Friday, May 10, 2013

Haymarket launches new interactive tablet edition for FourFourTwo and gets some promotional help from Apple

One of the big uncertainties in creating new interactive magazines is the question of whether it will find its audience. In the U.S. Apple has made it virtually impossible for readers to find new apps from new developers without either promotional help from Apple, or else outside marketing from the publisher via its website, advertising, and the like.

In Europe, the Apple App Store is somewhat more reader friendly, but it is still nice when Apple gives a new app some promotional boost.

Haymarket Media Group, a major U.K. publisher, earlier this week launched a new interactive Newsstand app for FourFourTwo, its soccer magazine. As the app description proudly announces, it is "completely redesigned of iPad" – though the magazine is very much designed as one sees it in print. While the magazine is exclusive to the Apple Newsstand now, and only for the iPad, iPhone and Android editions are promised for the future.

"We’re extremely proud of FourFourTwo on iPad. Our biggest challenge when creating the digital edition was to retain the vibe, humour and fun of the print edition. We think we’ve achieved that while playing to the strengths of the platform." editor David Hall said in Haymarket's own story on the new app.

"We’ve added a few bells and whistles, but we know from past experience that FourFourTwo is a magazine to be read, not flicked through. The reading experience, particularly of our long form features, was paramount. We’re very happy with what we’re releasing here."

The new app is really interesting in the way it opens up: the app immediately wants the reader to either sign into their print account for free access, or to subscribe. The third option is to go to the app's store page. When that happens the first page that opens invites the reader to fill out a form for special offers. This is sort of like a registration page, something B2B publishers would find particularly appropriate for their own efforts.

The new digital edition charges £2.99 ($4.99 US) for a single issue, or subscription options of 3 months for £7.99, 6 months for £13.99, or an annual subscription for £23.99. Although the publisher is seeking a worldwide audience, the app team failed to make the app description friendly for audiences outside the UK by listing prices in at least euros and dollars – a bit of a rookie mistake.

Inside the European Apple App Stores the new digital edition is getting some serious promotion from Apple, getting seen right at the top of the Newsstand carousel. Whether this is a reward for producing an interactive edition, or simply a reflection of the popularity of the magazine is hard to tell, but the promotion will certainly drive downloads and subscriptions. Something every magazine publisher can appreciate.

Netflix updates iOS app to allow for automatic playing of TV episodes or movies for binge viewers

Netflix today updated its iOS app, and while the changes are not major I still find it interesting to see the direction the company is going in.

"The new Netflix app makes it even easier to enjoy more movies and TV shows. Enjoy binge watching your favorite TV shows and get the best movie recommendations with this new update," the app description states – and, indeed, the update reflects the fact that some viewers are changing their television watching habits by watching multiple episodes of a program at one time, rather that faithfully tuning in once a week.

The update now allows users of the Netflix iOS app to queue up episodes of a TV show, or multiple movies for watching at one time. Once one program or movie has ended the next will begin. (I suppose this is great for those people who have a hard time falling asleep at night, as well.)

Of course, Netflix has gotten into the original programming game with House of Cards, a series where all the episodes were released at one time. So the change in the app merely reflects the way many viewers watched that show. It will be interesting to see if other content providers move in this direction, as well.

TRVL updates its Newsstand app, up to 104 issues; publishing platform PRSS still set for private beta in June

The popular travel photography digital magazine TRVL updated its iPad app today. The Newsstand app is published under the Prss Inc. name now (and has been for a while) as the publishers continue to develop their own digital publishing platform.

TRVL is now up to 104 magazines inside the app, with the latest issues featuring Poland, SSS Islands, Peru, Singapore, Bruges, Niger, Seoul, Scotland, Zimbabwe, Nepal, Washington DC and Languedoc (I have to check that one out). There is also a Timothy Allen Special issue.

As for the app itself, here is what the app description has to say:

What's New in Version 3.2
  • VoiceOver support: Magazines can be read to you by Apple's VoiceOver.
  • Less use of disk space due to automatic cache cleaning.
  • Improved "Save for offline reading".
  • Polished animations and shadows.
  • Faster and more responsive.
  • Bug fixes and improved stability.

The big thing TNM readers want to know, of course, is what is the progress of Prss, the digital publishing platform TRVL uses to create its app.

Jochem Wijnands, TRVL co-founder, says they remain on schedule for a private beta in June - but that beta will be limited to just two to four publishers, most likely big publishers. "We'll then invite a second batch of publishers, still under the private beta agreement, followed by the public beta," Wijnands told me this morning.

That's bad news for anyone expecting to see Prss go live this summer. Probably the best thing to do, if you publish an existing print or digital magazine, is to sign up at the Prss website and hope to get an invite.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Follow-up: The Loop and the TypeEngine model

Interesting day, two posts, two follow-ups. This one is on the post on The Loop, the new digital magazine from Jim Dalrymple.

Late this after the folks over at TypeEngine sent out an e-mail to those who have signed up at their site in the past, celebrating the release of the first Newsstand app to use their digital publishing solution. If you haven't see the post on The Loop, the new digital magazine from Jim Dalrymple you can read the original post here, or read the posts at The Next Web or Geekwire.

The big news from the e-mail isn't the app, of course, you already know all about that (or will if you click that link and read the story) it is about the pricing TypeEngine will use.

Like plug-in systems there will be no charge to sign up and play around with the system. The costs start when you decide to launch an app. There will be a one-time $99 app submission fee and a recurring monthly account fee of $25. You'll also get dinged for a 15 cent per download charge.

