Friday, February 22, 2013

Pro Pacem: CD-Book projects show how combining mediums can create something new and exciting

However much I would love to write about books, CDs and movies here at TNM, if only to get the free media from the labels, that really isn't what TNM is about. But sometimes, when looking at the work being produced in one medium, one finds important lessons to be learned about another. That is why I'd like to talk about Pro Pacem, one of two recent CD-Book releases by Jordi Savall – one of the giants of the classical music world.

By my own count, Savall has produced around nine of these CD-Books, each on containing two or more CDs, and rather than producing a small booklet to explain the music, has turned the medium around and produced a larger, bound book, usually in half-a-dozen languages. My favorite of these is probably Le Royaume Oublié, La Tradédie Cathare (The Forgotten Kingdom, The Albigensian Crusade). The reason is that I love the music of the troubadours and have read many histories of the Albigensian Crusade (the invasion of the south of France and the destruction of that culture that began in 1209). That CD-Book contains three CDs inside a book over 560 pages long.
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Pro Pacem changes the equation a bit: it contains only one CD, while the book is 1192 pages in length. The book also includes three separately printed pieces of artwork. Because the text is in eight languages, the actual reading material is not as great as it first appears, about 120 pages or so.

"Pro Pacem is a new CD-Book project that makes a plea for a world without war or terrorism and for total nuclear disarmament," writes Jordi Savall in the introduction, "It presents a sound mosaic that takes the form of a living dialogue of spirituality expressive vocal and instrumental music from a variety of repertoires from East and West."

If the artist is unfamiliar to you, I would simply say that Savall is one of the world's leading viol players (probably the best known), an expert in early music, and the leader of Hespèrion XXI, an early music ensemble. I possess over 90 recordings by Savall, either in small ensemble, group, orchestra, or solo. Now 71 years of age, Savall has earned the right to do the kinds of projects that interest him the most.

The very considerable public and media presence that we can all achieve thanks to the internet, whether as artists or as more or less committed private individuals in the public sphere, forces us to take stock of the inherent responsibilities of that situation: to contribute to the knowledge that is necessary to combat ignorance and fanaticism, to speak out for justice and peace, to work towards the increasing freedom and solidarity of mean and women, to teach understanding and intercultural dialogue, in the realization that, as Joan Miró, another great Catalan painter, said, as artists (and, I would add, as human beings) "what really matters is not a work of art, but the spiritual journey of a man's life as a whole, not what he has done during that life, but what he enables others to glimpse and achieve at some point in the more or less distant future."
This passage from Savall's own introduction probably best explains his rationale for his large CD-Book projects.

What I find interesting, from a digital media prospective, is that these brilliantly constructed projects are based on two forms of media that are in decline: the printed, hardcover book, and the music CD. Yet, Savall is combining them both in these CD-Books in a new and interesting way.
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In most the large CD-Book projects, one of the goals of the book material is to explain the music. Much of the text on Le Royaume Oublié is devoted to explaining who the Cathars were, how the troubadours fit into the Occitan society, and the origins of the crusade called against the people of the south of France by Pope Innocent III. The use of texts and music then result in something far more than an enjoyable musical experience.

What is so strange then is that in this new era of digital media, so many publishers are determined to minimize the abilities of the new digital platform to combine and rearrange different mediums. Music magazines come as they are found in print, without audio files, without performances; movie magazines may contain trailers, but fail to understand that the new tablet platform allows the publisher themselves to deliver video content of their own making.

The CD-Book projects of Jordi Savall are an anachronism. At a time when publishers are producing eBooks, Savall is making hardcover books with no digital equivalent; at a time of the MP3 download, Savall is producing high-quality recordings on Super Audio CDs (though the music is available as a download, as well).

But could these CD-Books be done as digital media products? Of course, in fact, they could be improved in this way. If a book comes in five or six languages over 500 or more pages, a digital eBook could be in a dozen languages and not waste so much material. Further, an eBook-CD could also include more artwork, photography, not to mention video material. This is not to criticize Savall, but to point out that the potential of the new digital platforms is only just beginning to be explored. The enhanced eBooks, such as those being produced using iBooks Author, such as 360 Sound: The Columbia Records Story are nice first steps, but are primitive compared not only to what we can expect in the future, but to the work being done by Jordi Savall, using older mediums, but in such a new and brilliant way.

Addendum: technically, Pro Pacem is one catalogue number behind another new CD-Book project just released – that other one is Erasmus van Rotterdam. This CD-Book contains six music CDs, three of music with narration, the other three of just the music alone. Buyers of the CD-Book also can download the music with narration files in different languages, as well.

Edible apps: Edible Marin & Wine Country's app launches into Apple's Newsstand, two years in the making

Back in 2002 Tracey Ryder and Carole Topalian launched the local foods magazine Edible Ojai. Two years later, after being featured in Saveur, the two started to receive inquiries from people who wanted to start a similar magazine for their communities. Rather than launching individual magazines themselves Ryder and Topalian decided they would license the idea and create the Edible Communities where each publication would be locally owned and operated.

"Our business model is a hybrid of the VISA model, started by Dee Hock, when he founded VISA," Ryder told The Daily Green in 2010. "Just as each bank that issues a VISA card is a "member" of VISA, each person who publishes an Edible magazine is a "member" of Edible Communities. We operate through license agreements and each of our members have a say in how the company is run and about the decisions we make."

There are now over 70 "Edible" magazine titles, and not surprisingly, a few of them are now starting to appear inside Apple's Newsstand. The latest to have their app launched is Edible Marin & Wine published by Gibson Thomas.
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Edible Marin & Wine for iPad appears under the publisher's own name inside the App Store. The app is full of features – though, in the end, the actual digital magazine to be found inside is a replica edition of the print magazine.

