Friday, May 17, 2013

Two new food magazines shows that a gulf that remains between major commercial magazine publishers and new, citizen publishers within the Apple Newsstand

Digital publishing was supposed to be the great equalizer – at least that was the hope of citizen and small publishers. While the major magazine publishers had good printing contracts that favored high volume publishers, in digital publishing the playing field would be more level.

But a look inside the Apple Newsstand shows that if you have the money to spend on native digital publishing platforms the end result will be quite different than what is seen with simple, PDF-based platforms.

A look at two food magazines that have released digital editions today show the differences.

Nourish is a new Newsstand edition from Australian publisher Blitz Publications. Nourish is the eighth Newsstand app they have released, all for the iPad only (as opposed to a universal app containing an iPhone edition).

The app description describes the magazine as "not just another food magazine, it is a woman’s holistic guide to good health and wellbeing, through good nutrition, healthy, tasty meals and great recipes."

The app was built using the Oomph platform, Australia's homegrown digital publishing platform that has produced some very good digital magazines such as Coles, and other digital magazines.

Oomph, like most (all?) native digital publishing platforms is not cheap for the citizen publisher, though not extravagant for the commercial one: $749 a month for a Newsstand app ($999 for a stand-alone app). With added costs for hosting a publisher is looking at a $10K investment at a minimum – practically nothing for a title producing $10M in revenue a year or more, but out of the question for someone looking at a vanity title.

The digital edition of Nourish can be read in both portrait and landscape, but it really designed for portrait. In this regard it is a modest conversion from print, but has the advantage of having its fonts chosen for the tablet, and being able to use the navigation standard of scrolling within a story and swiping to move to the next article.

Food plus Chef Magazine is from Kevin Schmidt, and while a native tablet magazine (meaning that it is not a conversion from a print title), it is a different thing altogether. Like many other citizen publishers, Schmidt has chosen to use the MagCast platform – a PDF based system that works like other PDF systems, but seems to be the platform of choice for so many new publishers. The cost to use MagCast is about half that of Oomph, but then again the design potential is at least half as much as well.

Designing a PDF file allows the publisher to design for the tablet's display, but what one ends up with is limited by the screen size, whereas with other platforms one can extend the screen by using scrolling text boxes, pages that scroll down to the next page, or simply oversized pages that require scrolling to see the whole page.

Most PDF solutions allow for some form of embedded content like video, audio, links, and the like, but the options of how these are displayed are limited. So the design success of any PDF solution lies almost completely in the static pages designed – here Food plus Chef is, I would judge, better at page design than many of the other MagCast produced magazines I've looked at.

Schmidt has also done an excellent job of supporting his new digital magazine by building a simple website, a Facebook page, and creating a Twitter account. Many newbie publishers simply launch their digital magazine and wait and hope someone finds it and subscribes. With Apple making it impossible to find new digital magazines inside the U.S. App Store that usually results in disappointment.

The app review team appears asleep at the switch as dubious apps continue appearing in the Newsstand

The Apple App Store, when first opened, was like the wild west – apps would routinely make it through the review process that were of dubious worth. It led, eventually, the Apple famously proclaiming stating that "We have over 250,000 apps in the App Store. We don't need any more Fart apps."

But Apple is back approving Fart apps – possibly driven by a desire to remain the number one app store in existence. It won't work, it is inevitable that Google Play surpasses Apple's store simply based on the market share of smart phones.

I've recently written about the some of the sharks that are launching apps into the Newsstand, many coming from Russian developers. JLynnApps, which already has some less-than-credible apps inside the App Store has released another that really has to have you scratching your head as to how it made it through the review process.

UnderCover News is simply a collection of low-rez screenshots that are then placed in a Newsstand app. There is no magazine cover, no table of contents, no masthead (they certainly wouldn't want to use their real names here), no ads, and only 12 pages of content. Each screenshot then has an embedded link in it that takes you out of the app to the original publisher's website. The stories are, way out there, and usually are to be found on conspiracy websites or far-right news sites. A short note from the "editor" opens the app with the word "Hi" followed by a couple sentences, ending with "Best" but no name. Even the email address included is aimed at "admin" rather than an actual person.

The app is built using Fast PDF. The developer's website contact page lists their address as "244 Madison New York, New York, 10016" (sic), with no phone number and no e-mail address.

The anthrax vaccine story seen here is a good example. The story originated with a report by a presidential bioethics commission that declared that the vaccine against anthrax should not be tested in children until its safety it better understood. This immediately turned into a story that the Federal government wanted to test an anthrax vaccine on children.

In fact, vaccines are tested on humans all the time, but only when a reasonable amount of safety checks are conducted. Still, in clinical trials, it is possible for something to go wrong – that is why new drugs are tested. Of course, in this case it was convenient to twist the story into a monstrous tale of the Obama administration going rogue.

But the issue here isn't the news content as Apple would be wrong to reject an app for political reasons. No, the issue here involves three issues: 1) the app takes copyrighted material and reassembles to without the publisher's permission in order to attract its own readers, it is aggressive aggregation of the worst kind; 2) the app does not fulfill any function that the browser could not handle, a typical reason an app is rejected; and 3) the track record of the publisher shows that all their apps have questionable reviews attached to them (check them out yourselves and tell me that these are legitimate reviews).

Apple is either asleep at the switch or else are now actually encouraging bogus apps to be launched into their store in order to maintain their number one position. As a result, the Newsstand is a mess and getting worse every day. This is a great way to convince publishers to shy away, I can't imagine that is their goal here.

The major problem with Apple's Newsstand remains the inability of readers to find what they want. It is a mess and getting worse every day. The problem is see at its worst with the U.S. App Store that contains hardly any promotional efforts and does not even contain an "ALL" section where readers would be able to find either the best selling apps there, or a listing of apps by release date.

As a result, I routinely change stores to use the Irish or Canadian app stores to find new apps. It is simply not possible in the U.S. store. Even "browsing" does not work as Apple restricts the search to 6,000 apps which is far less than the number of Newsstands apps now available. How Apple determines which make it into the 6,000 shown is a mystery.

