Friday, March 22, 2013

Auto Trader (UK) launches 'ignition' – an interactive digital magazine built using the FutureFolio publishing platform

This new native digital magazine, ignition, comes from the UK magazine Auto Trader, not to be confused with the U.S. company of the same name owned by Cox Enterprises and the PE firm Providence Equity Partners.

For the British company, this is the first app to be released into the Apple App Store under its own developer account – and it's quite an app, indeed.

Built using the digital publishing platform from Future plc, FutureFolio, ignition is a unique and innovative attempt at presenting a digital publication that has, at its heart, the mission of selling used cars. Readers simply interested in the autos featured here may not even bother to tap on the icon that takes them out of the app and to the Auto Trader website to browse the autos for sale. Others will find that to be the best feature.

The Newsstand app may have just been released yesterday, but there are already five issues inside the app's library to download. Single issues are priced £2.99 ($4.99 in the U.S), while a monthly subscription is priced at £1.99, and 3 months subscription at £3.99. The app is universal, but I think the presentation is best seen on the iPad.

The navigation is slightly irregular in that returning to the main menu involves tapping a button at the bottom-left of the page within the digital issue, rather than double tapping the page. Once you are aware of this there are no other problems I encountered with the app itself.

The digital issues are designed to be read in portrait only, which saves a bit of file size. The issue I downloaded, that latest, weighed in at 264 MB, with most of the heft taken up by the videos and photo galleries.

When you consider the two tablet editions I looked at today – ΜΟΥΣΑ #2 (TNM post here) and now ignition – you might get the impression that European publishers are way ahead of their American colleagues when it comes to building interactive tablet magazines. But Europe is releasing more than its fair share of replica editions, as well. But the work coming out of some publishers is definitely excellent, and definitely well ahead of many American companies. If I ran Classified Ventures, for instance, I certainly would be paying attention to what is going on across the pond.

ΜΟΥΣΑ #2: Lambrakis releases a second stand-alone app for their Greek language edition of Marie Clare

Two weeks before Christmas Lambrakis Press released a single issue tablet edition of its Greek version of Marie Claire magazine, ΜΟΥΣΑ (Mousa) - the original post is here. Now, three months later the publisher is back with a second edition, ΜΟΥΣΑ #2.

Like the first tablet edition, this one is also a stand-alone app, a pretty big one at that – 616MB in size. But a look at the video walk-through below will instantly show you why the app needed to be so large. Like ΜΟΥΣΑ #1, this iPad app is also a tour de force of Adobe DPS publishing.

The app remains free of charge and I imagine that the publisher, who has a few other stand-alone iPad apps inside the App Store, will continue to forego the Newsstand until they are sure their are enough readers in the market for their tablet editions.

MOUSA is an interactive fashion magazine for the iPad.

A product of Marie Claire Greece, with original content as well as enriched features from the print issue, it dynamically uses tablet technology, offering readers the experience of a glossy magazine from the future.

For the first time in Greece a lifestyle app serves as a new platform of expression for photographers, stylists, journalists and designers who want to experiment and create vivid content and interactive fashion images using exciting technology.
The digital magazine is designed to be read in landscape, as the screenshots in the app description make clear. The app opens to an animated "cover" and then moves on to a pretty interesting interactive ad for Golden Hall, a shopping center in Athens. Readers who swipe the page are in for a bit of a surprise, and may find it hard to swipe to the next page.

(One can't get over the amount of English used in the Greek language magazine – I think the French would find it upsetting, and the Québécois would make it illegal.)

It would be silly of me to list those who should be credited with the fine work here, as the Greek masthead is not translated, but this is excellent work. I look forward to a time when the publisher believes it is economically worth their time and effort to produced a monthly digital edition of Marie Clare, even if the editions are a bit more modest than their first two editions.

Morning Brief: Day of decision in Cyprus; Chicago school district to close 54 schools; Scottish Newspaper Society comes out against proposed press regulations

Cyprus today finds itself with a gun held to its head. The question is who is holding it, the European community, Russia, or themselves?

Word is that legislation that will be brought up in parliament today will include the tax levy on bank deposits, rejected in a different form earlier this week. Depositors with less than €100,000 in their bank would be spared the tax, but those with more than that amount could face a 15 percent haircut.

Representatives of the Cypriot government have been rebuffed, according to Reuters, in their efforts to get bailout assistance from Russia. The assumption was that Russia would be eager to help since those with the most to lose are foreign nations, mostly Russian oligarch, who use Cyprus as a tax haven for their riches. But without Russian assistance Cyprus might feel it is forced to reintroduce the levy on deposits – this in turn would all but destroy Cyprus as a banking haven for the rich.

Cypriots have been protesting the proposed levy, but how they would feel if €100,000 of deposits were protected is unknown. The Bank of Cyprus has come out in favor of the tax as a way of saving the banks and avoid default, but the act of taxing deposits would itself be injurious to the banking community.

"The next few hours will determine the future of the country," Reuters quoted a government spokesman. "We must all assume our share of the responsibility."

Paul Krugman, on his blog this morning, reminds us that Cyprus also has an issue of overvalued real estate – a bubble, in other words. He argues that pulling an Iceland – letting the banks fail and reintroducing the currency – would work for Cyprus. But he knows as well as anyone that this will not happen. Just like in Greece, the natives are too enamored with the idea of being part of the Eurozone. Until that changes nothing really can prevent them from being victimized by their European partners.