The apps are either built, or shepherded, into the App Store by the printer, The Sheridan Group – unfortunately the person who works on these projects was out when I contacted the company. But my guess is that the company that is producing the app is Blue Toad (or Sheridan is a "value-added retailer" of BlueToad products). The reason I suspect this? There is a second app for the same magazine, that also looks exactly the same,. That app is a stand-alone app  and shows up under BlueToad's name as seller. That app is simply called Edible Marin & Wine Country, forcing the newest app to have a different name.

This is one of the problems with these replica editions coming from third parties, the vendor often appears as the seller, and once a magazine has surrendered their name to a vendor it can be a pain to get it back.

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There is one other Edible Community magazine inside the Apple Newsstand, Edible Manhattan for iPad, which appears under the publisher's name. Another, edible HAWAIIAN ISLANDS HD, appears under the printer's name as Sheridan Magazines.

Thomas told me this morning that the old Blue Toad app for Edible Marin & Wine Country has been in the store for a while, which is why the new app's library will give the reader access to two years worth of magazines. Thomas was not really enthusiastic about launching a tablet edition until it could be available for the iPhone and for Android, in addition to the iPad. (Those haven't launched yet, but should soon.)

Since the magazine, both in print and digital forms, is distributed free of charge, the goal is added distribution (the magazine can be found in print form at local Whole Foods locations, as well as Barnes & Nobles.) Thomas said that readers "use it as a tool for travel" – especially when planning trips to Napa and Sonoma, so the added distribution will assist readers in planning those trips.

With over 70 local magazines in the Edible Communities one can probably expect to start seeing additional apps launched into the App Store and elsewhere. I wonder, though, if there might also be room for digital-only start-ups to join the community, as well. This might open the door to natively designed tablet magazines rather than merely replicas of the print editions.

The Washington Post Co. takes $113 million charge due to declining results at Kaplan education division, posts loss of $45.4 million in Q4, newspaper revenue falls 6%

The Washington Post Co. took $113 million of charges for goodwill write downs in its fourth quarter, resulting in the company posting a loss of $45.4 million (the company posted a profit of $61.7 million one year ago).

Revenue at the newspaper division continued to slide, down 6 percent on the quarter to $162 million, to end the year down 7 percent, or $581.7 million for the full year (versus $622.5 million in 2011). Daily circulation at the flagship newspaper declined 8.6 percent, as well. Average daily circulation at The Washington Post was 471,800, with average Sunday circulation now at 687,200. The newspaper division would be barely profitable if not for pension expenses of $42.3 million – as a result, the division posted a loss of $53.7 million, versus a loss of $21.2 million in 2011.

Television revenue was up robustly 25 percent, while cable television revenue grew 4 percent.

But The Washington Post Co. has hung its future on the for-profit education market with its Kaplan education devision. At nearly $2.2 billion in revenue, the division is by far the biggest division of the company and 2012 was not a good year as education revenue declined 10 percent in 2012.

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.



Thursday, February 21, 2013

MLB.com issues update to MLB.com At Bat for the 2013 season (then pulls the update); but look for a new update to appear as the first spring game is played today

It is 24 degrees outside as I write this, and we're expecting 3 to 5 inches of snow this evening... and its baseball season. Today the first game of 2013 will be played between the Red Sox and the Northeastern Huskies in what is most definitely an exhibition game.

Right on time MLB.com has updated its MLB.com At Bat universal iOS app. In fact, the update is so new that as I'm writing this it appears that the update has been pulled, possibly so that the app description can be updated – but before it was pulled I grabbed it. (Update: finally this afternoon the update hit again and should be available to download now.)
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The app is very similar to last year's app when MLB.com combined the iPhone and iPad apps into one universal app, at one price.

At Bat.13, as it appears after the update, will cost $2.99 per month, or $19.99 for the season for the Gameday, Live Audio In-Game Highlights features. The price for access to live and archived broadcast games is $129.99 for the season or $24.99 per month.

One word of warning, it is possible that the app update was pulled because it was not quite ready for prime time, kind of like most baseball players at this time of year. But one thing that happened when I updated my own app was that I lost the ability to access the archived games. It is possible that this was caused by the fact that the backend servers were not ready for the app or because the user database was not ready – in any case, my iPad has lost the ability to view last year's games, which was a great joy for me, being a Giants fan and all.

The Huffington Post launches new, redesigned iPad app offering personalization and native iOS app features

The Huffington Post has launched an all-new version of The Huffington Post for iPad, listed today in the App Store as Version 4.0.

The app description is promoting the app as having a new design and interface, personalization options, new touch interfaces that allow for a two-finger swipe to access the menu and pinch to close out articles, and a HuffPost Live video archive. The app also features new commenting, bookmarks and sharing.

The app remains free of charge.

In general, I'm not a fan of iPad apps that take their content from a news website and reformat it for display on the tablet. A better solution usually is either better web design or a responsive website.
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But the Huffington Post app does point to the advantages of building an app specifically for the iOS platform. By taking advantage of gestures and other platform features, the HuffPost iPad can do things a responsive website might not be able to do.

Having said that, the new iPad app also reveals some of the weaknesses of an app, as well. For one thing, the front page of the new app is, well, about as ugly as they come. I'm sure that it was an unfortunate choice to use that video screen capture for the front page artwork, as you can see at left.

Things get a bit better when you tap on a story and begin to scroll the articles, however.