I've speculated in the past that Apple must believe that by limiting the number of apps readers see that they will drive sales to bigger titles and make more on volume. For every buyer of a citizen published magazine ten are bought of Cosmo, for instance – actually, probably a thousand a bought.

I get it. But the store is a mess and its reputation is in danger. Apple should not get into the censorship game, but it also should not allow in apps that are obvious violations of its own developer guidelines. Just as importantly, Apple needs to make it easier for new apps to be found by not intentionally making it difficult for them to be found. Not everyone wants to go exploring in the Irish app store to find a new app, do they?

The Saturday Evening Post enters the Newsstand with an app build by replica edition and flipbook maker YUDU

You probably would not expect a legacy title like The Saturday Evening Post to be a leader in the digital media space. The magazine title was founded in 1821, with a dotted line link back to The Pennsylvania Gazette, first published in 1728.

For years the title was a weekly, but hard times nearly killed it off and today it is published only six times a year by the Saturday Evening Post Society.

And no, the magazine will not be a leader in the digital space.

Today the old title launched a Newsstand app built by YUDU which specializes in flipbooks and replica edition apps. The best that can be said of the app is that it at least appears under the publisher's name rather than the vendors and the app description is professionally written (though the screenshots used are terrible and hopefully will be replaced with actual screenshots from the magazine itself.

One of my biggest complaints with replica editions is that they reduce the size of the magazine to a point where the reader needs to work in order to be able to read the magazine – using either pinch-to-zoom or very strong reading glasses. Knowing that it is mainly older readers that the ol' Saturday Evening Post appeals to one could almost hear readers muttering the line "they just don't make magazines the way they used to."

Also released into the Newsstand today were other Saturday Evening Post Society's other titles, children's magazines Turtle Magazine, Jack and Jill and Humpty Dumpty – all inside the Newsstand thanks to YUDU apps.

Morning Brief: Hearst launches Totally Global Media, a worldwide advertising platform; Boston Globe launches new Sunday Arts section, Travel section also re-branded

I think rather than rounding up the news this morning I'll let the companies speak for themselves, editing out some of the puffery, of course.

Of all the media news, the news from Hearst I find the most interesting (see below). The launch of Totally Global Media is a reflection of the fact Hearst owns many of their international titles and are actually in a position to sell advertising globally. Many other major publishers have licensed their magazine titles to other overseas publishers and would not be able to do this.

The thing is, though, that digitally, inside the Apple Newsstand, copies of one major magazine title sit right next to the same magazine title of another country, usually published by the local publisher. This not only creates branding problems inside the Newsstand, but makes it confusing for global brands who want to use the vehicle for advertising. Hearst's move is, then, really a partnership deal that brings together their publishing partners is a way that will allow for brand sales across not only titles, but international editions, as well.

Hearst Magazines International announces launch of Totally Global Media: a first of its kind global digital advertising platform

NEW YORK, May 16, 2013 – Hearst Magazines International (HMI), a unit of Hearst Magazines, today announced the launch of Totally Global Media. TGM is a worldwide advertising platform comprised of Hearst Magazines’ websites and Hearst’s international publishing partner websites that offers quality content from brands including Harper’s BAZAAR, Esquire, ELLE and Cosmopolitan as well as highly-trafficked, pure-play digital sites such as Digital Spy in the U.K. and in China.
US & UK tab editions

With offices in New York and London, TGM is a centralized marketing solution for brands looking to leverage digital and cross-platform programs in multiple regions of the world, with a portfolio that offers 200 million unique visitors per month in more than 20 countries. Hearst Magazines International’s publishing partners include industry leaders Burda Media, Televisa Publishing + Digital, Groupe Marie Claire, Rogers Communications and more.

“TGM is a one-stop-shop for global marketers,” said Gina Garrubbo, senior vice president of Totally Global Media. “We’re developing and managing custom, multi-country digital and cross-platform advertising and marketing programs with global appeal, translated for local markets, all with a single buy and one point of communication—it is streamlined and highly efficient.”

“TGM is the first worldwide advertising platform built on globally recognized content brands that offers marketers a powerful tool for communicating with a huge audience of women,” said Duncan Edwards, president and CEO of Hearst Magazines International. “For advertisers, TGM simplifies the often complicated process of marketing in multiple countries, and for our publishing partners, it is an opportunity to capture incremental dollars from global budgets. TGM is a prime example of Hearst’s unique ability to harness our brands and audiences to create scale that is unrivaled in the industry.”

The Boston Globe Launches New Sunday Arts Section: More Content, Color and Columns

Enhanced 20-plus-page section features award-winning arts and lifestyle writers and expanded coverage; popular lifestyle “Names” column also moves to Sunday Metro section

BOSTON (May 17, 2013) – The Boston Globe will launch a new 20-page Arts section on Sunday, May 19, bringing more vibrant, award-winning arts and lifestyle coverage to readers every week.

The enhanced Arts section, which will now also include the Globe’s Sunday Books content, will feature more pages, content and columns, with color on almost every page. Award-winning Globe arts writers – including Pulitzer Prize winners Sebastian Smee and Mark Feeney – will take center stage, along with enhanced restaurant, style and books coverage. The section will also include “The Ticket,” the central dashboard for Boston’s cultural scene, keeping readers in-the-know on the week’s hottest theater, music, movies and arts picks. A new video game column by Jesse Singal will add another new dynamic to the section’s lifestyle coverage.

“Readers will now have all of Boston’s cultural and artistic life at their fingertips, in one lively and engaging section every week,” said Doug Most, deputy managing editor of features. “And now they will undoubtedly discover great stories they may have previously missed, from pop culture to the classical arts, to a review of the latest best-selling novel to the opening of a new restaurant. We have no doubt the new section will serve as the cultural voice for our community.”

