Saturday, March 9, 2013

Arment updates 'The Magazine' app: stripped down design masks a native app interior

The often lauded, occasionally criticized tablet magazine from developer Marco Arment, The Magazine, has been updated. The app update adds a new "Write Letter to Editor" feature in the actions menu.

This app has gotten a lot of attention because some in the tech community have pointed to it as "the future of magazines." While some magazine pros have told me that they really don't like the very idea of the digital magazine, some claiming that it is not really magazine-like, and feels more like a website or blog.

But my answer has always been the same: just watch, over time the app will add new features and the digital magazine itself will slowly evolve as Arment begins to play with the platform. Each update seems to confirm this.

But all this talk really hides one simple fact: by building a digital magazine using a native app solution, rather than creating a replica of a print magazine, Arment's digital magazine has the same genes as the digital edition of Wired or any other digital magazine that had "all the bells and whistles." If Arment wants to go in another direction he certainly can, by building The Magazine the way he has he has increased his options, even while appearing to trim them back.

The lesson of The Magazine is not that some digital magazines have gone too far with superfluous animation and the like (they have, and many readers have said so), or that readers want a more text heavy, lightly designed digital magazine (read the reviews inside the App Store, they are not universally positive). The lesson is that by building a digital edition using a digital publishing solution that gives you options, rather than a single-option solution based on a PDF or other image file, a publisher gives themselves options.

Friday, March 8, 2013

The Church of Scientology releases a tablet edition for Celebrity (and, of course, John Travolta is on the cover)

My God everyone is launching a tablet edition, even the Church of Scientology – or at least Lon Ferry, whoever he is** (he's listed as the seller inside the App Store.

The app description for Celebrity Magazine is one of the shortest I've ever seen. But what is truly bizarre is that it includes a phone number and email address – talk about inviting "feedback". I wouldn't want to be on the other end of that in-box.

Hey, anybody who knows me knows I have little patience for organized religion, so I was so looking forward to looking at this new tablet edition, so here goes...

Damn, it's good. It really is. It's a little out there – that is, the content scares the shit out of me. But then again, anybody who thinks they know they meaning of life and doesn't answer "pizza!" scares me.

But as a tablet edition, well, it's excellent. Yes, it is a natively designed digital magazine that uses scrolling within stories and swiping to move to the next one. There are in-story buttons that add content, and there is even embedded video.

The tablet edition inside is designed in portrait only, but because all the content is right inside the app the first issue weighs in at 312 MB. Despite it's size it downloaded almost instantly (it's a miracle!).

I don't know if you have the balls to download this one, but it's free, and I assume it can be deleted. But after looking at dozens of misshaped replica editions all week, it is weird to end up with one that contains a picture of L. Ron Hubbard wearing an ascot, and still having to admit that it's a damn good tablet edition.

As you would expect, both the app and its contents are free. The app says it is a universal app but it did not load onto my iPhone 5 and doesn't show up in the list of apps I could install, so I am thinking that the app description is mistaken and a mobile version of the tablet edition is not included with the app.

**A search online finds that the person with the developer account is an 18-year-old from Menlo Park and has "been engaged in Scientology my whole life." Make of that what you will.

Zinio's new library program with partner Recorded Books is moving out of beta phase as the number of library systems signing up quickly begins to grow

There has not been a week that goes by, it seems, that I do not stumble upon a new story in a local newspaper about its local library now offering digital magazines as part of its services. The new development is the result of an effort by digital newsstand company Zinio, along with its partner Recorded Books, to being rolling out digital magazine services to both public and corporate libraries.

The partnership between Zinio and Recorded Books was announced back in the summer of 2011, but it was not until September of last year that the "Zinio for Libraries" program got off the ground.

"We have been considering different ways to work with libraries – both public libraries, school and university libraries, and even company-corporate libraries – for quite a while," Jeanniey Mullen, Global Executive Vice President, Chief Marketing Officer, Zinio, told TNM. "We felt that as the entire world is moving from a print to digital format, and from our side at Zinio we are seeing more magazines like Newsweek and PC Magazine move to an only digital format, that there is a tremendous opportunity to assist corporate and public libraries to provide access to their patrons who are interested in content without the restrictions and limitations that print has."

By restrictions, Mullen is referring to the fact that print magazines, both in a library and corporate setting, tend to get picked apart, with pages torn out by readers.

"I remember this from my days at Ogilvy. I was on the distribution list for The Economist and I would get it two months after it would come out because it had to be rerouted to so many people before it could come to me," Mullen laughed.

"We chose Recorded Books as a partner in the public library space to work with us because they've built really great relationships with libraries over the years and offer a pretty phenomenal mix of digital services – from audio books to language and a number of other services like independent films to libraries already," said Mullen.

While Zinio, which currently has over 5,500 titles, is working with Recorded Books in the public library market, the new program is getting the attention of corporations that maintain their own libraries. "What we've seen, as you've seen, as the public libraries get more excited about this and talk about this locally the corporations are starting to reach out to us directly."

Mullen said the program has been in a beta phase and will remain so until the end of Q1 as the company gathers response to the program.

"We've been doing a lot of data and insight gathering on all front – from the libraries, from the patrons, from the publishers, everybody – on what's working, and what's not working as far as accessibly, cost, readership, engagement levels. Are patrons who are accessing a magazine, an issue of Car and Driver from their local library, then subscribing to a year long subscription. Are they reading some free and paying for others? How is it all working?" Mullen said.

"We think it’ll increase the readership," VP Business Development at Recorded Books told the Arizona Republic. "The subscriber pays for the cost of print (magazine) and its distribution. In the digital world, you don’t have that cost ... the distribution is through digital, and it’s very efficient ... and it supports the advertisers."

"We took one look at this and said This is going to be huge," said Wendy Bartlett of the Cuyahoga County Public Library, according to The Plain Dealer.

"For digital magazines, this is brand new territory for all of us," said Zinio's Mullen, "but the libraries are being extremely challenged with some indecisive book publishers, and in the book publishing space it has been crazy for them – some publishers are not allowing them to distribute e-copies, others are or giving them only a certain limited amount, some make you come into the library, some let you let you download it from home."

One of the first things Zinio is finding is that libraries are making changes to their magazine portfolios, adding titles one might not at first expect.

Morning Brief: News, news and more news, oh and media updates, too

A series of news items read this morning feel somehow strangely related. Maybe it is the idea that certain people, no matter what crimes they commit, will always be allowed to continue on. In western society, some companies are simply too big to be guided in any way by the law, and the consequences are enormous.

