Christmas?)

Well, if you want to know what's happened to the theatre* in the U.K. you now have a brilliant new app thanks to The Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A). Played in Britain: Modern Theatre in 100 Plays is one of those tablet apps that makes you wonder exactly what those tech writers are talking about when they dismiss tablet publishing. Are they downloading apps like this one? Probably not.

Built using the Mag+ digital publishing platform, this iPad app presents six decades of British theatre history – from 1945 to 2010 – and is filled with a ton of photography, audio and video content. The free app lets you sample the material, but a theatre lover will want to download the complete app, which when loaded on your iPad will take up a bit over 800 MB of spacer. The cost is $11.99 and is an in-app purchase. That price might seem steep by app standards, but have you gone to the theatre lately?
The app is introduced by Simon Callow – American audiences will recognize him immediately from the films Four Weddings and a Funeral and Shakespeare in Love, though he has long and distinguished career in the theatre having been appointed a 'Commander of the Order of the British Empire' for his services to acting in 1999.

"The app gives the V&A an opportunity not only to expand our audience, but to bring together our vast collections of photographic stills, audio-visual material and production photographs. All this is viewable in extraordinary detail, and in just a few simple swipes," said Malcolm Sutherland, responsible for digital projects and apps at the V&A.

The press announcement for the app from Mag+ gives an idea of what you will find inside:
  • over 600 images, including the work of acclaimed theatre photographer Douglas H Jeffery
  • embedded videos
  • audio clips and narration by the plays’ original cast members and other actors
  • click-through web browsing critic interviews
  • unique essays written by V&A experts
  • original first night reviews from the Guardian and Telegraph newspapers
  • original cast lists and interviews with cast members
  • long-form pages dedicated to each play
"We want to encourage more heritage organizations to capture new opportunities and new audiences through digital publishing," said Gregg Hano, CEO of Mag+. "The V&A has discovered that experimenting with Mag+ to create iPad apps not only produce beautiful results to be proud of, but gives more freedom, without the burden of costly resources."

The app is to be found in the Education category, but it would feel comfortable in Books (and Entertainment, too, I would think).

* For the sake of consistency, I chosen the British spelling of theatre. I thought about spelling it both ways randomly in this post just to mess with TNM readers, but then thought better of it.

This walk-through video is a bit different. Because so much material is contained this app, a description of what you will find seemed insufficient, and a standard two minute video would not do, either.

So, instead, what you'll see here is the promotional video from Mag+ that quickly tours the app, followed by a closer look at just a small – tiny, really – portion of the app.

Played in Britain is one of those app, like Above & Beyond: George Steinmetz or The History of Jazz, which showcases what the tablet platform can do.

For those looking into the Mag+ platform for use themselves, this is an app that will make an art director's jaw drop and ask "you can do that?"

Amazon announces new APIs and resources for its own mobile app developer program

On the same day that the new Google Maps app appeared in the App Store, and that Google announced access to its SDK for geolocation developers, Amazon has announced new APIs for its own mobile app developer program. Coincidence?

Amazon spelled out for major APIs and resources for mobile app development:

A/B Testing Service
Make changes in real time, view results, and iterate without releasing new versions of your APK. This free service is easy to implement, and scalable since it's built on Amazon Web Services.

Amazon Device Messaging API
Send push notifications from the cloud to Kindle Fire tablets running your app, keeping your users up to date and involved. Amazon Device Messaging API is currently in beta. To request access, click here.

Amazon Maps API
Now available to all developers, the Maps API gives you access to interactive maps and custom overlays in your mobile apps on Kindle Fire tablets.

Unity Plug-ins for GameCircle and In-App Purchasing APIs
If you build your games with Unity, use these plug-ins to rapidly add both In-App Purchasing for virtual goods and GameCircle for leaderboards, achievements, and Whispersync for Games.
Amazon also announced that mobile apps can now be purchased from Amazon in Japan, and that crash reports are now available in the Reporting section of the Mobile App Distribution Portal.

But what caught my attention was that Amazon has put up some tips for developers when developing for their 8.9" Kindle Fire. If you've been developing for the iPad a developer would consider the tips, found here, rather obvious. But many developers continue to consider Android merely a mobile OS and are not developing interesting native apps for Android tablets. This might be Amazon's response.