The new Arts section will include:

Exclusive Arts and Movies content, including television, video games, visual arts, music, dance, opera and theater.
  • “The Ticket,” featuring Globe critics’ picks for the coming week.
  • “The Enthusiast,” two pages of new food and lifestyle coverage, including fashion and shopping. The food section will cover restaurant industry news and gossip, a column dedicated to the scene and ambience of new restaurants, along with a drinks column and the occasional cocktail recipe.
  • Books, with interviews, criticism and columns, and an even stronger focus on New England authors.
  • An artistic comparison of a historical photograph with a current shot of the same location or subject, chronicling change in Boston’s artistic, cultural and architectural worlds
The Globe’s new Arts section debuts Sunday, May 19, 2013, and all of its content will also be available online at

The Sunday Travel section will also be re-branded with the same distinct aesthetic as Arts. Travel will also feature a new column, “The Concierge,” a full page of advice, tips and more.

The daily lifestyle and celebrity news column “Names” – written by Mark Shanahan and Meredith Goldstein for the back page of the Metro section – will also move from Saturday to Sunday, remaining on the back page of Metro, and making the entire edition a must-read for arts, pop culture and lifestyle enthusiasts.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Apple updates iTunes, changes the way app updates are seen inside iTunes and linked to store

Apple today issues an update to a couple of its software packages including iTunes (the other big one was iMovie). The change at first appears minor in that the main difference most users will see immediately is the Songs View and new MiniPlayer.

But iTunes 11.0.3 also changes the look and feel of the way apps are updated. The Update button has shifted from the bottom right of the iTunes window to a spot at the very top when the user is in their Apps area.

When clicked, the apps come up that can be updated, and when the icon is clicked once a new window appears that gives details about the update taken from the What's New section of the app description.

This should help users determine whether an update is essential to download. Plus, the mechanism allows the user to see details without having to be taken directly to the App Store (and then go back again). It's a small improvement, but definitely a step in the right direction.

Three new digital magazines from Europe: all three promote products or events, but take varied approaches to the new publishing platform

The Newsstand remains a very busy place as publishers, start-ups, citizen publishers, and brands rush to launch publications. Three new apps from Europe show not only the variety of design approaches possible, but also the business models, as well.

Festivalguide Magazin comes from Germany, from Intro GmbH & Co. KG. As the name implies, the digital magazine was created to write about the upcoming music festival season.

The new app is free and is the fourth Newsstand magazine app released into the Newsstand by Intro. An iPhone app was also released, though that app is a stand-alone one and was designed as a news app rather than as a mobile version of the tablet magazine.

All the Newsstand app appear to be of native tablet design, though I could not identify the digital publishing platform used to create it - it looked unique to me. The new app had a few bugs in it involving the subscription process – it seemed stuck in a circle of dialogue messages before finally starting the issue download. One thing unique about it was that the navigation bars were always visible instead of disappearing and reappearing with a tap of the screen.

Gourmandises d'été was launched into the Newsstand by Melons Le Rouge Gorge and is also free to download. The digital magazine is designed to promote the company's food products through recipes and feature stories.

The digital magazine is also available to download as a PDF, so it is not surprising to see that the app has the look of a replica edition. But the typical page numbering seen in print – left-even, right-odd – is totally unnecessary in both the tablet and PDF platforms. Some habits, it appears, die hard.

DESIGN in/from Spain also is meant to promote brands, in this case interior design firms from Spain. But this new tablet-only magazine is replacing a print publication and so is charging for access within the Newsstand.

The Newsstand app is published by ICEX Spain Trade and Investment, which is publisher of technical and academic publications, so their design magazine is not promoting its own brands. But at the same time the magazine is in English and seems designed to be used by a trade commission – that is why I found it somewhat surprising that it was not free.

"Well, there's no bucking the move towards paperless communications," says the editor's letter inside the first tablet edition,"and while it's always sad to say goodbye to print, it's also exciting to embrace the future. So welcome to the first iPad app issue of our magazine DESIGN which we hope you'll find convenient to use, as well as enjoyable to read."

Wheels Australia Magazine draws inspiration from other native tablet editions to produce a unique Newsstand version of its popular automotive print magazine

It has probably always been the case that the most influential media products are not always the most popular at any give time. The best selling album of 1965 was the soundtrack to Mary Poppins, not Rubber Soul, for instance. (No Beatles album was ever the biggest selling album of the year in the U.S.)

The same, I am convinced, is true for the emerging tablet platform for magazines. By far most digital magazines are replicas, but a replica is a replica, and no spot insertion of video or audio is going to change that. No, the tablet magazines that are influencing designers are coming from digital start-ups like Photography Week, La Presse+ (for newspapers) and The Magazine (though I have my doubts about the long term influence that one will have).

WHEELS AUSTRALIA MAGAZINE, the new tablet edition from Bauer Media Group (under the developer account of PBL Media Pty Ltd.) is clearly influenced by other tablet editions that are native in design.

Built using the Adobe DPS, the Newsstand app is designed to be read in landscape, which keeps its June issue down to 249 MB once installed on your retina display iPad. This isn't one of those tablet magazine apps that woe you will endless bells and whistles, despite opening up with an animated cover. It is relatively simple in design – let's say it appears that the designers were comfortable with the tablet platform, enough so that they didn't need to go overboard.

The digital edition probably could use some video content, but it isn't obviously missing.

Going with a landscape design means that some of the rules many publishers insist on living by go by the wayside. With a replica edition or a hybrid edition, the print ads stay in place, even if they might be enhanced. This makes it easy to qualify for being counted in the ABC (actually, now AAM) audit. But while this may placate the bureaucrats it does nothing for the readers, and it is of questionable value to the advertisers unless the agencies swap out creative (which they rarely do).

This landscape edition of Wheels contains some advertorial. Whether that copy is found in the print edition or is exclusive to the tablet edition is hard to say without having a copy of the print edition handy. But one can see that to monetize a tablet edition built like this one the publisher will need to think a bit out of the box.

The Newsstand app has priced monthly subscriptions at AUD $6.49 ($5.99 U.S.), with an annual subscription priced at AUD $59.99. That's pretty pricey but the app does allow you to sign up for a subscription and get a free seven day trial, so other publishers wishing to check out this new tablet edition can do so without their accounting folks raising a stink.

