Friday, March 29, 2013 updates its MLB At Bat app one last time before the start of the 2013 season Sunday; newspaper special sections fail to appear inside the App Store

Major League Baseball has a bit of a monopoly when it comes to all things digital: audio and video streams of games are their exclusive property so downloading MLB At Bat, or using the website is essential for those of use addicted to the game.

The MLB At Bat app has had its ups and downs. Last year, for instance, I said I had enough of dropped streams, error messages and the like and I cancelled the service. But a late season surge by the Giants – one that would lead to their second World Series win in three years (I love writing that) – convinced me that I couldn't live without the app.

The key to the MLB app has never been its features, does a good job of adding more and more goodies. No, the key has been the ability of to service the app and to maintain its quality. This year the app has generated few complaints about its quality, and that is a good sign. No, the biggest complaint, which is totally understandable in this economy, is the price.

"I've gotten this app for years, not no more. Everything is going up but my paycheck!" writes one reviewer in the App Store.

Other complaints revolve around issues dedicated fans should already understand like blackouts and audio. The app, after all, works best for those unable to directly follow their favorite teams because they have moved out of the market.

If I were a Cubs fan, for instance, I'd have absolutely no reason to pay for the app's premium features (since I live in Chicago) but might pay the one-time $19.99 fee for the scoreboard and stats.

But complaining about the price probably isn't justified in a world where many fans moan because their favorite team lost a player because they wouldn't pay him what the Dodgers or Yankees were offering.**

In any case, here is what you will find in the last app update to be issued by before the start of the season (future updates most likely will involve bug fixes rather than features):

What's New in Version 6.1.0
  • Multi-platform live audio access for At Bat 13 subscribers (portable to Mac/PC with a valid account)
  • Universal support for At Bat 13 subscribers, accessible on iPhone, iPad and other supported smartphones and tablets
  • New video section featuring more highlights and search (iPad)
  • Sortable batting, pitching and fielding statistics (iPad)
  • Re-designed individual team pages (iPhone)
  • Updated news section interface (iPhone)
  • Classic games library featuring more than 60 historic games dating back to 1952 (iPhone and iPad)
  • Re-architected navigations (iPhone and iPad)
  • Additional push notification options (iPhone & iPad)
  • Closed captioning availability for live video (iPhone and iPad

In the spring of 2011, I wrote on the few new apps released by newspapers for the start of the new baseball season. The Boston Herald, for instance, launched a baseball app built by DoApp. My only surprise was that there were not more of these kind of apps being produced.

Now, a couple of years later, the absence of new apps for newspaper special sections no longer is a big surprise. The question, though, is why is this? Have newspapers lost the corporate knowledge of how to produce a profitable special section? Is it about their reluctance to embrace app making? Is it because they have lost the loyalty of the the local ad base?

It's probably all these things, or at least some of them. The one thing I'm positive about is that the atmosphere inside most newspapers companies is much different than when I started out in the business.

In L.A., the start of the baseball season meant the annual Dodgers section. While the editorial team at the Herald Examiner felt they were the ones driving the section, us ad guys felt we were the ones driving the ship. We'd have a giant sales meeting, sometimes with Tommy Lasorda giving the motivational sales speech, the peanut vendors would come in to throw bags of peanuts at us, and the management team would finally give out ridiculous sales goals that we somehow always made.

The sections almost sold themselves: we knew which of our clients were Dodger fans and would automatically buy an ad. The big auto dealer would get the back page - to not give it to them would be suicide. Even some of my real estate clients (new home developers) would sometimes advertise.

Today, print special sections at the start of the season still exist, but they are waning. As for digital media special sections, well, the corporate folks who run newspapers today still aren't there.

I could criticize them for their lack of imagination, but I know that the same relationship we had with our advertisers doesn't exist today. Could a special section tablet app for the Dodgers bring in $250,000 or more in ads today? I doubt it. (The one Dodgers app out there was build by a Chinese app developer trying to take advantage of things by launching paid sports apps. Users think they are a rip-off, and they are.)

Some papers such as the two Chicago dailies have launched sports tablet magazines for their teams. But the Tribune Company has apparently given up on them already, after only one year. Right now the real effort being spent trying to figure out a way to sell off their newspapers – digital special sections will have to wait for another publisher.

** Actually, it might Dodger fans complaining after word came out this afternoon that the Giants have locked up their catcher, Buster Posey, with a long contract – 9 years, $167 million.

Paperweight, a new digital humor magazine, is relaunched into the Apple Newsstand after working out not-so-funny issues with configuring subscriptions

Launching an app can be quite an ordeal, I should know as I've been trying to replace my old iPhone app for TNM for over a year. For the writer/editor Chris Duffy and designer/ developer Brain Perry their launch of a new digital humor magazine seemed to be going so well – right up until the new app actually launched, then the problems began.

Two weeks ago TNM reported on the launch of Paperweight a humor magazine that began with a Kickstarter funding effort (see original TNM post here). The fundraising effort was wildly successful, raising $16,556 on a goal of $15K.

"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. "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 app was built using the Mag+ platform which resulted in a digital magazine that could be read on the iPhone, as well as the iPad, and in both portrait and landscape. The digital magazines are scheduled to appear bi-monthly and are priced at $1.99.

"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," Duffy said two weeks ago.

When the app launched, though, a few bugs were discovered – or rather one big one.

"After working this morning with Mag+ we found out that our intended purchasing configuration (subscription only) currently isn't supported," Brian Perry told me when the app launched. "To resolve this, we'll be adding an additional option to purchase a single issue of Paperweight with no reoccurring subscription."

"Given the situation, we decided it would be best to remove the app from sale in the App Store until the new in-app purchase is approved by Apple.  It's unfortunate that this will cause additional delay, but we're hopeful that this will just be an initial hiccup and our future readers will be able to have the experience we intended," Perry said.

So the app disappeared from the Newsstand the very day it appeared, March 14 – and the wait began to see when it would reappear.

While waiting Duffy and Perry were kind enough to give me a log-in to the app so that I could take a nice,  long look. I even whipped off a short walk-through video (see below). The video was uploaded to YouTube and I set about thinking about what to write when the app made its appearance again.

What I didn't know was that the updated app, which simply fixed the issue, had quickly been resubmitted to Apple for approval. But there it sat... for almost two weeks.

Duffy told me today that they were wondering what was going on and emailed the app review team. That seemed to do the trick and the app appeared today inside the App Store. Duffy says he empathizes with developers who have to deal with this all the time. But now he and his team have had the experience, and now they have a live app – a native tablet magazine that readers should enjoy.

Whether Duffy and Perry will find the humor in the experience only time will tell. But one hopes that they will find that the effort has been worth it and that Paperweight will find its audience inside the Newsstand.