If you question my assertion that Android tablet development continues to lag, just search for magazines that Google has labeled as "Interactive" in Google Play. My last search came up with 16 titles. 16.

iPhone owner rejoice at the return of Google Maps, then discover the lack of contacts integration

It's always something, isn't it? First we get the new Apple Maps and discover bridges melting, cities moved into the outback, and one's favorite retails stores now missing in action. We cry out for a return of Google Maps. Google complies, but then gives us a crippled version of the app missing a key ingredient – contacts integration.

There is no reason to do a detailed report on the app as I've already found a site that did a good job of that (go here).
Suffice to say that Google Maps are superior in every one but one: integration with iOS, and contacts in particular.

I'm not really sure why Google Maps lacks contacts integration, is it Apple's fault, or Google? But it means that a good portion of the time you will remain inside Apple Maps, where you like it or not.

But if you want turn-by-turn directions to a new destination you will probably turn to Google Maps, both because of the superior mapping solution and data, and because you don't want to use Apple's solution for fear of driving off into the desert.

Just to show you how much iPhone users have been clamoring for the return of Google Maps, there are already over 10,000 reviews of the new app in the App Store. Most of the reviews are five-star reviews, with one a smaller portion complaining about the features Google added to the app. In addition to a lack of contacts integration, there is also no iPad version (though you can install the iPhone app onto your iPad, if you want) and there is no drop pin.

But I think this one-star review makes a very good point:

"Only one star... because you only wait till Apple to kick you off the iPhone and now you bring out the turn by turn integration." He makes a good point.

Google has also opened up its SDK so that developers for iOS can use the Google data for their apps. This may prove to be even more important than the return of a Google Maps app, as it is the geolocation data which is so valuable (as Apple learned).

Lambrakis Press releases a single tablet edition for ΜΟΥΣΑ (Mousa), the Greek edition of Marie Claire

One of the best parts of my trip to Greece this summer was the opportunity to meet talented Greek digital media people. One of those talented journalists, Konstantinos Antonopoulos, now works for Lambrakis Press, the publisher of the newspapers To Vima and Ta Nea, as well as numerous consumer magazines.

This morning the company's new tablet edition for the Greek edition of Marie Claire has made it through the Apple app review process and hit the App Store.

ΜΟΥΣΑ (Mousa) – Greek App Store link, here is the US App Store link – is a stand-alone app that used the Adobe Digital Publishing Suite, Single Edition platform. The Single Edition solution is an inexpensive way ($395) to get a single issue app into the App Store – once you've made the major investment in the Adobe DPS, of course – and it allows developers an opportunity to work with the platform prior to possibly launching an app that features Newsstand support (Mousa is placed inside the Lifestyle category).
This is the third app for the iPad from Lambrakis to hit the App Store and is certainly the best to date (though this app, Σίφνος, looks interesting, as well).

The team behind the app is Galateia Laskaraki, the Editor-in-Chief, Stelios Sofianos, the project leader is the Editorial Director for Digital Media, Nikos Gkouraros, Director of Strategy, Operations and Business Development, Lambrakis Press Digital Media / President of the Online Publishers Association of Europe. The magazine is designed by Leonidas Tsitopoulos, Konstantinos describes himself as "a humble producer."

I would love this app even if I didn't know any of the players behind it. The single edition uses landscape to create native tablet page layouts, and the app has multimedia elements that add to the tablet magazine experience without distracting from it.

The app description, when very roughly translated, says this about the app:
For the first time in Greece, a Lifestyle app serves as a new platform for expression and experimentation for people who want the magazine to create vivid images and interactive fashion using exciting technology.
As the first tablet edition for Mousa (Muse in English), the choice to go with a Single Edition is probably a good one, and a great way to experiment and see what the reader reaction is. When I was in Greece I saw few iPads, and those that I saw were in the hands of tourists.

Apple does not have any retail stores in Greece, though the iPad is available through retailers. Exactly how many iPads are in circulation in Greece is a tough question to answer, but there is a Greek App Store, of course. If I had to guess, I would estimate around 60,000 iPads in Greece based on 2011 numbers I've seen for tablet sales, but I would no confidence in that number.
The app weighs in at 299 MB as the single edition must be self-contained. The download is quick, and because it is a single edition there is no library page obviously. So once the app is opened on is presented with the opening video cover.

The publisher decided to go with a single sponsor for the app, Cartier. I like this choice as I'm not sure it would have made sense to try and get new artwork for all the print advertisers, besides, the app edition is designed to be read in landscape.