General News:

The Guardian: Ex-police officer and ex-prison officer admit selling information to Sun

A former police officer and ex-prison officer have admitted selling information to the Sun about high-profile individuals – the first people to plead guilty in relation to the investigation into alleged illegal payments by journalists to public officials.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) at banking committee hearing to regulators at the Federal Reserve, Treasury Department, and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (via Mother Jones):
The US government takes money laundering very seriously for a good reason. And it puts strong penalties in place… It's possible to shut down a bank... Individuals can be banned from ever participating in financial services again. And people can be sent to prison. in December, HSBC admitted to... laundering $881 million that we know of... They didn't do it just one time... They did it over and over and over again… They were caught doing it, warned not to do it, and kept right on doing it. And evidently made profits doing it. Now, HSBC paid a fine, but no individual went to trial. No individual was banned from banking and there was no hearing to consider shutting down HSBC's actives in the US.... You're the experts on money laundering. I'd like your opinion. What does it take? How many billions of dollars do you have to launder for drug lords and how many sanctions do you have to violate before someone will consider shutting down a financial institution like this?
The Guardian: Record rise in CO2 emissions sounds climate change alarm
The chances of the world holding temperature rises to 2C – the level of global warming considered "safe" by scientists – appear to be fading fast with US scientists reporting the second-greatest annual rise in CO2 emissions in 2012.
Media News:

The New York Times: Chief Executive at Pandora Media to Step Down
The chairman and chief executive of Pandora Media, the company behind the popular Internet radio service, announced on Thursday that he would be leaving the company after nine years, on a day when Pandora reported growth and better-than-expected earnings for its fiscal fourth quarter and full year.
Associated Press: Mexico nabs 21 in newspaper, politician attacks
Twenty-one members of a drug gang linked to the Sinaloa cartel have been detained in connection with as many as 30 killings and the abduction of five non-editorial employees of a newspaper who were later released, Mexican authorities said Thursday.
Media App Updates:
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Der Spiegel released a major update to its iPad news magazine app. The app, simply DER SPIEGEL, remains a stand-alone app, rather than one that supports Newsstand. The update brings with it larger fonts, printing on the iPad through AirPrint, QR Code Scanner, as well as bug fixes.

The digital publishing platform Mag+ has updated its reviewer app this morning. The update for Mag+ Reviewer fixes a series of bugs to MIB rendering.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Los Angeles-based music magazine FILTER comes to the Apple Newsstand in a bizarre replica edition app

When I lived and worked in Los Angeles so many years ago the city was still a wild, growing, crazy place. As hard as it is to believe now, Santa Monica Blvd. through West Hollywood was a dump, and all the action was on Wilshire. The city had two competing daily newspapers, and the music scene was amazing. I bet it still is.

But if wanted to know what was going on in town musically, the only real place to turn was L.A. Weekly, or maybe the reader. FILTER Issue #1 appeared in 2002, long after I left town. FILTER is now up to Issue #51 and today has its very own Newsstand app, for better or worse.

Although FILTER is published by Alan Miller and Alan Sartirana as Filter Creative Group, the app – FILTER - good music – appears in the App Store under the vendor's name MAZ Digital LLC, however.
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The new digital edition makes an excellent comparison to the digital magazine TNM looked at yesterday, DIY Weekly from the UK. While the new weekly tablet magazine is designed specifically for reading on the iPad, with stories utilizing scrolling, the correct iPad specs, and embedded music (it is a music magazine, after all), the replica edition for FILTER gets it all wrong.

One notices right away the fact that that the digital pages don't quite fit the iPad's display, even in landscape – which would be the natural way to read FILTER. Each page is swiped like an eBook, but then the pages are ever so slightly oversized so that a small amount of scrolling is necessary to see the very bottom of each page. The cover, as you can see here, is a complete mess: too small at open, too large when tapped.
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Being a replica, there is no embedded multimedia here, though most replica edition solution providers do allow for it. MAZ is no different, promoting its ability to enhance your digital issues through their publishing solution. But the reason most publishers don't embed multimedia into replicas is simply that if they wanted their digital editions to be interactive the publisher usually would have chosen to use a native digital publishing solution to begin with. The reason to go replica, for most, is cost savings and convenience.

The good news for a magazine like FILTER is that if they want to get more serious about their digital editions changing the specs of their print magazine to reflect what they want on an iPad would be pretty easy. For instance, since the photography already looks good on the iPad, what would be necessary is upsizing the fonts, making sure the pages fit the tablet, and adding their audio content.

Pricing is pretty aggressive on the new app edition: individual issues are only $.99 and an annual subscription is only $4.99. I called to make sure the magazine was not a freebie – remember, I don't live in L.A. – and no, this is a good discount, though it is possible that the digital edition edition is discounted because it actually contains less than the print edition (for instance, inserts like a music CD sampler, etc.).

Retweet: Adweek's "Lessons learned from Laura Lang's (brief) tenure atop Time Inc." (and comments)

The advertising trade journal Adweek has weighed in on the debacle that was apparently Laura Lang's brief time as CEO of Time Inc., the magazine division of Time Warner. Lucia Moses's short piece concludes with the one lesson I could find "that hiring a CEO with zero publishing experience to run the No. 1 U.S. publishing company was a bad idea to start with."

Moses tells of poor morale, and says Lang had few accomplishments (she links to a story about a hiring). You can read the entire piece here.

I would disagree, though, with those who believe that someone from outside publishing is disqualified to run a publishing company today. The biggest reason is simply that the industry is changing so fast that skills brought in from the outside often can be more valuable than simply having run another publishing company, especially if that company is print-centric.

Would it have been better if Time Inc. had brought in a veteran like Tina Brown? Or was the problem for some that the choice didn't come from the editorial side of things?

I didn't think that the hiring of Laura Lang was necessarily a bad thing, but in my own post on the hiring I said that others would be concerned by this. But wasn't bring in someone from the digital ad side what this was all about? If Lang had moved fast to improve the sales side of the business it would have shown that the hiring was in response to those revenue concerns. Lang then could have brought on an editorial director to allay any fears of a lack of content expertise.

Instead Lang hired Paul Caine as chief revenue officer. She also brought in Bain & Co. as consultant. Both moves, when seen together, should have raised red flags. Lang was, after all, seen as an ad person, why hire a revenue officer when that should be her area of expertise?. And why bring on a consultant, isn't that what companies do when they don't replace their chief executive and need a new direction?

