Saturday, December 22, 2012

12 Apps of Christmas: newspapers adopt live blogging to provide up-to-the-minute reporting of breaking news

The Twelve Days of Christmas runs from Christmas Day to the evening of January 5th, or Twelfth Night. But TNM's 12 Apps of Christmas, which began on Tuesday, will look at significant media apps (or trends) released this year. We look at May today, continuing the series through New Year's Eve.

May was a month where the news was dominated by news from the newspaper industry, and none of its seemed to be good, whether here in the U.S., or overseas.

All month News International was in the news as its executives faced grilling in hearings named after the lead investigator, the Leveson Inquiry. During May Rebekah Brooks, the former head of News International, the U.K. division of Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. was charged with obstruction of justice.

In the U.S., the big news in May for the newspaper industry was the decision by Advance Publications to cut back the frequency of its daily newspapers in the South, including the well-respected New Orleans daily, The Times-Picayune. On May 24 Advance said that it would create a new company that would be "digitally focused" – though no new digital initiatives were announced at the time.

Atlantic Media said in May that it would launch a new online business brand, Quartz. Atlantic Media immediately began recruiting for the new digital property and so far the results seem to be good.

Early in the month the editor in chief of Technology Review, Jason Pontin, made news by posting his experiences with creating and launch an app for the title. Some tech writers, who already were skeptical of native tablet editions, jumped on the post as proof that native apps were a dead-end.

Mike Haney of Mag+ responded with a blog post of his own which appeared on TNM that begged to differ:

"I would argue," Haney wrote, "that many existing print publications will not find a way to make a profitable business by delivering the exact same package of content they do in print—however enhanced or redesigned—and certainly not until there’s a real advertising ecosystem in place.

The next week TNM posted a response from Erik Schut, president of WoodWing Software, also refuting the editor's post. Schut admitted that creating engaging new tablet editions involved additional work, but he warned that "if publishers don’t bring an engaging tablet experience they can be sure new players will step in and disrupt the market."
With all that, I think the thing I will remember May for, however, is that way newspaper websites began to use live blogging as a regular part of online news experience.

On May 10 I pointed out to two live blogs: The Guardian's live blog of the Leveson inquiry which featured the testimony of Andy Coulseon, the former editor of the News of the World and the former communications director for the Tories; and the live blog being authored by Damian Mac Con Uladh for The Athens News, which is chronicling the efforts of the political parties to form a government and avoid a second round of elections.

Later the New York Times created a brand for its live blogging efforts called The Lede which has been used most recently, we're sad to say, to cover the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting.

Friday, December 21, 2012

12 Apps of Christmas: Adobe takes CS 6 to the Cloud

The Twelve Days of Christmas runs from Christmas Day to the evening of January 5th, or Twelfth Night. But TNM's 12 Apps of Christmas, which began on Tuesday, will look at significant media apps released this year – one per month. We look at April today, continuing the series through New Year's Eve.

Is April always so busy? It sure seemed that way this year, with new product launches, execs moving about, mergers and acquisitions, you name it.

The month began with a bit of a shocker as Instagram said it would accept a billion dollar offer from Facebook. The deal was depressing news for Instagram fans, though I have a feeling that those who think Instagram is a bit silly, probably feel the same way about Facebook, so maybe it was a good match. But Instagram users are not very happy today, now that Facebook introduced a new Terms of Service that say, among other things, that the company can use the photos in Instagram for advertising purposes without compensating the Instagram user.

A couple days later the U.S. Justice Department filed suit against Apple and some major book publishers over the agency model, as well as clauses in Apple contracts. The publishers involved included Hachette, HarperCollins, Macmillan, Penguin and Simon & Schuster, while other publishers were left out of the suit because they had already settled.

The lawsuit split both the book publishing and book reading public as it seemed to seriously favor Amazon.

One week later news came down that Gregg Hano had left Bonnier for Mag+, the digital platform company launched by the Swedish magazine publisher. The next week TNM featured a long interview with Hano in which the new Mag+ CEO said "The biggest challenges that we are faced with right now is probably one of making certain that advertisers can get their interactive creative on the different platforms in a way that is efficient for our agency partners."

TNM also featured in April an interview with the MPA's outgoing President and CEO Nina Link where the magazine association executive talked about the organization's new voluntary guidelines of tablet magazines.
On April 12 Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia released a new tablet edition for Whole Living, completing the task of making sure there were digital editions for all the titles published by the company.

Unfortunately, the year will not end well for the title and its employees as later in the year the word was leaked that the company wanted to sell off the title. Unable to find a buyer, the company said it would shutter it.

As the new year comes it is still possible that Whole Living will find a buyer, as often companies swoop in after a title has been closed to see if it can acquire the assets of the brand at a discount.

For many media app developers, though, April will be remembered for the month that Adobe launched its Creative Suite 6, and its new subscription-based Creative Cloud.

At the time of the release I wrote that as "a former publisher I can not overstate the problems this upgrade may cause with those in the publishing community which have delayed or cancelled outright much of their investment in technology over the past decade."

Talking to both publishers and would-be publishers, this remains an issue and the search for an inexpensive production solution continues. But Adobe has, assuming you are invested in InDesign, attempted to create some inexpensive app publishing solutions, such as Single Edition. But the number cost of producing a native tablet edition remains the costs of the design software.

Media app updates: The Magazine, now with an animation (gasp!); Installation Magazine goes universal, using the Mag+ platform to create a native iPhone magazine edition

Apple needed to clear the decks before they shut down iTunes Connect, so a lot of app updates have appeared this week. This morning Marco Arment's The Magazine received an update but it looks, based on the app description that another might be right around the corner.