Running the numbers it looks like this: say you launch a Newsstand app and manage to sell 1000 issues. Your costs would be $99 for the app, $25 that month for the account, and $150 for the downloads. Total cost is $274. Assuming you charge $1.99 per issue you would have driven $1,990 in revenue, or which Apple gets $597 – you're left with $1,119, or 56 percent of the take. The next month you would not be charged that $99 fee, so your take would go up to 61 percent of the total revenue.

That's pretty reasonable, though TypeEngine's platform – at least as seen in The Loop – is pretty plain jane. But more titles are to be released this month, according to TypeEngine, so we'll see if there is more to it than the Kindle Edition-like look of the first Newsstand app.

The TypeEngine team says they are "still on track for a June release" so you'll want to check back in at their site to see if they've gone public or not soon.

Follow-up: Fast Company app storefront update explained

This morning, as part of Morning Brief, I wrote about the update for Fast Company's Newsstand app. That update changed the storefront of the app, as well as introduced a one-month subscription. I concentrated on the subscription change as it helped make a point I've wanted to make for a while.

Luckily, Joe Zeff Design, the creator of the app for the publisher, Mansueto Ventures LLC, has posted some background on the app changes. Their story is reposted here:


Over the past year we've worked with Fast Company magazine to design and develop an iPad edition that embodies the spirit of its brand — bold, innovative and forward-thinking. The app is one of six finalists for App of the Year in the Society of Publication Designers competition tomorrow night in New York City.

We updated the app yesterday with an improved storefront that takes a slightly different approach than other digital magazines. Many publishers have overhauled their storefronts to make them more dynamic, adding news feeds and new products to their galleries. New York magazine is a noteworthy example, having creating a bunkbed-like storefront with web content on the top and issues on the bottom.

We too see the potential of adding functionality to the storefront. Bonus features make the app more usable, and more likely that the app will become part of consumers' daily routines. But we disagree with the approach that many publishers have taken, cluttering their storefronts with Twitter feeds and other elements that make it harder for consumers to find their magazines.

After all, that's the reason they visit the storefront in the first place.

Fast Company has evolved. The covers are now much bigger, leveraging Adobe's new default storefront that makes each issue more prominent. We've implemented a set of buttons across the bottom that offer additional content and features, as shown and described below. Tap each image for a larger view:
• Browse: A digest of what's new today on Fast Company's suite of websites. Accessible with one tap, but out of the way of the cover gallery.

• Follow: Fast Company's Twitter feed. Again, it's important to surface this dynamic content, but not at the expense of the issues.

• Attend: Today, this tab provides information about the company's Innovation Uncensored and Innovation By Design events. Expect it to become a portal for live and recorded content from these events, and a place to network with speakers and attendees. More to come.

• Contact and How To: Customer service is an imperative for publishers, and the iPad offers a way to make its resources more accessible and understandable.

• Read: Oh yeah, there's a magazine here, too.

We favor adding the functionality to the bottom of the screen, because all of these dynamic features are now accessible throughout the reading experience by tapping anywhere on their screen. The dynamic content is persistent, but not obtrusive.

The storefront is the end cap of the digital publishing experience, and we're continuing to experiment with ways to add value. Keep watching — and downloading — Fast Company on the iPad for more.

Reposted from the Joe Zeff Design website.

Jim Dalrymple launches a Newsstand magazine app for The Loop, the first app to use the TypeEngine platform

Former MacCentral. MacWorld and self-described accomplished guitar player, Jim Dalrymple has launched a digital magazine into the Apple Newsstand using the TypeEngine platform – the first to do so. The new magazine, The Loop Magazine, under the pretty whacked out developer account name of Jimlrymple@Accesscable.Net Dalrymple.

The app follows Marco Arment's school of digital magazine started with The Magazine: the emphasis is totally on text, not design, on ease of reading, not on graphical elements or multimedia. (I think it is safe to call this a school of publishing, as other examples are coming out using the 29th Street Publishing platform.)

It's clear to see why writers and bloggers would be attracted to this style of Newsstand magazine. But it is equally clear why former print magazine art directors go in the exact opposite direction with their digital magazine launches.

"For many years people have been asking me why I didn’t release an app for the iPhone and iPad. The answer was quite simple: I couldn’t find anything that added value to what I did on The Loop. I wanted something more than a side-scrolling news app that basically imitated what I’d already linked to or written on the Web site," Dalrymple writes in the magazine's introduction.

"It wasn’t until I saw the format that Marco Arment used in The Magazine that I realized what I really wanted for The Loop — a design and reading experience that matched what I had on the Web site. An easy to read magazine that focused on original content, not on selling ads."

And so with that last paragraph one can see why this style of digital magazine doesn't appeal to me – it is hard to see it successfully translate to major magazine titles that drive millions of dollars of paid advertising.

One thing that does appeal to me, however, is how well this app translates to the iPhone. The simplicity of the layouts and the lack of graphics and interactivity seems out of place on the iPad, but on the iPhone it is a breath of fresh air. Just as the British Journal of Photography's original iPhone app, BJPhoto: iPhone Edition (which used the Mag+ platform) simplified its layouts to create its mobile edition, this app feels right at home on a mobile phone.

(That's why I think web writers and bloggers are so attracted to these stripped down approaches to the platform – is looks and feels more like the web than it does a print magazine. You can even see this in The Next Web's own story about this app – compare the way that they place the screenshots versus the way I do it. All their pictures are in line – and larger, which is nice, I might add – while I naturally place my photos, just as one would in a print magazine. Despite the limitations of the Blogger platform I continue to act like TNM is a magazine.)

But having said all that, a comparison of the two apps will still yield major differences. BJPhoto: iPhone Edition still has much of the graphics still in the app. Like a responsive website that can take the graphical elements and replace them into new positions, that Mag+ app still has a relationship with both the tablet edition and the print edition.

