Friday, April 26, 2013

A few words on the future of Talking New Media

This website was launched over three years ago as a way to keep myself informed on changes in the digital publishing landscape. Along the way I've been very proud of the fact that I've been able to give good, important information about first mobile publishing, and following the launch of the iPad in April 2010, tablet publishing.

At first this site, like most other new trade industry sites, had a very small readership. But each year the readership has doubled to the point where TNM reaches 50,000 readers in over 110 countries (over 100K readers in its lifetime).

But TNM wasn't designed to be a full time venture. Serving the media business may be fun (believe it or not) but it's hardly a good business. Look at any of the trade industry magazines or websites, they do not survive by selling advertising to vendors or through their paid subscriptions but by pushing more and more events at their readers – a practice that, frankly, is getting out of hand.

The reasons for publishing TNM were: 1) keep myself informed of developments in the digital media field; 2) keep busy before accepting another position as a publisher or other executive at media firm; or 3) publish TNM as a way to launch my own publishing company, something many loyal TNM readers have encouraged me to do.

A sign that this site wasn't meant to last long is the fact that it is hosted on Google's Blogger platform. Blogger is easy and cheap – sort of like those replica editions I rail about.

But Google has been a world of hurt from the beginning. Shortly after launching this site I was notified that my AdSense account was being closed. The notice came shortly after writing something, long forgotten by me, critical of Google. No amount of investigation on my part could determine Google's rationale for the action, I thought it was slimy and petty.

Lately I've found that Google Analytics is wildly inaccurate and vastly underestimating TNM's actual traffic. Those readership numbers above come from Google Analytics only because I strongly believe you should be quoting actual numbers reported, not what you really think the numbers are. I know the numbers are wrong because other traffic reports provided by Google conflict what Google Analytics says.

But ultimately the reason TNM has stayed on the Blogger platform is because in three years I have failed to find the right template or theme that I preferred to use on another publishing platform, or even on Blogger. So little has changed at TNM since its launch in 2010.

Well, it is time for some changes.

First, over the next few months TNM will transition off the Blogger platform. You will be able to track that progress by viewing the progress I make on a new website just launched called TNM Digital Media (more on that in a minute). The new TNM won't be found at that site, but will use the same platform as TNMDM, WordPress.

The new TNM will probably be publishing under a new name. This is usually death for a media property, but the name Talking New Media is a strange name for some readers anyway. The phrase "talking XXX" derives from the folk music days when a song would be mostly spoken and would involve something topical, like Phil Ochs's Talking Vietnam Blues or Bob Dylan's Talkin' New York.

New Media involves all sorts of digital media platforms including websites, e-newsletters and the like, but you'll rarely see TNM talk about those subjects anymore. Instead the emphasis lately has been on digital media that can be read on tablets.

So TNM will stop the pretense of being all about "New Media" and once the new website is launched will be completely about tablet publishing.

It's a minor change of positioning as TNM has always been about newspapers, magazines and book publishing – it still will be, but only as regards the tablet platform. It's still a bad business model, but at least it will better reflect what the site is about. The "TNM" will probably survive is some form as it has taken on a life of its own – it's why the MPA remains the MPA despite the fact that the association is no longer called the Magazine Publisher's Association.

There will be other changes coming, as well, and you will see those revolve around TNM Digital Media, the name that will be used as the umbrella under which these will be launched. Some of these new ventures are well on their way to fruition, others are only in the discussion stages.

So while I'm still open to being a publisher somewhere, or to take some VC's money to launch a new publishing company, or even to get that dream call from Apple or some other platform owner searching for a strong publishing advocate inside their company, it is increasingly likely that none of those three things will ever happen. So the future will be all about TNM Digital Media. Stay tuned.

Morning Brief: Final issue of Egypt Independent, English language weekly, chronicles its own demise; new study shows wide gap perception to the media in Arab countries, as well as differences in Internet access

Rarely do editors get to spend much of their final issue talking about the history, trials and tribulations of their publication. For many reporters, editors and other newspaper staff, the end comes quick, often with a group of moving men entering the newsroom with empty boxes. At best, many newspapers simply run a story on the front page with large headline stating that "This is the End."

Quite a number of newspapers I worked at no longer exists – Hearst's L.A. Examiner, Copley's Santa Monica Outlook, for instance – but none closed while I was working at the publication. But while most newspaper closings in the U.S. are the result of economics and financial decisions made by media owners, elsewhere there may be far more to the decision.

Picture from final issue of the staff at Egypt Independent
The Egypt Independent, an English language weekly, has produced its final edition and is offering a PDF of the paper due to its being banned from publishing in print.

"Today the owners decided to kill the paper, they claim financial trouble, but in reality the big business behind Al Masry Al Youm is no longer interested in a true revolutionary voice," wrote Alaa Abdel Fattah.

The final issue is an extremely interesting read and I would encourage readers to download the PDF. Articles discuss not only the political situation of publishing an English language paper in Egypt, especially a socially progressive one (the paper's head is a woman), but also discuss the business side of publishing paper, its mistakes and its triumphs.

A study released this week gives a picture of how media consumers view the credibility of the media in Arab countries. The survey results, released during a session of the Qatar Media Industries Forum in Doha, Qatar revealed that only a quarter of media consumers surveyed found the media "credible" in Egypt, Lebanon and Tunisia, while those in Saudi Arabia, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates looked at the media more favorably. The poll was conducted by Northwestern University in Qatar. With nearly 10,000 adults surveyed, it is said to be "the largest study in the region for public release on media use," said Kerry Hill, a research director at Harris Interactive.

According to an Al Jazeera report on the poll, the survey revealed a large gap between wealthy Gulf countries and less affluent Arab nations found to the west. Wealthy countries enjoyed far more access to the Internet – nearly 90 percent of those in Qatar and the United Arab Emirates have access – whereas only 22 percent of Egyptian citizens enjoy Internet access.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Amazon says sales grow 22% in its Q1 to $16.07 billion

Amazon reported robust sales growth in its first quarter of 2013, as the company reported its earnings. But profits are still alluding the company as it said that operating income decreased 6 percent to $181 million, down from $192 million in the same quarter of 2012.