I think loyal readers of the website will enjoy using this new iPad app, but I don't think this is something casual readers would want to use. The reason for this has to do with the content of the site itself. I click on lots of links each day to Huffington Post stories. When browsing the content in this way the impression is that the site is a serious news site. If, however, I enter through the front door – the website's home page – my impress changes and my view makes a 180 degree turn. I almost feel dirty entering through the home page. This new app, of course, takes you right to the front page upon opening it - how you feel about that will certainly determine whether you will want to use this app.



According to a post of the HuffPost website by Josh Klenert and Otto Toth, the motivation for the new app was that "our readers found our iPad app buggy, slow and difficult to use." In addition, the Huffington Post had grown over the time the old app was launched, with the site now having more verticals and five international editions.

Interestingly, the developers considered the issue of a responsive website versus native app capabilities and came down solidly in the camp of native app development. "Temptation was high to build the new app based on pure HTML5 but in my opinion HTML5 is just not there yet," the post states.

The Huffington Post says that there will soon be a companion iPhone app, as well as a phone app for Android – but interestingly, no mention of a new Android tablet app. Currently there is both a phone and tablet app inside Google Play, though the tablet app has very few user reviews, possibly showing that Android tablet usage continue to lag far behind the iPad.
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Left: the welcome screens where the app can be personalized; Right: the HuffPost's website, as seen on an iPad.

Penguin Tracks, Penguin Group's new eBook publishing program, offers selections from nonfiction works at a low price point; latest release is LITVA from Norman Davies

Reaching eBook readers with titles that are massive in size, and still very much high priced, is a challenge for many major book publishers. A title that is around $20 and is not an enhanced or natively developed eBook app, is likely to get lost in the Apple iBookstore or on Amazon.com. The solution provided by the major tech companies, the small samples of the titles, doesn't really seem to work, though I suppose it is better than nothing.

Penguin Group is approaching the issue in a creative way with Penguin Tracks, a new eBook publishing program that offers selections from major nonfiction works. The latest to be released is LITVA, The Rise and Fall of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania.

The eBook is priced at $2.99 and is available through Apple's iBookstore, Amazon.com, Google Play, and other eBook retail channels.

The eBook offers a selection from Davies' Vanished Kingdoms, a book that is 848 pages in its eBook form, and which costs $18.99 in Apple's iBookstore.

Vanished Kingdoms introduces readers to once-powerful European empires that have left scant traces on the modern map. In this excerpt from his widely acclaimed book, Norman Davies tells the ill-fated story of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. Founded in the mid-thirteenth century in one of the continent’s first settled regions, where the oldest of its Indo-European languages is spoken, the Grand Duchy at its peak was the largest country in Europe, stretching from the Baltic to the Black Sea, and it commanded yet greater influence after uniting with its western neighbor, the Kingdom of Poland, to form the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth.
Future Penguin Tracks to be published in the series include selections from Diarmaid MacCulloch's book Christianity: The First Three Thousand Years, and Nathaniel Philbrick's Mayflower. previous releases have included Norse Greenland by Jarad Diamond, a selection from his book Collapse, and The Abyss, an excerpt from Niall Ferguson's book The War of the World.

Journal Register Co. employees' gallows wait begins while private equity owner hands off property to its affiliate

The United States Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York will hold a hearing today that will finalize the sale of the Journal Register Company, transferring ownership from New York hedge fund Alden Global Capital to 21st CMH Acquisition Co., an affiliate of Alden Global Capital. In preparation for the move the Journal Register Co. said it will then cease operations and let all its employees go, most likely hiring back far fewer of them. The move is required by the federal law requiring a 60-day layoff notice.

"We have asked 21st CMH Acquisition Co. to operate the business using substantially all of our current employees," Robert Monteleone, chief human resources officer for Journal Register, wrote to employees. "We have expressed to 21st CMH Acquisition Co. that a competent and competitive employee population is critical to the company's ongoing success."

As the new owners will essentially be the same as the old owners, and the new management the same as the old management, one can only say that the letter was a cynical and less-than-honest communications from the company. That such a financial move is legal in the U.S. is shameful.

That 21st CMH Acquisition Co. was the sole bidder in the bankruptcy proceedings should be of no surprise. The Journal Register Co., which has embraced a newsroom-centric approach to newspaper publishing, has lagged far behind its industry cousins in the development of digital media products. Its advisory board is comprised of Jeff Jarvis, Jay Rosen, and Emily Bell.

At the time Journal Register Co. CEO John Paton announced the board in March of 2010, he said "the media landscape and how news is both created and consumed is changing rapidly. In an era where the audience has gone from spectator to participant through social media and other digital innovations our Company must re-define what we do and how we do it. Our Advisory Board is charged with helping us assess the changes we need to make and pushing us to experiment in new ways of news creation and delivery."

Morning Brief: NewspaperDirect lands five sports titles from UK-based Greenways Publishing; the Star-Telegram updates its sports magazine app to make it free of charge

Vuncover-based NewspaperDirect yesterday announced that it had just launched five sports newspapers and magazines onto its platform from UK publisher Greenways Publishing. The five publications will be available through three digital channels: the PressReader application, its companion website, PressDisplay.com, and NewspaperDirect's Print-On-Demand channel.

The five Greenways Publishing publications are The Rugby Paper, The Non-League Paper, The Football League Paper, The Cricket Paper, and Late Tackle.

"We've been getting a lot of interest from sports publishers seeking to get their brand in front of new readers to increase circulation and revenues," said Nikolay Malyarov, vice president of publishing and legal affairs at NewspaperDirect. "Reaching sports fans on the latest mobile devices is especially important for these publishers, since their readers tend to be on-the-go consumers of news content. The instant translation capabilities built into PressReader and PressDisplay.com make it possible for national publishers to appeal to international audiences."