But thirteen months is not enough to turn around a ship the size of Time Inc. What Time Warner must have seen is that Lang was not providing instant answers, and since the last CEO, Jack Griffin, lasted a mere six months, it was clear that firing and hiring again was out of the question.

So what is the lesson? I would say that if you are to come in and replace a CEO that had a very short tenure you have to bring stability and a sense of authority. A company needs to be able to say that they have the right person in place, and employees need to feel that the boss has finally arrived. Moses mentions that Lang maintained "a low profile" in the building, though I really don't know what is meant by this as it feels like the sort of criticism insiders would express. Having publishing experience may have helped and made insiders feel better about their new boss. But driving revenue and profits is what placates the corporate executives. Shuffling the deck and bringing in consultants actually delays achieving those goals – and if the clock is ticking, it only shortens the time you will be given to succeed.

More lessons: when your division, no matter big you may think it is, becomes a rounding error within the whole company you know you have problems. In 2012 total revenue at Time Warner was 28.7 billion, publishing accounted for 3.4 billion of that, or 11.8 percent – OK, maybe not a rounding error, but exactly an indispensable part of the business. Margins, too, were not stellar, though not a disaster: 12.2 percent in 2012, versus 15.3 percent in 2011. Time Warner, in other words, would have had concerns.

Another lesson: they say in the M&A field that sometimes the deal you don't complete is the best deal of all – maybe Meredith feels that way. But it is also true that sometimes the job offer you don't accept is the best thing to do, as well.

Publishers, desperate to find solutions, prove easy marks

Caution: this is a rant. Proceed at your own risk.

For maybe a minute or two I got really excited about a story tweeted by about the "partnership" between Microsoft and Stonewash which ultimately led off my own Morning Brief. As I rushed to get the details I wrote a headline that read "Microsoft gets serious about attracting publishers" – or something along those lines. But any promotion that makes you rush to a decision (in this case publishers get a couple of weeks to apply) and for a limited time (one year) is not a major initiative.

So why is it that Apple, Google, Amazon and Microsoft are not rushing to offer publishers free services? After all, wouldn't it be of benefit to them to have their mobile platforms be the standard platform for future digital publishing?

Sure, but the big tech companies know us all too well. We're easy marks. Push overs for the latest gimmick, easy to sell, and in endless supply.

Most publishers I talk to all say they want to be on as many devices as they can possibly port their print publications to. Everyone wants an iPad app, then an Android app. Oops, better be on the Kindle, and what about Windows? I swear, if Donald Trump launched a tablet publishers would be rushing to build for "The Donald".

I spoke to a company yesterday that is offering a service that is supposed to help print readers get more information about products that appear in ads in the magazine – maybe you saw the story in a major ad trade magazine. My big question to the vendor was "who ends up buying this?" though I already knew the answer. The publisher buys the service. Naturally, we're the ones that always say "yes".

Readers do not like Flash flipbooks studies show, but one vendor recently announced that they had hit the 10 million mark and The Next Web was there to mindlessly plug the milestone. Jeez, big deal, if you can't sell a publisher, who can you sell?

Readers. Well, those are hard sells. They are tight with their money and actually think about things before they buy. They read websites, and newspapers, and yes, magazines, before making a buying decision (except when at Walmart). But publishers? Just come on it and tell me what you have to offer.

I get angry, does it show? Why is it that we get treated this way, and why are we such easy marks? Is it fear? Ignorance?

One of the first things I noticed about the magazine business when I migrated over from newspapers was how publishers were less open about things that actually were very much public – like rate cards. In the newspaper business, at least in the old days, when I entered a new market the first thing I did was say hello to my counterpart at the competition, maybe even invite him or her out for a drink. We'd exchange rate cards and audits because we both knew that if we refused that it would be easy enough to get - simply call a rep and pretend to be an advertising prospect.

But in the magazine world most titles make you fill out a form on the website in order to get a media kit – they promise that a rep will call and only then will you receive your media kit. The only people this stops, of course, are prospective advertisers. Do you think I won't go through the motions to get that kit? Damn right I will.

Morning Brief: UK developer offers free Windows 8 free app and support to publishers (for 1 year); B2B publishers Macfadden updates its tablet edition apps

I've written before that if the major mobile platforms wanted to to dominate the future of digital publishing one of them would show it by helping publishers with the two big challenges they face: the cost of app development, and monetization through advertising.

Today Stonewash, a UK developer introduced a program to entice publishers to use its solution to develop for Microsoft's Windows 8. Publishers that sign up get the following features, which the company says are worth over £12,000:

  • Pre-launch consultation and production training
  • Development, testing and deployment of their native Windows 8 application
  • Microsoft's Ads in Apps network enabled at launch
  • 12 months (or 12 issues) of issues free of charge
  • 10,000 GB of transfer
  • No maintenance costs or hidden fees
Unfortunately, there will be other considerations. For one thing, few Windows 8 tablets are currently in the market. For another, the free offer is for one year. By using Stonewash's own pricing calculator one can see that there would be considerable fees to pay after the first year.

But if developing for Windows 8 is something on a publisher's agenda they only have three weeks to accept the offer as applications are only being accepted on the Stonewash website through March 25.

B2B publisher Macfadden last night issued updates for all its tablet editions. This would include Beverage World, Pizza Today and the latest app released, Grocery Headquarters.

The reason listed in the app descriptions for the updates is "Application Update" – Macfadden is using the Mag+ platform to build its tablet editions.

Yesterday TNM reported a blog post about the HuffPost for Android app refresh released by the AOL-owned website. Last night The Huffington Post also issued an update for its iPad application, as well. The update for Huffington Post for iPad fixes some bugs, but also adds bookmarks and now lets the reader adjust font sizes.

HuffPost also has a tablet app for Android, but that app has not been updated since November so one probably can expect an updated version there, as well.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Time Warner issues statement saying it will spin out Time Inc. into an independent, publicly traded company

Below is the statement issued late this afternoon by Time Warner stating it will spin out its magazine division into a separate company. I would be cautious about this unless Meredith follows up with a confirmation that it has ended talks with Time Warner (since confirmed, see below). I've personally been involved with M&A talks that broke down... just before they were completed – though never with so public a statement as this one.

Time Warner Inc. Announces Plan to Separate Time Inc.

NEW YORK--Time Warner Inc. (NYSE:TWX) today announced that its Board of Directors has authorized management to proceed with plans for the complete legal and structural separation of Time Inc. from Time Warner. Following the proposed transaction, Time Inc. would be an independent, publicly traded company. Time Warner aims to complete the proposed transaction by the end of the calendar year.