Net income decreased 37% to $82 million in the first quarter, compared with $130 million in the first quarter last year.

Jeff Bezos, Amazon's founder and CEO, usually uses its earnings reports to talk about very specific new products, such as the Kindle Fire, rather than going through each line item in great detail. This report was no different as the company touted its own film and television production arm.

"Amazon Studios is working on a new way to greenlight TV shows. The pilots are out in the open where everyone can have a say,” said Bezos in the earnings announcement. "I have my personal picks and so do members of the Amazon Studios team, but the exciting thing about our approach is that our opinions don’t matter. Our customers will determine what goes into full-season production. We hope Amazon Originals can become yet another way for us to create value for Prime members."

Here is what Amazon highlighted in its announcement, what you notice that is missing is any good information on tablet sales (as usual):

  • expanded selection for Prime Instant Video, announcing new licensing agreements with A+E Networks, CBS Corporation, FX, PBS Distribution and Scripps Networks Interactive, bringing exclusive access to popular television series such as Downton Abbey, Justified and Under the Dome as well as shows from HGTV, DIY Network, Food Network, Cooking Channel and Travel Channel. Prime Instant Video now includes more than 38,000 movies and TV episodes that are available for Prime members to watch at no additional charge.
  • Amazon Studios, the original film and series production arm of, debuted 14 original comedy and kids pilots. The pilots, which feature stars such as John Goodman, Jeffrey Tambor and Bebe Neuwirth, are available exclusively at and on the Amazon Instant Video app for Kindle Fire HD, Kindle Fire, iPad, iPhone, iPod touch, Roku, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Wii and Wii U, as well as hundreds of other connected devices. Viewer feedback will help determine which pilots Amazon Studios will produce into full series.
  • Amazon expanded the popular Kindle Fire feature “X-Ray for Movies” to TV shows, bringing the power of IMDb directly to the most popular TV shows on Kindle Fire. With a single tap viewers can discover the names of actors and what they've been in, without even leaving the TV show.
  • Kindle Owners’ Lending Library has grown to over 300,000 books available to borrow for free as frequently as a book a month, including many titles exclusive to Amazon.
  • Amazon announced the launch of the Amazon MP3 store optimized specifically for Safari browser. For the first time ever, iPhone and iPod touch users can discover and buy digital music from Amazon’s 22 million song catalog. Amazon also announced its Cloud Player app for iPad and iPad mini, enabling customers to play or download music stored in Cloud Player to their device, play music that is already stored on their device, and manage or create playlists.
  • Amazon announced it has extended its popular AutoRip services to vinyl records. AutoRip provides customers with free MP3 versions of CDs and vinyl records they purchase from Amazon. Additionally, customers who have purchased AutoRip CDs or vinyl records at any time since Amazon first opened its Music Store in 1998 will find MP3 versions of those albums in their Cloud Player libraries – also automatically for free.
  • Amazon announced the launch of Kindle Fire HD 8.9” — the large-screen version of its best-selling tablet —for the U.K., Germany, France, Italy, Spain and Japan. With the expansion of Kindle Fire HD 8.9” to Europe and Japan, Amazon also announced a lower price on Kindle Fire HD 8.9” in the U.S., with the Wi-Fi version starting at $269 and the 4G version starting at $399.
  • Amazon Publishing, the publishing arm of, announced that it will start paying authors their royalties monthly, 60 days in arrears — allowing authors to receive payment more frequently than the twice-a-year industry standard.
  • Amazon acquired Goodreads, a leading site for readers and book recommendations that helps people find and share books they love. Goodreads members can discover new books by seeing what their friends are reading or by using the Goodreads Book Recommendation Engine; share ratings and recommendations; track what they have read, and list what they want to read.
  • Amazon Web Services (AWS) announced the launch of Amazon Redshift, a fast and powerful, fully managed, petabyte-scale data warehouse service in the cloud for a fraction of the cost of a traditional data warehouse.
  • AWS launched AWS OpsWorks, an application management solution for the complete lifecycle of complex applications, including resource provisioning, configuration management, deployment, monitoring, and access control.
  • AWS announced Amazon Elastic Transcoder, a highly scalable service for transcoding video files between different digital media formats. Amazon Elastic Transcoder manages all aspects of the transcoding process transparently and automatically, providing scalability and performance by leveraging AWS services.
  • AWS announced AWS CloudHSM, a new service enabling customers to increase data security and meet compliance requirements by using dedicated Hardware Security Module (HSM) appliances within the AWS Cloud. The CloudHSM service allows customers to securely generate, store and manage cryptographic keys used for data encryption in a way that keys are accessible only by the customer.
  • AWS has lowered prices 31 times since it launched in 2006, including 7 price reductions so far in 2013.

Trinity Mirror releases new tablet edition for the Birmingham Mail; iPad app allows readers to access the replica free of charge

I'm not that familiar with the Daily Mirror, or Trinity Mirror plc, in general. But if the new Birmingham Mail Newspaper for iPad is an example of their idea of a digital media strategy then it's all about offering their paper's free in digital form, something U.S. publishers are very much rejecting as a digital media strategy.

The Newsstand iPad app for the Birmingham, UK tabloid is pretty much everything I would advise against: its a replica, for one thing; and its free, for another. The app screams of one of those apps a media company releases when it is tired of folks reminding them that they haven't released anything. But based on the previous app released by Trinity Mirror for the Daily Mirror, readers will love this app. UK App Store reviews for that app, Daily Mirror Newspaper App (UK) have been universally positive – UK readers, apparently, love free.

Generally speaking, those media properties that pursue digital media strategies that involve free replica products are trying to save their print advertising base by boosting readership.**

The idea is that the added readers that the digital product will attract will increase results for advertisers and keep them on board. This strategy was at the heart of the media profession's thinking in the late nineties when publishers acquiesced to agency demands that they give away online ads as add-value add-ons to the print schedule. Publishers agreed out of fear that their print competitors would do this, so everyone played along. Digital advertising, print publishers trained their clients, had no real value, so giving it away was fine.