The other thing that should be said is that design-wise, this style of magazine publishing is like publishing with both hands tied behind your back. Many of the things that make tablet magazines great – photography, interactivity, multimedia – are stripped away and what is left is just text. That's fine, except the question has to be asked "why build an app, wouldn't a responsive website serve the purpose?" Of course, the answer is "no" because of the one thing that makes all this possible – the Newsstand and its ability to drive paid subscriptions.

In this case, The Loop's subscription price is $1.99 per month, and plans are to publish twice a month. The app comes with a free 7-day trial, as well.

As mentioned above, this is the first app to be released using the TypeEngine platform, which the company says will be more public starting next month.

"When you publish an app using TypeEngine, you maintain full ownership of your content," the company's website states. "Your app will be submitted under your name. You will get payments directly from Apple. You have full data portability – you can export all of your content at any time with the click of a button (not that you’ll ever want to). You also have full control over your app, which includes your subscription pricing, your subscription intervals, and your publishing schedule."

The solution creates what could be called a Kindle Edition app for the Newsstand in that it is built around the text, which is adjustable.

TypeEngine will offer various article templates, but if you are a blogger or writer you will probably be scared off my TypeEngine's template page which, rather than showing WYSWYG themes contains a series of coding lines.

The good thing here, though, is that TypeEngine appears to be about assisting writers create digital magazines rather than trying to build their own ad network or to syphon off a percentage of the new publication's revenue. There is certainly something to be said about that.

I can't help but reflect, however, on the fact that there seems to be at least three schools of Newsstand publishing occurring right now: one that appeals to a publisher's cheapness and fear of complexity – the replica edition; another that appeals to designers and programmers – native tablet platforms like Adobe, Mag+ and others; and one that appeals to writers and bloggers – TypeEngine, 29th Street Publishing and the like.

There is certainly room for all three schools of digital publishing, but I wish one of these would start appealing to the digital ad agencies who remain pretty obsessed with a very narrow range of digital products, all coming from one or two companies.

Morning Brief: Hearst Magazines names its first president of digital media; Mansueto Ventures updates iPad app for Fast Company, adds 1-month sub; Microsoft reportedly looking to buy Nook Media's digital assets

First thing this morning Hearst Magazines dropped word that it had named its first president of Hearst Magazines Digital Media, Troy Young, formerly president of Say Media. Prior to joining Say Media, formerly VideoEgg, Young worked at the digital agency Organic. Having worked at Hearst and called on VideoEgg in its early days, I can tell Mr. Young that he is in for quite a culture shock now at Hearst.

"Pure-play digital companies and agencies move at warp speed, and Troy has been an integral part of that landscape since its inception,” said David Carey, president of Hearst Magazines. "He’s incredibly strategic and will bring the pulse of a startup to our world-class brands, focusing on content quality, velocity and accessibility on all platforms, as well as developing our video storytelling and creating new revenue streams. Big companies increasingly need to think and act like early-stage businesses, quickly iterating products, and Troy's pure-play experience will enable Hearst to accomplish that."

Mansueto Ventures today updated its iPad app for Fast Company. The update made some minor changes to the app storefront, but more importantly, added a monthly subscription option.

The monthly subscription is one of the unique features introduced by Apple in the Newsstand. In print, of course, a paid subscription never lasts less than one year, and most circulation managers try very hard to get readers to sign up for even longer periods of time.

In the Newsstand, a subscription can not last longer than one year, and it is fairly common to see 3-months subscriptions offered. The difference, though, is that these subscriptions auto renew (if they didn't, the system would not work for publishers at all).

Many magazines offer 1-month subscriptions. These inexpensive subs get readers to try out the title, and publishers hope readers will simply let the subscription continue on indefinitely. For readers, the 1-month sub is the way they buy a single issue on the cheap rather than buying the single issue at the regular price. It is a little game that seems to benefit both the reader and the publisher.

TechCrunch last night reported that Microsoft is offering to buy the digital assets of Nook Media LLC for $1 billion as Barnes & Noble moves to a business model where it sees its services distributed by third party partners. As a result, B&N would get out of the device business, discontinuing its Nook tablet line some time in 2014.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

News Corp. reports higher earnings on stronger cable, film and TV revenue; publishing income, revenue lower

It is clear to see why Rupert Murdoch would be eager to spin off his publishing assets at News Corp. as the company saw generally strong revenue performance across all its segments of the business except that of publishing, with overall operating income up 3.8 percent to 1.362 billion. The global media company reported Q3 earnings at the close of the bell today.

The publishing division saw operating income fall almost 35 percent to $85 million from $130 million one year ago. For the first three quarters of its fiscal year, News Corp.'s publishing division has seen income fall 17.9 percent for the year so far.

“We are on target to complete the proposed separation of our businesses near the end of our fiscal year. As we prepare to launch two new industry leaders with new News Corporation and 21st Century Fox, I am more confident than ever of the long-term value the separation will unlock for the Company and its shareholders," Rupert Murdoch, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of News Corp. said in the earnings report statement.

News Corp. pointed to declining revenue at its Australian newspapers for most of the revenue declines in its publishing division, while touting the launch of the Sunday edition of The Sun in the U.K.

The earnings report also revealed that the ongoing investigations in the U.K. over the phone hacking scandal that resulted in the closing of The News of the World continue to cost the company money – $42 million in the last quarter.

IBIZA STYLE's new tablet edition brings the Spanish island's lifestyle magazine to the Apple Newsstand

Here is what at first seems like a strange native tablet edition: a digital edition of a magazine where the headlines and section heads are in English, but all the text is in Spanish. IBIZA STYLE - Tu revista de estilo en la isla is the new digital edition of the magazine for the Spanish island.

