If there is one surprise new digital publishers experience when launching their first tablet magazine apps into Apple's Newsstand, it is the larger than expected interest their apps get from international audiences. Total downloads may prove an initial disappointment, but the number of downloads from outside the U.S. is a constant surprise. This phenomenon is not limited to digital newspapers and magazines, I might add.
The reason why this is can be seen if you sign out of your iTunes account and venture out into the over 150 different stores Apple has created. It might surprise some media people, but not every Apple iTunes store sells music and video, but every store has an App Store where digital publications can be downloaded. The Croatia iTunes store, for instance, does not sell music, but has a Newsstand. Not surprisingly, however, not every store is managed the way, say, the UK store is managed: where local publications get promoted inside the Newsstand.
Some stores are dominated by national media brands, while others are a strange mix of U.S. or European titles, with a few local media apps thrown in, as well.
Looking just as some of the European stores, most of the larger countries in Europe have curated Newsstands. Inside the U.K. Newsstand Apple is promoting Nuts Mag – what this says of Apple's image of merry ol' England I don't really know.
In Germany, things are toned down quite a bit, with Zeit Wissen and Der Tagesspiegel getting highlighted inside the category.
It was interesting to see how newspaper oriented the German Newsstand felt compared to the French store where magazines like 20 Minutes dominate. Spain, also is magazine heavy with Hearst's Fotogramas Revista, ¡HOLA! and Women's Fitness from Axel Springer España appearing as top media apps.
The Greek Newsstand remains heavy on foreign media properties with only a few Greek media apps making it into the top charts, apps such as Kool from Polyxeni Balatsinou and ProtoThema HD (TNM post here).
The complete mess that is the Apple App Store is the biggest reason for the large number of downloads of international media apps. Each store shows mostly the same media apps, and as each app is released they enter the same big pot. The good side of this is that iOS device owners are suddenly thrown into a world where lots of publications are seen for the first time. The downside is that it is nearly impossible to find what one is searching for unless one knows the exact name of the publication or its publisher. This is why apps that appear under the name of the vendor rather than the publisher hurt the app's chances at being discovered.
At the very least, Apple needs to incorporate more subcategories for publications. Right now, a Newsstand app can be put into any category the publisher wants. Right now there are 28 subcategories listed on the Newsstand page. "Books" is not listed as a Newsstand subcategory, yet I found over 200 Newsstand publications that chose to use that category as their subcategory including Grow Your own Magazine, a UK publication.
It is understandable that Apple would not want to put too many filters inside the App Store. But added search criteria, such as language, would be helpful for promoting native language publications. Another simple criteria would be newspapers and magazines, though I could understand if some publishers creating unique digital publications would want to be considered both.
The key, of course, is discoverability, and this issue varies considerably in the many Apple App Store Newsstands. Getting this right remains an important issue, and the fact that it is so broken now means that many publications are finding their Newsstand downloads disappointing without really learning whether the fault lies with their apps, their marketing, or with Apple.
Friday, February 15, 2013
Publishers find unexpected interest in their new apps from foreign readers, but discoverability of local media apps remains an issue in Apple's many App Store Newsstands
If there is one surprise new digital publishers experience when launching their first tablet magazine apps into Apple's Newsstand, it is the larger than expected interest their apps get from international audiences. Total downloads may prove an initial disappointment, but the number of downloads from outside the U.S. is a constant surprise. This phenomenon is not limited to digital newspapers and magazines, I might add.
B2B publisher Macfadden releases its third tablet edition, new app for Grocery Headquarters continues Mag+ use
The B2B publisher Macfadden Communications launched its first tablet edition for one of its trade industry magazines in April of last year: Pizza Today was the first of what was to be roll out of its titles for the iPad (see TNM original post here).
The effort was, and is, being led by Michael Davis, director of digital services, and his team at Macfadden in New York. The goal, Davis told me last year, was to train the staff as they progressed. For the app for Pizza Today, which is published out of Louisville, Kentucky, Josh Keown was sent to NY to learn the Mag+ platform. "Josh is very savvy in this department," Pizza Today's editor Jeremy White told me when that tablet edition was launched.
In January of this year Macfadden launched its second tablet edition, this one for Beverage World, a 34,010 circulation B2B title (see TNM original post here).
Yesterday the newest tablet edition appeared for Grocery Headquarters, an industry leading trade journal with a circulation of 33,120 as of its last BPA audit.
Grocery Headquarters HD is a hybrid edition like the others – that is, the print ads appear here as they would in print, but the editorial pages have been reformatted for the iPad's display.
Like all the Macfadden tablet editions, the apps is free of charge to download, and the content can be accessed without charge, as well. For Macfadden the key issue simply is making the issues available to those who want to read their magazines on a tablet.
"Right now the key is that we've had enough people say to us that they want the magazine on an iPad and we're responding to that," Seth Mendelson, the publisher and editorial director told me yesterday. Issues such as tablet advertising will be considered later.
"Like everybody else in this business we feel that to some degree – to a large degree I'll say – is in the digital world."
Grocery Headquarters is one of those B2B titles that makes into my own house every month – both because I used to publish a B2B food magazine and Grocery HQ was a competitor, and because my wife is in the grocery advertising business at a digital media company and needs to keep up with the news in the industry. Comparing the editorial page layouts in the new tablet edition with the print pages one can see that they are quite similar. The difference is that the layouts have been simplified quite a bit in the iPad editions, while font sizes have been increased making reading easier in this tablet edition than in the typical replica edition.
As is typical with hybrid tablet editions, the ads are not resized for the iPad. Because of the size of Grocery Headquarters this means the ad pages are a bit short for the tablet's display. To compensate, the iPad edition ads the magazine's logo at the top of the ad pages, which I think is a nice tough (see below-middle). For some reason, though, the cover was not reformatted for the tablet edition (as you can see below-left).
Another interesting decision was to make the two-page spreads able to be swiped. In most replica editions, and in most hybrids, as well, the reader goes from one half of the two-page spread to the other as if they were separate pages. Here, the reader can swipe to access a continuous image of the ad. It is a much better solution (which you can see below-right).
