Friday, March 15, 2013

London-based magazine media association FIPP launches universal app for 'Magazine World'

It is a sad fact that both magazine and newspaper trade associations, as well as their support trade media magazines, have lagged behind in digital media – sometimes embarrassingly so. Here in the U.S., none of the major trade associations or the industry trade magazines have launched native tablet editions, and most that expended the minimum amount of effort to launch a replica have done so by allowing their vendor to sell the resulting app under their name rather than the publisher's.

As a result, there is a real schism opening up in the publishing world: on the one side are those who believe that everything starts with the print title, then to make a digital publication all one needs to is create an app; on the other side are those who believe that each digital platform requires its own design work. A majority of print publishers, and apparently their associations and trade industry media publications, believe that once a print publication is digitized it is a tablet magazine or a mobile magazine, enhancements are not necessary but are nice. The other side sees these publishing efforts as merely the digitization of print, like scanning a story from a magazine, the scan does not become a digital magazine, it is merely a scan.

There is, of course, lots of middle ground.

I know that I am very much in the minority in my view that tablet and mobile publishing should be looked at not as extensions of print, but as unique platforms – just as television is not merely radio with enhancements. A vast majority of new tablet editions released each week, for instance, show that most publishers believe that readers will want their print magazines in digital form exactly as in print, even if that means reducing them down to three and half or four inch screens. No or few alterations or accommodations are necessary because digital devices are merely ways of presenting the same content on a screen (hence, why Flash flipbooks exist).

I know of no digital-only publishers who hold this view that is so dominate in the print world. When I speak to a digital-only publisher it is as if they are in an entirely different industry than the print publisher also launching their magazine into the same digital newsstand.

It is not surprising, therefore, that one would see FIPP launch its own publication Magazine World as a replica edition. The new universal app, also called Magazine World, appears under the vendor's name in the App Store, Stonewash DD&AD Ltd.

The decision to use Stonewash was rather preordained: the previous publishing director of FIPP is now the co-founder of Stonewash, Daniel Sharp – and Sharp is pretty convinced that replica editions will be the way publishers will want to present their magazines on tablets: "We now look forward to working closely with FIPP's editorial team to ensure their magazine app becomes a state-of-the-art example of how to put a magazine on tablet format," Sharp is quoted as saying in the latest issue of Magazine World.
Left: Typical editorial pages, still as seen in print; Middle: an ad for the digital publishing vendor, Stonewash, with a video embedded; Right: news page with the text version of the story shown

The Stonewash app is a very nice, as they go. The digital magazine itself is pretty much unreadable without the required pinch-to-zoom, of course, so to compensate the app gives readers the option to pull up a text version of each story, essentially creating an instant Kindle Edition.

I've spoken to many publishers who believe this is the perfect solution: readers get to see the original layouts that exist in print, but then will probably choose to read the text versions of stories because the fonts will be bigger, or in this case, even adjustable.

But to buy into this vision of digital publishing one really has to believe that the future of digital is actually print. Because without the print product, the whole structure of the app goes away and all that is left is a Kindle Edition.

But after three years I guess I'm getting tired of the fight. There are simply too many vendors out there, with too much money chasing print publishers, to win this war. I now admit that replicas will win the day. Now, if you don't mind, I need to tell some of those tablet-only publishers how wrong they are to be designing specifically for the iPad and other tablets.

Rumble begins to sign up local and regional newspapers for their identical free mobile and tablet apps. sold under the vendor's name

Last year in November the app developer Rumble announced that it had secured $1 million in investment and had created seven positions in sales and marketing.

Now the Philadelphia and Tel-Aviv is selling its app solutions to small newspaper publishers in Pennsylvania and the Southeast. "Sell" might be the wrong word, as the company has managed to launch 38 identical mobile/tablet apps into the Apple App Store in a very short time.

One of the newest is for the Tuscaloosa News, a Halifax Media Group newspaper. Tuscaloosa News is a universal app like the others, and other than the paper's flag at the top is identical all the other apps from Rumble.

Each of the apps coming from the developer is sold under the Rumble News Ltd. name, rather than either the publisher or newspaper property. Each app is designed absolutely like the others, with a the typical RSS feed design apparent in the mobile apps, and a Flipboard-OnSwipe like layout for the iPad version.

Inside, each story has the same layout and even includes the Rumble logo on top of the story. This appears to be a mistake as other similar apps, such as for the Philadelphia Weekly, show the paper's logo on top of each story. Why the logo must appear is an odd design choice, but it is consistent.

Each of the apps offers the content free of charge, and none seemed to feature any in-app advertising – though it was impossible to look at every single app released so far.

Why would so many newspapers sign up with the same developer to launch identical apps? Why would a newspaper publisher allow their apps to appear under the name of the developer rather than their own? The answer should be very predictable: free.

Rumble is offering its apps free of charge to newspaper publishers, even getting the Pennsylvania Newspaper Association to endorse the company's efforts. In fact, the developer lists several state newspaper associations as partners on its website.

I would have to guess that the goal here is to build up an ad network, or else to begin charging publishers a year from now, after the publishers have become comfortable with the apps and do not build their own to replace them.

As mobile apps the Rumble apps are standard stuff: RSS feeds provide the content to the news sections. There are a minimal amount of features presented one of which is Personal Channels: press the tab takes you to what looks like a Twitter feed. The first person at the top is Al Azoulay – who is he, he's the CEO of Rumble.

As all the apps are brand new there are few reader reviews to be found except on one app, New Pittsburgh Courier. That app is the only app that I could find that had any reviews, and they are all positive, which I found a bit odd. Looking at the reviews most have only reviewed one app ever, and it was this Rumble app. Searching for more information on this new developer and all the apps being released I found a press release on the company and, lo and behold, one of the read reviews was used in it. Odd, no? (There are no reviews for the apps inside Google Play, either, except for one anonymous 5-star rating for the same new Pittsburgh Courier app. In Google Play all the apps also appear under Rumble's name rather than the publisher's.)