Newspaper publishers have shied away from the practice, for the most part, but through replica editions, digital advertising against has been reduced in value. There is no reason to pay for a tablet ad if the newspaper is giving it all away in their replica editions.

A few decades ago, when the ad people ruled the roost, none of this would have been allowed. But the editorial side is in control now so ads are taking a back seat to paid circulation. Except, it appears, at Trinity Mirror, where that, too, is being given away.

** Another reason to give away the digital replica for free is to drive readers to digital in order to reduce print costs. The idea is that the loss of paid subscriptions is acceptable if print production costs will go away. It is a reasonable strategy if, and only if, the ad team can then sell digital ads. Without those paid ads there is zero revenue to be found in a digital replica with no paid circulation and no new digital ads sold.

A little perspective: NYT Co. revenue declines in a chart

While the paid content gurus have been applauding the NYT's digital subscription strategy and cheering on the end of advertising based publishing as we've known it, reality has a way of interrupting the march towards an ad-free future. Declining revenues are eating into what is left of the NYT's profits. (See post on earnings report and the company's "strategy for growth" here.)

In Q1 of 2013 the NYT Co. made $3.1 million in net income. That translates into just under $24 a minute. For a littler perspective, Apple, the company many tech and financial reporters believes is in decline, made $77,855 per minute in net income lat quarter.

Well, that is the fun way to look at it. The more realistic way to look at the situation is to see what is happening with revenue – both circulation and advertising.

Last year's Q1 was the first time that the Times reported first quarter revenue where circulation revenue surpassed advertising. Many paid content advocates cheered. But when with the growth shown this quarter in circ revenue, it turns out that 2013 Q1 circ revenue is only up 2 percent over the same quarter in 2010.

Where the P&L game really is at is in the advertising department. Ad revenue this quarter is less than half what it was in the same quarter of 2008. While ad revenue as decreased by $266.55 million, circulation revenue has increased by $15.16 million. The gap equals more than all the circulation revenue earned last quarter. In other words, if circulation revenue were to double in Q1 next year it would still be less than the declines seen in ad revenue since 2008.

Meanwhile, Mark Thompson, the new NYT Co. president and CEO wants more products launched that will features paid content strategies. I hope readers are willing to pony up the big dollars the new CEO thinks they will. Otherwise, we'll see more earnings reports like this last one.

The New York Times Company reports major drop in income as ad revenue falls 11.2% in quarter; publisher unveils new 'Strategy for Growth' initiative

The New York Times Company this morning announced its Q1 earnings for 2013 and the picture is of a major newspaper company with dwindling profits. Net income was $3.1 million, down from $42.1 million from the same period a year earlier.

Total revenue fell 2 percent, with advertising diving 11.2 percent in Q1, though the company saw circulation revenue continue to grow, up 6.5 percent. The gap between circulation revenue and advertising continues to grow: circulation revenue has grown to $241.8 million, while ad revenue is down to $191.2 million.

“Circulation revenues rose nearly 7 percent, led by continued strength in our digital subscription initiatives. Paid digital subscriptions across the Company totaled approximately 708,000 at quarter end, an increase of more than 45 percent year-over-year from the end of the first quarter of 2012. At the same time, the difficult advertising environment has continued, though there are currently some signs of improvement in the second quarter," said Mark Thompson, president and chief executive officer.

"During the first quarter, we took a number of decisive steps to reposition the Company for the evolving media landscape. We announced that we were marketing for sale the New England Media Group and that later this year we will rebrand the International Herald Tribune as the International New York Times. We will be rolling out other strategic initiatives designed to further leverage The Times brand and newsroom to create new products and services for a wider range of customers domestically and around the globe," Thompson said in the NYT's earnings announcement.

The president and chief executive officer of The New York Times Company, Mark Thompson, also unveiled this morning the company's plans to reverse it fortunes. The strategy includes digital subscription/paid products, international expansion under the new unified brand; and a renewed emphasis on both video production and brand extensions. In other words, a paid content strategy that continues to de-emphasis advertising revenue, replaced by paid reader services and products.

"We mean to grow our business by launching new products and services based on the unique strengths of Times journalism and by investing in the rapid expansion of existing operations - video and live events are examples - where we're already seeing strong growth. We want to deepen our relationship with our existing loyal customers, but we also want to use a wider family of New York Times products to reach new customers both here and around the world," Thompson said.

The NYT Co.'s announcement outlined the strategy:
  • A lower-priced paid product designed to allow access to The Times's most important and interesting stories in a convenient, media-rich package for consumers looking for an efficient way to stay informed. Consumer research has suggested very strong demand for such a product.

  • Other new products, also at lower price points, that would offer deep access and additional content and other new features in specific content areas such as politics, technology, opinion, the arts and food.

  • An enhanced tier that would offer extras at a higher price point to "all digital access" and print subscribers. Subscribers will likely be offered access to Times events and the ability to gift subscriptions and provide full family access, among other incentives.
"The initiatives we are announcing today should be seen as a significant first step in our effort to put The New York Times Company on a path to sustainable growth," said Thompson.

"Last month, we announced a new organizational structure to help The Times concentrate on innovation and new product development as well as on the management of our existing businesses. Today's announcement should be seen alongside that reorganization - and our plans to sell the New England Media Group and rebrand the International Herald Tribune - as evidence of our determination to focus all of our energy and creativity on the future of The New York Times itself and to establish it as the most innovative as well as authoritative print and digital news provider in the world."

Sequential Media announces the beta release of a cookieless retargeting platform for advertisers

Interesting press release this morning from Sequential Media which announces the beta release of a new cookieless retargeting platform, designed to be used by advertisers. Here is the press release in full:
(April 25, 2013: New York Tech Day) – Sequential Media announces the beta release of its cookieless retargeting platform which enables advertisers to execute site, search, social, email or content retargeting at scale across mobile or desktop devices and without the use of cookies, IP addresses or device fingerprints.

Sequential indexes web pages using its patented domain relevancy algorithm to create a scored keyword profile for each URL. Advertisers provide target keywords which are matched to the most relevant web pages from the index in real time. Sequential serves an ad when it sees a referring URL matching an advertiser’s target keyword.

