Saturday, December 29, 2012

12 Apps of Christmas: November – publishers struggle to keep the doors open as print ad pages continue to decline

The Twelve Days of Christmas runs from Christmas Day to the evening of January 5th, or Twelfth Night.  TNM's 12 Apps of Christmas, which began last week, looks at the significant media events and new media apps of 2012. Today we have reached November. The last segment will appear New Year's Eve day.

As we moved into November we could finally see an end to the dreadful Presidential election cycle. Locally, I awoke the day after the election to find that my representative, a darling of the Tea Party movement, had been soundly defeated – replaced with a war veteran whose patriotism had been questioned during the campaign, despite her having lost both her legs in the war. At least some sanity seemed to have returned to the world. (It didn't last.)

A really nice new tablet edition was released in the month by the Denver Post, their Colorado Ski Guide. Created using the Adobe DPS, the app comes from the MediaNews Group division of Digital First Media, a newspaper company that, despite its name, it would be safe to consider the most backwards digitally in the industry. (There is more to being a digital company than redesigning the newsroom – real digital first companies like revenue and profits, as well.)

But even as it seemed as if the industry was beginning to consolidate its thinking about publishing platforms, new ones were being announced, such as PRSS, the platform from the publishers of the travel tablet magazine TRVL. As I am writing this, the publishers are out showing off their platform to publishers in hopes of encouraging early adopters.

Mag+, which has been around as long as the iPad, released its own SDK in November in hopes of getting developers to expand the platform even further. It was a good move, as one of the mistakes publishing vendors make is not constantly changing and growing the capabilities of their publishing solutions. We live now in an age where if a product does not frequently change and improve quickly finds itself left behind.

Early in the month, TNM reported on the latest B2B ad page report released by the ABM. It showed that business was slowing for B2B publishers as the latest time period – July with that November report – was filled with bad news.

In fact, things are getting worse for the B2B sector, not better. The August report, released in December, show no improvement – and more of the same means things are getting worse for publishers who had hoped 2012 would end the string of bad years.

Friday, December 28, 2012

BÜZE Magazine: Celebrate the coming New Year by downloading this new independent tablet-only magazine

Just sneaking into the App Store before Apple shut down iTunes Connect, Buze Magazine is a new tablet-only magazine from the Toronto publishing team of Vaughn Joseph and Cary Hyodo. Created using the Adobe Digital Publishing Suite, the magazine is scheduled to be published inside the Newsstand six times a year.

"Büze Magazine focuses on the global craft beer, artisanal spirits, mixology and foodie movements which when combined, create an enhanced drinks lifestyle – a lifestyle that embraces natural, organic and eco-friendly while producing a dizzying array of amazing drinks to accompany our most memorable moments," the app announcement states.

The new tablet magazine contains just one issue at this time, the premiere issue, which weighs in at just over 600 MB (pretty typical of a digital magazine made with the Adobe DPS).

Designed and edited by Cary Hyodo in InDesign, the magazine is meant to be read in portrait orientation, and, of course, features layouts and typography specifically designed for the iPad.
Hyodo, who says be comes from the print side of the publishing business – "to tell you the truth, I'm kind of old school" he told me – had previously worked on a magazine with roughly the same editorial subject, but that magazine has become more B2B, while the vision for Buze Magazine is to be an international drinks magazine, thanks to distribution through the Newsstand. The publishing team also plans an edition that can be read through the Kindle Fire.

The new app features a preview that can be downloaded for free to give the reader an idea of what to expect. Single editions are priced at $3.99, while an annual subscription costs $19.99.

Hyodo says that his partner in the venture, Vaughn Joseph, was the catalyst for launching a tablet magazine. "To be honest with you," Hyodo told me today, "he talked me into this."

"When I started I had not a lot of knowledge of what a truly digital magazine was. I had seen a few digital entries into the field, and most of them I had seen were basically just print magazines with the funky page turning function," Hyodo said.