I attempted to contact the company by calling the number listed on the website. The call was answered automatically with the message that the Google Voice user was not available, no company was mentioned. I wanted to know exactly how monetization would work and what the company plans to charge its new newspaper clients after the one year of free service. That, I guess, will have to wait – efforts to reach several newspaper executives were fruitless, with several papers listing wrong phone numbers and extensions on their websites.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

The Boston Phoenix is shuttered, and despite the best efforts of the publisher and staff, little could be done to save the situation when readers have moved on

Is there anything scarier to a newspaper or magazine pro than the news that so-and-so publication has been shuttered? Unfortunately, many titles close each year, some because they were launches that never stood a chance anyways, and others that were mismanaged into oblivion.

But nothing scares a print pro like hearing of a name-brand title being shuttered, one that is familiar, even admired, or something just 'respected'.

For most newspaper pros between the ages of 40 and 60, alt-weeklies are especially important. I never worked at an alt-weekly, but competed with many of them. The closest I ever got to working at one was an interview at the San Francisco Bay Guardian where the owner probably thought of me as too corporate for the job – if he'd seen my record collection he'd probably come to the conclusion that I was too out-there for the weekly.
Old & New Boston Phoenix, both closed now
Today the Boston Phoenix was shuttered and you can read all about it on the The Boston Globe website or at Jim Romenesko's new site (you can still call it new, right?). This long piece that appeared in Boston Magazine will provide the background.

For alt-weeklies, the past decade have been about as bad as it's been for B2B magazines – and both are struggling with the move to digital media with the same slow speed and with the same success. That is, not very well.

The problem for alt-weeklies is that their very reason for existing seems to have disappeared. Journalists will talk about the quality of journalism at some weeklies and they are absolutely right, but it's irrelevant.

Here is a story from the mid-eighties: while attending a classified ad conference somewhere wonderful I ran into the CAM (classified advertising manager) from the L.A. Weekly – we talked and joked and and drank for a while. He told me a story of a recent manager's meeting:

At the meeting he stood up to make some point about resources, telling the publisher, the editors and the other ad managers that he thought that half of those that read the Weekly did so for the back of the book classifieds and listings.

The editor was furious and said the CAM was crazy. The publisher backed up the editor: "you're absolutely right, he doesn't know what he is talking about," the publisher said. "Our research shows that 75 percent of the readers pick up the Weekly for the back of the book classifieds and listings." That ended the conversation, the CAM was king, and everyone knew it.

In the eighties if you wanted to go to a movie you picked up the weekly, to a club the weekly, find an apartment the weekly, etc. Alt-weeklies were packed with ads in the front of the book, as well as the back because... everyone picked up the weekly.

Now everyone wants to talk about quality journalism and how if only we would return to the glory days of whenever readers would return. But it's not true now because it wasn't true then. Sure there was plenty of great journalism, but that didn't drive the readers

When I started writing here at TNM, before the launch of the iPad, I talked about the opportunity to reclaim some of the back of the book readership through mobile apps using geo-location services, maps and databases. Three years on few newspapers have bothered to do much more than build RSS feed news apps – and many, including the Digital First newspapers, didn't even do that, they outsourced everything. Frankly, I'm tired of beating that drum because no one is listening anyways.

But no mobile app, or no tablet edition, can change everything. For alt-weeklies these are scary times.

But the only thing that is more frightening than a shuttered title is the knowledge that little could have been done to prevent it. For someone who looks at dozens of new mobile and tablet apps each week, new websites and new eBooks, the only thing I can conclude is that the media world looks a lot rosier for digital start-ups than it does for the legacy print titles, even those aggressively pursuing digital.

That was true for the web ten years ago, it's true today for the new digital publishers, as well. And that has to be very scary for a lot of media pros.

Below the jump I've reposted the publisher's staff memo in case you didn't see it elsewhere and the Phoenix's site crashes again:

Apple's Newsstand attracts sharks as the app review team appears to have gone missing

If the mobile platform wars were real wars I sometimes wonder if Apple's iTunes team has been infiltrated by double agents working for Google and Amazon. iTunes itself remains a horribly buggy, slow mess of a software program and the App Store looks like it has been designed to make it impossible to find anything. If Apple is winning the platform war I'd hate to see what the loser looks like.

As someone who looks at new mobile and tablet apps on a daily basis entering iTunes is like entering a minefield. Everywhere one looks there are apps of origins and motives that appear less than honorable. The Newsstand is so filled with publications now, with about a dozen new ones appearing every weekday, that finding something to read has gone from ridiculously easy to quite a chore.

For every Paperweight Magazine, a new digital humor magazine that wants to create an interactive experience using a native publishing solution, there are the replica editions that so many publisher's love because the price to launch is next to nothing and the vendor promises a few pennies of revenue in return.

But I don't begrudge Apple for these apps: one group is trying to embrace the new digital publishing platforms, while the other is trying to make a buck (and probably hates everything about digital media).

The real problem lies with those new apps that are leftover: a collection of odd looking titles that come from sources that appear less than honorable. How does a reader tell if what is to be found inside is worth paying for, and how can one trust those reviews found inside the App Store?

Of the latest 100 app editions released inside Apple's Newsstand only a few originate from recognizable publishers. Even titles like Men's Health are from the international publishers of the title and have the name of the replica edition vendor slapped on it. Part of the reason for this, of course, is that many of the big U.S. consumer titles launched apps long ago, leaving only the international versions and other more obscure titles to now appear.

Then, sprinkled in, are the more worrisome new launches. Oh! Yeah! Black comes from Dmitry Nikolin and has a companion title Magazine "Oh! Yeah!" which bares the promo line "Oral Sex" on the cover.

Then there is Magazine "Pick upHD" from Sergey Rudnev, a seller who has lots of other "magazines" in the Newsstand such as Magazine 'Gun' and Magazine 'Father'.

Amazingly some of these magazine apps have reviews, including five-star reviews, such as the one from "Britanny" who says the skin magazine "Oh! Yeah"" is "a must have." A look at the three other reviews "Brittany" has written show that they also are five-star reviews and are for equally obscure apps.

These apps, one would think, would not have gone unnoticed by the Apple app review team, but here they are, filling out the Newsstand.

But what to make of new digital magazine titles with reasonable sounding names – you know, with the word "magazine" appears at the end of the title, not at the beginning.

Take a look at the three new digital magazine apps from JLynnApps. There are three new tablet magazine inside the Newsstand with logical titles: Got A Job Magazine, Create A Website In 7min and Live Organic Magazine. Each title feels a bit odd to me, like they come from someone with a better, but still imperfect grasp of English.