The reason for the double languages is that there are three versions of this app available (oddly, I only saw the Spanish version at the time I downloaded the app). The English version is called IBIZA STYLE - Your Island Lifestyle Magazine and is totally in English, while there is also a German version, IBIZA STYLE - Das Lifestyle Magazin aus Ibiza where the all the headlines and section heads are in English, but the text in German.

The iPad Newsstand app uses the Adobe DPS to build its tablet edition and the result is a hybrid – where the ads look untouched but the editorial is reformatted for the iPad. This may not be totally accurate as it might be better to say that some of the ads are reproduced here and most contain links.

In any case, the tablet edition is a good example of a digital edition successfully converted to the tablet platform without going too crazy with bells and whistles – those being sliding text boxes, animations and the like.

For me, this is the way many publishers should approach creating a tablet edition if they are less than comfortable with totally abandoning the print magazine look and feel. The magazine is published by Pitiusa Media Group, while the app was released under the developer account of Martin Storck.

The first issue inside the app's library can be downloaded for free. Future issues are priced at 2,69€ with an annual subscription (7 issues) available for 15,99€.

'La revue du vin de France' from Groupe Marie Claire launches replica ├ędition, publisher's approach makes interesting comparison with native tab mag 'WINE LR'

Some magazine categories – such as film, photography, music - cry out for native tablet editions due to the possibilities of their subject. It is hard to image that in five years any music magazine will be produced without actual music to be found inside, for instance.

But not all categories are inherently made for multimedia content. The food category wouldn't lend itself to a native tablet edition if one only considered the fact that readers can not taste and smell food in a tablet magazine (maybe Apple is working on that). But, of course, one knows that there are cooking TV shows, and lots of video online, so even the food category seems ripe for the launch of a great tablet magazine (I've been pretty unimpressed with efforts launched so far).

The wine category is much smaller than food. In the U.S., the giant title is Marvin Shanken's Wine Spectator which has launched only a few apps into Apple's App Store, and none specifically for the magazine itself. Instead, digital readers would need to access Zinio's app to read the publication, and because of its larger size, is best read on the desktop rather than a tablet or mobile device.

While the Wine Spectator would seriously benefit from a native tablet edition due to its larger than standard page size – most print magazines suffer when reduced down in size in its replica edition, but larger magazines suffer even more – the subject of wine doesn't necessary require a native tablet solution. One can't taste the wines, for instance. True, vineyard and winery photography would be better viewed in a tablet edition, but otherwise there are only a few reasons a publisher would naturally decide a native tablet edition would be better than a replica.

La revue du vin de France, the new universal app from Groupe Marie Claire really tests the merits of the replica edition, though. The French publisher has so far shown no interest in producing digital publications that are anything other than PDF reproductions of their print magazines.

One wonders, looking at the apps of Groupe Marie Claire whether the French simply are not interested in digital publishing, or whether this is only a reflection of the publishing company itself.

But thinking that there is some sort of cultural bias against native tablet editions in France would be reaching the wrong conclusion. One has to assume, that like in the U.S., the decision to launch a native tablet edition is totally influenced by one's attitude towards digital publishing. If a publisher is thinking digital exclusively one would think they would want to design a native digital edition rather than a replica. The other factor would involve the kind of content the publisher wished to include in their digital edition.

So the new tablet edition from Groupe Marie Claire comes at an interesting time, just days after the release of another French wine magazine WINE LR+, seen in this TNM post from last week.

WINE LR+ is the new Newsstand version of a previously released stand-alone magazine app. The emphasis is completely on video content, which explains the publisher's decision to design the digital edition for landscape reading.

Like La revue du vin de France, the new digital edition of WINE LR is contained in a universal app, meaning that the digital magazine can be read on an iPhone or iPod touch, as well as the iPad. But where La revue du vin de France is pretty hard to read on an iPad, and impossible to read on an iPhone, WINE LR is at home on both devices.

Publishers sometimes think that their publications are only to be compared with others in their print form, but with the advent of tablet publishing publishers need to understand that while they may succeed in print, their digital editions may look outdated and badly designed against new digital competitors. For me, all the apps from Balthazar Matita are vastly superior to anything coming out of Groupe Marie Claire right now. That would concern me if I worked at the large French publisher.

In case you missed it last week, here is the walk-though video of WINE LR. Yes, it's in French, but get over it.

AOL post revenue growth, but brands division remains unprofitable due to Patch investment

The company that used to be synonymous with New Media, AOL, today released its Q1 earnings for 2013. The company saw top line revenue grow 2 percent, with the Brand Group leading the way with a 14 percent increase in revenue, reflecting display and search revenue growth.

The Brand Group consists of AOL properties such as Engadget, Huffington Post, MapQuest, TechCrunch and Patch, its local news network of sites. That group remains in the red, though because of revenue growth, was able reduce its loss considerably, as measured by OIBDA (operating income before depreciation and amortization).

"While significantly improved, Brand Group Adjusted OIBDA remains negative reflecting our investment in Patch and in our editorial and engineering staff at our core brands and in our sales force domestically and internationally," the company said in its earnings statement.

The majority of AOL's profits (actually, all the company's profits) remain in its Membership Group, which consists of its subscription services, AIM and AOL Mail – in other words, that things that many people have associated with AOL down through the years. This part of the business is going away, albeit slowly, and the battle is over replacing this income and profits with growth in its brands and AOL Networks division (which consists of ADTECH,, Sponsored Listings, and so on).

"Membership Group revenue reflects a 9% decline in subscription revenue driven by 15% fewer domestic AOL- brand access subscribers year-over-year. Subscription revenue year-over-year declines remained near multi-year lows due to a continued historically low churn rate of 1.9% and 7% year-over-year growth in domestic average access subscription monthly revenue per AOL-brand access subscriber."