"But when my partner showed me the true breadth... and what was possible with the fully interactive magazine I was kind of hooked."

Because of the publisher's background in the traditional magazine industry, the start-up tablet magazine is avoiding a lot of the mistakes made by newbies. Buze Magazine, for instance, already has a nicely designed website which can support the digital magazine's marketing. A press release has been issued (today, as a matter of fact), and there is already a full 2013 media kit available, complete with rates and specs.

"BÜZE Magazine will be attractively priced and sold through the iTunes Store/ Newsstand," the media kit proclaims. "The same place you would find the digital GQ or Wired Magazines. As such, our reach is not limited by the cost and imperfections of CMYK printing and we totally bypass the messy carbon footprinting of tree destruction and truck deliveries. The subject is international in scope, and our reach is global. BÜZE Magazine is an idea whose time has arrived."

"We're just a tap away."

The first issue of Buze Magazine contains advertising, just as you would expect of any commercial publications, Hyodo made sure of that.

A common mistake made by new tablet magazine not originating from a team of print publishers, is the lack of advertising-centric thinking seen in the first issues. As any print publisher with launch experience will tell you, you have to think advertising from Day One. Launch issues are usually seen as the main promotional piece in future sales pitches, so they not only need to contain advertising, but also need to be able to showcase for advertisers exactly who should be spending there ad dollars in future issues.

12 Apps of Christmas: In October, two indy publishers show two visions for tablet-only magazines

The Twelve Days of Christmas runs from Christmas Day to the evening of January 5th, or Twelfth Night.  TNM's 12 Apps of Christmas, which began last week, will look at significant media apps  released in 2012. Today we have reached October, and will continue the series through New Year's Eve.

In October the app developer of Instapaper, Marco Arment, released a tablet-only magazine, simply called The Magazine, which garnered great attention from the tech community. Some called the spartan digital magazine the way future digital publications would be designed, without interactivity and more like a Kindle Edition.

But other developers strongly disagreed, stating that the platform's strength was its ability to create both simply digital publications, as well as publications that can convey complex information using animation, audio and video.

A good example of this is 451 MagPad, the tablet-only magazine from France, originally released in October.

The French magazine takes its name from the 1953 Ray Bradbury novel Fahrenheit 451 – though, as I wrote at the time, the publisher may have been thinking of the François Truffaut film of the same book.

While I see value in Arment's new venture, I tend to think that any publisher who intentionally ignores the attributes of the platform they are using places themselves at a disadvantage. While too many of the early digital magazines may have over done animation and other features, that does not mean that these features don't have value when used properly.
Image and video hosting by TinyPic
October saw developer begin to incorporate Passbook into their mobile apps, the Apple payment system introduced with the launch of iOS 6. Starbucks, one of the more obvious uses of Passbook, updated its mobile app to add in Passbook support during October – only later finally updating the app to add in iPhone 5 support.

Also in October, one of Canada's leading newspapers, The Globe and Mail, announced that it would be launching a metered paywall later in the month. "Some of the world’s largest and most respected media outlets have successfully introduced a similar model, and we look forward to the benefits it will enable us to deliver to our readers and advertisers," said Phillip Crawley, publisher of The Globe and Mail.

Paywalls continue to be a controversial issue in the industry, with some success being recorded by financial newspapers and major national papers like the NYT. But other papers have launched paywalls while skeptics continue to warn publishers that they are about to make their titles irrelevant online.

TNW Magazine: Publisher says the next issue will be the last build for the Android platform, at least for now

The co-founder of The Next Web has let TNM know that the next issue of their digital magazine, TNW Magazine (iTune link) will be that last built for the Google Play store. The next issue, v0.12, is being produced now, but the following issue, v1.1, will be for iOS only.

"The platform is just less developed," Boris Veldhuijzen van Zanten said, referring to the Android platform. "We did, however, give it a try after getting a lot of requests for it."