The first tablet magazine actually charges $0.99 for the app, a rare example of a magazine app that is paid. This title was launched two weeks ago and already has 19 reviews – every one of them a five-star review. And guess what? All 19 were written reviews. That's right, every single person who rated the app wrote a review – and all of them were written on January 30 or 31. 19 reviews in two days, and none since. What are the odds?

The newest app already has six 5-star reviews, and it has just launched. I don't think Wired or The New Yorker ever was a popular tablet edition as Create A Website in 7min is proving to be. Maybe they would consider buying the Time Inc. titles.

The tipoff, in the case of JLynnApps, is that the rest of the company's apps are games or utilities. Magazine publishers and digital publishing vendors don't normally get involved with game apps or other software.

If it is so easy to see what is going on in the Newsstand why doesn't Apple see it? Do they care? Or are they, in reality, in on the scam? You would think not, but as time goes by it is harder and harder to give the company the benefit of the doubt. Developers have been complaining about Apple's search mechanism and its iTunes store design for so long that many now feel that the game is being rigged against them. Others simply believe Apple is too big to care about hundreds of dollars worth of sales when the quarterly goals are now so high and even record sales and profits can't placate Wall Street. The result is an App Store that reveals Capitalism at its most ugly self.

Kickstarter supported humor magazine Paperweight launches, a bit unprepared, into the Newsstand

Update: The app talked about in this piece has been withdrawn from the App Store, mostly with an updated version to be released soon. I'll follow-up with a post on the updated app that can look at the actual digital issue inside once an update clears the Apple review team.

It's potentially a great story: two guys want to launch a humor magazine, one's an editor, the other a web designer; they do a Kickstarter project hoping to raise $15,000 and manage to exceed their goal very quickly; and today the new digital magazine launched in Apple's Newsstand. But now reality sets in as the new publishers need to deal with the issues faced by all digital publishers, issue delivery, bugs, and overall management of a new magazine venture.

Paperweight is the creation of writer/editor Chris Duffy and designer/ developer Brain Perry. Their Kickstarter project, begun on October 23 of last year, ultimately funded the creation of this iOS digital-only magazine and the publishing team chose to build their tablet-only magazine using the Mag+ platform. Things went swimmingly at first, with Wired's Angela Watercutter seeing the Kickstarter project only two days in and writing a story about Paperweight for Wired's website.

(The team's goal was to raise $15,000, but managed to attract 220 backers to reach $16,556 in funding.)

The launch, however, has experienced a few hiccups as the app entered the App Store without there being an actual issue to download, a problem familiar to digital publishers who find one morning that their app has unexpectedly been approved and launched by Apple.

Paperweight: A Moderately Cultured Humor Magazine, as it appears on the "cover" was born out of the meeting of its two founders at ImprovBoston in Cambridge, Mass.

"I'm coming at it from as someone who has been writing and performing comedy, and Brian is coming at it from a designer and web background," Duffy told me this morning. "We both perform comedy and love comedy and read a lot of it. We basically felt there wasn't a magazine like this we wanted to read, and when we started to think about what it would take to put it together we kind of realized that between the two of us we had the perfect match of skills to bring it to fruition."

The digital magazine, in the form of a universal iOS app, will appear bi-monthly priced at $1.99. The goal is to be reader supported by driving subscriptions, with the revenue supporting not only the Mag+ fees but also paying contributors.

"We would much rather pay contributors than pay ourselves. This is something we like doing a lot, but we also felt that the fact that people aren't getting paid for their work right now, even a nominal fee, was one of the biggest motivations for doing this."

The publishers used the Mag+ platform to create its digital issues and app, resulting in a universal app (iPhone and iPad). The magazine's Kickstarter page states that if funding goes well (and it did) the publisher may eventually support Android devices, as well.

The team also said that the reason to create an tablet magazine was the interactivity that only a tablet magazine can bring to a magazine. "We are designing lots of interactive features for Paperweight some of which won’t translate outside of the app. That’s part of what we’re so excited about. These pieces couldn’t exist anywhere else," the Kickstarter project page said.

Hopefully, the team will get the bugs worked out soon enough before the joke proves to be on their readers. But the launch of Paperweight is yet another example of new citizen publishers entering the magazine field, often under the radar of traditional publishers, and most definitely invisible to the trade magazine publishers who keep telling us that there are fewer and fewer new magazine launches.

Since I could not access the premiere issue here is the video created by the Paperweight team for their Kickstarter project:

Morning Brief: Four journalists at the Mirror Group arrested for hacking voice mails; WSJ app update adds sharing options, while Future fixes major bug in new digital-only magazine; WoodWing adds SMS as partner

The phone hacking scandal grew today with the arrest of four journalists from the Mirror Group, including the current Sunday People editor James Scott. The arrests center around actions taken from 2003 to 2004.

Tina Weaver, former Sunday Mirror editor, Nick Buckley, deputy Sunday People editor, and Mark Thomas, former People editor, were the other three journalists arrested.

"This conspiracy is being treated as a separate conspiracy to the two being investigated at the now defunct News of the World newspaper," the Metropolitan police said in a statement. "In due course officers will be making contact with people they believe have been victims of the suspected voicemail interceptions."

The Wall Street Journal today issued an update to its universal iOS app which expands the social sharing of articles through Twitter and Facebook, allows for the sharing of articles through the Messages app in iOS 6 only, and fixes a video bug.

The update also adds local language editions for Japan and Korea.

Future plc also issued an update to its new digital-only tablet magazine app, Photography Week.

The magazine itself has gotten very positive reader reviews inside the App Store, but those reviews have been offset by an equal number of readers complaining about the app itself. The app, for many, stopped opening following the previous update, frustrating readers who had signed up to the weekly digital magazine.

WoodWing today announced that it had added Superior Media Solutions as a new partner in North America. The Lincolnshire, Ill. to represent WoodWing´s multi-channel publishing platform Enterprise and its digital asset management solution Elvis DAM.

"Superior Media Solutions is not only a technology provider, but it’s also founded and operated by experienced media executives and staff that are focused on helping optimize publishing IT and operations," said Bill Walker, CEO of Superior Media Solutions. "Our solutions approach and methodology is driven by each client’s unique needs and business parameters."