“Retargeting as a discipline has both matured in technology and budgets because of RTB’s success,” DemandBase Senior Director of Advertising Strategy Louis Moynihan said. “However, the biggest bottle-neck for retargeting growth is its ceiling of users to target. ‘Do not track’ is forcing the issue and frankly doing retargeting a favor, as there needs to be a way to scale without cookies.”

Sequential has partnered with supply-side-platform Beanstock Media to deliver cookieless retargeting across Beanstock’s hundreds of quality properties reaching over 250 million users across tens of billions of monthly mobile and desktop display ad impressions.

The Sequential-Beanstock cookieless retargeting solution is announced just as advertisers brace for Mozilla’s pending update to Firefox browsers which will block third party cookies by default, rendering nearly 20 percent of traditional cookie based retargeting ineffective (browser share source: NetApplications, Q4, 2012). What’s more, iOS/Safari devices already block third party cookies by default, accounting for 34 percent of the mobile market (Millennial Media Q3 2012).

The cookieless nature of the Sequential-Beanstock solution allows publishers to retain their audience without data leakage. According to Evidon, 45 percent of cookies within the advertising process are set by third parties and not the publisher (2013).
Advertisers can contact Sequential Media and publishers can contact Beanstock Media to learn more or participate in the advertising beta of the cookieless, real-time retargeting solution.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Healthesystems looks to reach its highly specialized audience with new tablet edition for RXInformer

Image and video hosting by TinyPicOne of the topics I hardly every hear discussed on media industry websites is that of tactics B2B publishers can use to produce tablet editions and to reach their audience. Usually the topic is the exclusive subject for consumer publishers who are mostly concerned with reaching as many readers as possible. B2B publishers have a completely different agenda. The publisher of Contracting Business, a Penton Media title, could care less if they reach 40,000 readers (their print circulation level) via the Apple Newsstand if none of those readers are actually contractors. Most of B2B tablet editions are free of charge because their print magazines are also free, being distributed exclusively to qualified readers.

As a result, many B2B publishers, especially in the U.S., are staying on the sidelines. A few have launched replica editions through their printer or flipbook vendor, and a few (like Macfadden) have experimented with native tablet editions.
Image and video hosting by TinyPic
But more and more B2B publishers are telling me that their readers are inquiring as to whether they can read their trade magazines on their iPads or Kindles.

Not having a tablet edition means losing touch with industry members, especially younger members. Whether this was a motivating factor in the decision by Heathesystems's decision to launch a tablet edition or not, but the services company has launched a tab version of its publication RXInformer.

On the publication's website, the reader is invited to sign up to receive the print edition, a PDF, or an "iPad e-Book" – an unusual way to describe their first tablet edition.

Experience the Healthesystems RxInformer e-zine App to learn about current and emerging issues impacting workers’ compensation. This interactive publication is produced by an expert staff of clinicians, pharmacists, compliance and government affairs experts and product specialists. Topics include the latest information on new medications and special reports on problematic drug issues such as opioids, hydrocodone and polypharmacy; compliance and regulatory updates; and future trends affecting both pharmacy and ancillary benefits management.
The digital version of RXInformer looks very much like a replica edition, but it's not. One sees the pages resemble what you'd see in print, but the iPad "pages" have new page numbers applied to them, all on the left side. The reader can scroll within stories and swipe to reach the next, just like any other native tablet edition. But most of the pages appear to have been ported over directly from the print edition as there is a lot of white space on some pages, something digital editions avoid, and the fonts are a tad small.

It's exactly what you'd expect from a publisher experimenting with the platform. Now the publisher need to promote its new tablet edition through its website, newsletters and emails – anything that can inform its highly targeted audience that there is now a digital edition that can be accessed.

Newly formed publishing company, Apptitude Media, launches quarterly magazine for the iPad, 'Fade to Black'

The digital media start-up Apptitude Media has launched a new quarterly tablet magazine for the iPad, Fade To Black.

"Dedicated to a new generation of image-makers who embrace the convergence of photography, video and multimedia, Fade To Black champions new talent and focuses on the ideas and creative processes that go into making great images, be they still or moving," the app description for Fade > Black states.

The new tablet magazine used the Mag+ platform to develop and design the digital publication. The launch issue, which is free of charge to download, weighs in at 400MB due to its use of video, and despite the fact that is is designed exclusively for landscape reading. (Landscape, I think most designers would agree, is the appropriate orientation for film and most photography, which is why creating a replica edition for a film magazine is bordering on the insane.) Six-month subscriptions will be priced at £8.99 ($13.99 in the U.S. Newsstand).

"Like any good movie, Fade To Black has a beginning, middle and end; the first focused on agenda items for the spring ahead, while the middle is devoted to our major profiles and features, and the end gets to grips with new trends, and includes Q&As with the people who commission image-makers," writes Simon Bainbridge, the editor of Fade To Black (and also the editorial director at Apptitude Media).

The new publication does an excellent job reimagining the magazine platform, while still being familiar and comfortable for readers. The wizardry is kept to a minimum, probably a reflection of the fact that the publishing team comes from the print magazine side of things rather than the coding world.

Apptitude Media was launched earlier this year (TNM original post here) as a management buyout led by the team behind the British Journal of Photography at Incisive Media. Marc Hartog, who was the Group Publishing Director at Incisive, is the CEO at Apptitude Media, with Mick Moore, creative director, Tom Royal, CTO, and Marc Ghione, marketing director – along with Simon Bainbridge, editorial director.

"I am looking forward to working with a world class team, fresh ideas and new launches, working hard, having fun, and just being part of the most exciting time in publishing in a generation," said Hartog in the launch announcement.

As for the new publication, Bainbridge writes on the publisher's website that “I believe we are at the beginning of a new era of free-thinking creativity."

"Technology is a huge driver in all the changes we are witnessing. The arrival of HDSLR cameras and affordable editing software has brought cinematic quality filmmaking to the masses, and along with the emergence of crowd funding and view-on-demand networks, it’s never been as easy to make a movie. But it’s the ideas and storytelling skills of the photographers, directors, producers and cinematographers that makes for great art. That’s why our focus is on the creative impetus behind our featured projects, providing an insight into the ideas process behind the scenes," Bainbridge writes.