The Android app description states that the app, which is built using the Mag+ platform, "is optimized for the Google Nexus 7. Other Android tablets are supported, use on your own regard." (sic)

The Android app has been generally well received inside Google Play, though there are only 46 reviews written to date with the main complaint being issues with various Android tablets. There are 167 reviews for the universal iOS version inside the Apple App Store, the vast majority of which are five-star.
Goodbye Android?

"We are seeing one Android reader for every 80 iOS users. We might try again next year when more Android tablets are being sold but right now it seems like an easy market to ignore," Veldhuijzen van Zanten told TNM.

According to a draft announcement to appear on the TNW website, the website's co-found says "We tried an Android magazine, and found out it just isn’t worth the effort. Does that mean that Android sucks? Ehm, no, and there is no reason to tell us how cool Android is in the comments, because we understand it is. It just means that with the current state of technology and the way the market is divided we can’t afford to invest in it anymore."

One of the biggest hang ups, besides download numbers, is the time needed to produce the Android version, 3 to 4 days versus just a couple of hours needed to convert the iPad version into the iPhone edition, according to the publisher.
The TNW Magazine app, being universal, supports not only the two versions of the iPad, but also the iPhone and iPod touch with its two different display sizes. With Android, that means the web property is supporting four different formats with its tablet-only magazine.

With the Mag+ platform the typical cost to produce a single platform app that will have Newsstand support is $399 per month, according to the vendor's website. There is an added charge of $99 or $199 per month to add support for one or more other devices.

Update: The Next Web's own story on their decision can be found here. The comments, in particular, are interesting. My only question would be this, though: if all these Android users didn't know TNW even had a tablet-magazine for the Android platform, why are they upset now that TNW won't be building one for Android anymore?

Thursday, December 27, 2012

12 Apps of Christmas: September – Apple makes a serious mistake with the release of its new Maps app

The Twelve Days of Christmas runs from Christmas Day to the evening of January 5th, or Twelfth Night.  TNM's 12 Apps of Christmas, which began last week, will look at significant media apps  released in 2012. Today we have reached September, and will continue the series through New Year's Eve.

There were a lot of really good new tablet magazine released in September, including two mentioned in the last installment of this series – the sports magazines from the SF Chronicle, Chicago Tribune and Sun-Times. But no app got more attention that the new Maps app from Apple, released as part of iOS 6.

On Monday, September 17 TNM reported the issue several days before the public release of iOS 6. The problem was in plan site, if one downloaded and installed the gold master of the new operating system.
The problem with Maps was (and remains) with the data used to populate the app. Bad mapping, imagery and others issues made the new Maps an instant butt of jokes. Bridges that looked like they were melting didn't help, but the raw data is just plain bad.

The issue arose because Apple believed, probably correctly, that it needed to replace Google Maps because Google was withholding turn-by-turn directions. Google, for its part, wanted access to user data for advertising purposes. In retrospect, Apple should have allowed Google to launch its own maps app separate from the OS. Instead, the episode simply highlighted the ways Apple's software has fallen in quality over the past few years – iTunes being but the most glaring example until Maps.

September also saw the release of a new, lower priced app solution from Adobe. Priced at $395, Digital Publishing Suite, Single Edition allows media app developers to create a stand-alone app using Adobe DPS.

The downside is that as a single edition the app will not support Newsstand allow for multiple issues. But a good example of its use can be seen in the app for ΜΟΥΣΑ, the Greek edition of Marie Claire released in December.

Then mid-month there was this announcement: “After struggling for close to three years, we’ve decided to discontinue the consumer-facing magazines,” Mark Edmiston told Adweek as Nomad Editions announce that the company was shuttering its titles.

Retweet: WaPo profiles dubious TV production firm

I suppose that in some ways this story is along the same lines and of the same theme as my last post: a company that makes money using questionably tactics. But whereas some firms employ the lure of "increased exposure" in order to gain access to a journalist's original content, the story produced by the Washington Post last night is all about cold hard cash.