Time Warner Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Jeff Bewkes said: “After a thorough review of options, we believe that a separation will better position both Time Warner and Time Inc. A complete spin-off of Time Inc. provides strategic clarity for Time Warner Inc., enabling us to focus entirely on our television networks and film and TV production businesses, and improves our growth profile. Time Inc. will also benefit from the flexibility and focus of being a stand-alone public company and will now be able to attract a more natural stockholder base. As we saw with the prior spin-offs of Time Warner Cable and AOL, we expect the separation will create additional value for our stockholders.”

Time Inc. CEO Laura Lang has advised Time Warner that she will stay on through this process and until after a successor has been identified. “Laura indicated to me that we should find a different kind of CEO for this new public company, and I respect her decision,” Bewkes said. “She has been a great partner who has given Time Inc. forward momentum to make this transition possible, and I look forward to working with her to select the right leader to head the company as an independent entity.”

After the proposed separation is completed, Time Inc. will continue its mission as the leading multi-platform publishing and branded content company, reaching nearly half of U.S. adults each month and millions of consumers around the world.

The proposed transaction will be structured as tax-free to Time Warner stockholders. The transaction is contingent on the satisfaction of a number of conditions, including completion of the review process by the Securities and Exchange Commission of required filings under applicable securities regulations and the final approval of transaction terms by Time Warner’s Board of Directors.
Meredith issued their own statement this afternoon stating that "we respect Time Warner's decision and certainly remain open to continuing a dialogue on how our companies might work together on future opportunities."

"Going forward, Meredith will continue to enhance shareholder value through ongoing execution of our successful Total Shareholder Return strategy and building on our company's strong momentum. We are in an excellent financial position given the significant free cash flow our businesses generate and our low debt level. We will continue to focus on initiatives designed to maximize the value of our attractive national and local media and marketing services assets, including strategic acquisitions," Meredith Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Stephen M. Lacy said.

Josh Klenert and Otto Toth talk about the new, refreshed HuffPost for Android mobile app

TNM was contacted by communications intern Zeena Halepota from The Huffington Post on the idea of writing about the new HuffPost for Android app. With the email came a link to the blog post written by Josh Klenert, who leads the Design & User Experience team, and Otto Toth, who leads the Mobile Development team at The Huffington Post. Honestly, I told Halepota, I couldn't do a better job of explaining the new Android app than they did so suggested simply reposting the piece. She agreed, and here it is:

When we first gathered the team to start discussing an app refresh for Android we started with you, the reader. We pored through the comments on our site, the feedback you've submitted directly, and the suggestions you've posted in the Google Play store. Our takeaway? While you use the app frequently for the latest in news, politics, entertainment, and technology, it could be more stable, more media-friendly and above all: faster.
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Today we're proud to release our updated version of HuffPost for Android. The refreshed app was created with these five core elements:

Faster: A lot has changed since our first Android app. Overall, we wanted to take advantages of the latest Android software and hardware to build a smooth, fast, and simple user experience.

We designed the app to include the latest version of the Android platform -- Ice Cream Sandwich. We've added new features to make for a more natural, fluid, and simple user experience, including:

  • From the top navigation bar, a new quick drop-down list that highlights your favorite sections.
  • A new article viewer that allows the user to flip left-and-right to access more stories.
  • Background downloading of content so users can start to use the app more quickly.
... and Smaller: Second, we completely rebuilt the network that feeds the app to be more mobile-centric. We designed the new server API to offload a lot of computations from the client side to the server side, which tremendously shrinks the data size that is downloaded and improves the client rendering performance -- all which makes for a smaller app that's faster.
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More Legible: We've designed the app to follow all the latest Android design patterns, which should make the app more intuitive to Android users. We've reinterpreted our big & bold HuffPost splashes for the smaller screen and made the feed of blogs and articles bigger, bolder and more tap-able than your traditional article listing. For a better and more legible reading experience we're using typography designed for digital screens by Font Bureau.

Online, and Off: If you want to read the news while you are offline you can download your favorite sections before you hit the road or board your next flight with a simple press of button.
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Widgets: To scan the latest news even faster, you can place our brand new widget on your home screen to quickly flip through the latest news when you are in a hurry and don't have time to engage with the full app.

As with all software, this is just the beginning -- we look forward to adding new features over time. Look for the companion Android tablet app in the coming months, as well as our redesigned iPhone app. Download the app and let us know what you think.

Josh Klenert leads the Design & User Experience team for The Huffington Post. Otto Toth leads the Mobile Development team for The Huffington Post.

UK music magazine launches a digital-only tablet magazine, DIY Weekly, into the Apple Newsstand

The London-based music monthly DIY has launched a new weekly tablet-only magazine. DIY Weekly is the first tablet edition to be released under the Sonic Media Group name inside the Apple Newsstand.

The tablet-only magazine may be for the Apple Newsstand only right now, but Stephen Ackroyd says that "in time" the digital magazine will also appear for the iPhone, as well as Android and Kindle devices, as well.

The natively designed iPad magazine is to be read in portrait orientation, and unlike many apps, even the library and store page opens in portrait. The first issue found inside weighs in at 227 once downloaded into the library.

The magazine is beautifully designed for iPad reading. But after a few articles I began to feel that the digital magazine felt a bit strangely old fashioned. This is a digital music magazine, where is the music. I should have known better. A few swipes on there is was.

The digital magazine will be available every Sunday according to the editor's introductory note – which also, by the way, assures readers by stating clearly "we're not stopping the monthly magazine," by which he means the print edition, of course. We'll see.

It is rare that a monthly magazine would launch another tablet product before launching a tablet edition of their main magazine – but why not? I like this approach, though it will be interesting to see if they can maintain the weekly schedule after publishing a monthly print magazine – going in the other direction might have proved easier. But the publisher is looking to change their website, too. So maybe the will find they can handle it. I like the way they have started.

Here is a brief walk-through random parts of the first issue found inside DIY Weekly:

An interview with Dan Zedek, The Boston Globe's design director, on the newspaper's eBook publishing projects

The Boston Globe last week released its thirteenth eBook, 68 Blocks, which originated from a five-day series the newspaper ran about the Dorchester neighborhood of Bowdoin-Geneva (see last week's post on the new eBook here).