France Soir rises from the ashes to launch a new tablet edition into the Apple Newsstand

Just over one year ago Franco-Russian businessman Alexander Pugachyov announced that the money losing tabloid, France Soir, would stop publishing a print edition. With the announcement the majority of the staff was let go.

France Soir was originally launched in November 1944 as France Soir – Défense de la France by two French members of the Resistance. After the end of the war the paper became France Soir, a popular evening newspaper that at one time had 1.5 million readers. But by 2006, when the paper was sold to a real estate developer and a former journalist at the paper, the circulation had dwindled to 50K. Three years later the paper was sold once again, this time to Pugachyov, the son of a former Russian oligarch gone bust.

Finally, in December 2011, with circulation reportedly around 30K, the paper was shutdown.

But yesterday a new tablet magazine appeared inside the Apple Newsstand: France Soir l’e-mag : magazine français d’actualités, with Philippe Mendil, directeur de la publication, announcing the apps arrival on the publication's website.

The app appears to have been created by the digital agency Group Palpix and is designed to be read in landscape. (See comment below for correction.)

Pricing is 1,79 € for a single edition, with 1-month subscriptions priced at 3,59 €, 6-month at 17,99 €, and 1-year at 29,99 €. The new weekly edition is scheduled to appear inside the Newsstand app every Friday at 6PM (that's 18h for those of you abroad).

The story of the reappearance of France Soir was quite a mystery to unravel, with not even Google of much help. Following the announcement that the paper would go online-only and end its print run, thousands of copies of the paper were thrown out into the streets of Paris in protest to the move and the loss of jobs. But the end was coming, nonetheless. In July, a French court ordered the liquidation of the newspaper. A few months later the paper's assets ended up with Philippe Mendil, the CEO of the Cards Off, an Internet financial security company. This, apparently, is who is behind the new version of France Soir.

Just as the invention of the CD brought lots of LPs back into circulation, there is no reason to believe that the tablet platform can't do the same for publications, giving new life to folded magazines and newspapers. In fact, I think there may even be a market for back issues of old titles, as well, just as there is for those Blue Note recordings from the fifties.

Morning Brief: Flipboard users flood the app with personal 'magazines'; Facebook schedules Android media even for April 4; Amazon acquires social books site Goodreads

Flipboard said that more than 100,000 "magazines" were created by its users in the first hours after the company updated its iOS app to version 2.0. The good news is this shows the loyalty of the Flipboard user base. The bad news is that no one actually in the media business can see 100K "magazines" added to the universe of publications available can be a good thing (but the good news is that these really aren't "magazines" at all).

The real question remains whether readers want to spend the time necessary to create their own collections of articles to share with others, or whether this is an activity that will remain exclusive to loyal Flipboard users. I am not a Flipboard user, but I think I've lived through enough of these things to know that it is best to withhold judgement a while and wait to see.

Meanwhile, another of those social sites, I'm sure you've heard of it, Facebook has scheduled an event for April 4. The vent will revolve around Android and will either be all about the launch of an Android phone (50-50) or whether it will be about an Android app solution. Hard to get very excited about another Android phone, to be honest with you, especially I'm one of those that likes to make anyone who wants to "friend" me wait at least three months before finally hitting "delete". After 26 years of marriage, friending anyone is fraught with danger.

Amazon said yesterday that it would acquire the social media site Goodreads that is all about sharing books. The acquisition makes sense if only from the standpoint that the site is popular and it has NOT been all about buying books on Amazon – I'm sure it will be now.

"Amazon and Goodreads share a passion for reinventing reading,” said Russ Grandinetti, Amazon Vice President, Kindle Content in the company's announcement. "Goodreads has helped change how we discover and discuss books and, with Kindle, Amazon has helped expand reading around the world. In addition, both Amazon and Goodreads have helped thousands of authors reach a wider audience and make a better living at their craft. Together we intend to build many new ways to delight readers and authors alike."

Goodreads, will remain headquartered in San Francisco (Amazon, of course, is a Seattle-based company), and has more than 16 million members.

Finally, this story says something about how "magazines have finally killed blogs" so I'm outta here (for now).

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Perform Group plc teams up with Advance Publications division to create new media company for Sporting News

One of the first interviews conducted here at TNM was with the the new president and publisher of Sporting News Jeff Price. At the time, SN was trying to line-up new partnerships and to experiment with new digital publishing platforms. Near the end of last year the publisher announced that it would end the print publications after 126 years of publishing.

"Having spoken with many of our longtime subscribers, we recognize this is not a popular decision among our most loyal fans," Jeff Price and Garry D. Howard wrote on the Sporting News website at the time. "Unfortunately, neither our subscriber base nor the current advertising market for print would allow us to operate a profitable print business going forward."

Today came word that American City Business Journals Inc., the division of Advance Publications that has owned Sporting News, has entered into an agreement with Perform Group plc to form a new media company that will manage the title: Perform Sporting News Limited.

"Perform Sporting News Limited brings together Perform's US and Canadian consumer and advertising businesses including ePlayer, the leading sports video platform, Goal, the world's largest football website and the digital assets of ACBJ's consumer web division Sporting News, which includes, one of the largest sports websites in the US," the announcement stated.

"We are excited to announce this partnership between Perform and ACBJ, which brings together the leading provider of online sports video and one of the US's flagship sports media brands,: Oliver Slipper, joint CEO of Perform, said. "Perform Sporting News Limited is a fantastic opportunity to significantly scale and transform our business in the US and Canada, two of the world's largest and most advanced digital marketplaces, to become a major player in these territories. Together, we will bring the best news, editorial, video and data content of professional and College Sports to millions of sports fans in the US and Canada and provide advertisers with a complete digital sports offering across the web and mobile and across both video and display."

The new media company is owned 65% by Perform and 35% by Advance's ACBJ unit. Perform is kicking in $1.4 million, while ACBJ is kicking in $4.2 million. There are some other legal agreements which were outlined on the Perform Group website.

The managing director of Perform Sporting News Limited will be Juan Delgado, currently the managing director of Perform's Americas business. Jeff Price, will stay on as president of Perform Sporting News Limited, with responsibility for integration, product innovation and advertising sales.

Canadian B2B 'Equipment Journal' faces and overcomes major challenges creating an attractive tablet edition for their oversized construction equipment magazine

All B2B publishers face interesting challenges when they decide to launch their first tablet editions: do they lock them down behind a paywall or registration process, do the simply launch a replica edition to make production easier, do they use the Newsstand or go stand-alone. There are other factors that can complicated things, as well. For instance, while most magazines are of a standard size, some product tabs still publish in oversized specs that do not translate very well to the smaller tablet display.