"For too long children in certain parts of Chicago have been cheated out of the resources they need to succeed because they are in underutilized, under-resourced schools," announced the chief executive of the Chicago Public Schools yesterday in a statement.

What followed, however, was not a pledge of added funding, but the announcement that 54 public schools would be closed.

"They are moving people around on spreadsheets," said the president of the Chicago Teachers Union. "And children are not spreadsheets."

No, they are not spreadsheets. They are numbers on spreadsheets.

The Scottish Newspaper Society has come out officially against the proposed UK press regulation that resulted from the Leveson Report.

“The Scottish Newspaper Society has serious concerns about the Expert Panel report and the considerable extensions over and above the Leveson proposals," the society said in a letter.

"Our main issue with what is proposed is the impact on regional and local newspapers, who were praised and exonerated in the Leveson report but now face a more expensive and extensive regulatory system at a time of economic recession and migration of revenues to the internet."

The Huffington Post this morning posted their own guide to Britain's new media regulation regime.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Sync Magazine: New weekly digital-only magazine from the UK aims 'to document the connected society'

I'm not sure what to make of this new digital magazine. Is it a big promotional effort, or an honest attempt to create a new weekly digital magazine? We'll find out in the weeks to come.

Sync Magazine is from Gadabout Productions Ltd., a UK-based independent film production company. The editor is Guy Daniels, Managing Director at Gadabout, and someone who once worked at EMAP before moving into the film business.

The new digital-only magazine is quite ambitious. For one thing, it plans on a weekly publication schedule. For another, it's app description lays out a rather precise set of objectives:
Sync is the weekly video magazine for the connected society. It is produced for all those working in – or interested in – communications technologies, services and applications. Whether you have a direct interest in telecoms, wireless, broadband or internet, or an indirect interest through verticals such as healthcare, education, finance, transport, social and so on…. we hope Sync becomes your weekly guide to the Connected Society...

Sync is only available as a digital publication for smart devices – optimised for both the iPhone and iPad. There’s no print alternative. We live in a digital world, and the format of Sync reflects this.

Sync is written and produced by specialist telecoms journalists and reporters, with decades of experience in this sector. We are a small, independent team with no affiliations to telecoms vendors or service providers. Our aim is to document the connected society, and help those who seek to provide services that will benefit society.

Sync stands for a smarter world. We want smart cities, intelligent communities and integrated transport. We respect freedom of speech and the need for a free internet. We encourage open standards and a more enlightened approach to patent licensing.
With so ambitious a mission I think it best to withhold judgement while the magazine gets its publishing underway.

The universal iOS app contains one issue plus a sample of that issue. To access the full premiere issue will cost $2.99. Subscriptions are available in 6 month ($59.99) and 1 year increments ($89.99). The publisher may find that readers would prefer a lower priced e month level, as well. This is quite pricey for an unknown digital launch, though I can not fault them for pricing the digital magazine levels that they feel are fair.

(It should be noted, though, that the app descriptions do not list prices for the digital magazine, that is sure to draw some bitter reader reviews unless corrected.)

The app description links to a new website that is set to launch on Friday, so the appearance of this app inside the Apple Newstand probably was one day earlier – but better early than late, right?

OVERLAP: New digital magazine for Major League Soccer hopes to tap into community that is 'very digital'

Greg Lalas played two years in Major League Soccer (MLS), with the Tampa Bay Mutiny and the New England Revolution, and is now the editor-in-chief at Unfairly, though, his Wikipedia page says he is "best known as the brother of Alexi Lalas" – someone needs to correct that. Maybe if TNM had its own Wikipedia for publishers it would read "is best known as the editor of OVERLAP Magazine, the new digital magazine released this morning into the Apple Newsstand.

The new iPad magazine is a collaboration between MLS and the editor of Howler Magazine, a quarterly print magazine that covers soccer from a North American perspective.

"We partnered up with George Quraishi, who is the editor of Howler, and said we loved what they are doing and we wanted to do something that was from a similar perspective, that would take a look at MLS, and MLS-related type of stories. There are so many great stories that aren't being told," Lalas told me this morning.

Lalas met Quraishi when Lalas was a player for the Tampa Bay Mutiny and Quraishi's father was the team's general manager. Lalas loves what Quraishi and his publishing team at Howler are doing with the magazine (which can also found on Zinio's digital newsstand as well as in print).

"Just because its soccer, just because its a soccer magazine, or a soccer app, or a soccer website, doesn't mean you can't apply innovative, challenging, expressive story design and story telling," Lalas said.

OVERLAP will be published quarterly, tailored to the MLS soccer season. The first issue inside the new app was timed to coincide with the beginning of the new season. The second issue will appear around the time of the All-Star game in July. Tthe third issue will appear before the start of the MLS playoffs, while the fourth issue will publish before the MLS Cup which ends the season in early December.

The publishing team used the Adobe Digital Publishing Suite to create the app and its digital edition inside.

"To create this I worked with a really talented designer Joel Speasmaker," Quraishi told me this afternoon. "He and I figured out that Adobe is such an easy way to publish this."

"I'm still trying to figure it out," Quraishi admits, adding "we also have plans for an Android edition."
OVERLAP will tap into a community that Lalas believes is perfect for reaching through digital media.