"There's an animation glitch in this version affecting some subscribers that usually goes away after a minute or two. I'm looking into it. Sorry about that," wrote Arment.

An animation? In the stripped down digital magazine? Well, good for Arment. There is no reason why a developer, or an art director, shouldn't use what the platform allows. As a publisher, if asked what bells and whistles an app should employ, my answer would always be the same: tell the story, don't worry about bells and whistles, use whatever features and effects will best tell the story – inform the reader, don't try to impress them.

Digital design can sometimes be like the golfer who is so concerned with his swing that he fails to notice that he is aiming at the clubhouse instead of the flag.

The Canadian publisher Rogers Publishing Limited updated several of its apps including the B2B title Canadian Grocer. Of the titles I currently have Marketing Magazine was also updated, but it looks like a large number of their apps received the same update.

According to the app description this is what is new:
  • Enhancements to videos, images and interactive elements.
  • Access back issues easier and faster using the improved store view.
  • Downloading issues is now more stable and reliable.
  • Improvements to the At A Glance panel.
  • Multiple minor bug fixes.
Several other media apps such as the International Herald Tribune for iPad, and NowThisNews were also updated, though the updates were minor and generally centered around fixing bugs or refining features.
Probably the biggest media app update of the day belongs to Installation Magazine. The first post on the new digital art magazine appeared here in March. The app uses the Mag+ platform to create its digital issues and the app.

Now the app update has made the app universal, using the digital publishing platform's relatively new ability to create native mobile design solutions.

"Installation Magazine is not only new and improved, we're now on the iPhone!!" the app description proclaims.

"With the launch of Installation Magazine in March 2012, we have been met with an overwhelmingly positive response," the copy continues. "We’ve been listening to your feedback and are excited to announce big developments, starting right now. Launching with this update and new issue, we’ve redesigned our contemporary art and lifestyle magazine specifically for the iPhone in stunning retina display. We also present our best iPad reader to date: bringing you high quality media and faster downloads. Current iPad subscribers will be able to continue their subscription on both devices, as well as benefit from continued support on first and second generation iPads."

Understanding where your readers are coming from meanings adding it all up

It used to be so easy, wasn't it? In print days all one needed was that paper audit in your hands to have an intelligent conversation about how many readers were accessing your newspaper or magazine. Today, some think it is just as easy, then quote numbers that are either completely made up but someone in some other department, or are wildly inaccurate because of the increasingly complex nature of digital publishing.

One would think it would be easy thanks to things such as Google Analytics. Take this website, for instance. Do you want to know what operating system is being used by readers it seems to be all there.

As you can see at right, Windows is basically down to 50 percent of the traffic reaching this website. What you don't see, the small percentage of readers coming from Android, for instance, is what tells you that this is an incomplete picture.

What the numbers here really say is that 50 percent of a certain subset of the total readership uses Windows. An ever growing percentage are Mac users. But what about those shown to be iOS users? Well, because TNM has both a mobile website and an iPhone app, this number is exclusively those using an iPad.

In order to see the rest of the picture one would need to include figures from the mobile website and the RSS feeds that bring content to the app.

It is this complexity that makes it difficult to sell display advertising across digital product lines – yet another reason why the digital ad war is being run by Google and other pure plays.

Now is as good a time as any to thank the readers of Talking New Media for hanging in there this year. I had no idea, when I created this website for digital media professionals, that I would still be at it after three years.

Twice I have shut down this site thinking that it was time to move on. In 2012, traffic to TNM has increased 56 percent to a point where six times more readers access TNM than read the industry leading trade magazine. This is either a statement of what has been accomplished here at TNM or of the failure of B2B print magazines (I fear it is that latter).

Over the course of the last two weeks of this year I will continue looking back at each month, posting one story on each month every day through New Year's Eve except on Sundays. So look for the post on May tomorrow.

Morning Brief: The world is still here, better get shopping; Bernstein takes media to task; thoughts on 'Snow Fall'

Those who, thinking that the Mayans had correctly predicted the end of the world, woke today to discover that they had lost their bet. Because of this, there will no doubt me a large number of people rushing to malls today, quickly shopping for Christmas gifts they did not think they would have to give. Can't win them all.

While out, those same people might take along a tablet or smartphone and read Carl Bernstein's take down of both Rupert Murdoch and his empire, and the media, in general.

Bernstein, the former Washington Post reporter of Watergate fame, posted a column on The Guardian's website late yesterday afternoon entitled Why the US media ignored Murdoch's brazen bid to hijack the presidency.

In the column, Bernstein recaps his former colleague Bob Woodward's Washington Post story about efforts by Murdoch and crew to enlist General David Petraeus to run for president. In case you were not aware, Petraeus turned Murdoch down and Obama went on to win a second term (I hope this isn't news to you).

Bernstein is not exactly happy with the way this story was played in the WaPo, or taken up by the rest of the U.S. media world. He thinks its a big story that a media organization would try to manipulate the political system in such a brazen way and wonders why the rest of the media world doesn't think so, as well (or why the WaPo, itself, would downplay the story by running it in the Style section).
Yesterday much of the Twitter world, or at least the media part, were glowing in their praise for the amazing feature posted on the home page of The New York Times.

Snow Fall: The Avalanche at Tunnel Creek is a brilliantly design and executed example modern web design. If you have not seen the feature you really need to do yourself a favor and take a look.

But while most media observers and journalists themselves gushed over the feature I was saddened to see that once again that the ad side had been left out.

According to the Poynter piece on the feature, there was close collaboration between the writer, John Branch, and the sports and graphics editors. Great. But stuck in the middle of each segment of the feature were ugly, traditional web ads – banners and medium rectangles.