Fade To Black will officially launch at the Sundance London film and music festival, April 25-28 at The O2. The new tablet magazine is the official digital media partner.

Apple announces WWDC ticket sales to start tomorrow

Have sixteen hundred dollars burning a hole in your pocket? Me neither. But for those that do, Apple has announced that tickets for this year's Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) will go on sale at 1 PM EDT (10 AM PDT) tomorrow.

"We look forward to gathering at WWDC 2013 with the incredible community of iOS and OS X developers," Philip Schiller, Apple’s senior vice president of Worldwide Marketing, said in the announcement. "We can’t wait to get new versions of iOS and OS X into their hands at WWDC."

Unfortunately, Apple CEO Tim Cook has already downplayed any idea that the WWDC will feature any new product releases. The WWDC is usually the time when some major Mac hardware upgrades are announced, but the WWDC has become much more of an iOS event lately.

But that won't stop the WWDC from selling out fast, real fast. So if you plan on attending I would act as if you are buying tickets for the Rolling Stones.

Morning Brief: Apple priority shifts; iPad mini sales lead to overall growth in tablet sales for Apple; minor media app updates from HuffPost, Washington Post, Joe Zeff Design

There was a time when Apple appeared obsessed with trying to convince its customer base that it was not going out of business. Rumors and accusations swirled around the company, and none of it was good. This was back when every public utterance coming out of the company was about new products, talk of financial matters was for the investment community.

At the turn of the century, some publishers, like Reed Business Information (then still known as Cahners) swapped out their Macs for PCs because, as the head of IT said, within a year the only Mac one would be able to buy would be a used Mac.

Yesterday, Apple reported its Q2 2013 earnings and the pre-game talk from the tech and financial news sites was all about just how bad the report might be. Once again Apple is doomed, you know. But the report beat expectations and so, for at least a few minutes anyways, all was good at Apple again.

But as I listened to the conference call I couldn't help notice how the tone of the call is now starkly different than in years past. Talk of products was limited to "the fall." Earnings call were never a time when Apple would roll out a new product, that was left to the product events – but then again, there aren't many of them anymore.

Apple doesn't participate in Macworld anymore, and the January-March iPad event is no longer, either. With no major updates of its software products recently, or even anticipated, one wonders exactly the product teams are doing in Cupertino these days.

Surely there is activity, so the lack of real product news yesterday should be considered par for the course. But the emphasis on proving that Apple remains in control of its market share and revenue growth on the part of Apple's CEO Tim Cook was disconcerting. Comparing Cook with Jobs is never a good thing, and is unfair to both. But Cook is quickly developing a reputation of someone deeply concerned with the investor community. As for the developer community, Apple again said that it is sending money their way so, well, shut up.

In fact, that seemed to be the message to the investor community, as well. Apple expanded its dividend program, a blatant payoff to shareholders. From customers to shareholders, the balance has shifted. But, hey, Apple has always been a corporation, why should it be expected to act any differently than any other major corporation? Well, because it is Apple, right?

Financial and tech writers seemed pretty impressed with the iPad sales numbers for Q2, almost 19.5 million units (see story with iPad sales chart). Q2 was the first quarter where Apple could reliably deliver its iPad mini to those who wanted one. As a result, unit sales of the iPad were up 65 percent over the year before. It was, by far, the biggest piece of good news Apple reported (both Mac and iPod sales were down, and iPhone sales were only marginally up).

But looking at the numbers, and parsing through reports on the iPad mini, it appears that sales of the larger iPad were flat. This is probably OK, it shows that while the smaller tablet ate into sales of the larger iPad, growth allowed Apple to sell at least as many of the larger iPad as they did a year ago.

Apple has made a royal mess of its iPad product - we're talking about the larger model. It needlessly introduced a fourth generation model in the fall, an incremental improvement on the "new iPad" that didn't get anyone very excited about the product. It was a ridiculous move on the part of Apple and now has prevented them from rolling out a new model in the spring as they would normally do. Now there is a huge gap in their product release cycle with all the emphasis thrown into the holiday season. Worse, one wonders now if we will see any real changes in the iPad. I have heard no rumors about what a fifth generation iPad would feature other than a thinner case.

A number of media apps were updated this morning. The Newsstand app for The Huffington Post, simply called Huffington, was updated to fix an issue with its icon. Newsstand app allow you to have the icon update automatically when a new issue is released to readers, but the HuffPost developers had, apparently, failed to take advantage of this until now.

The Washington Post, which recently issued a major redesign of their iPad app (see post on the change here) has issued a minor app update to fix a few bugs introduced with the new app.

Joe Zeff Design also issued an update for its free app, The People in the Steeple, released just last week. You can read a report on that app, which includes a video walk-through, here.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Apple beats analyst estimates (though who really cares), sells 19.477M iPads in Q2, 37.43M iPhones

Somewhere Henry Blodget is tearing his hair out: Apple beat its estimates. But, hey, who cares. Did you really think Apple was doomed? The company is raking in dough and is hardly on the edge of financial ruin.

Revenue for Q2 of 2013 was $43.6 billion, up 11 percent over the same period last year. The revenue level was 20 percent Q1, but Apple's Q1 is the holiday shopping season, so no one expected numbers over Q1.

The number TNM looks at, if you've been following this site, is iPad sales – and they were pretty good. 19.477 million units, up 65 percent over the same time period last year (when there was no iPad mini). iPad sales were down 18 percent over Q1, but again, that was the holiday period.

If you take a look the chart you will see that iPad sales follow a pattern, highest in Q1, then down a little in Q2. But each quarter generally beats the same period a year earlier, and the pattern didn't end this quarter.

To date, three years after the launch of the original iPad, over 140 million iPads have been sold. Apple only once released a breakdown of iPad sales in the U.S., and that was because of the Samsung suit. But using those numbers as a guide I would estimate that iPad sales in the U.S. since 2010 is around 55 million units. That should give you an idea of the market penetration.