"For us in particular, the soccer community in the United States and Canada, is very digital," Lalas said.

"The mainstream media has for so long, either willfully or unwillfully, ignored or overlooked the soccer community. As the soccer community grows more and more, there is more of a cultural force behind it all. In particular, there is a soccer culture that is really, really strong. It's very self-expressive, very independent minded, and it's all being done on digital platforms."

Lalas said he sees it as similar to the growth of alternative rock, where mainstream radio and magazines like Rolling Stone ignored the growth of the new music. As a result, independent, regional publications picked up the slack. But whereas a small print magazine can not be read seen outside of a certain region, a digital magazine can be seen worldwide.

"In some ways the soccer community is in a very similar place, where the digital platforms – Twitter, Facebook, blogs, apps, whatever it is – they're doing it themselves, in the same way."

"The next part about is that this (OVERLAP) can go everywhere, I print a zine in Seattle and I'm a kid growing up in Detroit it's very hard for me to see that. I need to really, really look for it."

Major League Soccer launches its own digital magazine, OVERLAP, into the Apple Newsstand

Major League Soccer has launched its own digital magazine into the Apple Newsstand today. OVERLAP Magazine is a native tablet magazine that appears to have been created through a partnership with the publishing team at Howler Magazine, itself a magazine about soccer.

With the support of the MLS, this is one new digital magazine launch that should over time successfully reach its audience – assuming the MLS and everyone else is patient.

The app and its current issue inside are free of charge. The premiere issue features Graham Zusi on the "cover" (he plays for Sporting Kansas City).

The issue inside only weighs in at just over 60MB, which is very modest considering that the digital magazine can be read in both portrait and landscape. The layouts are identical, however, which no doubts saves file space.

The design is simple enough, articles are designing in a continuous scroll and are on one long page. There is enough audio and video here to keep the interest of readers so this new digital magazine should get high marks inside the App Store.

I've reached out to Greg Lalas. editor-in-chief at and will be do a follow-up post to this later this afternoon. In the meantime, here is the usual walk-through video for you below. (By the way, I don't know if anyone has noticed, but I've upped the resolution on the videos so that they are a bit better at fullscreen.)

Morning Brief: Cyprus looks for a bailout from Russia; Apple updates iOS version of GarageBand; Murdoch uses Twitter to blast proposed new press regulations

The Cypriot finance minister remains in Russia, hoping to secure billions of euros of investment so that the nation does not have to impose its levy on depositors, a move that was rejected by the parliament earlier this week.

"The banks are the ultimate objective in any support we get," Finance Minister Michael Sarris told Reuters. "There are no stumbling issues - there is just work to be done."

Meanwhile, lines have formed at ATMs throughout the capital of Nicosia, with banks remaining closed until sometime next week. In essence, what we are seeing is a slow run on the banks, especially the hardest hit bank, Laiki Bank. Their English language website contains the following message to its customers: " Following the announcements of the Ministry of Finance, the 19th, 20th, 21st and 22nd of March 2013 have been declared a Bank holiday. During this period, no banking transactions will be carried out, including electronic transactions. ATM withdrawals will continue to be allowed, as wekk as card purchases with credit and debit cards."

The European Central Bank has given Cyprus until Monday to find a solution, agreeing to continue to supply emergency funds for now, but stating that it would pull plug if no deal is reached. The question I keep asking is what will it take for Cypriots, or Greeks, in general, to finally understand that staying in the Euro means making a deal with entities that are not working in your interests.

Apple's app review seems to be back at work, with a slew of updates issued late yesterday. One of the more interesting one is also one that I think Apple's software team should pay attention to.

Apple updated the iOS version of GarageBand and added the ability of the app to work with apps supported by Audiobus. The update was met with cheers, but also a lot of concern from users that Apple appears to be falling behind. User reviews, while appreciative of the Audiobus update, have been giving the app only mixed reviews.

The main complaint is that while getting material into GarageBank is pretty easy, getting it out is more difficult.

Meanwhile, Apple users continue to hope for a complete rewrite of iTunes, which remains an embarrassing mess (and don't get me started with the iTunes App Store).

Rupert Murdoch is having a difficult time finding allies in the U.K. government in order to beat back efforts to stiffen press regulations in the wake of the phone hacking scandal. It doesn't help that his editors keep getting accused of illegal activities, with the latest being his deputy editor at The Sun being accused of illegal payments of public officials. Murdoch used Twitter to call the situation a "holy mess."

Murdoch is finding more support for his views in the press. While The Guardian and a few other papers have said they would accept press regulations backed by legislation, most of the British press wants things as they are, with only voluntary guidelines put in place.

The latest publisher to come out against the proposed regulations is the New Statesman which wrote "Our newspapers have often been crass and vulgar and they have committed many wrongs. But they are a reflection of British society, for better and worse." (It's hard to argue with that.)

One of the magazine's concerns is that the definition of publisher is too broad: "The definition of “publisher” covered by the new regulator was set out as not just either a newspaper or a political and cultural magazine, such as the New Statesman, but also “a website containing news-related material”. This threatened to drag in personal blogs and social media accounts; in effect, it would try to “regulate the internet”, a completely impossible task, and one not covered by Lord Justice Leveson’s inquiry or recommendations."