No, Bonnier's sale of its Parenting Group is not a sign of the death of print... because the market for print isn't dying, its shrinking (and the industry is making it worse)

Three years ago I speculated about the possible ramifications of the new tablet publishing platform and what it may mean for print publishers. Due to the weak economy I said that, as we moved forward, we may begin to see that in various market niches that only the top magazine title would survive, while the number three and four books may be forced to fold. I think, three years on, that I would not modify that prediction.

Consolidation is common, and the loss of one magazine title doesn't mean that another won't spring up into the same market. But most of the B2B publications covering magazine publishing have been ignorant of what has been happening inside the various digital newsstands – with new products being launched, generally by citizen publishers, but occasionally from new commercial start-ups. The trade media has been eager to pass on bad information about new magazine launches produced by firms that only look at print, while never giving any press at all to the new digital titles launching daily.

The reality is that most of the new digital-only titles will have only a microscopic level of circulation, and practically no advertising. Some citizen publisher from the heartland who launches a tablet-only digital magazine using MagCast or some other PDF based solution, is hardly taking business away from Bonnier or Meredith. Or are they?

Like the drip, drip, drip of a faucet, the new digital platforms are, in fact, taking away readers. Market fragmentation is not confined only to television and radio, after all. Newspapers and magazines, too, are effected by the ever increasing choices readers have.

But, in the end, despite the protestations of journalists, the issue here is advertising.

Meredith's native tab edition for Parents
"We were not number-one in parenting," Folio: quoted a Bonnier spokesperson, "Parents is—by a wide margin. At this point, we don't believe that in the foreseeable future we could make these titles number-one."

The spokesman was not talking about circulation, where the two magazines were almost equal – each had about 2.2 million in circulation. No the problem was with advertising.

In Q1 of this year, the MPA report showed that while Meredith's Parents had 201 pages in ads, Parenting recorded only 93 pages. One newspaper, reporting on yesterday's sale, said that Parenting was losing $4 million a year (though Bonnier would not confirm this).

It is important to note, though, that while Parents was beating Parenting in ad pages this quarter, both magazines are down significantly since 2007. Parents, for instance, is down 29 percent from the same quarter in '07, while Parenting is down over 40 percent. In other words, it wasn't just the positions of the two magazines that forced Bonnier's hand, but the overall decline of the ad market.

In other categories, though, the declining print advertising market is less obvious. In many categories, the top titles are not showing declines – it is in the second and third place magazines that the decline is most apparent. Ad agencies may be shrinking their print ad budgets, but most are not inclined to decrease their schedules across the board. To do so would mean that they would produce less ads in total. (By keeping one magazine at "A schedule" levels an agency still will need to produce as much creative.)

Overall, comparing Q1 of 2013 to Q1 of 2007, magazine advertising is down over 50 percent. If this decline were across the board we would be seeing titles folding on a daily basis. Right now the impact is felt mostly at second tier titles and in categories being hit particularly hard by the economy.

If Bonnier looked at the industry the way the trade media does they would have never sold its Parenting Group. But Bonnier looked at the market like a publishers does and saw that there was no room for their title (at the level of net income they desired). With Meredith willing to pay to consolidate the market – and with their pockets still full after not buying the Time Inc, titles – the logical move was made.

Will we see more consolidation like this? Maybe. There is, after all, the option to go digital-only. Many magazines are moving in this direction, though few do it out of a conviction that they can get bigger doing so, only survive.

The fact is that the industry and the AAM are working in tandem to cut the cords of the only parachute available to many major publishers. By setting rules that encourage replica editions, the industry is basically saying that it is print or nothing. Too few major publishers are launching new digital-only titles and are instead doing everything they can salvage their legacy brands. As a result, the number of sales reps out on the streets trying to sell tablet ads is extremely small compared to the number trying to sell print and also convince their advertisers that simply porting over their print creative to digital is an acceptable choice.

As a result, new digital-only publishers are increasingly in the best position to thrive long term – their new readers do not nee to worry if the bookstore down the street will be there next year, or if their advertisers will drop them for a new medium.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

New L.A. comedy magazine app, Far Gone, has a rough start to its life inside the Apple Newsstand

What is it about comedy magazines and app problems? Paperweight, the digital magazine from writer/editor Chris Duffy and designer/ developer Brain Perry, needed a couple of weeks to work out its issues before the app corrected its subscription problems (I'm happy to report that the app is fine now and getting good marks inside the Newsstand).

The new app for Far Gone, from The Periodical Co., launched today into the Apple Newsstand and it, too, is having serious issues. For one thing, the subscription mechanism simply doesn't work. A tap of the bar at the top of the library brings up a dialogue box that either crashes the app or gives a warning message. Most likely the app's release into the App Store today caught the developers by surprise and the backend was not set to receive requests.

But the app doesn't look very promising, in any case. Screenshots show a Kindle Edition-like design, and what is up with that library design anyways?

The new digital magazine's website is far better. In fact, one wonders why a digital magazine app is even necessary - the app and its contents are free, after all, so it isn't because of subscription purchases that a Newsstand app needed to be built.

Like Paperweight, I'm sure this app will get fixed and will eventually begin working. But until then, the joke's on us.

The New Yorker launches Strongbox, a secure way to send documents and messages to the magazine

Have we really reached the point where this is necessary? I guess the sad answer is yes. Today The New Yorker announced the launch of Strongbox, a place where people can send documents and messages to the magazine's staff with, as the magazine says, a reasonable amount of anonymity."

The new website is powered by DeadDrop, a server application that lets news organizations set up an online drop box for sources – think of it as that mysterious mailbox in A Beautiful Mind.

The system was put together by Aaron Swartz and Kevin Poulsen – Swartz, of course, is the computer programmer who hanged himself after being arrested by MIT police on state breaking-and-entering charges and being charged by Federal prosecutors with two counts of wire fraud and multiple violations of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.

Kevin Poulson has a post on The New Yorker's website on Strongbox and Aaron Swartz which provides more background on the project.