Greenways Publishing also has replica edition iPad apps inside the Newsstand for each of the titles from PageSuite. The universal apps appear under the vendor's name, rather than the publishers.



The McClatchy owned Star-Telegram from the Dallas-Fort Worth area, yesterday updated its tablet magazine app for DTW OT Sports.

The tablet magazine for the iPad was launched last August (see original TNM post here) The publishing team used PressRun (now AppStudio) to create the digital magazine app – the first tablet magazine from a McClatchy newspaper, as far as I am aware.

DFW OT Sports is a monthly magazines – many other papers launching tablet magazines have chosen to go weekly, or even twice a week – and was charging $1.99 for the app, then a monthly $1.99 subscription from within the app.

Yesterday's update, however, makes the app free, and no longer will require a subscription fee within the app to access issues. Generally this is done to increase downloads and overall readership. DFW OT Sports only has received one reader review since its launch.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

New English language website for Eleftherotypia launched, will fill void left by shutdown of the Athens News

For those still saddened by the apparent shuttering of the Athens News, an English language website and newspaper, there is a bit of good news this afternoon. Eleftherotypia has launched a new English language website.

The new site, EnetEnglish, is a new division of Eleftherotypia, the national newspaper that itself was pretty much shut down since declaring bankruptcy in December of 2011. But the paper was relaunched in January of this year, and so the new English language website was made possible. There will be plenty of news to report:

"Welcome to EnetEnglish.gr, a brandnew online news service for Greece and the world. Today we've the first general strike of 2013 and we'll be blogging events as they happen," states the live blog featured on the new site's home page.

Thrasy Petropoulos, the former managing editor at the Athens News is the Deputy Editor at the new website, and Damian Mac Con Uladh who was also with the Athens News, and who contributes to the Irish Times, has come over as a reporter.

Bloomberg reports the NYT will sell The Boston Globe

Abit of news this afternoon as Bloomberg is reporting that The New York Times Co. is now "formally exploring a sale of The Boston Globe." The publisher will be working with investment bankers Evercore Partners to find a buyer.

The New York Times bought the Globe in 1993, in better times for sure.

The Boston Globe was founded in 1872 and remained a private company until 1973 when it went public. The NYT came in and bought the public company, Affiliated Publications, in 1993 for $1.1 billion. The NYT will not get anywhere near that price for the property now, as revenue has fallen to $186 million for the New England Media Group, which is how the NYT reports the Globe's performance.

Ad revenue fell a bit over 6 percent in 2012, while circulation revenue was essentially flat. Total revenue for the group was $394.7 million – which if this were 20 years ago would mean the NYT might stand a chance at getting its initial investment back if the sales price were based on revenue. Unfortunately, when net income is taken into account that would most likely force the price down considerably.

But, in the end, the issue at the Globe is complicated by its underfunded pension plan, which Bloomberg estimates is a liability in the range of $110 million to $240 million (though the WSJ estimated a much smaller liability). Because of that situation the NYT will most likely try and complete the sale with the new owners shielded from the pension situation. Ultimately the best price for the Globe will come from a buyer with political motives to own a newspaper rather than financial motives (as was the case in San Diego).

The Boston Globe has made some interesting and forward-thinking moves in the area of digital, including recently launching a new website for the newspaper – putting the new website behind a paywall in order to drive digital subscriptions. The effort has not been a rousing success, however, with only 28,000 paid subscriptions achieved to date. Meanwhile, the paper is also maintaining the free Boston.com website, calling into question whether a mid-major market newspaper could force a paywall on its readers.

'Why I'll start using the word 'mixmedia' instead of 'multimedia' – a guest post from Pedro Monteiro

I'm thrilled to be able to repost this article from Portuguese graphic designer, Pedro Monteiro, which first appeared on his website Digital Distribution.

Lately, as I discuss digital storytelling, I find myself correcting my speech whenever I use the word multimedia. Mostly, I change it to the word mixmedia; finding that this word better relates to my line of thought and speech. I’ll explain here why I tend to do this and why I believe you should also do it.

As we all know, every new medium goes through a stage of transition. This aspect of a new medium has been discussed in detail, from McLuhan to Nick Bilton. What happens is that, for a while, storytellers will publish their stories in the new medium using the language they control; usually the reflection of a old medium associated language. There are many examples of this happening – some of them not as modern as you might expect, like this early printed book with hand written initials and another example of a book, with the open spaces ready for the drawing of those initials – and one of the most common examples is that of the early television broadcasts.

Nick Bilton, in his book I Live in the Future and Here’s How it Works, tells us about those early TV broadcasts where, if you closed your eyes, you’d think you where listening to a radio show. Actually, those early TV broadcasts were made just like radio shows – the previous language mastered by storytellers. You can experience it for yourself on this video, from a very early TV broadcast by BBC, in 1936.

Nowadays, in the digital realm – which includes both the Internet, ereaders and all that we call mobile, like smartphones and tablets –, I believe we are experiencing a stage of transition, like the ones other storytellers like us experienced before. What has been published on digital supports, mostly has a very clear resemblance with languages from other media. One of the best examples, for me, that mirror this transition stage is that of the journalistic article. If we compare the following images (all from The New York Times, but I could have chosen any other news publication), we can see that things haven’t changed that much with the journalistic article, regardless of its mean of distribution (printed, online or tablet):
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The basic format for a journalistic article remains the same: a title, one picture and the body text. This happens, regardless of the platform for publishing it.

