Friday, February 8, 2013

Morning Brief: Media observers get the digital circulation story very, very wrong; transferring the ownership of a print magazine may prove easier than moving those new mobile and tablet apps to the new company name

Yesterday the AAM, the organization that audits the paid circulation of most major magazines, released its report for the final six months of 2012. In the press release the AAM said that digital replica editions accounted for 2.4 percent of total circulation of the magazines in the report. What followed as a parade of media reporters repeating the meme that digital circulation, therefore, still represented a "tiny" portion of overall circulation. Those reports, seen in AdAge, AdWeek paidContent, and other sources, were then scraped by the usual aggregators.

It is sad that few media reporters can work beyond the press release and think on their own about their industries. The fact is that with new digital-only publications launching every day, and with many magazine publishers not part of the AAM process, that many paid digital subscriptions are not counted in the new AAM report. That is why a jump from under 1 percent of total paid circulation being digital, to 2.4 percent with this report, is a large jump – because it represents the largest print magazines, and not a single one of the new digital-only titles being launched. In others words, you are seeing the tip of the iceberg.

But that won't stop the media reporters, who seemingly can not write stories without a press release, and who refuse to stop for a second and think about their subjects before writing their stories. Our industry is poorly served by these trade publications, many of whom have been critical of the new digital platforms, and who themselves have been late in launching their own digital products. Our industry trade publications are not leaders, they are anchors.

One of the fact of life of magazine publishing is that titles get sold. Some media companies, especially in B2B, trade magazine titles like playing cards, adjusting and refining their portfolios and building new industry groups. Sometimes, of course, whole companies are sold off to other publishers or financial interests.

This brings up the question of what happens to those mobile and tablet apps that were launched by the former owner. How easy is it to transfer those apps to an account for the new publisher?

Not so easy, it turns out.

This came up when I looked inside the App Store to check out the apps for the British Journal of Photography. On Wednesday TNM posted the news that the management team behind the magazine had bought out the book from Incisive Media and created a new digital media start-up, Apptitude Media.

Both the iPhone and iPad editions remain under the name of Incisive Media, and so I asked about the transfer process. What I got back was this:

"The app transfer is a real pain as you cannot transfer individual apps to a new owner, only a whole app account - and as Incisive has its own apps this is not an option," said Marc Hartog, CEO of Apptitude Media.

"Our plan is to launch a new version alongside, and use the existing shell and data to promote the new version. We will stop selling subs once the new version is live, and we have a transitional agreement with's lucky this is a friendly deal. Apple will have to sort this out."

View this morning from the office window

If you live on the east coast I don't suppose you need to be warned about the approach of Nemo, a giant snow storm that is drawing much of its energy from a storm that passed over the Midwest yesterday. That storm dropped a half a foot of snow over portions of northern Illinois and southern Wisconsin (including my house).

Already over 3,000 flights have been cancelled, and the snow is just starting to fall in NYC. Because the storm will be drawing up moisture from the south, this may result in even more snow than what the Midwest encountered yesterday.

In other words, a lot of New Yorkers will be leaving their offices early today and will be difficult to contact.