As for the iPhone, well those are still selling, as well. Apple sold 37.4 million units in Q2, up 7 percent over the year before. But when you look at the decline in iPod sales, it does appear that Apple has an issue when it comes to mobile devices. Essentially there was no gain at all due to the 27 percent decline in iPod sales.

Mac sales were also down, but only 2 percent. Nonetheless, I'm sure Mac fans are wondering when some of that design talent can be borrowed by the Mac side of things.

Apple's guidance will disappoint some, as well: flat sales with a slight decline in margins for Q3 of 2013. Not surprisingly, Apple CEO Tim Cook announced an increase in the Capital Return Program, increasing the dividend. Call it a bribe to the investor community, something I'm sure the previous CEO (you remember him, don't you?) would never have done.
iPad Sales

From the press release:
"We are pleased to report record March quarter revenue thanks to continued strong performance of iPhone and iPad,” said Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO. "Our teams are hard at work on some amazing new hardware, software and services, and we are very excited about the products in our pipeline."

"Our cash generation remains very strong, with $12.5 billion in cash flow from operations during the quarter and an ending cash balance of $145 billion," said Peter Oppenheimer, Apple’s CFO.

Haymarket Business Media launches unique tablet edition into the Apple Newsstand for its B2B magazine 'Marketing'

The B2B division of Haymarket Media Group, Haymarket Business Media, has launched a new tablet edition for Marketing. The Apple Newsstand app will be selling issues for £4.99, and will offer 3-month subscriptions for £12.99, or a 6-month subscriptions for £25.99. (Print subscribers can log into their accounts to access the digital edition without an additional charge.) For now, though, the May issue inside the app can be accessed free of charge.

The unique tablet edition can be read in landscape or portrait and looks very much like an OnSwipe or Flipboard app when the issue is opened up directly to its tablet of contents. The app edition is definitely taking a different approach to the platform.

I'm a bit torn as to whether I like this approach. But there is so much to like about the thought process behind the app that I think I'll ponder this a bit.

One really nice element of the app is that features adjustable fonts, something many magazine app designers wish for their own tablet editions. Most, nay, almost all tablet editions have fixed layouts with fixed font sizes. It is vital, therefore, that the designer get it right. Newspaper apps like the NYT's iPad edition are RSS driven and can feature adjustable fonts.

The trade off is that the article layouts owe more to web design than good magazine art direction.

The navigation, too, is a bit odd. The first article is actually part of the "Craft" section and so when the reader is done and they swipe they may expect to go to the next article but instead find that they are inside this section of the magazine. The reader then has to return to the Contents page to then get into another article. Once there they find they can swipe to the next feature, and on and on.

The app description does not say why the May issue is free. It's possible, I suppose, that this is actually an error. Normally publishers would want to publicize when they are giving something away for a limited time. (It's good marketing, and all that.) So if it is a mistake, I suggest you download Marketing and check it out yourself before they issue an update that locks you out.

Left: The app for Marketing magazine may come with the longest set of Terms & Conditions ever seen in a digital publication, someone at Haymarket is clearly paranoid; Right: A typical article layout

The American Ceramic Society releases two interactive iPad apps, chalk full of video and native tablet features

Sometimes when searching for new tablet editions to write about for TNM one gets a little numbed by the number of unimaginative replica editions. Browsing the Newsstand – usually an international store since Apple has made an absolute mess of the U.S. store – one can almost predict which new digital magazine apps will be natively designed and which will be replicas. I write about the surprises, generally – like the replicas from nextmedia Pty, apps that seem to reflect the company's attitude towards digital, and hence reflect that company's chances at success going forward.

Occasionally I make the mistake of not even clicking on a new app to see what it looks like, whether it is worth downloading. Maybe it is because so many new digital magazines have been released that day, or a bias against some types of magazines because something in me tells me they won't be worth checking out. I usually get proved wrong.

The American Ceramic Society released two new tablet editions this past week that I almost skipped right past. I would have been terribly wrong, though – these are two native tablet editions, built using the Adobe DPS, and filled with interactive features.

The app description for Ceramics Monthly states that this is an "enhanced" edition. This is a poor choice of words to describe the app as this is not a PDF of the print page with some embedded content to spice it up. Instead, the tablet edition offers both portrait and landscape orientations, lots of video and native tablet features – in other words, it is designed for the device on which it will be read.

Individual issues inside the digital version of Ceramics Monthly cost $4.99, with a 1-year subscription available for $24.99. But the app contains a sample issue, which you can see below in the walk-through video, so I would encourage publishers, editors and designers to check it out.

Also released this week was the tablet edition for Pottery Making Illustrated which also contains a free sample issue. Individual issues here are $3.99 with a 1-year subscription available for $19.99. updates its mobile and tablet app to add in school district information for home shoppers

If publishers are to get serious about trying to get their classified advertising back they will need to do it through mobile and tablet products. The reason is simple: right now they are competing against simple, non-interactive websites like Craig's List, to win they will need to offer more. The question is who will develop new digital products first, traditional media, the Internet players that dominate the category today, or new digital start-ups?, owned by Move, Inc., continues to update and improve its digital offerings, probably knowing that to be complacent would be fatal. Last night the company issued an update to its universal home search app, officially called real estate - homes for sale and rent.

The update is all about schools: that is, allowing home buyers to see the school districts that they home for sale resides in, thereby increasing the desirability of some homes within school districts with a good reputation, devaluing others. It's something realtors are a little leery about since it is a double edged sword. But some home buyers see it as the determining factor in choosing a new home, so adding the feature in a location aware device app makes perfect sense.

Here is what the app description says about the update and added features:

What's New in Version 4.7.0

We've heard time and again from home buyers that schools really matter when searching for a new home. So with this newest version of the app you can search for homes based on their school and district assignment boundaries!

Try out these new features:
+ New button on home screen finds Nearby Schools with just one tap
+ New Schools button on bottom of map toggles school pins for public schools, districts and private schools
+ School pins on map will display ratings and assignment boundaries
+ Search for homes for sale based on their assigned public school or school district!
+ Listing details now include property tax, sales history and more school information
+ Map options for Locate Me, satellite, street, and hybrid views now floating on lower right of map
The key to success for traditional media with classifieds on mobile and tablet devices is geo-location. But most newspaper apps remain strictly news readers.