Back to the discussion about word usage. What I’ve been finding is that the word multimedia also relates a lot to this transitional stage for the digital medium. The word itself, inserted on its publishing usage, reflects that digital platforms can be used to publish more than one type of media – and that’s true –, be it text, pictures, audio, video, etc. But, since we’re on that transitional stage, the word doesn’t infer a rethinking of the story to be published by the means of its publishing platform. On the three examples above, you have multimedia articles. Each article has a picture and text – that’s multimedia! A video on Youtube is multimedia. A podcast is also multimedia and so is a slide show. What I mean is that the word itself and its usage completely connects with what we’ve all been publishing online (like this article of mine!) and that’s nothing more than the usage of old language on a new medium.

Details continues trend of gathering bloggers into a branded network with launch of the Details Style Network

The Condé Nast magazine Details has launched the Details Style Network, a new "a channel that showcases luxury men’s content" coming from independent bloggers. The editors at Details are working with Tidal, a company that gathers up like bloggers into what they call tribes – the company is working with another Condé Nast title, Lucky, as well as brands like Johnson & Johnson and Neutrogena.

Bloggers' content appears on the Details website, while each blogger continues to maintain their own blogging website such as this one from Monsieur Jerome. Those part of the network can display a Details Style Network contributor button on their website.

This model is very different than what is employed at Vox Media, for instance, with their SB Nation. There, the bloggers are part of the same blogging platform, and part of the same ad network. With Details Style Network, much of the content management is outsourced to a third party, and the main advantage for bloggers is promised added traffic back to their websites.

Another variation of this model is the publisher organized network where the bloggers remain independent, but where there is an advertising relationship, as well as a partnership in a third entity. For instance, the publisher can create a small ad network that the publishers sells – since most bloggers are dependent on ad networks already, a more topic specific ad network sold by the publisher would produce, in theory at least, more revenue and more relevant advertisers for the bloggers, while expanding the audience (reach) for the publishers, allowing them to charge more for the Internet advertising.

Additionally, the publisher could work with the bloggers on creating a new product, such as a new website or channel (like the Details Style Network) or another digital product such as a tablet magazine.

In the Details Style Network model that new web space is more real estate for the magazine to sell. Meanwhile, content flows in from the bloggers without the added cost of freelance writers. The downside is that the editors are dependent on the third party vendor, in this case Tidal, to create the blogger network's participants, limiting its use to major categories.

GIE Media's 'A Garden Life' gets some love from Apple, tablet-only magazine app featured in Newsstand

It may seem like a minor thing to a lot of media people, but for a B2B company to get their tablet magazine featured inside the iTunes App Store can be a big thing – it can be the break they were looking for.

Apple recently added A Garden Life to its New and Noteworthy selection of publication apps promoted in the iTunes App Store in the Newsstand category. A total of 34 magazine apps are currently being promoted, and the good news for GIE Media's app is that it is the tenth app listed, making it visible for many readers perusing the App Store.

The app is a bit special, GIE Media is, after all, known as a B2B magazine company, publishing such titles industry titles as Lawn & Landscape (see TNM post on the title's new native tablet edition).

What makes A Garden Life different is that it is targeted to the consumer market – plus it is digital-only. "We've been working on A Garden Life for the past year," Chris Foster, President and COO of GIE Media, told me recently.

"We decided that the only way for a B2B publisher to compete in the consumer magazine industry is to make a digital-only magazine, but we wanted to make it very engaging and very rich. So we used the Apple platform, because if you take a look at most of our downloads some 96 percent are on the iOS platform, the remainder are on Android or (Kindle) Fire or something else," Foster said.

The app for the digital magazine is universal, and the designers made sure that the iPhone edition was native, as well, not just a port over of the tablet design – taking a similar approach as BJPhoto.

I don't know if the decision to pursue native tablet editions influenced Apple's decision to help promote this particular magazine app, but it certainly can only help downloads. With no other consumer magazines to help promote the digital magazine, reaching readers can be difficult.

It may appear to be a minor thing, but any kind of promotion inside the Newsstand, especially with Apple's recent redesign that makes finding new magazine and newspaper apps even more difficult, can be a big boost for a publisher.

Morning Brief: Sun-Times updates new Sunday 'Sport' magazine to add iPhone edition; Kobo updates its iOS eBook app; a reader comment on FutureFolio

A rather wide range of media app updates were released last night. One of those was for Sport by Chicago Sun-Times, the new Sunday digital magazine from the metro paper.

The Sun-Times has been using Mag+ to build tablet magazines for its coverage of local sports teams and launched Sport earlier this month as a weekly review of all the Chicago team activity. Today the update adds support for the iPhone, the first of the Sun-Times tab editions to do so.

I'm a little torn by the idea of building products like this for the iPhone. The good news is that platforms such as Mag+ and others makes the process fairly easy and the end product is attractive and usually easy to read – one look at BJPhoto: iPhone Edition, the iPhone version of the British Journal of Photography is enough to prove that a digital publication can work on an iPhone.

But do readers want to sit back in their chairs on a Sunday and read a digital publication? (My daughter does, so maybe the answer is "yes" for her and "no" for me.) Is the run of "reach the reader on whatever device they own" an absolute? That philosophy sounds good the first time you hear it from some media executive at a conference, but being a cynical media pro I have my doubts.

Doubts about ubiquitous media products aside, what the Sun-Times is doing is pretty impressive – even more so when one sees that their competitors at the Tribune Company have actually pulled some of their tablet magazine apps.



The eBook reader app, Kobo Books, has been updated today.