The Canadian construction equipment magazine Equipment Journal had to address these issues with their first tablet edition released yesterday into the Apple Newsstand and they seem to have made some good decisions. Equipment Journal has a qualified circulation of a bit over 20,000 according to their CCAB circulation statement, and as with most qualified circulation magazines that have launched a tablet edition, the publisher here has decided to launch their app with access free to all readers.

Equipment Journal, is a stand-alone app that appears under their own developer account.

The print edition is sized at 10.25" wide x 15.25" height for a full page, according to the magazine's website, so building the tablet edition as a replica would mean the magazine would have to be shrunk down even more than most magazines. So the publisher has gone with a bit of a hybrid approach: ads as seen in the print magazine, with the editorial pages reformatted for the app. The app is universal, so the solution appears to work for the iPad, but is not optimal for the iPhone.

Each editorial page has some navigation tools on the top which are helpful, while the ads are left alone. Many of the ads, though, appear in the app sideways. I have to guess these are two-page spreads that simply would not work if handled any other way. (I suppose it is possible that the ads were original this way, as some product tabloids do not have restrictions on ads designed in this way.)

There is a minimum of interactivity added to the digital edition – but it is there, either with the occasional slideshow, a video, and links. There is also an ad index that links directly to the ad, which is a nice way to handle this.

One feature that many B2Bs have dropped are their reader response (bingo) cards that used to serve the dual purpose of qualifying the reader and allowing them to request more information from an advertiser. Does tablet editions present a golden opportunity to reintroduce this feature? A "card" can be added to any digital edition that would send information directly to the publisher without the cost of printing, binding, inserting or postage – what's not to love?

All in all, I think Equipment Journal should be proud of their first effort here. Next, may I suggest a major redesign for their their website?

World Wrestling Entertainment launches its own tablet magazine into the Apple Newsstand, designing a native, interactive publication using the Mag+ platform

'Rad App' reads one of the first reader reviews of the new WWE Magazine from World Wrestling Entertainment, Inc. The new digital magazine was made using the Mag+ platform, so you probably know what you can expect: a fully interactive magazine with lots of native tablet design features such as photo galleries, pop-up captions and other elements, and embedded video.

The new iPad app was released earlier this month and so far the reader reviews have been universally positive.

Go ringside, backstage and inside the private lives of your favorite Superstars and Divas with WWE Magazine, a rich and deeply interactive experience that delivers exclusive WWE Superstar videos, interviews, stunning hi-res photo galleries, and entertaining quizzes and games for the WWE Universe.
The WWE will be charging $19.99 for an annual subscription, but you can preview the new digital magazine from inside the app – or to get a fuller look at the native tablet edition you can subscribe on a monthly basis for only $1.99.

The designers of the magazine make the reader work a bit, forcing the reader to go from one orientation to the other. But my guess is that readers will tend to be young and more open to interactivity and handling their iPad to read what they want. Besides the digital magazine is far more "in your face' that the usual title. The latest issue inside, which is March, weighs in over 300MB, not unduly large, but a bit of a download, nonetheless. There is also a January and February issue available, as well.

If you have your iPad in landscape, as you will see in the video below, the app opens up to a video. Once that is finished the app wants you to move to portrait to see the cover where you can replay the video. The app probably should have a landscape cover so you can avoid this, but it isn't at all annoying.

I have a feeling WWE will hit their target with this new digital magazine – and you can be sure Android users will be begging for the app to hit Google Play as soon as possible.

comScore report claims there are more than 57 million tablet owners, but the numbers may be on the low side

The digital technology analytics company comScore has released their Mobile: Future in Focus report for 2013, and as usual there is a lot to digest in the company's findings. According to comScore, for instance, there are now 125 million smartphone users in the U.S., and 52 million tablet users.

A PDF of the presentation can be downloaded on the comScore website.

One item that will no doubt get plenty of attention is comScore's finding that there are 57.8 tablet owners in the U.S., with Apple having a 45 percent share.

While 57.8 million is an impressive number, showing the incredible growth of the tablet platform in little less than three years, it still did not feel right to me.

Let's do some math: if there are 57.8 million tablets owners in the U.S., and Apple owns 45 percent share, that means there are a bit more than 25 million iPad owners in the U.S.

But last year Apple was forced reveal is sales numbers worldwide, including in the U.S. That showed that through mid-2012 Apple had sold 34 million iPads in the U.S. – and two quarters have passed since then. So, when asked, I have been saying that by the end of 2012 there were about 45 million iPads sold in the U.S.

Ownership and sales are not the same thing, but for comScore's numbers to be right each iPad owner would have to own 1.8 iPads. It's possible – I own two, for example.

So I'm not saying that comScore's numbers are wrong, just that they feel low. But whatever the truth of the situation is, one thing everyone can agree on is that tablets are here to stay, and therefore, so is the tablet publishing platform.

Morning Brief: NY Magazine to dump PDF replica approach for an updated app that combines free and paid content; banks open in Cyprus after nearly two weeks; BlackBerry reports better earnings, lower revenue

Digiday this morning is reporting that New York magazine will have an update to its iPad app issued soon that will change the app from its current replica edition version now to an app containing both free content and the digital magazine. The app was designed by The Wonderfactory using the Mag+ platform.

“We wanted to have a richer magazine experience, and a PDF didn’t make sense,” Michael Silberman, NY Mag’s digital general manager told Digiday.

With the update to NEW YORK Magazine daily stories will be available for free, with the more than a dozen stories available inside the app for five days.

Gregg Hano, CEO of Mag+, called the new app "a great example of using touchscreen publishing inventively.”

Although the app update has not been released yet (it's due in the store April 1st I'm told), it sounds like the magazine will take a hybrid approach to the tablet edition, where the advertising will appear as in print unless creative is swapped out by the agency or client, and the editorial content will be reformatted for the tablet. This is the approach most major publishers have been taking since it both adheres to circulation auditing guidelines and meets the minimum expectation of most tablet magazine readers.

Banks have reopened in Cyprus today with conflicting reports on the crowds lining up at their local bank. Reuters says crowds have been calm after having to wait nearly two weeks to gain access to their accounts.

"I feel a sense of fear and disappointment having to queue up like this; it feels like a Third World country, but what can you do?" said on pensioner.

Capital controls, though, remain in place, as the government attempts to stem the flow of capital out of the country. All commercial transactions of over €5,000 will be reviewed, and those leaving the island will not be allowed to carry over €1,000 with them.

BlackBerry reported better earnings this morning, showing a quarterly profit of $98 million versus a $125 million loss in the same quarter last year. Revenue was down, however, to $2.7 billion, a 2 percent decline from the previous quarter and 36 percent decline on the same quarter in 2012.

"We have implemented numerous changes at BlackBerry over the past year and those changes have resulted in the company returning to profitability in the fourth quarter," said Thorsten Heins, president and CEO of BlackBerry.

BlackBerry recently launched the Z10 in the AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon networks, and the company said demand has been "better than expected."