I think there are two reasons for this: many newspapers are outsourcing their mobile apps to vendors who are basically one-trick ponies, they have a news app to sell the publisher and that is what they will sell them; and in most cases the app development team works exclusively with the editorial department, advertising is brought in at the end, if ever, and told what the new product is, and if there is ad space to sell. Often there is not, as many vendors are discounting or giving away their apps in order to build their own ad networks.

Monday, April 22, 2013

PixelMags launches series of replica edition apps for Australian publisher nextmedia Pty

The Los Angeles-based maker of replica editions has landed the Australian magazine publisher nextmedia Pty, the special interest publisher founded in 2008. The publisher has over 30 titles under its name and today has launched universal apps for many of them.

The new app appear under the publisher's name, but otherwise are simple replica edition.

Some of the magazines getting the PDF treatment include Tracks Magazine, Camera Magazine, ProPhoto, Art Almanac, Waves, Australian HiFi, Blue Water Boats & Sportsfishing, and Australian Guitar.

The guys at PixelMags clearly can sell, as they continue to line-up publishers despite some of the worst reviewed magazine apps to be found in the Apple Newsstand. Hearst UK for some reason signed up to do replica editions, and now readers are giving the new apps one-star reviews for apps that crash constantly.

 It's hard to believe that publishers wouldn't check out the apps from a vendor before signing up, but apparently that is the case. All I can say is "it's a mystery!"

Classified Post HD: South China Morning Post launches classified advertising tablet app for recruitment advertising

I have found it a bit of a mystery why newspaper ad executives have not attempted to reverse the decline and almost complete collapse of their classified advertising sections by launching new mobile and tablet products. I, too, recognize that at this late date it would probably be a futile effort, but classified used to be worth millions of dollars to metro papers and would certainly be worth the effort. Maybe it is the fact that I used to be CAM that is preventing me from seeing that it is too late, but still...

One newspaper that has launched a classified advertising app is the South China Morning Post, a Hong Kong newspaper. Classified Post HD is the companion to the iPhone version.

By classifieds, the publisher really means recruitment advertising, as that is all that can be found here.

A number of years ago when I was the publisher of a daily construction newspaper in San Francisco I was asked by a fellow McGraw-Hill publisher about my classified advertising dollars. They were a bit jealous of all the business we were attracting and wanted my advice on starting up their own classified section. My advice was simple: give it away.

They were a little stunned that I would suggest this, as my own publications made a ton of money on those liner ads. But my thinking was sound: give aways classified ads to build both the section and the readership. Once the readers were there you'd be able to capitalize on them by selling display ads and by creating paid categories. But until the readers were trained to look to you for classified advertising all that would happen would be that you'd sell a few ads, those ads would not get results, and your classified section wouldn't grow. Besides, I said, your competition can't compete with free.

This was a couple years before Craig Newmark got started so I think I deserve a little credit for the idea.

I think that trying to start up a tablet product for the local classified market would be challenging, but it would be worth the effort. Better to go down swinging, that's my attitude.

M2 Magazine launches new free tablet edition into the Apple Newsstand using Oomph: Capital Australia

The publishing team behind a series of magazines under the M2 Magazine umbrella has today launched a new tablet edition, Capital Australia. The digital magazine is available inside the Apple Newsstand free of charge – one can download one of the two issues currently available free, or subscribe free, as well.

The new digital magazine uses the same Oomph platform from Mogeneration as seen in other native tablet editions from Australia and New Zealand such as Coles Magazine (see original TNM post here).

The app description calls Capital Magazine "the Entrepreneur's Bible" and the April edition features the entrepreneur's entrepreneur Richard Branson.

"Capital is your vital companion for business and personal success. The latest business news, wealth making trends, Inspiring Entrepreneurial profiles and more," reads the description.

The M2 Magazine team is lead by Tim Lawrence, managing director, Andre Rowell, editorial director, and Greg Sinclair, advertising director. In addition to this new digital edition, the publisher also has iPad apps for M2 Mag USA, M2 Australia, M2 New Zealand, and M2woman Magazine. Although I have not downloaded all the apps, they all appear to feature native tablet design.

The M2 team: Tim Lawrence, Andre Rowell, Greg Sinclair
The design for Capital Australia is fairly simple: the app supports both portrait and landscape, though the digital magazine feels like it was designed for portrait. There is some animation, but it is kept to a minimum, as you'll see in the walk-through video below.

As a result, the April issue weighs in at 67.1 MB, a pretty moderate file size for a digital edition supporting both orientations.

BetterPress issues update to its catalog of replica editions

Inside the Apple Newsstand this morning a slew of magazine updates were issued as BetterPress, a PDF based publishing platform issued updates to its customer's apps.

Magazine tablet edition such as for DownBeat Magazine and Content Magazine were updated by the vendor.

The update now allows print subscribers to unlock issues that fall within their subscription period. The reader will need to log into the app to access the issue using the subscriber code provided by the publisher.

Prior to the update print subscribers would have been forced to buy the digital version separately.

BetterPress charges publishers based on the number of downloads they have, rather than a revenue share. At $0.05 per download, this makes BetterPress significantly less expensive than many other PDF based systems.

What should a publisher spend on their digital publishing platform? Your print P&L should provide the answer

The one question I get asked the most involves advice concerning digital publishing platforms. Not a week goes by when I am not asked for a recommendation concerning platforms. Many publishers remain confused by all the new digital publishing platforms, their pricing, and making all this fit into their current title's budget.

My answer, I know, often disappoints the publisher: "it's complicated" and will ultimately be determined by their own P&L.

Publishers, like everyone else, like simple answers – which is why they are so vulnerable to the sales pitches of vendor who position their platforms as "cheap and easy." Many publishing companies today simply wing it – the old days when one couldn't make a move to do anything without creating a new P&L seem to be gone. That's too bad. While forced bureaucracy prevented many new product launches, it also prevented many financial disasters, too.