"Readers and sources have long sent documents to the magazine and its reporters, from letters of complaint to classified papers," writes Amy Davidson on The New Yorker's website. "But, over the years, it’s also become easier to trace the senders, even when they don’t want to be found. Strongbox addresses that; as it’s set up, even we won’t be able to figure out where files sent to us come from. If anyone asks us, we won’t be able to tell them."

More proof of the disruptive power of tablets...

Posted strictly for your edification.

Hammacher Schlemmer introduces the iPad Commode Caddy

NEW YORK, May 14, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- Continuing its 165-year history of offering the Best, the Only and the Unexpected, Hammacher Schlemmer introduces The iPad Commode Caddy, a bathroom stand that replaces a traditional basket of magazines by accommodating both an iPad and a roll of toilet paper.

Ideal for browsing digital periodicals, composing emails, or catching up on sports scores while indisposed, The iPad Commode Caddy holds the tablet computer 32" above the floor—eye-level for the average person while seated. A flexible 10" gooseneck provides optimal positioning for reading or watching videos in either portrait or landscape mode.

"The iPad Commode Caddy provides access to one's reading material while eliminating the clutter created by magazines and newspapers," explained Hammacher Schlemmer's General Manager Fred Berns.

Made from sturdy chromed steel with a sturdy base that will not slide, The iPad Commode Caddy reliably secures an iPad at three points, providing access to all controls, and the paper roll tube removes easily for replenishment.

The iPad Commode Caddy is available from Hammacher Schlemmer for $99.95. For more information about these products, please visit The iPad Commode Caddy.

Morning Brief: WIRED Magazine cover celebrates 20 years of publishing; L.A. law firm launches new media consulting division; Bonnier CEO tries to reassure the troops following sale of its Parenting Group to Meredith

One of the first things readers notice about native digital magazines is that they often contain animated covers – in fact, animated covers have become a bit of a cliché already, though I think they can sometimes be quite effective. The problem with print magazines that wish to use animation on their cover is that they sometimes have to come up with excuses for the animation – a nice photograph that is used on a print magazine cover is sometimes animated simply by making the promotional headlines slide into place.

Other times, however, the print and digital cover are conceived on at the same time. A good example would he where a video is used for the digital edition and a still from that video used for the print edition.

But what to do when the print magazine cover is a concept cover? That is the dilemma faced this month with the digital edition of WIRED Magazine. The cover is meant to celebrate 20 years of publishing and will certainly look quite unique on the newsstand or in your mailbox.

But with Newsstand apps, the cover becomes the app's icon (should the publisher use the automatic updating function). As a result, the WIRED icon looks rather odd, and inside the iPad's Newsstand is hardly recognizable.

Of course, next month a new cover will appear and the issue becomes moot. But I imagine print art directors and those in charge of digital editions sometimes have lively discussions about covers that work in Apple Newsstand as well as the physical print newsstand environment.

The Los Angeles law firm Manatt, Phelps & Phillips is launching a digital media consulting division, Manatt Digital Media. The new company describes itself as "a disruptive new full-service digital media services business." The new firm will have its own venture capital fund.

The new company says it has its own team of "media insiders" though to be honest they look like a bunch of lawyers to me.

According Variety, the new firm expects to make 10 to 15 investments per year, with investments ranging from $15,000 to $600,000.

Like most investment firms, the company seems to be looking for a Facebook-like home run by investing early in video and social media start-ups. So don't look for much of their client's money being pushed towards media start-ups as blasé as digital publications, sadly.

Bonnier's sale of its Parenting Group to Meredith has to be a worrying development for the magazine company's staffers. The sale was for assets only so Meredith, the buyer, will be rolling up the titles into their own magazines. As a result the sale means the positions will go away.

"This divestiture, following last week's sale of the Mountain Group, should not be taken as the dismantling of the company," said Bonnier Chief Executive Officer Dave Freygang.

"As you may know, over the past several months Bonnier Corporation has made adjustments to our product portfolio. These moves are strategic calculations on our part to ensure that the company is in a position to grow revenues and achieve sustained profitability."

Meredith and Bonnier moved quickly to consolidate the titles as the Newsstand apps for both Parenting and Babytalk have already been pulled from the Apple Newsstand.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Students and faculty at Northwestern College (Iowa) release a tablet magazine app into Apple's Newsstand, built using the Mag+ publishing platform

A good friend of mine used to be the principal at the local high school. At that time I used to be invited in to talk to the yearbook class about the publishing business. Half the class was interested in what I had to say, the other half just wanted to pass the class and move on with their lives.

My friend the principal eventually was moved up to superintendent of the whole school district. But in a recent conversation with him I said that the journalism and other publishing classes really should be concentrating on digital media, that while learning about print wouldn't be a complete waste of time, the teachers owed it to their students to prepare them for the business that exists today, let alone in the future. He agreed, then reminded me that this isn't his area anymore.

That is one reason I keep a look out for new digital publications coming out of schools such as this new Newsstand magazine from Northwestern College, a private Christian liberal arts college located in Orange City, Iowa.

I haven't a clue why the magazine is called Cardboard, maybe that is their sports mascot – if so, then they have the second best mascot name after UC Santa Cruz who are the Banana Slugs – but I have a feeling that is not the reason for the name.

In any case, the new magazine has appeared in the Newsstand under the developer account name of the faculty advisor Dayne Logan, who also serves as the faculty adviser to the college's student newspaper, the Beacon. Inside the app the premiere issue editors are listed as Linden Figgie, Abbie Goldschmid, Justine Johnson and Tom Westerholm while the magazine's advisor is Richard Sowienski; the app's project manager was Priyanka Fernando, with Dayne Logan the advisor on the app project.

To build their digital magazine the team used the Mag+ platform. The result, of course, is a native tablet magazine which has its first issue weighing in at 78 MB due to the limited number of pages inside the issue (though both orientations were used in the magazine).

The digital magazine is free to access, of course, which gives others interested in the platform yet another example to see. Hopefully the faculty at Northwestern College will continue to support the new digital edition going forward as the publication looks great and I'm sure the students found the exercise in digital publishing a worthwhile venture.

