Friday, March 1, 2013

Variety lowers its website paywall, kills off its daily edition, but will its tablet strategy remain print-centric?

When Penske Media Corporation (PMC) bought Variety from Reed Business Information in October of last year the new owner was not acquiring a property that was built for the digital media era. RBI was slow to launch website for its B2B properties in the nineties, and it never put a high priority on making those sites once launched anything more than places where press releases went to die. As for mobile and tablets, well, RBI left that for others to deal with.

So the new owners of Variety had a lot to think about when it came to the venerable entertainment title. This week they got to work when it was announced that they would be killing off their daily print publication and would relaunch it as a weekly magazine. But for many the big news was that the website's paywall would be coming down.

"Internally, we've been referring to the paywall dropping as 'the end of an error,'" said Jay Penske. "It was an interesting experiment that didn't work. We look forward to welcoming back longtime Variety readers when the paywall drops March 1."

But now what happens to the tablet app, Variety iPad Edition? The original app was launched in March of 2011, well after RBI has sold off or closed most of its other U.S. B2B titles. The app has been plagued by bugs that cause crashes, but some readers liked the app because they could receive their daily editions quicker than through the mail – such was the level of loyalty of many readers of the Hollywood daily edition.
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The app served as a receptacle for replica editions of the print publication and a place were readers could also access the latest news. But the publisher never was a serious app developer, as the app description shows, because the app didn't originate with the Variety staff but through either the printer or BlueToad (the tagline "Includes patent-pending Media Deck technology" is the clue to the app's origins).

In its announcement of its changes at Variety the company never mentioned mobile or tablets. "When PMC purchased Variety last year, we committed to the digital evolution of this great brand," said Penske. "We're accelerating this strategy by heavily investing in our editorial staff, technology, video production and responsive design -- all with the goal of providing the best experience for our dedicated readers." The company also said it will "remain committed to a print edition of Variety."

Does this mean its tablet edition will remain as is? I doubt it. It really should be dumped, it is a relic of another era, when the strategy was all about selling more print subscriptions and closing off the website in order to force yet more print subscriptions.

With the company now focusing on building its technology and video capabilities it will soon be in a better position to build a better tablet edition, one more in keeping with the new publishing platform, and one that can survive should the print publication ever be shuttered permanently. After all, by producing a replica edition of a print edition, a publisher shuts out any option they may should they decide a print publication does not make economic sense.

Sam's Club launches its Healthy Living customer magazine into the Apple Newsstand

Not every publisher will choose to create a native tablet edition. Sometimes the decision is as simple as the fact that much of their work has been outsourced already and so creating a new tablet edition will have to be outsourced, as well.

In that case, the issue is really whether the replica edition that results still fits the publisher's needs, will it satisfy readers, is it easy to read, is it cost efficient, is there any revenue gains to be had, or will the vendor take all the profit?

In custom publishing the issues increase because the client has counted on the custom publisher to provide all the production know-how for the print edition, and will expect nothing less with any tablet or mobile editions produced, as well.
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Today, Sam's Club, the membership retailer owned by Walmart, released a universal app into Apple's Newsstand for the Healthy Living customer magazine. The print magazine, according to the masthead, is published by Ivie Communications, though at the bottom of the masthead it says the print production is done by Ivie & Associates. One company is out of Texas, while the other is out of California – my guess is that the Texas company is really behind the company involved here.

The universal app released today, Sam’s Club Healthy Living Made Simple, is listed under the Sam's Club name in the App Store, and this Newsstand app is the only app appearing under that seller name.

Even with replica editions there are at least a couple of things that are essential if the reader is to find the app edition useful: first, the digital magazine must be readable, either through fonts that are legible, or through pinch-to-zoom; and second, if there are places were interactivity is a natural expectation of the reader, then that interactivity must be built in.

This replica is for a print magazine that already uses fairly large fonts. But the app has pinch-to-zoom built in so that if necessary the reader can increase the size of the page.

Also, the app edition is filled with links – they are everywhere. But most importantly, they are on the items Sam's Club is selling in its store. Every ad contains a spot where the reader can tap to go to a Sam's Club page where the item can be purchased.

The app also has tabs that contain a Club Locator, Health Screenings schedule, Immunizations, Bookmarks, and the library for the magazines. Because the app is universal, all this is available for the iPhone, which does support the iPhone 5. I don't find these kinds of products very useful on the iPhone, but I admit I know people who really do read books and magazine on their iPhone (they clearly have better eyesight than I do).

Because of this, this replica edition app may prove useful to Sam's Club customer. No, it is not an ideal solution, but it works and fulfills the minimum expectations Sam's Club customers would have.

The publisher of Union Wakeboarder makes some very unfortunate decisions in launching its Newsstand app

There is little secret that TNM is very much against replica editions, so let's not go over that ground again. But some replica makers are simply worse than others and that publishers would deal with these companies is always a source of amazement and confusion.

Today PixelMags, a company I've ragged on in the past released into the Apple Newsstand a universal app for the Australian magazine Union Wakeboarder. The publisher is Eighty Publishers, and their website for the magazine is really very nice. That they would have chosen a replica edition maker for their digital edition is a strange decision because the magazine had so many things going for it when launching a tablet edition.

For one thing, the magazine is only published four times a year, giving the publisher plenty of time to produce a natively designed tablet edition. For another, the magazine uses a landscape design, very unusual for a magazine – it is, obviously, seemingly built for a tablet's display, is it not?
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But the publisher didn't do this, instead they have released what has to be one of the worst iPhone apps I've ever seen, though the iPad version is a bit better.

First off, PixelMags apparently doesn't support the iPhone 5. So once the app opens one is taken to a library page that doesn't fit the iPhone's display. This is most definitely a bad sign.

But the real problem, in my opinion, is the level of care the vendor gives their client inside the App Store. The app is shown not in landscape, the obvious way the digital magazine is to be read, but in portrait. The vendor is basically crying out "do not download this!"

On the iPad things seem a bit better, for one things the library at least fits the screen. But being a replica, what you are going to get, of course, are simply images of the pages. In the case of Union Wakeboarder the print magazine is filled with ads – congratulations, by the way – so the digital edition opens up with lots of these ads. (Even in landscape the pages don't quite fit the dimensions of the iPad, with small black stripes visible at the top and bottom of each page.)
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Everything is fine until you hit the first editorial page and are confronted with the microscopic text. The usual fall back of replica edition makers is that the reader can use pinch-to-zoom to read the text. This is a lousy solution, though in the early days of the iPad many observers thought this would simply be the way reading on a tablet would be – unless a native app solution was employed.

But this app doesn't support pinch-to-zoom – really.

Many digital media observers believe quite firmly that print publishers will one day go away, completely. I've never held that view, but looking at this new digital magazine does show that they have a point.