So few newspapers have become, what I like to call, serial launchers – real publishers rather than merely newspaper companies. Digital media offers that opportunity through not only producing eBooks, but also through mobile media, tablet editions, etc. The Boston Globe, which sadly has been put up for sale by The New York Times Co., The Boston Globe may becoming an exception as the publisher has been very active in experimenting in the eBook publishing area. Yesterday I spoke with the paper's design director, Dan Zedek, about their eBook efforts.

"I would love to say it was months of planning and focus grouping," Zedek said. "But, in fact, when iBooks Author came out... me and one other guy, Javier Zarracina, the graphics director, were really interested in the program. So we said 'this is pretty cool let's try this out,' and we both went home over the weekend, downloaded it, and built an eBook."

That eBook, on the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, never saw its way into the iBookstore, but Zedek said "we were impressed by the possibilities."

"On Monday morning we pitched it to the editor-in-chief at the time, Marty Baron. 'We'd like to try doing some eBooks' and we just kind of dove in."

In addition to working with Apple's iBooks Author, a free download inside the Mac App Store, the Globe has also been working with freeware and other solutions. These include Calibre, Sigil and Vook. One of the 13 books released, Whitey Bulger: America’s Most Wanted Gangster and the Manhunt that Brought Him to Justice, came through working with an outside vendor.

From the get-go the mission has been to make any eBooks produced available on as many devices as possible, in addition to becoming available for free to Globe subscribers. Because of this, the design team has used iBooks Author to produce interactive books for the iBookstore, as well as to export a PDF for downloading. The ePub editors then produce products for other platforms, such as can be seen with the newest eBook, 68 Blocks (iTunes link).

The Globe's series, which was called 68 Blocks: Life, Death, Hope whne published, 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, as well as in the paper.

"We had this really elaborate five-day print project, that was the print iteration of it. We also had a very rich multimedia digital presence for it," Zedek said. "So we were starting with tremendous source material, and we were looking at what we wanted to incorporate (into the eBook), keeping in mind… that there is a lot of different devices, and we want to be a good experience on all those devices."

"So we kind of went in two tracks: we used iBooks Author as a way of display the multimedia – we could have done even more actually, but I think it was a pretty rich presentation as it was; at the same time we used Vook to create eBooks that would work on the NOOK, that would work on a Kindle; and we also used iBooks Author to produce a PDF."

Zedek said that two-thirds of the downloads so far have been from iOS eBooks or PDFs created using iBooks Author, "so it is capturing most of the market for us."

The planned publishing schedule is to produce one new eBook a month on subjects like the Boston band Aerosmith, or on the photography of David Ryan, who has taken shots of the city using a helicopter.

"But at the same time," Zedek says "I'm really interested in pursuing a slightly different approach at the same time, which is to just kind of pop out instant books on topics of immediate interest. Because I think with the metabolism that a newspaper has we're used to working that way, and we can provide a lot of original content very, very quickly.

"I imagine we could do a pretty great book with a really quick turnaround on the day people are thinking about this and looking for more depth and context of the news. How great would it be to have an eBook available for them?"

Zedek used as an example the upcoming conclave to elect a new pope. The Globe, Zedek, has written quite often on the subject and would be able to produce an eBook immediately upon the new pope being identified.

"This whole thing was started as a lab for us, a place for us to experiment with content types, with production types, with different reader groups, and we want to keep pushing that," Zedek said. "What really excites me about it is continuing to see what we can do to bring value and interest to our readers."

Next Issue Media launches its digital newsstand app on Windows 8, as app count grows for the new platform

Next Issue Media has launched its digital newsstand on the Windows 8 platform. The company is a joint venture between Condé Nast, Hearst, Meredith, News Corp., and Time Inc., and it can be rather safely said that Microsoft would have seen having Next Media with its popular magazine titles on its new tablet platform.

"We’re excited to bring our unlimited access plans and the convenience of the Next Issue app to Windows 8 devices," Morgan Guenther, CEO of Next Issue Media is quoted in the company's announcement. "With Windows 8, we’re able to offer an outstanding user experience including pinning, multi-tasking with snap view, and more."

Within Windows 8 readers can pin their favorite titles to the Start screen and live tiles with rotating covers of the latest issues will be coming soon, as well.

Readers on the Windows 8 platform can access Next Issue Media titles for 30 days free of charge. The two subscription plans remain at $9.99 per month for the Unlimited Basic plan, and $14.99 for the Unlimited Premium plan. Titles available only through the premium option are Entertainment Weekly, Golf World, New York Magazine, Sports Illustrated, The New Yorker and Time.

The promotional video is pretty interesting if you really look closely at it. The tablet seen is held in landscape for most of the video until near the end when for a short while it is seen in portrait. Scanning titles is promoted over the actual digital magazines to be found inside, and Next Issue Media continues to push the idea of the PC reading experience.

One criticism of early Android tablets was that they felt more natural in landscape – think the Motorola XOOM. One challenge for Microsoft will be to successfully market their platform as a good reading experience, every bit as good as the Kindle Fire and iOS. App count, though, probably won't be an issue as Microsoft already has over 45,000 apps available for the platform.

Here is the new Next Issue Media promotional video. I advise turning the sound down a bit as the music is rather obnoxious:

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

The English language newspaper China Daily Hong Kong launches a tablet edition into Apple's Newsstand

When journalists in the U.S. and Europe want to quote the Chinese press the source is usually China Daily, the English language newspaper that generally reflects the views of the government. In 1997, the Hong Kong edition of the paper was launched.

Today China Daily Hong Kong has launched a tablet edition of the paper. China Daily Hong Kong is an app styled very much like that of the NYT in that it is a mirror of the paper's website more than the print edition.
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The app is free to download, and once installed the reader will find that the content is free, as well. Because the app supports Apple's Newsstand, one can also subscribe free, as well. The publisher, or someone (!), would like to see this content more available.

The app should come in handy, though, for news editors and reporters who keep an iPad handy. Just as checking the China Daily website for news and opinion is useful, so, too will this app.

The app is not without at least a few problems. I noticed that a story on the home page did not link to a full story and the video did not play. But otherwise this is a typical web-based tablet edition. I have my doubts about the usefulness of these types of tablet editions, but many publishers seem attracted to them.


Adobe may be in danger losing total control of the digital publishing market as publishers look for less expensive, more versatile solutions to build their tablet publications

In 1994 Adobe purchased PageMaker from Aldus. Many desktop publishing people were very fond of PageMaker, but just a few years later it was obvious that QuarkXPress was going to be the print production platform of choice. Even as far back as 1992, the year Quark was released, our McGraw-Hill office in San Francisco was building pages of our daily newspaper, and later our bi-monthly magazine in Quark.