"With the launch of BlackBerry 10, we have introduced the newest and what we believe to be the most innovative mobile computing platform in the market today. Customers love the device and the user experience, and our teams and partners are now focused on getting those devices into the hands of BlackBerry consumer and enterprise customers," Heins said in the company's earnings statement.

Despite the optimism, the company reported that it had lost 3 million subscribers in the period, bringing its total base of platform users to 76 million.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Media app updates: BBC adds portrait to iPad version of its news app; Weather Channel updates iPhone app

The Beeb has issued a major update to its universal iOS news app. The stand-alone BBC News app has added new features and customization that should prove important to users (though we here in the U.S. would love to see the whole issue of the BBC iPlayer resolved so that we can start using a fully functional app rather than settle for what the cable companies will allow).

The app update adds a new portrait orientation for the iPad, as well as a new edit button which allows users to add, remove or re-order categories.

The update also changes the design of the iPhone version, increasing the size of the images inside the app. Users can also refresh by pulling down on the app.

Going back to the iPlayer situation: with the BBC America channel on so many cable systems, the Beeb has found that it has to make a choice between its TV channel and launching its iPlayer on these shores.

"The United States is a very complex media market. Currently, we have one very successful cable channel in BBC America, and we’re looking into what options we have to roll out additional platforms in that country," Tessa Matchett, BBC’s Head of Communications for Global iPlayer, said last fall.

Meanwhile, the BBC executive responsible for the iPlayer, Daniel Danker, has jumped ship to Shazam – yep, that app that identifies music. If anything says "rats fleeing the ship" that has to be it.

The Weather Channel seems to love issuing updates to its apps. There are few media properties, other than Twitter I suppose, that issues as many.

This afternoon's iPhone app update does not add back in the animated wallpaper that was so attractive, but was a memory hog. But this is what users will see new:
What's New in Version 5.3.0
- Improved 15-minute forecasts within your Hourly view
- EXPECT RAIN tab on your Now screen. If snow, rain or thunderstorms start or change in the next 6 hours the EXPECT RAIN tab appears to let you know
- Cleaner design for faster navigation to your live radar and maps, the latest videos, and local pollen levels
- New video player with enhanced viewing experience
- Bug fixes and performance enhancements
- Improved severe weather alerts

Last afternoon odds & ends: Beware the Windows phone; the bootlegged magazine and its source; Hearst gets aggressive with merchandising, Esquire sends an email

There is nothing quite the afternoon trip to Best Buy to get you thinking about things – like 'how is it these sell anything since they seem to know so little about the products they sell?' Then there are the little surprises that get you thinking 'hey, I didn't know that.'

Playing around with a Windows phone I was impressed by how fast it felt. Then I opened up the browser and started to sug the web a bit. The speed was not as impressive, but that probably had more to do with Best Buy's WiFi than anything else. I even looked at this site on the phone. Pinch to zoom was fast, and the site looked pretty good, and... hey, wait a minute! I shouldn't be seeing my site, why aren't I seeing the mobile website?

I checked out several sites that I knew had mobile sites and each case the desktop version showed up.

So off to the Android phones to just check it everything looked right. The Best Buy guy took me over to some Samsung phones, then stumbled around as he tried to pull up the browser. Yep, everything looks as it should, I suppose. The display on the Samsung phones didn't seem as sharp and attractive as the Windows phone, but at least it was the right websites I was looking at.

In the early days of the web is was common to feel that your website would have to be tested on every OS and every computer you could find to make sure everything was right. Today we sometimes assume this is no longer necessary. With Windows phone sales rather modest this may still be true, but if they can actually start selling some of those things...

A TNM reader that recently launched a digital magazine using a platform usually associated with replicas because it involves uploading PDFs reports finding their magazine bootlegged already, and not on just one website but several.

I joked about this a bit, after all, I guess it is a sign that someone is interested in your title.

But it got me thinking that I seemed strange that it would show up in multiple locations. Are bootlegged magazines, downloadable in PDF form, being grabbed by these sites from each other, or are they targeting the digital newsstands known for digital magazines easily convertible into PDFs? (You really can't do this to an interactive or natively designed magazine because much of the material, and often the actual copy would be missing.)

Hearst Magazines have been busy trying to find new ways to monetize their brands, whether through merchandizing efforts, through retail partnerships, or brand extensions like the Esquire Network.

Some media observers have, showing their youth, written that this is all something new. In fact, many publishes, especially B2B publishers, initially thought the web would their way to start getting a bite out of every sale. I can't tell you how many publishers told me, back in the nineties, that their plan was to try and move products directly through their websites and break off one or two percent of the sale for themselves. It didn't happen, but it only goes to show that maybe we weren't thinking big enough (after all, Apple is now getting 30 percent of the sale on magazine subscriptions inside its Newsstand).

The GIF at right (click to enlarge) is an example of what Esquire is doing with one of its customers. The email promotion went out today and clicking on the link takes you directly to the retailers site – where, I might, add you are greeted as an Esquire reader (I'm not, but clearly they have my email address).

Hearst appears to be getting aggressive about their merchandizing and it makes perfect sense. I'd like to see them as aggressive in other areas such as creating new, interesting digital publications that are offshoots of their main titles. But this is a start.

Music journalist Michael Azerrad lets the musicians do the talking on the newly launched website 'The Talkhouse'

Most websites that talk about the media are, of course, written by journalists, a bit of narcissism that I suppose can not be helped. But in the world of music – both online and print – the voices one hears most often is that of the journalist, as well, not the musician. Music journalist Michael Azerrad is changing this with his newly launched website The Talkhouse, where musicians will be reviewing and talking about the work of other musicians.

Azerrad is the author of Our Band Could Be Your Life: Scenes from the American Indie Underground 1981-1991 and Come As You Are: The Story of Nirvana, as well as a former contributing editor for Rolling Stone.

The Talkhouse has, what it calls, soft-launched with a beta version earlier this month, with its earliest reviews dating from the last day of February.

Already the site contains reviews by such noted artists as Laurie Anderson, reviewing Animal Collective's Centipede Hz, and trumpeter Dave Douglas writing about the latest release from Wayne Shorter, Without A Net.

"Naturally, no one knows more about music than musicians," Azerrad says in the launch announcement. "They talk about their own work all the time, but they rarely get to talk about other people's music. That's what the Talkhouse is all about: smart, distinguished musicians from all genres and generations writing about the latest releases. And there's a twist: there will be comments for each piece - but only from the artist who's being written about. The idea is promote dialogue between musicians who may never have interacted otherwise, and for Talkhouse readers to have a ringside seat to this unique exchange."

The site will feature one new post written on one album each day, five days a week. According to the publisher a tablet edition and mobile app are in the works, as well.