If Lambrakis decides to create a Newsstand version of Mousa the team will once again have to decide what platform to use to create it, and whether to continue to go with landscape as the orientation. My guess is that they would want to move to portrait so that advertisers could move their ads into the tablet edition. But their choices here work and the app edition is an excellent first effort.

A quick look this morning inside the Greek App Store shows ΜΟΥΣΑ already listed as the #4 app in the Lifestyle category (free apps). ZARA for iPad comes in at #2, with US brands eBay and Amazon taking the first two spots.

As for Newsstand, that is also dominated by English language publications such as National Geographic, the NYT, The Economist and Good Food Magazine.

Clearly there is a lot of room for Greek language publications should publishers wish develop for tablets. Both the economy and the lack of Apple retail stores is a weight slowing growth in the Greek market, but I suppose one could argue that this also buys publishers a bit of time, as well.

Here is a brief walk-through the beginning of the Single Edition of ΜΟΥΣΑ. Any stuttering in navigation is the fault of the video, not the app itself. I found the app to be quite responsible and quick and easy to navigate.

Media app updates deal with bringing the tablet magazine experience to the iPhone in optimized mobile versions: BJPhoto, Food Network On the Road, Maclean's

It looks like this is going to be a very busy day for looking at new tablet editions – and updates to existing apps, as well.

Three media app updates were released last night that all involve iPad apps that have migrated to the iPhone. BJPhoto: iPhone Edition is the iPhone version of the iPad magazine, created using the Mag+ platform. The iPhone version was released in July as one of the first magazine apps that is using the platform to create an edition designed specifically for the iPhone (and iPod touch, of course).

The app has some bugs so this update is designed to solve some of those issues. The update also locks the orientation to portrait for handheld reading.
Food Network On the Road (Official) was released back in August as an iPad app (at least that is what I remember). This update brings the app up to version 1.1 and is now universal.

The update also fixes bugs associated with iOS 6. To repeat something I've written in the past, iOS 6 seems to have created havoc with a lot of apps. So many apps have had to be updated due to bugs associated with the latest version of iOS that one has to conclude that iOS 6 is the least stable and reliable version of the mobile operating system Apple has released.
The update for Food Network On the Road, not to be confused with the Hearst magazine for the Food Network, also beings support for the iPhone 5, as you can see here.

The once iPad-only app for Maclean's Magazine has been updated today to make the app universal.

Maclean's is one of Canada's most popular and famous news magazines, and the app offers readers new to the app or the magazine a one month free trial – so it is worth checking out.

The update is extensive, and proudly points out that the iPhone version of the magazine is not just a reduced down rendition of the tablet edition but has "been re-formatted to display on the iPhone screen."

The update goes all the way in supporting the iPhone as the app has been optimized for the iPhone 5 – as all these apps updated have.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Aquafadas issues update to viewer app, myKiosk for iOS

Since so many TNM readers are either active media app developers or potential ones, I like to keep everyone informed whenever an update to a platform, or like in this case, an update to a viewer app has been released.

Aquafadas, which recently was purchased by Toronto-based Kobo, has today updated its viewer app myKiosk for iOS. I'm sure the digital publishing platform company is sending out emails to its developers, but at least you've heard about it here, right?
The new version of myKiosk, which is version 2.4, supports version 2.5 of the Aquafadas InDesign plugin – yes, that confused me for a second, as well.

The viewer app here is used to read .zave files, which are the AVE format used by Aquafadas – each platform uses its own file format specific to its app and file solution. With myKiosk a developer can read AVE 3.0 documents by sending the files over WiFi to the app, or uploading the .zave file using the myKiosk web server.

At the core of the system, of course, is the plug-in. Aquafadas offers plug-ins for both QuarkXPress, as well as Adobe InDesign.

Here is what Aquafadas lists as the changes in the latest update of the app:
- better support for the enrichments in AvePDF mode
- new rendering of notes and bookmarks
- better support for scrollable layouts
- many improvements and bug fixes in various parts of the AVE Reader.

UCLA Anderson's alumni magazine gets a re-imagined new tablet edition, developed by Joe Zeff Design

Here is a new digital magazine that I think a lot of publishers still working through their tablet strategy should download, install and read: UCLA Anderson Assets Magazine. The magazine comes from the UCLA Anderson School of Management and is a rethinking of the print magazine in a clean, logical, entertaining and easy to read new format.