The Times & Sunday Times updated app runs into major trouble, company readies new update to fix crashes

Earlier this month The Times (UK) released an updated iPad app that combined the daily Times with the Sunday Times into one app. In the US App Store the app is known as The Times of London, to obviously differentiate it from the NYT's popular app; in the U.K. the app is called The Times & The Sunday Times.

In both App Stores readers have given the paper the once over thanks to bugs that are making the app crash. The reviews are merciless, with 135 one-star reviews to only 8 five-star (who are those five-star reviewers, anyways?).

Tom Whitwell, Head of Digital for The Times and Sunday Times, was forced to respond with a note to readers:
Dear reader,

As you know, last week we released a major update to The Times iPad app. This was in response to many readers’ suggestions on how to improve our products. The Times and The Sunday Times are now available as one app, which includes live breaking news, access to more puzzles, overnight Newsstand delivery and storage for up to 31 days of editions.

However, we are aware that some readers are having problems with the new app and we are working very hard to address these. We’ve made some initial changes in a new version that will be in the App Store within a few days. This will improve Newsstand overnight downloads and app stability.

Based on your direct feedback, our development team have identified a number of further performance enhancements that we are now testing and developing. Before launching this app we invested in a very rigorous test process. Over 600 readers generously tested the app for a total of 20,000 hours, offering feedback that has been invaluable. Like all iPad apps, it was tested by Apple before release. Unfortunately, it was not enough.

Not every reader has been able to enjoy the app as we intended. For this we offer our sincere apologies for the inconvenience and our thanks for the time you have spent describing your experience. Every bit of information makes it easier to diagnose and resolve problems.

From talking to you over the last few days we have identified that the most acute issues are linked to the level of memory available on certain iPads. In many cases this can be improved on the device itself. To help with this we have produced a guide to ensuring that your tablet runs as smoothly as possible, which you can find by tapping or clicking on the tab at the top of this article...

Morning Brief: The Sequestration; Groupon CEO runs afoul of shareholders, Google runs afoul of regulators

Monday's Morning Brief began by stating that this week would be a dominated by talk of the "sequestration", those automatic spending cuts that would occur if Congress did not reach a new budget agreement. But the week went on without any progress – and, well, today is now March 1.

But the news, as it turns out, has not been completely dominated by the looming deadline, despite the best efforts of the White House. Yesterday the big story was the canning of Groupon CEO Andrew Mason who left the scene quickly following the release of another dismal earnings report – but not before releasing a memorable farewell email.

With the Tribune Company now putting up for sale its newspaper holdings the talk has turned to who would buy the papers, which including the Chicago Tribune and Los Angeles Times. There are a lot of candidates but ultimately I think the buyer(s) will come from a source that looks at the papers less as a financial investment than as a political one.

Google is running afoul of European regulators again over the issue of privacy. Thirty data protection officials have sent the U.S. search and advertising giant a message that it wasn't happy with its progress in making changes.

"In October 2012, the Article 29 Working Party highlighted deficiencies in Google's privacy policy and gave some recommendations to Google on how to address these. To date, considering that Google has not taken any precise measures in response to those recommendations, the requirements of Directive 95/46/EC are still not complied with."

"Data Protection Authorities have decided to continue their investigations in close cooperation and to take all necessary actions according to their competences and powers. Significant progress on these actions will be made before summer. A taskforce led by the French DPA (CNIL) will help to coordinate these actions."

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Andrew Mason out as CEO of Groupon following release of earnings report showing larger than expected losses

C
hicago-based Groupon this afternoon reported that founder and CEO Andrew Mason had been replaced. The company had earlier reported earnings that showed a net loss in the last quarter of $81.1 million, or 12 cents a share, up from a year ago. Revenue continued to rise to $638.3 million, but the losses were so far above expectations that many started to wonder if Mason would be forced out.

This afternoon the company released this statement:
Groupon, the global leader in local commerce, today announced a leadership change in which Executive Chairman Eric Lefkofsky and Vice Chairman Ted Leonsis have been appointed to the newly created Office of the Chief Executive, effective immediately, replacing Andrew Mason. Lefkofsky and Leonsis will serve in this role on an interim basis. The Board has commenced a search for a new Chief Executive.

“On behalf of the entire Groupon Board, I want to thank Andrew for his leadership, his creativity and his deep loyalty to Groupon. As a founder, Andrew helped invent the daily deals space, leading Groupon to become one of the fastest growing companies in history,” said Lefkofsky.

“Groupon will continue to invest in growth, and we are confident that with our deep management team and market-leading position, the company is well positioned for the future,” said Leonsis.

The company’s guidance for first quarter and full year 2013 outlined in yesterday’s earnings announcement remains unchanged.
Mason then posted publicly a farewell memo to Groupon staff. (I attempted to simply post the link, but I think the site is getting hammered.)
People of Groupon,

After four and a half intense and wonderful years as CEO of Groupon, I’ve decided that I’d like to spend more time with my family. Just kidding – I was fired today. If you’re wondering why… you haven’t been paying attention. From controversial metrics in our S1 to our material weakness to two quarters of missing our own expectations and a stock price that’s hovering around one quarter of our listing price, the events of the last year and a half speak for themselves. As CEO, I am accountable.

You are doing amazing things at Groupon, and you deserve the outside world to give you a second chance. I’m getting in the way of that. A fresh CEO earns you that chance. The board is aligned behind the strategy we’ve shared over the last few months, and I’ve never seen you working together more effectively as a global company – it’s time to give Groupon a relief valve from the public noise.

For those who are concerned about me, please don’t be – I love Groupon, and I’m terribly proud of what we’ve created. I’m OK with having failed at this part of the journey. If Groupon was Battletoads, it would be like I made it all the way to the Terra Tubes without dying on my first ever play through. I am so lucky to have had the opportunity to take the company this far with all of you. I’ll now take some time to decompress (FYI I’m looking for a good fat camp to lose my Groupon 40, if anyone has a suggestion), and then maybe I’ll figure out how to channel this experience into something productive.

If there’s one piece of wisdom that this simple pilgrim would like to impart upon you: have the courage to start with the customer. My biggest regrets are the moments that I let a lack of data override my intuition on what’s best for our customers. This leadership change gives you some breathing room to break bad habits and deliver sustainable customer happiness – don’t waste the opportunity!

I will miss you terribly.

Love,
Andrew

A/R magazine launches native tablet edition for its travel photography magazine

The French tourism photography magazine A/R has released a tablet edition into Apple's Newsstand. The digital magazine appears to be using a hybrid approach to its app – that is, reproducing its magazine ads as seen in print, and reformatting the editorial pages for the tablet display.

AR Mag (French iTunes link), as the app is named inside the App Store, is pricing individual issues at 4,49 € and offering an annual subscription for 21,99 € (the magazine is a bi-monthly).