Adobe needed to do something to stem the tide. So in 1999 it launched its first version of InDesign. At first it seemed like a me-too product. But these were not great days for Apple and InDesign was, from the start, tied to the PC platform (Adobe released its first Mac-native version of InDesign in 2002).

Over at Cahners Business Information, later RBI, the bright executives deemed it important to flee the Apple ecosystem because of the impending end of Apple. It wasn't their only silly decision, but it did reflect the beliefs of many that converting to PCs and off of the Mac OS would be in the best long term interest of the publisher. With the change came the first copies of InDesign.

It is fair to say that over the past decade InDesign has been the dominate print production solution for the magazine, and to a certain degree, the newspaper industry. The move from Quark to InDesign is where I lost my own desktop publishing skill set as I concentrated solely on whipping editors and sales people into shape and pretty left the art directors alone (I was quite the terror to many of my art directors back in the Quark days).

With the rise of mobile and tablets, Adobe has expanded its product offerings by creating the Adobe Digital Publishing Suite, its Single Edition, Creative Cloud, etc. No one can say that the software maker hasn't been at the forefront of the tablet publishing boom.

But Adobe's product line is terribly expensive. It always has been, as had been Quark and other solutions. Customers complain but few could conceive of any alternative.

That hasn't stopped publishers, though. In fact, probably the biggest driver of replica editions, next to the endless number of new vendors pushing them, has been Adobe itself. Through its pricing policies, Adobe has driven many publishers into the hands of flipbook and replica edition makers.

Yesterday I talked to David Spivak, publisher of Focus, the fine art photography magazine. Spivak recounted the publisher's tablet app launches, starting with MagazineCloner, then Zinio and PixelMags. The publisher will continue to be working with replica makers, including Magzter, as it seeks to give their title as much distribution as possible.

But the publisher wants to create native tablet magazines most of all. Focus Publishing has launched two digital sister magazines to Focus, both using native tablet design, and are launching others for photographers and galleries. To do this, Focus is using the Adobe DPS platform. But it is not ideal, Spivak said, as it requires the creation of multiple files for the various distribution vehicles the publisher will be using.

As Spivak told me, "the old saying (is) if you want it done right, do it yourself." And so Spivak is looking for his own solution. He is not alone.

Yesterday Dennis Publishing announced that it had invested in Contentment, a start-up whose product Padify, assists publishers of digital magazines and eBooks build content for multiple platforms and devices.

The tablet edition for Men's Fitness was built using Padify, and the publisher has claimed 36,000 downloads since its launch (not really a high number since many people who download an app never end up subscribing to the publication inside).

"Dennis has a keen understanding of the problems facing magazine publishers in a rapidly changing market. They’ve been through the trenches, they know what works and what doesn’t, and it is a huge endorsement of our approach to be chosen as their technology partner,” Michael Kowalski, Founder and Director of Contentment, said in the investment announcement.

Of course, many of the efforts to find an alternative to working with Adobe's own app solutions involve still working with InDesign. Mag+ and Aquafadas, for instance, are plug-in solutions that utilize InDesign.

But while many of the largest publishers seem locked into Adobe, many others are looking elsewhere. It appears to me that Adobe's lock is on the tablet platform is precarious compared to its near total domination of print. Changing this will be difficult. Just as it was hard, then impossible for Quark to slow down the Adobe juggernaut once it got started, Adobe may find itself in a similar position with digital publishers in the near future.

Another good example of this trend towards finding and launching one's own publishing platform is PRSS, the platform being created by the team behind the tablet magazine TRVL. Their unique tablet-only publication is an app that is a container of individual travel magazines, now up to 94.

I interviewed Jochem Wijnands and Michel Elings about their plans for PRSS at the end of last year and you can read that post here.

Morning Brief: Publishers using Adobe DPS still issuing updates related to iOS 6.1; Western Digital and others begin to take on Apple's supposed 'hobby'

The release of iOS 6.1 by Apple created lots of problems for developers, especially those using the Adobe DPS.The released exposed an issue with DPS viewers that have in-app purchasing enabled, which means just about all the tablet editions for consumer magazines.

What has followed has been instructive: which publishers handle their app updates in-house, and which departments would quickly rush out updates? Condé Nast, which has a large portfolio of tablet editions began issuing updates fairly quickly, others have been slower.

Today American Express Publishing issued iOS 6.1 related updates for its two tablet editions FOOD & WINE and TRAVEL + LEISURE. The app description describes the update in one sentence: "This update fixes issue with the new iOS 6.1."

The update must be a bit of a source of frustration for the publisher as the company issued updates in January, just one week before Adobe announced on its blog the iOS 6.1 issue. The updates then were forced because the publisher was changing file formats, something that would force their readers to download their magazines once again.

"Complete this update of the FOOD & WINE app to take advantage of NEW and IMPROVED features that allow for a better reading experience and for enhanced sharing and bookmarking capabilities. Once you update the app, you’ll need to sign-in and re-download issues that you’ve already purchased/downloaded (there is no additional charge)," the app description told readers at the time.

Most publishers have told their readers the update being issued is tied to iOS 6.1, but some publishers generally keep their readers in the dark – Hearst is definitely one of them. Hearst issued an update for Cosmopolitan and while the app description does mention bug fixes, it is otherwise pretty vague. As the last update of the app came December 14, I would assume this new update is also iOS 6.1 related.

By the way, if you want an evidence that Apple is treating major publishers any differently than they do small, independent publishers, take a look at the screenshots being used for Cosmo.

Apple has always said that its Apple TV was just a "hobby" – no one believed them because no one could imagine that Apple would blow such an enormous opportunity to own the family room. But Apple chose not to open up the Apple TV to third party developers, and has one slowly, incrementally done anything with its box top set.

Now, other tech firms are entering the game, apparently no longer afraid of big-bad Apple.

The latest to enter the fray is Western Digital which got its WD TV Play streaming media player featured in the NYT this morning. Western Digital's new device comes with more built in apps than Apple's, which remains mostly in the market to push iTunes content.

Priced at only $70, the box could find an audience if it interfaced well with Apple products, but according to the NYT report that is not the case.