I once worked for a magazine pro who said to his team of publishers that if you didn't feel comfortable creating and examining the P&L you were not yet truly a magazine publishing professional. I felt he was right then, and I still do today.

The first thing a publisher should understand is where they are today, what percentage of their total costs, and costs to revenue, are they spending on print and distribution today? To make it easy, I would suggest leaving out the question of G&A (general and administrative costs) and concentrate on production and circulation.

A caveat: that P&L should reflect its magazine during its profitable days – if that is last month's P&L, well, congratulations. But for some titles, the publisher might want to pull out a P&L from many years ago. We're trying to learn what the ideal percentages are, after all. If your title is bleeding red ink it is hard to really judge these things.

Looking at the P&L of one magazine I used to publish I can see that production and distribution accounted for nearly 50 percent of all costs (not including G&A) – 48.5 percent to be exact. Looking at things this way, one can see that digital production costs generally will greatly reduce overall costs when compared to print. But looking at simply the costs involved in a digital magazine won't give you a complete picture. After all, there is the revenue side of things, as well.

One should also look at total production costs to total revenue. At this same title, which was light in subscription revenue, and heavy in advertising, the ratio was over 3. That is, for every dollar spend on production and distribution, $3 came in.

When you added in editorial and advertising costs, one would see that year my magazine was running at close to a 35 percent margin before admin costs, though only 20 percent after admin costs. Still not bad, though, huh?

Many replica makers do not charge any production costs at all – which makes them very attractive. The idea is that any money that comes in is new dollars. This makes it difficult to judge their economic worth – with no costs place on the solution it appears at first to be quite a deal – and in some cases it might well be.

But if a publisher looks at the money lost to both Apple and the vendor as a cost then it is easier to see the true situation.

Take a magazine that sells a monthly subscription at $1.99. Say they sell 10,000 issues, that's $19,900 in revenue. Apple takes 30 percent ($5,970), and the popular vendor takes 50 percent of the rest ($6,965). That leaves $6,965 for you.

If one only looks at the hard dollars spent ($0), the digital publishing solutions seems to create money out of thin air. But looking at it from the perspective of total dollars made versus total net income one sees that the margin is 35 percent.

That magic 35 percent again. Except this time this doesn't include editorial and advertising costs. It also doesn't include any new ad revenue brought in by the tablet edition.

In situations where no new ad revenue comes in it is almost impossible to make any replica digital publishing platform that uses revenue share work within the Apple Newsstand. Apple's 30 percent take is about what print publishers spent on production and distribution, so any money going to a vendor makes the model break down. The only way to make it work, without any new ad dollars, is to make the digital edition part of the print edition's P&L, then the new digital edition's 35 percent margin works.

This is the hard reality many publishers see when thinking about shuttering their print edition: production and distribution costs seem to be lowered to the point where it might all work out, but those editorial and advertising costs are now no longer supported by a print title and now get thrown into the P&L of the digital edition. That P&L will now look pretty ugly.

In the case of native tablet publishing systems, the cost are hard, rather than a revenue share. They are also far more complicated: a set fee based on the system, and then hosting costs, and possibly circulation verification costs.

In most cases, if a magazine can sell a large number of digital copies, the native solution actually comes in quite a bit cheaper than the revenue share solution. When the numbers are low the situation is reversed. In the situation above, where 10,000 copies are sold, I calculated that the costs were cut by more than half. But in a situation were only 1,000 copies are sold (where the replica maker would get only $597) the costs were three times as high with a native solution.

These are the variables that make all the difference on the P&L – and why creating a new P&L is so vitally important.

Morning Brief: CNN taken to the woodshed for Boston coverage: NYT revives Koch Brothers newspaper bid story, but doesn't add to it; Apple issues updates

The NYT's media columnist David Carr this morning reviews the performance of CNN during the coverage of the Boston Marathon bombing news cycle, and like viewers, finds the network wanting, saying that " when big news breaks, we instinctively look to CNN. We want CNN to be good, to be worthy of its moment. That impulse took a beating last week."

I'm not sure I would agree that "we instinctively look to CNN" so much as there are no real alternatives in many cases. None of the cable news channels are actually devoted to news 24/7 but instead offer news-talk entertainment shows during much of the day. Turning to CNN then is simply what viewers do when desperate for instant information.

Although Carr makes some good points I think he misses the central fact that the reason the cable news channels are not very good is that they lack the reporting power and adult supervision necessary to do good work. Far too often "reporting" is equated with a television host staring into their phones hoping someone will provide them with some information. Reporting is reduced down to hoping for information coming in rather than going out and getting it. To be honest, without better feet on the ground there is little an on-air personality can do.

But the network also seems to be lacking in adult supervision, that one person who will ask the right question – like "are we sure of our information?" – before going on-air. It led to the incident where CNN claimed an arrest had been made and then an hour of backing away from their own claim. Yes, it was embarrassing, but more importantly it was just bad reporting (or should I say, a lack of reporting.

The NYT's Amy Chozick follows up on the L.A. Weekly's claim that the Koch Brothers may bid on the Tribune Company papers that include the L.A. Times and Chicago Tribune. The problem with the story is that if offers nothing new: no new evidence that the Koch Brothers really are in the market to pick up the papers.

I found the piece pretty embarrassing for the paper of record since the same piece could have been written weeks ago.

Having said that, it would not come as a surprise that someone bids on the papers motivated by the political clout a paper offers rather than the financial return. I wrote this about the situation at The Boston Globe: "Ultimately the best price for the Globe will come from a buyer with political motives to own a newspaper rather than financial motives (as was the case in San Diego).

Apple released new versions of its Safari browser and iPhoto, as well as a bug fix update to Xcode.

The update to Safari (6.0.4) now allows users to enable the Java plug-in on a website by website basis. Most users find Java a world of hurt on the Mac but sometimes need to enable Java to use some sites as designed.

The update to iPhoto involves refinements to Photo Stream which was touted as an important new feature when introduced. Users, however, were appalled to find that if one used the service one couldn't delete individual photos. As a result, users were hesitant to use something that was not editable and might end up embarrassing them in the long run. Apple has been trying to improve the service ever since.