Dave Douglas
I wondered, reading the jazz reviews (my area) on the site about the tendency of musicians to pull their punches a bit when writing about other musicians. This behavior is common to journalism sites and often prevents many journalists from commenting on industry trade sites. Might the reviews on The Talkhouse also tend to be more favorable than the musician writing the post really feel?

"We've had several pieces that are ambivalent or even negative, with more on the way," Azerrad told TNM. "But the point of the Talkhouse isn't to provide a critic's thumbs-up/thumbs-down evaluation of an album, like it's a consumer product. It's to show how a musician hears music — Talkhouse writers use their experience writing, recording and performing music to come up with insights and wisdom that no one else could offer. That's one big thing that makes us different."

The site, as mentioned above, is still somewhat in beta (though it certainly looks good now). But Ian Wheeler, who is the advertising contact, told me that there will be more features added in the near future, including artist pages and an embedded audio player – features that will be especially useful when the time comes to launch that tablet edition.

Condé Nast France releases its version of Glamour, one of many editions to be found inside Apple's Newsstand

One of the wonderful things about digital newsstand is the ability to find new titles, including international magazines. One of the promises of digital formats is that one day those international titles will come with good, accurate translation services. But I am probably to have to wait a while for that.

The downside of digital newsstand, however, is glut. Browsing and searching for new periodicals to read is difficult, almost impossible in the Apple App Store. Some digital newsstands are better than others, but they all come down to something rather simple: the depth of the categories used when publishers submit their apps (or files) to the newsstand.

Because of this, the newsstands are often a bit of a mess. This situation becomes a bit of a problem when a publisher owns multiple versions of their own title.

Take the new app for Glamour from Condé Nast – or more accurately, the newly released app GLAMOUR MAGAZINE FRANCE from Condé Nast Digital France. The French version of the popular magazine title is now the seventh version of Glamour available inside Apple's Newsstand. The scary thing is that I am quite sure I could have missed a couple versions, too. After all, not all magazines are published under the same name in an international market. For instance, the Greek version of Marie Claire, a magazine published by Hearst in the U.S., is called ΜΟΥΣΑ (Mousa) in Greece (see their excellent second iPad app here).
 photo Glamour-covers-sm_zps5eaad869.jpg
The new French version of Glamour appears to be a replica edition as the cover used inside the app description still has the bar code on the cover. But each version is somewhat different in app design, devices and pricing. Some replica editions are universal apps, while others are not.

Here is the breakdown of Glamour inside the Apple Newsstand:
 photo Glamour-chart-apps_zps3527cad3.jpg
While some may think this is good news for readers, and there certainly are some upsides (after all, does your local Barnes & Noble carry the Italian version of Glamour?), the fact is that the situation is also leading to mass confusion and much dissatisfaction with digital editions, in general.

Readers just looking at the app icons certainly will have a difficult time differentiating one edition from another. But there are bigger problems such as understanding which tablet editions are interactive and which are replicas. Even language is an issue: the app Revista Glamour Brasil lists English as its language inside the U.S. App Store (it is listed as "Inglês" in the Brazil store) – the actual magazine is most certainly in Portuguese.

Morning Brief: Flipboard issues major update to bring app to version 2.0; update allows users to share their own aggregated 'magazines'

Late yesterday afternoon Flipboard issued an update to its popular iOS app, bringing the app up top version 2.0. (The app in Google Play was recently updated bringing it up to version 1.9.27.)

First, what's new in version 2.0:

★ You can now collect and save content into your own magazines, tap the new “+” button to get started.
★ Your magazines are public, but can be made private (viewable only to you).
★ Use the new bookmarklet to add items to your magazines from your browser.
★ Get Flipboard notifications when people like, comment or subscribe to your magazines.
★ Easily email or share magazines to Facebook, Twitter, G+, etc
★ Personalized recommendations for more to add to your Flipboard.
✓ Search is now front and center on your Flipboard, with new improved results.
✓ Faster page-loading and faster flipping performance.
The big change here is that Flipboard has it made it easier to create, and share your own aggregated "magazines" – and part of the fun of the product is seeing what other users have come up with.

Flipboard is terribly popular, and this update will only make it more so for among its current users and those who buy their first tablets, with the company claiming some 50 million users (though that can not be substantiated as downloads do not equate to regular users). The company has also been able to raise some $60 million in capital from Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, Index Ventures and others, while attempting to find a way to monetize its audience in a way that can justify the investors faith in the company.

One of the biggest problems Flipboard faces is that there is no barrier to entry to its market. While Flipboard was among the first content aggregation apps launched for the iPad, it now finds that other companies such as Zite, Google, AOL and others have launched their own versions of Flipboard, each with a different take on the basic concept.

But Flipboard is undeniably the leader, and its ability to continually update and improve its product should protect it somewhat from its competitors. But my first thoughts on the product, written in this long post in July of 2010 still seem somewhat valid.

I suppose my own feelings about Flipboard are influenced by the idea that what the app creates can be called a "magazine". The thinking goes like this: these Flipboard "magazines" are in fact "magazines" because an "editor" (the reader) has gathered together the content. But to think this is all a magazine editor does would be to think that the editor of Time, Esquire or Vogue sees their job as simply piecing together what copy happens to fall on their desk. (I have a feeling more than a few journalists actually do see things this way.)

Besides, you know, actually editing copy, editors also drive the content creation process, not merely organize it. So these Flipboard "magazines" are not really magazines at all, but what they were to begin with: very nice looking collections of aggregated content – some organized well and with good logic behind them, others not so much.

But if readers and Flipboard want to call them magazines that's fine with me. That reporters would call them magazines, though, either reeks of press release regurgitation, or a profound misunderstanding of what defines a magazine. No doubt the idea of the magazine has been corrupted by the use of the term to describe certain television programs.

(Could a future update to Flipboard or some other similar app actually build in the story assignment process? Just a thought.)

So is Flipboard a danger to the magazine industry? Sure. (My God, what isn't a threat to the industry today?)

Every day nearly a dozen or more new digital magazines, or tablet editions (replica and new publications), are introduced into the Apple Newsstand. With this volume of titles, it is tempting to believe that readers would prefer to use only one app that can collect stories from "out there" and create a friendly, personalized publication.

But not all readers of magazines and newspapers want to be their own editors. Just as there are those TV viewers who will record their favorite shows then watch them in a newly configured lineup in an evening, the vast majority of viewers still turn on their TVs and sit back and enjoy (or not) whatever is available at that time.

Flipboard's update makes the app more attractive, more social, and more interesting – that is for sure. But the app still calls on readers to work to discover the content - and with more content that job is getting even harder, not easier. Flipboard makes organizing and displaying content easier, does it make discovering that content easier? (Yes, a bit. I'll admit.)