The app has launched with a special winter issue inside that also includes a free preview of the tablet edition. As my French is not the best (to say the least) I opted not to pay for the issue but to look at the preview.

That should be enough, though, to show readers that this is a nicely designed tablet magazine that offers logical navigation, well-sized font choices, some embedded audio, and other native tablet magazine features. At the prices the publisher is charging for the digital editions, it well should offer these.
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If already subscribe to the print magazine it looks like you are out of luck as there is no way for print subscriber to log into their accounts in order to access the digital edition for free. I have always been torn about this approach, though that for a lot of small to medium sized publishers offering account verification can be yet another expense. It is also true that a lot of publishers would like to drive their readers to digital editions because of the cost savings inherent in producing digital editions over time. Yet another reason is to put revenue on those new apps and make the platform prove itself - especially important if the new tablet edition has its own P&L.

Michel Fonovich is the publisher of A/R and inside the app the digital production is created to Agence Noeud Pap, a digital publishing agency headquartered in Asnières-sur-Seine, a suburb of Paris.

Once again, with the release of this new magazine app, I'd like to take the opportunity to urge both Apple and Google to give consideration to the issue of translation services for their mobile operating systems. Google has made this priority to a certain extent by incorporating translation into their Chrome browser, and by launching translation apps, but built-in translation in digital magazines would be an important innovation (and, I suppose, an area where either Microsoft of Amazon could differentiate itself, as well).



Here is a short walk-through AR Mag's (this time a US App Store link) preview issue found inside this new Newsstand app:

'68 Blocks': The Boston Globe's series inside Dorchester’s Bowdoin-Geneva neighborhood published as an eBook

The Boston Globe has published an eBook version of its series 68 Blocks which looked at life in Dorchester’s troubled Bowdoin-Geneva neighborhood. The eBook also includes includes digital content created and submitted by Bowdoin-Geneva residents.

68 Blocks is priced at $2.99 and can be found inside the Apple iBookstore, Amazon.com, and through Barnes & Noble. Globe subscribers can also download the eBook for free on BostonGlobe.com.

"This e-book gives us the opportunity to share innovative and powerful content with an even broader audience," Jennifer Peter, the Globe'sDeputy Managing Editor of Local News said. "Readers can delve into the in-depth series in a new way, with all of its diverse multimedia elements at their fingertips in one digital format."

The Globe's series was the result of the efforts of a five-person team of reporters who immersed themselves in the Bowdoin-Geneva area in the summer of 2012. The stories generated ran in a five-part series that appeared in December on the Globe's website called 68 Blocks: Life, Death, Hope.
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"I think when we first got to Bowdoin-Geneva - people are used to the media coming in and reporting a violent crime and then leaving. So it was really hard for people to kind of get used to the concept that we were going to be there to stay, and once they realized - we had our families that we followed through the year - once they realized that we were really there to tell not just the story of violence but the story of what it means to live there amid the cloud of violence, they started opening up to us," Meghan E. Irons told New England Cable News.

The reporters on the series were Meghan E. Irons, Akilah Johnson, Maria Cramer, Jenna Russell, and Andrew Ryan. Photographers credited in the eBook are Yoon S. Byun, Bill Greene and Suzanne Kreiter. Steven Wilmsen was the series editor.

The eBook found in the Apple iBookstore was produced using Apple's own digital publishing software iBooks Author. The eBook was built for portrait-only reading which allows for fixed layouts and the use of sidebars. The iBooks version contains photo galleries which, when tapped, can then be seen in landscape (as seen above-left).

The Amazon.com version is a Kindle Edition.

The Boston Globe has more than a dozen eBook titles in the Apple iBookstore, including its biography of Massachusetts Senator, former Presidential candidate, and current Secretary of State, John F. Kerry. The new ebook, however, is the only one that sports the iBooks Author logo Apple uses to show readers which books use the interactive digital publishing platform.

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Morning Brief: Leaked new iPhone pictures? Not likely, probably drunk Photoshop touch-up; Le Soir iPad app update adds supplements to replica edition offerings

CNET last night reviewed a new app for the iPhone called Uchek that purports to help diagnose up to 25 diseases. The users, it appears, is to urinate into a cup, then put a color-coded urinalysis strip into the cup, then take a picture of the results. The app then tells you that you are about to die, or something like that.

But while readers were making obvious jokes about peeing and iPhones, with Android users especially vicious, what I noticed was the picture that accompanied the story. So I went straight to the Uchek website to confirm what I was seeing.

Where exactly did they get that iPhone, the one with the volume buttons on the wrong side of the phone? Or is that a leaked copy of the iPhone 6, the one with displays on both sides of the phone? More likely, this is the work of a drunk Photoshop artist. Better have the artist pee into a cup and check the alcohol level.
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The Belgian daily newspaper Le Soir today issued an update to its iPad edition. Published by Rossel, the French language newspaper's app draws in feeds from the paper's website, while at the same time houses PDF versions of the daily newspaper. The live news sections are free to access, but the replica newspapers will cost $1.99 (1,79 €) a piece to access, or $18.99 (16,99 €) a month for a subscription.

The update now brings in the papers's supplements, as well. The sections mentioned are Mad, Victoire, TV News, Immo (Real Estate), Références.

One of the biggest reasons many newspaper readers have chosen to continue to receive their newspapers in print form is for the advertising inserts and special sections that are often left out of the digital editions. This is the reasons our household continues to receive the Sunday edition of the Chicago Tribune, for instance. While I never touch the Sunday paper, it eventually gets torn apart with coupons cut out and sections thrown about until recycled. Some sections are reserved in the summer in order to start the charcoal barbecue, however.

The digital cooking magazine Panna has updated its app, adding iPhone support to make the app universal. The app is built around video content and users have given the app rave reviews. The app does what so many cooking magazine apps do not, which is to understand that tablet owners are looking for more interactive content inside their tablet magazines than what most food magazines are giving them.

But, of course, Panna lacks a recognizable brand name at this point, or the support of a printed magazine to drive readers to download the app. So while the user reviews have been very positive, their numbers have been more limited.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Downsizing of newspaper specs picks up steam, trend could make sense in magazines, as tab editions are built

Three U.K. newspapers owned by the Edinburgh regional newspaper publisher Johnston Press are about to forego their broadsheet format for new tabloid sized versions. The Berwick Advertiser*, The Berwickshire News and The Southern Reporter will become tabloids starting on March 21.

"There is a refreshed, modern design to go with the new compact format," the publisher announced this weekend. "But your favourite local newspaper will still contain all the things which make it essential reading. Most importantly, we will continue to provide the very best coverage of news, sport, entertainment and community events relevant to the area where you live."

Why the publisher would choose to do this was left to the imagination, as the news story on the move was mostly about why buying The Berwickshire was such a good deal.

UK papers aren't the only ones downsizing. The Cincinnati Enquirer, a Gannett paper, will be debuting its own smaller sized paper starting March 11.