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Warner Music Group turns to Brandwidth UK to build massive new iPad app for 'The Doors'

Back in the early days of the Apple App Store it wasn't unusual for apps to slip into the store that were stealing someone else's brand, or even their full content. Several apps, for instance, made it into the store taking the RSS feeds of the newspaper, and even its name, and building an app around them.

So when I saw an app with Jim Morrison's mug on it my first thought was that some Doors fan was filling a need with their own Doors appreciation video.

But the new iPad app simply called The Doors is published by Warner Music Group and was built by Brandwidth UK, a marketing agency that, thanks to digital publishing, could also be called a custom publisher.

The app is enormous, almost a full gig. This isn't too abnormal for an e-book app, but this app is far more than an e-book.

At times the app is a tour de force, with a cool interactive map that I assume is built with a HTML5 widget, as well as lots of photos. The Music Room is both fantastic and disappointing. The LP box that is the main element lets you access all the lyrics from the LPs plus sample the music through iTunes. But the main part of the discography is pretty sad as it takes you out of the app.

This type of app has great promise, as does the same type of interactive app done as an e-book. Apple certainly likes the idea of links back to iTunes to buy music, but I wonder about the idea of an app or interactive e-book strictly as a music product.

If you are a Doors fan you'll want to check out The Doors app. But make sure you plenty of room on your iPad, you'll need it.

Here is the usual brief walk-through video of the new app. I've made it a bit briefer this time – we all know how touchy music labels are about these things, right?

Media app updates: B2B publishing divisions update app editions; Auto Trader (UK) updates tablet magazine edition; Google updates Blogger universal iOS app

NewBay Media today issued an update for its Broadcasting & Cable++ app – a universal app that offers a replica edition for its television industry publication.

The update features a new user interface for its catalog, grid and list layouts for publications view, and a change in the download, purchase, delete buttons. The paid B2B title remains an expensive buy in tablet form: a 1-month subscription is $11.99, a 3-month subscriptions $31.99, while an annual subscription is $139.99.

Like many other B2B titles B&C is basically a qualified circulation magazine that also offers paid subscriptions, as well. Of its 20,244 BPA-audited readers, a little under 17K are qualified non-paid readers, with a bit more than 3K being qualified paid. With the release of a tablet edition into the Newsstand, where there is no qualification mechanism, the obvious choice would be to make the digital edition a paid product.

Another B2B titles updated was EMAP's tablet edition for Ground Engineering, which states the update was for "minor data capturing enhancements."

Auto Trader (UK) has updated its very interesting tablet magazine edition (read the original TNMN post here). The interactive magazine is using Future plc's FutureFolio digital publishing platform to create its universal iOS app.

The app update for ignition by Auto Trader features "improved layout & navigation," changes the library focus to the latest issue, and changes the section headings. I would assume the update was motivated by changes in the platform itself.

The Canadian French language newspaper La Presse has issued a minor update for its excellent La Presse+ tablet app (see original TNM post here).

I found this app to be a very important newspaper app release and was very disappointed to see that the post was not getting much traffic. But over the course of a few days the story finally reached its audience. If you are in the newspaper business and have not look at La Presse+ you really owe it to yourself to check it out.

Google has issued an update to its Blogger iOS app. The update adds RTF support and WYSIWYG editing for new and existing posts, as well as in-place image editing.

The Blogger app has greatly improved over the years. The original app was released in early September of 2011 and updates have improved its usefulness tremendously. In November 2012 the app added iPad support, and a month later added post save options and Google Analytics stats.

The Huffington Post launches new universal iOS app, warns users of older iPad that it will soon be discontinued

The Huffington Post today launched a new stand-alone, universal iOS app, called simply The Huffington Post. At the same time, the AOL owned web property also updated Huffington Post for iPad, warning users that the app would be available for a short time more as the HuffPost migrates readers to the new universal app.

The new universal app is actually the old iPhone app updated to add iPad support – so the app version is listed as Version 4.1.

What's New in Version 4.1
- Now available as a universal app for iPhone and iPad.
- Automatically save your favorite sections for reading offline.
- Sync your bookmarked articles between of your iOS devices through iCloud.
- Adjust the color scheme of the screen for night mode reading.
- Share your favorite articles, photos, videos and more with Facebook, Twitter and G+.
- See more stories in compact mode on the section fronts.
- Experience the full user interface and content in Japanese!

Morning Brief: Thoughts on channels, platforms and loss

In this business, digital publishing, you can't know everything. This simple fact usually makes me depressed. As the publisher of TNM it also leads to much embarrassment. Then I sit back, smile, and realize that for three years I've been putting one over on my readers – and they have allowed me to do so. The basic premise of TNM, after all, is that this is a site all about digital publishing, whereas the real goal of this site has always been about me learning, staying up-to-date on digital publishing. My posts then are simply about taking my readers along for the ride.

What I do know is publishing from the publisher's perspective, having been one since the age of nine. As a publisher I know that this basic fact: it is better to be the owner of the distribution channel than it is to be a publisher (or broadcaster). At the top of the pecking order in our business is Amazon, Apple and Google. They are not only at the top of the pyramid because they are a retailer but because they own the pipeline itself. If you want to publish something into the Newsstand you go through Apple... People in this business quickly see that it is not enough to own the content, one has to get content to the customer – but on top of that is the fact that you have to get the content through the retailer in the format the retailer demands.

But if you can not own the channel, maybe you can own the platform. This is little truth that many businesses involved in publishing have learned through the years. It's not surprising, therefore, to find so many publishers now involved in developing or sell their own publishing platforms. This middle man position, some publishers find, holds more promise for profits than actually being the publisher.