The app was originally released in mid-November and was updated to add optimized artwork on November 21.

Opening the magazine and beginning to read the first issue inside one won't be surprised to learn that the digital magazine was developed by Joe Zeff Design, the studio behind many great tablet apps including the recently released KIDS DISCOVER (which you can learn more about here).

The creative director for this digital re-imagining of the print magazine is Charlie Hess. Hess says on his own website that the four things that go into a great digital magazine are "Get a great client!"; get the client to start their digital magazine from scratch, as opposed to simply reproducing the print edition; get the client to hire a great app developer, in this case Joe Zeff Design; and "(f)orget half of what you knew about magazine design, and seriously question the other half."
All that is great advice, though I think it helps to not have to worry about the P&L, as well.

The reason I say this is that no matter how much the folks at Joe Zeff Design would love to talk on your project, simple economics say that bringing in an outside app developer is not always financially feasible. But the team that created this outstanding digital edition have given publishers, art directors and editors plenty of guideposts to creating a digital magazine.

First, the app may not replicate the print page layouts, but neither do they forget good magazine design either. The pages are logically laid out, with readable fonts and text columns. The animation is plentiful here, but does not overwhelm the reading experience.

The app edition also has plenty of video, all of which is well done. But if the read skipped the videos the experience is not demonstrably lessened.

UCLA Anderson Assets Magazine is a free download, so I would encourage TNM readers to install this app.

Here is a walk-through of the beginning of the digital magazine. There is a lot more good work to be found beyond what you see here, however:

Google Chairman makes no apologies for hiding profits from the tax man, says company will continue to give away Android to attract ads; Bufffett's newspaper chief, meanwhile, says the company will give away nothing

I'm sure this quote will come back to bite Google in the rear at some time: “We are proudly capitalistic. I’m not confused about this,” said Google Chairman Eric Schmidt of the companies admission that it avoided paying $2 billion in taxes to governments by moving $9.8 billion into a Bermuda shell company.

"We pay lots of taxes; we pay them in the legally prescribed ways,” Schmidt told Bloomberg. “I am very proud of the structure that we set up. We did it based on the incentives that the governments offered us to operate."

He may be proud, but governments, forced to enforce austerity measures because pro-business politicians continue to push lower taxes for businesses and high income earners, are now looking around for added income and finding U.S. companies may be the best target. As the Bloomberg report states, European countries in particular are getting a tad aggressive in investigating the tax avoidance behavior of major U.S. corporations such as Google and Starbucks.

In another Bloomberg report this morning, the financial news outlet talked to Terry Kroeger, the CEO & President at Omaha World-Herald Company, and the man tasked by Warren Buffett to run his new newspaper chain.

"You can’t spend millions of dollars assembling something and then give it away," Kroeger said in justifying his company's paywall strategy.

And it all makes sense – that is, unless you read that first Google story. Because in the Google story, Eric Schmidt makes no apologies for giving away Android in order to attract users and then sell advertising.
"The core strategy is to make a bigger pie," Schmidt said.

So what is the right course? Give away one product, news or search, in order to attract users so that you can sell advertising? Or is it to charge for news to get revenue from readers?

As a newspaper veteran, with both advertising and circulation management experience, I can't help but think that Google's approach is closest that used by newspapers in the past – basically give away the paper to attract advertising. But the trick, you see, is selling that advertising. Unless you know how to sell ads online you can't make it work, and newspapers are no longer run by ad executives.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Bonnier signs up with Flingo to bring its magazine content to smart TVs; new start-ups work with TV set makers to bring 3rd party content to displays before Apple can expand its own TV solutions

The U.S. division of the Bonnier Group today announced that it will entering into a partnership with Flingo, the well-funded smart TV app start-up. Flingo's CEO is Ashwin Navin, the executive behind BitTorrent.

Ashwin Navin
Bonnier hopes to bring content from its 45 publications such as Popular Science, Parenting and Field & Stream to the family room via smart TV apps found inside the sets from LG, Samsung, Vizio, Sanyo and Insignia, as well as TiVo.

"Our TV apps with Flingo provides a new, more engaging way for people to take advantage of our great content," Bonnier's Chief Brand Development Officer Sean Holzman said in the company's announcement. "Watching content on a big screen in HD is an amazing new way for our readers to absorb the videos they love. A TransWorld SNOWboarding subscriber can not only enjoy a competition up close, they can share their thoughts and reactions with others in real-time – all from their own living room."