"This change is historic. It has been years in the making, and our readers and advertisers have been along every step of the way," said Margaret Buchanan, publisher of The Enquirer. "This new format requires a complete transformation in printing technology. We all know new technology sometimes brings unexpected challenges. We’ll have teams ready to respond if we encounter issues, because meeting your needs is at the core of what we do."

Reading the column by Buchanan one can only find two reasons why moving to a compact size would be a good deal for readers - and they are both related: the smaller format is "more efficient to produce," and it fulfills reader requests that the paper "continue to publish a print newspaper."
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Moving from broadsheet to tabloid has usually been seen as a cost saving measure, though not always. While I was at Hearst in Los Angeles, management explored producing a tabloid version of the Herald Examiner. The paper, one east coast executive is rumored to have believed, would be easier to read on the subway. The fact that Los Angeles did not have a subway may be ultimately led the company to abandon the project (the paper was closed a few years later).

But there may be another good reason to consider a small publication: it is easier to convert to a tablet edition. Tabloids look more like themselves on a tablet – think of The Daily, it resembled many of Murdoch's tabloid papers, even in a natively designed tablet edition.

So if there are advantages for newspaper publishers, aren't there the same advantages for magazine publishers? I think this would most certainly be true of European magazines that use a larger format than most U.S. publishers. In fact, some publishers have reduced their sizes down to A4 recently to save production costs, but a further reduction in size, to something closer to the tablet's specs, could be in the offing in the future.

For publishers who have chosen to launch replica editions, this would have obvious advantages, as far too many replicas have fonts reduced down in size to an unreadable level. But, to be honest, I don't believe the replica edition is here to stay – after all, once a print edition is eliminated there is nothing to be a replica of.

* Note: if you are an American there would be a temptation to pronounce the "W" in the name of this newspaper and its town, Berwick-upon-Tweed, located barely south of the Scottish line. But, as I was told many years ago, in no uncertain terms, the word is pronounced Bear-ick)

Reed Business Information Australia launches a new tablet edition, SMSF Essentials, uses the Oomph platform

There was once a time when Red Elsevier's B2B divisions, Reed Business Information, were the giants in trade media world – especially in the U.S. after the acquisitions of the Cahners and Chilton groups. But those days are now fading in memory, at least here in the U.S.

But in Australia, Reed Business Information is still a powerhouse, though just last month came word that Reed would be selling off RBI Australia to a private equity firm Catalyst Investment Managers. Catalyst bought the B2B division for less than three times earnings, according to reports, reflecting both Reed's desire to dump its print properties, and the less than rosy future many feel B2B magazines will face.

Today, however, a new tablet edition for SMSF Essentials, which is not even a publication Reed lists among its titles. I assume it is tied to Money Management magazine, but the Reed websites are so slow that I simply can not get them to load. Whether this is the result of the divestiture is unknown.

But the tablet edition released today is excellent, which won't come as a surprise once you see that the app was developed by Oomph. Oomph is the technology division of Mogeneration, and TNM has looked at quite a number of their apps in the past, most recently in regards to the Coles app from ACP Custom Media.

Like most B2B titles, the publisher here has chosen to launch the app as free, and without any pre-qualification process built in. The download for the February issue found inside the library was lightning fast, both because the issue was only 30MB in size, but because of good server speed.

At 30 MB one might expect a replica edition, but the tablet edition is native, though simple in design. The layouts often use the same basic design, but it works very well – especially for a B2B publication.

This is the fourth tablet edition released into the Newsstand by Reed Business in Australia, and they all appear to be coming from the same group of financial magazines - Financial Planning, Money Management and Super Review being the others. Usually I catch new B2B magazine apps as they are released, it appears I am bit tardy when it comes to these app launches.



Here is a very brief walk-through of the new SMSF Essentials app:

New Australian digital magazine offers app naming lesson

One of the often overlooked problems for magazine publishers with the Apple App Store is naming their apps. A slip of the finger, a bad decision, and their app is stuck with the wrong name, or worse.

This is especially a problem when a publisher decides to use a third party vendor to create a replica edition. Publishers, eager to see their magazine titles inside the App Store let a vendor create an app for them. Suddenly they see their magazine in the Newsstand, but being sold under the name of the vendor. One publisher told me they received a call from another publisher who was a friend who asked them when they had sold their magazine, and why didn't they call them first.

But even those that are not entirely giving away their titles to third parties occasionally slip up.

About two weeks ago I wrote about a new digital magazine from Australia. Birth Goddess Mag. I pointed out that there was something odd about the name of the app:

"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."

So what is the name of this digital magazine: Birth Goddess, as it appears in the App Store, or Empowering Birth Magazine, as it appears in the library and on the "cover" of the actual digital magazine.

Today the app received an update with this description of the change: "Corrected name of the application to Empowering Birth Magazine."

Well, that clears it up, right? No. Because of Apple's developer rules, the name of the app remains "Birth Goddess mag", only the other information in the app description has changed. The only way to really fix this is to dump the old app and launch a new one, but readers who have already downloaded the app certainly won't appreciate that.

It is hard to offer advice for publishers when they, themselves, have launched the app incorrectly. But some general rules should probably be followed: never use the name of your magazine or newspaper as the actual name for the app. The New York Times, for instance, named its iPhone app NYTimes. Another idea is to add something to the end of the name, like "XYZ Magazine HD" – the "HD" really means nothing, but it makes the name unique.

And finally, never, ever, ever, let a third party name your app. If a replica maker creates your app and slaps the exact name of the magazine on it, you are pretty much screwed. An example of this is the new app for Edible Marin & Wine Country. The new app is called Edible Marin & Wine Country for iPad and is found inside the Newsstand. But, unfortunately, another app for the same magazine title is also in the store, and its name exactly matches the name of the magazine, Edible Marin & Wine Country, but rather than that app appearing under the name of the publisher, the app appears under the name of the vendor.

Important tablet edition updates from Rogers Publishing; Amazon releases one bad update (Kindle) and one very useful one (Cloud Player)

Rogers Publishing, one of Canada's largest magazine publishers, today issued updates to some of its Newsstand apps that it said were "critical". "This is a critical update for users whose store is constantly refreshing. The new version will restore any missing covers and repair the internal database," the app update says on such apps as Maclean's and B2B titles Marketing Magazine and Canadian Grocer.

"Please note: for users experiencing the flashing store, to repair the affected files your library will be deleted," the app description continues.

"We sincerely apologize for the inconvenience. You will be able to download all previous purchases by selecting “Settings” and “Restore Purchases” for iTunes customers and “Reset Subscription” for print subscribers. For users who are not currently experiencing the store issues – your library will not be affected."

Amazon.com issued a new update to its iOS Kindle app, but another is right around the corner if the app description is to be believed.