For me, the fun of the new Flipboard won't be that I will want to create my own magazines – though I can see where that might be an interesting way for magazine titles to try and repurpose archived material (though this seems a terrible use of that material when creating you own apps and special issues would present better circulation revenue and advertising opportunities). No, the fun will be in seeing what others create. Again, find the best editors and follow them rather than believe I know best. Three examples of this can be seen above in the animated GIF.

With millions of users, it is obvious that the media will have to continue to be leery of Flipboard and similar products. But Flipboard is hardly the new Google. It remains a popular reading app, and the undeniable leader. It is also getting better and better, and version 2.0 is certainly a major leap forward. I have a feeling that is will use Flipboard about as often as I did in the past – that is, not very often. But I recognize that the app has loyal users, and the update should be appreciated and make the app even more valuable for them.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Alt-Weeklies Are Dead; Long Live Alt-Weeklies

I'd like to thank the staff at the Association of Alternative Newsmedia for allowing me to repost this story by Rachael Daigle that appeared early this morning on their website. I thought it important enough to ask permission to repost it here at TNM, and they were generous enough to agree.

The year 2012 was big in the alternative newsweekly world. It was the year the country's largest chain of alt-weeklies, Village Voice Media, became Voice Media Group, making structural changes within the company, losing key staff at its flagship paper, Village Voice, and selling off holdings in Seattle and San Francisco. It was the year Boston Phoenix relaunched as a magazine and became simply The Phoenix. It was also the year the Creative Loafing chain ceased to exist and the 21-year-old Birmingham, Ala., Black and White suspended its operation.

"2012 was a big year. We saw a lot of shakeup, and thus far, 2013 has already provided one unpleasant surprise -- the closure of Boston Phoenix," said Tiffany Shackelford, executive director of the Association of Alternative Newsmedia, referring to the March announcement that one of the country's longest running alt-weeklies will fold. "And while the industry will miss a storied brand responsible for excellent journalism, our papers are nimble and responding to the changes in the industry in the best possible way."

But what that response looks like and whether it will ultimately save the industry is the question mainstream media is asking of its alt counterparts with headlines like "The long, slow decline of alt-weeklies" from Jack Shafer, an alt-weekly alum himself, and the question posed by New York Times reporter David Carr, also a former alt-weekly editor, as to whether alt-weeklies are "toast"?

"The alts are both gone and here to stay," said Jeff Lawrence, publisher of Dig Boston. He says the alts that are willing to adapt and change are poised for success. "Those that are dying are the ones who are refusing to change or don't have the capacity to do so."

Across the country in Portland, Ore., longtime Willamette Week editor Mark Zusman contends that alts that are unwilling to not just accept change but to embrace it will find themselves in trouble in the future.

So, yes, says the industry to David Carr, the alternative weekly of yesterday is toast. Or, at least it should be if the alt-weekly business is going to survive. As print media collectively emerges from an existential crisis that has forever altered the business model, alt-weeklies are coming out on the other side as more than just newspapers. And in spite of a 2012 with as many lows as highs, industry leaders are confident in the future.

The Media Company Brand

In 2011 the members of the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies became the Association of Alternative Newsmedia to reflect its newly-adopted bylaws allowing digital-only members. While the name change was a practical move, philosophically it meant an industry-wide acceptance of evolution that had been occurring in local markets at member papers across the country for several years.

"We no longer look at ourselves as a weekly or a newspaper in that what we are providing to our readers and advertisers is delivered in many different forms and at all times of the day, every day," said Blair Barna, co-owner and advertising director of Charleston City Paper. Barna, who serves on the association's board of directors, described his paper as a media company.

It's a label publishers from Boise to Burlington have embraced, both on the business side and editorially. But readers — and media critics — may thumb through the pages of their local alt-weekly and not even notice the evolution that's happened behind the scenes to ensure the paper itself still exists.

City of Roses Newspaper Company, co-owned by Willamette Week's Zusman, also owns Santa Fe Reporter and in 2012 purchased Indy Week in North Carolina. The mini-chain’s success has not been without large-scale change. Zusman, who also once served as the association's president, said his company is much different business-wise than it was just a few years ago, now selling across platforms, generating significant revenue from events, and being far more entrepreneurial than it once was.

"We are all engaged in a huge pivot, one in which we are seeking to remake the business model in a way that supports our brand of journalism," said Zusman. "And it will be several years before we know if it will succeed."

SouthComm CEO Chris Ferrell also describes the alts as an industry that is in transition. Ferrell, who was the publisher of the Nashville Scene and worked for Voice Media Group when it was Village Voice Media, founded SouthComm in 2007. After finding an investment company willing to help him buy alt-weeklies, SouthComm acquired LEO Weekly in Louisville, Ky. in 2008 and the Nashville Scene in 2009. SouthComm is now the second largest alt-weekly chain in the country with eight papers, including two of the industry's biggest: Washington City Paper and Creative Loafing Atlanta.

Ferrell is not only betting on the future success of the alts but doubling down with investments in some of country's largest, most financially troubled papers with a mission to rehab them alongside SouthComm's smaller market papers. And Ferrell is well aware of the attention he is drawing from his colleagues.
"We are all engaged in a huge pivot, one in which we are seeking to remake the business model in a way that supports our brand of journalism."
"I think people are looking us to see if we can take these wounded papers and really revitalize them and turn them into next generation, vibrant alt-weeklies. I think we can," said Ferrell. "These papers, in my mind, they have the opportunity to be even more influential going forward than they were in the past. Alternative doesn't mean the same thing today that it did 20 or 30 years ago."

However, SouthComm's business model does not rely on the deep pockets of investors. Ferrell is also looking to creative digital solutions to diversify revenue streams. He also operates SouthComm Digital, which offers clients digital ad buys beyond SouthComm media properties. Essentially, SouthComm Digital helps clients advertise across the internet through behavioral or content targeting of ads on sites that are not SouthComm products.

"We can be the digital agency for our clients and so it just gives us another product to offer to our advertisers," said Ferrell. "They already are setting aside budgets for digital. We can help them, and they know who we are. In some cases they've been working with our reps for years or decades and so we can be a trusted advisor and help them with that."

The Memphis Flyer's parent company, Contemporary Media, is moving in a similar direction with its recently created subdivision Creative Content. According to Molly Willmott, director of digital/operations for Contemporary Media and the AAN board of directors electronic publishing chair, the mission of Creative Content will be to bring up digital revenues in a non-traditional way by selling the editorial, photography and video services of its current staff to help clients create and improve marketing materials, websites and social media strategies.

Dig Boston's Lawrence has long touted what were once seen as non-traditional revenue models, including monetizing social media and events, as well as custom publishing. In fact he says social media and events are "hands down" the most positive things happening on the money-making end of the industry and papers that don't know that are in trouble.