SMS is led by CEO Bill Walker, who just happens to be the husband to Peggy Walker, President & COO of B2B publisher Vance Publishing, also out of Lincolnshire, Ill. Vance publishes titles such as Modern Salon and Custom Woodworking Business. The company has not been active in producing mobile or tablet apps, depending on mobile websites to try and reach readers. Maybe this move will kick start the B2B publisher into the new digital platforms.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Newspapers in the app world: A look at the top U.S. papers and their mobile & tablet efforts

In a few weeks we will reach the third anniversary of the launch of the iPad. On that day in April many new owners eagerly unboxed their shiny new tablets, a few media properties launched their first early apps, and more than a few media observers dismissed the new device as a waste of time.

So as we approach the anniversary I thought I'd prepare a couple of tables that look at the top newspapers and magazines. It's a lot of work, to be honest, and this first table is not complete - I will revise it to include the top 20 papers as reported by the Alliance for Audited Media.

First a couple of things that should be mentioned about the table below. When speaking about "mobile" and "tablet" apps we are only thinking about main news app, not special sections and not sports apps. Also, you will notice that every newspaper today has a mobile news app. Each of these is pretty much the same, an RSS feed driven app. Most newspapers that have "native" tablet apps have created RSS driven apps, as well – only a couple of newspapers, usually tabloids, are building a native app that in any way would remind one of The Daily, or other digital publications. Finally, pricing continues to be an issue with newspapers with many papers continuing to give away their content for free. Some are charging for replica editions of the print newspapers while giving away a native RSS feed app.

One final note: this table only looks at iOS apps as media companies continue to develop for Apple's platform first. Also, so many media companies have only launched a tablet app for the iPad, while leaving their mobile Android app to serve Android tablet owners – I'm sure this will change over time. But the thing one sees when looking at the top newspapers is that, unlike magazines, newspapers remain confused and very uncreative when it comes to tablet editions. The design introduced by the NYT three years ago is pretty much standard fare for many U.S. newspapers.

Here is a first look at the top newspapers, I hope you find it useful:

 photo Newspaper-Apps-Table-sm_zps795b3295.jpg
Click to enlarge

Royal Irish Academy releases 'A History of Ireland in 100 Objects' a new book app developed with Joe Zeff Design

Just in time for St. Patrick Day comes "a gift from the people of Ireland" – A History of Ireland in 100 Objects, a free book app from the Royal Irish Academy. The new app was a project of the National Museum of Ireland, The Irish Times and the Royal Irish Academy, but TNM readers will want to know that the app was developed through the studio of Joe Zeff Design, the company behind many interesting interactive book apps.

(Also partnering in the project were the EU Presidency, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Adobe Systems - the app was built using the Adobe DPS).

This is the story of Ireland, told through photos, film and audio of the key objects in Irish history. Starting in 5,000 BC with the Mesolithic Fish Trap, you can trace the course of Irish history through to 2013 and a decommissioned IRA gun. Along the way, you can explore the significance of the Spanish Armada, the path of the Irish in America, the horrors of Bloody Sunday or the homesickness of Irish goldminers in Australia. Each object is featured via beautiful photography and an incisive short essay by leading Irish writer Fintan O'Toole as well as film or audio of the object giving its historical context. You can immerse yourself in this virtual history of Ireland for hours at a time, you can dip in for a minute, orjavascript:void(0); you can even use the app as a guide and follow the trail of the objects taking in the country's leading museums and cultural institutions.

The app opens to a library page where the reader downloads the actual eBook, and as the app description mentions, the file to be downloaded is 500 MB.

The eBook is designed to read more like a magazine, in portrait. This may have been a design choice knowing that the work would not only appear for the iPhone and iPad, but for the Kindle Fire and Android tablets, as well.

The book is filled with multimedia elements: from mini-documentaries, audio, animated objects and zoomable imagery as you will see in the preview video created by Joe Zeff Design. You can also read more about the app on the studio's own blog. But the important thing to know is that the eBook is free to download until the end of March.

I'm sure the team over at Joe Zeff Design would like a few kind words about the app, but really, TNM readers know what to expect – yet another fine app from the design studio. They don't get much better than this as far as design, interaction, stability of app, etc.

The preview video can be found after the jump:

Chicago Sun-Times launches new stand-alone universal iOS app from NewspaperDirect, paper already has native tablet edition app in the Apple Newsstand

The Chicago Sun-Times, the daily newspaper NOT up for sale in the second city, today released a new replica edition app.

Chicago Sun-Times e-Edition joins another app, Chicago Sun-Times, as stand-alone apps inside the App Store. The previously released app mirrors the paper's web content, while the new e-edition app mirrors the tabloid print product.

The Sun-Times had previously been on a bit of a digital publishing spree launching Newsstand-supported tablet editions using the Mag+ platform. The apps for Splash, Sport by Chicago Sun-Times, Bears Extra and Bulls Extra all were native tablet editions with weekly publication schedules.

But the Sun-Times also has a native tablet edition for its paper, as well: Chicago Sun-Times for iPad. It's all very confusing if you are a reader, and things don't improve much on the Android platform where the paper has a replica edition app from Technavia.

The new app released today is from NewspaperDirect. Like other apps from the company, the app first appears as a straight replica edition app where the reader is forced to use pinch-to-zoom in order to read the stories. But each headline has a blue bar over it that signifies that the reader can tap it in order to pull up a text version of the same story. The solution is not ideal as every layout has to be the same, but it works and I find that it is a very enjoyable way to read a tablet edition that is essentially a replica edition.

You can can compare the two versions – replica and native – below. The middle animated GIF shows the way the new app handle story layouts, while the GIF on the right shows the way the older native app displays the same story from today's edition (the picture on the left is the library page from the new app):

I suppose the way to rationalize the release of this new tablet edition would be to say that there are some older readers who still enjoy the tabloid format and might be feeling uncomfortable with the native tablet design. It also is possible that the new e-edition involves no, or little investment on the part of the paper as revenue would be split with NewspaperDirect – assuming that is the arrangement the two parties have.

The biggest reason I can find to justify the release of the new NewspaperDirect built app is that it is universal, whereas the native tablet edition is only for the iPad. That means that the Sun-Times now has an iPhone app the delivers the content of the tabloid newspaper, as opposed to the other universal app, Chicago Sun-Times, which is delivering web content.