"Note: There is a known issue with this update. If you are an existing Kindle for iOS user, we recommend you do not install this update at this time."

I rather mindlessly updated the app through iTunes which would lead to the updated app replacing the working app on my iOS devices. To avoid this happening I simply deleted the app from the iTunes library, this will cause the older Kindle app to remain and for it to migrate back to iTunes.

Amazon also issued an important – and working – update to its iPhone Cloud Player app. The app is now universal, adding an iPad version to the app.

Amazon recently started a program where buyers of CDs get an MP3 download of the music free of charge. Just as importantly, the program is retroactive for a couple of years, meaning that any CDs you've purchased in the recent past would entitle you to MP3s being added to your Cloud Player. Those who didn't see the value of Cloud Player, like me, suddenly found that they had access to hundreds of music tracks through the app.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

New digital magazine start-ups target food markets

It started snowing about three hours ago, and there is already six inches of the stuff on the ground. If I don't leave my desk and do something about this I don't think I'll able to leave my office until Memorial Day (or whenever).

But sitting on my iPad are two apps I wanted to mention before heading out into the blizzard. Both of them are digital-only start-ups that are targeting the natural food markets. This is something that is near and dear to my heart because for short while I actually was the publisher of a natural food magazine. It should have been a gold mine, but the publishing company made a mess of things by not supporting the title by allowing the hiring of even one sales person to sell space. Not surprisingly the title was shuttered a couple years after I left after only appearing in print only sporadically.

Raw Food Magazine's website says it is "the premier digital magazine for Raw Living and the Raw Food Diet." Since I am quite sure it is the only digital magazine for Raw Living and the Raw Food Diet inside the Newsstand I think they are pretty safe in their claim.

I haven't bought an issue inside the app, though because the only two options are to buy the issue for $5.99, or buy a 1-year subscription for $29.99. That is pretty pricey for a start-up and I'm sure quite a few potential readers will be scared away because of it.

The screenshots are not too promising, as well. For some reason the designer has put page folios in the layouts, and have made them left-for-even, right-for-odd just like a print magazine. That this is insane design for a digital magazine should be self-apparent.

The second magazine is Switch On Organic News Magazine and the digital magazine was launched to support the preexisting website. Launching a magazine was an interesting choice for this web property as the website only shows one new story since February 12.

The price for this new digital title is $1.99 per issue or $19.99 for a year's subscription.

I'd like to be optimistic about these two new digital magazines – after all, the natural food market continues to grow (including the raw food movement) – but both these new digital magazines are using the MagCast platform and my own take on it is that these are simply PDFs displayed on a tablet, not really digital magazines as we are coming to see them.

But they are start-ups, nonetheless, and will most likely not be counted as new magazine launches by the folks at Folio: or elsewhere. But they most definitely are new magazines, and if a little less pricey might stand a chance at success.

5 things to know when self-publishing apps and eBooks

I'd like to encourage more guest posts on TNM, if only to mix things up a bit. Last week TNM featured a great post from Pedro Monteiro on "mix media" – you can find that one here. Today's guest post comes from Damir Fonovich, of children's eBook and app publisher Luca Lashes.

It has been a long year for Luca Lashes LLC. We have completed the writing and editing of 9 books in our children’s book series. Having decided to forego contacting any agents or publishers, we self-published our eBooks and apps instead, trying to focus on the coming shift to digital content. From one December to another, we have completed beta testing and have seven of the nine books as both apps and eBooks for sale across multiple platforms. Here are some things we learned while developing this series:

1. Remain in Control

If at all possible, remain in control of your work. Copyright everything you can. Establish that you own the content you are putting out into the world. One of the things we learned along the way is that if a publisher prints your book, they are in control of where your book is sold, how it is marketed and they own the copyright status of the book as soon as it is printed. The beauty of self-publishing and keeping your content digital is the true ownership of your content, even when you use a company like Smashwords to distribute your work.
2. Formatting your eBooks
There are three major eBook distribution channels in the United States: Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Apple. In terms of making your eBooks more available to everyone, Barnes & Noble and Apple support the “ePub” format, which is the universal format for eBooks around the world. Amazon supports any in-house format, which can be a KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing) or Mobi file. You can also convert a PDF document into an eBook through the Amazon Kindle program. If you were looking for more international distribution, it would be wise to look into Kobo, which is beating other companies to the punch in opening eBook marketplaces in foreign countries. Those looking for a great one-stop shop for formatting on multiple platforms, look to Atavist.com.
3. Prepping your Apps
If you are developing apps, or working with a developer to make apps, there are some important things to consider. Do you want an iOS app, an Android App or both? The Barnes & Noble Nook line takes the longest to approve your apps, as they are heavily curated and do not have as large of an app store. The Apple App Store also has a long approval process where it seems that the functionality of your app is more severely tested. The Google Play App Store, which is the world’s largest app store at the moment, is very quick to approve along with the Amazon App Store.
4. Pricing your Apps and eBooks
This is the trickiest thing to figure out. eBooks typically cost more than apps, despite the fact that apps are more expensive to produce. The problem is that the market has responded so favorably to free apps that are supported by advertising, consumers now expect to pay next to nothing for apps. Pricing for eBooks is dictated by the publisher. Self-published eBook authors are lucky in this regard because they can price an eBook for maximum profitability and not incur the wrath of the almighty consumer.
 photo LucaLashes-doctor-iPad-sm_zps1d41b810.jpg5. What is Metadata?
Metadata is the word used to describe the information contained within the app or eBook. In the case of the app, this includes the title, the app code itself, the producer name, the developer name, the app description, and more. This is an app producer’s chance to make their app memorable in the eyes of the end user. In the case of the eBook, metadata also contains the author’s name and any other information about your product. Be sure to pay special attention to editing your metadata appropriately. So many people, including major publishers, do not take the time to edit metadata which can hurt the SEO of your app or eBook. It’s important to know how the search algorithm, keyword analysis and categorization work in each marketplace as you edit your metadata.
There is much more that we have learned while creating a children’s series, but learning these points in particular is so important for any aspiring eBook writer or app producer.

We made the choice to self publish eBooks and produce apps in order to maintain some semblance of control of our intellectual property and—because of our facility for languages—to find a niche for our creative content in a global marketplace. Making money and recouping any initial investment is the next logical step. You can expect (barring any sales phenomenon) to see some real sales traction in your eBooks and apps after about one year.

Together, Nicole and Damir Fonovich have 17 years of experience in education, in both teaching and administration. They are the co-creators of Luca Lashes, a line of multilingual eBooks and apps designed to help kids (0-4) turn "fear of firsts" into fun. They live in the Chicago area with their two-year-old son, Lucas. Learn more at www.lucalashes.com.