So let's all make a New Year's resolution right here and now, let's resolve to try and fix the one problem in the newspaper industry that is paramount. It is not how to create great web feature, or how to do tablet editions. It is how we make this industry pay, how we generate digital advertising revenue, and turn a profit.

You can revolutionize the art of story telling online, but if you can not create a revolution in newspaper advertising you are out of business.

It is time to bring in the ad department and let them be part be part of the team again. Believe me, no one on the ad side wants to interfere with your editorial judgments, or insert a plug for their clients – if they do you kick them out of the room, and straight out of the building. No, what they want to do is be part of the future, a future where newspapers are once again attracting a healthy share of the advertising. To do this, they will need to be able to present their clients with something other than buttons and banners.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Journal Register Company has its sales process approved by U.S. Bankruptcy Court

The U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York today approved the bid procedures, sale process and timeline for Journal Register Company's auction and sale process. The Journal Register Company is part of Digital First Media.

"We are pleased that the Court has approved the dates for competing bids and the auction and that Journal Register Company has now received the full support and cooperation in the sales process with the Official Creditors Committee," John Paton, Chief Executive Officer of Digital First Media said in the company's statement.

Now it is one to the public auction which is scheduled to conclude on or before February 15, 2013. The bankruptcy court will then announce the winning bid on February 21.

The newspaper company is currently owned by the private equity firm Alden Global Capital, and no doubt the company will remain a playing card in the PE game. A "stalking horse" bid by 21st CMH Acquisition Co., an affiliate of funds managed by Alden Global Capital LLC has already been filed.

Mini first look: Daily Mail releases online news app designed for owners of the iPad mini

What to do about the mini? Those smaller tablets have generally been ignored because of small sales results, but now that Apple has released its own small tablet some publishers are wondering exactly what to do about their previously released tablet editions? Keep them as is? Create an optimized version (as the NYT did)? or launch a whole new app?

This afternoon, prior to Apple shutting down iTunes Connect for the holidays, a new app was released by Associated Northcliffe Digital Limited for the Daily Mail that is designed specifically for the iPad mini.

MailOnline Mini joins MailOnline for iPad as apps designed for the iPad that reformat the tabloid newspaper's website content. The only difference, of course, is that the mini app is designed for the smaller tablet.

"Our app has been optimised to use the iPad’s and iPad’s mini clarity and size," the app description reads. "We have many features that will allow you to stay up to date with the latest news, celebrity gossip, sport, health, technology and gadgets, money, pictures and more from, the No.1 UK newspaper site."
Releasing a whole new app just for the mini may not be what a lot of publishers would choose to do, but if apps are being developed in-house I see no reason not to do so.

The only thing odd about the whole thing is that the old iPad app apparently requires a subscription, while the new app for the mini requires no in-app subscription to be purchased. But... I noticed that the old app for the larger iPad says the first 90 days of access is free, so I wouldn't be surprised if a price tag goes on the mini version in the coming days, as well.

The WSJ moves its universal iOS app into the Newsstand

The Wall Street Journal, which had maintained a stand-alone app for quite some time, has updated its universal iOS app and moved it into the Apple Newsstand.

The Wall Street Journal now will be using in-app purchases through Apple's system, though at the time of this post, the system doesn't seem to be working as designed – though that may be caused by the app's release coming as a surprise, as often happens. The development team may this bug worked out by later today.
The update will now mean that the WSJ app will download issues automatically for subscribers.

It also means that some users will not read the app description will wonder where their WSJ has gone to – though the publishing team has gone to great lengths to make sure readers know their app is now to be found in the Newsstand.
What's New in Version 5.0
Newsstand & Alerts
• WSJ is now in Newsstand! Get new issues automatically delivered to your device overnight. To use Newsstand, tap 'Allow' when prompted.
• Note: WSJ App icon will now appear in the Newsstand Folder.
• Breaking News Alerts from WSJ. To get alerts, tap 'Allow' when prompted.
In-App Subscriptions
• Purchase a monthly subscription to WSJ through your iTunes account. With a digital subscription you get access to iPad, iPhone, and more.

12 Apps of Christmas: the Tribune Company uses Mag+ to launch tablet edition for its tabloid, Red Eye, in March

The Twelve Days of Christmas runs from Christmas Day to the evening of January 5th, or Twelfth Night. But TNM's 12 Apps of Christmas, which began on Tuesday, looks back at significant media apps released this year. Today we look at March, continuing the series through New Year's Eve.

March means a new iPad, or at least it does now-a-days. Back in 2010, when Steve Jobs introduced the first iPad, the launch took place at the beginning of April. In 2012, Apple had reduced the time between unveiling and launch so that the introduction of "the new iPad" took place on March 7, with pre-orders accepted that very same day, and delivery to take place on March 16.

The "new iPad" brought us the retina display, the concept of which Apple had introduced with the iPhone 4, and the tablet proved to be a major success.

In March Sporting News moved its tablet app into Apple's Newsstand, where it resides today. But later in the year the publication was forced to announce that it would end its print publication after 126 years.
Along those same lines, it is interesting to note that Nomad Editions in March issued major updates to its three digital magazines, changing platforms for their creation. Originally designed using Treesaver, Nomad Editions began using the Mag+ platform with this March update.

A tablet edition launched in March from the Tribune Company for its city tabloid RedEye also used the Mag+ platform. The digital edition was priced at $1.99 per month, and though one still doesn't quite know if it will be a success, it was an important launch nonetheless because it set up later launches for the company such as its Chicago Bears digital magazine.

The significance of the digital edition of RedEye is that the publication is produced Monday through Friday and so, along with the now defunct The Daily, was one of the few attempts at daily tablet publishing in a native, non-RSS driven way. Yes, RedEye has a print equivalent that drives the content and much of the design, but the digital iPad edition launched in March remains one of the few efforts at native tablet publication design produced on a daily basis.