"Smart TVs open up a market of millions of people who are looking for high quality content at their fingertips. We look forward to a long and successful partnership with Bonnier," said Ashwin Navin, CEO and co-founder of Flingo.

Flingo has received several big infusions of capital this year. Back in February, Flingo announced a $7 million Series A round investment from August Capital, while in May the company announced a further $8 million in investment from a group that included Mark Cuban and Gary Lauder.

The theme of publishers accessing the family room television has been a small, but consistent topic here at TNM. Sadly, I have not until now created a category for such stories, but there have been a number of posts about the efforts of such media titles as the WSJ and their efforts at live video.

The elephant in the room, for a couple of years now, has been Apple. It has its own TV product, of course — the Apple TV – but the anticipation has been that the company would come up with something else (or at least transform its current Apple TV into something bigger).

The problem with television is that everyone entering the business wants to be the gatekeeper, the ones that come between the content and the viewer. Right now, that intermediary is the cable and satellite companies. With the Apple TV, Apple is simply another provider, one that can grant you access to the audience, or shut you out.
Smart TV apps work the same way in that each TV set maker offers a set number of app offerings. No one has opened up the TV yet in any meaningful way. Until that happens a publisher has only a few options. They can hope that the reader will stream their content, via AirPlay, for instance. Alternatively, one can take the course of the WSJ and attempt to create their own channels that will appear in these alternative distribution channels created through either the Apple TV or smart TVs.

I'm not really sure what Flingo is offering for Bonnier here. The company is working on both smart TV apps, as well as software that allows viewers more content and social interaction with standard television programming (as seen in the picture above-left).

The television model has proved to be a tough nut to crack, but company's like Flingo, let alone Apple and Google, are bound to shake things up. Smart publishers should be aware that their efforts in the way of video for tablet editions, could come in handy when the screen changes from a tablet to a HDTV.

First look: Eco traveller, a new digital travel magazine start-up from Focus Media Communications Ltd.

Several new tablet editions grabbed my attention this morning but I couldn't get myself to write about them, for one reason or another. CEPro, from EH Publishing, would be a natural tablet edition for me to look at as it is B2B – but the app is a replica edition, produced by Superior Media Solutions, so it offers nothing new for publishers already familiar with this approach to the tablet platform. The Weekly Standard also has a new tablet edition which looks native – it comes from OPUBCO Communications Group. But the problem with this new app is that it promises a free issue in the app description, but not so in the app itself, and if you think I'm going to pay to read William Kristol, well, that's not happening.

That left the new digital magazine Eco traveller as the logical choice to write about. The free app was released last month, and today Alban Bizet, who is credited with design in the tablet magazine, left a comment on this site pointing to their app.

The app comes from Focus Media Communications Ltd., a UK company that says it is an "an Independent company, offering communications services worldwide." That would lead one to believe that this is a custom publishing project, but there is very little information that supports that as the website created for the magazine offers little information on the digital magazine beyond links to the Apple App Store, as well as Amazon and Google Play.
The app I looked at is the iOS app, of course – good for both the iPhone/iPod touch and the iPad. The iPhone version is not optimized for the iPhone 5. In fact, the fragmentation of the iPhone platform with the larger display of the "5" does create both design and development issues for magazine publishers wanting a magazine-like experience on the device.

The app and its contents are free of charge, and the app is native in both design and navigation, as you can see in the video below. The download is pretty painfully slow, so it is not exactly airport WiFi friendly in that area.

The tablet app has not gotten a lot of attention, which is no doubt why TNM got the comment today. But it is really the company's own fault. Neither the supporting website nor the magazine itself gives you an idea of the mission of the magazine, or those behind it.

But as you'll see in the video, it is an interesting looking digital magazine. It makes a good comparison with TRVL which takes a more minimal approach to both design and editorial content, while emphasizing the photography. TRVL's team is also quite adept at promoting itself and its digital magazine, something that will come in handy when they launch their own digital publishing platform, PRSS.

Here is a short walk-through the one issue of Eco traveller to be found in the new Newsstand application. The issue is dated October and numbered #00. The app was last updated on November 28 and for now the app description does not tell us when we can expect its next issue.