Morning Brief: Kickstarter launches iPhone app; did The Guardian's report on climate change think tank funders attracts paid commenters?; CNN's ship joy ride ends; Cygnus updates its line-up of B2B tablet editions
Short items for the start of the final day of the week:
I have always like the idea behind Kickstarter, the crowd funding website, but I've found it odd that so many say they have "chipped in a few dollars" to so many projects. Either these people are lying or they treat the funding site like the home shopping network, unable to pull themselves away from things. I've never tried a Kickstarter funding drive for myself, and with so many people saying TNM should launch a tablet edition maybe I should.
Yesterday Kickstarter launched an iPhone app, Kickstarter for iPhone, for those who simply have money burning a hole in their pocket I suppose. Or is the app for those with their own Kickstarter projects going? I don't know, but the app has been very well received by users, which only goes to show that the potential is limitless for new mobile and tablet applications.
The Guardian: Secret funding helped build vast network of climate denial thinktanks – The UK paper posted an investigative report on money behind the climate change denial think tanks (interesting that they would do "think tank" as one word). What followed was over 1,000 comments, most of which seem to be from climate change deniers. Is The Guardian planning a follow-up on the issue of paid commenters? Just an idea.
CNN played up the plight of Carnival cruise passengers stranded on a ship off the coast of Mexico. The ship took five days to finally dock at Alabama Cruise Terminal, three days behind schedule. That gave CNN time to get into gear to make this their lead story for most of yesterday into today. The Huffington Post had a lot of fun at CNN's expense, wondering if this was the type of journalism the cable news network would be pursuing in the future.
But The Huffington Post should talk. This morning the website is leading with a headline so large it might take at least two Macbook Airs to display it: METEORITE STRIKES, '500 UNJURED'.
Cygnus Business Information issued a series of app updates last night to tablet editions.
The B2B media company updated Firehouse Magazine, Law Enforcement Product News, Law Enforcement Technology, EMS World, Sustainable Construction, and Aircraft Maintenance Technology Magazine.
The updates are required because of issues that have arisen in apps built using the Adobe DPS since Apple launched iOS 6.1. Adobe describes the bug this way: "The recent release of iOS 6.1 exposed an issue with DPS viewers that have in-app purchasing enabled. This issue causes the viewer to crash when a network connection is not available. This includes situations where Wi-Fi or cellular network connections are not available, or when the device is in airplane mode."
Thursday, February 14, 2013
Here is another new independently launched tablet magazines that has used the MagCast platform to create its iPad app. Birth Goddess mag won't be staying on my iPad very long, lest someone in my house gets some strange ideas.
The new digital magazine is published by Australian author Katrina Zaslavsky who publishes a website by the same name. Oddly, the name on the cover of the digital magazine is Empowering Birth Magazine, and this is the way it appears on the Library page, so I think there was probably some confusion inside the developer account - which is, by the way, PlumbAssist (no jokes please) which has a mobile plumbing app inside the App Store, as well. I know, I know. Don't go there.
Why I am bringing you this I don't know, TNM has certainly looked at enough of these MagCast apps. The solution is the same as others: the publisher creates a PDF of a magazine, uploads it to the vendor's servers and presto, instant app. The price on the Magcast site says it is $297 per month for the app.
I noticed that MagCast is streaming ads to the Library page of this app, so maybe some publishers are getting a break in exchange for the ad space, or maybe this is one of the monetization options offered by the platform. By the way, the ads are from iAd and I noticed ads for Zillow, the NYT (see in the screenshot at left), as well as other apps.
Back to the app: inside the Birth Goddess app issues are $4.99 a piece, though there are subscription options for one, six and 12 months also available. Yes, I know, strange that there is no 9-month option, right?
Amazon releases update to its Kindle reading app for iOS devices; adds 'Book End Actions' for readers finishing reading their eBooks, new brightness settings
It is sometimes easy to forget that Amazon has a Kindle app for the iPhone and iPad and that many, many readers still buy their books from Amazon, then read them on their iDevices. Often we tend to think of the platforms, especially iBooks and Kindle Editions, as incompatible. It's not true, though I don't think you'll see an Apple iBooks app for the Kindle Fire in the near future.
Today Amazon updated its universal iOS app, otherwise known by the ridiculous name of Kindle – Read Books, eBooks, Magazines, Newspapers & Textbooks.
The app update brings in some new features to the already popular reading app: 1) Multicolor Highlights – Four color choices make it easier to distinguish important passages; 2) Book End Actions – Just finish your book? Share the accomplishment with friends on Facebook and Twitter. Rate and write your own review. See other books that might interest you and add them to a wish list; and 3) Brightness Control – the brightness setting will now be saved across device sleeps.
I honestly have no idea what Amazon means by "device sleeps" but you might.
The Kindle app is a good example of how the platform owners really need to learn to play nice in the sandbox, though there is a Kobo app in the Android app store on Amazon.com.
But, of course, what we all need is some good cross platform interactive book publishing software. Aquafadas seems committed to this project, but it would be nice to see other solutions, as well, including an export function built into iBooks Author (something I'm in need of right now, as a matter of fact).
What's going on the App Store? Developers complain that nothing is going on, hope for a redesign, better search
It is hard to believe that it is now mid-February and Apple's App Store remains a mess. As seen in iTunes, huge swaths of real estate remain empty, searching for new apps remains nearly impossible – much worse in the U.S. store than others – and no one seems to be taking the complaints of independent developers very seriously.
Late last year Apple introduced a redesigned App Store that was a huge thumb in the eye to small, independent developers. Apple's App Store team changed the store from a store where all apps could be found at least once, at launch, to a highly curated store where only a few apps chosen by Apple would get noticed. Developers howled and complained for falling app sales.
But the redesign was not for small developers, it was meant to achieve more app sales by driving iOS device owners to popular apps made by big developers or large media companies. But change in strategy did not cut off developers from launching new apps, and it hasn't stopped scam developers from spamming the store with knock-off apps. As a result, not only are small developers finding it hard to reach buyers, but their apps are increasingly lost in a sea of really bad apps.