Written by Paul Farhi, the story is headlined Production firms stir suspicion among networks, would-be clients, and tells the tale of a company that approaches companies, trade associations and nonprofit organizations such as schools, with a somewhat unique proposition: they will shoot a short video about their organization to air on a television program, the piece will be flattering and will garner the organization much attention. The catch is that it will cost them a production fee of over $20,000.

You can read the entire piece on the WaPo website here.

There is an interesting comment posted after the story by a PR professional who has run into this outfit and tells how they work and that sometimes the firm says it is doing "research" and does not immediately ask for the money – that comes later, of course.

The reason the story is interesting to me is that these kinds of firms operate in many other areas, including in the magazine publishing field. The pitch and angle is often different, but it is the same scheme, nonetheless.

One publishing company I actually worked at for about a year made this business model into quite a successful venture. The company would employ a phone room split into two: one part would call companies to tell them that the magazine wanted to do a feature story on them, all they needed to do was submit to an interview and supply the magazine with a list of companies they worked with; the other part of the phone room would take that list and hard sell them ads that would surround the feature story. The pitch was that the company being featured wanted them to participate, and that not doing so would be bad for business. Once enough advertising was sold the feature would "go live" and be passed on to someone in the small editorial department that would churn out a story.

Each issue would start with zero ads and only a bare minimum of editorial. Then the features would be sold and the issue would take shape. In this way an issue could go from $0 to over $500,000 in three weeks. The publishing company could create these magazine for any imaginable topic and could publish them monthly, bi-monthly or quarterly depending on the success of the phone room. In this way a magazine could be started up and made profitable instantly.

I came on board because the CEO said he wanted to go legit and needed a magazine pro to help him out. In the end, being slimy proved more profitable than actually trying to produce a legitimate magazine and so eventually I was gone.

But the real story here, I think, is that our industry, the magazine publishing industry, doesn't look at a company like this one described as in any way illegitimate. On the contrary, a big NYC private equity firm, one that has backed many other magazine companies, invested in this one, as well. Apparently strong arming businesses didn't bother them in the least.

(The PE firm still lists the magazine company they invested in on their website, though they say they have exited the investment.)

Let's not pretend the things the reporter for the WaPo is writing about are unique to the television industry. We have our own share of shady characters, and it doesn't take much effort to find them.

Some new digital media start-ups test out exploitation as their business model, while a few try cooperation

If there was a major trend this year in digital media, one most tech and media websites would rather not talk about (besides declining advertising) it has to be the number of new media businesses that have been launched that use exploitation, or in some cases, cooperation with content creators to build their businesses.

Not a week goes by that I don't get solicited by a new, or even existing, new web property to contribute the content I create here at TNM to the new entity. In return, I am told, I will get added traffic back to my website. Actually getting paid for my work, of course, is out of the question.

As one person told me when I declined the offer to give away my content, "exploitation" is a strong word, their new launch, they assured me, was "revolutionary".

But there is nothing revolutionary about trying to get free content. Many of today's biggest web properties are build on that very notion. Ask newspaper publishers about Google and they will tell you that the search giant's very existence is dependent on their content (and so Google should pay). The issue is whether what the content providers get in return in worth the price of submitting their content to the other party for free. In the case of Google, where Google has said they would be happy to leave out the newspaper's content, most have decided that the bargain is not worth passing up – there is too much to lose and very little to gain by opting out.

Other businesses are built on the same concept. Facebook is a great example. Facebook, like MySpace before it, provides the platform and users join in. Users are not charged for the privilege, but their Facebook pages become the content Facebook can sell. Brands, in general, have found it worth their trouble to join in, but media entities are taking a second look at the concept, and some have decided to back out.
More recently, Flipboard, Zite and even Google Currents have launched new tablet "magazines" where either the reader builds their own digital magazines and newspapers based on the content contributed by media properties. In some cases, the media outlet is presented with a carrot: drive enough traffic and you'll end up seeing a check.