But is is confusing for readers who now have three main news apps to choose from. On the other hand, the paper has been aggressive in launching new digital products at a time when its rival, the Chicago Tribune, has been pulling back its app efforts. Several sports tablet editions were launched by Tribune Interactive for the Trib, but have since been pulled from the App Store.

Of course, things are quite up in the air at the Trib as the parent company has put its print newspapers up for sale. Speculation is that the papers may get sold to U-T San Diego owner Doug Manchester, a developer and promoter of conservative causes. The rumor is that the Koch brothers will back the venture. We'll see, but if U-T San Diego styled publishing comes to Chicago one thing can be said for sure: it will be good news for the Sun-Times.

App Updates: TRVL updates iPad magazine app, now publishing as Prss Inc.; Apple updates retail store app, while Google tries to fix iOS version of Chrome

The travel photography digital magazine TRVL today issued a major update to its iPad app. The update adds features and makes fixes, but probably most importantly migrated the app to a new corporate account: the app is now being published under the name of the new digital publishing platform Prss Inc. (previously the app was appearing under the seller name of Picture Contact BV.

Here is what's new in version 3.1.1 beyond the publisher name change:

★ Shake to shuffle the kiosk, shake again to revert
★ Faster and more responsive
★ Improved animations and gesture handling
★ Improved downloading and feedback on unreliable connections
☂ Fixed displaying of photo settings
☂ Optimized Newsstand push
☂ Fixed audio in videos
☂ Optimized sharing of photo's to Twitter/Facebook
If didn't guess, those symbols are what the reader sees in the app description inside the App Store. Also, the latest travel magazine to be found inside TRVL is on Zimbabwe.

Often when Apple releases an update to one of its apps it is a sign that an iOS update is right around the corner. I doubt that is the case today with the update to the Apple Store app, the app used by shoppers inside Apple retail locations.

The update adds new delivery options and also an inventory check mechanism, convenient for shoppers who don't want to go to their local Apple store only to find it sold out of a particular item.

Air Canada updated its iOS app to add in a new class of travel, Premiere Economy. The new class will be available on flights from Montreal and Paris, as well as from Toronto to Athens, Venice and Edinburgh, and Montreal to Athens. This only mentioned because my daughter keeps telling me we should return to Greece this summer. Fat chance.

Finally, Google updated its Chrome browser app for iOS to fix a crash problem at start up. I used to be a Chrome user but no longer fire up the browser on my Mac because of its poor performance – it has become a lagging mess. I rarely use the browser on my iPhone and quite a number of users are complaining the update has not fixed the crashing (though others have said it is now fixed).

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Le Monde releases iPad tribute to Stéphane Hessel

The French daily newspaper has launched a unique new tablet app, Hessel, L'éternel indigné (Hessel, The Eternal indignant).

The new tablet app is dedicated to the memory and writings of Stéphane Hessel who died on february 27 at the age of 95. Hessel was a diplomat, writer and concentration camp survivor. During World War II, following the defeat to Germany, Hessel fled to London and joined the Resistance. Hessel returned to France where he helped organize the communications networks to prepare for the Allied invasion. He was eventually captured by the Germans, sent to the Buchenwald and Dora concentration camps, and was tortured by waterboarding.

After the war Hessel became a diplomat and a human rights advocate. He also wrote essays, the last of which is set to be published this month: Don’t Give Up: In the Trenches with the Spanish for Liberty and Progress.

The new iPad app contains the full text of Indignez-vous! (Time for Outrage!), Hessels essay about the growing gap in France between the poor and the wealthy, the need for a free press and the need to protect France's welfare system. There are also documentary images from filmmaker Tony Gatlif.

(See this article from The Nation on the essay, as well as the extraordinary life lived.)

The app is, in essence, a very modern tribute to Hessel and an interesting new direction for Le Monde within the App Store. The app cost $6.99 in the the U.S., 5,99 € in France. The app was placed in the News category, and does not support Newsstand because of its single issue mission.

The appearance of this new iPad gives one hope that Le Monde is turning the page when it comes to its mobile and tablet publishing strategy which has been, to say the least, disappointing. The newspaper has a pretty poorly received main universal app, as well as some replica editions for Le Monde diplomatique through Exact Editions. If Le Monde wants to appeal to a new generation of readers it will certainly have to start thinking about the new platforms in a new way – this is a pretty good start.

Retweet: Adweek asks 'Did Time Inc. miss the paid content boat?' No, they simply did it differently for too long

I'm not a good mood today everywhere I turn reporters are writing stories that seem to take the facts out of thin air and spin some new tale out of them. That would be OK by me until I start to see the story getting picked up and retweeted. It's like Disney and The Hunchback of Notre Dame: you know it in the book it doesn't end well for Esmeralda and Quasimodo, right?

Adweek is telling us that Time Inc. missed the paid content boat, and the blame is squarely on Laura Lang, hired only a bit over a year ago. Lucia Moses writes that "In the spring of 2011, the company's biggest rivals, Condé Nast and Hearst, made deals to sell subscriptions to their magazines' tablet editions in Apple’s iTunes store. It took Time Inc. more than a year to follow suit."

In fact, Time was one of the first to launch a tablet edition, charging $4.99 per issue, well ahead of most other publishers. The Newsstand would not appear until over a year and a half later, and it is true that those who had not yet launched tablet editions eager launched apps into the new feature. But Times wasn't a laggard, it was a pioneer. It was first, and then found itself in a bad position with stand-alone apps that would need to be updated.

"Of all the big competitors, all of them have figured out pricing—those companies have seen they can charge more" compared to the "very conservative" Time Inc., said Ken Doctor, media analyst with Outsell. “They plainly lost a year and a half under [CEO] Laura Lang."

That's utter nonsense.

On August 3 of 2011, two months before the launch of Apple's Newsstand, Maurice Edelson, EVP at Time Inc. said the publisher would "launch tablet editions for its entire portfolio of 21 titles by year's end." It was huge news, and many thought it daring, a huge commitment to a new digital platform.

“Having our entire portfolio available on tablets will create a significant new digital reach for our advertisers," said Edelson. Time followed up by launching tablet editions for Golf Magazine, not only for the iPad, but other devices, as well.