"There's a 'scam gang' putting out so many apps by using the same template code, 'ABC for kids' & 'Animal Sounds' in different names, dozens of new ones appearing at the App Store every 2-3 days pushing my app into abyss!" one developer complains in the developer forums.
Everyone is searching for a solution, everyone it seems other than Apple.
|App Store promotions are becoming increasingly stale|
The problem is best exemplified by the fact that some of the most popular apps being seen in the store today are actually apps designed as a way around the store itself such as Appsfire. Most of these apps highlight app deals and games, however, not much use for those looking for newly released magazines or newspapers.
The bottom line is that the App Store used to be like a giant bookstore: hard to find what one is looking for but with a lot of selection and the joy of browsing. Now the store is like walking down a street corner: constantly accosted by hawkers, where one can't find what one wants and becoming increasingly annoyed by Apple's sales approach.
Golf Digest launches Golf Digest Stix, a weekly online flipbook magazine, then releases iOS app in support
On January 23, the editors of Golf Digest launched a new e-magazine for golf enthusiasts called Golf Digest Stix. Readers were encouraged to sign up with their e-mail addresses and the new digital publication would be delivered to their inbox every Wednesday.
The idea is similar to weekly e-newsletters that many B2B magazines produce, only rather than producing the product in the form of an e-newsletter the format here would be that of a digital flipbook.
I didn't know of the launch of Stix simply because I am not a regular Golf Digest reader. But today I saw the release of the new universal iOS app for the new product and downloaded it immediately – that is precisely what I'm sure the editors hoped would happen, reaching new readers through the App Store and the Apple Newsstand.
In essence the new universal iOS app, Golf Digest Stix, is a replica edition of the online flipbook. This is the same idea as that of Residential Building Products in that the app is a replica of an already existing digital edition. But in the case of the B2B publication, for some bizarre reason the original layouts were modeled after print so that the publisher ended up creating a replica edition of something that doesn't even exist in the real world.
Here, the app is a replica edition of the flipbook, and the flipbook is the original product – that is, the editors designed the publication around the flipbook specs. As a result, the tablet edition doesn't quite fit the size of the iPad's display. The iPhone version has bigger problems in the the app does not support the iPhone 5.
Why these design decisions were made becomes understandable when you discover that the iOS app was created by Texterity, the flipbook vendor. In other words, this was a flipbook launch from the beginning.
I find that an odd and very outdated approach from a Condé Nast owned publication. Creating flipbook products is, well, so last decade. But if one is going to start by creating a flipbook one might have thought ahead and considered whether an app would follow. If so, then design the pages for the iPad first, then create the flipbook from those specs – after all, the online flipbook can be just about any size, there is no "correct" size for an online product, but there is for the iPad.
Interestingly, this app does not support the iPhone 5's larger display, yet the pages fit the specs for the iPhone 4 pretty well - though reading this on a phone is impossible making one wonder why they even bothered.
As I have written before, the online flipbook is the least favorite way a reader reads magazines, according to industry research. Launching a flipbook, therefore, should be the last digital product created, not the first. But I assume the editors were hoping to drive readership through e-mail, so the logical product to create would be either an e-newsletter or an online magazine. I think, if this is correct, that they were right. I just don't think it should have guided their design decisions.
The good news here is that the editors were very much right to want to create new digital products such as Stix. These types of products increase magazine awareness, reach new readers, and can attract new advertising. Bad design decisions aside, the launch of new digital publications that expand and extend the offerings of a publisher is at the heart of future digital magazine publishing strategy.
Finally (added later) I think it is important to point out that while this new digital magazine may have originated as a flipbook (boo) it is still a very finely pieced together digital weekly when compared to off-the-shelf e-newsletters often driven by a magazine company's CMS. If the editors made some font adjustments, changed the page specs to match the iPad, this would be much nicer, and it wouldn't hurt the online flipbook one bit. In other words, it's a start.
Morning Brief: MSLO updates recipe apps; WaPo leaves comments open on Pakistan Valentine's Day story, may regret the decision; the Time Inc. sales leak
Eartier Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia had updated its magazine apps, now today comes updates to their three recipe apps: Martha Stewart Makes Cookies, Martha Stewart Makes Cocktails and Smoothies from Whole Living. The app edition of Whole Living was pulled from the App Store a while when work came that the title would be shuttered.
The app descriptions all tell the same tale concerning this update: "now includes 6 recipe bundles with app purchase" and "minor improvements and upgrades."
Unlike magazine apps, these apps are large downloads, the smallest is about 100MB, the largest is over 700MB.
Among the other magazines updated today is Macworld UK from IDG UK. This universal app has added progressive downloading, allowing readers to begin reading the digital edition before downloading is completed, as sell as other performance improvements.
Today is Valentine's Day, you are aware of that, aren't you? I'm not a big fan of the "holiday" believing that any day with such as this should be accompanied by a day off – otherwise, it should be relegated to Sunday like Mother's Day and Father's Day.
Turns out that the Pakistani government is not too keen on the day either – at least according to the Washington Post account. The Electronic Media Regulatory Authority has sent a letter to TV and radio stations that "Valentine’s Day celebrations are not in conformity to our religious and cultural ethos and has, therefore, condemned its unequivocal propagation through media."
OK, I guess this is a decent excuse for a story in the WaPo, but leaving comments open was a bad idea. The story has just hit but the first comment already says "Build a wall around the animals. It's our only option. These things are not human."
The WaPo does not moderate their comments in the same stricter fashion than the NYT, and it sometimes shows. It is fair to say that not all stories should allow comments unless one is inviting trouble.
Everybody posted stories on the report that seems to have originated from Fortune that Time Warner is in talks to sell off its magazine publishing division to Meredith. The NYT has a long piece on the rumor here.
My first thought, having been involved in M&A talks, is who the hell spilled the beans and why? A sale of this size and importance should have involved the upmost secrecy, at least until deal was done – who wanted to upset the apple cart? (Two clichés so far, can I get to three.)
According the NYT story, the source was someone involved in the negotiations. Really? If true, that would be one really poor M&A professional, and if the other side found out, would end the negotiations (or at least hurt them). On the other hand, a lot of people are being laid off at Time Inc., could someone who has knowledge of the negotiations have been one of those losing their job?
One thing clear is that Meredith is not really interested in the entire portfolio of magazines. The Iowa publisher of Better Homes and Gardens is not looking to publish Sports Illustrated, Fortune or even Time, but surely is looking at People, Cooking Light, Real Simple, Sunset, and other titles – right?
Well, maybe. I am reminded of the McClatchy purchase of Knight Ridder, one that seemed way over the head of the Sacramento-based newspaper company. It was, though McClatchy didn't think so at the time. One strategy that is possible would be to buy the entire division then sell off the unwanted titles to other magazine publishers at the time of closing. To do this, of course, one would need to have completed these deals around the same time as the main deal. And there is yet another possible source for the leak to the media. Fortune's own reports speculates that a private equity company could be brought in. I doubt Meredith would want this – if so, that would be the end of Meredith – but one could come into the picture as part of a deal for the properties that won't be retained by Meredith.
Make some popcorn and sit back enjoy this drama - I'm sure some execs involved will be getting ulcers over all this before a deal is completed.
Update: The NYT is speculating that Meredith would work with Time Warner on a spin off publishing company, one that would isolate the magazine titles from the parent company, much as News Corp.'s spin off of its newspaper titles would isolate losses generated by the new division.
David Carr, in a later morning post, writes: "The specter of Time Inc., which lent its name to one of the largest media companies in the world, being pushed out the door like a party guest who has overstayed his welcome is a stark reminder of how fundamentally the game has changed."
Wednesday, February 13, 2013
It is sometimes hard to explain to some publishers what the difference is between native tablet magazine design and replica editions that are enhanced. For many, the end results look similar, and besides, do readers really notice a difference? Does a reader know that one magazine used InDesign to create its digital magazine, while another made a PDF and uploaded to a third party server?
I think the answer is that many readers do notice, but I will admit that there are probably some who simply don't, of it they do they don't really care.
There are two ways a publisher can create a tablet magazine: one involves using a digital publishing platform that creates interactive pages right in the software, another is to create an image file of a completed print magazine page (even if that page is sized to the tablet's specs) and then either upload that page to a third party server as is, or layer on top some interactive elements such as links, video, etc.
App Coder Magazine, the new digital magazine meant to be a showcase for Tapedition is an example of the PDF based method of creating a tablet edition. The app is buggy and prone to crashing. But once one gets the issue to download what one find is a simple image file for each page. For Tapedition, the idea is that if you design for the iPad's page specs it really doesn't matter that what the results are is simply a static page. The sales point is simple: you want a digital magazine we'll give you one.
The problem I have with this concept is that tablets are not just display devices. They can do more and so, therefore, should digital magazines. If these types of were limited to old Kindles then I could understand the attraction, but these PDF solutions are being presented as a solution to digital magazines to be read on the iPad (as well as Android tablets in some cases).
Another way to build digital magazines is to simply start with a replica edition of the existing print magazine and then layer on top of a PDF or JPG file interactivity. Many vendors that started with selling Flash flipbooks have been trying to move from their initial products into more sophisticated digital publishing solutions in this way.
It is important to understand, though, this this movement didn't start with the iPad, but goes back a long ways. The big sales pitch by flipbook vendors has always been that a publisher could, if they wanted, to make their flipbooks more interactive. The idea was that these flipbooks would be housed on a publisher's magazine website and that the sales teams, in particular, could up-sell their customers to add links, video or other interactive features. A few did try to do this, but most found that it wasn't worth their efforts – neither readers nor advertisers were terribly attracted to these flipbooks found on magazine websites.
In fact, research backed up the first impressions. When asked which platforms they preferred, online flipbooks finished dead last – print was first, then either eReaders or tablets finished second depending on whether the question involved books (eReaders) or magazines (tablets).
That meant that if these vendors were to continue to sell their solutions they would need to be able to provide solutions that would move these flipbooks onto the iPad. The first job was to create a shell app to house the replica editions, then to move into more and more interactivity in order to convince publishers that they should continue to work with these vendors rather than hand off tablet editions to their own staffs.
NewspaperDirect has been a leader in this area. Their apps for major newspapers such as The Boston Globe ePaper are a long way from a simple replica edition.
Texterity, too, is trying to make the transition to the iPad. For many publishers, their first tablet editions are building built by the same company responsible for their online flipbooks. The enhancement that is Texterity brings is the same as NewspaperDirect: text versions of stories included with the replica of the print magazine. It is a step ahead of a plain Jane replica, but just barely.
One of the problems with these enhanced replicas is that their production is automated. This, of course, is seen as a positive by many publishers until they see the results. For instance, with the new tablet edition for Wisconsin Golfer the Texterity system interprets golf scores as phone numbers. So on a story where the golf scores are presented as 74-73-78-225 (three rounds of golf and the final score) the app sees this as a phone number and creates a link.
Because the sales pitch of replica makers is that the production process is automated it is doubtful that many of these companies will be able to survive when the majority of magazine publishers realize that they will need to be creating better, more interactive digital magazines, designed from the beginning to be read on the devices readers choose. But some will, I suspect, be able to make the transition. But right now, most of the results, from either DIY app makers like Tapedition, or from flipbook makers such as Texterity. are less than ideal.
ABM announces 2013 Neal Award finalists; categories remain light on digital, lacks tablet edition category
The ABM this morning announced their finalists for the 59th Jesse H. Neal Awards. The editorial awards are named after the B2B association's first managing director.
The Neal Awards remain very much a print centric contest, with only a couple categories directly pointing to digital. There is no category for tablet editions, for instance, or for e-newsletters, though one assumes that an editor could submit work in digital platforms for many of the categories.
One of the few digital categories is for Best Website which is broken out into three subcategories based on revenue. The finalists in the "Up to $3 million" category are ControlGlobal.com, Putman Media; GreenSourceMag.com, The McGraw-Hill Companies; Nextgov.com , Government Executive Media Group/Atlantic Media Company; and PropertyCasualty360.com , Summit Business Media.
The finalists in the $3-$7 million category are: AgWeb.com, Farm Journal Media; BizBash.com, BizBash; dvm360.com, Advanstar Communications; and FirefighterNation.com, PennWell Corporation.
In the more than $7 million in revenue category the finalists are: AmericanBanker.com, SourceMedia; ArchitectMagazine.com, Hanley Wood; ENR.com, The McGraw-Hill Companies; and NRN.com, Penton Media.
In the Best Blog category the finalists are: "BankThink", American Banker, SourceMedia; "Head in the Point Clouds", SPARPointGroup.com, Diversified Business Communications; "The Risk Factor", Spectrum.Ieee.org, IEEE Media; and "Paul Thurrott", Paul Thurrott's SuperSite for Windows, Penton Media.
The Best Use of Mobile category finalists are: AgWeb News & Markets, AgWeb.com, Farm Journal Media; Plate Recipes, Plate, Marketing & Technology Group; Robots for iPad, IEEE Spectrum, IEEE Media; and Sustainable Construction, Sustainable Construction, Cygnus Business Media.
The full list of finalists with images can be found here. The winners will be announced at the Neal Awards ceremony on Tuesday, March 12, at Pier Sixty in NYC. This year there were 640 entries, of which 183 were selected as finalists.
Industry News: Impelsys releases iPublishCentral 4.1; Bazaarvoice completes integration of Longboard Media; IProduction releases new social login feature
When TNM first launched in 2010 this site was lucky to get 100 visitors in a day. Getting a press release sent to me was like a miracle, they actually know TNM exists? But now the readership is over 50K and far more diverse. In a blog formatted website it is nearly impossible to post short stories based on press releases that might be of interest to a group of readers – that is one big reason a redesign of this site is long over due.
But in the interest of bringing as much digital media news as possible I thought I'd clear out a few stories and give readers a chance to decide for themselves if they are interested in the stories you will see below. Each story is linked to a page which contains the full press release so that you can continue to learn more.
iPublishCentral 4.1 Offers Enhanced Features for Reading eBooks on Mobile Devices
New Version of Digital Publishing Platform From Impelsys Improves Mobile Reading Experience and Gives Institutions New Tools for Managing eBook Subscriptions
Impelsys, a global leader in providing electronic content delivery solutions, today announced the release of iPublishCentral 4.1, the latest version of its award-winning digital publishing software for publishers.
iPublishCentral is a comprehensive platform that allows publishers to warehouse, deliver, distribute, market and sell their eBooks without making significant capital or engineering resource investments on their own. This means that publishers are able to quickly monetize their digital assets by selling eBooks to institutions, retail partners and directly to consumers.
The new release of the software includes a number of enhancements to the iPublishCentral Reader that make it easier to read eBooks and other digital content on-demand, from any location, on iPads, iPad minis and Android-powered mobile devices. These features enable publishers to better serve the needs of their retail and institutional customers for mobile access to eBooks. (read more)
Bazaarvoice, Inc. Completes Integration of Longboard Media and Creates Bazaarvoice Media Labs
Bazaarvoice, Inc. a leading social and e-commerce software company, today announced that it has completed the integration of Longboard Media, which was acquired in November 2012, into its Bazaarvoice Media business unit. Bazaarvoice also announced the creation of Bazaarvoice Media Labs, a research and development group focused on translating the company's audience reach, social content and market data into new products and services that can help advertisers to better target consumers and increase revenue through multiple online channels.
The expansion of Bazaarvoice Media strengthens the company's ability to deliver a comprehensive set of products and services that bring highly relevant branded media to consumers, whenever and wherever they shop online. Bazaarvoice Media's advertising management network enables site publishers to easily launch and manage on-site advertising campaigns that help brands increase reach, awareness and relevancy in the digital shopping aisle.
Meanwhile, advertisers can target customers by behavior, product, location and demographic through a broad shopping network that reaches an estimated 100 million active consumers through shopping comparison sites, mobile commerce applications and online retailer sites.
"Successfully courting today's digitally savvy shoppers and turning them into loyal, long-term patrons requires an understanding of what they want, when and where they want it," said Jim Barkow, general manager, Bazaarvoice Media.
"Advertising is being transformed to enable brands and retailers to not only provide information that helps consumers make a more informed purchase decision, but also to connect with them on all devices they use while researching products online or shopping in-store." (read more)
Via New Social Login Feature, B2B Publishers Amplify Audience Data
Proven publishing system responds to customer demand with B2B social login feature
An increasing number of B2B publishers are offering social login options to their subscribers, as evidenced by the recent release by a leading Internet publishing system of an integrated social login feature.
IProduction released its new social login feature in late January, in response to customer demand. The new social login feature works with leading CMS systems WordPress and Drupal as well as with IProduction's proprietary CMS. (read more)
Toronto-based sports weekly The Hockey News comes to the Apple Newsstand with a native tablet edition
I don't know what the weather is like where you live, but in the Midwest it is most definitely hockey weather. Here in Chicago the Blackhawks have gotten off to a rip-roaring start to the shorten NHL season, though the Sharks, the team I usually follow, are their usual disappointment (currently on a six game losing streak).
So if the hockey season has started late due to a labor dispute I suppose it is OK that The Hockey News app should be allowed to launch a bit late into the year, as well.
The Hockey News is published out of Toronto by Transcontinental Media. The print magazine has a circulation just over 100K, but this new tablet edition, The Hockey News Magazine should pump that up.
The tablet edition is a simple, but effective natively designed digital magazine, with only a minimum of tablet features such as pop-up captions and the like. Each page is self-contained on the tablet's screen – that is, no scrolling text boxes – but the reader navigates the magazine in what is now the standard fashion of scrolling through a multi-page story and swiping to reach the next story.
As The Hockey News is a weekly publication keeping the digital production work as simple as possible, while making sure it is a pleasurable read for digital subscribers is vitally important. I think the publisher has accomplished this goal with this new tablet edition.
There is a sample included in the app so that new readers can check out both the magazine and its new tablet edition.
Morning Brief: Condé Nast continues issuing updates to fix bug introduced in iOS 6.1; Trade publisher SGC launches its own web services company
While publishers who use the Adobe DPS continue to issue fixes to bugs introduced with Apple iOS 6.1, Apple itself is trying to fix issues with Microsoft Exchange Server 2010 which have forced Microsoft to recommend blocking devices running iOS 6.1. Apple has already issued an update for iPhone 4S users, but a general update of the mobile operating system appears to be needed.
Condé Nast continuing issuing updates to its magazine line-up, the latest apps updated include Vanity Fair and GQ. The publisher still has more titles to go.
TED Conferences, which just recently updated its universal iOS app has had to issue an update already to fix an issue where the app crashes on iPhones when laying videos in landscape – in other words, the way most people would play them. The last update to TED introduced subtitles, as well as speed improvements.
B2B magazine publisher Scranton Gillette Communications/SGC Horizon has launched its own web services company, MediaPress Studios. The publisher of such trade industry magazines as Water & Wastes Digest and Building Design+Construction will sell web development services to its client base, as well as content strategy, search engine optimization strategies.
"We recognized a growing need among our clients to have a single resource for all their marketing needs. At SGC/SGC Horizon, we house the editors and designers who are steeped in our clients' industries, along with custom project, videography and audience-development divisions. Closing the loop by adding revenue-generating, web-development services inclusive of content strategy and SEO is a natural progression," said Ed Gillette, SGC president and CEO in the company's announcement.
"Three years ago, we discovered Drupal and aligned our web strategy to its solid framework," said MediaPress Studios Principal and SGC Senior Vice President of e-Media, Joel Hughes. "Our goal from the beginning has been to build fully responsive, device-independent websites for tomorrow. Our clients responded to the new look and capabilities of our brands' websites. Now we look forward to offering the same services to our clients and providing training, SEO services and content strategy to ensure that their websites remain fresh and relevant."
Disclosure: I served as publisher of two B2B magazines at SGC in the mid-nineties to 2000.
Tuesday, February 12, 2013
Late afternoon media app updates: HBO GO gets AirPlay, Apple TV app to come; Next Issue Media updates app to make its easier to add and remove magazines
Also, HBO let be known that there will be a new Apple TV app, as well.
As with all their apps, the user will have to sign into the cable provider account in order to access the content. But at least there will be an app, furthering the (small) chance that HBO will one day "cut the cord," as unlike as that is.
Next Issue Media, the digital newsstand backed by major publishers Condé Nast, Hearst, Meredith, News Corp., and Time Inc., has updated its iOS app today. "We’ve made it easier for Unlimited Plan customers to add and remove magazines from their personal library. Now, with more than 80 magazines in our catalog, there’s even more content to read," states the app description. The update also fixes some bugs.
My own account shows new updates for Crain's Chicago Business, as well as the recently released Phoenix Magazine from Cities West Publishing, though there are no new app description text to tell me about the updates. (Original TNM posts: Crain's Chicago Business and Phoenix Magazine
B2B publisher launches new digital trade publication; designs tablet edition and online flipbook in the form of a print magazine, right on down to the fonts and layouts
Would that make any sense to you? Yet each month publishers release tablet editions that are designed for the size of a print magazine then shrunk down. But worse, sometimes you see a publisher design a "digital magazine" based on the size of print. It boggles the mind makes you weep for the state of our industry.
Today I downloaded Residential Building Products and Technology, a brand new digital-only magazine that appears to have been designed for print, then converted into a Flash flipbook for online reading, and a new universal iOS app for reading on an iPad or iPhone.
Yes, that is the cover you are seeing at left, it does not fit the display of the iPad. It looks much sillier on the iPhone, believe me. As for the articles, again they were designed for the one platform that will never appear on: print. Why would someone do that? As for the online version, it is exactly the same, designed for print. Reading it online or on the iPad requires pinch-to-zoom to have a chance at being able to read it. On the iPhone, well, if you set your document to use fonts that are less than 1pt in size you will get an idea of the experience.
As for the articles, here at right is a product review page where the product photos have numbers next to them. On a real digital magazine, one designed for the tablet, one would tap the numbers and the captions would appear. Here, as in print, the numbers refer to text captions found elsewhere on the page. You'll also see that the pages are numbered as in a print magazine, with even numbers to the left and odd numbers to the right.
We can laugh, we can make fun of things like this. But, really, this is not funny. Ultimately a company will go out of business and people will lose their jobs over this kind of publishing. This is most certainly not funny.
My guess is that the reason the publisher (name withheld because there is no reason to pile on) did this is that they were really designing for Nxtbook's idea of a digital magazine – those Flash-driven flipbooks that replicate print, only at a fraction of the size, and with that fake page-turning sound built in. The apps, I would guess, were thrown in (please, I hope they didn't pay for them).
My advice, if offered, would be to dump the flipbook, dump the app, and start over. The property's website is attractive, but I see it is completely devoid of advertising. One can tell that this is a company that feels very comfortable with print, but not at all with digital.
Of all the stories I write here at TNM ones like this can be guaranteed never to be forwarded or retweeted by the publisher or the various magazine trade associations. But I hope they are read, nonetheless. For every really fantastic tablet edition, such as the new ones released by GIE Media recently, or the innovative ones coming out of Europe, there are these digital products that don't stand a chance of success. We can do better, we really can.
You would think, reading the posts of some media observers, that today's digital media revolution is so new, so different, that those struggling to launch new digital media products have nothing to guide them. But the fact is that we've had to tackle many of the same issues arising today in mobile and tablet media once before during the mid-to-late nineties. It was called the Internet boom, and boom it did, right into the laps of many a publisher.
Here are some of my thoughts in this area:
It's not about brand extension...
It's about creating profitable products.
I can't tell you how many times I've heard from a publisher that the reason they want to launch a tablet edition is because they want to "extend their brand" to the new platforms. I can't think of sillier reason to launch anything. The fact is that the follow-up question should be all that is necessary: "why?"
|1996: NYT's first website, care of The Wayback Machine|
Many, many magazine publishers launched their first websites as vehicles to promote their print magazines. Most of the first websites did not even contain editorial content, simply promotional messages about the print magazine. After a time it became apparent that this didn't serve much of a purpose, and only increased the publisher's costs. Only when these publishers demanded a profit did their editors get serious about content and their ad teams started selling. Don't wait, do this at launch, and create that P&L to show your progress.
It's not about readership...
It's about leads (or sales).
Many of the first Internet websites launched by publishers did so with the idea that they would attract new readership. They did. But the biggest objection early web advertisers had was that the quality of the readers were far inferior to the readers of the print products.
As Chris Foster, president and COO of GIE Media said yesterday, "if you are bringing your advertisers good leads... they (the advertisers) are going to want to do business with you."
Advertisers want to see increased sales from their new advertising efforts. To do this, the new digital advertising has to generate leads (or direct sales). To do this a digital product has to reach the right readers – qualified readers. It will not be enough that your new tablet magazine is reaching 100,000 app downloaders if those same people aren't the ones your advertisers want to reach.
One way to increase those leads is to make sure the ads allow the reader to respond. This is easy: add links, videos, email response. Digital ads that are replicas of print will just sit there.
Like it or not, you are creating the ads your competitors will sell...
So, get used to it and start selling.
The first digital ads my sales teams sold were like little miracles. We were so happy to see those ads appear on our new website... until they started to appear on the websites of our competitors.
A client who has never bought an interactive tablet magazine ad has no creative to place. If you build them their new ad, or their agency finally gets on board and builds them their ad, they will now have creative to place everywhere they see fit. It is frustrating, but deal with it. It is all part of what happens when a new ad platform is born.
So that means your staff needs to get selling and not look back. For those with print products, a publisher can push up-selling, just as GIE Media is doing. For digital-only products, one needs to sell digital, period. But guess what, if those print publishers have any luck you'll soon have new leads to sell as those first tablet or mobile ads start to appear. This is just the way it works.
Digital products coming from print publishers have to be as useful as digital-only products...
Or you'll lose the business.
It is funny how fast some media reporters started to repeat the meme that some of the first tablet magazines contained too much interactive material, their file sizes were too big, there were too many bells and whistles. Soon, some publishers were scaling back their digital magazines, or relaunching them as replicas.
The problem with this is that it is a dead-end strategy. As soon as a native magazine appears in the same niche it becomes obvious that the product that best suits the platform and provides the best reader experience will attract the readers and eventually the advertisers. Too many publishers think that their legacy products are what readers want... forever.
These publishers never used to think this way about print, always worrying about losing their editors, or not attracting good writers. Suddenly, when digital products are involved they think their "brands" can compensate for an inferior digital product. It can't, the best product will win (unless you have a limitless marketing budget).
For years AOL, Yahoo and others grabbed the lion's share of web advertising dollars. Today the elephant in the room is Google. Don't expect the new digital platforms to be any different – the products that are the most "native" to the platforms will attract the most advertising. You have to love digital to succeed. Isn't that the way it is with print, too?
at 1:30 PM
NRC Reader, from Dutch developer Moop, brings select news, analysis from the editors of the NRC Handelsblad
But once again a new media app enters my iTunes account from yet another Dutch app developer. This app, called NRC Reader (US App Store link), comes from the developer Moop from Amsterdam. Moop's website says they are the developers of apps for such companies as Booking.com, Vodafone and NRC Media, the company behind the NRC Reader app.
While the Dutch may speak perfect English, Americans do not speak Dutch – so I am completely dependent on Google Translate, which is never a good thing. But I assume the content for this new news app comes from NRC Media's daily afternoon newspaper NRC Handelsblad, a 200,000 circulation tabloid.
The app takes select articles from the newspaper and website and delivers them each morning by 6am, thanks to Newsstand integration. To access the new app's content one will need to subscribe – right now the app is offering an introductory offer of € 1,79 per week or € 4,49 per month, with the first month free, allowing Dutch readers to try out the app.
This app reminds me of all the tremendous talent there is out there. Back in April of 2011 I looked at Odd Magazine, a tablet edition of the annual publication of the Amsterdam Fashion Institute (AMFI). That app was created by Jelle de Weert, then 23, and a student at the AMFI. I half expected to see his name listed a team member at Moop. But alas, no. If Mr. de Weert is still looking for work may I recommend someone in Amsterdam snap him up. (The Odd Magazine app does not appear to be available anymore, too bad – it was pretty amazing, if I recall.)
Digital publishing platform updates: Mag+ updates its Reviewer app, adds new design capabilities; Kobo-owned Aquafadas releases v. 2.6 update with ePUB3 features
Two important digital publishing system companies that use plug-in solutions today updated parts of their platform, adding features – and updating, in one case, their mobile and tablet app.
Mag+ today updated their Mag+ Reviewer app as part of a roll out of new features found in version 4.1 of the platform. (Reviewer apps are essential parts of digital publishing systems which allow the designer to review their digital publishing creations on their mobile or tablet devices.)
- Specific layouts for device orientation
- Background colors for blocks
- Media looping
- Popup transitions
- Popup Radio Groups
- Pinch & Zoom and Panning Blocks
Important new features include Dual Layout which allow designers to create different layouts for portrait and landscape orientations, important when laying out photographs; the ability to disable the scrubber (that navigation tool at the bottom of the tablet); Issue Control that allows a publisher to designate which issues are available in a paid subscription, allowing the publisher to create "super subscriptions" which might include special issues such as a Buyer's Guide or Annual Review issue.
Aquafadas, the French digital publishing platform company, which was recently bought out by Toronto-based Kobo, today released version 2.6 of its platform. Aquafadas, too, relies on a plug-in system and today's update involves ePUB 3 book publishing.
New features include the ability to create pop-ups, multimedia buttons for audio and video management, InDesign enhancements and "actions", the linking of words to actions such as "Go to Web" or "Go to Page".
New features in AVE, the company's app making platform, include next and previous buttons and new visual effects for page transitions.
Kobo today also announced that it had named Michael Tamblyn as Chief Content Officer, responsible for content acquisition and sales, publisher and industry relations, and localized merchandising experiences across all of Kobo’s online and mobile services.
"Michael Tamblyn’s leadership in the industry and his hands-on approach to working with publishers and authors has been instrumental to Kobo’s success. In his new role, he will continue to grow our existing catalogue and drive Kobo’s expansion into new content categories," said Michael Serbinis, CEO, Kobo.
