Friday, January 4, 2013

TalkingNewMedia reaches the age of three (it still can't walk, but it sure can talk)

It is TNM's birthday today, did you know that? On this day in 2010 the first "official" post appeared on this website, and if your memory fails you and you do not recall what that first post was about don't worry about it, I believe only a handful of web readers ever saw that first story.

That first post on January 4, 2010 talked about the iSlate tablet. You remember the iSlate, don't you? The iSlate was yet another example of rumor-journalism, the art of repeating rumors on tech websites in order to attract clicks. I linked to the NYT report on the rumored Apple tablet, as well as Ken Doctor's post. Doctor read it and posted a commented here, he hasn't been back as far as I can tell.

Just like a new born baby, the real first day of life for TNM came earlier and was, for the most part, unseen by readers – there were test posts that appeared on the website as far back as December 3, 2009. The first test post, which can still be seen here, talked about the conceptual video created by Time Inc. on what a tablet edition of Sports Illustrated would possibly look like.  A week later I wrote about the shuttering of Editor & Publisher by its owner, Nielsen.

In three years TNM readership has grown, but has never broken through to consumer website levels. In 2010 this site had just under 15,000 readers, in 2011 it doubled to just over 30,000. Last year TNM was read by around 50,000 digital media professionals. (How do I know they were all digital media professionals? Because no one ever complained about all the typos on this site. Only a digital media pro would forgive my sloppiness so easily.)

In B2B terms, I'm pretty happy with the number of readers accessing TNM daily. As of today around 50 percent of all TNM readers come from outside the U.S. But if this were a consumer website the numbers would be considered insignificant. Last week, for instance, The Next Web linked back to TNM and drove quite a number of readers here. But few if any of those readers are TNM's target audience and probably none will ever return. That's not the way B2B works: one writes for a select audience and hopes you become a trusted source of news, information and opinion.

At least twice in the past two years I've shut down TNM. I never anticipated continuing to publish this site assuming that at some point I would return to being a publisher at yet another struggling publishing company – that is what I've been doing since 1981. I'd still listen to offers, by the way, but the industry is in no better shape today than it was when this site was launched.

So on to Year Four for TNM.

One change I look to make is to launch a page where industry companies can get information on advertising here. For now TNM only accepts ad network space, but they are often ads that make no sense for the readership. We see that on lots of sites including Jim Romenesko's site. I bet it is as frustrating for him as it is me.

So if your company is interested in advertising here just contact me and I will supply the necessary information, otherwise look for the new page to launch by the end of next week.

In the meantime, thank you for reading TNM these past three years!

Forbes Magazine uses MAZ to dress up their replica edition to appear as native as possible

One would not exactly use the term "progressive" when describing either Steve Forbes or the magazine that bears his name. So one shouldn't expect too much from the late-to-game tablet edition released for the conservative magazine.

Forbes Magazine, the new iPad edition, was built using MAZ, the NYC start-up that says it wants to help publishers create native apps but requires a PDF to do it. It is an odd and lazy digital publishing solution that is one step up from a digital flipbook.

To make it appear as native as possible the idea is to add links and multimedia material so that the bells and whistles will mask the replica edition below it. In other words, the production team needs to work hard to produce something that is a replica but doesn't appear that way to the reader. One would think that the alternative approach would be to put all that effort into creating a truly native tablet edition. To each his own, I guess.
The new app offers the latest issue free of charge to let the readers sample the magazine. Single issues are priced at $5.99, while a 1-month subscription is $2.99 and an annual subscription is $29.99.

The preview issue downloads quickly because what you get here is basically a PDF with links. There is plenty of video content to be found in this preview issue, but the links take you to a new window powered by YouTube. It isn't a bad solution, mind you – after all, this solution cuts down significantly the amount of time needed to download the issues. Of course an Internet connection would be needed to access the video content, but that is a common compromise.

No, the problem with the digital edition of Forbes is the problem with all replicas: readability. This digital magazine was designed to be read in print, at print magazine size, with print magazine sized fonts.
The trouble starts right on page two with the 2-page ad spread that can't be seen in portrait. Turning your iPad to landscape to see the ad properly works until you swipe to the next page and encounter part of the TOC on the left and another ad on the right. One must again turn their iPad in order to have a chance at reading any of it.