Toronto-based Kobo is an interesting company to watch. Kobo, if you recall, signed up Borders to become their eBook partner, but Borders collapsed, leaving Kobo without a major retail book partner. But the company then proceeded to acquire the French digital publishing platform Aquafadas. For many media observers both companies remain under the radar, but I find the combined companies very interesting – imagine if Amazon partnered directly with Adobe, what would reporters say about that?

The result so far has been updates – the latest being 2.6 – to the Aquafadas platform centered on ePub3.

Today's update to the eBook reading app for iOS brings in a redesigned tablet of contents and annotations pages for iPhone, other enhancements, and, of course, bug fixes.



Yesterday TNM linked back to a story concerning Future PLC that was posted to the Journalism.com.uk website. I got a surprising amount of feedback on my own "Retweet" post about the sales figures being reported by the company's chief executive Mark Wood. I also mentioned that one of the things that sets Future about is the use of their own digital publishing platform, FutureFolio.

This morning Konstantinos Antonopoulos from Greek publisher Lambrakis Press commented on his own experience with FutureFolio by attaching a comment to the original story.

Lambrakis, if you recall, launched their first natively designed tablet edition in December, ΜΟΥΣΑ (Mousa) which is the Greek edition of Marie Claire.

Here is the comment promoted to the home page so readers won't miss it:
Konstantinos said...

I am currently test-driving FutureFolio's tablet publishing software and I have to say that it is one of the most full-featured programs for the job.

It is different, as it works in iOS simulator, which gives it a fantastic preview. I am still getting the hang of it (and try to work with Greek text, which is a challenge), but so far it feels great.

Total Film magazine and, especially, Football Week are showing-off its abilities in the best way.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

New indy tablet magazines: Cuttings, a 'digital anthology of new Australian writing'; blogger Rolf Magener launches 'Overland Travel Mag' using the MagCast platform

It is always exciting to see the work of new publishers as they emerge. Thanks to the Newsstand, new magazines are launching weekly, despite what out trade press is reporting.

A new literary magazine has launched from Australia, CUTTINGS is the work of The Nest is being published under the imprint Branches Publishing. Inside the new Newsstand app one will find 'Issue Zero', the new way many publishers are labeling their prototype issues. Both the app and its content are free.
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While this may be the first app to appear under the developer account name of The Nest Agency Pty Ltd, it is not their first app released into the App Store – that would be Sydney Festival 2013 Guide, a stand-alone app designed to support the three week festival in the Australian city that took place in January.

A third app, and the second under the Branches name, will be launched for another publisher, Currency Press, and looks quite promising. "The Summer of the Seventeenth Doll iPad app will be a first in Australian publishing – a fully interactive version of Ray Lawler’s pioneering 1955 play," the developer's website says.

As for CUTTINGS, this is a natively designed app that is beautifully put together and will, one hopes, find its readers.
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Another new indy tablet magazine, Overland Travel Mag also appeared in the last 24 hours in the Newsstand but rather than using a native digital publishing solution chose to use MagCast in order to build their app.

My iPad has always found these apps a bit buggy, and this one is no exception. The app constantly gives me a warning that my tablet has no Internet connection and therefore can not initiate a download. No, it's not the iPad, it's the app.

As a result, I can't tell you much about the new digital magazine, though if it is like others coming out of MagCast it will be single image pages, often designed specifically for the iPad's specs, but otherwise look a lot like a replica edition. These types of solutions are certainly better than a replica, where the designer originally built the page for print, but the digital magazine usually feels like it would be more at home on a Kindle than an iPad.

This particular digital magazine is the product of Rolf Magener who maintains the Overland website and blog. Maybe I will be able to circle back to this one once the bugs are worked out.

Retweet: Are Future's tablet magazine sales numbers encouraging, or a signal to be cautious about the platform

Journalism.co.uk's Sarah Marshall has an important post up this morning (actually, afternoon London time) concerning Future PLC and their tablet magazine strategy: Why Future is focusing on tablets and online. As usual, I have no intention of scraping the article and therefore would encourage you to read the post on their site.

But I do have some thoughts on the post. Future has gotten a lot of attention for their tablet publishing – mainly because the company appears fully committed to the platform (it has over 70 magazines under its name inside the Newsstand) and because it has been so forthright in telling us about their "success". This issue, ultimately, is about that success: is it really doing well, or is actually struggling?

Future is a rarity in that it is using its own digital publishing solution to build its tablet editions. The viewer app, FutureFolio Viewer, is one of their stand-alone apps you'll find in the App Store. (According to the post, 60 magazine companies other than Future are now using their platform.)

In Marshall's post, chief executive Mark Wood, speaking at the Digital Media Strategies conference in London, laid out the story so far: Future has sold 3 million magazines through Apple's Newsstand to date, has had 19 million app downloads (or container downloads, as they are calling them), and currently has 180,000 "full subscribers", according to Marshall.

This gives us some interesting numbers to digest. Of 19 million app downloads, only 1 percent ended up being a "full subscriber" – which by that I would think Wood means an annual subscriber, though this could also include monthly subscriptions. I'm not sure this is a very good result and may be influenced by the fact that many of Future's tablet editions are simple replica editions. Other factors could be price, a misunderstanding of the way Newsstand works (a common negative review is that an app is free, but the magazines inside the app charge), or simple indicative of accidental downloads.

But there are more interesting numbers in the post. For instance, Wood says that 6.4 million people have signed up for push notifications. My guess is that readers are tapping that button pretty much without thinking about it – after all, who wants a push notification from a magazine you end up deciding not to subscribe to? But it says to me that magazine publishers who use notifications in a creative way will be able to get their readers to allow them in.

Wood also says that something totally unsurprising: 80 percent of Future's audience is coming from outside the U.K.