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Econsultancy WilsonFletcher launches its own digital magazine, The Human Layer, and gives digital magazine publishers some food for thought with its approach

If you want to present a new idea, it is best to explain things simply and clearly. With their new iPad magazine, The Human Layer, the digital agency and consultancy WilsonFletcher taken that thought to its logical conclusion and designed a simple, clear and altogether engaging new digital magazine.

(The London/Sydney agency lists its clients as such companies as The Times (UK) (and News Corp, in general), the Associated Press, Capgemini, Discovery Channel and others.)

The app description is consistent with this idea, simply stating at the start "perspectives, ideas and analysis."

The Human Layer is a bimonthly publication about the digital service experience. Each issue looks at the digital world through the lens of a different topic, providing challenging perspectives, conversations and analysis of all aspects of service experience.
What the digital magazine presents readers are relatively short reads on a single topic. The latest issue, number five, is called Disruption and is described as ten steps to disruption-proff your business.

The app and its contents are free, and the library comes filled with four issues – for some reason issue number two is missing. Each issue lists a size that is a bit hard to believe – Disruption, for instance, says it is 1.1MB in size. My iPad would disagree, saying it is 9.5 MB in size. But no matter, that is small, very small.

The reason, of course, is that the page design and presentation takes a minimalist approach. But the digital magazine can be read in both portrait and landscape, making it a very easy and enjoyable read. What I especially like is the idea of presenting the topics like a short story. It got me thinking that this approach could be used in other areas, as well. For instance, rather than being a slave to a monthly publication cycle, a tablet edition could decide to chop up its print magazine into smaller digital bits, launching the short versions of the magazine weekly.

Coming from outside the world of magazine publishing, the app can do things differently. For instance, the app opens up and immediately asks you if you'd like to submit your email address – I don't remember what you would receive in return, but the mere fact that the publisher did this signaled that the app would be different. Many publishers have complained that Apple is not sharing customer information, yet don't include any feedback mechanism inside their digital editions that would encourage their readers to share their information.

Another feature that is different is the table of contents: the digital magazine does not take the reader immediately to the TOC but let's them dive right in, though the TOC is only a double tap of the display away.
Top Left: the app opens and immediately asks if the reader would like to give them their email address; Top Right: the library; Bottom Left: a rare use of multimedia material in the digital magazine, a video which uses Vimeo to deliver the content; Bottom Right: an interesting and unique way to handle a TOC

Thomson Reuters releases new universal news app, likely replacement for older separate apps for iPhone and iPad

Thomson Reuters released a brand new universal iOS app for Reuters today. Simply called Reuters, the free app gives readers access to Reuters news without charge. The app appears to be a replacement for the separate Reuters News Pro apps from iPhone and iPad.

Thomson Reuters launched its original iPad news app when the original iPad was released by Apple. But the app has not been updated since September 5 of last year, which probably means this app was already in development.

The iPad version of the new app uses exceptionally large fonts and plenty of leading. It makes for an easy reading experience for tired eyes, even if it is not a terribly good use of space. But I seriously doubt readers will complain – the app is attractive, easy to use, and certainly priced right.

The iPhone version's fonts are not as obviously big, and the leading seems very appropriate. One wonders if the app was designed first for the iPhone, then ported over to the iPad.

The app lacks font size adjustments, which might have been a good feature. But there are sharing options through Facebook, Twitter and email, as well as a button for saving the stories for later reading.

The app comes with sections for World, Politics, Business, Tech and Market News, as well as Home, which serves as the front page. The app also allows for searching the news.

There is two important features missing, however: push notifications and geo-location services – both I would consider pretty much de rigueur these days. Hopefully updates to the app will add these features to what is a pretty good, if conservative, news app.

Morning Brief: Time Out Chicago sold back to PE, will shut down print edition, begin layoffs; editor at The Sun charged with making illegal payments to public officials

Yesterday was not a good day for print media. First came word that the Washington Examiner, the right-wing tabloid owned by Denver billionaire Philip Anschutz would be moving from a daily compact newspaper format to a weekly print magazine design. Late in the afternoon word leaked out, first reported by the Chicago Sun-Times, that Time Out Chicago would cease publishing a print edition.

According to Robert Feder, who writes on media at Time Out Chicago, the paper has been sold back to its original owners, and the decision has been made to cease publication of the 55,000-circulation weekly. Joe Mansueto, the Morningstar CEO who owned 95 percent of Time Out Chicago Partners, sold back his ownership to Oakley Capital Investments, a London private equity firm that controls Time Out North America.

The ownership move will result in a new management team being brought in and layoffs of staffs will commence at the publication.

Oakley has been pursuing a digital-only strategy at most of its Time Out properties, with only New York and London still printing a weekly publication.

It is a rare weekday where no major media app updates are released, but this morning appears to be one of those days.

Is it even news anymore when another Murdoch editor is accused of illegal activity? Probably not, but for what it's worth, The Guardian is reporting Geoff Webster, the deputy editor of The Sun, has been accused of making illegal payments of £8,000 to two public officials.

The payments occurred between July of 2010 and August of 2011.