Meredith Corporation condenses two of its magazine markets by buying Bonnier's parenting titles

The Swedish publisher Bonnier recently advertised that they were seeking a VP, Group Publisher for their parenting division – it turns out they won't be needing to fill that slot as the company has sold both Parenting and Babytalk to Merdith Corporation.

According to the announcement from Meredith, the deal is an asset deal only, meaning that both titles will be folded. Readers of Bonnier's Parenting will now start receiving Meredith's title Parents, while readers of Babytalk will now receive Meredith's American Baby.

Although Meredith's announcement states that they will maintain the websites of the two acquired titles, no mention was made of the company keeping on the Bonnier employees.

Below is the press release in full:

Meredith Acquires Parenting and Babytalk Brands From Bonnier

NEW YORK, May 14, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- Meredith Corporation MDP; ( announced today it has acquired Parenting and Babytalk magazines and their related digital assets from The Bonnier Corporation (

Under the agreement, the readers of Parenting will receive Parents magazine effective with the September issue. Similarly, readers of Babytalk will receive American Baby magazine effective with the September issue. The companion digital site,, will operate as a part of the Parents network of digital media.

Both Parents and American Baby magazines will include popular editorial features and columns from Parenting and Babytalk to ensure that readers are being super-served with great editorial content that reflects the best of the combined products.

Financial terms were not disclosed, and the acquisitions will not have a material effect on Meredith's financial performance.

Meredith Corporation is the leading media and marketing company serving American women. Meredith reaches 100 million American women every month through multiple well-known national brands and local television brands in fast-growing markets. Meredith is the industry leader in creating content in key consumer interest areas such as home, family, food, health and wellness and self-development. Meredith uses multiple distribution platforms – including print, television, digital, mobile, tablets, and video – to give consumers content they desire and to deliver the messages of its advertising and marketing partners.

Additionally, Meredith Xcelerated Marketing serves the nation's top brands and companies by delivering content-powered engagement for a hyper-connected world. Its deep expertise in digital, mobile, social, healthcare, analytics and international marketing enable it to provide cutting-edge cross-channel customer management for many of the world's most popular brands.

A hallmark of Meredith's business model and financial profile is its ability to consistently generate substantial free cash flow by leveraging the strength of its multi-platform portfolio. Meredith is committed to increasing Total Shareholder Return through dividend payments, share repurchases and strategic business investments.

Canadian newspaper publisher Postmedia Network continues roll out iPad paywalls, but readers rebel

It is sometimes hard to tell whether the advocates of newspaper paywalls are part of a philosophy of publishing or a cult. People who espouse a philosophy usually do so after weighing the facts, those part of a cult don't want to hear from naysayers.

That is why it is possible for two media observers to look at the performance of The New York Times since the launch of their paywall and come to two different conclusions: some see good circulation revenue growth and see this as a way to replace declining ad revenue; others say that circulation revenue is only 2 percent higher this year than it was in 2010, hardly spectacular performance, while ad revenue is, indeed, tanking. What's the conclusion? It depends on your perspective – I prefer to say that the solution hasn't been found yet, despite the launching of paywalls, but I remain open to the concept.

In Canada, the newspaper drama is being played out, too. Postmedia Network started rolling out its paywalls to its iPad apps late last year, with papers like The Vancouver Sun among the first to start charging for unlimited access to content in their iPad editions.

Today the paper released updates for more papers including The Windsor Star, the Calgary Herald and the Edmonton Journal.

"In-app subscription options (iPad only): In order to continue our investment in the quality and depth of our award-winning journalism and offer you the features and functions you want from our application, we are now charging for unlimited access to The Windsor Star iPad application," reads the new app description.

In the U.S. App Store one won't find many reviews written on these Canadian newspaper apps, of course, so I changed stores to see what readers have to say about the change. They aren't happy.

The most recent reviews inside the Canadian App Store for The Vancouver Sun are universally negative – but the reasons vary.

The biggest complaint from readers involves pop-up ads, an advertising trend that seems to be returning. We're not talking about one or two reviews, but lots of them complaining about pop-up ads.

Then there are the usual complaints about declining content quality. In the case of the iPad edition, though, the complaints center around the fact that the apps take RSS feeds from the website of the newspaper, and not all the feeds, and simply reformats them for the iPad. I've never liked these types of newspaper iPad editions as they are merely mirroring the website rather than truly building a tablet edition. The solution to the web on tablets is... the web, not an app. (More on this in a second.)

As a result, most newspapers could not charge for their iPad editions until they have built a paywall for their website. Once that paywall had gone up they really have no choice but to launch a paywall for the iPad edition, as well.

Readers of The Vancouver Sun are not the only ones complaining – The Province rolled out its paywalled iPad edition at the same time and readers have reacted negatively, too – but it is hard to tell if the price is the problem or the buggy apps. That is why those Postmedia Network newspaper apps that already have paywalls have updated their apps, too – it fix some bugs. We'll see if the cries of readers are muted, or if the paywall itself now becomes the major complaint.

One trend among newspaper publishers, and media gurus of the digital first variety, is that they seem to have a hard part seeing differences between digital publishing platforms. While you could lay a magazine and newspaper on their desks and they would easily differentiate the two products, doing so with digital media seems a difficult challenge for them. For far too many newspaper publishing pros digital means the web, and anything else – mobile or tablets, for instance – are simply variations of the web.

That is why I so dislike many newspaper iPad apps, they really are just RSS feed readers. Those moving in a different direction, such as The Washington Post, are combining web products with reformatted replicas of their print editions. For me, the reformatted replicas are actually the most interesting product and the only worth paying for. (See the post on the WaPo's app update here.)

Launching new digital products that re-imagine the medium remains elusive, and until a new generation of newspaper execs take over, or some pureplay digital media pros move into the space, I'm afraid we will continue to see legacy newspaper titles struggle with all things digital.

Media app updates: tablet editions of Macworld, PCWorld go free for print subscribers; new MagCast built digital magazine gets raves from hockey fans and an update

Print subscribers this morning finally got what they had been clamoring for, free access to the tablet edition through their print subscription accounts. Both Newsstand apps for Macworld Digital Magazine (U.S.) and PCWorld Digital Magazine (U.S.) are from the publisher IDG.