Time Inc. also was one of the first to even talk about tablet magazines - creating a YouTube video of what they felt a tablet magazine would look like. Don't remember it? Well, it appeared in December of 2009 (TNM story here, one of this site's first), two months before Steve Jobs introduced the first iPad:

After this video appeared Sports Illustrated worked with The Wonderfactory to produced their first iPad edition, which was launched in June of 2010. There was no Newsstand and Time continued its policy, then brand new, of launching individual apps for each issue. The downside was that no one could subscribe; the upside was that each week the new app appeared at the top of the list of apps – it was a marketing move that made a lot of sense in an environment where each new app got a lot of attention.

"We still have plenty of features on our wish list and under development at the moment, but I think the iPad apps available today clearly show that we're offering a versatile and mature solution," said Erik Schut, President of WoodWing Software, who was Time's partner on that original app.

Yes, Time Inc. was late to enter the Newsstand, but one has to say that when you have invested in stand-alone apps the way it did moving to the Newsstand is a major move. But Lang did that, and so in June of 2012, only six months after being hired, all the Time titles migrated into the Newsstand and started selling subscriptions. So the reality is that Time Inc. was a pioneer in the tablet platform (they also were in Zinio's newsstand early on), but late to start setting subscriptions. Does that make them late to have a paid content strategy, or merely guilty of having the wrong one?

Of course, we all know what Moses is really referring to when she says Time Inc. is behind in the paid content area: paywalls, the Shibboleth of the media world.

But if Adweek and Ken Doctor want to bash Times Inc. for being a print company failing to profit on the web they better be prepared to deal it out to the hundreds of other publications in the same boat. But let's get our facts straight, as one of the first major publishers to begin selling digital copies of its magazine inside Apple's App Store, Time Inc. was not lagging behind its competitors, it simply took a different route. It's error was not cutting its prices or giving away its product, it was in being first into a market that was immature. No one sold lots of subscriptions in 2010. And if Time the decisions were made in early 2010, it is hard for me to blame Laura Lang, who was the head of a digital ad agency at the time.

Condé Nast releases a head-scratcher of a tablet edition for 'Details'; do sloppy job launching Teen Vogue app

Is Condé Nast losing interest in its tablet editions inside the Apple's Newsstand? Is the emphasis shifting to Next Issue Media and digital newsstands? The release today of two god-awful new tablet editions certainly has to make you think something is up.

The new iPad edition for Details immediately had me wondering about the fate of the print title – are things really that bad over there? Details Magazine, you see, is an unreadable replica edition of the print magazine, not the hybrid edition I might have expected. Still using the Adobe DPS, the designers released a tablet edition without even the obligatory embedded links on the TOC. One might think that the publishers thinks its average reader of the title is an old man without much tech skills, but I doubt the reps are selling the magazine that way. If ever there was a disconnect between an app and its print readership, this is it. So what's going on?

I immediately did a web search to see if there were rumors of the titles demise, or a possible sale. A story came up about falling ad pages early in 2012, but a look at the year-end 2012 PIB report shows ad pages were flat in 2012.

The new app opens to the store where it offers a free issue, February – it should do a lot to discourage subscriptions. Individual issues sell for $4.99, while monthly subscriptions only cost $1.99 per month, and an annual subscription is priced at $14.99. The publisher needs to pray for impulse sales.

As is typical of Condé Nast books, subscribers to the print edition will be able to log into the app to access issues – this will cut down the number of irate reader reviews.

Things are not much better with the new app released for Teen Vogue. Again, the app is a replica edition without any real effort expended in its creation. In fact, the effort was so sloppy that the screenshots were messed up in the app description, leading to two dead links. One certainly knows when you are on the outs with management (or at least the digital team) when you see this kind of work.

Teen Vogue works better as a replica than does Details, though, because of its specs. I remember the magazine as smaller than usual, something I could not confirm because the magazine's page for the media kit is down (is Condé Nast rebelling against digital media?). Because of this, the fonts appear large enough to read without a magnifying glass, and pinch-to-zoom (what I like to call the 'gesture of last resort') is often unnecessary.

But once again the effort is so weak here that no links were embedded in the digital magazine, not even on the TOC page.

Left: The replica edition for Details is not helped by a lack of embedded links; Middle: two-page ad spreads are broken up into two display pages with a black stripe down the middle when seen in portrait; Right: fonts are reduced in size to the point of being pretty funny. We'll see if readers get the joke.

Condé Nast has had some trouble recently with its iOS tablet editions thanks to Apple releasing iOS 6.1 and the bug that was introduced into Adobe DPS apps. Publishers have had to scramble to update their apps and otherwise good digital editions have been savaged by readers until a new update has been issued. Maybe Condé Nast is mad at Apple and has decided to give up on native tablet editions until Apple and Adobe can fix things? Maybe the publisher is putting their eggs in the Next Issue Media basket and will deemphasize the Apple Newsstand? We'll learn more as new apps and app updates are released this year.

Up until now we have been seeing fairly consistent apps coming out of the big magazine publishers, most often hybrid editions where the print ads are left as seen in print but where the editorial pages are reformatted for more pleasurable and easier reading on a tablet. As bad as these apps look on a regular sized iPad, they will look even worse on an iPad mini. It is most definitely a head-scratcher.

Morning Brief: WhaleShark Media changes its name officially to RetailMeNot, makes another acquisition; three UK papers come out for new press regulatory regime

Many media people have never heard of Whale Shark Media, the company behind the app RetailMeNot Coupons. But it is companies like this one that is eating away at newspaper and magazine advertising, bringing coupon directly to consumers.

The Austin-based company today changed its name officially – no more WhaleShark Media, now it is RetailMeNot, a company that was acquired in 2010 (frankly, both names are terrible, but whatever). The company also announced that it had acquired its fourth online coupon company in Europe, the site

If this sounds like a roll-up strategy you might be right. The company is backed by Adam Street Partners, Austin Ventures, Google Ventures, JP Morgan and others. Reuters speculates that the company will want to go public this year, though one glance at the investors involved makes you wonder if a sale could be possible, as well.

More and more ad dollars are being spent in mobile, but more importantly, more and more ad dollars are being spent in direct customer acquisition rather than through traditional media. In the case of RetailMeNot, customers can be driving by a retailer and will be sent a notification with an offer. There is no need to cut out a coupon or to plan ahead, the app does the work.