Sporting News to shutter its print publication, will rely on website and mobile apps to reach current print readers

The publisher of Sporting News, Jeff Price, today announced that after 126 years the title would be shuttering its print publication on January 1. To reach its current readers the sports publication will rely on its mobile and tablet applications, as well as the website.

"Having spoken with many of our longtime subscribers, we recognize this is not a popular decision among our most loyal fans," wrote Jeff Price and Garry D. Howard on the Sporting News website this morning. "Unfortunately, neither our subscriber base nor the current advertising market for print would allow us to operate a profitable print business going forward."
The move is a logical one as the sports news publication has become tied to AOL since last year. The once weekly publications went to bi-weekly in 2008.

In early 2010 Jeff Price came over from Sports Illustrated where he was head of digital. In an interview with TNM in May Price talked through the paper's options concerning publishing on the iPad>

"Part of the struggle that's going on right now in the industry is trying to force fit what your current business model is into this new platform," Price said in 2010. "If we were taking that approach we would have started with Sporting News magazine and said 'OK, we're going to put all our energy behind Sporting News magazine and we're going to translate that over to the iPad.'"

Sporting News at the time was publishing a daily digital flipbook on its website called Sporting News Today. Then in September of 2010 Zinio released a branded iPad app for the daily publication. Eventually a tablet edition reached the Apple Newsstand, where Sporting News still resides.

Existing print subscribers can contact the publisher to get a refund of their balance, or they can apply their paid subscription to the cost of the yearbooks the publication says they will continue to produce in print, at least for now. "In the event we cease publication of the yearbook previews, any balance left on your account will be refunded," Sporting News said.

Angry Birds celebrates third birthday, reminding us that app development is still in its adolescent stage

It may seem strange that TNM would write about Angry Birds, one of the most popular, widely-known apps for mobile devices. But this is the third birthday of the app, so its update today is a great reminder that no matter how far it appears we have come regarding the mobile and tablet platforms, we are still in the early days of this business.

Most media observers point to the introduction of the original iPhone as the day the mobile (and later tablet) platform was born. But that isn't precisely true. Yes, Steve Jobs did introduce a revolutionary new cell phone. And yes, his boast that Apple was reinventing the phone was, for the most part, accurate.

But the original iPhone was expensive, slow, and most importantly, devoid of third party apps. Whatever Apple gave you when you bought your original iPhone you were stuck with until Apple decided to give you something more. Those maps were not a Google app, but an Apple app using Google data.
All during the summer and early fall of 2007 the hacker community got hard at work to jailbreak the iPhone and build its own app world. Finally Apple announced that fall that third party apps would be coming, and the iPhone SDK was officially released on March 6, 2008. For developers, that was the beginning of the real revolution.

That is also why, when you count back three years, you discover that Angry Birds didn't arrive until much later than you might remember – it seems like it has been around forever.

Of course, this fact won't stop some tech writers from proclaiming that media apps are horrible, or have no value. OK, let them, but let's stop calling these guys journalists and start calling them "analysts" – we all know how accurate that crowd is – not only will that annoy these writers but it will reveal to everyone that they are just guessing.

If you wouldn't come to final conclusions about your three year old kid, it is probably a good idea to not come to final conclusions about a new platform either. Those of us who are advocates for the new digital media platforms see the potential in them, but should not be naive enough to come to too many conclusions just yet. We are in the early days, and that means we are lucky to be witnessing something very interesting and potentially wonderful.

Team behind the iPad magazine TRVL gets things ready to roll out PRSS, its own tablet publishing platform

The travel iPad magazine, TRVL, launched originally in September of 2010, has seen a number of updates lately – the reason is that the publishing team behind the app recently moved the digital magazine off the Woodwing/Adobe platform onto a platform it has developed itself.

The transition is not an easy one: TRVL is a unique app where a subscription to the magazine means access to over 80 editions (and counting). A subscription is not so much a way to access monthly magazines as it is a way to access the TRVL ecosystem.


Launched by Dutch co-founders Jochem Wijnands, a documentary photographer, and Michel Elings, who was responsible for the design and technical portions of the digital magazine, TRVL has become instantly popular inside the Appp App Store, and later the Newsstand, and has come to symbolize for many the potential of the tablet platform.

TRVL emphasizes the photographer, not necessarily the travel writer, leaving the photography to speak for itself.