In the e-book industry there has been much talk about the loss of Tools of Change conference. As someone only on the very edges of the book publishing industry it is interesting to read people's reactions to Tim O'Reilly's decision.

"This doesn’t mean that O’Reilly is no longer committed to pushing forward the reinvention of the publishing industry," O'Reilly wrote last week. "But we’re shifting the focus of our publishing tools group from hosting the conversation about publishing technology to bringing our own tools to market."

This brazenly "business reason" to shut down a popular conference received plenty of raspberries from those who believed that the decision was a betrayal of the stated mission of TOC, to create a community.

"But once you’ve helped make a community, you have an obligation to nurture and sustain it," wrote Brian O'Leary on the Magellan Media website. "If you decide you want to do something else with your resources, you still have to provide for its care and feeding. You don’t shut everything down without making an attempt to at least provide for its welfare."

It's a beautiful thought, but it is wrong. It's wrong because like any argument it doesn't stand up to the simply response of "why?" – as in "why is it the responsibility of the creator of a community to maintain it?" That O'Reilly would act in a manner some might find offensive is no argument. Like a publisher's decision to shut down a once popular title, the decision is all about what the publisher feels is in their best interest, not in what is in the best interest of the community created by its launch.

I think what is going on in e-books is a lot like what is happening in digital magazines. The two worlds do not intersect as much as you might think. Only a very small percentage of magazine or newspaper publishers have launched e-book lines (or print lines, for that matter).

For many small magazine publishers the excitement of digital magazines is in the thought that they can become self-publishers, in charge of their own fate, no longer tied to a major media company, tied to large printers, etc. But soon small publishers find that they are at the mercy of the channel owners and the platform owners. Third party vendors offer cheap and easy solutions that often prove not very cheap (though most are truly easy). Worse, the trade off is the loss of their brand, the poor service many offer, the less than satisfying end product.

Both magazine and book small publishers dream of a publishing solution that can allow them to create the publications they desire, then allow them to distribute that product to their readers, across all the platforms, in all the channels.

But it benefits both the channel owners and the platform owners that this isn't easy. No sustainable service business can be created where the customer can do something on their own. The system is the way it is because it benefits someone.

Publishing right now is a lot like a segment of the coffee business. Do you own a Keurig coffee maker? Keurig makes the machine, but they also own the platform, those K-Cups. If you are a coffee company (think publisher) and you want to sell coffee today you can continue to put your coffee in bags. To sell those bags of coffee you have to be distributed into grocery stores like always. But suddenly you find that your sales are decreasing because less people are buying those bags of coffee, now they want K-Cups. But to sell K-Cups you have to license the solution from Keurig (think Apple or Google).

Publishers (and self-publishers) are on the bottom of the food chain right now. It is why some of the big boys started up Next Issue.  But that is a closed channel, too. You won't find any of the new tablet magazine being launched into the Apple Newsstand there, so they represent a very tiny segment of the market now, and it will only get smaller over time. Every time Next Issue adds a few new titles hundreds have been launched through other channels.

We can all decry our fate, but it won't change the situation. The solution is to not allow one's self to become disenfranchised, to step back, give up, and settle. That is how a community turns into a ghetto.

Monday, May 6, 2013

The New York Times invites readers to view and comment on their new website prototype

This afternoon The New York Times sent emails to registered readers to view the prototype of their new website design. The new prototype website does not include changes to the home page and section fronts, but rather new article design and navigation. The purpose of the email is to get reader feedback prior to any launch.

Click to enlarge
From the email:

What's different

You'll see many enhancements on article pages, including the following:

A cleaner design
Richer integration of photography, video, interactive elements and ads
Customizable navigation, accessible from every page
(The home page and section front pages are not yet included in the prototype.)

The NYT says that the prototype is designed for Chrome 25, Firefox 17 and Safari 5.1, and is optimized for iOS 6 on the iPad.

In fact, the design change is most obvious on an iPad in portrait where the responsive design comes into play. In landscape the design looks and feels very much like a desktop version.

Adobe updates Content Viewer app on the day it announces the end of Creative Suite development

It's been an interesting day for followers of Adobe, and for those publishing people who work with Adobe products every day. In some ways it reminds of the day Apple said it would be start using Intel chips exclusively – there was a feeling that things were changing in big ways.

In case you haven't been following the news, here is the big news Adobe made today: the software giant said that version 6 of Creative Suite would be the last CS developed, that while they will continue to support CS they would only be selling its Creative Cloud services from here on out. For current fans of Creative Cloud, or CC as you should start to get familiar with, the news is not that big. For those with old versions of Creative Suite looking for an upgrade forget it, it's not happening, you're moving to CC, or off the Adobe platform (good luck with that).

For those with old version of Creative Suite you should should know that Adobe is currently offering a one-year discounted price on CC at $29.99, assuming you are on Creative Suite 3 or higher. It's probably a good deal, assuming you can afford the extra $30 a month (time to lower your iPhone data plan?).

A lot of website chatter is pretty negative about the move, but we should wait and see if this settles down – after all, many people who would love to have Creative Suite but don't feel they can afford it (or to upgrade) probably don't like the idea of a recurring monthly fee either. Certainly if you were going to upgrade to CS 6 but didn't have the money, the $360 you would not pay for one year of CC seems reasonable.

Also today Adobe issued an update to its Adobe Content Viewer app, the app needed to preview digital publications created with the Adobe Digital Publishing Suite. It's a good thing it was updated, too, because users have been complaining that they could not log into their accounts, a problem that the app description says is now fixed.

IAB's Ad Operations Council and Mobile Marketing Center of Excellence releases ‘HTML5 for Digital Advertising 1.0’ seeking input from the industry by June 10

The Interactive Advertising Bureau has released released HTML5 for Digital Advertising 1.0 (PDF), what it describes as "an HTML5 wiki resource for designers and developers." The document was developed by the IAB Ad Operations Council and the Mobile Marketing Center of Excellence, which is seeking public comment on the document through June 10.