Wanna buy a metro newspaper? Now's the time to do

It is simple economics, supply and demand, buy low, sell high – all those things you learned from watching Trading Places late at night. Last week The Boston Globe was put on the market by The New York Times Co. Now, according to CNBC, the Tribune Company has hired bankers at JPMorgan Chase and Evercore Partnersto sell off their newspaper properties.

In other words, The Boston Globe, the Chicago Tribune and the Los Angeles Times are on the market*... at the same time. Or as William would say "they're out there panicking right now, I can feel it."



* Other newspapers owned by the Tribune Company include the Baltimore Sun, the Hartford Courant, the Orlando Sentinel, quite a number of local Southern California papers like the Pasadena Sun and Glendale News-Press, and others.

Why the Washington Post needs a paywall, of sorts

The Washington Post's website is one of the few where I maintain an "account". The paper has no paywall, but being registered at the site does allow one to comment on stories. What else it does I have no idea.

In fact, the WaPo is, like The Guardian, one of the major newspapers of the English world that has resisted the call to build a paywall. But no one is pure, it seems: The Guardian charges for its tablet edition, even though it is just taking content from the free website, and the WaPo's own tablet has said that the app's content is free "for a limited time" for as long as I can remember.

Back in early December the WSJ broke a story that said that the Post “is likely to” erect a paywall in 2013. That story was followed almost two weeks later with a story on the Post's own site saying that the company was, indeed, considering erecting a metered paywall, that "the decision is not final."

“We are obviously looking at paywalls of every type,” he said. “But the reason we haven’t adopted one yet is that we haven’t found one that actually adds to profits immediately. But we’re going to continue to study every model of paywall . . . as well as thinking about keeping it free," the Post's chief executive, Donald Graham, said at the media investors conference that started all the talk in the first place.

But the Post does need a paywall for its website... or at least a wall, a big one.

The reason is that the Post's website is quickly becoming a gathering spot for the nation's disenchanted, its ill civil (not an actual word, but I like it), its trolls. Read any story about just about anything, especially opinion and political stories, and one can not believe what one reads. Are Americans this hateful, this spiteful, this partisan, this ignorant? Maybe, but the website of the WaPo is ground zero for all of this.

The NYT has two things going for it in its fight against trolls, and hateful commenting: its paywall and its comment moderators. Comments do not appear on the site immediately, and often comments are deleted because of their content. The downside is that responding to a previously posted comment is difficult, the delay makes having a conversation, even a good one, hard. The delay, though, tends to make those seeking instant gratification go away. It's hard to have an argument when the comments being written appear hours apart – it would be like arguing with an alien millions of miles away.

That doesn't keep the NYT troll-free, and the NYT likes it like that – they need the traffic just like everyone else – but they don't want to scare away their paying readers either. It's a fine line and one that is hard to maintain.

The Post, though, doesn't seem to be trying, and as a result is seeing its website become a center for abusive commenting. I'm quite sure the Post, too, likes the traffic, but the paying customers – print for now, digital in the future – will think twice before handing their money over.

Future plc names the lead developer of its digital publishing platform, Paul Hudson, to the new role of Director, FutureFolio

Future plc today announced the appointment of Paul Hudson to the new role of Director, FutureFolio. FutureFolio is the publisher's own proprietary app creation software.

Hudson has been the lead developer of FutureFolio since its inception and in his new role will oversee its deployment in Future’s software licensing and partnership publishing businesses as well as in the roll-out of Future’s own tablet products, the company said.

As part of the announcement, Future said that readers had sold 3 million digital magazines on the iPad and other tablets, and had generated more than $11m in revenues through Apple’s Newsstand alone.

"FutureFolio has played a key part in making Future a leader in the international tablet market, enabling us to produce innovative and highly interactive titles," Future’s CEO, Mark Wood, said. "Paul has always been the creative force behind FutureFolio, and will now drive forward all our Folio-related businesses, which are an increasingly important part of the company’s growth strategy."
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FutureFolio's abilities to create native tablet magazines can be seen best in two recent launches by the publisher: Photography Week was launched in November (see original TNM post here), and Football Week, launched earlier this month, in which Future is partnering with the Press Association (see original TNM post here).

"FutureFolio is an awesome tool that lets us develop our own brands while also reducing risks for other publishers who want to get into the fast-moving tablet marketplace. This is a fantastic industry to be in, and we want readers and other publishers to feel just as excited as we do," Hudson said in the company's announcement.

Santa Clara Review & WLT: University art and literary magazines go digital with natively designed tablet editions

For a number of years now I have been invited to speak at the local high school to students that produce the annual literary review. That class is usually made up of a couple very dedicated students who take the class at least twice, and others who take the class because taking an actual drawing class is completely out of the question. The publication that the students produce is pretty darned good and has won some awards in state competitions – no thanks to me, really. The fact is that the class and its teacher have never taken my main advice: produce a digital product in addition to the printed one.

The advantages of producing a digital product is that a website would drive demand for the printed product through teasing of the contents, and it would serve as a place where submissions that didn't quite make the printed product could be published. (Think of the arguments that could be avoided between editors when one says "OK, let's put in on the website, but not the print publication.")

It's been a year or two since I've been invited back because, frankly, I think the teachers are tired of me telling them that they are doing their students a major disservice by training them for jobs that simply won't exist when they leave school, while failing to even admit that publishing has evolved since they graduated college.

When the iPad was first launched in April of 2010 I waited to see if we'd start seeing tablet publications from students appear and it was amazing to see one show up that very first week as the students at Abilene Christian University launched at a tablet edition for The Optimist. Sadly, that has not been updated since June 2011.
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But two new apps have been released this week from university settings, and they show that students and professors involved in creating digital publications are much more interested in building native digital magazines than they are simply reproducing the print one.

Santa Clara Review is a student-edited literary magazine which publishes poetry, fiction and non-fiction, and art. Stephen Layton is the editor, and Kirk Glaser is the faculty advisor.

The app and the publications inside is free of charge, though one can subscribe to the Santa Clara Review as the app supports the Apple Newsstand. (On the website one can also download a eReader version of the publication, as well.)

The app edition can be read in both portrait and landscape and is thoroughly native and very well done. One feature I found interesting is that when one taps on the cover inside the library to download the issue one is taken not to the "cover" but to a page that shows thumbnails of the digital pages. One than can then start reading at any point in the issue, or one can tap ont he first image, the cover, and navigate from there.

The hope is certainly that in the future the publication team will continue with their digital version long after those that launched this app have graduated.


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While Santa Clara Review has the feeling of a digital magazine designed from scratch for the iPad, WLT Magazine from University of Oklahoma Printing Services feels a bit more like a print magazine converted to the tablet platform. But this is no replica edition.

While the Santa Clara magazine features student submissions, WLT (World Literature Today) is a review of, well, world literature (that was pretty obvious, wasn't it?). But like the previous digital magazine, it is designed for the iPad natively, but has a bit of a different mission.