Samsung, too, has entered the market with its HomeSync product. HomeSync is a bit different in that it will have a hard drive, with definitely puts it in a bit of a different class. But Samsung has failed to announce a launch date or pricing, and until they do one won't have a clue whether this new product was announced simply to draw attention to its other Android products or whether the company is serious about the platform. But because Samsung says HomeSync can access Google Play it is obvious that unless Apple finally opens up its Apple TV it will have forever lost any chance at the next revolution in media platforms, and with it any chance to tap into the huge market for television advertising.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Focus Publishing launches new digital magazine, Exposures, and continues its search for the perfect publishing solution for its ambitious digital media plans

Focus Publishing, which publishings Focus Fine Art Photography Magazine has launched a new digital-only magazine into the Apple Newsstand, Exposures. The app launch is the third magazine title the publisher has launched in app form, and the second natively designed tablet magazine.

Exposures uses the Adobe DPS to create its interactive digital magazine, a solution that the publisher is not 100 percent satisfied with, but which gives the magazine more of the kinds of interactivity, navigation and design that they desire.

David Spivak, the president and publisher, told me that the first native digital magazine was Focus Folio. which was initially part of the main print magazine, but it was split off after Issue #19 of the main print title. Inside the new digital magazine Spivak explains why this was done:

"The reason for this was that in digital format, we could allow our reading audience to enjoy a full perspective of a photographer's work without the print costs and page count being a factor," Spivak wrote in his Publisher's Letter. "In other words, Prior to Issue #19, the most number of pages a photographer was ever allowed in our Focus Gallery section, was eight."
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Focus Publishing's first app was created by MagazineCloner, but the results were not satisfactory. The publisher still publishes issues for the app to serve the readers that have signed up , but the app was pulled from the Newsstand and in March of last year and new one was launched through PixelMags. Those apps are replica editions of the print magazine, of course, as is the Zinio edition that was launched at the end of 2010.

But the publisher is now fully onboard the interactive magazine bandwagon. "In the future," writes Spivak, "we will continue to add limited amounts of interactivity to each issue of Focus Magazine, Focus Folios and Focus Exposures and study the response that the interactivity generates. If we like it, we will think about creating fully interactive editions that sell separately from static-PDF versions of each title. Thing about it, how can paper and ink display video and sound? How can you scroll through interactive articles and slideshows while flipping through pages of dried ink? You can't. This is the benefit of having a digital magazine, and I think, after time many of you will adapt and enjoy the interactivity as much as I do."

As you will see in the video below, Exposures is a fully interactive magazine, with animation, slideshows and video fully utilized in the digital edition. While Focus Folios covers subjects such as architecture, landscape and other art photography areas, Exposures is about the human form.

But inside this first issue you will immediately also notice the other photography magazine apps advertised. One of those is Pikturesque, which can be found in the Newsstand under the Focus Publishing name. This is part of the new direction the publisher is taking.

"We're launching a new service, working with a third party app development software, and this new service is going to allow us to create fine art photography magazines for other photographers," Spival told me this afternoon. At least four are in the works.

"The photographer gets to showcase their work in a way that also allows them to earn a different source of revenue, a different source of income. To do this before digital media was completely impossible."

In addition to these projects, the publisher is also building digital publications for fine art galleries. One of these is already to be found in the App Store, the stand-alone app Joy Wai Gallery.

The plan is that, for a fixed price, galleries or photographers can have print-on-demand publications, a static PDF replica and/or an interactive edition. For now, this work is being done using Adobe's solutions, but the publisher told me that they are searching for something better, something that can do all that they would like.

"There is the old saying if you want it done right, do it yourself,"Spivak said. So they are working with developers to come up with their own publishing platform – going a similar route, I suppose, as TRVL has with the launch of its PRSS publishing platform (see interview with the TRVL team here).

Exposures is a free download that will then give you access to the first issue found inside. The premiere issue is priced at $4.99, and subscriptions are available for $2.99 per two-month increments, or a semi-annual subscription for $10.99, and an annual subscription for $19.99 (not sure those prices really make sense).

Here is a walk-through the premiere issue of Exposures, from Focus Publishing.

comScore releases annual report on the Canadian digital market;The SoDA Report finds most digital marketing budgets to grow at in 2013

The digital measurement and analytics firm comScore today released its annual report on the Canadian digital media market, 2013 Canada Digital Future in Focus – the report can be downloaded on the comScore website.

The report shows what you might expect – that the Canadian market is very similar to the U.S. market when it comes to web usage, video content watching and the like. In fact, Canadians rank second highest engagement across the globe (just behind the U.S.), and first in monthly pages and visits per visitor (just ahead of the U.S.

While in most respects the Canadian market looks similar to the U.S., mobile platform usage is one area where differences show up: Blackberry still at least some penetration of the market remaining. BlackBerry, formerly RIM (as it is shown in the comScore report), still maintains a 20 percent share, while a previously released comScore report showed BlackBerry's share falling below 8 percent in the U.S.

comScore's look at Canada shows that the digital ad market continues to grow at a robust pace – up 17 percent in 2012. Online video also is growing, as you'd expect, with Canadians ranking second worldwide in terms of monthly hours of video viewing and number of videos per viewer.

Again, if you are interested in the comScore findings concerning the Canadian market, you can download the report on the comScore website.

Another report that does not hold many surprises is Volume 1 of The SoDa Report from the Society of Digital Agencies. It finds that most organizations will be growing the digital marketing efforts in the coming year, with 39 percent of respondents saying that they will be increasing their digital marketing budgets without increasing their overall marketing budgets (bad news for print publishers, but great news for the digital side). 16 percent will be increasing their overall budgets, and therefore growing their digital marketing budgets.

Interestingly, 11 percent said they would be decreasing their digital marketing budgets. While I'm sure some find this a small percentage, it seems high to me and must reflect general decreases in budget levels.

You can directly access the report here.

The newspaper ad revenue problem will not be solved with simple solutions, or by simply giving up

Sometimes newspaper publishers get accused of being solely focused on cost cutting. It is a common complaint heard whenever staff cutbacks are announced, or print schedules reduced. But, believe it or not, it is not always true. There are times when despite the obvious subjects for cost reductions a newspaper executive will be slow to react.

I think a good example of this is the stock market tables, a feature that all but the financial newspapers have eliminated. Any reader today can, of course, simply through a few keystrokes find a stock quote. There is simply no need for those pages upon pages of stock tables to appear inside a newspaper – and they don't, publishers dumped them years ago. But the decision was controversial: the argument against eliminating the tables was that financial advertising would suffer. But many publishers didn't see the issue of ads appearing in the Business section as directly tied to the advertising seen there, after all, the section wasn't being eliminated, only the tables. So the tables went.