IDG UK gives its Macworld readers coal in their stockings

The publishing team at IDG UK updated their app today for the UK edition of Macworld and readers of the tech publication have to be wondering if they should consider dropping their subscriptions. The app remains an odd looking replica edition with missized pages, microscopic text and editorial layouts with so much white space the tablet edition will work very well in an emergency as a flashlight app.

Since the launch of TNM I've railed against the use of replica editions by magazine publishers. My objections have always been that replicas are hard to read and an insult to readers who expect that the editors of their favorite magazines will care enough about their craft to learn the new digital platforms and adapt their products for the best reading experience possible – not simply take the cheap and easy way out.
There are places for replicas – archives, for instance, as well as some small publications that are already tablet size – but as a digital magazine the replica is pretty much a fail.

It is particularly annoying in two areas: the magazine trade journal where the assumption is that the editors and writers have experience in the publishing industry and would never consider writing about mobile and tablets without first hand experience; and tech publications where readers expect that the editors of the publications actually like their industries.

The sad fact is that at a lot of big magazine company editors and writers are moved from publication to publication, often editing more than one different industry topic. Today you are the authority on personal computing, tomorrow you know everything there is to know about bird watching. OK, maybe I'm exaggerating – but insiders know I'm only exaggerating a little.

I would assume that the editors at Macworld UK are registered Apple developers, that they have opened up Xcode and actually played with it, that they use Macs to edit the magazine, and that when they write about iBooks Author they do so only after downloading and installing the software themselves. OK, assuming all that, why wouldn't they build their digital edition themselves using the tools they are familiar with. Why, in other words, would they let MagazineCloner do their app?
The problems with this particular replica edition are made worse by the fact that outside the U.S. the typical magazine is sized slightly taller. The iPad is already known for its squarish shape, so almost all magazines find that it is a bit of a mismatch. But European magazines trying to squeeze in their pages onto the tablet's display find that there is a lot of space wasted.

So with Macworld UK the replica cover does not even fit the screen, starting things off pretty badly. In landscape, of course, things get even worse. One would think that things would be better on the iPhone 5 – but, alas, the app does not support offer iPhone 5 support so the shrunken print page is reduced in size even more.

One could rant on about the choices some major magazine companies make, but I think it best to end this post with this one thought: when publishers complain about the App Store, or digital newsstands, or declining circulation and advertising, maybe it is time to wonder whether those at fault are not the tech companies or the ad agencies or their readers, but the publishers who fail to present their products in the best possible light, who take the easy way out, who say "yes" to vendors that promise them "cheap and easy" rather than "state-of-the-art".

Morning Brief: Apple notifies developers of holiday shutdown period; the marketers addiction to email

Apple this morning is sending out emails to developers to warn them of the upcoming holiday shutdown period which starts tomorrow and extends to next Friday, December 28.

The shutdown effects iTunes Connect and will effect app releases and any changes a developer makes to pricing through the developer site.

"We strongly recommend that you do not schedule any pricing changes in iTunes Connect that would take effect between Friday, December 21, 2012 and Friday, December 28, 2012," the email told developers. "Pricing changes scheduled to take effect during this date range will not be reflected on the App Store and your app or In-App Purchase will become unavailable for purchase until after the shutdown."

Not surprisingly, there were an awful lot of app updates released this morning, though only a handful to media apps.
Camera+, a useful iPhone camera app that has been inside the App Store for quite a while now, got another update, while also giving its users a Christmas greeting at the same time.

Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the App Store,
Not a creature was stirring, not even a Spore.
Some crash bugs were fixed with the greatest of care,
So that you, our beloved Camera+ user, could take photos with flair!
We’ll never do shady things with your shared pics because it just isn’t right.
And on that note… Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night!

If you don't own this useful app and you take lots of pictures with your iPhone Camera+ might be worth downloading as it is currently priced at only $0.99.

Christmas is becoming much like the election season, where the weary citizen is anxious for an end.

My email inbox is in desperate need of cleaning out thanks to companies that do not know how to effectively use email. FTD today, for instance, sent me a dozen emails as if spamming to this extent would produce the desired results. It, instead, has convinced me never to use their services.

The email promotion has become what the fax promotion became a decade ago: the marketing choice born out of desperation where markets know that they will experience diminishing returns, but are too addicted to the tactic to give up on it.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Australian roots music magazine Rhythms launches a tablet edition into the Apple Newsstand

The great promise of the Apple Newsstand, or any digital newsstand that is open to any publisher, is that the reader can find new titles of interest, magazines that the reader never even knew existed. That is the shame of the new Apple App Store redesign, it is shutting off U.S. readers from the rest of the world by making it harder to find new titles.
So off to the Canadian Apple App Store I went to search for new Newsstand publications and there is where I found Rhythms magazine, the tablet edition for the Australian roots music magazine. By copying the Canadian App Store link and simply changing the "ca" to "us" I was able to download this new digital magazine.

The digital version of Rhythms appears to be a hybrid app: full page ads taken from the print edition, combined with new, reformatted editorial pages. The tablet platform allows for the editors to insert music clips into the reviews and animate the cover, complete with an audio clip.
Rhythms Magazine is an Australian based but globally focused monthly roots music magazine that has been established for twenty years. The Rhythms app is a bespoke extension of the print magazine, covering Americana, blues, country music, folk music, soul, world music and jazz news, reviews and in depth features. – app description
The hybrid approach works great, though I did find the navigation a bit of a problem. Any tapping of the left or right side of the page moves you forward or backward. This is fine except when there are music clips and you want to pause the music. A tap of the player and off you go to the next page!

The latest issue available, December, is free of charge to access. Two others issues can also be found inside the app.

Single issues will cost $4.99 (or $5.49 AUD, £2.99 or 4.49€). Annual subscriptions are available as well priced at $47.99 ($49.99 AUD, £34.49 or 42.99€). Those subscription prices represent only a modest discount over the print subscription prices, though obvious international readers would probably be new digital readers.

Here is a brief walk-through the beginning of the December issue which should give you a good idea of what you'll find inside:

12 Apps of Christmas: February was all about politics

The Twelve Days of Christmas runs from Christmas Day to the evening of January 5th, or Twelfth Night. But TNM's 12 Apps of Christmas, which began yesterday, looks at significant media apps released this year – one per month. We look at February today, continuing the series through New Year's Eve.

Posts written in February were all about politics, all the time. No wonder web traffic was not what it should have been! But that is the freedom one has when you are publishing your own website – you write what interests you and no one, other than Google Analytics, is there to suggest that it is time to stop.

The news was dominated by the Greek euro crisis and the presidential primaries. With new elections coming up in April, Greek political parties were jockeying for position. But the election proved indecisive and new elections eventually took place in June.

In the U.S., the primaries were heating up, with Super Tuesday in 2012 falling into early March. But politics was all that seemed to concern the country. While there were a few interesting new tablet editions launched in February, such as Smithsonian Magazine, it was the app was released late in the month by the Washington Post that proved the most important.

First written about here, the WaPo's tablet edition seemed at first like a weak response to the mobile app NYTimes Election 2012 released in December. That passed its first test in January with its use during the Iowa Caucuses.
WP Politics, then, seemed like an afterthought. But since its original release, the team at the Post has done an excellent job updating the app, adding new features on a regular basis.

A well-timed update in October got the app ready for election day, but it was the update in December that signaled that the app may have legs and survive the end of the election cycle.

The weakness of the app is the fact that the WaPo has no current paid content strategy. With the NYT, the app fell into its digital bag of products. To gain full access to the app's features on needed to be a digital subscriber.

The WaPo, on the other hand, did not, and still does not have a metered paywall for its website. The launch of WP Politics was a golden opportunity to test out a paid digital content strategy.

It would have been interesting, in retrospect, if the WaPo kept its website open – like The Guardian – but tested out a paid approach with WP Politics. But now that the election season is over one would assume that the app will stay open to readers at least until the paper rolls out its expected metered paywall some time in 2013.

Retweet: Zinio gets new CEO and looks ready to sell

The digital newsstand company Zinio last week announced some major changes to the company that will no doubt effect magazine publishers. The changes appear to have been instituted by the private equity firm behind the company, Gilvest.

A new CEO has been named, Rusty Lewis, and the co-founder and former CEO Rich Maggiotto has been given the title of Chief Innovation Officer (ouch). A new board has been established made up of folks from the investment side rather than industry leaders.

Zinio was originally sold to the private equity company Gilvest in 2007. That makes it over five years with investment, and as any M&A guy will tell you, that is usually the outside limit of most PE investments. The world of digital publishing is very different today than just a few years ago before the launch of tablets. Flipbooks and online digital magazines have pretty much been replaced with mobile and tablet editions. Additionally, the launch of Next Issue Media by major publishing houses calls into question whether Zinio and continue to compete online or inside tablets.

Zinio remains one of the most popular digital newsstand with more than 5,000 titles available. But these moves don't look like a company looking for a way to expand its business, it looks like a company searching for a way out.

Johnston Press launches series of tablet editions for its UK regional newspapers

Johnston Press is a major UK newspaper publishers, its flagship dailies being The Scotsman and Yorkshire Post. The company had already launched tablet editions for some of its titles, but today it released nine new tablet editions for some of its regional newspapers, many of which are evening papers.

The new iPad apps are Yorkshire Evening Post, Sunderland Echo, Wigan Evening Post, Shields Gazette, News Letter, Hartlepool Mail, Boston Standard, Blackpool Gazette and Sheffield Star (U.S. App Store links).

Each of the apps are identical in look and feel, with two major sections: the web based news section, and the replica edition of the print newspaper.

The apps were built by PageSuite, a company that handles its U.S. customers out of its Atlanta office, and its international customers out of its Kent office in the U.K.
The web-based section, labeled Digital, can be read in either portrait or landscape. It probably works best in landscape but unfortunately the paper's logo at the top of the page gets stretched out. The layouts are typical tablet app: boxy and rather unattractive, especially in comparison with the print design.

The print section, labeled Paper, is a replica of the print tabloid newspapers. Some tabloids look acceptable in a replica edition because they are fairly small to begin with. The further reduction in size, therefore, sometimes makes the text readable on the iPad's retina display.

I'm not sure that is the case here. Readers will need to turn their tablets to portrait to have a chance, otherwise the app will spread out two print pages onto the display. But in portrait the reader will still need to use pinch-to-zoom to have a chance at being able to read the contents.

These are pretty lazy replicas, as well. The usual practice in a replica is to at least provide links from the front page when a story is jumped inside. These apps forego this practice.

(The apps from NewspaperDirect also provide the reader with a replica edition of the print paper, but also include links and text versions of the stories.)

The app description states that a monthly subscription will cost £3.99 for some of the papers, while others are charging £1.49. But access seems to be free for a limited time. The Yorkshire Evening Post, which I downloaded and installed, shows inside Settings that the subscription expires January 18, meaning that I am receiving the first month free of charge.

Print subscribers will be able to access the content without additional charge by signing into the app using their Subscriber ID and Order Number.

Morning Brief: The Economist issues another update as it struggles to work out authentication issues; Priceline updates iOS app, but early reviews are a bit suspect

The Economist iPad edition was one of the early tablet editions released into the App Store, first appearing in November of 2010. But subsequent app updates have caused problems, then tried to fix those problems.

The worst update was released in October of last year. The update was bad news from the beginning forcing the publisher to include a note to the app description outlining the problems readers were encountering.

In July of this year The Economist issued what it called a "critical update" which the publisher hoped would end the problems with the app.

Last night came the latest update which the app description says includes a "wide range of improvements to authentication, downloading of new issues, UI updates and improved error messaging and a large number of bug fixes."

The first review of the updated app states that this update includes support for retina displays, despite the fact that this isn't mentioned in the app description. The reviewer gave the app four stars and while stating that the "magazine content is great obviously" that the app still has a ways to go to match those coming out of Condé Nast. I don't know whether the reviewer is talking about the app itself, or the digital magazine design, though.
Priceline issued an update to its universal iOS app today. The update brings in three new features: extended booking hours for "Name Your own Price" reservations, the ability to scan in your credit card for use when booking hotels, and optional trip protection insurance (which isn't really a feature so much as a sales pitch).

Normally I'd simply ignore an update such as this one unless it added some interesting new feature that had previously been discussed here – such as Passbook support – but what caught my attention were the instant reviews. Let's just call them highly suspicious.

Anytime I see a bunch of five-star reviews hit the App Store almost simultaneously with the actual app release one has to wonder. Then, when many, though not all, of the reviews are from users who only have that one review inside the store... well, I just find that fishy.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Penguin Group settles with the Justice Department while litigation continues against Apple and Macmillan

Another major book publisher has settled with the Department of Justice, this time it is Penguin Group. A proposed settlement has been filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, if approved would end any litigation concerning Penguin.

The DOJ had previously settled claims with Hachette Book Group Inc., HarperCollins Publishers L.L.C. and Simon & Schuster Inc.

"Since the department’s settlement with Hachette, HarperCollins and Simon & Schuster, consumers are already paying lower prices for the e-book versions of many of those publishers’ new releases and bestsellers," Jamillia Ferris, Chief of Staff and Counsel at the Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division said in the department's announcement. "If approved by the court, the proposed settlement with Penguin will be an important step toward undoing the harm caused by the publishers’ anticompetitive conduct and restoring retail price competition so consumers can pay lower prices for Penguin’s e-books."

The settlement requires Penguin to "terminate its agreements with Apple and other e-books retailers and will be prohibited for two years from entering into new agreements that constrain retailers’ ability to offer discounts or other promotions to consumers to encourage the sale of the Penguin’s e-books," the DOJ announcement said.

The actions by the DOJ are widely seen as a big boost to and a defeat of efforts by book publishers to maintain higher prices for eBooks.

Apple releases iOS 6.0.2 for the iPhone 5 and iPad mini, designed to fix bug related to WiFi

While sitting at my desk listening to the remaster version of Larks Tongues In Aspic, Part One and watching the subwoofer plugged into my computer explode apart (you might at which part of the piece), my phone told me it was ready to update its software.

Apple, you see, has released an iOS update for owners of the iPhone 5 and iPad mini, designed to fix a bug related to WiFi. I admit that I noticed the bug on my iPhone, but thought it related to iOS 6, in general. WiFi does peter out occasionally, especially when streaming music via AirPlay.

The same drop has not been occurring to the iPhone 4 I use as an iPod, so my assumption was something was amiss with iOS 6 (which seems to be causing all sorts of problems for developers, forcing a ton of updated apps to be released).

Well, apparently the problem is limited to the newest iPhones and the newest iPad – this update should take care of the issue.

In the meantime, I'll continue picking up the pieces of my subwoofer – I guess I should known the volume was up way too high for Mr. Fripp and company's old masterpiece.

Update: Apple has also released a new iOS 6.1 beta (number 4, if you are counting).

"iOS 6.1 beta 4 and Xcode 4.6 Developer Preview 4 are now available on the iOS Dev Center. We recommend that you test existing apps running iOS 6 to ensure there are no compatibility issues," an email to program developers stated.

12 Apps of Christmas: January gave us iBooks Author

The Twelve Days of Christmas runs from Christmas Day to the evening of January 5th, or Twelfth Night. But TNM's 12 Apps of Christmas, which begins today, will look at significant media apps released this year – one per month. We start today with January and continue the series through New Year's Eve.

In January of this year Time Inc. was able to announce that it had completed its goal of launching tablet editions for all of its magazine titles with the release of an iPad app for Fortune Magazine.

One week later the Bonnier Technology group released an app for American Photo which completed its task of releasing tablet editions for its four titles. The group, at that time led by Gregg Hano, was the one part of Bonnier committed to using the Mag+ digital publishing platform. Later in the year Hano moved from Bonnier to Mag+ to become the new CEO and TNM interviewed him in April.

But the biggest news of the month came from the education event for Apple which saw the release of its free software iBooks Author (Mac App Store link).

After a short time to play with the software I wrote a post calling iBooks Author a "potential game changer" in a rare use of a terrible cliché.
The software package remains full of potential, and hundreds, probably thousands of people are using the software to create interactive books to be read using Apple's iBooks reader software.

But like many of Apple's products, one really doesn't know how committed to the software the company really is. The software is currently on version 2.0 which means it has received a major update since its January launch. But the software gets only infrequent updates and the fact that the software can not support other platforms remains an issue.

Nonetheless, the introduction of iBooks Author still remains a big deal for media companies, and the major objections many had to the software, its licensing agreement, proved to be a non-issue.

iBooks Author is very easy to use and after only a few weeks of working with it the designer finds they have mastered much of the tricks and quirks of the software that any art director will tell you lie within any design software package. Within minutes I produced the simple sample book you see above in the animated GIF.

This summer, however, I first used iBooks Author in a more serious fashion. My family and I went to Greece for vacation and while there, equipped with four iPhones, went on a photo shooting spree. Upon our return I gathered up the photos and produced a print photo book using iPhoto as I would usually do.

But once that book was completed and printed by Apple I realized that I could use iBooks Author to produce something much different. The result was an interactive book that contained not only photographs, but video, as well.

Despite being available for a year, however, iBooks Author has not become a standard due to its inherent limitations. Despite its ease and powerful multimedia capabilities, the authoring tool only works with Apple's iBooks. As a result, media companies using the authoring package are having to make a choice: do they launch for iBooks only? reformat and use another package for Kindle Editions? or use a completely different authoring tool to create cross-platform eBooks?

It's a tough choice, but meanwhile many magazine designers hold out hope that Apple will release a version of iBooks Author that will help them create interactive magazine editions. After all, who can beat the price Apple charges for its own design took – free.

Red Bull Media House updates its app for the U.S. digital edition of Red Bulletin adding background downloading

The Austrian beverage company Red Bull continues to publish its branded magazine in both print and digital. Red Bulletin comes in four different language editions – English, French, Spanish and German – each with its own app. The US edition, The Red Bulletin US, was updated today to fix some app bugs and to add background downloading of issues.

The app description also asks readers to update their apps so that they will be able to view upcoming issues. Despite the update, I didn't notice much different in the app itself besides background downloading.

The original app was first launched in May of last year with Tim Lincecum of the SF Giants on the cover (the Giants had won the World Series the previous year). Lincecum proceeded to have a pretty awful year so maybe there is a Red Bulletin curse just like there is supposedly one for appearing on the cover of Sports Illustrated. Though, to be fair, Lincecum had an even worse year this year, though the Giants did win the World Series again in '12.

Red Bulletin is always a fun digital magazine to look at because of its extensive use of video. Being a sports/adventure magazine, I suppose it gets little love from the tech community, about as far away from the target audience as I could imagine. While iPad owners gravitate to Red Bulletin tech writers prefer Marco Arment's The Magazine. That alone should tell you all you need to know about the differences in audiences.

Red Bulletin continues to be produced to be read in landscape, a logical choice considering its use of video. But I would like to point out that Red Bull Media House, the publishing arm of the beverage company, has made sure that the app icon is in portrait. One might question the choice since the digital magazine is to be read in landscape but I think it is the right thing to do. A portrait app icon looks better both inside the App Store and in Newsstand. Plus, if magazines should decide to do exclusively portrait app icons, and newspapers landscape, the reader ends up with a better looking and easier to use Newsstand app.

Here is another walk-through video, this one of the beginning of the January issue of the U.S. edition of Red Bulletin:

Morning Brief: NBC reporter Richard Engel and crew released by kidnappers in Syria; Google updates its Blogger app, adding iPhone 5 support

An NBC reporter, Richard Engel, and his crew were released today by kidnappers in Syria, after five days in captivity. The crew spoke to reporters in Turkey today about their ordeal.

The journalists were taken by masked gunmen after they had crossed into Syria from Turkey last week Thursday. Word leaked out that the men were missing, with stories on Gawker and The Atlantic websites appearing yesterday. Yesterday afternoon, however, The Atlantic pulled its story about the missing NBC reporter, possibly as a result of efforts by NBC to maintain an embargo on the story.

While captured the team were subjected to "a lot of psychological torture", according to Engel, as the kidnappers threatened to kill the captured one at a time.

Engel reported that the kidnappers claimed to be Shia who were loyal to the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad who kidnapped the crew in hopes of exchanging them for two Iranian agents and Lebanese held by the rebels.

Google updated its universal iOS app for Blogger, bringing the app up to version

The update brings iPhone 5 support to the blogging platform app, and now updates the save post options.

The update also now brings Google Analytics access to the app so that solo bloggers can get access to website statistics on the go.

The app is, as mentioned, universal, so is often the choice of bloggers on the iPad, though another blogging tool, Blogsy is also popular with bloggers as it supports multiple platforms.

Monday, December 17, 2012

The Canadian Newsstand: small differences and additions make all the difference for both readers and publishers

As angry as American developers may be over the changes Apple have made to the App Store – centered on the loss of a way to search for the newest released apps – Canadian app developers have reasons to feel lucky, especially media app developers.

At first glance, there appears to be virtually no difference between the U.S. and Canadian App Stores. Each has a carousel promotion at the top of the Newsstand as seen in the desktop version of iTunes. Both have a "New and Noteworthy" section that does not, in fact, feature new apps at all, just apps Apple wants to promote.

Yet another area is devoted to either more apps or, in the case of the Canadian App Store, a button that will lead you to an area where Canadian magazines are gathered in one place. In all, 43 magazines can be found in this space, but the order in which the reader sees the titles is determined by Apple as there is no ability to sort the titles by either release date or alphabetically.

Below the buttons comes "What's Hot", yet another area where Apple promotes apps.

Below that is another special area called Magazines en français. This section contains 29 French language titles, but unlike the section devoted to Canadian magazines, in general, this section can be sorted by Name, Release Date and Featured.

It all seems so random – why can one sort the magazines and newspapers found in one area, but not the other?

Below the area devoted to French language magazines is yet another row of app buttons (as opposed to icons) where again Apple is promoting apps.