Publishers are finding that reaching an international audience is easy in the Newsstand. U.S. publishers are often surprised to find that a decent percentage of their new readers are coming from international markets. I would think this is even more trueof U.K. magazines – especially since U.K. magazine look very much like they may be coming from the U.S. when viewed inside the Newsstand.

Wood has made it clear that Future is very committed to the tablet platform, and while I may be disappointed in some of their tablet efforts, many of their most recent launches have been impressive. But it is also clear that Future has not yet found the magic formula for success inside the Newsstand. Their numbers are impressive at first glance, but are weaker when looked at in their totality. But Future is probably closer than most any other company in successfully working through the issues involved in tablet publishing, and by owning their own platform may be able to manage the economics of the platform as well or better than any other publisher.

Once again, you can find the entire post on Mark Wood's talk on the Journalism.co.uk website.

Sorry, we're just not that into you: 2013 may be the year metro papers find paywalls are not the panacea

If you've ever studied social trends you know that one can spot a trend's end not when fewer people are doing something, but before that, before it peaks, but when the growth begins to slow down. I think 2013 will that time for newspapers and paywalls.

More and more papers will be launching paywalls this year, or will be in their first full year of them being implemented. For many publishers the shock of discovering that many readers simply do not feel their products are worth paying for will be painful. One can already see signs of this in the most some papers are making.

In Boston moves are afoot to "untangle" the two website the paper maintains: the free Boston.com and the paywall enclosed BostonGlobe.com. While advocates of paid content strategies continue to root for the Globe's site to succeed, the presence of Boston.com is a reminder that on the web, free generally attracts the readers.

The problem remains that there are limited circumstances where a paywall can succeed. The good news is that as time goes by the number of these, in my own mind at least, grows somewhat:

  • Financial news sites (such as the WSJ, FT)
  • National newspaper sites (such as the NYT)
  • Where news is still a monopoly or tightly controlled by the government
The experiment with paywalls was to find out if a loose monopoly, such as a metro paper, could make a paywall succeed. 2013 won't be the year that publishers see the results and change course. No, it is has taken them 20 years to change their Internet publishing direction, what makes you think they can change their thinking so quickly? No, many papers are setting a new direction and 2013 won't be the year they change that. 2013 will be the year, though, that shows many that the decision will not solve the industry's woes.

(Aside: I was, for a short while, a newspaper circulation manager, an interesting experience to say the least. Back then, when I ran some numbers concerning the home delivery prices we charged I quickly understood that the price for the newspaper was $0, the price was for home delivery. Also, the quarter we charged for the newspaper box copy was for production and distribution. In other words, the newspaper was always free for readers, even before the advent of the Internet website. The price reflected production and distribution.)



The Guardian will be holding a discussion on paywalls on Thursday of this week. The list of panelists appear to all have a vested interest in paywalls, so don't look for much objective discussion of the issue, but it may be entertaining, nonetheless.

Morning Brief: Chicago Tribune promotes 'Tablet with digitalPLUS' subscription offer; The Nimble gets an iPad app update, uses the Baker Framework

The Chicago Tribune sent out emails to former subscribers that offers a tablet in exchange for a 2-year subscription to their digitalPLUS service.

"You must commit to a new 2-year subscription to qualify for this offer," the promotion states. "This subscription will cost $11.96 every 4 weeks and will be billed automatically to your credit card. There is a $60 fee for early cancellation, but this fee will decrease by $2.30 for each full 4 weeks of completed service under the subscription. For example, if you cancel after 52 weeks, the early cancellation fee will be $30 charged to the credit card on file. WiFi service not included."

The deal includes Sunday newspaper home delivery, access to the Chicago Tribune's digital edition, and unlimited access to the website. The Tribune's eBook collection are included, as well.

No mention is made in the promotion about the actual tablet being offered, however. In August of 2011 the company made big news news by saying it was developing a tablet that it would give away with subscriptions. The current promotion mentions that P.C. Richard & Sons would be handling the fulfillment and customer service for this promotion.

Meanwhile, Tribune Interactive has quietly pulled many of its tablet magazines from the Apple App Store. Both The Bulletin, the digital magazine for Bulls coverage, and BearDownload, for Bears coverage, have been pulled from the Newsstand. Both digital magazines were using the Mag+ platform. The Tribune, though, recently launched Chicago Tribune Photography into the Newsstand. The app appears to have landed with a thud as there are no reader reviews despite having been launched almost six weeks ago.



A number of TNM readers have mentioned the Baker Framework as a possible digital publishing platform for use in creating tablet magazines and other digital media products. The Nimble Magazine, which uses the platform, today issued an update to its iPad app.

The mobile art magazine's app description mentions "better subscription workflow" and bug fixes. It also says that the Newsstand icon will now be updated automatically when the latest issue is downloaded.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Future PLC updates its portfolio of magazine tablet editions to bring in a new app storefront interface

Future PLC today issued updates for many of their tablet editions today. The magazine publisher uses its own publishing solution which it calls FutureFolio and so a change in its platform generally means updates across the board.

The tablet edition from Future run the full range of digital magazines from disappointing replica editions like the Mac Life Magazine app (really? a replica edition for a computing magazine?), to digital magazines designed from the ground up for tablets like Photography Week (TNM original post here).

The most recent update is designed to bring into the magazine tablet editions a new app storefront interface.

One of the most recent Future digital magazine launches was for Football Week, which involves a partnership with the Press Association (TNM original post here). The new app is native in design and is a rather unique. all teams in one app for English Premier League coverage.