"We have concluded, following a careful review of the evidence, that Geoff Webster, who at the time of the alleged offending was deputy editor of the Sun newspaper, should be charged with two offences of conspiring to commit misconduct in public office, contrary to section 1(1) of the Criminal Law Act 1977," said a representative of the Metropolitan police.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

The Washington Examiner to cease publishing its daily newspaper, will launch a new website, weekly magazine

The owner of The Washington Examiner, a free, conservative tabloid, today announced that it would stop publishing a daily newspaper and would instead concentrate on its website while publishing a weekly magazine.

"We have accomplished a great deal over the past seven years, as we built The Washington Examiner into a credible and respected brand in a very competitive market. The strong foundation we established with the website and daily newspaper presents us with the opportunity to shift our focus and meet a pressing need in the political content marketplace,” said Ryan McKibben, president of Clarity Media Group, in its announcement.

"As a result of research and analysis conducted over the past year, we have determined that there is an opportunity to bring our style of investigative journalism and keen analysis and commentary to covering national government and politics. The re-positioned Washington Examiner will meet that demand."

The paper also announced that Lou Ann Sabatier, a publishing consultant and recruiter, will be named chief executive officer of Clarity’s Washington Group, which also includes The Weekly Standard and the website Red Alert Politics.

As a result of the move the paper said layoffs would be certain. “Many of the business and editorial positions needed to publish a local daily newspaper are not required as we move to focus on national and political coverage,” said McKibben.

When these layoffs will occur was not announced as the paper plans to continue printing daily until Friday, June 14, launching its new website and weekly magazine on Monday, June 17.

The Examiner currently has a stand-alone replica edition app through PageSuite and a native app under its own name in the Apple Newsstand. Neither app has generated any reader reviews.

Open Sky Media launches launches universal app through Texterity/Godengo for Marin Magazine that tries to bridge the gap between replica edition and native design

While there are dozens of digital publishing vendors that are one-trick ponies, selling replica editions and nothing else, other vendors can see that while their main competition today comes from other replica makers, over time their competition really is native digital publishing solutions.

In the newspaper world, probably the best example of this would be NewspaperDirect that produces eEditions for The Boston Globe and others. These replica editions also come with native layouts of the news stories so that a reader, if they choose, can use the replica merely as a navigation tool to move from story to story.

In the magazine world the equivalent would probably be Texterity. Texterity is known in the magazine world first for its online flipbooks, and later for bringing these to the App Store in the form of replica editions. But last March the company was acquired by the Berkeley, Calif. company Godengo. Godengo is VC backed, which meant it had the capital to make the acquisition, while Texterity was a good target for acquisition due to its large number of magazine clients.

The trouble is that moving from a model where the sale is made by presenting the digital publishing solution as inexpensive and easy to implement, to a more native digital platform solution is difficult unless the new solutions are equally easy to implement. The trick is often to merge a replica edition app with one that can take the stories found within the print edition and reformat them automatically into something easier to read on a tablet or mobile phone.

There are two ways to do this: the first, as NewspaperDirect does, it to use the replica edition with added links to present the stories to the reader, who then taps a link and goes to a natively designed version of the story; the other way, which Godengo appears to be using, is to present the magazine in two forms, one replica, one a native table of contents which leads to the stories in native digital layouts.

With Texterity, which offers a whole range of products, the vendor is trying to build on a long term relationship with the publisher, not make off like a bandit as some app makers appear to be trying to do. This is why many of the new Texterity apps, though not all, are found under the name of the publisher – like the new universal app for Marin Magazine.

Left: The replica of the cover does not fit the iPad's display and contains the bar code; Middle: the app is built around an exact replica of the print edition, with text versions of stories to make reading a bit easier; Right: a new TOC in native format makes finding stories a bit easier.

The way this app works is that it is simply a replica of the print edition without even links. The pages, as is often the case, do not fit the iPad's display – in this case, being too short to fill the entire screen. No real effort is used to hide the fact that this is simply a PDF of a print magazine: the page folios for left and right pages are left in place, as is the bar code on the cover.

To compensate, the app contains a "Contents" tab that when tapped brings up a separate part of the app that brings up a new TOC in a native page design. But tapping a story then takes you to the replica print page, but this time there is a button that says "Show Text", this takes you to the article in a native page layout.

In fact, this new native page layout can be accessed directly when navigating through the replica edition. It is an acknowledgement that replicas are hard to read and something must be done to compensate. But then why do a replica at all? Part of the reason is surely that many publishers remain in love with their print magazine, as are some readers. But I think editors and publishers are more locked into the print platform than are readers who simply want to read the content. The other reason is that many vendors have built their businesses on the idea that it is possible to move magazines from print to digital without having to actually learn a new platform. After all, content management systems have been built to do this for online publishing, why not use the CMS to build tablet and mobile magazines?

Readers will have to decide if this works for them. Surely these replica editions that can provide a native tablet or mobile reading experience are a step up from the plain jane replica which solely relies on pinch-to-zoom to help the reader. If a publisher has their own developer account, and closely manages the process in order to protect their brand, there is no reason why this type of solution might not be appropriate. But the trick for the publisher is to keep control and not be sold on the idea of "cheap and easy" – that is a recipe for disaster.

As many newspapers abandon the ad model digital publishing vendors are there to pick it back up and profit

The biggest trend in newspapering is the paywall, but a related trend is the abandoning of the ad model. Journalists, who generally never sold an ad in their lives, and lived in fear of the power of advertising departments, are advocating paid content strategies and giving up on ad revenue (or if not giving up on ad revenue, deemphasizing its importance).