"This document is the first step in helping the industry work effectively with HTML5 in the marketplace," said Cory Hudson, Creative Director, AOL Networks, and IAB HTML5 Working Group Co-Chair.

"The broader IAB HTML5 initiative is looking at developing technical solutions and formal HTML5 ad formats and guidelines to address growing needs around HTML5 ad technology. This is a very important and significant program that facilitates the first ever establishment of industry wide best practices in this area. This effort will promote optimal performance, functionality and user experience across devices which benefits designers, vendors, publishers and consumers."

The document addresses HTML5 display ads, file and ad unit size, code and asset compression, in-banner video advertising and animation, efficient ad creative packaging, and ad server compatibility communication recommendations.

Companies that had representatives on the two committees included AOL, CBS Interactive, Google, Pandora Media, PointRoll, Time Inc., Turner Broadcasting System.

"With multi-screen advertising growing at such a continued rate and increasing in demand daily, it's mandatory that we (as an industry) demonstrate how marketers can strategically and effectively bring HTML5 ad development into the mainstream,” said John Percival, Senior Creative Technologist, PointRoll, and member of the IAB HTML5 Working Group. "As new screens emerge, and people change the way they view and interact with content, advertisers will need a standard ad solution that's ubiquitous in the ever-changing environment."

(Download the document: HTML5 for Digital Advertising 1.0)

The lost of art of the magazine launch: too many publishers treat digital product launches like brand extensions rather than true magazine launches

There is nothing quite like launching a new title. The adrenaline rush is amazing... as can be the sleepless nights. Depending on the publishing company involved, a new title launch is like trying to get a new regulation through the U.S. government bureaucracy (an endless, unsatisfying experience), or it is like having a child (sometimes a spur of the moment decision, but always a life changing one).

I've been particularly lucky to have been involved with new product launches at both newspaper and magazine companies – at large bureaucratic institutions such as McGraw-Hill, and at smaller publishing firms, and at start-ups.

Generally speaking, a launch is a big deal. Many big media companies require corporate approval far up the food chain, as well as budgeting and five-year forecasting reports, not to mention a market analysis and an evaluation of the risk factors.

Sometimes, though, the company is so large that the best way to launch a new title is simply to go for it and reap the consequences later. My magazine launch was like this at McGraw-Hill. Exhausted from constantly being lied to by my boss when it came to resources I went ahead and launched a new title pretty much without approval, but knowing that if the first issue didn't make at least one dollar in profit I'd be canned (it did make that dollar, but within a couple of years I'd had enough of the BS of the place).

Part of any launch, at least in "the old days," was promotion and marketing. It was de rigueur: any launch without a marketing plan was not going to happen. Marketing was as important a part of the launch as was research, budgeting, forecasting, and prototyping (which involved design concepts and editorial calendars).

One trend I have noticed in the 3+ years of publishing TNM is how varied launch strategies are in the world of digital publishing. The art of the launch seems to be in a dark ages period now, partially due, I am guessing, to the fact that so many publishers do not see their digital products as new launches at all, but merely brand extensions, or distribution extensions.

It is easy to see why so many publisher don't look at a new Newsstand app as a launch: a replica edition produced by a third party vendor seems like an exact copy of the print edition; involves little, if any cost; and is usually meant to add incremental dollars to the existing print budget.

The problem with this, though, is that poorly promoted apps generally product poor results, leading to the conclusion that the Newsstand (or Amazon, or Google Play) is a poor place to launch new products.

In conversations I have had this year with publishers who have launched new tablet magazine apps into the Apple Newsstand (or even as stand-alone apps) I have been able to do a little research myself about the approach many publishers are taking to new digital magazine launches.


It is extremely difficult to get good numbers about the market penetration of the iPad as Apple, while publicly announcing its iPad sales, does not break them out by market. Amazon gives out even less information useful to publishers. But I've found that many publishers are interested in knowing the size of the market what awaits their new launches and have been doing a decent job of producing some research.

For B2B publishers, in particular, email surveys of reader interest in a new tablet edition is becoming more common. While this is harder to do in the consumer field, B2B publishers, with their controlled circulations, often have good email lists of readers and are able to survey them for tablet ownership, reading habits, etc.

On the downside, though, I find that few publishers about to launch a new edition inside the Newsstand have any clue about existing publications inside the store. One of the reasons for this, of course, is that Apple has made a mess of the Newsstand – and iTunes, in general. The goose that laid the golden egg is treated by Apple as garbage dump: readers have to go in there and forage for themselves, Apple provides little guidance, and no effective tools for finding what you want.

A recent conversation with a publisher who had just launched a tablet edition into the Apple Newsstand ground to a halt when I asked them their opinions of a couple of the other magazine titles they would be competing with inside the store – what did they think of them, their designs, pricing, etc.? Most often the publisher was not aware of the other magazine, and never compared those titles already launched with what they planned to launch. It would as if a print publisher of one bridal magaZine had never looked at the other print magazines in the bridal category – something that would be unthinkable in print.

Budgeting & Forecasting

I know few publishers who enjoy budgeting and forecasting, though they realize that they are simply part of what makes them publishers. In the eighties and nineties, it was rare for an editor to get promoted to publisher as it was common to promote someone from the ad side. The reason for this was often said to be because the publisher was really a bureaucrat who could motivate sales and strategize with editorial. Most B2B publishers I've known did the budgets for their editors due to the lack of enthusiasm for budgeting showed by the head of editorial.

But in the past decade the power has shifted to editorial, and with it much of what used to pass for standard operating procedures has with it.