Three U.K. editors, Alan Rusbridger of The Guardian, Lionel Barber of the Financial Times and Chris Blackhurst of The Independent, today wrote editorials in support of a new press regulation system. The timing of the editorials coincide with a meeting to take place today to discuss recommendations found in the Leveson report, which was the result of hearings held following an investigation into the News of the World hacking scandal – with Rupert and James Murdock among the witnesses.

"How best to supervise the media, while retaining its independence, is no small challenge," The Independent wrote. "But the stalemate that has greeted the recommendations of the Leveson Inquiry cannot continue, even so."

"A clause underpinning a royal charter to establish a recognition panel for a press regulator does not, to our minds, amount to statutory control of the press," The Guardian editorial states. "We do not see it as a threat to press freedom. If we're to have a backdoor constitutional fudge over press regulation, it's better that it could be amended only in the open with the agreement of an overwhelming majority of parliament. A royal prerogative that can be unpicked by ministers in private does not feel like a solid bastion of free expression."

"It is hard to make the argument that ministerial discretion should trump parliamentary approval when it comes to amending a Royal Charter," the Financial Times editorial states. "It is even harder now that politicians of all stripes are lining up behind statutory underpinning of the body overseeing a new regulatory regime. Some will argue that standing on the principle of no statutory involvement whatsoever is nobler than offering a compromise which can later be exploited. The FT, on balance, disagrees and has joined The Guardian and The Independent to propose a better way forward."

The three editorials contrast with other media voices who have been calling for only voluntary guidelines, rather than a legislative approach.

Monday, March 11, 2013

NY Daily News partners with travel guide app start-up MyCityWay in major update of its mobile news app

The New York Daily News has released a new version of its mobile app, partnering with MyCityWay, a NYC start-up that makes mobile travel guide apps. The new version of Daily News Mobile is listed as Version 5.0

The update adds a wealth of new content including blogs. But it is the city guide information that has been added via MyCityWay that will be what readers notice most: dining and coffee shops, nightclubs, shopping, attractions, etc.

The main news app remains driven by the RSS feeds originating from the Daily News, of course. Sections include Metro, America, Politics, Crime, Sports, Showbiz, Opinion, Photos, Living. Columnists, Blogs, Horoscopes, Reader Offers and Dining.

A new QR reader links the app to the print edition of the paper so that readers can gain access to online material like video and photo galleries.

The app will allow advertisers to geo-target readers through location services, hopefully opening up new mobile advertising sales opportunities for the Daily News sales team.

"This also opens up new significant opportunities for advertisers who can help influence people at key decision points. The ability to customize content and access tens of thousands of stores, venues and services takes the app to a new level of personalization and relevance for consumers. Now users can quickly find anything from the nearest WiFi hotspots to a specialty food store," said Daily News President & CEO Bill Holiber.

Forbes tries new tactic to please print readers wanting their tablet edition – a discounted upgrade price

Forbes Magazine has updated its iPad app today and introduced a new upgrade program for print subscribes. Readers can now gain access to the issues inside the iPad app Forbes Magazine for an additional charge of $9.99.

The new discount program may be entirely new as I searched for a Google cache version of the app and found that last month the app description made reference to a $10 charge for print subscribers. But that price is a bit odd since Apple charges things in $0.99 prices (so the new in-app price is $9.99). It's possible that the magazine was going around the App Store with the old pricing scheme, but now any print reader who wants to upgrade their account to access the iPad version can do so as an in-app purchase.

Like many publishers who have chosen to charge print subscribers for digital, the most frequent complaint inside the App Store is from readers unhappy with the subscription policy. "Wow, never expected not to be able to get iPad version which I bought my print subscription. Let me know when you get with the program," writes one reader inside the App Store.

The screenshots used in the app description only feature covers instead of what the reader will find inside. This has been a source of trouble with readers, as well, since the app is essentially a replica edition with links added.

Ironically, the latest issue of Forbes is its "Billionaires" issue. Maybe the way to go here isn't to lower the price of the subscription but raise it – you know, make the app one of those things only the rich can access. Seems like the kind of thing Forbes would approve of.

Hallelujah, newspapers are saved, what to buy one now? Publishers and observers look at circulation revenue gains and see real progress in turning around newspaper P&Ls

Maybe it's because I come from the publisher side of the business, as opposed to the journalism side, that I continue to see the media business in a different light than most industry observers. To "the other side" the way forward continues to be paid content, paywalls, aggregation, and more and more conferences (I added that last part to be snarky, but I'm not sure it isn't accurate).

As a revenue (and cost) guy, I tend to go back to the spreadsheets as soon as I hear an argument along the lines of that articulated by Ken Doctor, probably the respected and quoted person when it comes to the newspaper business. Doctor wrote last week on Nieman Lab about paywalls and said, to my astonishment, that the added dollars coming into circulation was "stabilizing the business." Here is the full quote:

It’s money that’s stabilizing the business, really for the first time since 2006. Newspaper revenue trends among those top performers are getting back to that under-appreciated “zero” number (“The newsonomics of zero, and the New York Times”), making up for continuing losses in ad revenue. It also means we’ll see more top-line growth this year — and that’s milestone territory. That’s the reason why the U.S. system of metered paywalls is now being applied around the world.
This is about as full a declaration of victory for paywalls that I've read. But I'm afraid I just don't see it.

Yes, the NYT did report a "meager" 0.3 percent increase in overall revenue in 2012, but then again the paper has just put up The Boston Globe for sale, hardly a sign that the company feels it is in the money now, or that the business is in any way "stabilized".

Things are even worse when you look at another company mentioned in the post, Gannett. That publisher reported a very healthy increase in circulation revenue, one that brought its numbers back up to 2007 levels. But let's look at this from the perspective of how it all would look on the P&L:
 photo Gannett-ads-circ-revenue-sm_zps725bcc67.jpg
Even if Gannett were to add the $100 million that Doctor believes it can, it will at best only be able to get its total revenue back up to 2009 levels, assuming advertising does not fall further – and frankly, I don't think they can do that – nor if they did that it would turn things around.

Another point to make about circulation revenue is that not 100 percent of the new revenue is coming from website paywalls, but simply from paid circulation overall. Paid circulation coming from mobile and tablets are generally considered circulation, and that revenue is would have traditionally been considered coming from new product launches. One could just as easily make the argument that circ gains show the wisdom of digital launches as much as it does paywalls.