Both apps had been receiving bad reviews inside the Apple App Store, though, I found interesting, PCWorld seemed to be getting it worse. Both magazines apps also were called out for bugs that hopefully now fixed with these latest updates.

The issue of charging print subscribers remains a controversial one with both readers and publishers. Some publishers, such as Hearst, have made a policy of this which has led to growing digital subscriptions, but also diving print readership. Hearst has never, as far as I know, officially said that their goal was to drive readers to digital to cut production costs, but their policies are certainly doing just that.

Other publishers have chosen to charge all digital readers simply because of the issue of subscription verification – the added cost to do this not considered worth the price.

Both IDG computer magazines are reformatted for the iPad, something that puts them at an advantage over Future's Mac|Life which has been getting negative reader reviews due to it being a buggy replica edition.

The Loop, the digital magazine that uses the new TypeEngine digital publishing platform to create a simplified digital magazine along the lines of Marco Arment's The Magazine, has had to issue two quick updates to address bugs. (see original TNM post here, and the follow-up here.) This is probably not a big surprise as this is the first app to use TypeEngine's new app solution.

Reader reviews have been split between those who love the concept of a Kindle Edition-like digital magazine, and those that found the app buggy.

Other media app updates this morning:

By the Bottle, from Extra Edge Club LTD, has updated their Newsstand app to add iPhone support. (See original TNM post here.)

Education Week, from Editorial Projects in Education, was updated to fix some bugs. What really should be address, though, is the poor app description that was created for the app - only one screenshot (the text is OK). The cost of the digital issue is pretty high – $69.99 for an annual subscription – so I'm sure downloads are pretty low for this digital edition.

Finally, one of those digital magazines with an outrageously long name – Hockey Development Magazine: Tips and Systems Drills for Hockey Coaches and Players – was updated for "code optimization and enhancements." (See short post on the app in the new release section, scroll down to April 17.)

The digital magazine used the MagCast platform to create its Newsstand app and readers have so far been very positive in their reviews – 17 five-star reviews to zero other. Not a bad start for Jeremy Weiss who launched the digital magazine last month.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Three new tablet editions use PDF solutions to build their digital magazines – some replicas, others designed specifically for the iPad

Big print magazine publishers are not the only ones using replica edition vendors to create and distribute their magazines. Small, citizen publishers are finding that the most cost effective way to distribute a digital magazine is by using one of the PDF-based services as well.

Ultimately, the small problems arise with new digital publications as they do with the major commercial titles: if the magazine does not look good reduced down in size it will not really work on the iPad.

Of the three magazines seen here one was built using MagCast, the other two were built using Better Press.

Craft Beer Magazine is being published by Fredrik Aurdal using MagCast, a platform that is being used by quite a number of citizen publishers who want a simple platform solution, but are going digital-only.

Aurdal, who is from Walnut, California (east of Los Angeles), has designed his PDF pages to fit the iPad, then uploaded to the the vendor and, presto, instant tablet magazine.

The key, though, is the creation of the PDFs. With most replicas, the page is created for one medium, then the PDF is made without alterations. With many of the MagCast magazines the designers are starting with a page that is specifically built for the iPad so the chances that the end result will be readable are pretty good.

Why would-be publishers who are building tablet-only pubs would have migrated to MagCast is a little interesting, as any PDF service could, in theory, be used to build a digital-only magazine. But with MagCast the costs are set at $297 a month or $3,564 a year (yep, no discount).

Green Child Magazine is not about kids from Mars, but is about organic products, healthy nutrition, holistic wellness and parenting advice. The digital-only publication can be accessed for free on the website so how it can get away with charging in the Newsstand is a bit of a mystery – my guess is that Apple's review team simply isn't that concerned with these issues anymore, now that there are thousands of titles in the App Store.

Green Child is is a bit mis-sized for the iPad, but only just slightly. As is typical, the publisher did not make any adjustments for the size of the iPad's screen, even though simply adding a little bit of white space at the top and bottom would not only have made the magazine fit better, but would have make it look better, too (lack of white space is usually a tell tale sign of a citizen publishing effort).

The publisher here has chosen to use Better Press which has a completely different price model: 5 cents a download. If a new digital magazine gets 1,000 downloads in a month the cost (obviously) only $50 (but at 10,000 downloads the solution then is more expensive than MagCast).

Both magazine appear under the name of the publisher, meaning that the people behind the magazine went to the trouble of signing up (and paying the $999 fee) to become Apple developers.

One can understand why a citizen publisher would be attracted to a PDF publishing solution. But for Round Magazine, which uses the app description to brag about winning the "Creativity International Gold Award for Magazine Design" one really left wondering what they were thinking.

The new magazine app appears under the name of the vendor, something that will be a problem should they decide to launch their own app later. Then Better Press made a mess of the links, with the Better Press link going to the magazine's website, and the magazine's link going to the vendor.

City/Regional magazine publishers prove slow to embrace native tablet publishing solutions, risk facing tough new competition from digital-only publishing start-ups

The last post, about the new city magazine, Citygram, could have gone on for quite a few more web pages talking about the state of digital publishing in the city/regional category, but I think it is worth a separate post. (You can read all about Citygram here.)

Like B2B, city/regional magazine publishers have been slow to launch native tablet editions, or even native news apps. For B2B publishers, the reason for the caution may have much to do with the market penetration of tablets, in general. Since a B2B magazine reaches a highly specialize audience – say, only plumbing contractors who buy, spec or recommend plumbing products – a B2B publishers needs to know that their new app will actually reach their audience. Even now, after Apple has sold around 150+ million units, it would still be difficult to say with any amount of certainty how many readers in a given industry are tablet owners, and how many of those would be considered qualified readers.

For city/regional publishers the problem is less about demographics and more about geography. Since iPad owners tend to be more upscale than those who do not own and use a tablet, the demographic of the iPad reader would seem perfect – but exactly how many readers own an iPad or other tablet is, say, New Orleans or Atlanta or Portland?