One assumes that WLT has many subscribers from outside the university and so readers are familiar with the look and feel of the print magazine. The digital edition, therefore, has the mission of both making existing readers feel comfortable, while attracting new digital readers. (The magazine was founded as Books Abroad in 1927 by Roy Temple House, then the chair of the Department of Modern Languages at the university.)

I found the font choices inside the digital edition a bit small and print-like for my taste (and eyes) but otherwise the digital edition of WTL is a beautiful read.

WLT is a bi-monthly, whereas the Santa Clara Review is produced in the fall and spring. But WLT is produced by the staff, with the students serving as interns. Robert Con Davis-Undiano is the executive director & Neustadt Professor, Daniel Simon is assistant director and the editor-in-chief, while Madeline Alford is the president of the student advisory board.

The app description says that a subscription to the digital edition costs $14.99 per year. But the app has launched with the issue inside the library free of charge – this may have been a mistake. WLT currently has a digital edition available through Zinio also priced at $15 so one assumes that the app will soon be charging for the iPad edition, as well. (Sometimes these things happen because I download the app as soon as it appears in the App Store.)

Morning Brief: MWC is decidedly short on big news so far; new, low price point tablets launched by PC makers; thoughts on the home office, from my home office

While mobile tech companies are trying to give the impression that big things are happening at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, this year's event seems to be short on real news.

Probably the biggest introduction so far has been H.P.'s Slate 7 which got everyone's attention because of it low price point – $170. But anyone excited by the initial news has tempered their enthusiasm once the specs came in and got their hands on it. It's a cheap tablet that runs Android, OK, let's more on.

Lenovo, too, has introduced a cheap Android tablet – three, in fact. This shouldn't be surprising as many of the PC manufacturers are simply assemblers and with cheap parts available, why not make you own cheap tablet. That pretty much is leaving the field open to Samsung to launch more interesting products, such as its even Galaxy Note 8.0 which is essentially a smartphone that designed for the person who has grown to be 20-feet tall.

Even the MWC's own app for the show is a bit drowsy. GSMA Official is the official app for Mobile World Live and Mobile World Congress and it was built by the Florida company GenieMobile. The app comes in iOS (universal), Android and Windows versions. It is interesting to note that the app has zero reviews inside the Apple App Store, but a few reviews inside the other stores – the situation is usually reversed. The biggest complaint about the app, other than crash reports, it that it looks like an iPhone app.

The real surprise the the publications stand inside the app: a handful of magazines provided PDFs of their publications for the app – how 20th century of them.



Earlier today the WSJ posted a story that claims that Samsung is such a big player in the Android world that Google is worrying about the South Korean tech giant. It's not much of a story, however, as the reporter, Amir Efrati fails to quote anyone from either company, and finally has to track down a consultant who says that there "is a threat from Samsung to Google that is real." Thanks for that.

These kinds of stories are becoming more common. It is as if a reporter gets an idea for a story, makes a couple of calls, gets no actual confirmation for their idea, but proceeds anyways. Eventually these stories are scrapped by tech websites and the story then sounds more factual – after all, everyone is reporting it, too.



Yahoo's CEO Marissa Mayer has generated a lot of online discussion for her mandate that Yahoo home office employees return to the office to work. I've been surprised by the level of support Mayer's move has received from some who believe that it is in the best interest of the company to have its employees work together in an office environment in order to foster better cooperation and innovation.

But I find this all a very bad idea – not because I don't like the idea of Yahoo's employee's working in corporation offices, but because it fails to take into account the very reason companies allow home officing in the first place.

Remote officing is generally allowed to help employees become more productive, or to entice employees to join the company even though they do not live in the area of the office(s) of that company, or as a temporary solution such as after the birth of a child or other personal situation.

The point is the retention of very valuable employees. When one no longer values their employees, or has no idea who is vital to their company, it is easier to make broad decisions such as this one.

At one company I worked for the publisher forced all their employees to home office under the assumption that this would cut costs. Then, a few years later, ordered all the employees back into an office. Both moves were disruptive and caused unnecessary turmoil. It also proved terribly costly and a waste of time.

The reason a company, whether a publisher or tech company, has an office in the first place is to centralize functions, save resources, build a creative, collaborative environment, etc. These are good reasons and may be absolutely necessary in certain situations (IT, is a good example).

But rather than draw with broad stokes, a company would be better off continuing to accommodate their employees while recruiting future employees for the office. In this way the transition is gradual and turnover can be minimal. But by putting one's foot down and making an inflexible rule about officing the company is setting up for a fall. The first time the company wants to recruit a potential employee that it considers vital to the success of the company, and that employee is miles from the office, and they allow the employee to home office (even for a day or two a week) they will create resentment with those that lost their home office and began coming back into the office.

Being inflexible is not a good sign no matter whether you force employees into an office, or force them out of the office and into their homes. It is disrespectful, and ultimately counterproductive. Watch, a few years from now there will be a small item on one of the tech sites that says that Yahoo has modified its office rule, and in certain cases it will allow home officing.

Monday, February 25, 2013

The New York Times updates its iOS apps, will rename the International Herald Tribune, won't sell Globe to TNM

The New York Times today issued updates to its iPhone and iPad apps, adding new features. The company also announced that it would rename The International Herald Tribune.

NYTimes for iPad has new search capabilities, a much hoped for addition to the tablet edition which is build off the newspaper's website rather than the print edition. The search function will find articles in the tablet edition, as well as NYTimes.com. A tap of an article's headline will also pull up search in order to find relevant articles, or to save or share them.

Meanwhile, NYTimes, the iPhone app, has a new "swipe to dismiss Breaking News" function, and fixes bugs.

The NYT also announced today that it would be renaming its international newspaper published in Paris. The 125-year-old The International Herald Tribune (IHT) will become The International New York Times. The move appears to be an effort to focus in on its main brand, the NYT.

“The digital revolution has turned The New York Times from being a great American newspaper to becoming one of the world’s best-known news providers. We want to exploit that opportunity,” Mark Thompson, president and chief executive of The New York Times Company, said in a statement.

The announcement by the NYT did not say whether this move would effect staffers at the IHT.

As the NYT's story relates the paper was formerly known as the The New York Herald, then the paper became The New York Herald Tribune in 1959. The paper finally became the IHT in 1967 when both the NYT and The Washington Post Company bailed out the paper (the WaPo was bought out of its investment in 2003).

Content within the IHT is, for the most part, indistinguishable from that of the NYT since so much of the news comes from the Times. The IHT is, however, a well-edited international newspaper that allows readers on both sides of the pond to focus in on international news. It is also often a welcome sight for travelers and ex-pats in Europe, and I am sure the move will be somewhat disappointing to long time readers.

The NYT has been making quite a number of financial moves of late, as word leaked out last week that it would divest itself of The Boston Globe. Quite a number of bidders have been rumored for the property, though talk that TNM would be acquiring the 140-year-old newspaper have proven unfounded.