But outside the newspaper (and magazine) industry, vendors don't see it this way. For them, the way to make money is off those who have it: the newspapers themselves, or their advertisers. Nickel and dimeing readers seems like a suckers game, so the way to make it big is to gather up as many eyes as possible and build their own ad networks. To do this, however, they need newspaper executives who are neophytes at the new digital platforms – they are not finding it hard to locate them.

One of the newest vendors to appear inside the App App Store is Scoopkit, a NYC company that promises to make apps for its customers for free. The proposition is simple enough: the newspaper signs up, uploads a PDF of its newspaper, and Scoopkit makes them an iPad app, all for free. "We truly love local newspapers and want to see them grow!" says the company's website.

The new apps appear in the Apple App Store – 54 as of this morning – all appearing under the name Scoopkit, not that of the newspaper publisher. The apps are stand-alone apps, not inside the Newsstand, and they are free of charge.

In other words, the newspaper publisher makes nothing from the apps, nor do they get charged anything. Instead, Scoopkit sells national advertising into the apps and keeps 100 percent of the profits.

As for the apps, well, they are simply PDF of most broadsheet newspapers without any attempt made to make them interactive, or even readable. When launched, the app descriptions some of the apps do not even have screenshots of the replica newspaper, though I'm sure this situation is corrected at some point.

Yes, we can all laugh at the naiveté of the publishers, but I think the real lesson here is that it is the vendor who believes most in digital media, and the vendor who believes there is a working business model that involves advertising.

But the relationship can not last. A newspaper not investing seriously in digital will die, even the publisher has to understand this, why else would they be vulnerable to vendor sales? But with all the revenue going to the vendor, and neither circulation or ad revenue coming in, the newspaper's days are numbered. Finally then, without the newspaper the vendor has no audience to sell themselves. It is the Ouroboros come to life.

Most vendors, including Scoopkit, will say that if the newspaper wants to sell their own ads into the app they are welcome to do so. But the whole premise is based on free and easy. Most replicas are hard to read and don't even fit the tablet's display properly. Selling an extra PDF pages is not going to get response who would be self-defeating in any case. Only low priced national advertising, sold for pennies per thousand impressions is workable.

Media app updates: Future plc and Digital First Media take opposite approaches to the new digital platforms; RetailMeNot adds AirPrint to coupon mobile app

A large number of media app updates were issued last night and this morning. One of the media companies updating its portfolio of app is Future plc. The UK and US magazine company uses its own platform, FutureFolio, to build and launch its magazine apps – the platform allows for both native and replica edition apps.

Today's updates fix issues with the library and with download errors. Future generally issues updates in large batches to fix issues caused by glitches in its digital publishing platform and today is no exception with updates coming from Mac Lfe Magazine, Cycling News HD and Prog Magazine, as well as others.

Future plc is handling its tablet edition needs in a very corporate manner, with all their magazines on the same platform. What makes their approach unique, however, is that they have built their own platform and developed that platform to give it flexibility in the digital publishing products created. The approach, while limiting options for individual publishers as far as the platform is concerned, gives its publishers options as far as final product (assuming management at the company allows its publishers this freedom).

At Digital First Media and its Journal Register and MediaNews groups, the approach is the ultimate in inflexibility: the company has chosen a third party vendor, Spreed, to build its apps across the company's portfolio. The result is that the company is locked into one solution, and that one solution is pretty primitive and unattractive. Digital First continues to show that is far behind other publishing companies in regards to digital publishing – Digital Last, if you will.

The app updates today for such newspaper apps as the Contra Costa Times for iPad (a MediaNews Group paper) and The Oakland Press for iPad (a Journal Register Company paper) fix issues with video galleries and event listings, as well as general performance fixes.

Spreed has been pretty good at issuing app updates, as it should be for such a large and important customer. But the apps are still an embarrassing example of the companies backward nature as regards to mobile and tablets. The apps for the iPad reformat the RSS feeds coming off the newspaper websites into standard layouts that often lack graphics. In some case, as with the CCT's iPad app, the front page is acceptable in appearance, though the idea of a standard layout for a front page is against basic newspaper design principals. The stories then are laid out in a Kindle-like fashion with little imagination, and no flexibility.

Other newspaper editions, though, look far worse due to poor graphics, or a complete lack of them.

These papers, though, are being destroyed editorially (the CCT's leading off today with the headline "Dancing With The Stars: Season 16 begins with sweet surprises, plus a..."), so it probably matters not what the company does on tablets. But it is sad to watch happen.

RetailMeNot today issued another update for its mobile app, and the company, which just changed its name from WhaleShark Media, has added yet more important features to its coupon app.

RetailMeNot Coupons will now allow shoppers to search for coupons at nearby malls, rather than having them merely sent to them via notifications. These coupons can then be printed using the iPhone's AirPrint mechanism. This will be especially useful for retailers such as restaurants which might not be able to accept coupons in any form other than printed.

A test of the system, for instance, showed that the coupon for Chili's needed to be printed, while others could be accepted via the app.

This coupon app has been strictly a mobile app, but with the update, the developers at RetailMeNot probably could justify bringing the app to the iPad. Now that search and AirPrint has been added consumers may want to use this app at home, at their leisure, as they would the Sunday newspaper. Bringing the app to tablets would make this type of usage easier and more enjoyable. At some point the company will also want to migrate their app onto a new developer account now that they have dumped the WhaleShark Media name.