But today, tablet editions are most often launched by "the digital team" – that group (or individual) tasked with the job of finding a cheap and easy way to create a Newsstand app. I spoke recently to a DD (Digital Director) and asked them if they have created a budget for their new tablet edition? No, was the answer. That's for the publisher, I was told. Well, I asked, is the publisher involved with the decisions about the new tablet edition? No, that's my job, I was told. Catch 22.

By having someone not directly tied to the publication in charge of the new tablet edition launch, all my other questions could not be asked: what was the revenue model for the tablet edition? would the ad team be selling new ads? what was the goal for subscription sales? Those questions could not be asked because they hadn't even been asked internally, or if they had, they were not asked by the same people directly involved in the launch.

Marketing & Promotion

Many magazines have a regular promotion calendar where each issue gets promoted a certain way, somethings with actual ad dollars included. But for the most part issues are promoted in simple ways such as email blasts, a press release, a spot on the website.

A new print launch, however, is often promoted in a major way. A digital launch, though, is too often simply considered no launch at all. One can somewhat understand this when the attitude of the team behind the launch do not see their new digital edition as a new product.

While I think this is not a good way to think about the new digital product I at least understand it. But many new digital-only launches are treated the same way. Because they are digital-only for some reason they do not get the attention of the marketing team as a new print launch.

At the very least, a new digital-only magazine should have its own supporting website, Facebook page, Twitter account, etc.

One publisher I spoke to recently had a great attitude about their digital launches: every new launch deserves a launch party. It is a good way to look at it and is a reminder that if you aren't treating the launch of a new digital product as something special odds are that no one else will think it is special either.

iPad User Magazine: despite having its own digital publishing platform, Future plc chooses to launch a replica edition of a magazIne about the iPad

Every once in a while a magazine company does something so bizarre one wonders if their heads are screwed on tightly enough. I felt that way when Tina Brown put Niall Ferguson on the cover of Newsweek to rant about why the U.S. nation needed to get rid of Barack Obama. One is entitled to their opinion on things political, but clearly both Harvard and the U.S. would be better off without Mr. Ferguson, as events have proved recently. Instead Brown got rid of Newsweek. Cripes, the things publishers will do.

Now comes a new magazine title from Future plc, iPad User Magazine, and again I'm left scratching my head. Is this a print magazine that has just launched a replica edition? or is this a new digital magazine that has been designed like print? One can not tell because everything about this new universal app is, well, bizarre.

Future plc has its own digital publishing platform, FutureFolio, which is uses to create its digital editions, whether replica or native. The company's choices about what should natively designed and what should be replica has never made any sense to me. Mac|LIfe, for instance, is a replica, despite being all about computing.
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So if you were going to design a magazine about the iPad and are designing the edition that will be read on the iPad, would be simply give iPad readers a PDF or would you design something specifically for the iPad? I think it is a pretty simply question to answer. But in this case Future has give iPad (and iPhone users, since the Newsstand app is universal) a digital edition that is simply a replica of the print magazine.

That assumes, of course, that there is, in fact, a print counterpart to this new app. The app description never mentions a print magazine and there is no link to an 'iPad User Magazine" website.

iPad User Magazine is a major fail. Luckily, Future has produced a number of excellent new tablet-only magazines such as Photography Week and Football Week, so one has to assume that with any publisher as large as Future that there has to be a few publishers less than comfortable with the new digital platforms – that they would be running the tech side of things is a little odd - but whatever.

Launching a new print magazine is rare these days, as only a couple hundred were launched last year – while hundreds of new digital magazines were launched during the same time period.

One thing that is almost a requirement today, though, is that prior to any new magazine launch that a supporting website is also launched. That is one of several odd things about the Future plc launch of iPad User Magazine – where is the website, where is the press release? One could argue whether launching a digital magazine edition of a title about the iPad in a replica is wise or not (it seems absurd to me) but not supporting a title without a website can't be argued about – and maybe I missed the site somehow, but I certainly don't see any link to it in the app description.

By comparison, Vancouver's Guide does a better job of supporting the new app. The new app has a supporting website that is strictly about the app. I would call this the bare minimum a publisher should consider doing.

Ultimately a supporting website will not be very helpful if readers are not drawn to it, then lured to download the new digital magazine. But at the beginning, a workable website is essential. But one of the problems of launching a new app into the Apple Newsstand is knowing for sure when it will appear. This has been a problem since the beginning of the App Store. As a result, many apps launch without sufficient marketing support. Many publishers don't want to tip their hands by launching a site prematurely and so wait until the app makes it into the store. The site for Vancouver's Guide, for instance, has text and navigation that obviously are supposed to contain live links. I have to assume that the reason these are not currently live is that there was a desire to wait until the app was live (the alternative explanation would simply be bad web programming).

The purpose of the supporting website is at first to explain the editorial mission of the magazine, tease it, and to supply any support that might be necessary (for instance, explaining subscription options, how to navigate the app, how to archive issues (if that is any option) etc.). Later, posting articles from past issues of the digital magazine can drive interest in the digital magazine and can hopefully lead to new downloads.

In the past, when Apple listed new Newsstand app in the U.S. App Store, a publisher could at least know that potential readers might see the title at the top of the newly released section. But Apple, in its infinite wisdom, eliminated this basic search option and now only promotes a small number of new apps. For new titles, the chance of getting found in the U.S. App Store is slim unless the publisher themselves can drive some downloads.

(Just to show how crazy Apple's system is right now, a "browse" of all Newsstand apps will bring up 6,000 titles – that is the same number that could be found months ago when there were already way more than 6,000 titles. Where are the others, and how is it determined which titles can be found through a browse of the Newsstand?)