To repeat myself again, it is should be said that I am not against paywalls. I've always said that financial newspapers and major national newspaper brands stood the best chance to succeed with a paywall – metered or not. But I've yet to see anything that would convince me that paywalls will work at metro, regional and local newspaper sites. I still think that the verdict is not yet in.

Over at AOL, Patch has not instituted paywalls, as they come from a pure play situation where the concept would feel out of left field. AOL's chief executive seems to feel that Patch is going to be profitable, but 2012 revenue came in 15 to 30 percent below promised, and at $34 million, still seems like a lot of work for little real revenue.

In fact, this seems to be the real issue in the industry: a lot of executives and media consultants chasing so few dollars, while the ad dollars continue to go elsewhere.

According to Kantar Media's latest report, newspaper ad revenue fell 3 percent in 2012. Overall ad spending increased by the same percentage, all going into the pockets of broadcasters. Even Internet spending was said to have fallen 3 percent, though Kantar is only looking at display ads. But I've always found measuring revenue to be difficult. Look at almost any magazine ad report that includes revenue and you'll see that when ad pages fall revenue is said to have fallen by a smaller amount. Real world experience tells you that this is true when in a high inflation setting, like in the nineties and before, but the past decades have found publishers freezing rates or having to discount more, leading to bigger, not smaller declines in their revenue lines.

With the Globe for sale, along with the LA Times, Chicago Tribune and the rest of the Tribune Company's print properties, I think it is fair to say we are in an era of incredible instability. Turn the situation around will take a turnaround in advertising as much as an increase in circulation. Or am I reading the numbers wrong?

New tablet editions from Australia: Reddo Media native tablet editions shine, while large publisher NewsLifeMedia releases replica for 'Delicious'

Quite a number of new tablet editions from Australian magazine publishers have been released lately in Apple's Newsstand including two new app built by Reddo Media for its publishing clients.

It turns out that TNM has looked at an app from Reddo Media before, the native tablet edition of Culture, a hair fashion magazine.

Unlike some international versions of Apple's Newsstand, the Australian store is not dominated by U.S. titles – in fact, the only U.S title to crack the top ten free Newsstand apps is Meredith's Better Homes and Gardens. Heading the list this morning is Coles Magazine, from the supermarket of the same name. That app was built using the Oomph platform (see original TNM post here).

Reddo Media uses the Adobe DPS platform to build its tablet editions, and its app for RUSSH Magazine has received a ridiculous number of 5-star reviews inside the Australian App Store (and only one 1-star review, most likely from a magazine competitor). You can see the latest edition of RUSSH via the walk-through video below.

Just released last week into the Newsstand are Smarter Business Ideas and Encore.

Smarter Business Ideas is one of Australia’s largest circulation business magazines, distributed to oter 300,000 small and medium business owners by Bauer Media for its custom publishing client Telstra Business. Encore, on the other hand, is a bit of a redo, or encore, if you like (couldn't help myself): a new app that replaces a previously released one. The first app was a companion to the monthly print magazine. But the new app, now developed by Reddo Media, is a free weekly digital-only magazine. Encore comes from the publisher Focal Attractions.

"Without the need to replicate or enhance a print edition, the new Encore is able to embrace all of the possibilities of tablet publishing," the Reddo Media website says of the new app.

Not all the new tablet editions released by Australian publishers are going to be natively designed tablet editions, of course. Like publishers everywhere, there is an urge to cut corners and release a replica edition.

News Lfe Media Pty has just launched a first tablet edition for its title delicious. (with the period at the end). The app of the same name appears to be a replica edition and is priced at a rate that pretty much guarantees a few negative reviews.

But News Life Media is not releasing only replicas as its tablet edition for donna hay magazine is an interactive tablet edition that has gotten good marks (other than some complaint about crashes) and is currently ranked fourth under Top Free Apps inside the Australian Newsstand category.

News Life Media also released a replica-like tab edition* for Sunday Style but is receiving very predictable negative reviews: "my only real issue is that the text is tiny and hard to read on the iPad screen," writes one early review inside the Australian App Store. "And no zoom option??? Please rethink font size for the next and future issues - don't cram it all onto page in tiny text, spread it out a little (we're paying extra to read now, don't have us strain out eyes on a Sunday morning!)."

*Because of the high prices set by News Life Media I did not buy these magazines, so can not tell for sure if they are replica editions or hybrid editions that have been poorly designed for the iPad – I am very much depending on the screenshots and the reaction from readers.

Morning Brief: Latest ABC report finds UK newspapers see circulation levels decline; tensions rise in Korea

On Friday the Audit Bureau of Circulations (ABC) in the U.K. released its latest circulation reports and the news was not good for British dailies. The Guardian's circulation fell to 193,586, a drop of 5.31 percent. The decline follows a decision to increase the price of the paper.

A Guardian News & Media spokesman tried to put a positive spin on the numbers: "The Guardian is a growing global brand with the world's fourth-most popular news website and the UK's No 1 quality newspaper mobile site. We are seeing record digital traffic on every single measure and our journalism is being read by more people than ever before."

Left unsaid, of course, is the thorny issue of making money online.

The Sun also reported a sharp decline in circulation, falling 5.3 percent to 2,281,990, the ABC reported.

Tensions continue to grow on the Korean peninsula as North Korea announced that it had "declared invalid" the armistice signed in 1953. Despite this, U.S. media appears pretty disinterested.

Like a drup addict that needs more and more of the drug, North Korea is stamping its feet louder and louder in order to try and get attention and get the U.S. and South Korea to recognize it. The behavior seems to be less effective, it the North Korean's great consternation.

At issue today is military exercises set to begin soon involving 10,000 South Korean troops, along side 3,000 Americans.

Media app updates were few and far between this weekend, though a couple updates to B2B magazines apps were released. CFO Publishing issued one of the few updates to a media app to be found inside the App Store. CFO Magazine is a universal replica edition app. It's update oddly states that it has added support for iOS 5.1 and iOS 6.1, as well as fixing bugs.

BevNet Magazine, another replica, was also updated this weekend. The magazine is published eight times per year with "occasional special issues" the app description tells readers. BevNet's app is also universal (magnifying glass recommended for reading the digital magazine on an iPhone).