This is a great example of how new digitally native companies are quickly stealing away the business from newspapers who continue to stubbornly resist change. While journalists continue to debate and cheer on the building of newspaper website paywalls, the real action is elsewhere. Soon news consumers will be faced with the prospect of choosing between free news websites that also contain the majority of digital advertising, and paywalled newspaper websites devoid of advertising.

Other media app updates includes AP Mobile, a universal iOS app. The app is now optimized for the iPhone 5 and iPad mini, and a fully localized version is available for Spanish readers (their device must be set for Spanish).

Other updates: The Economist for iPad update is for minor bug fixes; Facebook has updated its iOS app and added cover photos (iPhone only); Reed Business Australia has updated its recently released SMSF Essentials app to add Twitter integration and fix audio playback issues – you read this original write up on the app here.

Morning Brief: Situation calm in Cyprus ahead of vote on levy on bank deposits; Chicago Sun-Times goes free with its native iPad edition; more media app updates to come

Update: This afternoon the Cypriot parliament voted down the bailout deal that would have levied a tax on bank deposits. The vote was not close with 39 "no" votes and 19 abstentions. No one it seems wanted to have this raw deal hung around their necks.

Despite some protests yesterday from citizens upset with the government's decision to levy a special tax on bank deposits, the Cypriot government will try and win a vote today in the nation's parliament. The only concession the government appears ready to offer is that bank deposits for amounts below €20,000 will be exempt.

A vote is expected this afternoon amid concerns that President Nicos Anastasiades does not have the votes necessary to pass the plan even in its revised form – though the MPs may decide that the levy is their only real option to avoid being kicked out of the Eurozone. (Update: another delay, the vote may now moved to tomorrow. Meanwhile, the bank holiday continues with local banks closed until Thursday, though this too could be changed.)

Meanwhile, it appears that the European group offering the bailout has pointed the finger straight at the government in Nicosia for the situation saying that it was the government that proposed the tax levy on small depositors. The government, which only recently won power, is therefore left to face the wrath of voters for this situation.

A large batch of new media app updates were issued by Apple this morning, but none of them is as intriguing as that offered by the Chicago Sun-Times: the latest update for Chicago Sun-Times for iPad makes the paper a free circulation newspaper – at least on the iPad.

Readers can now download the natively designed tablet edition for free, or even subscribe on a monthly basis free of charge.

The Sun-Times has three news apps in the Apple App Store: the one above takes the news stories from the print edition and reformats them into native layouts using the Mag+ platform; an eEdition offers a replica edition using the NewspaperDirect app solution; and a third app is a stand-alone news app that takes the RSS feeds from the paper's website and reformats them into a news reader format.

The paper also has five tablet magazine apps, built using Mag+, that are for sports and entertainment features.

There will be a follow-up to this post to cover some of the other important media app updates issued today.

Monday, March 18, 2013

The Washington Post confirms that it will launch a metered paywall this summer, launch new iPad app

The Washington Post made official what has, until now, been a badly kept secret, that the paper will launch a metered paywall for its newspaper website. Like other papers before it, the WaPo said that it was pursuing a me-too strategy following the launch of paywalls at the WSJ, NYT, Boston Globe and other papers. The metered paywall will launch "this summer."

"News consumers are savvy; they understand the high cost of a top-quality news gathering operation and the importance of maintaining the kind of in-depth reporting for which The Post is known," said the Post's publisher Katharine Weymouth in the paper's announcement. "Our digital package is a valuable one, and we are going to ask our readers to pay for it and help support our news gathering as they have done for many years with the print edition."

The newspaper also said it will launch a new iPad app that it believes will attract digital subscribers – but no details were announced.

The paper did not announce pricing, but said that its version of a metered paywall would be pretty porous, only asking those readers that access more than 20 articles a month to pay up. Print readers, of course, will be able to access the paper's website free of charge. The front page and classifieds will be available for all readers, as well.

The move will probably help its comment thread problems, as the website has become a home for trolls unwilling to pay for access to the NYT's digital editions. One reader, responding to the paywall news wrote that the WaPo's website had become a "destination and hangout for radical left-wing extremists whose mentality is, that they are "owed" everything free and shouldn't have to pay for anything."

The International Herald Tribune launches a replica edition through NewspaperDirect as a stand-alone app; previously released native tablet edition that mirrors web content remains inside the Newsstand

The International Herald Tribune has released a new replica edition iPad app. The app comes from NewspaperDirect and is not the first NYT property to launch a replica – the Boston Globe did that early last year – but as the latest, it appears to be a sign that The New York Times Co. is not keen on creating native tablet editions, as none of the major titles the company owns has gone in this direction. The only native iPad news apps so far released by the NYT Co. have been ones that take the content from the newspaper's property's website and reformats it into a new tablet app.

IHT eReplica Edition is not a bad app as replicas go, as NewspaperDirect has a solution whereby the article headlines can be tapped to bring up a text version of the story in a more readable, native tablet layout.

The new replica has been made a stand-alone app most likely to not confuse readers who already have downloaded the older iPad app found inside the Apple Newsstand. That app, International Herald Tribune for iPad, is identical to the NYT's iPad, as is their iPhone app.