RollUp Media, founded by former DoubleClick Int'l executive, gains funding, seeks publishing partners

Founded in 2011 by former president of DoubleClick International, Ben Regensburger, RollUp Media has secured €1.5 million in Series A funding from venture capital firms Arts Alliance and PROfounders, and has recently launched What To Expect UK through its partnership with the U.S. publisher Everyday Health.

I spoke last week with media start-up's CEO Ben Regensburger about the company and attempted to get a handle on what they do for publishers, advertisers and writers.

"I think we're very happy the terminology 'media company' because we're about the entire gamut of media. We're not just picking a piece of it. We're not just a sales house. We're not pure tech, either," Regensburger said.

"The idea really is to have a platform that connects publishers, advertisers and writers on something that increasingly is becoming the common glue, which is content," Regensburger said. "We're about content, we're about content driven ad experiences."

"What got me thinking about all this was back in 2010 when I left Google and I was doing some advising for some equity companies, and i was doing a little angel investing myself, I was starting to realize for myself that basically the entire explosion in social (media) was very much driven by a very specific type of content," Regensburger said. "It wasn't the content from the big, traditional publishing companies. It was sort of the more authentic, niche content."

"Then I started to talk to a bunch of those folks that were creating all this authentic content – indy publishers or bloggers, whatever – and when you start looking at their ability to make money off that you quickly realize there is sort of a similar discrepancy as there was in the early days of online."

The problem facing these publishers, Regensburger believes is the disconnect between content and where the advertising is going.

"All this media consumption is happening here, and all the media dollars are going somewhere else," Regensburger said.

One of its early projects to the help the U.S. publisher Everyday Health by launching U.K. and Australian websites for their brand What to Expect When You’re Expecting. RollUp Media has already launched the U.K. version of the site, managing everything from content to monetization. (Regensburger told me that RollUp Media has a dedicated ad sales team.)

Regensburger, who before joining DoubleClick worked at Procter & Gamble and the Prinz Kommunikations GmbH, and was Marketing Director at Hugo Boss AG, said the company is focusing on the Internet for now since their client base is best served with website solutions. Because of this, the emphasis is on mobile website design rather than apps.

"We focus very strongly. from the very beginning, on responsive design," Regensburger said. "As we open up into services and transactional type clients then apps should be something that is part of our mix."

I'm still somewhat confused as to what kind of company RollUp Media really is – it might be fair to call them a digital custom publishing company, or a full service publishing services company. Regensburger said they have become "a one-stop shop", and that is probably a fair description of the media start-up.

As for the new round of funding, RollUp Media will be using the support to build out its content production platform.

"This funding helps us accelerate development of our content production platform, particularly our native advertising solutions. We are in beta on this and excited about how this will change agencies’ ability to curate and distribute content," Regensburger said in the formal announcement.

The Stationery Office launches an iPad app for Hansard, printed transcripts of parliamentary debates

The Stationery Office has launched its first iPad app today into Apple's Newsstand. Hansard (Official Reports) is a simple tablet app that delivers digital copies of the transcripts of parliamentary debates for the House of Commons, House of Lords and the Northern Ireland Assembly.

The Stationery Office (TSO) is the publishing company established in 1996 when the UK privatized Her Majesty's Stationery Office. It is, as you would expect, the official publisher of many government documents including legislation, committee reports, as well as the London, Edinburgh and Belfast Gazettes – and, of course, Hansard.
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Hansard is so named because it was Thomas Curson Hansard that began printing the transcribed debates beginning in 1809. Ibn 1812 Hansard bought the business from the publisher and from 1829 the Hansard name began appearing on the reports. Initially the report of the debates were not literal transcriptions of the debates, but more reports of the debates from various sources. This is true, to a certain degree, even today.

For U.S. readers, one might consider Hansard as sort of like the Congressional Record as MPs are allowed to revise their comments.

The tablet app, as you might expect, simply makes these parliamentary reports available in a simple format. But there are added features here that makes reading the reports a good experience on the iPad. There are icons for pulling up a summary, font size adjustments, sharing of contents through email or social media, and search.

Although the app description does not mention it, there is a price for individual reports and to subscribe to the reports: Northern Ireland Assembly $28.99 for a year's subscription, or $2.99 per report, House of Commons and House of Lords $42.99 for a year's subscription.

Why the app description does not mention the in-app purchase prices is a bit of a mystery, as I would think this is not consistent with Apple's developer rules. Maybe this will be revised, but because of the lack of pricing in the app description I do not know the price of Hansard in pounds – if you like in the UK you'll have to download the app yourself (sorry about that!).

'Sequestration' is the word of the week; a weaken economy could prove disastrous to many publishers

The week is starting with that portion of the news media not still fawning over the Oscars now discussing the possible impact Congressional cuts in spending will have on the nation's economy. The word of the week is 'sequestration': on March 1, spending cuts will most likely take place because the two political parties can not get together to stop them – many in Congress would rather not try.

What will the impact be of these spending cuts? Well, it depends on who you ask. Michael Tanner, a senior fellow at the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank, and necessarily against government spending in general, writes on the CNN website that the impact would be negligible – no surprise there. The White House, on the other hand, is saying the cuts would devastating, with job losses in the military, cuts to education, and the like – again, no surprise.

Both sides, of course, have a point: while the mandated cuts, $85.4 billion for 2013, may seem large, they still represent a small percentage of the budget. Many believe that the cuts to the defense budget mandated in the Budget Control Act are the only way the Congress could cut the department's funding without facing the wrath of the voters and the lobbyists.

Most likely the spending cuts won't be the end of the world, but any spending cuts by the government would have to be offset by economic activity in the private sector – that continues to be soft. What the sequester cuts end up being is the U.S. version of U.K. austerity – and how is that working for them?

The issue for publishers is both the economy, as a whole, and the strength of the advertising market, in particular. Some consumer publishers have been bragging up their early 2013 ad pages. Hearst, in both the U.S. and U.K., have said their titles have gotten off to a very good start this year. The industry as a whole has been limping along since the financial crisis of 2007-8, and many B2B titles have yet to stem the losses that keep piling up year after year. Although the final numbers for 2013 have not yet been released, the ABM BIN numbers through November show ad pages for 2012 down nearly 9 percent. Anything that might suppress ad budgets in 2013 would be looked at as disastrous. 2013 was supposed to be a turnaround year (then again, so was 2012).

The question to be asked is whether the cuts that would occur due to the failure of both parties to approve an alternative to the Budget Control Act mandated spending cuts would be enough to throw the U.S. back into recession? I don't think anyone really knows - it all depends on the strength of the recovery to date and whether what little improvement we've seen will be enough to prevent the economy going into a tailspin. Also, what will be the impact of cuts in 2013, when many of the cuts are not immediate but spread out over ten years?