But when there is a direct tie in to revenue it is harder to get publishers to act. Take classified advertising. How many papers have eliminated their classified sections?

As a former classified advertising manager I can tell you that no one alive is as big an advocate for classified as I. When I was a CAM my department was the engine that drove profits, always out performing retail advertising and generally allowing me to get my way whenever there was an argument about resources, staffing or most anything else. Thanks to always blowing away my budget revenue goals I could sometimes act like a real son of a bitch, as many of my colleagues would tell you. It also led directly to my first publisher position.

But today, the classified sections of most newspapers are a waste of paper, and a waste of potential. The few dollars brought in by the handful of recruitment ads, for instance, hardly justify the paper and ink spent to reproduce them. But far worse, the continuation of the print classifieds continues to hold back any real innovation by classified managers.

Few, very few newspapers have migrated their classified ads into their mobile apps, where geolocation services could be utilized. Most newspaper chains have invested in classified websites with only the thinnest connections to their print products. So, in exchange for a few dollars coming in from these popular classified sites, they have basically frozen in place their dying classified products. As a result, long gone are the days when we classified managers could fly off to Banff to attend a classified managers meeting safe in the knowledge that out bosses dare not question the expenditure.

The problem of newspaper advertising is an incredibly complex one, one often simplified by media observers as "ads have gone online." It's not true. In many cases the ads have not migrated, they have evolved, mutated or disappeared completely.

Take bank advertising, for instance. This is still a major category for most metro newspapers. But banks today communicate directly with their customers through their websites, email and apps. The only real purpose for those quarter pages ads appearing in print are new customer acquisition. The same goes for other categories such as cellular and cable.

This Sunday I opened the Chicago Tribune and counted the print ads. Once I left the main news section it was a real effort to find any ads, at all. The second section with national and world news would have been completely ad free were it not for the full page ad on the back from a electronics retailer contracted for that position. The sports section, despite the success of the Blackhawks and Bulls contained exactly one ad.

The latest gimmick: digital publishing platforms that delivers less; vendors seek to deliver simplified digital magazines along the lines of 'The Magazine'

Tthe magazine and newspaper business has become a lot like the restaurant business: there is more money to be made selling into the business, than actually being in the business. In other words, it is far better to be someone who sells publishers services than to actually be a publisher. Many of those citizen publishers launching new digital magazines into Apple's Newsstand will soon find this out.

But to be a digital publishing vendor you need a gimmick. The two most popular have been the Flash flipbook, and more recently, the replica edition. These are low tech, dime-a-dozen publishing solutions that take a publisher's print edition and through a PDF or JPG conversation transforms them into something that can be read on a publisher's website or in a new app.

The latest craze is the simplified digital magazine. Inspired Marco Arment, the developer who created Instapaper, who launched the stripped down digital publication, The Magazine, vendors are now looking to deliver... well, less.

The idea is simple enough: you want a digital magazine that looks like Arment's, we'll give you one. As a result, several vendors are now crowing about the ability of their new digital publishing platforms to give you less, deliver less, and be less interactive.

The idea that The Magazine is the future of digital publisher is crazy. Arment's digital magazine appealed to some because he is a recognized figure in the tech community, a popular blogger. The editorial content of the digital publication speaks to these people – I find it less interesting, but then again I'm not part of the target audience.

Just like a Kindle Edition, the design of The Magazine serves its purpose. But change the content, attempt to use design to convey complex ideas and simple text layouts do not achieve the desired result.

(It is ironic that The Magazine came about around the same time the NYT published Snow Fall, its complex website feature that was a tour de force of the art of web design.)

The job of the art director is to help the writer and editor tell the story. Like any artist, they want as many tools available as possible to accomplish this. But only the most amateurish art directors use them all. The best art directors use what is necessary.

But we shouldn't be surprised that there are new digital publishing vendors out there pushing simplified publishing solutions. My own experience has shown that in the end the sales pitch for ALL these companies is "easy and cheap". The idea is that it is "easy" to make a digital version of a magazine using their solution, and ultimately it will "cheap", as well. What a publishing executive should ask themselves is whether the platform is versatile, too. "OK, your system can give me less, but what if I want more?"

Morning Brief: Casimir Pulaski Day edition; Hearst issues update for Food Network Magazine app to fix crash bug, still dealing with print subscriber complaints

I'm all for holidays, but I'm rather dogmatic in my belief that a holiday should mean a day off, a special feast, fireworks or something along those lines. That's why I'm not a big fan of those Sunday holidays that appear to have been created by the greeting card companies or drunk members of Congress.

Today is Casimir Pulaski Day, celebrated in one state in the Union, Illinois, and used as an excuse in some school districts to take the day off. Business stay, the post office delivers the mail (the holiday falls on the first Monday of March), and there are no fireworks, and many people settle for eating leftovers. Some holiday.

And who knows who this guy was? Do you? Did you that there is a General Pulaski Memorial Day, as well? Take about a holiday that is overkill and forgettable at the same time.

So since few people know why we are "celebrating" Casimir Pulaski Day today let me make something up: today is Casimir Pulaski Day, the day when we celebrate the achievements of the guy who invented the pixel. Before Pulaski's great achievement they were merely dots. Raise a glass and toast the great Casimir Pulaski - 1024 tines in one direction, and 768 times in the other.

Hearst Communications this weekend issued an update for its iPad edition of Food Network Magazine. Hearst, which gets the most press coverage of any of the magazine companies thanks to their very vocal executives, also get some of the worst reviews for their apps inside the Apple App Store. The problem generally isn't the digital editions but their pricing policies whereby print subscribers have to pay again for the digital editions.

It's a controversial policy because the publisher owns very popular titles (Cosmopolitan, Marie Claire, Esquire...). As a result, most of Hearst's magazine apps get low marks from reviewers inside the App Store no matter how good the app itself may be. Then, there are bugs, the reviews get really negative.

The update issued today for Food Network Magazine is meant to solve some app issues that are leading to crashes, and leading to even more negative reviews.

Does the update solve the issues? Hard to say, the first two new reviews written are one-star reviews complaining about the subscription policy.

Aquafadas has also had to issue an update because of bugs. The company, which merged with Kobo last year, recently launched a major update to its digital publishing platform, and with it an update to its myKiosk for iOS reviewer app, used to preview digital publications.

Today's update fixes some bugs involving slideshows and PDF to reflow action behavior. If you use this digital publishing platform, and especially if you have encountered issues, you'll want to update.