"We try to make the content feel really personal," Michel Elings told Susan Currie Sivek of MediaShift this summer. "We don't crop photos, and we don't put text on photos. We respect the photographer and writer. We want to give people the feeling that a writer and photographer went to Amsterdam, and this is what they've seen."

"What is motivating us is the fact that these are historic times, and we can make a difference," Jochem Wijnands told me recently.

For the TRVL team, the launch of the iPad in 2010 opened up some unique opportunities.

"Our first emotion was 'wow, we can start our own magazine' – which used to be so difficult, and now it's easy," Wijnands said. "It was still quite a lot of money involved, but nothing compared to what you would normally need, and you could reach a readership all over the world."
Jochem Wijnands

TRVL's approach has been different from the start. Rather than creating a magazine based on print, where the design owes its inspiration from print travel magazines such as National Geographic or a Condé Nast title, and where each issue tries to give readers a broad range of topics, each weekly issue of TRVL concentrates on one destination, as seen through the eyes of the photographers whose work is featured in the issue.

"It's new magazines like ours that show that it is going to be a new game," Wijnands said of TRVL.

Publishing weekly also has tremendous advantages based on the way Apple's App Store works. "I don't think a monthly magazine works because you never use the algorithms of the App Store. When you publish new content, the App Store ranks you higher the next day, so when you publish, you are in a good position for the weekend. When you only do this once a month, you never use your advantage," Elings told MediaShift.

Creating the first iPad magazine app with Woodwing must have seemed like a natural choice – Woodwing is based in Zaandam, just outside Amsterdam.
But since TRVL first launched, Woodwing has changed its mission, now becoming a reseller of the Adobe platform and concentrating on enterprise solutions. The platform probably was never a good fit, in any case. "We are really into less is more," Elings said this summer. "I turned off 90 percent of what you can do with WoodWing because I don't think it helps the user."

So after almost two years of publishing, and over 700,000 app downloads, TRVL's co-founders felt they needed something else.

"So then we starting developing our own software out of frustration with what was available," Wijnands told me. "If there was an acceptable software around about a year ago we would have seriously considered it."


One month ago the publishers of TRVL let out word that they would be entering the digital publishing platform business themselves, offering its own publishing solution. Things are proceeding slowly, mainly because the TRVL team is still working out the kinks on their own iPad magazine app.

Changing platforms for tablet magazines is not necessarily an easy thing to do – especially if you want to continue to offer the past issues to your loyal readers. Some major publishers have resorted to launching separate apps for their archives when moving over to a new system. Hearst, for instance, has launched a stand-along app to house the Esquire digital magazines for its tablet editions launched from October 2010 to October 2012. Meanwhile, its updated Newsstand will house the new issues.

For TRVL, though, where all the issues are housed in one app and are part of the basic design of the app, it was necessary to redo all the issues using the new platform (at the time 80 issues).

So an update was posted on November 1 using the publisher's own platform.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Citizen publishers are not saying "No' to the tablet platform just because some tech writers are skeptical

It sometime seems like many in our industry live in a parallel universe where down is up and where people actually care what tech writers have to say about digital media. That is not where I live.

Two news items that came from the industry seemed to merge into one story for me today. The first involved the Why Magazine Apps Suck post written by M.G. Siegler. A lot of people actually took the post seriously. I did, too, until I realized that if Fonzi jumped the shark for ratings, why shouldn't Siegler jump the shark for clicks?

But that didn't stop Joe Zeff Design from responding on their company blog. Hey, two or three years ago I might have listened to what Siegler might have to say on tablets and the potential of tablet publisher, but today Joe Zeff's opinion is 100 times more authoritative, in my opinion.
Another company, to remain nameless, also sent me a press release that tackled the topic. They, too, were not happy but their press release was 99 percent self-promotion. The company, though, is a good example of why tablet publishing is succeeding for many, even if it is not working out so well for others.

Then I received an industry newsletter from one of our trade publishers, telling me that magazine launches were down this year – only 227 magazines were launched in 2012 their source says. Really? Oh yeah, digital probably doesn't count, right?

Well, who cares if they think digital doesn't count, both digital publishers and the readers who download their mobile and tablet apps sure do. So I can say, without too much fear of contradiction, that 2012 will probably end up being the biggest year for magazine launches ever, ever.

The credit for those magazine launches goes to three players: Apple; the vendors helping make it happen; and, of course, the publishers.

One of those new launches hit the Apple Newsstand today, Coffee Lovers Mag, another of those citizen publisher products that is using the MagCast platform to produce an app.