MAZ's digital magazine solution offers some cute features like the way links become visible – one taps and holds your finger to screen and the links materialize. But the app also has some annoying bugs, as well. For instance, I could not get past the instruction animation. I tapped and swiped and it would not disappear. Closing out the app completely solved the issue, but in the meantime I was frozen.

I guess I would call Forbes's approach austerity in action: don't spend much money, work hard, make money for the owners, and hope the readers don't revolt. A bit like the way the euro crisis in Greece is being handled, I suppose.
Left: the store page where the latest issue is available for free; Middle: the instructions page which I initially could not escape; Right: the problem with replica editions becomes all too obvious when confronted with a text heavy page. And what are those page folios doing in a digital edition?

Morning Brief: So far, so good for Andrew Sullivan's new indy venture; Next Issue releases update to its iPad app

Tucked away inside The Daily Beast Andrew Sullivan's blog, The Daily Dish, was something to be commented on only occasionally. But now that Sullivan has announced his return to independence, the journalism community appears to be cheering him on.

Charging readers $19.99, Sullivan has been able to already raise an incredible amount of money, over $300,000 so far, Sullivan claims.

“We felt more and more that getting readers to pay a small amount for content was the only truly solid future for online journalism,” Sullivan wrote in his blog post.

But journalists, most of whom appear to have no business sense, seem to make a lot more out of the move than it deserves. The problem is not that the model won't work, it will and has been proven to work many times in the past, it is that the model is very much limited. If readers were forced to pay 20 bucks for all their content the whole system breaks down. Is every single writer worth the price of a newspaper or magazine subscription? Of course not.

In essence, what Sullivan has created for himself is no different than a magazine subscription. His blog is not a resource for endless news, so the value of content is very much limited to those who find Sullivan wildly entertaining (and as someone who has a long memory, I very much remember how much his name seemed like mud to me during the run up to the Iraq War).

But no one should think that I dismiss the idea that someone can charge for content - the practice has been going on since the beginning of time – the problem is that once the euphoria of the launch is over The Daily Dish simply is what all media outlets are, a business in search of revenue to sustain itself. It's ability to succeed will probably follow the pattern set by Josh Marshall at TRM, grow or die.

Among the small group of media app updates this morning was one for Next Issue, the digital newsstand created by Condé Nast, Hearst Magazines, Meredith, News Corp. and Time Inc.

The update increases the size of the magazine covers inside the app (I guess some complained they couldn't tell which titles were which) and fixed some bugs.

The selection stands at 80 titles and I think Next Issue is running into a wall of sorts. Expanding the selection would be a natural direction to go in, but that would mean that either the price for unlimited access would have to be raised, or it would have to be limited in some fashion.

One option would be for Next Issue to create its own competition by launching another newsstand where independent publishers could have their titles appear – but knowing the companies involved with Next Issue I would find the move unlikely.

Where does Next Issue go from here? That may be the big question of 2013. But for now, with Apple promoting only major publishers and dissing start-ups though its redesign of the App Store, the stars have aligned for the big guys. If they can't make a success of tablet publishing in this environment they never will. Eventually a platform will emerge more friendly to small, independent publishers, or Apple will once again become developer friendly. Either event would be bad news for the big name magazine publishers.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Google and FTC settle: agreement ends search bias charges while requiring little from Google

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and Google today reached an agreement that the parties say will resolve certain concerns over competitiveness, but without forcing Google to change its search activities.

The agreement will likely be seen as a victory for Google as the search giant will not have to face charges of bias in its search results, results that some said were skewed to favor Google-owned properties at the expense of competitors.

Under the agreement, according to the FTC, Google will allow competitors access to certain patents "on critical standardized technologies needed to make popular devices such as smart phones, laptop and tablet computers, and gaming consoles."

"The changes Google has agreed to make will ensure that consumers continue to reap the benefits of competition in the online marketplace and in the market for innovative wireless devices they enjoy,” FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz said in the agency's statement.

We are especially glad to see that Google will live up to its commitments to license its standard-essential patents, which will ensure that companies willing to license these patents can compete in the market for wireless devices,” Leibowitz added. “This decision strengthens the standard-setting process that is at the heart of innovation in today’s technology markets.”

In a statement issued by Google the company claimed victory but also said it would make certain commitments to the FTC.

"Google is confident that our practices are entirely consistent with all applicable laws and regulations," Google's statement read. But the company will commit to two actions: making available a web-based notice form for website owners to opt out from display of their content on Google's Covered Webpages; and revising its AdWords API language.

"We’ve always accepted that with success comes regulatory scrutiny," David Drummond, Senior Vice President and Chief Legal Officer wrote in a Google blog post. "But we’re pleased that the FTC and the other authorities that have looked at Google's business practices—including the U.S. Department of Justice (in its ITA Software review), the U.S. courts (in the SearchKing and Kinderstart cases), and the Brazilian courts (in a case last year)—have concluded that we should be free to combine direct answers with web results."

The Berliner Philharmoniker's Digital Concert Hall: a late Christmas present for classical music lovers worldwide

The radio pioneer David Sarnoff had an ego the size of the moon – anyone who would pay to have Frank Sinatra serenade him with a song with lyrics changed to reflect his accomplishments has an ego, in my opinion. But there is no doubt that Sarnoff, the founder of RCA and later NBC, was a man who accomplished a lot in his life.

One of his accomplishments was the establishment of the NBC Symphony Orchestra under the baton of conductor Arturo Toscanini. Sarnoff created the orchestra as part of his own vision to bring quality music to listeners via radio. With the entry of television, the NBC Symphony Orchestra could be seen and heard by early television set owners.

These efforts not only promoted radio, one of the reasons Sarnoff established the orchestra, but promoted classical music to the American public. Radio and television broadcasts brought listeners to the concert hall and encouraged record sales.
Today, little classical music (or jazz, for that matter) is heard on U.S. television. The result is not only more hours of low cost to produce programming, but a decrease of interest in classical music in all its forms – concert hall and CD.

It is very much up to the orchestras themselves to market their wares to the public.

This new app from the Berliner Philharmoniker not only does that, but creates a revenue stream, as well.

The Berliner Philharmoniker's Digital Concert Hall is a free app that contains plenty of free content, but it also invites classical music lovers to make purchases to watch and listen to archived and live concerts via a 7-day and 3-day ticket, priced at $10.00 and $27.99 respectively. The app also allows for voucher codes that can be give to friends to they, too, can access the content inside the app.

In addition to the concerts, there are interviews and educational material that serve to not only inform but to promote the symphony orchestra.

The iOS app is universal and wisely chooses to keep its content out of the app itself, which therefore weighs in at only 17.5 MB.

Here is a walk-through parts of the new app, a definite late Christmas gift to classical music lovers worldwide (though I am forced to add that the app is hard to find inside the U.S. App Store thanks to Apple's redesign):

The dangers of outsourcing your media apps apparent in newly released app for Scottish newspaper The Courier

Let's face it, mistakes happen all the time in the newspaper business: the typo that appears on the front page headline, the picture with the wrong caption, it happens. But those mistakes are the responsibility of the newspaper itself and a quick correction is all that is necessary to make things right (hopefully).

But media companies are learning that as they enter into agreements with third party vendors to create their mobile and tablet apps, all sorts of problems arise that are not only preventable, but really inexcusable for a major media outlet.

One of the biggest problems revolves around branding as many vendors slap their own names on the new apps released into Apple's App Store. In exchange for low (or no) costs to the publisher, the vendor often gets the marketing advantages that come with new apps – they often also get a share of the revenue.
These screenshots actually look better here than in iTunes
Preventing this is sometimes as easy as owning your own Apple developer license. My own license, for instance, is coming up for renewal soon and the $99 cost seems like a trifle compared with maintaining the ability to launch products under my own name.

But when using a vendor, sometimes that is still not enough, as evidenced by this newly released app for the Scottish newspaper The Courier – Dundee. Published by DC Thomson & Co., The Courier's new app is one of several in the App Store for the company.

But the company, rather than build for the future by creating their own digital media capabilities, has been outsourcing its app development. Its app for The Scots Magazine, for instance, comes through YUDU.
The new app for The Courier is through PageSuite and it appears that not a lot attention was paid to the quality of either the app icon created or the screenshots submitted to the Apple developer site.

Is this the fault of the publisher or vendor? It is irrelevant. Any publisher not interested in how their publication will look inside the App Store should consider a divestment strategy. Maybe some of these vendors are making enough money to be a bidder for a media property?

Bookseller, tablet maker Barnes & Noble reports dismal holiday sales as revenue falls 10.9%, NOOK sales decline

The book retailer Barnes & Noble this morning reported dismal holiday sales in a stark report that has to make investors and industry observers worried about the company's future.

The bookseller's retail segment, the company's bookstores and businesses, saw revenue fall 10.9 percent to $1.2 billion. Store sales fell 8.2 percent which the company blamed on store closings, as well as lower online sales – an area of concern when online sales elsewhere are at record highs.

But the worst news involves NOOK sales, which the company said declined 3.1 percent in the holiday period.

"We entered the holiday with two great new products, NOOK HD and NOOK HD+, both highly rated media tablets of phenomenal quality," William Lynch, CEO of Barnes & Noble, Inc., said in the company's announcement.

"NOOK device sales got off to a good start over the Black Friday period, but then fell short of expectations for the balance of holiday. We are examining the root cause of the December shortfall in sales, and will adjust our strategies accordingly going forward."

The company revised its NOOK Media revenue forecast to "approximately $3 billion, with earnings for the unit around the same levels as fiscal year 2012 when the company reported losses. The company's fiscal year ends at the end of April.

In fiscal year 2012 Barnes & Noble reported total revenue at $7.1 billion, and EBITDA at $171.4 million, which was up 5 percent over fiscal year 2011 levels.

Morning Brief: Al Jazeera to buy Current TV, gaining foothold in U.S. market; Time Warner uses sale as excuse to drop Current and prevent Al Jazeera's appearance

During the Arab spring Al Jazeera English was an indispensable news outlet for those trying to stay informed on events in Egypt and other countries. The problem was that Al Jazeera was mostly missing from the television screens of most Americans.

In February of 2011, for example, TNM reported on the soaring web traffic the Qatar-based network had enjoyed thanks to its coverage. Later in April the network released its first iPad application, again in hopes of reaching Americans hungry for better news coverage of events in the Arab world.

Now the network has made its own news with the acquisition of Current TV, the low rated cable channel founded by former vice president Al Gore. The acquisition and launch of Al Jazeera America will mean that the network will now be available to 40 million U.S. households, where as it reached only 4.7 million households presently.

"For many years, we understood that we could make a positive contribution to the news and information available in and about the United States and what we are announcing today will help us achieve that goal," Ahmed bin Jassim Al Thani, director general of Al Jazeera, said in a statement.

"By acquiring Current TV, Al Jazeera will significantly expand our existing distribution footprint in the US, as well as increase our newsgathering and reporting efforts in America."

"Current Media was built based on a few key goals: To give voice to those who are not typically heard; to speak truth to power; to provide independent and diverse points of view; and to tell the stories that no one else is telling," Al Gore and partner Joel Hyatt said in their own sale announcement.

"Al Jazeera has the same goals and, like Current, believes that facts and truth lead to a better understanding of the world around us."

The New York Times is reporting that the deal was valued at $500 million (Al Gore owns 20 percent of the network being sold).
Al Jazeera had bene trying to break into the U.S. market for years but had run into trouble convincing cable networks to carry the channel. Unfortunately, this move may not be enough to guarantee that Al Jazeera will actually reach U.S. TV viewers.

Late yesterday Time Warner used news of the sale to immediately drop Current TV from its offerings saying in a statement that "our agreement with Current will be terminated and we will no longer be carrying the channel."

Let me among the first to say that Time Warner's move calls into question the company's own commitment to its viewers (and I can also say I am glad not to be a customer of the cable company).

Lee Enterprises this morning released an update to its Post-Dispatch Baseball for iPad. The update brings the app up to iOS 6 compliance.

The app description says "Follow the 2011 World Series Champion St. Louis Cardinals on their 2012 campaign to repeat their miracle season with the Hall of Fame coverage from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and Stltoday."

I suppose it would be a shame to tell the folks at the St. Louis Post Dispatch that the 2012 season is over and their team, the Cardinals, did not successfully defend their title – though I think there are those at the paper that know this. Maybe they should tell their app development team.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

This is a story hidden inside a plain brown paper wrapper to protect those sensitive about certain things

Some time ago I received an email or tweet (I can't remember which) that said that a new sex magazine would be coming to the iPad. My immediate response was to guess that the app wouldn't be something that would go through Apple's app review process. That was confirmed in a later correspondence.

This morning M.G. Siegler and I received word through the same tweet that the aforementioned launch had taken place: SEXt Magazine. (Siegler, as you may know, is a columnist for TechCrunch.)

If you are familiar with HTML5 magazines or apps for the iPad you should be pretty familiar with how this all works: you visit the main website and from there create an app icon for your iPad. Opening up the app then takes you to what looks like a standard magazine app. But in this case, when you press "buy" you won't be going through the Apple iTunes system but whatever system the app producer is using.
SEXt says it is inspired by iPlayboy (the Playboy archive site).  As for the app icon, well, as you can see above, it's well, well...

I can't tell you how the actual digital magazine is, the publisher did not give me a free account so I will leave that up to you to decide (I'm a little poor following the Christmas holiday – or that is my excuse, and I'm sticking to it).

So go ahead and comment here, and remember, you can always post a comment as "Anonymous"!

While the subject of this particular magazine may be an obvious example of why a publisher would take an HTML5 app approach to publishing to the iPad, there are other reasons why a publisher would go this way, as well.

The first one that comes to mind is in the area of B2B publishing.

The Apple Newsstand is simply not currently friendly to B2B publishers who employ a qualified circulation approach. With qualified circulation, the most important thing is to qualify the reader by having the reader fill out a questionnaire which will determine if they fit the proper profile the magazine is pursuing – construction company executives for one magazine, nurses and doctors for another, for instance.

Apple won't share user data, of course. But the fact is that Apple doesn't have the kind information B2B publishers want, in any case. It's not just the name of the person, or their credit card number, that B2B publisher wants, but their job title, the name of their company, its size and whether the potential reader has the authority to buy or specify the goods and services being advertised inside the magazine.

Another reason to go HTML5 would be create a consistency between platforms. A perfect example would be those magazines that today are producing native tablet designs for the iPad, but producing a replica for Android.

Finally, there is the issues of politics, sex and satire, where Apple sometimes gets things very wrong... or at least wrong for a while.

Media app updates: The New York Times, USA Today and NRP update their major iOS news applications

As predicted, a slew of media app updates have hit the App Store including from some major news outlets such as The New York Times, USA Today and NPR News.

Both the iPhone and iPad apps from The New York Times have been updated this afternoon.

"Visually impaired readers can take full advantage of iOS's Accessibility features, including VoiceOver and AssistiveTouch," the app description for both version states.

The iPhone news app, NYTimes, has the most new features added to the app. Besides bug fixes, the app offers a new search mechanism, and now the Live Blogs, an increasingly important feature of the NYT's website, will update automatically and include photos and videos.

NYTimes for iPad limits the update to bug fixes and the accessibility features (both apps make changes to speed purchasing a subscription, as well).
USA TODAY for iPad has been updated today, though one suspects that bigger changes will be coming.

The update today fixes an issue that causes the daily crossword puzzle to be delayed.

But the big changes is in the layout of the stories which the app description says "improves readability and content organization."

But most observers think that the biggest changes will come later this year when Gannett starts to move the paper's digital efforts to a pay model. Currently the newspaper's apps are free and without any revenue model beyond the modest amount of advertising found inside them.

Because of this, the iPad app is currently a stand-alone app, outside of the Apple Newsstand. Look for that to change at some point.

Also released today is an app update to the NPR News mobile app. The update is very much over due as it brings the app to iOS 6 compliance and adds support for the iPhone 5's larger screen.

But the app also has many more updated features such as the ability to enlarge the fonts, a pull-down refresh mechanism, and the addition of Bluetooth, USB and AirPlay connections.

"Connect to any of these types of devices and hear the audio while seeing related text and images," the app description reads.

The first batch of new tablet magazines for 2013 begin to appear in the Apple Newsstand

It's the New Year, and with Apple reopening its developer site and iTunes Connect, new tablet editions have begun to appear inside the Newsstand. As one would expect, the new releases are a mixed assortment of replica editions, as well as simple and more complex native tablet magazines.

One might think that a magazine called iPad Life would be one of the new natively designed digital magazines. But, no, the German publisher falkemedia has a sense of irony: releasing an iPad edition about the iPad in a replica edition of the print magazine. Sometimes you just can't make these things up.

The replica is also a universal app so you can read the print edition of the magazine about tablets on your iPhone. Whew.
PhotobucketThe new app for Angie's List Magazine is quite a bit better. It is a very simply designed digital edition with pages that look like they might be a replica edition, but have the fonts and layouts reformatted for easier reading on the tablet.

The magazine is free inside the new app, though I don't know if this is to let readers preview the magazine before charging, or a permanent decision.

One magazine that is a bit of a mystery is Beautiful Design Made Simple. The app description is minimal, to say the least – and only one screenshot appears, as well, Maybe the release of the app into the Newsstand caught its publisher by surprise.

The app is still downloading the premiere issue of the digital magazine and probably will be for a while – it is going that slowly – so maybe I can return to this one later.

Another magazine released into the Newsstand is from Canadian Claude Barnes, Energy Works Magazine. This digital magazine is probably the best of the bunch and features a more professionally written app description.

The new magazine will require the reader to pay $3.99 for single issues, or $19.99 for an annual subscription, but there is a preview available inside the app that will give the reader a good idea of what to expect.

The short walk-through video gives you an idea, as well:

Hearst Magazines claims 'nearly' 800,000 paid monthly digital subscribers, though tablet edition pay policy for current print readers may skew the numbers

In a New Year letter to Hearst Magazine employees, David Carey, president of Hearst Magazines, claimed that the division had "nearly 800,000 monthly digital subscriptions in the U.S. across iPads, NOOKs, Kindle Fires and Android devices—the highest in the industry." Carey also said that after 24 months of investment their digital subscriptions were generating a profit.

Another claim, though, seems odd: that more than 80 percent of Hearst's digital subscribers were "new to our files." This would be hard to support knowing that Apple is not sharing user data with the publisher.

But most importantly, the claim runs up against their own digital subscription policies which require even print readers to pay again if they want to access their magazines digitally. The policy has made Hearst Magazines some of the lowest rated media apps in the App Store.
The total circulation claim, however, seems about right. By forcing print readers who have purchased an iPad to pay again, the publisher is essentially forcing readers to make a choice, and driving them towards their digital products and away from print.

In August the ABC reported first half circulation numbers for magazine publishers and, in general, Hearst showed mediocre results with magazines such as Cosmopolitan showing a small decrease in overall paid circulation. The results for the second half of 2012 will not be released for a few months and we will then be able to see what effect tablet magazines may have had on overall performance.

(My biggest complaint with Hearst's subscription policy is not so much that they are making readers pay for digital, but that they seem so oblivious to the concerns of their customers as exemplified by their tone deaf app descriptions that neither explain their policy, nor tell digital device owners what to expect in their numerous app updates.)

Nonetheless, it is obvious that Hearst is continuing to see its future in digital media.

"The company’s digital leadership team is working on plans to “future-proof” our digital business models for a world where more than 50 percent of our traffic will be on small screens, and our readers will demand fresh, high-quality content from our brands around the clock," Carey said in the employee letter.

Morning Brief: Stock markets rally as Congress passes 'Fiscal Cliff' tax bill; CBS Interactive issues updates to its CBS News iOS apps to fix Facebook sharing bug

In the end the 'Fiscal Cliff' was about as anti-climatic as the Orange Bowl, with the predicted results occurring, and no one really left satisfied. The House late on New Year's Day passed the bill sent over by the Senate which will raise taxes on households earning over $450,000, reinstating the payroll tax to 6.2 percent, and leaving more than enough contentious issues left to occupy the cable news networks for much of 2013.

But investors liked the idea of less Wolf Blitzer and Grover Norquist on their TV screens and as a result stock futures in the U.S. rose, with companies like Apple up sharply in pre-market trading.

In Europe stocks were up with the FTSE rising above the 6,000 mark for the first time since the summer of 2011.

The New Year means it will be back to business for most digital media pros, with Apple's iTunes Connect again available. Apps released just before the holiday in need of an update can now be fixed, and developers will once again be able to check their sales statistics.

A trickle of app updates have already been seen, with doubtless many more to be released later today and throughout the week.

CBS Interactive News updated both its CBS News iPhone and iPad apps this morning, fixing a bug that was effecting Facebook sharing.

So far at least Apple has made no additional changes to its App Store design, with the same holiday section appearing in the Newsstand category. That will most likely be replaced this week and the question is whether the ability to see the most recently released apps will be restored or whether Apple will continue to only let its own selected apps be seen by iTunes users.

Monday, December 31, 2012

Post #894 for 2012: a look at last year's TNM predictions

There were a few less posts to appear on TNM this year than appeared in 2011, the reason being a mid-year vacation and a pledge to slow down a bit. That didn't last, however.

On the last working day of 2011, Friday the 30th, I made a series of predictions that were more of an attempt to point out the silliness of predictions on media websites.

The first prediction was that the Giants would still not "be able to hit the broadside of a barn next year." Damn, wouldn't you know they would go on to win the World Series again. I could get used to this win the World Series every two years thing.

I look pretty good, don't you think?
I also predicted that Apple would release an iPad 3 at the usual time - no drama, no major surprises. I was right about that, other than the fact that they called the new iPad the new iPad. What I didn't think Apple would do was to release an iPad 4 in the fall. No one still knows why they did it.

I also said there would be no 7-inch iPad in 2012. Wrong again. Though, I suppose the fact that the iPad mini has a slightly larger than 7-inch screen could mitigate that error. No? Thought not.

My other predictions were dead on: the Sharks didn't win the Stanley Cup; newspaper consultants would continue to push aggregation, layoffs and fighting new digital technology (all in the name of being 'digitally focused'; and magazines as a print platform survived (even if more titles were shuttered); and I was right in predicting that Michele Bachmann wouldn't become the new President.

For 2013 I have few predictions other than the obvious: Congress will continue to be a joke; the iPhone and iPad will continue to sell, as will Android phones; the Sharks won't win the Stanley Cup; and tech and media writers will continue to bore their readers with Apple rumors that originate on Asian websites that are actually the Chinese equivalent of The Onion.

That's it for predictions.

...and that's it for 2012. Here is wishing you a peaceful and prosperous New Year. And thank you for reading Talking New Media. See you next year.

12 Apps of Christmas: December sees the promise of the new digital platforms needlessly endangered by the very players who invented them

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 the week before Christmas, has looked at the significant media events and new apps of 2012. Today we have reached December.

The month of December has shown both the great promise of the new digital platforms, as well as the great dangers inherent in them. Fantastic new apps, such as KIDS DISCOVER, launched in December by Joe Zeff Design, show what can be accomplished with the tablet publishing platform. At the same time, the demise of The Daily was used as proof that the platform can not sustain a profitable new publishing venture.

My own enthusiasm for the new platforms – both mobile and tablets – took a major hit in December when Apple redesigned its own App Store in a way that now makes it nearly impossible for new apps to be discovered without the help of Apple itself or at great marketing expense. The redesign changed the outward look of all the international App Stores, but it was the change to the U.S. App Store that was the most discouraging to new developers.

Where do we go from here? Is the future of the new digital platforms a world where only the largest media companies will be able to show off their new products? Or is there still room in the App Store for start-ups and independents to thrive?
Tablet publishing is now a worldwide phenomenon.
In 2010, the year TNM launched, the big question was whether the new digital platforms were going to grow to a point where it made sense for media companies to create products for them. This question has been decided: smartphones and tablets are here to stay.

In 2013 the big question may be whether the new platforms will remain open to start-ups and independents, whether Apple and other platform owners will continue to promote only the big media players, those willing to pay-to-play.

We may be on the verge of a media revolution, assuming the big tech companies do not make more missteps. Like all revolutions, the old order will be shaken. The effects of online publishing is now being amplified by the introduction of the mobile and tablet platforms. Old media companies that have not proved able to hang onto their ad dollars online, will no doubt not attract ad dollars to the new platforms either.

But the mobile and tablet platforms are now a worldwide phenomenon. The next step is to make them pay, to build business models that will lead not only to new products, but to a whole new media industry. We need to dream big. It is time to think not about surviving the revolution, but in prospering.

It is time to make the new media platforms pay.

Morning Brief: Apple opens back up iTunes Connect; TNW hears back from Android owners; The Tribune Co. emerges from bankruptcy with a broadcaster's board

Apple opened up iTunes Connect over the weekend, releasing a handful or more of app updates including updates for several newspaper mobile apps such as those from the LA Times and MediaNews Group's Tri-Valley Times.

One hoped the week off would be accompanied by a rethinking of Apple's new policy of promoting only apps from big media companies or developers, but, sadly, this morning the App Store remains the same as it was before Christmas. It is hard to overestimate what a terrible decision Apple has made and how much this will drive away new developers.

On Sunday The Next Web published its own story on why it has decided to stop producing its tablet-only magazine for the Android platform (see TNM's story here) and will, at least for now, be iOS only.

The story has, and the decision, has generated quite a number of comments, as you would expect. While most readers are complaining about the decision, quite a number of them are also acknowledging that they were not even aware The Next Web had a tablet magazine available on the Android platform.

Some of this criticism is not justified – TNW promoted the digital product on its website regular, if I remember. But others said that they could not find the TNW magazine on their devices or within Google Play. This criticism has plenty of validity.

With the redesign of the App Store by Apple a huge opening has arisen for both Google and Amazon to attract developers. The issue is not the number of apps in either of Apple's competitor's stores – both platforms have plenty of apps at this point – but whether those apps can be found and whether the platform will, in the future, be a good place for media companies to appear.
Google's own App Store is terrible for media app developers. The store is built to promote replica copies of print magazines inside its newsstand, or else whatever Google chooses to promote within its app section.

Amazon's own store is a bit better in that one can still search for the newest releases. But developers are less than impressed with the company's developer program.

Finally, there is the fact that the iPad (along with the Kindle Fire) continues to outpace other tablets. This is probably what has enabled Apple to begin to act like Microsoft. (But, hey, how is Microsoft doing today?)

The Tribune Company has emerged from bankruptcy with a new board of directors made up of creditors and broadcast veterans – reinforcing the rumors that the company may divest itself of its newspaper properties, though the company's announcement tries to beat that rumor back.

"Tribune will emerge from the bankruptcy process as a multimedia company with a great mix of profitable assets, strong brands in major markets and a much-improved capital structure," said Eddy Hartenstein, Tribune's current chief executive officer and publisher of the Los Angeles Times.

The new chief executive is expected to be Peter Liguori, a former News Corp. and Discovery Communications executive. Other board members are all from creditors such as Oaktree Capital Management, Angelo, Gordon & Co. and JPMorgan Chase & Co.

(Ask any B2B company owned by a PE firm how being owned by a financial institution which only looks out for its own financial interests works out. This will be ugly.)

Meanwhile, the news today should be dominated by whatever developments occur in Senate negotiations surrounding the so-called fiscal cliff. Today is D-Day and if the two sides can not get together to solve the budget issues one suspects any announcement of the fail won't be released until well after the markets have closed for the New Year's holiday.