Dutch medical app has qualification process that could work for B2B publishers (assuming Apple does not object)
What most publishers and developers have believed is that Apple would not allow an app into the App Store or the Newsstand that forced a reader to be qualified before they could access the content of the digital magazine. As a result, most publishers have launched their tablet editions (or smartphone apps) as free apps, with the content freely available to anyone who downloads the app. A few publishers have gone the paid route, forcing readers of the digital magazine to pay a subscription charge. And still another, though smaller, group of publisher have made their apps "reader" apps, where the reader must sign into their existing accounts before accessing the content.
Until yesterday afternoon I'd not seen an app that contained its own qualification mechanism. That changed with MedZine.
MedZine has been around since last summer, but a new updated app was released a couple of weeks ago. Whether this app has had a qualification form inside it from the beginning I do not know. But I asked a couple of B2B publishers about this and they were stunned to learn of the app's qualification mechanism.
This is how this app works: you download and open the app. The app opens to a page that reads "I am a healthcare professional in..." and two choices are presented – The Netherlands or Other country. If the reader selects "The Netherlands" they are taken to a page where they fill in their information based on the medical society they are a part of. In this regards, they are sharing their information with the publisher, but it is also very much like the "reader" app model I described above.
But if the reader chooses another country, then the app takes you to a qualification page where the reader must toggle a switch that says they are a healthcare professional. They then specify what country they are from, their specialty and then their email address. If they do all this they gain access to the app.
This is, in essence, a qualification process. Sure, the reader has not given out their name and address, but the information gathered is plenty to qualify the reader as someone in the industry being served by the magazine (in this case, the medical profession).
Does this app violate Apple's developer guidelines? Apparently not. Did it slip through by mistake? Who knows. Frankly, I see nothing wrong with the app and its qualification mechanism. But as I've argued for the past three years both the ABM and BPA should be on top of this issue with Apple – a lot of publishers are wondering if there is a way to do a qualified circulation tablet magazine inside Apple's ecosystem.
Maybe the answer all along has been "Yes".
Dutch publisher releases universal iOS news app that allows readers to subscribe to individual reporters
The app itself is one of those news apps that takes its content from feeds, so it resembles newspaper apps like the NYT or others rather than a designed news product such as The Daily or a magazine.
But the innovation here is that idea of allowing in-app purchases for subscriptions to individual authors. I think it is a great idea and one that I'm surprised I haven't seen in a tablet edition or smartphone app until now. I could see lots of other uses for this strategy: imagine a Flipboard or Zite-like product where you could subscribe to certain feeds or individual publications; one could imagine a sports app where the reader subscribes to the news and information on individual sports or teams, etc.
The app is obviously flexible enough that the publisher will be able to add more and more authors. At launch there are 11 authors that can be subscribed to. Much of the app provides free content, with the content from the authors that require subscriptions grayed out.
By the way, while my Dutch is not the best (to say the least) it appears to me that this new news app is coming from the journalists involved in a print publication that had closed down. If I am right about this it only goes to show that once freed from the old newspaper model journalists and publishers can finally begin to think about original and innovative new business models that might work in a digital world. I don't think there is anything that should prevent this from happening before the shuttering of a product, but I appears to in far too many cases.
Monday, February 11, 2013
B2B publisher GIE Media committed to building native tablet editions, finds reader engagement dramatically higher than flipbooks, or even print magazines
This morning TNM posted its first look at the new tablet editions released by B2B publisher GIE Media for its Golf Course Industry and Lawn & Landscape industry titles. Both new apps use the Adobe DPS platform to create native tablet editions that not only reformat the editorial content of the magazines, but also includes some interactive advertising, as well.
The new B2B apps are very impressive and quite a bit ahead of what most other U.S. B2B publishers are doing today. But the first native app released by GIE Media was not a B2B title at all, but a digital-only consumer magazine, seen here last May, A Garden Life.
"We've been working on A Garden Life for the past year," Chris Foster, President and COO of GIE Media, told me late this morning.
Now GIE Media is releasing native apps for their biggest titles – in addition to the two landscape industry magazines PCT - Pest Control Technology Magazine has its own native tablet edition.
"We went through all the growing pains and learning curve with "A Garden Life"," Foster said. "People engage in the native app versions of magazines so substantially more than they engage in flipbook apps. We see engagement of roughly 47 minutes per entrance into the app, which is huge."
"It's probably more than you see with print magazines, and the average person is going into the app several times during a month."
All together, GIE Media has 17 apps now inside Apple's App Store, though many of them are really just flipbook apps. "The flipbook apps don't give you that kind of measurement, and frankly are just not very engaging, so people go in they read an article and they pop out. So we made a decision to move away from Texterity, which was the majority of flip book apps that we had until this year," Foster said.
GIE Media appears very committed to building their own digital publishing products, which a big reason why the company decided to go with Adobe's solution rather than an outside vendor or a plug-in solution.
"We have an internal web design group and right now we are doing PCT - Pest Control Technology Magazine, Lawn & Landscape and Golf Course Industry in native versions, so we have three, in addition to A Garden Life. So the design teams are separate, and we're looking at how we could potentially merge those groups to expedite the design process now. We probably won't be able to do that for the next three to six months but we're looking at how that might work – because people who do native magazines, they're very good at native, they love animation, they get the metrics, they get how the page should lay out on a tablet. Traditional designers, though they may do a lot with web, they are still very print focused."
|GIE Media's three B2B titles with native tablet editions|
"To start with BPA does have some methods to qualify BPA circulation, but they aren't very good," Foster told me.
"The reality is you are operating in a world that is changing very quickly, and its changing faster than independent, say, battleship organizations can manage. If you want to tell a marketing story BPA is a great tool, but really that starts with leads. If you are bringing your advertisers good leads, regardless of how BPA displays it on a piece of paper, they (the advertisers) are going to want to do business with you. So we are looking at how we can tie the iPad circulation to an audit, whether that ends up being a BPA, or an independent verified audit, or even a publisher's statement is an issue we also talking about. But BPA needs to do some things to keep our business."