This magazine immediately caught my attention because I used to publish a coffee industry magazine – yes, I know, I've published just about every kind of magazine, haven't it? The coffee book was fun because I am a big coffee drinker and so attending coffee trade shows was not at all painful – I especially liked bringing home the freebies from the vendors.

This book is not a B2B digital magazine, though. It wants to reach consumers and will need to in order to get back its costs. The MagCast platform costs a bit under $500 a month, though they have been discounting it lately. Nonetheless, anyone hoping to launch a digital magazine and continue to publish will need to see subscriptions or sell advertising.

Coffee Lovers Mag, therefore, is charging $5.99 an issue, with monthly subscriptions at $3.99. So Joseph Robertson, who launched the app, and who attended Reed College, will need to hit triple digits in sales each month to make a go of it.

He is not alone, a lot of people are jumping in, too. Way more than what that monitoring service is recording, that's for sure.
Left: the store page; Middle: simple layouts, in portrait, are the rule; Right: the app has trouble detecting if the reader has an Internet connection.

Australian police in Mildura call the new Apple maps app 'a potentially life threatening issue'

One wondered when someone would say it out loud: Apple's new maps are dangerous. In fact, police in Muldura, Australia are the new maps "a potentially life threatening issue."

My own tests with the new Apple maps have shown that the data inside the apps are totally unacceptable – why Apple didn't see that is anyone's guess. But now more real world testing by iPhone owners is showing just how bad the maps really are.

Mildura, a city in Australia with a population of 30,000, has been forced to issue a statement warning motorists not to rely on the new Apple maps when trying to find their city.
"Mildura Police are urging motorists to be careful when relying on the mapping system on the Apple i-phones operating on the iOS 6 system after a number of motorists were directed off the beaten track in recent weeks," the statement warned.

"Tests on the mapping system by police confirm the mapping systems lists Mildura in the middle of the Murray Sunset National Park, approximately 70km away from the actual location of Mildura."

Police warn that the park has no water supply and can be extremely warm, up to 114 degrees farenheit.

"Some of the motorists located by police have been stranded for up to 24 hours," the police statement said, "without food or water and have walked long distances through dangerous terrain to get phone reception."

Mildura police have contacted Apple concerning the problem, but advised travelers to the area that they "should rely on other forms of mapping until this matter is rectified."

Morning Brief: Emmis updates its city/regional magazine apps; British Airways redesigns mobile app; Fairfax updates tablet editions for its Australian newspapers

The city/regional magazine publisher Emmis Communications updated its tablet editions over the weekend. These apps for such titles as Texas Monthly and Los Angeles Magazine and remain, for the most part, simply replica editions.

The Emmis regional print magazines are well designed, this helps a bit when they are translated to digital, especially when the reader has a newer iPad with a retina display, but otherwise the reader is forced to use pinch-to-zoom to read much of the content.
But there may be some hope on the horizon: the Texas Monthly app contains a single article issue that the reader can download for free. This "Single" is reformatted for the iPad, its fonts appearing to be huge when compared to the standard replica editions inside the app.

The "Single" serves two purposes, it allows the magazine to promote an article in hopes of luring new digital subscribers, and it could, it used this way, allow the editors to play around with the tablet platform a bit – though it doesn't look to be utilized in this way at this time.

Emmis is finding that, like Hearst, its readers are not exactly happy with its digital subscription policies as these apps require all readers to buy a subscription, even if the reader is already a print subscriber.

British Airways has redesigned its mobile iOS app, adding new features and changed many of its functions to make managing flight information easier and more intuitive.

There is a new "Manage my flight" section allowing users to check arrival departure times, choose seats, access upgrade offers – and the airline promises to do more with this new section in the future.

The app is now optimized for both iOS 6 and the new iPhone 5, and one assumes it is using Passbook now, though it doesn't mention it directly. But the app description does say that the company has "also made it easier to access alternative boarding pass options if a mobile boarding pass is not available."

Quite a number of media companies updated their apps this weekend including The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Independent, Le Soir, BBC News and The Canberra Times for iPad.

Most of the app updates are simple bug fixes or updates to add iPhone 5 support. Others add new features like pinch-to-zoom to the crosswords like the Canberra Times app.

That app, from Fairfax, is just one of the company's apps updated this weekend. The others are for The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald.