Friday, February 22, 2013

Morning Brief: Google updates Currents, but readers stay away; PayPal Here to launch in the U.K., pricing to come

Things move very fast today, so I think I am not out of line to remind TNM readers that a mere year or two ago there were tech and media writers proclaiming a new era of media, let's call it the Flipboard era. Readers would dump their familiar magazine titles and begin exclusively reading content from aggregation apps like Flipboard, Zite and Google Currents.

I didn't believe this would be the case. The reason for this isn't that I didn't think these news aggregation apps wouldn't be popular, but because there was no barrier to entry. Any good developer could assemble their own aggregation app, and many did just that including AOL. But how many of these apps would a reader need? Wouldn't the answer to that be one?

The problem with aggregation apps that readers fill with content is that the editor is the reader. This was the revolution some tech and media observers proclaimed. Who needs a professional editor? What do they bring to the table? Here I was, all these years, employing editors when anyone could have done the job? Or so advocates of the form were trying to convince me.

It doesn't surprise me that there would be advocates for an uncurated media world. The advocates of aggregation have been helping media owners find excuses for laying off reporters and editors for years. They make a lot of money speaking at industry events and writing nonsense that have many in the industry convinced of their wisdom. They rarely mention during their talks, by the way, that the companies they advise for have just filed for bankruptcy, or the number of jobs they have caused to be lost.

In any case, Google Currents has been updated, though it appears that few will notice as there just doesn't seem to be an endless need for aggregation apps – one good one will do.

Note: I recognize that each of these aggregation apps have their own twist on the format. In the case of Currents, publishers create their own channels within the app that readers may select. Even TNM has a channel, though creating it proved a waste of time.

Paypal announced the future launch of its mobile payment service, PayPal Here, in the U.K. yesterday. The service will compete with Square Inc. and other players in the market. The service has been available in the U.S., Japan and Australia since last year.

To launch the device PayPal's UK team had to design a different device because of the more complex Chip and PIN system.

"Trying to figure out how to make Chip and PIN to work in these devices has been hard," Reuters reported Rick Oglesby, from Aite Group, as saying. "The gadgets so far have been fairly expensive and big and clunky."

The way the system works is that the retailer buys a small device where the buyer swipes their credit card and enters their pin. The retail needs to buy the device then is charged a transaction fee, as well. PayPal has not announced pricing yet, continuing a trend of tech companies making product announcements without solid pricing and launch dates set.