Then finally there is the last section: "All Newsstand Apps" – the section that has been eliminated from the U.S. App Store.
In all, Canadian publishers can see seven different places where a reader could find their titles. There is also, of course, the Top Paid Apps, Top Free Apps and Top Grossing lists of apps that can be found along the right side of the store. That makes ten places.

In the U.S. store, there is a Happy Holidays section as well as a 2012 in Review section, but one row of buttons is missing, and most importantly of all, the "All Newsstand Apps" is gone.

What is shocking about the U.S. design – again, as seen in the desktop version of the iTunes App Store – is the enormous amount of wasted space. In fact, more than 50 percent of the available space Apple has to promote or list apps is left unused. Said another way, the redesigned Apple App Store is white space.

To make matters worse, using Apple's own system for sorting, if one were to use the subcategories to find apps, then pressed "New" one would find that the apps that come up can be sorted by either name or featured, but not date. In other words, "New" has lost all meaning.

For now, at least, Canadian publishers still have a way their new apps can be found by a shopper browsing to find something new to read. In the U.S. store, new apps are lost somewhere in the system. Let's hope that Apple chooses to fix the U.S. store so that it looks more like what Canadians see when they are in their own App Store.

AAM digital publishing survey unveils how member companies are investing in the new digital platforms

A new study conducted by the Alliance for Audited Media (AAM), formerly the Audit Bureau of Circulations, shows that member companies have made tremendous strides in developing for mobile media, tablets and online, even while many members are struggling to maintain a positive bottom line.

The AAM survey, conducted with Roslow Research, showed that 90 percent of AAM member companies are now distributing content via mobile devices – with 85 percent having launched an iPhone app, and 87 an iPad app.

"This year’s survey results show that publishers have embraced tablets, smartphones and the Web as an integral part of their overall cross-platform publishing strategy," said Eric John, AAM’s vice president of digital services. "They are meeting their readers where they live — in print, on tablets and smartphones, and on the Web."

AAM members are also active launchers of Android and other platform apps, as well. 75 percent reported having an Android app, while 67 percent said they have Kindle apps. More AAM magazine member companies are producing native applications (80 percent) versus newspaper companies 69 percent).

Magazine publishers appear most satisfied with native apps, compared to newspapers and B2B firms – 58 percent said they prefer to stick with native app, version 30 percent who wanted to move to HTML5 solutions. Not surprisingly, I suppose, B2B media companies are the most confused on the issue with 60 percent not sure in which direction to go.
Almost half of newspaper companies surveyed by the AAM said they now have put their websites behind some type of paywall (48 percent), while only 22 percent of consumer magazine members have. The AAM business media numbers say 54 percent have gone behind paywalls, but it must be remembered that the AAM represents only a small slice of all B2B media companies, and of those, the majority use a paid circulation model versus a qualified circulation model.

In a sign that the digital platforms are still not assisting member media firms turn a profit, the AAM study said that only half of those surveyed said that their websites are currently profitable. Not surprisingly then, only 22 percent said their mobile and tablet apps are contributing to the bottom line, though 51 percent said they expected their apps to be in the black in the next two years.

The Boston Globe and WBZ-TV announce new collaboration agreement; media companies will share video content and reporting across print, online & TV

The Boston Globe and WBZ-TV, the local CBS station, today announced that they will begin a collaboration that will combine the news and feature resources of both media outlets. The Globe is owned by The New York Times Company, while WBZ-TV id owned-and-operated by CBS.

According to the announcement, the two media outlets will share breaking news and video on television, in print and online, bringing WBZ-TV's AccuWeather forecasts and meteorologists to The Globe, for instance.

"This collaboration will further allow The Boston Globe and WBZ-TV News to deliver the most comprehensive news and information across platforms to better serve consumers when, where, and how they want content,” said Mark Lund, President and General Manager of CBS Boston’s WBZ-TV.

The new collaboration will mean that TV viewers will probably be seeing Globe reporters providing interviews and analysis for WBZ-TV news reports, as well the use of Globe polls.

“The relationship with WBZ-TV is one more way for the Globe to extend its reach in Greater Boston, with a news organization that values quality journalism,” Caleb Solomon, the Globe’s managing editor, said.

A mystery tale: Digital magazine apps that say they were updated in April finally hit the App Store in December

Every once in a while one finds something so strange inside the App Store that I don't know whether I should write about or simply scratch my head and move on.

As I've written about lately, Apple has made changes to its App Store that make it all but impossible for readers to find the latest released tablet editions. It is a change so counterintuitive that developers are at a loss to understand why Apple would do something so stupid.

But it is not yet completely impossible to go into the App Store and find the latest apps, you simply have to go outside the U.S. App Store. It was there that I found a new app from 1100 Media for their Chicago tablet magazine. That's when things got really strange.

The app description for Chicago | states that the app was updated to version 2.5 on April 10, 2012. OK, then why is this showing up in the App Store as a brand new release?

A look at the online version of the app in iTune shows a release date of December 17 – today – so that kind of explains it. But there is one more odd thing about this app: downloading it, installing it and opening it up shows that the latest issues are from March and April.
The Chicago tab edition is not the only 1100 Media app showing the same oddities. The los angeles | (sic) also shows a discrepancy between its release date online and what it shows in the App Store. It, too, has April as its last issue in the app.

A call to the company does no good since the phone numbers appear faked. They are, in fact, the same phone number for each magazine but with only the area code changed – each number is disconnected.

This is all a big mystery, or at least a mystery to me.

About three weeks ago I posted a look at the same company's tablet magazine for Scottsdale. At the time I said that the designers were taking a minimal approach to creating their tablet magazine, but that it worked. These two apps that are both new and old – new to the App Store, yet containing old issues – are identical in look to that Scottsdale digital magazine. So identical, in fact, that one has to really wonder about what is going on here.