The promise of pay is, of course, what can differentiate the offer from others. If a major tech property wants me to contribute my writing to their website or digital magazine what is in it for me? Added traffic? What about a share of the added revenue that site generates from online advertising?

Sadly, our industry, print and digital publishing, has jumped onto the exploitation bandwagon. Recently a long time publishing veteran, was honored after years of taking the full stories of other media outlets and repackaging them into his own newsletter. Apparently the business model does not bother other publishers who, most likely, would love to be able to rid themselves of the cost of creating original content themselves. What is honored in the publishing business is a cause for lawsuits in other industries.

But the business model has many variations, and exploitation can quickly morph into cooperation with a few tweaks here or there.

Cooperation, sadly, has gotten a bad rap through the years, as if the communists invented the term and now everyone needs to run as far away from the concept as possible. Cooperation is often seen as creating an inferior product to the efforts of the individual – take the wine cooperatives of southern France, as an example.

Nomad Editions, which recently shuttered its titles, was founded on the idea that individuals would edit their "own" magazines" using the Nomad publishing solution. In exchange, the editors would get a share of the subscription revenue. The concept had merit: the editor creates something new using tools provided for free and, in the end, gets paid for their efforts; the new media outlet creates the tools, absorbs the programming, design and server costs, but gets the content for free.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Holiday retail sales disappoint, though anecdotal evidence point to good sales for the Kindle and the iPad mini

It will probably be another week or two before we start hearing reports from the tablet makers on holiday sales. For now the early reports of sales overall are not good, with credit card companies saying that sales have been disappointing.

According to the MasterCard Advisors SpendingPulse report, holiday sales for the past two months before Christmas increased 0.7 percent compared to 2011. That increase was the worst sales increase since 2008 when the country was officially in recession.

Retailers are blaming bad weather – as if the weather is always good in winter – as well as economic uncertainly. But, let's face it, we're not exactly in a booming economy.

But if you were in the market for a tablet for Christmas there were plenty of choices, maybe even too many choices, according to some retailers I spoke to.

According to several Best Buy managers I spoke to, the big winner this year was the Kindle, including the Kindle Fire. Best Buy heavily promoted the tablet, and the low cost of Amazon's offerings probably went a long way towards driving sales.

None of the retail employees I spoke to could name another tablet that flew off the shelves other than the iPad. Well, the iPad mini, in particular.

My local Best Buy no longer has any stock of the mini. But what about the other iPad models?

"The iPad is getting confusing," one store employee told me. "It used to be that there was the iPad. Now we sell the iPad, the new iPad and the iPad 2. The iPad mini is easy to understand, the others not so much."

Apple, it seems, has done the one thing Steve Jobs hated: fragmented the device market in such a way that consumers are confused as to what it is they are buying. And confused consumers tend to delay purchasing. (While Amazon has a whole like of Kindles, there appears to be less confusion between models.)

Rumors are now beginning to surface about a new iPad for launch in March, the traditional time for a new iPad to launch. At this point the only changes to the new iPad mentioned are that it would be lighter and thinner. Maybe it will be invisible.

The good news is that the tablet market is maturing to the point where there are lots of choices. The bad news is that developers of media applications have to begin wondering if their standard practice of developing for Apple's iOS first, others later, still is a good way to go. Apple's product fragmentation, iTunes and App Store issues, and higher prices may have finally added up to another company breaking through to become a real alternative to iOS.

12 Apps of Christmas: August sees the beginning of a rush of new digital sports magazines released by metro daily newspapers to showcase their sports coverage

The Twelve Days of Christmas runs from Christmas Day to the evening of January 5th, or Twelfth Night.  TNM's 12 Apps of Christmas, which began last week, will look at significant media apps  released in 2012. Today we have reached August, and will continue the series through New Year's Eve.

August is supposed to be the time when folks vacation and the media world slows down. But several media companies worked through the month to produce what I believe will be seen as an important publishing trend in the newspaper industry. Whether these first efforts are successful or not, the simple fact that these old media companies are moving in the direction of producing their own digital magazines will be significant.

September is the beginning of the football season, and so to launch a tablet magazine to house the content of a newspaper's sport section, one would need to begin early to begin work on the new app to house the digital magazine.

The first of these apps to appear on TNM was from McClatchy's Star-Telegram. DFW OT launched at the end of August and was quite a break from the earlier digital efforts seen from McClatchy. In fact, later that same week the newspaper chain released a series of dismal apps for its newspapers.

"DFW OT Sports is a very rare experiment in digital publishing" I wrote in August, "and one that should be applauded by all newspaper professionals – and its a pretty damn good digital magazine, as well."

DFW OT was not the first digital sports magazine to come from a newspaper, as several previous launches had occurred for basketball and baseball teams. But the Star-Telegram's effort was a preview of what was to come in the weeks ahead as new tablet magazines were released by the San Francisco Chronicle (49ers Insider), the Chicago Tribune (Bears Download) and the Chicago Sun-Times (Bears Extra).

The last three new tablet magazines all use the Mag+ platform to create their editions while the Star-Telegram uses Adobe. But all three are also using different business models to try and monetize their digital publishing efforts: some are paid subscription products, at least one is free; some contain advertising, others are single sponsored. This experimentation is a good thing as we get to see which models seem to work and whether readers are willing to pay to read these new digital ventures from traditional print newspaper companies.

NYC tabloids react to NRA chief, while Gannett-owned NY state paper produces interactive map of area gun owners

A Gannett newspaper in the Lower Hudson Valley produced and published an interactive map of area gun owners, drawing fire from readers (sorry, couldn't resist).

"I can't believe these a$$hats published this info. Clean up your hardware, stock up on ammo," wrote one irate reader.

"This is CRAZY!! why in the world would you post every licensed gun owner information??" wrote another. "What do you hope to accomplish by doing this. This is the type of thing you do for sex offenders not law abiding gun owners."
"The map indicates the addresses of all pistol permit holders in Westchester and Rockland counties," the newspaper said. "Each dot represents an individual permit holder licensed to own a handgun — a pistol or revolver. The data does not include owners of long guns — rifles or shotguns — which can be purchased without a permit."
The feature has generated over 1,700 comments so far online, the vast majority of them negative, and many, many saying readers should boycott the paper.

The interactive feature comes on the heels of the elementary school shooting in Connecticut and the shooting this weekend of firefighters called to a fire deliberately set to attract shooting victims in Webster, NY. outside Rochester.

Just before Christmas, the NRA's chief executive Wayne LaPierre gave a speech where he recommended putting armed guards inside schools. The New York tabloids responded by featuring LaPierre on its cover – the Post leading with "Gun Nut" and the Daily News calling him the "craziest man on Earth".

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

12 Apps of Christmas: Next Issue Media's digital newsstand comes to the iPad & finally takes off, while Mag+'s native iPhone magazine solution gets showcased

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 last week, will look at significant media apps (or trends) released in 2012.

Today, Christmas Day, we look at July, with the series continuing through New Year's Eve. This will be the only post here today at TNM, have a Merry Christmas.

July saw several new, important media apps released, but the summer was also a time of continuing difficulties in Europe as the Euro crisis continued on. During the month, the reporters for The Athens News, one of two English language news organizations in Greece, went out on strike due to unpaid back wages. Sadly the situation has not improved and the paper's website has remained without an update since mid-November.

Also in July, the founder of paidContent, Rafat Ali, launched a new travel website called Skift used the WordPress CMS to launch its 'travel intelligence' website, another take on online B2B publishing, and the first major move in this area since the demise of VerticalNet.

Late in the month Apple launched Mountain Lion and updated its own Mac apps. The launch of the new Mac OS went fairly smoothly, especially in comparison to the release later in the year of iOS 6.
The most significant app releases in the month came from two very different sources, using two very different approaches.