But reviewing the state of city/regional tablet editions one can see immediately that the issue isn't procrastination, its enthusiasm for the tablet (and mobile) platform. Of the 32 publishers I list after the jump, only one quarter of them still do not have an app inside the Apple App Store – and it is possible that my search did not turn up an existing due to naming issues. But of the apps in the store, few, very few, are native tablet editions.

For the most part, city/regional publishers have been early launchers into the App Store and into the Newsstand. But by far the most common way a publisher has launched a tablet edition is through a third party replica edition vendors, often through a service offered by the magazine's printer.

In a recent conversation I had with one city magazine publisher I was told that the issue of their tablet edition was settled long ago with their replica edition launched. They may be not very satisfied with their sales numbers but they chalk that up to the App Store. "We're done with thinking about the issue," I was told.

What will get city/regional magazine publishers to look at this issue again? I would say only two factors will force a rethinking of tablet editions: declining newsstand sales and advertising – but not new competition from digital-only publishers.

The reason new competition will not immediately effect print publishers is that they are often not aware of the competition for quite some time after it has arrived. Few print publishers scour the Apple Newsstand on a daily basis.


The declining number of traditional bookstores is effecting both print books and magazines alike. For local newsstands, the city magazine is usually given a highly sought after location on the newsstand. As a result, subscriptions become even more vital to a city/regional publishers readership levels.

With the advent of the tablet platform – not only the iPad, but the Kindle, as well – younger readers are migrating to digital devices. Research is slow to track the migration, but digital-only publishers are certainly seeing it and are encouraged to launch their own digital magazines because of it.

Pew’s Project in Excellence in Journalism research shows that young adults are still reading, but they are prone to use digital devices to read rather than print – a quarter of 18-29 year-olds who won tablets said they read ebooks on them on a daily basis. (while 47 percent of those over 50 remain print only subscribers).

Many city/regional magazines skew towards an older readership versus, for instance, the alt-weekly reader. But today's alt-weekly reader is tomorrow's home owner, and therefore more likely to be interested in a city/regional magazine. Unless city/regional print publishers can reach this audience they are likely to find that their audience is shrinking.


For city/regional magazines advertising continues to pay the bills. For now there is very little threat from tablet-only magazine publishers. But if digital-only publishers are able to reach local merchants with interactive advertising the tables will be turned.

The secret to this, I believe, is video. While all replica makers say that publishers can embed multimedia into their PDF-based digital editions, very few bother.

My instincts tell me that new, digital-only city/regional magazines may pose a greater risk to the ad market shares of alt-weeklies than that of traditional print magazines – at least initially. The question is whether, through good sales, the proper use of spec ads, and through pricing, if digital-only publishers can lure local businesses to begin using tablet magazines to reach their customers.

New publisher changes careers and launches a city magazine for Austin – Citygram; self-funded Newsstand app looks to the best interactive magazines for inspiration

If traditional print publishers had an illusions that the new digital platforms would be a mirror of the print world they only need to pay attention to the new apps launched each day into the Apple Newsstand to know that the competitive landscape is changing fast. Not only are dozens of new digital-only publications launching each week, but many are entering categories previously thought to only be of interest to local media companies – such as city/regional magazines.

Launched last week, Citygram is a new city magazine from Austin, Texas, published by Chris Perez under the developer name of Left Right Media LLC. The new digital magazine is a thoroughly professional looking publication that would easily be mistaken for a commercial release from a big name publisher – were it not for the fact that most city/regional magazines being released by the big publishers are dull, replica editions with little to offer new, younger readers.

For Chris Perez, the effort to launch Citygram meant a major career change, from engineer at IBM to new publisher. "It's been a six or seven month operation from getting the concept to building the team to getting it live in the App Store," Perez told me on Friday.

"It required a lot of passion on my part. I was very interested in art, very interested in design and photography. And what appealed to me the most about the magazine format was it was connecting everything I knew."

Perez grew up wanting to be an artist, but a talk with his parents led him down a more practical path, studying engineering at Austin College, and getting a masters in engineering from the University of Michigan before joining IBM.

But Perez decided he wanted to launch his own title and so went about deciding on a digital publishing platform and finding funding. First he looked at the magazine he was reading digitally and wanted the same level of interactivity he found in his favorite titles.

"Why is there not interactivity across the board in magazine apps I read now – one's like Vanity Fair, GQ and Martha Stewart Living?" he asked himself. What he found out was that these titles were using the Adobe DPS to create their tablet editions (though he did look at some other options, as well).

"They had the experience I wanted," Perez said. "I definitely wanted to escape this vision of a digital magazine being a PDF export of print, and being a little hokey with animations and graphics. So I wanted to be professional – my bar (to reach) was to be those national publications on the look and feel. I wanted to be unchained from print, I want to be all digital."

Next Perez tried a Kickstarter project in hopes of raising $10,000. That effort did not succeed and so Perez had to fund Citygram himself.

"It is a little bit expensive. You have to come up with $6,000 up front to be in that professional realm," he said, referring to the cost of Adobe's DPS Newsstand solution. "And when people download it there is an expense, so that's tricky – that's going to be tough to juggle."

Complicating matters is the business model chosen to launch Citygram. The new digital magazine will be free of charge to download and will eventually be supported, Perez hopes, by paid advertising. "You have to take the risk first, no one's going to put money in your favor until you can show them you can release the product and have it out there."

The first issue inside the tablet-only magazine is listed as May-June, but the plan is to publishing monthly. The first issue, which was updated this morning, weighs in at 458 MB, a typical Adobe DPS file size. The issue is portrait only which limits the file size somewhat.

Perez is his own art director, listing himself as Graphic Design & App Development, as well as Founding Editor. His masthead contains a lot of names for a start-up, reflecting, Perez said, Austin's collaborative environment. The only position not listed on the masthead is ad director or salesperson, he'll need one or more of those if Citygram is going to recoup its original investment and survive long term. But Perez is off to a good start and so far is far ahead of where most publishers of city/magazines are in the digital publishing space.

Here is Chris Perez's original Kickstarter video for Citygram: