Monday, July 1, 2013

Hey, not here – over there!

It's time to shut down this website – at this site on the Blogger platform. Loyal readers of Talking New Media will have to reset their bookmarks from this blogspot website to the branded URL of

So head on over to the new Talking New Media.

This address will remain for a few months to serve as an archive of old content. While most of the stories were moved over to the new website, most were not reformatted for attractive viewing. Photos are misaligned and many headlines don't fit properly. Oh well. That's all old news anyways, right?

Comments here will also be closed. But comments are open at the new Talking New Media so go on over and tell us what you think.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Announcement: June hiatus to begin Monday, other developments here at Talking New Media

As mentioned in a post in late April, Talking New Media will be making a few changes soon. But the first thing that will happen is that starting Monday the site will be taking its June hiatus. This makes it sound like this is an annual event, and I certainly would like it to be but last year was the first time in over 20 years that I was able to take an actual vacation (went to Greece).

This year's hiatus, though, will include taking some time off to move this site off the Blogger platform. So for the next two weeks, and possibly all the way to July 1, TNM will be in a sort of soft shutdown. I may post a story here now and again, so please do check in occasionally (though the best way to get a notice of new posts is by following me via Twitter). But for the most part I want to pay full attention to other activities that involve my own digital publishing projects – obviously more on that soon.

It's been a fun, crazy, and exhausting 3+ years here at TNM and I appreciate you, the readers. I look forward to continuing to post about digital media news, new tablet magazines and newspapers, eBook publishing and the like. But most of all, I look forward to continuing to have conversations with digital publishers, designers, editors and vendors.

Short rundown on new tablet editions: Australian Taxation Office launches its own tablet magazine; Future launches replica for Fast Car;

With WWDC set to begin on Monday one imagines that the Apple app review team wants to clear out as many new apps as possible this week. Today saw another large number of tablet publications launched into the Apple Newsstand, as usual.

One of the more unique new tablet magazines launched today comes from the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) and is called ATO taxtime Magazine. As one can see above-right, the app comes with an odd sized app icon. But the app is surely a sign that tablet magazines are here to stay – and anybody who says differently is bound to get audited this year.

App description: Find out what’s new this tax time as well as get the Individuals tax return instructions in our new, free digital magazine...Taxtime has built-in videos, checklists and top tips to make doing your tax easier...The instructions give you tools and calculators to help you prepare your tax return.

When it comes to tablet editions no company is as schizophrenic as Future plc. The owner of its own digital publishing platform, one would expect all the new tablet apps to be natively designed tablet editions but that is not the case. For every tablet-only launch like Photography Week comes another replica edition, like this one for Fast Car: the definitive modified custom car culture magazine.

The app offers a one-month free trial when you sign up for a subscription, which is pretty much the norm with many apps today.

TEAM Aesthetic Surgery is a 144 page magazine that the app description says has been "enhanced with slides and videos, and written by qualified plastic surgeons from France and around the world, are full of comprehensive, clear and expert information."

The tablet edition is the first to be released by SAS ORNORM of Talence, France (near Bordeaux). According to the website, this is the second edition of the magazine which features pretty cool photoshopped images for the cover (see here for both covers).

Morning Brief: NSA spying stories force major news organizations to react; Apple clears the decks for WWDC

Only one story is dominating the news the last two days, the National Security Agency's data mining via the gathering of phone records and its reported direct access to the systems of the tech giants – I suppose one could call it two stories, but in the mind of the public it is all about privacy.

As you are most likely aware, The Guardian broke the Verizon phone call records story late on Wednesday and things have not been the same since then. It was a major coup for a news organization trying hard to break into the U.S. market, and is having success at it, at least if measured by website traffic.

From a media perspective what we are seeing is an old fashioned muckraking effort, drawn right out of the days of William Randolph Hearst. The news, generated originally by U.S. expat blogger and journalist (they can be the same, right?) Glenn Greenwald, is so huge that it has forced the hands of the biggest news outlets – either run with the story, or be seen as irrelevant, or worse, on the other side of the issue.

Yesterday the NYT posted an editorial that tore into the Obama administration, saying "President Obama has been caught overreaching in the use of his powers" and concluding: "The administration has now lost all credibility on this issue. Mr. Obama is proving the truism that the executive branch will use any power it is given and very likely abuse it."

The Washington Post, though, has gone on step further by now being a major source on the story, posting a breaking story on the NSA's PRISM Internet data mining operation simultaneously with a similar story from The Guardian. No less than seven headlines concerning the administration's domestic spying efforts currently can be seen "above the fold" on the WaPo's website this morning.

The story generated by The Guardian's U.S. team was precisely what The Huffington Post would have killed for. The online news and gossip site has continued to grow, and while rarely generates original, important news content, nonetheless has become a go-to place of news for many. In this story the website finds itself following rather than leading and it clearly is feeling the pressure to be seen as part of the parade. In response it posted a photoshopped picture that morphed Barack Obama and George Bush into one shot, a bold, if childish attempt to be part of the conversation. When it first appears one wondered the photo would be pulled as reaction came in, instead it remains dominating the home page this morning.

Why this story is generating this kind of response can be seen in a poll currently on the WSJ website that asks if the Obama administration's spying efforts can be considered essential to maintaining security or unreasonable. By a three-to-one margin respondents say such efforts are unreasonable. This result, appearing in a paper not exactly friendly to the administration, may not seem surprising, but the issue of domestic spying is more complex than simply an opportunity to bash the President. This is an issue that unites both the left and right, isolating those who shrug and spin the old yarn that only those with something to hide need fear of government overreach.

The story also comes hard on the heels of a series of stories involving the President that involve privacy issues, some of which are far more complicated than this one. The IRS targeting of Tea Party groups, for instance. Then there were two cases of spying on news organizations (the AP and a Fox News reporter) that clearly upset news organizations. But none of these stories have cut across party lines and involved all citizens the way the Verizon/PRISM stories have.

All any really big national news story, the regional metro papers are left trailing far behind. Neither of the major Tribune Company papers even featured the story on their home pages until today, for instance. In Chicago, neither the Tribune nor the Sun-Times is leading with the story due to the Blackhawks win last night over the Kings. Hockey is dominating.

This morning my iTunes software showed no app updates available. While this might not be rare for you, TNM maintains a portfolio of media apps that is rather large. For every app installed on my iPhone or iPad there are dozens more that lurk inside iTunes waiting for word of an update. But there was nothing to see this morning.

The explanation is that the Worldwide Developer Conference begins Monday and things tend to shut down during that time. So whatever is in the pipeline to be released or updated needs to make its way through the system before Monday.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Retweet: Nielsen report confirms that book buying public remains skewed towards female for both print and digital

AdWeek's Lucia Moses yesterday posted her story about the recently released Nielsen U.S. Consumer Entertainment Report which was definitely a good thing as the research had slipped past me (thank you). You can either read her report, that also includes reformatted charts, or the original report which comes as a PDF download.

Much of the report centers on music and other forms of entertainment not of concern for TNM, but it does contains some basic information on book buying habits by gender and race that may be of interest.

As you can see by the chart at right, females tend to be book buyers a bit more than males, which is no news – but the study shows that it really doesn't matter whether we are talking print or digital.

What is missing here, though, is information one the reading device used and the form the book takes. For instance, we know that more females own Kindles than males – 57 percent of Kindle owners are female according to ComScore (from August 2012), while iPad owners tend to me younger. Also, Kindle owners tend to me less affluent than iPad owners.

Can we conclude anything from this? Not with any great level of confidence, but one might imply that a publisher wishing to reach younger males would be good to publish and interactive eBook for the iPad rather than a plain text version for the Kindle. (But I wouldn't bet the farm on it).

Another question to consider is whether the Nielsen report considered eBook apps as books, or whether this new category of books was not measured. It is possible that something produced by Joe Zeff Design, for instance, would have slipped by the researchers. Do these highly interactive books skew male? They certainly are mostly found on the iPad so we might assume the appeal to more affluent male readers, or can we? (This is why getting the raw data is so important, and why the researchers need to have a good understanding of what they are surveying.)

There is also a bit of a curious anomaly when it comes to the youngest group in the Nielsen report: those between 18-24 skew towards print rather than digital, but it reverses immediately upon reaching the next group. I only think this means that younger, and therefore less affluent readers are still addicted to cheap paperback books as their first choice, but as they are the least likely to buy books anyway it probably means little.

Runner's World's July Newsstand edition published with enhanced coverage of the Boston Marathon bombings; publisher brings in agency skilled in the Adobe DPS, Priest+Grace, to create several interactive features

The July issue of Runner's World, the Rodale Inc. owned monthly magazine, is dedicated to coverage of the Boston Marathon bombings which took place April 15 of this year.

The magazine was in a unique position to cover the story, of course, as the annual Boston event is of huge importance to the magazine – the magazine featured a marathon guide on its January cover, and a half calendar on its February cover, for instance.

The digital version of the magazine (Runner's World) is built using the Adobe DPS and for TNM readers used to a far more progressive vision of the tablet magazines the July issue will initially disappoint.

The magazine opens to what at first appears to be merely an enhanced replica edition. While a hybrid tablet magazine leaves the print ads alone and reformats the editorial pages, Runner's World does little to reform its editorial content. To its credit it does modify the bottom page folios (though it really should simply eliminate them completely to add some room) it does not really do any more than add a few links that bring in out-of-app web content.

The worst part is probably the advertising that is completely replica, right down to two-pages spreads that must be swiped by the reader to see completely as the magazine, up until this point at least, is designed for portrait reading.

But things change dramatically one reaches the added content. The shift is dramatic: the reader is immediately told to turn their tablet to landscape to view the content. The main element are timelines that show the events as they unfold. The time line is clear and well designed and contains some embedded audio interviews. The reader then can move to the next section where a photo gallery takes advantage of the iPad's retina display. The features that follow include animation and video interviews.

All-in-all, the July issue is a dramatic example of what Runner's World can do with the tablet platform and one would hope would inspire the publishing team to reimagine their Newsstand application, taking advantage of the Adobe DPS to present readers with a more engaging and interactive reading experience.

Will readers respond? I believe so.

"The July issue amazed me. The videos and sound clips right on the page relevant to what you're reading is awesome! The picture quality is really good," writes the first reader review to appear since the July issue's release.

To create the timeline seen in the walk-through video below (about half way through the video the new interactive section starts) the publisher brought in a design agency well-versed in the Adobe Digital Publishing Suite, Priest+Grace.

The agency created the five piece scrolling timelines with the embedded content. The agency also used Adobe Edge Animate to create the interactive map which shows the various tribute runs that have taken place since the bombings.

Morning Brief: The Guardian scores huge scoop, forcing major U.S. newspapers to have to figure out how to report a new rival's big story, regional metros fail to react

Late yesterday late afternoon (depending on where you live, I suppose) The Guardian's investment in bringing on Glenn Greenwald paid off in a huge way. The American journalist and former columnist had joined The Guardian in August of last year, and until yesterday his contributions to his new employer had been mostly in the form of columns.

But yesterday Greenwald reported that the "National Security Agency is currently collecting the telephone records of millions of US customers of Verizon, one of America's largest telecoms providers, under a top secret court order issued in April."

"Under the terms of the blanket order, the numbers of both parties on a call are handed over, as is location data, call duration, unique identifiers, and the time and duration of all calls. The contents of the conversation itself are not covered," Greenwald wrote.

"The disclosure is likely to reignite longstanding debates in the US over the proper extent of the government's domestic spying powers."

The story immediately was placed at the top of all editions of The Guardian's website – including its new Australian edition.

For the purposes of this website, what is of interest was the way the major U.S. newspapers dealt with the story after its first appearance.

Glenn Greenwald
The Washington Post immediately reported the big scoop, creating Greenwald right up front and linking to the story directly. The Post's treatment was pretty magnanimous, and initially their headline read "Report: Verizon providing all call records to US under court order" which both serves to tell readers that the paper is simply reporting what another news outlet is reporting, and to more directly give that outlet credit. Later the WaPo dropped the work "Report" as it updated the story.

The New York Times, as is its custom, did not immediately jump at the story. But while it eventually placed the story on the front of its website, it buried the story this morning on page 16 of the print edition. (To be fair, The Guardian story was released at a time which probably prevented both papers from having much time to remake up their front pages, though the WaPo did manage to place it there).

Some have argued that as time passes fewer and fewer readers will flock to local metro papers because of their inability to deliver national news and because major papers such as the NYT and WaPo are easily accessible via the web. This story is a big test of that theory, would the Tribune Company papers, for instance, respond in the same way as the Post by leading with the story? The answer, sadly, is no. Both the L.A. Times, which had plenty of time to respond, and the Chicago Tribune are far behind on the story, not even writing an aggregated story for their websites. The Dallas Morning News picked up the WaPo story, while the Boston Globe naturally went with the NYT's story.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

App Updates: Apple update for iTunes squashes sign-in bug; Kindle reader app adds line spacing features; Aquafadas updates its viewer app, myKiosk for iOS

Apple this morning released an update for iTunes which fixes a bug introduced with 11.0.3 which made users constantly sign into their accounts. It was annoying, really annoying. As someone who downloads at least a dozen apps a day in order to look at new newspaper, magazine and eBook apps, I found the bug, well, annoying. (I said it was annoying, right?)

Amazon issued an update for its Kindle reading app for iOS, officially known as Kindle – Read Books, eBooks, Magazines, Newspapers & Textbooks. Here is what is new in version 3.8:

  • Line Spacing - loose, normal, and tight line spacing options change the page layout to suit your reading preference
  • Multipage Highlights – highlight long passages that span multiple pages for added convenience
  • Print Replica Textbooks notebook improvements – filter by type: notes, bookmarks, and highlights by color; Sync starred notes between devices
  • Accessibility Improvements – select a higher maximum font size, bug fixes
  • Bug Fixes/Stability Improvements
Finally, Aquafadas has issued an update for its viewer app, myKiosk for iOS. These viewer app updates usually accompany a new version of the digital publishing platform, but I have a feeling this one is just for bug fixes.

The app description mentions smart zoom and progressive download, two very nice features to have for magazine publishers, but the rest of the description talks about bug fixes.

The Washington Post rather sheepishly announces it will launch its metered paywall on June 12; $9.99 a month for website access, $14.99 for access to all digital content

To celebrate my daughter's 16th birthday, The Washington Post announced that they would launch their new metered paywall on June 12. Well, actually, they didn't mention my daughter's birthday, but I can't think of any other reason they would have picked that date, can you?

The paper's paywall will cost readers $9.99 per month for access to the website, while readers who want access to the paper's apps as well will be faced with a $14.99 monthly bill. By way of comparison, the NYT is charging $15 every four weeks for unlimited access to their website plus the mobile app, a rather ridiculous $35 for their All Digital Access package – a lot of money for a company that appears allergic to launching new app products.

Those who read less than 20 articles a month on the WaPo's website will not run into the new metered paywall, continuing a strategy employed by most U.S. papers with paywalls. Those that have tried to shut down their sites completely to nonpaying customers generally have opened their sites back up at some point.

But like most metered paywalls, savvy readers will never to pay as the paper says it won't block readers who enter the site through links and search engines – so scared are publishers of readers bumping into the paywall off of Google search results that they intentionally open up a massive hole in their paid content strategy.

Reader comments, of course, are negative – but this is par for the course.

The real problem I have with the WaPo's announcement is simply that like all other announcements of paywalls it fails to follow the simple rule that when introducing a fee one needs to also introduce a benefit.

Newspapers are incredibly bad at explaining the benefits of the paywall – and when their doesn't appear to be any benefits, holding off with the announcement until there are. I can think of lots of things that could accompanied this rollout announcement: a new app (which was actually released a while ago), access to commenting (want to comment, be a subscriber), etc.

I think the reason newspapers have gotten so bad about these things is that the ad people are not taking a back seat. They know that in any sales situation it is benefits that sell, features reinforce. But content people are sheepish about selling their policies, so the WaPo announcement sounds like an apology.

The newspaper’s publisher, Katharine Weymouth, said the company would “listen to reader feedback and modify our model accordingly. . . . There is going to be a great deal of experimentation ahead to strike the right balance between ensuring access to critical news and information and building a sustainable business.”

The Post has been cautious about following the lead of other newspapers that have instituted what is commonly known as a paywall. Some senior executives have worried that the paper would lose too many readers, especially from the national audience outside the District. Others, however, have argued that the paper needs to build new sources of revenue and that readers are growing used to the idea of paying for newspaper content online.

Rossel & Cie's new tablet magazine, Redzone, has its first issue appear inside the Newsstand app's library

On Monday the Belgian publisher Rossel & Cie launched two Newsstand apps for a new digital magazine called Redzone. One version is in French (Redzone FR), the other in Dutch (Redzone NL). But while the apps launched, the only thing to be found inside was a page that promoted the magazine to come, June 5th to be precise.

Well, today is June 5th and right on time the new magazine can now be found inside the app's library – or at least inside the French app's library as that was the version I previewed.

The new digital magazine does what an increasing number of launches are doing, reimagining what a magazine should deliver to readers on the iPad. Rather than simply a series of articles, Redzone concentrates on one player on the Belgian national football team and features an article with several video clips and lots of photography. Because of the video, the first issue weighs in at 490 MB once downloaded and installed.

The motivation for the new launch is the fact that the Belgian national team is particularly good this cycle (meaning the World Cup four year cycle) and a big game is coming up with Serbia.

Le choc entre la Belgique et la Serbie, en vue du Mondial 2014, approche à grands pas. Une rencontre qui ne fait pas peur à Marouane Fellaini, l’un des fers de lance de l’équipe nationale, qui s’est dévoilé sur ses racines, son avenir et les Diables rouges dans le nouveau mensuel digital et gratuit édité par Sudpresse, Redzone. Chaque mois, découvrez la face cachée des stars de l’équipe belge de football!

The clash between Belgium and Serbia for the World 2014 is fast approaching. A meeting that is not afraid to Marouane Fellaini, one of the spearheads of the national team, which was unveiled on its roots, its future and the Red Devils in the new monthly digital and edited by Sudpresse free, Redzone. Each month, discover the hidden stars of the Belgian football team! – a not particularly good Google translation
The magazine is free of charge to download and access, being supported by advertising.

The new digital magazine, by the way, is called Redzone because the nickname for the team is the Red Devils (Diables Rouges in French, Rode Duivels in Dutch). In a country like Belgium I would guess that using English ends up being linguistically neutral.

Frankly, this is the type of product I assumed the NYT would be producing by now – modest sized special publications for the Apple Newsstand that can supplement their paywall strategy and reinforce the reader's decision to buy a digital subscription. The Tribune Co. started doing this at the Chicago Tribune but their efforts didn't even last a year and appear to have been abandoned (they are too busy trying to sell off their newspapers).

Here is a short walk-through of the first issue of Redzone:

While Apple seeks to create its own streaming service, one wonders when the rent-it rather than buy-it model will take over magazine publishing, as well

It is a wonder that there are not more stories such as this one: a UK publisher, Archant Life, will shutter its regional titles for the communities of Shropshire, Worcestershire, Warwickshire, Herefordshire & Wye Valley, Wiltshire and the North East

“In the current economic climate and looking at the performance of these titles, we have concluded the best option for us is to suspend publishing in print until the economy picks back up and the local economies in each of the publishing areas can sustain the re-launch of these titles to the quality we desire." So says Miller Hogg, Archant Lifestyle managing director in the original story from HoldTheFrontPage, a UK media news site.

For the most part magazine and newspaper titles fade away without much fanfare, with barely a small mention in the local press – unless the title is something like Newsweek, when its death (at least in print) gets a thorough, though superficial review from the usual media gurus.

Those of us heavily involved in digital media can take the wrong approach on all this, though, wrongly assuming that the daily launches of new digital magazines somehow can compensate for the decline of print titles. But that would be looking at the situation with rose colored glasses.

For every new digital magazine employing one or two self-publishers, the death of a print publication takes with it a roomful of journalists, advertising and production personnel. For every title leaving the small, but crowded print newsstand, where magazines are easily discovered, a dozen new ones enter an overcrowded, poorly designed Apple Newsstand where discoverability has been (apparently) intentionally limited.

For every report that shows more ad dollars going to digital, and more readers flocking to tablet editions comes personal conversations with digital magazine publishers lamenting the low number of downloads and the poor subscription sales of their magazine launches.

If that isn't a depressing assessment hold on to your hats, it may get much worse in the years to come.

One of the big news items many expect to come out of next week's Apple WWDC conference is the introduction of a Pandora-like radio streaming service. Just about every day now comes another story of Apple's apparently desperate negotiations with music companies trying to lock in streaming rights.

Why are they seemingly so desperate to launch a streaming service? Isn't the market already being served?

The reason for the need for Apple to move in this direction is that suddenly it finds itself in the same bad position that the record labels found themselves in when the MP3 arrived – now Apple is the one that has to wonder whether their iTunes sales will decrease if everyone starts to rent their music rather than own it.

But we in publishing shouldn't sit back and feel like the same forces shaping the music industry are not effecting publishing. The rise of the subscription service for magazines is upon us now, and its effects are likely to be similar to what is happening to many record companies – commoditization of the product, downward price pressure, and discoverability issues.

The most public example of the subscription model is Next Issue, the digital newsstand start-up launched by a consortium of major publishers (Condé Nast, Hearst, Meredith, News Corp., and Time Inc.) Next Issue offers readers access to their titles, 93 right now, for a monthly cost of $9.99 per month ($14.99 if you want access to the handful of titles deemed premium).

The system works for the publishers because the titles are limited. 93 magazines may strike readers as a lot of choice the first time they are presented with Next Issue, but in reality the entire catalog of titles would fit easily onto one shelf of a Barnes & Noble magazine stand.

The system works for the big publishers because they are there and you're not. Want to get your new niche into the Next Issue catalog? Good luck with that.

But Next Issue does not have a monopoly on the subscription newsstand. Recently Zinio, a pioneer in the area of the digital newsstand, introduced Z-Pass, a sort of mini subscription service. For only five bucks a month you get three magazines.

Now sit back and imagine for a moment a situation where Apple, or Amazon or Google begins to offer a magazine subscription service. It is hard today for a digital magazine start-up to earn back the revenue via reader sales to pay Adobe, Mag+, or Quark for the cost of designing, building and streaming their new titles. What happens in a world where one is forced to be simply one of many titles available for monthly renting? That $1.99 a month you've from a new reader could easily become less than a dime.

While one can easily see the downside of subscription publishing one also can see an upside. One of the biggest issues facing publishers of new digital magazine today is advertising. Few ad networks have been established to support the efforts of indy publishers. But the rise of a subscription model could solve that – and, ironically enough, could possibly solve Apple's iAds problem.

While one can't feel very comfortable with the idea of a typical irrelevant web ad suddenly showing up in your digital magazine, the fact is that this is happening now with mobile advertising.

Unfortunately, I see less good things happening in the way of tablet advertising than I do bad things happening with pricing of subscriptions. Until this trend reverses publishers will continue to feel very squeezed.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

New Internationalist launches a brand new Newsstand iPad app, replacing a previously released replica edition

It's not often that I back track to check to see if I've missed something, but I did today and found the new tablet edition for New Internationalist – this only goes to show just how hard Apple has made it to actually find things inside its App Store (and things just keep getting worse and worse).

The just launched Newsstand app is officially called New Internationalist for iPad. The magazine, and now its tablet edition, is published by the New Internationalist workers’ co-operative, and it says it "exists to report on the issues of world poverty and inequality; to focus attention on the unjust relationship between the powerful and powerless worldwide; to debate and campaign for the radical changes necessary to meet the basic needs of all; and to bring to life the people, the ideas and the action in the fight for global justice."

Published out of the U.K., the magazine is another of those print magazine titles that would be all but impossible to find here in the States now that so many newsstands are shutting down – and even before the closing of retailers like Borders it would have been hard to find except in those really well run independent newsstands.

The new iPad edition is actually the second time this title has entered the Apple Newsstand. An older app, released by Exact Editions appeared first. That app was, of course, a replica edition, and now has been pulled from the Newsstand. The older app, maybe because it was a replica, offered a one-year subscription for £24.99, with the month subscription priced at £2.99.

Well, as most TNM readers know, it costs more to produce a good tablet edition, and so not surprisingly, the cost to subscribe to the New Internationalist for iPad is more, as well – £17.99 for a six month subscription, £31.99 for an annual subscription, and £3.99 for individual issues.

What one gets for your subscription is a natively designed tablet edition that appears to be using the Mag+ platform. The magazine can be read in both portrait and landscape, though the landscape layout is pretty much the same as portrait (they probably should have created a version of the cover in landscape but didn't). Because it is not a replica, the digital magazine is a far easier read than the old app would have been.

Going from a replica to a natively designed tablet edition usually occurs when the publisher is unhappy with the downloads for the older app. But when the replica vendor has sold the old app under their name, rather than under the publisher's, using the publisher's own developer account, the danger is that the magazine will end up losing its own name – that is what has happened here (and why the new app added the phrase "for iPad" to the end of the app name).

Launching a replica is not always a bad idea, but surrendering your magazine's title to a vendor is a terrible idea.

The Smithsonian Institution launches a 2nd Newsstand app, a redesigned tablet edition for Air & Space magazine

The Smithsonian Institution has launched its second Newsstand magazine app, a native tablet edition for its title Air & Space Magazine.

The digital edition is reformatted and redesigned for the iPad, converting the conventional magazine design (portrait) for one that probably works better on the iPad, considering the fact that photographs of aircraft are best seen in landscape.

The Smithsonian's first Newsstand is also a very nice native tablet edition. But the app has been getting some very nasty reviews from readers lately due to problems with the subscription process that have not, apparently, been fixed. But those not having difficulties appear to be very happy with the digital edition.

The new app for Air & Space comes with a complete sample issue (May), while the newest issue, and future issues, will cost $3.99. A 1-month subscription is priced at $1.99, and an annual sub will cost you $19.99. The magazine is published seven times a year, so the pricing is a bit complicated, plus the publisher says in the app description that they "may occasionally publish extra issues."

One has to give the publisher credit here for not mindlessly porting over their print product to tablets, but instead giving serious thought to how their magazine should appear on a tablet (this is not a universal app, but strictly for the iPad and iPad mini).

The layouts are not over complicated, there are no floating text boxes (a big feature of Mag+ built apps, for instance) but are simple one page designs (though sometimes with interactive material like photo galleries).

At the heart of the magazine is its photography and while I do not subscribe to the print edition, my guess would be that tablet owners will find the new design here very exciting and most appropriate.

Morning Brief: Internet advertising shows strong growth in Q1 according to IAB report; hosting and download fees bit B2B publishers particularly hard

The Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) released its report for Q1 2013 Internet advertising yesterday, and it showed very healthy growth. First quarter digital ad revenue grew 15.6 percent to $9.6 billion in the first quarter of the year. As usual the trade media passed on the information with little perspective added.
“Consumers are turning to interactive media in droves to look for the latest information, to connect with their social networks, and simply to be entertained,” said Randall Rothenberg, President and CEO, IAB. “This first quarter milestone clearly illustrates that marketers recognize that digital has become the go-to medium for all sorts of activities on all sorts of screens, at home, at the office and on-the-run.”

“Internet advertising revenue continues to exhibit double-digit growth, even as the business matures,” said Sherrill Mane, Senior Vice President, Research, Analytics & Measurement, IAB. “This is an accomplishment that can be attributed to growing recognition by marketers that digital advertising is a critical part of all marketing in today's world.”

“These record-setting Q1 numbers are consistent with the continuing shift to digital and reflect the type of growth that the internet advertising arena has been seeing year-over-year,” said David Silverman, Partner, PwC U.S.
IAB press release

I've always had issues with ad revenue reports from third parties. As a print publisher I am all too well aware of the difficulties of counting ad pages where fellow publishers are offering discounted space, added value pages and the like. Then, to translate that into revenue only complicates things further.

For Internet advertising the things that complicate reporting are multiplied. For instance, how does one measure an ad campaign built off off of results? Take a situation, very common in couponing, where an ad is run under a certain amount of digital coupons are downloaded. If last month the ad ran three weeks to reach its limit, but only two weeks this month, is that a decline in advertising? Certainly the advertiser paid the same amount.

That doesn't mean that the IAB reports have no value. On the contrary, taken over the long term these reports probably nail the trends pretty well. If you think of the report more as an index, like the Dow, then the report is even better.

For B2B publishers, the issue of bringing their qualified circulation magazines to the Apple Newsstand remains top of mind – at least with those publishers that have not given up altogether. The big issue TNM often talks about is the need to qualify digital readers. Without a good qualification mechanism, publishers are forced to either give away their issue downloads for free, or else try and force through a paid circulation strategy for tablet editions.

But a secondary issue that quickly arises for B2B publishers is the cost vendors charge for issue downloads and hosting (generally, one or the other, not both). Costs can quickly add up for a magazine that, say, is able to deliver 20,000 issues to readers each month. With some systems, the download fees can read a level that dwarfs the advertised price of the platform itself.

For a paid publication, the revenue brought in by subscriptions mitigates the costs somewhat. But after Apple takes out its share, and then the vendor their share, the publisher suddenly awakens to the fact that they will receive barely half of any revenue generated by Newsstand sales.**

But for B2Bs, where Apple won't be taking any revenue cut, the vendor's cut is very dear and goes straight to the bottom line.

I think some of the major vendors realize this and are, therefore, honestly trying to help publishers with the issue of generating new ad revenue. Even the software companies seem to realize that a paid content strategy only works when vendor costs are low. To keep them high there will need to be a publishing model that more resembles print: a high reliance on paid advertising, with production and distribution costs being only somewhat mitigated by circulation revenue.

But I see a total disconnect between vendors and some publishers here. The paid content crowd have been pushing hard on the notion that readers will pay the bills, not advertisers, but it is hard to see how this adds up to a winning strategy for B2Bs and small publishers.

** One can see this struggle when looking at month subscription pricing: those pricing their books at $.99 are basically trying to cover costs, while those at $1.99 hope to see some sort of return, while those at the $2.99 level and above are looking for serious ROI.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Media app updates: Daily Mail Plus now automatically opens after downloading; Google updates Chrome app; CNN quiets James Earl Jones in its iPad app; Kickstarter thinks its squashed its 'nasty Facebook login bug'

The Apple app review team got busy and released a bunch of new apps and app updates today. These included an update for Daily Mail Plus which will now automatically open from the Newsstand app after the latest issue has been downloaded overnight. I don't know if readers will find this convenient or a pain.

The app was originally released back in February (see original TNM post here) and is a reformatted version of the tabloid newspaper.

Google's Chrome browser for iOS today got an update which the app description improves the voice search. I actually have decent luck with Apple's Siri, though there are plenty of times when I get nothing at all back, as if Siri has fallen asleep. In any case, it is becoming harder and harder to find examples of apps that are better in the Apple version than in third party versions. Maybe Apple should launch the next version of the iPhone without any apps at all, other than the app store, that is.

A month ago CNN updated its iPhone app in response to users who didn't appreciate the return of James Earl Jones and his "This is CNN" introduction being added to the app. What the CNN team thought would be nostalgic users appeared to have found annoying.

So day CNN has updated its CNN App for iPad and as expected has moved Mr. Jones to "off" by default.

There are other changes, as well, including a redesigned home screen, new sections for watching Anderson Cooper 360°, Piers Morgan Live and Quest Means Business, photo galleries and video sharing.

Kickstarter, which launched an iPhone app in early February, has been releasing updates regularly trying to squash bugs. Today Kickstarter for iPhone and the fundraising company thinks they've finally got it.

"We finally fixed that nasty Facebook login bug that was plaguing some of our users. We've also fixed a few crashes that you might have experienced with the 1.2 update," the app description for version 1.2.1 states.

Future launches a new camera magazine, LeNs, that suffers from some technical hiccups; new magazine for Belgium's national football team to launch Wednesday

Future plc has launched another digital-only magazine, LeNs: Advanced Methods for Nikon Photographers. The premiere issue weighs in at just over 250 MB, but despite that not too large a file size, the download took over three hours to complete, the longest time I've ever spent on a successful download (some digital magazines are so slow that they actually quit).

One can probably safely assume that the new digital magazine uses the FutureFolio digital publishing platform. But the layouts and design is not overly complicated and the file not so large that this can explain the download speed, clearly something is wrong with Future's hosting.

But there feels like there are other issues here, as well. For instance, I found that the screenshots came out sideways – easily correctable in Photoshop, of course, but unusual, nonetheless. Also, the app is missing from the UK app store, though is found elsewhere. So despite being released late last week there are no reader reviews to be found – maybe readers are finding the new digital magazine as problematic as I did.

But once you finally can open up the magazine, what one finds is a nicely designed interactive title. It would be a shame if the new magazine failed to find its audience strictly do to technical issues.

Another new magazine app is available to download today, as well, though readers will be disappointed to find that the issues will not start appearing until Wednesday.

Rossel & Cie has released two apps – one in French and one in Dutch – for coverage of the national men's football team, known in English as the red devils (Rode Duivels in Dutch, Diables Rouges in French). The magazine itself is being called Redzone the two apps are Redzone FR and Redzone NL (I think you can figure out which is in which language).

The magazine will be free to download and right now the screenshots do not give a clue as to whether the digital magazine will be a replica edition or native – though the fact that the apps are universal is generally a bad sign.

Qui sont les Diables Rouges ? Que font-ils en dehors des terrains de football ? Quelles sont les passions qui les animent ? Quelles sont les choses qui les font vibrer ? Découvrez également leurs goûts en matière de musique et de cinéma ainsi que leur leçon de football, ce petit truc qui les différencie sur les terrains et en font des joueurs hors du commun.

Who are the Red Devils? What do they do outside of football? What are the passions that drive them? What are the things that vibrate? Discover their tastes in music and film as well as their football lesson this little thing that differentiates the land and make the players out of the ordinary.
The Belgians annihilated the U.S. men's team last week in a friendly (though the U.S. team bounced back to beat Germany 4-3 in a surprising result). Belgium seems to be pretty excited about their national team (and for good reason) as if tries and qualifies for the World Cup to take place next year in Brazil.

Association of Chartered Certified Accountants launches six editions of Accounting and Business magazine into the Apple Newsstand; Trinity Mirror's Birmingham Post gets very excited about PDFs

The Association of Chartered Certified Accountants this weekend launches six editions of its Accounting and Business magazine, known as AB, it the Apple Newsstand. The six editions, for the UK, Ireland, China, Malaysia, Singapore and and international edition are each separate apps, and each offer the association magazine free of charge to readers.

I chose to download the UK edition. The first issue inside weighs in at just over 110 MB and is a terribly slow download. Really, it is terribly slow, slow enough that many readers wanted something to read on a flight or on the train will want to turn elsewhere for their reading material.

After the half hour wait eventually the magazine could be "opened" to reveal a replica edition of the print magazine.

One could express disappointment that the end product is so unimaginative, but with multiple editions to produce on could guess that the idea of producing native tablet editions each month – the magazine is produced ten times a year – would be a daunting challenge.

One publisher that should be in a better position to build something more interesting for the tablet platform would be Trinity Mirror. They have launched a Newsstand app, Birmingham Post Business Daily that is writing about this morning. Their story, Birmingham Post takes 'bold step' with new business-focused tablet edition, immediately got my attention – was this actually something new from the British newspaper and magazine publisher?

"We think it's a first," editor Stacey Barnfield is quoted as saying. "We can't see any other people doing this at the moment."

So what is so new? A PDF app built by PageSuite, apparently. (It's hard not to tell that it is built by PageSuite, their name is all over the library page.

The team over at the Birmingham Post appears pretty excited by their tablet edition because it contains links – just wait til they discover the Internet, too.

"So that was a big thing for us. I think it's something we've pulled off and we'll get better, we'll fine-tune it. This will evolve," Barnfield said.

The Birmingham Post is itself a compact newspaper, so designing something for the iPad should have been a natural. But rather than taking their design cues from native tablet magazines they have stuck to basic tabloid newspaper design.

Well, I'm glad they are excited, though – and equally glad to see them launching new digital products, that is a step in the right direction. But I also feel a little embarrassed knowing that PDFs can get publishing people so excited. Imagine what lies in store for them once they start seeing other digital publications are doing.

Morning Brief: Apple's iRadio said to be supported by advertising, though that remains a terribly weak area for the company; misdiagnosing newspapers

I, for one, look forward to an Apple Internet radio service supported by advertising – after all, Apple is so bad at the ad game that this should mean hours of ad-free music for listeners. According to The New York Times, Apple signed Warner Music Group over the weekend and is still in talks with Sony.

But Apple has at this ad game for three years now and remains in the wilderness as far as ad agencies and their clients go. Apple has had a near monopoly on interactive magazines for two years but has still not built out a service for publishers that have them dreaming of new revenue – or any at all, really, from advertising.

The problem is that Apple is the old Kremlin, trying to use central planning to dictate rates and creative to clients that simply won't play ball. Apple may have the audience, but it has failed to organize that audience into anything that resembles a real market.

"iAd is easy to implement, and hundreds of developers are making more than $15,000 per quarter," Apple brags embarrassingly on its website, failing to realize that this amount wouldn't even buy a quarter page ad in most major consumer magazines.

While the music industry may eventually sign up for Apple's Pandora ripoff, many small, independent record labels shutter at what is happening to the music business. The promise of the Internet, with its ability to reach a worldwide audience, has proved a disappointment.

I really wish I could recommend this Forbes article on newspapers based on its merits, but instead I guess I recommend it based in on its inability to see the real issues behind the decline of newspapers. Micheline Maynard talks about outsourcing at newspapers as if the practice has had anything to do with falling readership and revenue occurring in the industry.

Staff cutbacks, outsourcing and printing partnerships are a result of the changes occurring, not their cause. The Sun-Times laid off its entire photo department for ideological reasons, though they made a sad effort to portray this as the reason, but simply to cut costs and further break its unions.

The issue for newspapers is simply that they no longer serve the purpose they once did. Few of us wait for the paper to be delivered to find out what is happening in the world. By six in the morning I've already been updated, and while much of the sources I read are, in fact, newspaper companies, those papers are simply mixed in with the many other sources of information available.

Newspapers continue to believe in the one product rule. Those newspapers that have tried new product launches have quickly their efforts – so foreign is the act of launching new products that at the first sign of failure they fold up. Take the NYT: it launched its first tablet edition the day the iPad was launched. How many iPad apps do you think they currently have inside the Apple App Store? (Two, and only the one main NYT app inside the Newsstand).

All the publishing innovation one sees at newspapers are concentrated in the newsroom, as if all the other parts of the business mean nothing. Papers can redesign their websites all they want, they can build their newsroom cafés, and play with HTML5 – but until they start getting their share of ad dollars again they are dead meat.

Friday, May 31, 2013

An interview with Liz Castro, editor and publisher of 'What's up with Catalonia?'

Author, editor, publisher and EPUB expert Liz Castro has recently published an important new book on Catalonia and its move towards independence from Spain, What's up with Catalonia?: The causes which impel them to the separation.

The book, available both in print and digitally, is a well-edited, highly informative, and easy and pleasurable to read collection of 35 articles concerning its subject. The book's editor and publisher, Liz Castro, is perfectly positioned to organize, edit and produce this collection based on her technology publishing background, her translation skills, her time spent in Catalonia, and her digital publishing expertise (Castro publishes the Pigs, Gourds, and Wikis blog).

Castro has gathered together an amazing group of experts, from politicians to authors, from academics to technology experts, to examine the history, culture and politics of Catalonia – and, most importantly, to examine the issue of separation from Spain.

A little background: last September 11, Catalonia’s National Day, 1.5 million gathered in Barcelona in a pro-independence demonstration. What followed this event was snap elections where the issue of Catalonian independence became the central issue. The momentum that seemed apparent was the inspiration that led Castro to begin to organize this new book.

The articles were written in December 2011 and January 2012, and the book was quickly completed  – just before the Catalan parliament voted in favor of a Declaration of Sovereignty, according to Castro's editor's note to the book.

"Some of the writers who contributed articles for this book I knew previously, but others put their trust in me sight unseen," Castro writes. "I am indebted to both groups for their confidence, their collaboration, and their insights. I hope I have captured the spirit their articles with my translations."

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Castro's contributors include: Artur Mas, the president of Catalonia, who contributed the prologue to the book; Andreu Domingo, Deputy Director for Demographic Studies at the Autonomous University of Barcelona who contributes a fascinating report on immigration; and New Yorker J.C. Major who writes "On the prickly matter of language."

"What, then, makes a nation? Not race or religion—at least not for Catalans," writes Major. "Nor the trappings of power—a state, an army—whose unquestioned benefits they lost a long time ago. The right place to look for proof of Catalonia’s unique personality is in the broad field of culture—in the set of values and customs that are shared by a community and are specific to it, the common way of doing things that is recognized as such by the people living in a certain land and also by those coming into contact with it for the first time."

Though the book takes a decidedly pro-independence point of view, the book is by the far the most up-to-date and thorough look at the issues involving Catalan independence, and is also a great example of how to organize and self-publish a book in both print and in digital formats. The book is available on at $10.80 in paperback form and for $3.99 for the Kindle. It is also available inside the Apple iBookstore at the same price of $3.99, as well as at Barnes & Noble in both print and digital forms.

"I tried to make it so they could open the book any place and find an article that didn't put them off, was so hard to read and complicated and based on previous information, so they could jump right in."

Castro points to the anecdotal articles such as that by Josep Maria Ganyet and the article by Eva Piquer as contributions that are particularly good at covering topics for the lay reader.

I can't help but think that if Castro has spent her time in Athens rather than Barcelona we would be on the receiving end of a brilliant examination of the issues surrounding the crisis there. But we will gladly settle for this, and I highly recommend its purchase.

Ninety percent of the material in the book is new, Castro told me earlier this week while driving down to the IDPF conference in New York where she gave a presentation on EPUB 3.

Following the September 11 demonstrations, Castro watched from the United States as events began to unfold. The president of Catalonia had previously campaigned on a platform of negotiating a new fiscal pact with Spain. But when this fell apart the issue of sovereignty began to become top of mind.

"Being from the United States, I was watching all of this and noticing how it was getting huge amounts of press – and it was really exciting for me because I've been following Catalonia ever since I went to live there in the eighties and no one had ever talked about Catalonia in a political way…newspapers had never talked about Catalonia as a political entity, or very little, they mostly talked about football, they talked about food, and they talked about tourism and (Antoni) Gaudi," Castro told me.

Suddenly Catalonia was all over the press, and Castro thought that, at first, the media was doing a good job of covering the story.

"But as things got more complicated, and it wasn't just 'we're going to have another demonstration, tomorrow we're going to have a referendum then we're independent' the newspapers started to publish less, and the things that they published were not substantial enough," Castro said. "They mostly continued on the same theme of 'Catalonia's rich and selfish, and not only that they're indebted.'"

So Castro started to think about publishing a book on the subject.

"This is something I can do," Castro concluded. "I can get up-to-date information about what's going on right now, not this old stuff, and I can make it a lot more nuanced, a lot more detailed, so people can really understand what's going on there."

"There's the question of language, of its history, the feeling of not belonging to Spain, not being appreciated, not being understood."

So Castro started her outreach to possible contributors.

"In the letter I said 'I'm not anybody, I'm a lay person in terms of Catalan politics, but I know how to make books. If you guys can write it, if you can get me good information, I can translate it, I can make it into a book. I can make it exist.' So that is what we did," Castro told me.

"These were amazing people, these were politicians, the opposition leader of the Catalan left, eventually the president of Catalonia decided he would contribute, there's top tier journalists, academics, sociologists. It is really quite an amazing collection of people. They're not famous in the United States, but in Catalonia everyone knows practically every single one of the contributors is."

Liz Castro was able to tell the readers of her blog that What's up with Catalonia? was available to download in early March. Castro was able to use her blog to explain where to find the book inside major online retail outlets, as well as that they could download the book direct from her.

Because the print form of the book is completely print-on-demand using Amazon's CreateSpace, as well as Lightning Source (Castro promises a blog post on using these two companies and I said I would love to re-post that blog entry here – I'm not sure she was enthusiastic about that), there was no need to fund a print run.

Instead, Castro used crowdfunding as a way of spreading word of the book and getting the end product into the right hands. Recently she guest contributed a nice post on the subject of crowdfunding on the Publishing Perspectives website.

"But my book posed a unique problem in terms of crowdfunding: the people who might be willing to sponsor the book — Catalans who wanted their story told — were not the target audience for the book. Americans, Brits, and other people outside of Catalonia with only a cursory idea of what was going on there, 13 million of whom visit Catalonia every year were the target," Castro wrote.

So, rather than using Kickstarter, Castro signed up at the Catalan crowdfunding site called Verkami. "My goal," Castro wrote, "was to raise enough money to send 500 copies of the book to libraries, magazines, and political leaders all over the world. And thus, the rewards consisted of the typical copy of the book for the sponsor, but much more importantly, one or more books sent to the recipients of the sponsor’s choice.

Do newspapers still need photographers? Damn right they do, though it is true that the role of the reporter is changing, as well; Sun-Times layoffs entire photo staff

There are times when I wish Jim Romenesko were as snarky and willing to lose readers as I am. Jim does an unbelievable great job on his new blog, did a great job at Poynter, and his original blog, Romenesko's MediaNews, was groundbreaking. Yesterday Jim was on the job again reporting the Chicago Sun-Times recent move of laying off its entire photography staff, 28 full-timers. Because most newspaper pros read Jim, and I'm sure none read TNM and not Jim, there was no reason for me to jump on the story, he had it covered.

But I waited to see if Jim would actually say anything personal about the story. He doesn't normally do this, instead making his own views known by what he posts, who he posts, and then let's the reader infer his position in this way. For instance, Jim posted a link to The New York Observer story on the layoffs which included the email from Elliott Harris, a former Sun-Times sports columnist who was laid off himself in 2011.

Harris's email in interesting, but his own post on his blog is better and more to the point:

Times are changing and photography and photographers are obsolete?

No. It’s not that at all. What the company wants is to further gut an already weakened union at the paper.

To say the folks who came up with this plan and executed it are loathsome and despicable is being far too kind.
This nails it.

The issue of unions at newspapers, and elsewhere, is almost a too hot to handle conversation in this country. According to a Gallup poll conducted last summer, 52 percent of Americans approve of unions, unchanged from the prior year. In 1957 that number was 75 percent. So it is not only union membership that it is declining, but how people feel about unions, in general.

The reason is that unions are often seen as detrimental to change, protecting the worst workers, stopping reform. All this is true, I believe. But it is also true that the death of the middle class, falling wages, the rise of the Walmart economy would not have occurred without, at the same time, unions becoming less a factor in the U.S. workplace.

I've been in management, and I've sat in on contract negotiations on the side of the union – I feel I understand both sides. (A friend of mine who is a school superintendent gets pretty worked up when the subject of teacher unions is brought up and especially when I say something in defense of them – usually while playing devil's advocate by presenting their side of the story.)

So what to do when one wants reporters to begin talking photographs and videos? Did the union object? Did the photographers say that this would be a violation of the contract? I don't know, and there are always two sides to the story, right?

But one thing for sure: it was a dumb move, a move that goes too far, and one that will damage the paper. The world may be changing, may require reporters to have different skills and bring new kinds of content to future newspaper products. But it is also true that the news is becoming more graphical, not less. So to say that this move has anything to do with the future of news is a lie – and when editors lie in public the credibility of the entire newspaper dies.

Here was the paper's own statement:
The Sun-Times business is changing rapidly and our audiences are consistently seeking more video content with their news. We have made great progress in meeting this demand and are focused on bolstering our reporting capabilities with video and other multimedia elements. The Chicago Sun-Times continues to evolve with our digitally savvy customers, and as a result, we have had to restructure the way we manage multimedia, including photography, across the network.
The only way I see this move working out for both the Sun-Times management and its investors is if the paper can successfully move to a totally digital model. I don't think they can do that because there is a mismatch between its readership and the demographics needed for the move to succeed. So all the paper really doing here is cutting costs. And that, after all, is what digital first really means in the newspaper business.

Morning Brief: Study's findings on tablet magazines interpreted differently by observers; Future PLC updates the app for their tab-only magazine 'Photography Week'

Ten days ago Mequoda Group released a study that seems to have media outlets interpreting its results in wildly different ways. The 2013 Mequoda Tablet Study was originally talked about in this post here at TNM. It got the attention of the press because it predicted that predicted, rather boldly, that digital magazines would be preferred to print by a majority of readers by 2020 – few people bother to hold researchers to account when making predictions such as this so they are usually made to simply get attention.

AdWeek yesterday did their own story on the study and highlighted the fact that of "the 1,293 respondents, 23 percent prefer reading magazines on their tablets." The author, Maura McGowen, comes to no conclusions as she clearly working off a press release (how do I know this? the study itself says 26 percent, but press reports keep talking about 23 percent, something only mentioned in the company's own summary of the study).

AdWeek gives this all a positive spin by placing the headline "Digital Magazines Popular With Tablet Owners - Small study shows preference toward digital content" on the story.

Mequoda Group, of course, has an interest in all this as they are a firm that offers consulting services to publishers and, hence, would love to drum up some business assisting publishers with their digital publishing strategies.

Meanwhile, the blogger behind Dead Tree Edition asks whether the study is "A Troubling Sign for Magazines?"

Well, as we all know, any headline that ends in a question mark should be answered with "no" – but the author goes on to jump to the conclusion that the study actually shows that "the real news" is that three-forths of tablet owners do not prefer digital magazines to print. Again, the author refers to "23%" when the actual study shows 26 percent. Neither the reporter from AdWeek nor the blogger, it appears, even bothered to open up the study themselves despite it being a free download.

Publishing Executive, an industry magazine that has yet to launch its own tablet magazine (it has a replica in the Newsstand under the vendor's developer account) passed on the blog post in its e-newsletter, thus amplifying the madness.

As I mentioned in my own post a week ago, the study is terribly flawed and of no real value as it fails to break out the results in any way that would show the differences between tablets, or tablet magazines. In other words, it is simply a PR prank from a company trying to drum up business.

But the industry really could use a good, objective study on tablet magazines. The study should be able to break out results based on the brand and type of tablet owned by the reader, the type of magazine being read by the tablet owner (replica, hybrid, native), as well as the frequency (single issue buyer, subscriber). Then this can be compared to basic demographics to see if patterns involving sex, age, education or income are apparent. The reason is simply good polling practices.

But it also important to know the depth of feeling of readers towards their print and digital publications. For instance, does a reader who subscribes to a natively designed tab mag tend to prefer digital more than print? is the reader who only rarely buys a magazine (for instance, like before boarding a flight) tend to also prefer print? is the owner of a Kindle tablet more likely to say print is preferable than a reader who can access interactive magazines via an iPad?

The level of professionalism we are seeing in these superficial studies, and the truly bad reporting on them, is leading to a situation were publishers are able to read these things and use them to reinforce their own biases. We need good studies that will make publishers think and become better informed. The publishing media world, I'm afraid, is falling down on the job.

Future PLC, which is a bit schizophrenic about its own digital editions – releasing dull replica editions for tech magazines like MacLife, while launching new native tablet-only magazines – has updated the Photography Week Newsstand app.

The update is fairly minor but it does include an important addition: the adding in of more local language options.

Many publishers assume that all readers will want their library and store language to be the same as the text of the magazine. But there are readers who will pick up an English language magazine but be from another country, and have another language be their native one.

When traveling in Europe you can see this on the newsstands where in Athens, for instance, will be plenty of Greek language magazines, but also English ones. It is not only tourists who pick these up but local residents, as well.

These readers tend to be only somewhat fluent in English and can work their way around a consumer magazine lighting skimming the text but really being interested in the photography, the ads, and other graphical elements.

In an app, however, words not frequently seen in an article appear in the library and store: subscription, download, restore, etc. By compensating for this within the app the publisher will make it easier for the reader whose native language is something other than English to navigate the app itself, hopefully leading to an issue download.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Update: IBIZA STYLE relaunches its English and German language tablet editions into the Apple Newsstand

Sen. John McCain ended his questions of Apple CEO Tim Cook by asking, somewhat in jest "Why The Hell Do I Have To Keep Updating Apps On My iPhone?" Cook's response was they were working on making them better. But that was a strange answer to come from the CEO of Apple when what he should have said was "our developer partners are always trying to make them better."

It is a fact of app life that launching apps not only means negotiating the Apple App Store review team, as well as Google and Amazon, but also have to constantly fix, improve and update one's apps. Rarely does one launch a tablet magazine that is not PDF-based and manage to not have to issue an update at some point.

Earlier this month I wrote a short post on IBIZA STYLE, a lifestyle magazine for the island community located off the coast of Spain.

Three weeks later I find that the publisher, Pitiusa Media Group, has relaunched two of the three apps that initially were released – while the original apps are no longer in the App Store.

IBIZA STYLE - Your Island Lifestyle Magazine is the English, while IBIZA STYLE - Das Lifestyle Magazin aus Ibiza is, obviously, the German edition. The original Spanish version is now missing completely.

The app descriptions give no clue to the change, but my hunch is that the downloads were so minimal that pulling the app and relaunching it didn't seem like a big deal.

I likes the original app, which was a hybrid edition, calling it "the way many publishers should approach creating a tablet edition if they are less than comfortable with totally abandoning the print magazine look and feel." My guess is, though is that the way the magazine was designed, with English headlines on all three language editions, but main body text in the target language, was confusing readers. But who knows as the publisher has decided to quietly do a re-do.

Marco Arment sells off 'The Magazine' to its editor; testing notion that readers really do want a minimally designed digital pub rather than one designed by professionals

It's hard to bash a winner, and there is no doubt that Marco Arment's The Magazine has been a winner, at least in comparison to many of the other new digital magazines launched into the Apple Newsstand. But I've never seen it as a model when it comes to design, and its sale only reinforces my impression that its design simply followed function - that is, keep it simple because complexity is too much work.

If your unaware of the news, here is the skinny:

The minimally designed digital magazine has been sold to its editor Glenn Fleishman, who has formed an LLC (Aperiodical LLC). The editor will maintain the same subscription-only business model – that is, the magazine will remain ad-free.

Now if you think about it, exactly how hard would it be to publish a digital magazine that does not require complex layouts, doesn't involve ad sales, and only contains five medium-length articles each issue? My guess is that for most TNM readers they could do it in their sleep, they certainly wouldn't need an editor to help them out. So did Arment need an editor, and if The Magazine is so successful why sell it off?

Because Arment is not a publisher, he's a developer who also happens to blog. So when he decided to launch The Magazine he created a simplified design that would not require a talented art director and could show off only the content. The concept struck a cord with other techies, and writers, in general. The Magazine was hailed as a new trend in publishing, and indeed other similar magazines, and other similar platforms (29th Street Publishing and TypeEngine, for instance) have followed the trend.

Arment is sure readers want these kinds of publications saying that people "want to download publications quickly and read them without cruft. Publications that started in print carry too much baggage and usually have awful apps. The Magazine was designed from the start to be streamlined, natively digital, and respectful of readers' time and attention."

Bullshit. What he is saying is that magazine publishers and their art directors don't have a clue how to design their publications. If you believe that you might as well hang 'em up.

The idea that people can't handle a scrolling text box, or are somehow repelled by animated magazine covers is absurd. My guess is that if Arment has been an art director at a print magazine he, too, would be pushing the envelope of the new digital platforms, not creating Kindle Edition-like digital magazines.

For me, The Magazine is the equivalent of Tumblr, which many in the industry fell in love with when launched. It's bare bones design was attractive to many would-be publishers who didn't have the tie to worry about layouts and interactivity.

But then along comes Snow Fall and suddenly a whole other group within the industry is proclaiming that readers want the complexity and interactivity that the NYT's web feature gave them. Actually, many were the same people who said that readers wanted less, not more.

Few art directors I know think this
is the future of magazine design
The way I see it, you can pretty much predict where people will come down on the issue of design – art directors love the native tablet platforms; many publishers want it cheap and easy and are prone to the sales pitch that the PDF is the future of magazine publishing; editors want to keep it simple; I look at all this and say "when will the ads start coming, and why are we still stuck with ugly banner ads?"

(I have never heard an art director say that the future of digital publishing is automated layouts – gee, I wonder why? Maybe they like to eat like the rest of us.)

There is room in the market for The Magazine just as there is room for complex native tablet designs. But I think it is silly to believe that the future of publication design is to go back hundreds of years. (When you look at The Magazine on an iPhone what you see is pretty much the same look and feel as what BJPhoto: iPhone edition sports, the Mag+ built mobile version of the British Journal of Photography.)

As for the success of Marco Arment's venture, that was very much personality based. Proof that it's good to have friends. There is no The Magazine without Arment, just as there is no O without Oprah. What we'll see now is whether readers really did think the editorial content of The Magazine was great stuff or not. Editorially nothing is changing, but I wouldn't be surprised to hear some readers start to complain that something isn't the same without Arment in charge – even though, in fact, nothing really changes with the sale of the title.