While forays into digital entrepreneurship are bolstering some weeklies, even more are leveraging their brand loyalty in their communities with events.

Scott Tobias, the CEO of Voice Media Group, points to the power of events as significant money makers for alt-weeklies that cannot be overlooked.

VMG has 11 iPhone apps

"I think Voice Media Group does this better than anybody," he said. "We have significant music events, significant food events, our arts events are amazing. We now have a real cash flow machine built around these events, which I think is really unique."

Among the events VMG puts on are the Westword Music Showcase in Denver, which will host 15,000 people, 4 Knots in New York, which will draw about 30,000, and this year, VMG will bring back Detour Music Festival in L.A. for a crowd of about 15,000.

Zusman’s Willamette Week puts on the immensely popular and irreverent political debate Candidates Gone Wild. In Washington, D.C., City Paper hosts the annual Crafty Bastards arts and crafts fair, which in 2012 expanded to two days. In Burlington, Seven Days has the hundred-restaurant strong Vermont Restaurant Week. And in Nashville it's Sugar Rush, a dessert event so popular that SouthComm replicated it in Louisville and Kansas City.

The idea, said Ferrell, is to look at what works well in one market — be it digital tools or events — and adapt it for another, so as to bolster the core product. Sharing those ancillary product successes is not only good for fellow alts, but it's often good for the company that has done the development legwork, as they sell their new products to industry members.

The Stranger, for example, developed a happy hour mobile app that a handful of alt-weeklies have adapted for their own market, as well as a soon-to-be-launched white-label event ticketing system that will allow papers to not just list events happening in their cities, but to sell tickets to those events. Salt Lake City Weekly in Utah offers members its Kostizi platform, a nationwide discount gift card and ticket program. And the newly launched LocalOn Adlets from East Bay Express, which publishes "adlets" for local merchants in real time across multiple platforms.

While industry members are individually enhancing the financial ecosystem of the alts, the association is hard at work leveraging their collective buying power to create a content sharing platform with a multimedia focus. Executive director Shackelford says hyperlocal news has a national audience and she is developing a way for alts to license their content — with significant profit — to national media outlets.

"Next, we are setting up a recommendation engine network with organizations including the Investigative News Network, Media Consortium and public media partners," said Shackelford. "This will allow great verticals of content and monetization opportunities with interstitial ads."

What it all comes down to is brand — the brand of alts as an industry and the brand each newspaper, or media company, has built in its own community.

Recently Paula Routly, the founder and publisher of Seven Days in Burlington, Vermont, gave a speech at Champlain College. In it she quoted Seattle alt-weekly publisher Tim Keck saying "The publisher of Seattle's The Stranger, who is a very smart guy, has said, 'The media companies that can navigate different mediums are going to be the ones that survive. The thing that really moors them is no longer the medium — a print publication — it's going to be the community and the brand.'"

The Real Industry Barometer

Though media critics tend to gauge the health of the alt-weekly industry by looking at the largest and oldest papers in the country — many of whom have seen circulation drops in the last year — industry insiders take a different tack, in part because they know that in places like Syracuse and Colorado Springs, circulation and readership is up. And in places like Little Rock, digital sales are booming.

Charleston's Blair Barna said he looks at the large national groups but that it's important to look at smaller, independent newspapers as well — papers that don't often make national headlines like Arkansas Times, Boise Weekly and Seven Days.

Willamette Week's Zusman points out that smaller market papers have recently fared better for a few reasons.

"First, they never got that much national advertising, which the big market papers got," he said. "When the recession hit and those ads evaporated, big market papers suffered disproportionately. Second, big market papers have more competition and the readers in those markets moved to digital faster than readers in small markets. And lastly, some of the big market papers suffered from the fact that they were highly leveraged properties—not a good thing to be when heading into a recession."

Abe Peck, media consultant and senior director of Northwestern University's Media Management Center, agreed, saying some of the biggest papers have the biggest problems because they are in mature markets and some of them have had to face the consequences of over-expansion.

"There are no panaceas. The papers face media-wide issues of reaching audiences when and where they want information without going broke trying," said Peck. "Alternative papers started out as the fresh alternative. Now they have to recreate interest as they go. Even as they break stories, they need to become more collaborative with their audiences, building on pieces over time through social media feedback. That will take a rethink of editorial operations. This may actually be an advantage for smaller-area newspapers."

New Newsstand apps show why you can't judge a tablet edition by its cover, or its cover price: 'Content Magazine' goes replica, while UK wedding blogger builds a native tablet magazine 'Beyond The Magazine'

The past few days have seen a flood of new tablet editions released into the Apple Newsstand, mostly replica editions that are using the Magzter platform (and a few that are actually natively designed, as well). So the appearance of these two new digital magazines – Content Magazine and Beyond The Magazine – definitely got my attention.

Content Magazine's app description was promising: "Welcome to Content Magazine—a bimonthly San Jose based magazine promoting the people, events, and businesses of San Jose." San Jose means Silicon Valley, home to Apple and Google. But only later did I notice that the screenshot of the cover used in the app description was showing a bar scan code, a sure sign of a replica edition.

Sure enough, the app does prove to be a disappointment. But the publisher is certainly doing some things right here. For one thing, the app is appearing under their own developer account name. This allows them to continue to control their brand – it also opens up the possibility of an app update to a native tablet solution at some point in the future. The app supports push notifications, the Apple Newsstand, and appears to be bug free.

The app also has a very nice library and navigation, in general, is well designed.

On the downside, reading this tablet edition is a pain, as one would expect from a replica of a print edition. Ultimately readers will have to decide if they are simply better off sticking to print. Single issues here are, after all $3.99 – no bargain for a hard to read digital edition. The annual subscription is $22.99, and to be fair, this is a discount off the print price listed on the website ($42).

Beyond The Magazine, on the other hand, seemed to me to be less promising. The cover shown in the app description (above-right) seemed pretty minimal, hardly the work of print magazine designers, I thought. Also, the digital magazine is free of charge, often a sign that the new publication is more about feeding one's desire to be a publisher.

Oops, I was way off. Way, way off. Silly me.

The digital magazine is native, which was obvious when the download started – 456MB. The Newsstand app looks like it may have been created with a platform such as Mag+, though I can not be positive about that. The tablet-only magazine can only be read in portrait so its hefty size is the result of being 94 pages in length, and containing some video.

As you will see from the short walk-through video below, the design work is fairly simple, but being natively designed means the fonts work for the reader. In fact, for me, everything seemed to work for me other than some of the layering, but that is a minor complaint.
Both "apps" are good, and I would even say that the app quality of Contents Magazine is superior. But readers will find Beyond The Magazine a more enjoyable experience.