The iPhone edition of the British Journal of Photography was an all-new app that used the Mag+ platform. Rather than simply making a universal replica app, the British magazine had launched a well-received tablet edition using the Mag+ platform. In July the magazine launched a new iPhone edition using the same, but now updated platform.

The results were wonderful: a fully native take on the mobile format.

Another app release in July may, in the end, be even more significant. Next Issue Media had been established back before the original iPad was launched. A digital alliance between major publishers Condé Nast, Hearst, Meredith, News Corporation and Time Inc., the new venture was, as expected, very slow to take off.

At first the new company launched a digital newsstand for the Samsung Galaxy Tab, then later an Android app was launched. This was an effort by media giants that was going nowhere, at at a slow pace.

Finally, in July, Next Issue Media launched its iPad app and finally the new venture gained some traction.

The business model is a break from the old subscription model: for one monthly fee a reader can access a whole catalog of magazine titles. Obviously the reason for Next Issue Media is to retain control with the publishers and avoid Apple's fees and control.

It is rather ironic, though, that while Next Issue Media is looking out for the interests of big publishers, Apple has made changes to its App Store that favor the big publishers, as well. For now, at least, no one seems to be looking out for small, independent publishers. What is now needed is an easy to navigate and search digital newsstand that creates an even playing field for digital start-ups.

Monday, December 24, 2012

PhotobucketCody says
Merry Christmas
from Talking
New Media!

(and is there any of that roast leftover?)

Yo ho, my boys! No more work to-night!

"Yo ho, my boys!" said Fezziwig. "No more work to-night. Christmas Eve, Dick. Christmas, Ebenezer. Let's have the shutters up," cried old Fezziwig, with a sharp clap of his hands, "before a man can say Jack Robinson."

You wouldn't believe how those two fellows went at it. They charged into the street with the shutters -- one, two, three -- had them up in their places -- four, five, six -- barred them and pinned then -- seven, eight, nine -- and came back before you could have got to twelve, panting like race-horses.

"Hilli-ho!" cried old Fezziwig, skipping down from the high desk, with wonderful agility. "Clear away, my lads, and let's have lots of room here. Hilli-ho, Dick! Chirrup, Ebenezer."

Clear away! There was nothing they wouldn't have cleared away, or couldn't have cleared away, with old Fezziwig looking on. It was done in a minute. Every movable was packed off, as if it were dismissed from public life for evermore; the floor was swept and watered, the lamps were trimmed, fuel was heaped upon the fire; and the warehouse was as snug, and warm, and dry, and bright a ball-room, as you would desire to see upon a winter's night.

12 Apps of Christmas: the trend of web properties launching tablet magazines gets a boost from Huffington

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 last week, will look at significant media apps (or trends) released in 2012. Today we look at June, continuing the series through New Year's Eve.

June, glorious, June. After some 25 years I finally went on another longish vacation. This business of ours is brutal, isn't it? So TNM was shut down for the last week of the month while I was in Greece – and it's a good thing, too. WiFi was pretty iffy.

Early in the month I was able to highlight the new app from B2B media firm Cygnus Business Media for Aircraft Maintenance Technology. Up to that time – and come to think of it, today as well – Cygnus is one of the few B2Bs out there showing any leadership when it comes to tablet editions. Late in the year Crain Communications finally showed some interest, but far too many B2Bs remain years behind their consumer counterparts.

The big news of the month was supposed to be the introduction of the Microsoft Surface tablet. Steve Ballmer, the company's CEOm could not get the launch event started on time, making everyone want 40 minutes before getting his show started. To make matters much, much worse, Microsoft did not announce either pricing or a launch date despite all the hoopla associated with the event.

Eventually, of course, the Surface surfaced, but only at a few limited retail locations so now Microsoft is still in the midst of rolling out its own tablet. Whether anyone really cares remains, six months after the intro event, an open question.