This new app comes at a time when the IHT will soon be rechristened as the International New York Times, a decision long time readers are a little uneasy with, due to the long history of the Herald Tribune.

(The app, by the way, doesn't actually appear read for use. The most recent issues, when the reader attempts to download them, give an error message stating "The product is not currently available for sale." As a result, the only issue available at the time of the app's launch was an older sample issue. I'm sure this will be corrected later today. Also, there is no pricing to be seen inside the app description.)

For me, the NYT, which seemed to be leading the way on the new mobile and tablet platforms back in 2010, now appears to be lagging behind – launching few interesting new mobile apps, and no interesting tablet editions at all. (I'm not sure who exactly this replica is supposed to appeal to – maybe Jean-Paul Belmondo?)

Ironically, the one title that is doing the most interesting work, the Boston Globe, is being sold off. That newspaper has been releasing new eBooks, some of which are interactive, and a couple that have used iBooks Author to create their digital versions. (See the interview with Dan Zedek, the design director at the Globe.)

August Media releases unique tablet edition for Christie's International Real Estate

The London-based custom publishing house August Media has released a unique and very interesting new tablet edition for Christie's International Real Estate.

The new digital magazine does not try to replicate a traditional magazine experience but instead takes a Flipboard-like approach. This works very well as the goal of the digital magazine is to present the properties being represented rather than to duplicate a magazine reading experience.

The digital magazine is free to download and access the issues.

This is the second app to be released by August Media into the Newsstand, the first was for the British Internet retailer Ocado. Both apps appear under August Media's name, probably the only real mistake here as any custom publisher should realize that the product belongs to the customer, not the agency.

But the app is a good one, that's for sure, as the navigation and logic of the digital edition make perfect sense for a real estate magazine. The App Store shows the screenshots in landscape, and I like reading this one in that orientation. But the reader can just as easily choose portrait, if they like

The only other advice I would give August Media would be to work harder on the app description – it is far too short.

Morning Brief: Markets shutter, but recover, as Cyprus becomes the center of concern; UK parties come to an agreement concerning new press regulation

As markets opened the concern was for a panic, as investors looked at the situation in Cyprus with grave concerns. The value of the Euro dropped sharply before recovering somewhat, and European markets opened lower, though only moderately.

The issue causing widespread concern are the actions requested by the Troika – the European Union, European Central Bank, and International Monetary Fund – in order for Cyprus to receive $13 billion bailout funds. The troika is asking Cyprus to issue a one-time tax on bank depositors – 6.75 percent on deposits up to €100,000, 9.9 percent on deposits over €100,000. While advocates justify the tax on grounds that those receiving the bailout should help pay for it, the fact is that the request tears at the fundamental issue of depositor insurance, the idea that one's savings are protected, at least up to a certain amount, from losses. This is what prevents bank runs and the collapse of the whole banking system. Not surprisingly, small depositors rushed to try and withdraw money over the weekend to prevent it being seized by the government.

Complicating matters more is the oversized nature of Cyprus's banking system, which is seen as a tax haven for Russian oligarchs. This morning Vladimir Putin's spokesman said that the "decision, if taken, would be unfair, unprofessional and dangerous."

To prevent an uncontrolled run on the banks by depositors, Cyprus has declared a bank holiday for Tuesday (Monday was already a bank holiday) and the government said that the banks could remain closed even longer as it tries to get the special tax passed through the parliament, something that appears increasingly unlikely as the government of president Nicos Anastasiades appears short of the required number of votes.

Markets have settled down a bit, however, as the scheduled vote on the special tax was postponed until tomorrow, if at all.

A new press regulation system has been agreed to in the U.K., as an agreement was reached after late night negotiations between the major political parties in parliament. The prime minister David Cameron, backed by the major newspaper tabloid companies, had tried to prevent any new regulations from being established that were not strictly voluntary; while Labour, backed by several prominent newspapers such as The Guardian and Financial Times had broken ranks and called on the new regimes to be backed by law.

"It's not statutory underpinning," the prime minister said today. "What it is is simply a clause that says politicians can't fiddle with this so it takes it further away from politicians, which is actually, I think, a sensible step.

"What we wanted to avoid and we have avoided is a press law. Nowhere will it say what this body is, what it does, what it can't do, what the press can and can't do. That, quite rightly, is being kept out of parliament.

"So no statutory underpinning but a safeguard that says politicians can't in future fiddle with this arrangement," The Guardian quoted Cameron as stating.

Not surprisingly, Ed Miliband, the Labour leader, described the agreement a bit differently: "What we have agreed is essentially the royal charter that Nick Clegg and I published on Friday. It will be underpinned by statute. Why is that important? Because it stops ministers or the press meddling with it, watering it down in the future."

The call for new press regulations comes after the News of the World was shut down following revelations of widespread phone hacking by the Murdoch paper. This morning The Sun, another Murdoch paper, issued an apology to Siobhain McDonagh, a Labour MP, who had her mobile phone stolen by the paper and her private information accessed. The BBC is reporting that the MP will receive "very substantial damages" from the paper.

Apple has issued a new version of Xcode (version 4.6.1) for Apple licensed developers to download. The update was issued to support OS X Mountain Liion version 10.8.3.

The update fixes an issue where ARC-enabled apps do not launch on OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard, as well as other fixes. Often, however, much of what is new is left for developers to discover. Happy downloading.