One last thing: the name of the native tablet magazine, Beyond The Magazine, comes from the website – BeyondBeyond, wedding blogger Amma Adjubi (above-right). Adjubi describers herself this way on her website:
I am a photographer trapped inside a graphic designer’s body; I love illustration, I am a coder and website designer, I am a writer, I am a golden age (that is 90’s stuff – Souljah Boy I refuse you) hip hop lover/nerd and most of all I am a very lucky girl who gets to indulge in the things that she loves every single day.
It is probably the fact that she describes herself as a website designer that she decided to go with a native tablet edition rather than a replica solution. I found that webbies are far more likely to go native with their first apps than those with print backgrounds – and they seem to be very comfortable with the new digital platforms, as well.

These two new tablet editions have proved a good reminder for me to keep an open mind when downloading new publication apps, and to not assume that just because a new tablet edition comes from an established print publisher that the new digital product will be superior to that from the enthusiastic digital publisher.

TAPE Magazine uses the Magzter platform to create an almost invisible digital magazine, then charges for it

Yesterday TNM looked at the latest digital magazine launch from Tablazines, Reader's Mobile, which uses the Magzter platform. One of the points made in that look at the new app was that the design was heavily influenced by print when no print magazine actually existed – the point being that native tablet magazine design need not mimic print conventions such as with the traditional TOC.

Another new digital magazine released in the past week that also is using the Magzter looked like it might prove to be a good example of how a publisher could use a platform usually associated with replicas to create something that works well on tablets. But, in the end, TAPE Magazine only proves the point that mindlessly using a replica maker to create a tablet edition is more often than not counterproductive.

TAPE Magazine has so much wrong with it that it is hard to known where to begin. Once again the app is being published under the Magzter account name rather than the publisher's. Further, the only link that is supposed to go to magazine support merely goes to Magzter. Complicating things further, the website for the publisher seems to be down, so learning anything about the magazine or the company behind it proved impossible.

No, this isn't a blank page. Really.
What gave me hope that this would be an interesting tablet edition was the screenshots that seemed to show full page photo layouts, but these were only brought over from print as opening the issue revealed page folios, following the usual left side from even, right side for odd pattern. This wouldn't be so bad in a replica that is produced of a traditional magazine, but TAPE is no traditional magazine as is apparent once a full page of text is revealed.

No, apparently it was the designers brilliant idea to use fonts that are more gray than black. As a result, what surely must be hard to read in print is impossible to read on the iPad. It is rare to find something that is less legible on a retina display iPad than in print, but somehow the folks at TAPE managed to do it.

As I written before, there is a place for replica editions, but they must at least be readable – most are not, TAPE is even visible.

The new app charges $4.99 per issue, and if you recall, after Apple takes its 30 percent the vendor, Magzter, is due half of what's left. Since this is incremental revenue for the publisher I'm sure they can justify it, but as a reader, this is one very bad tablet edition/

Morning Brief: British press get ready for retrial in Italy; Condé Nast mistimes 'My GQ' update; Bloomberg updates BusinessWeek tablet edition, offering some articles free

The British press went all O.J. Simpson at the first trial of Amanda Knox, the American college student first convicted of the murder of her roommate Meredith Kercher in Perugia, Italy, then later acquitted of the same murder. Today Italy's highest court has ruled that Knox, now 25, must stand trial again, though her return to Italy is highly unlikely.

The Daily Mail is already trying out its headline writing skills with "'It was painful': Amanda Knox speaks out after finding out that she WILL face a retrial over the murder of British student Meredith Kercher."

As one commenter on the NBC News website writes: "I guess Italy is running low on cash and needs to sell newspapers." Whatever works, its journalism – and whatever works in Italy works in the U.S. as the story is on the front of the home page of the NYT, bumped from the lead only by today's Supreme Court session concerning gay marriage.

Trying to time an app update with publicity is difficult if Apple's app review team is involved, as Condé Nast found out yesterday. The magazine publisher announced the roll out of "a new technology that encourages readers to shop, save, and share content from the magazine’s iPad tablet edition." Unfortunately, the app update for GQ did not hit until today.

"MyGQ lets readers save their favorite articles and ads and easily share them with friends allowing people to fully customize their GQ tablet experience," said Chris Mitchell, vice president and publisher, in yesterday's announcement.

The program is, in reality, a paid link program for advertisers who must pay an add-on charge of $5,000, according to Adweek, who wrote about the update yesterday despite the fact that the update had not yet been released. Condé Nast developed the program in-house and in partnership with Studio Mercury, a NYT agency.

One wishes to be open about the program except that it begins with the April issue – and what do you know – the app update did not bring with it the April issue.

Bloomberg has updated its tablet edition for Bloomberg Businessweek+. The update now gives readers access to some of the articles in each week's issue free of charge.

The app allows the reader to download the weekly issue to access a TOC of the articles, but only three of the stories can be accessed free, the others are locked, only to be opened once the reader has started a subscription or logged into the print subscription account.

Annual subscriptions are priced at $29.99, or a monthly subscription can be had for $2.99.

Monday, March 25, 2013

VRWAY launches new digital travel magazine into the Apple Newsstand featuring its panorama photography

Unique travel magazines seem to be a bit of a specialty for the iOS platform, with the best known example probably being TRVL, the iPad digital magazine from the Dutch publisher now going by the name of its digital publishing platform, Prss Inc. That single iPad app now contains 97 single issues inside it.

Today VRWAY Communication has released another unique digital magazine for the iPad, ArounderMag. Its name gives you a clue to what you will find inside: VR (virtual reality) photography of a specific travel destination. The first issue is on Lugano, Switzerland, a place I would personally like to visit, not only for its beauty, but because each summer it hosts a killer jazz festival. (Lugano also happens to be the home of VRWAY Communication.)

ArounderMag is not only unique because of its use of panorama photography, but because it is an app that lets the reader choose between English, Italian or Chinese language content.

The publisher of this new tablet magazine is an interesting company. VRWAY worked with Apple in 2000 to create a what the company's website calls "the largest VR database-driven website on the Internet." Later the company launched an online magazine VRMag for its VR photography.

A couple years later came the Arounder website, a site that offers its contents in three languages (you can guess which ones they are, right?). So creating a digital magazine for the iPad, seen looking at the company's past efforts, seems like a natural progression of their media work.

The app is free of charge, as is the contents. The first issue weighs in at 271MB. The digital magazine is to be read in landscape only, which makes sense considering the type of photography inside the magazine.

Upcoming issues will feature Shanghai, Milan, Rio de Janeiro, Beijing, and Paris. But looking at the website for Arounder one can see that the publisher has plenty of photography in-house to work with. All they will need now is the editorial material.

Here is a brief walk-through video of the app. Once again, there is a little bit of "stickiness" to some of the video which reflects the video capture software rather than the reading experience of the app itself, which was smooth (though the app did crash upon initially being opened, but this did not repeat itself).