As far as tablet magazine launches were concerned the biggie was the launch of Huffington. The tablet-only digital magazine was nowhere near the first web property to decide to launch a tablet magazine.
The Next Web, for instance, had launched its digital magazine back in February, and before that one Engadget Distro had appeared in Apple's Newsstand.

But the Huffington Post tablet magazine launch drew the most attention simply because of who was behind the magazine.

Later this year, when the news hit that The Daily would fold, many pointed to these tablet-only magazine published by web properties as proof that any tablet publication would need the support of either a print or online product behind it. One wonders if in the future some will argue that the only way to launch a print product will be to make sure one has a tablet product to support it?

It was also around this time that I got in the habit of producing short video walk-throughs of the new tablet apps. Here is the one produced in June for Huffington:

Morning Brief: Stock futures lower on budget concerns; Apple shuts down iTunes Connect for the holiday, Maybach to the Newsstand with a new app

It's Christmas Eve day, and I assume many TNM readers are enjoying an extended holiday. As for me, well, I have fond memories of working on the day before Christmas so am happy to be here to continue to talk about New Media.

One of the great things about working in the newspaper industry – back in the days when the newspaper industry was in better shape – was working Christmas Eve. No matter whether you were in the newsroom, the advertising department, or production there was always the next day's paper to put out, so few complained about working that day, after all, there would be those working the next day, as well. So, we all made the best of it, and found ways to actually enjoy the experience, wishing our fellow workers a good holiday, and doing things like cracking up some wine, that today would be against company policies.

So to those working in media on Christmas Eve, a hearty welcome to TNM.

Wall Street will have a shortened day of trading today because of the holiday. Stock futures are down, as one would expect, as investors express concern over whether Congress will be able to get its act together before January 1 to reach an agreement that will prevent automatic tax hikes and spending cuts from being implemented – the so-called fiscal cliff.

I wouldn't bet on Congress.

Apple has shut down iTunes Connect for the week. One hopes that while their system is down they are working behind the scenes to fix some of the issues involved with the App Store.

The biggest issue, however, remains the design of the U.S. App Store, which now overwhelmingly favors the apps from big publishers at the expense of small, independent publishers. Finding a new app without already knowing the name is now nearly impossible – as a result, I now spend most of my time outside the U.S. store in the other international App Stores that have not abandoned developers as of yet.

Before shutting down things for the holiday, Apple rushed to make sure new apps and app updates that were in queue were released into the store.

One of those apps is from long time TNM reader and independent publisher Christopher English. His new app for Maybach Magazine hit the store on Friday afternoon, as did quite a number of other new titles. (The Maybach app icon, which is the cover of the January issue, can be seen above-right.)

The new Maybach app was created using nov8rix which English chose because of the Newsstand support.

Many of the new apps are coming from the U.S.-Indian firm Magzter. The DIY solution has become popular for many smaller publishers because of the lack of upfront costs – Magzter instead employs a revenue share strategy. It is a tough deal, however, as publishers must split their subscription revenue with Magzter, a split that occurs after Apple gets its 30 percent. That means for every dollar of sales the publisher only sees 35 cents.

For ad driven business models this is not so bad, after all circulation usually, at best, just covers expenses. But for those new digital magazines trying to make a go of it through subscription sales, the two splits – one with Apple, one with the vendor – pretty much eats up any chances at the publisher seeing a profit, let alone a livable wage.
As a result, many of the new digital magazines being released a being forced to price their issues and subscriptions quite a bit higher than other digital magazines, in order to eke out some revenue. This puts these new titles even more at a disadvantage inside the App Store. Maybe after Christmas we will awaken to see that Apple and these vendors have been visited by the Christmas spirits and things will be changed. (I put the odds of that happening about the same as the House GOP coming to their senses.)

One of the new digital magazines released late last week was Büze Magazine, a new drinks magazine that is most definitely using a more interactive digital publishing platform than many of the DIY new releases.

TNM will take a closer look at this new digital magazine start-up after the holiday.