If you missed the video walk-through of that new app here it is again:

Brands take to the Newsstand: Roland Corp. launches its 2nd natively designed digital magazine, while BUILD, Atlas Copco's customer mag, appears as a replica edition

Hhowever much magazine publishers would like to think that their customers still rely on their publications to market their products, the fact is that digital media – whether the web or the new mobile and tablet platforms – are increasingly making brands into publishers themselves. What's interesting, from my perspective, is the choses they are making when launching their own digital magazines.

Roland Corporation, the Japanese manufacturer of electronic musical instruments and software, has launched their second digital magazine into the Apple Newsstand. The first, which I missed the first time around, is called PowerOn Roland Users Group, was released just at the start of this year.

It's newest is called PowerOn BOSS and Guitar Edition, and like the first digital magazine is a natively designed app.

Designed to be read in portrait, the publisher here has decided to keep most of the audio and video out of the app to keep the file size down – 128 MB for its first issue.

When you compare this brand magazine with the digital edition of Guitar World, an app built when owned by Future Publishing (the title was sold, along with Revolver and Guitar Aficionado, to New Bay Media in January) you immediately see that publishers have opened themselves up to branded magazines by delivering less than satisfactory digital publishing products.

As one reader's review inside the App Store says: "Sadly, this magazine app should be a lot more than it is (which is just a scanned copy of the print magazine). One would expect features: linked table of contents, linked audio samples and video samples/lessons at a minimum. But none of that is here. It's just an overpriced scan of the print magazine. You can be better."

Well, the digital edition of Guitar World may not be a "scan", but you get the idea, and the reader has a valid point.

Here is a brief walk-through the first issue inside PowerOn BOSS and Guitar Edition:



Of course, many brands have long ago launched their own customer magazines, usually through the custom publishing divisions of major publishing houses, or through agencies dedicated strictly to publishing branded magazines and newsletters.
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BUILD is the customer magazine from Atlas Copco, a Swedish industrial equipment manufacturer. The production work for the magazine originates from Appelberg Publishing Group, also from Sweden, and a flipbook of the print magazine is being produced by Issuu. I don't know which company is responsible for the newly released tablet edition of BUILD Magazine.

The new app, though, is miles away from the natively designed digital magazine produced by Roland. Instead, what the reader gets here is merely a replica edition of the print magazine. Is this because a publisher was involved with the original product, or simply because Roland is taking a more platform-centric approach to its branded magazines?

Whatever the case may be, the Newsstand is seeing more branded magazines appear each week, and publishers with current custom publishing contracts should be thinking now about what they would like to launch into the Newsstand – before the brands take up the call themselves.

The Kit: corrections to earlier post on new digital magazine app from the Toronto Star

On January 31 TNM looked at some of the new media apps released into the Canadian App Store including a very nice updated app for The Kit, the fashion and beauty magazine from the Toronto Star. I reported at the time that the "new app for The Kit appears to be replacing a universal app from Texterity that was, no doubt, simply a replica edition." Well, that was not actually correct, and my unfamiliarity with the original app was showing.

Christine Loureiro, editor-in-chief of The Kit, wrote me late Friday to set the record straight.
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"The old Kit app, designed by Texterity, was not a replica app," Loureiro wrote. "The Kit, in fact, launched in 2010 as a native digital magazine."

I guess I was confused because the website for The Kit states that a "printed version of The Kit is served up weekly in select copies of the Toronto Star, Vancouver Sun, Calgary Herald and Montreal Gazette." It turns out that what is meant by this is that The Kit appears in those papers as a feature, not a fully fledged print magazine.

Earlier versions of the digital magazine in its Texterity form can still be seen on The Kit's website, while the newest flipbook is being produced by Uberflip, a Toronto company.

One fascinating thing about the digital magazine is that if it is not, in fact, a replica edition, it means that those ads that appear in the magazine, and give it a hybrid look – that is, print ads as seen in print with reformatted editorial – were sold for the digital magazine exclusively. That's quite an accomplishment, and makes what was already an impressive digital magazine even more impressive in my eyes.

"While The Kit appears as a newsprint feature in several newspapers weekly, there has never been a print edition of the magazine. It is a native interactive magazine. This also means no ads were stripped from the print edition, as no print edition exists," Loureiro wrote.

So there you have it. If you are a newspaper pro looking to launch a digital version of your Sunday magazine, or someone who sees the potential of launching a digital-only magazine from a newspaper title you should check out The Kit. (And, by the way, it is free of charge.)

Morning Brief: Presidents' Day, the holiday that doesn't really exist; Jumsoft updates its iBooks Author template app Book Palette, adds 5 new templates

Today is Presidents' Day here in the U.S., another of those holidays celebrated more with sales on sofas and bathroom towels than with days off and family gatherings.

Technically, there is no such thing as Presidents' Day. That is, Congress never passed a bill officially creating the holiday. Instead the reason Presidents' Day exists is that Congress pass the Uniform Monday Holiday Act in 1968 and moved the observance of Washington's Birthday to Monday. As this moved the holiday to the third Monday of February it meant that it would fall between Lincoln's Birthday and Washington's Birthday. Marketers took it from there.



Jumsoft has issued an update to its Book Palette Mac app. The app has added five new templates to the program that is to be used in conjunction with iBooks Author, Apple's book publishing software solution.

"It’s been a while since we last updated Book Palette, our set of templates designed to enhance Apple’s iBooks Author app for creating and self-publishing iPad books," the Jumsoft website announced on Friday. "We are full of remorse for treating you this way and happy to announce 5 new templates to help you design your own lovely books."

Apple last updated iBooks Author in October when it changed the program to allow for portrait-only layouts and the embedding of custom fonts.
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