Friday, May 31, 2013

An interview with Liz Castro, editor and publisher of 'What's up with Catalonia?'

Author, editor, publisher and EPUB expert Liz Castro has recently published an important new book on Catalonia and its move towards independence from Spain, What's up with Catalonia?: The causes which impel them to the separation.

The book, available both in print and digitally, is a well-edited, highly informative, and easy and pleasurable to read collection of 35 articles concerning its subject. The book's editor and publisher, Liz Castro, is perfectly positioned to organize, edit and produce this collection based on her technology publishing background, her translation skills, her time spent in Catalonia, and her digital publishing expertise (Castro publishes the Pigs, Gourds, and Wikis blog).

Castro has gathered together an amazing group of experts, from politicians to authors, from academics to technology experts, to examine the history, culture and politics of Catalonia – and, most importantly, to examine the issue of separation from Spain.

A little background: last September 11, Catalonia’s National Day, 1.5 million gathered in Barcelona in a pro-independence demonstration. What followed this event was snap elections where the issue of Catalonian independence became the central issue. The momentum that seemed apparent was the inspiration that led Castro to begin to organize this new book.

The articles were written in December 2011 and January 2012, and the book was quickly completed  – just before the Catalan parliament voted in favor of a Declaration of Sovereignty, according to Castro's editor's note to the book.

"Some of the writers who contributed articles for this book I knew previously, but others put their trust in me sight unseen," Castro writes. "I am indebted to both groups for their confidence, their collaboration, and their insights. I hope I have captured the spirit their articles with my translations."

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Castro's contributors include: Artur Mas, the president of Catalonia, who contributed the prologue to the book; Andreu Domingo, Deputy Director for Demographic Studies at the Autonomous University of Barcelona who contributes a fascinating report on immigration; and New Yorker J.C. Major who writes "On the prickly matter of language."

"What, then, makes a nation? Not race or religion—at least not for Catalans," writes Major. "Nor the trappings of power—a state, an army—whose unquestioned benefits they lost a long time ago. The right place to look for proof of Catalonia’s unique personality is in the broad field of culture—in the set of values and customs that are shared by a community and are specific to it, the common way of doing things that is recognized as such by the people living in a certain land and also by those coming into contact with it for the first time."

Though the book takes a decidedly pro-independence point of view, the book is by the far the most up-to-date and thorough look at the issues involving Catalan independence, and is also a great example of how to organize and self-publish a book in both print and in digital formats. The book is available on at $10.80 in paperback form and for $3.99 for the Kindle. It is also available inside the Apple iBookstore at the same price of $3.99, as well as at Barnes & Noble in both print and digital forms.

"I tried to make it so they could open the book any place and find an article that didn't put them off, was so hard to read and complicated and based on previous information, so they could jump right in."

Castro points to the anecdotal articles such as that by Josep Maria Ganyet and the article by Eva Piquer as contributions that are particularly good at covering topics for the lay reader.

I can't help but think that if Castro has spent her time in Athens rather than Barcelona we would be on the receiving end of a brilliant examination of the issues surrounding the crisis there. But we will gladly settle for this, and I highly recommend its purchase.

Ninety percent of the material in the book is new, Castro told me earlier this week while driving down to the IDPF conference in New York where she gave a presentation on EPUB 3.

Following the September 11 demonstrations, Castro watched from the United States as events began to unfold. The president of Catalonia had previously campaigned on a platform of negotiating a new fiscal pact with Spain. But when this fell apart the issue of sovereignty began to become top of mind.

"Being from the United States, I was watching all of this and noticing how it was getting huge amounts of press – and it was really exciting for me because I've been following Catalonia ever since I went to live there in the eighties and no one had ever talked about Catalonia in a political way…newspapers had never talked about Catalonia as a political entity, or very little, they mostly talked about football, they talked about food, and they talked about tourism and (Antoni) Gaudi," Castro told me.

Suddenly Catalonia was all over the press, and Castro thought that, at first, the media was doing a good job of covering the story.

"But as things got more complicated, and it wasn't just 'we're going to have another demonstration, tomorrow we're going to have a referendum then we're independent' the newspapers started to publish less, and the things that they published were not substantial enough," Castro said. "They mostly continued on the same theme of 'Catalonia's rich and selfish, and not only that they're indebted.'"

So Castro started to think about publishing a book on the subject.

"This is something I can do," Castro concluded. "I can get up-to-date information about what's going on right now, not this old stuff, and I can make it a lot more nuanced, a lot more detailed, so people can really understand what's going on there."

"There's the question of language, of its history, the feeling of not belonging to Spain, not being appreciated, not being understood."

So Castro started her outreach to possible contributors.

"In the letter I said 'I'm not anybody, I'm a lay person in terms of Catalan politics, but I know how to make books. If you guys can write it, if you can get me good information, I can translate it, I can make it into a book. I can make it exist.' So that is what we did," Castro told me.

"These were amazing people, these were politicians, the opposition leader of the Catalan left, eventually the president of Catalonia decided he would contribute, there's top tier journalists, academics, sociologists. It is really quite an amazing collection of people. They're not famous in the United States, but in Catalonia everyone knows practically every single one of the contributors is."

Liz Castro was able to tell the readers of her blog that What's up with Catalonia? was available to download in early March. Castro was able to use her blog to explain where to find the book inside major online retail outlets, as well as that they could download the book direct from her.

Because the print form of the book is completely print-on-demand using Amazon's CreateSpace, as well as Lightning Source (Castro promises a blog post on using these two companies and I said I would love to re-post that blog entry here – I'm not sure she was enthusiastic about that), there was no need to fund a print run.

Instead, Castro used crowdfunding as a way of spreading word of the book and getting the end product into the right hands. Recently she guest contributed a nice post on the subject of crowdfunding on the Publishing Perspectives website.

"But my book posed a unique problem in terms of crowdfunding: the people who might be willing to sponsor the book — Catalans who wanted their story told — were not the target audience for the book. Americans, Brits, and other people outside of Catalonia with only a cursory idea of what was going on there, 13 million of whom visit Catalonia every year were the target," Castro wrote.

So, rather than using Kickstarter, Castro signed up at the Catalan crowdfunding site called Verkami. "My goal," Castro wrote, "was to raise enough money to send 500 copies of the book to libraries, magazines, and political leaders all over the world. And thus, the rewards consisted of the typical copy of the book for the sponsor, but much more importantly, one or more books sent to the recipients of the sponsor’s choice.

Do newspapers still need photographers? Damn right they do, though it is true that the role of the reporter is changing, as well; Sun-Times layoffs entire photo staff

There are times when I wish Jim Romenesko were as snarky and willing to lose readers as I am. Jim does an unbelievable great job on his new blog, did a great job at Poynter, and his original blog, Romenesko's MediaNews, was groundbreaking. Yesterday Jim was on the job again reporting the Chicago Sun-Times recent move of laying off its entire photography staff, 28 full-timers. Because most newspaper pros read Jim, and I'm sure none read TNM and not Jim, there was no reason for me to jump on the story, he had it covered.

But I waited to see if Jim would actually say anything personal about the story. He doesn't normally do this, instead making his own views known by what he posts, who he posts, and then let's the reader infer his position in this way. For instance, Jim posted a link to The New York Observer story on the layoffs which included the email from Elliott Harris, a former Sun-Times sports columnist who was laid off himself in 2011.

Harris's email in interesting, but his own post on his blog is better and more to the point:

Times are changing and photography and photographers are obsolete?

No. It’s not that at all. What the company wants is to further gut an already weakened union at the paper.

To say the folks who came up with this plan and executed it are loathsome and despicable is being far too kind.
This nails it.

The issue of unions at newspapers, and elsewhere, is almost a too hot to handle conversation in this country. According to a Gallup poll conducted last summer, 52 percent of Americans approve of unions, unchanged from the prior year. In 1957 that number was 75 percent. So it is not only union membership that it is declining, but how people feel about unions, in general.

The reason is that unions are often seen as detrimental to change, protecting the worst workers, stopping reform. All this is true, I believe. But it is also true that the death of the middle class, falling wages, the rise of the Walmart economy would not have occurred without, at the same time, unions becoming less a factor in the U.S. workplace.

I've been in management, and I've sat in on contract negotiations on the side of the union – I feel I understand both sides. (A friend of mine who is a school superintendent gets pretty worked up when the subject of teacher unions is brought up and especially when I say something in defense of them – usually while playing devil's advocate by presenting their side of the story.)

So what to do when one wants reporters to begin talking photographs and videos? Did the union object? Did the photographers say that this would be a violation of the contract? I don't know, and there are always two sides to the story, right?

But one thing for sure: it was a dumb move, a move that goes too far, and one that will damage the paper. The world may be changing, may require reporters to have different skills and bring new kinds of content to future newspaper products. But it is also true that the news is becoming more graphical, not less. So to say that this move has anything to do with the future of news is a lie – and when editors lie in public the credibility of the entire newspaper dies.

Here was the paper's own statement:
The Sun-Times business is changing rapidly and our audiences are consistently seeking more video content with their news. We have made great progress in meeting this demand and are focused on bolstering our reporting capabilities with video and other multimedia elements. The Chicago Sun-Times continues to evolve with our digitally savvy customers, and as a result, we have had to restructure the way we manage multimedia, including photography, across the network.
The only way I see this move working out for both the Sun-Times management and its investors is if the paper can successfully move to a totally digital model. I don't think they can do that because there is a mismatch between its readership and the demographics needed for the move to succeed. So all the paper really doing here is cutting costs. And that, after all, is what digital first really means in the newspaper business.

Morning Brief: Study's findings on tablet magazines interpreted differently by observers; Future PLC updates the app for their tab-only magazine 'Photography Week'

Ten days ago Mequoda Group released a study that seems to have media outlets interpreting its results in wildly different ways. The 2013 Mequoda Tablet Study was originally talked about in this post here at TNM. It got the attention of the press because it predicted that predicted, rather boldly, that digital magazines would be preferred to print by a majority of readers by 2020 – few people bother to hold researchers to account when making predictions such as this so they are usually made to simply get attention.

AdWeek yesterday did their own story on the study and highlighted the fact that of "the 1,293 respondents, 23 percent prefer reading magazines on their tablets." The author, Maura McGowen, comes to no conclusions as she clearly working off a press release (how do I know this? the study itself says 26 percent, but press reports keep talking about 23 percent, something only mentioned in the company's own summary of the study).

AdWeek gives this all a positive spin by placing the headline "Digital Magazines Popular With Tablet Owners - Small study shows preference toward digital content" on the story.

Mequoda Group, of course, has an interest in all this as they are a firm that offers consulting services to publishers and, hence, would love to drum up some business assisting publishers with their digital publishing strategies.

Meanwhile, the blogger behind Dead Tree Edition asks whether the study is "A Troubling Sign for Magazines?"

Well, as we all know, any headline that ends in a question mark should be answered with "no" – but the author goes on to jump to the conclusion that the study actually shows that "the real news" is that three-forths of tablet owners do not prefer digital magazines to print. Again, the author refers to "23%" when the actual study shows 26 percent. Neither the reporter from AdWeek nor the blogger, it appears, even bothered to open up the study themselves despite it being a free download.

Publishing Executive, an industry magazine that has yet to launch its own tablet magazine (it has a replica in the Newsstand under the vendor's developer account) passed on the blog post in its e-newsletter, thus amplifying the madness.

As I mentioned in my own post a week ago, the study is terribly flawed and of no real value as it fails to break out the results in any way that would show the differences between tablets, or tablet magazines. In other words, it is simply a PR prank from a company trying to drum up business.

But the industry really could use a good, objective study on tablet magazines. The study should be able to break out results based on the brand and type of tablet owned by the reader, the type of magazine being read by the tablet owner (replica, hybrid, native), as well as the frequency (single issue buyer, subscriber). Then this can be compared to basic demographics to see if patterns involving sex, age, education or income are apparent. The reason is simply good polling practices.

But it also important to know the depth of feeling of readers towards their print and digital publications. For instance, does a reader who subscribes to a natively designed tab mag tend to prefer digital more than print? is the reader who only rarely buys a magazine (for instance, like before boarding a flight) tend to also prefer print? is the owner of a Kindle tablet more likely to say print is preferable than a reader who can access interactive magazines via an iPad?

The level of professionalism we are seeing in these superficial studies, and the truly bad reporting on them, is leading to a situation were publishers are able to read these things and use them to reinforce their own biases. We need good studies that will make publishers think and become better informed. The publishing media world, I'm afraid, is falling down on the job.

Future PLC, which is a bit schizophrenic about its own digital editions – releasing dull replica editions for tech magazines like MacLife, while launching new native tablet-only magazines – has updated the Photography Week Newsstand app.

The update is fairly minor but it does include an important addition: the adding in of more local language options.

Many publishers assume that all readers will want their library and store language to be the same as the text of the magazine. But there are readers who will pick up an English language magazine but be from another country, and have another language be their native one.

When traveling in Europe you can see this on the newsstands where in Athens, for instance, will be plenty of Greek language magazines, but also English ones. It is not only tourists who pick these up but local residents, as well.

These readers tend to be only somewhat fluent in English and can work their way around a consumer magazine lighting skimming the text but really being interested in the photography, the ads, and other graphical elements.

In an app, however, words not frequently seen in an article appear in the library and store: subscription, download, restore, etc. By compensating for this within the app the publisher will make it easier for the reader whose native language is something other than English to navigate the app itself, hopefully leading to an issue download.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Update: IBIZA STYLE relaunches its English and German language tablet editions into the Apple Newsstand

Sen. John McCain ended his questions of Apple CEO Tim Cook by asking, somewhat in jest "Why The Hell Do I Have To Keep Updating Apps On My iPhone?" Cook's response was they were working on making them better. But that was a strange answer to come from the CEO of Apple when what he should have said was "our developer partners are always trying to make them better."

It is a fact of app life that launching apps not only means negotiating the Apple App Store review team, as well as Google and Amazon, but also have to constantly fix, improve and update one's apps. Rarely does one launch a tablet magazine that is not PDF-based and manage to not have to issue an update at some point.

Earlier this month I wrote a short post on IBIZA STYLE, a lifestyle magazine for the island community located off the coast of Spain.

Three weeks later I find that the publisher, Pitiusa Media Group, has relaunched two of the three apps that initially were released – while the original apps are no longer in the App Store.

IBIZA STYLE - Your Island Lifestyle Magazine is the English, while IBIZA STYLE - Das Lifestyle Magazin aus Ibiza is, obviously, the German edition. The original Spanish version is now missing completely.

The app descriptions give no clue to the change, but my hunch is that the downloads were so minimal that pulling the app and relaunching it didn't seem like a big deal.

I likes the original app, which was a hybrid edition, calling it "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." My guess is, though is that the way the magazine was designed, with English headlines on all three language editions, but main body text in the target language, was confusing readers. But who knows as the publisher has decided to quietly do a re-do.

Marco Arment sells off 'The Magazine' to its editor; testing notion that readers really do want a minimally designed digital pub rather than one designed by professionals

It's hard to bash a winner, and there is no doubt that Marco Arment's The Magazine has been a winner, at least in comparison to many of the other new digital magazines launched into the Apple Newsstand. But I've never seen it as a model when it comes to design, and its sale only reinforces my impression that its design simply followed function - that is, keep it simple because complexity is too much work.

If your unaware of the news, here is the skinny:

The minimally designed digital magazine has been sold to its editor Glenn Fleishman, who has formed an LLC (Aperiodical LLC). The editor will maintain the same subscription-only business model – that is, the magazine will remain ad-free.

Now if you think about it, exactly how hard would it be to publish a digital magazine that does not require complex layouts, doesn't involve ad sales, and only contains five medium-length articles each issue? My guess is that for most TNM readers they could do it in their sleep, they certainly wouldn't need an editor to help them out. So did Arment need an editor, and if The Magazine is so successful why sell it off?

Because Arment is not a publisher, he's a developer who also happens to blog. So when he decided to launch The Magazine he created a simplified design that would not require a talented art director and could show off only the content. The concept struck a cord with other techies, and writers, in general. The Magazine was hailed as a new trend in publishing, and indeed other similar magazines, and other similar platforms (29th Street Publishing and TypeEngine, for instance) have followed the trend.

Arment is sure readers want these kinds of publications saying that people "want to download publications quickly and read them without cruft. Publications that started in print carry too much baggage and usually have awful apps. The Magazine was designed from the start to be streamlined, natively digital, and respectful of readers' time and attention."

Bullshit. What he is saying is that magazine publishers and their art directors don't have a clue how to design their publications. If you believe that you might as well hang 'em up.

The idea that people can't handle a scrolling text box, or are somehow repelled by animated magazine covers is absurd. My guess is that if Arment has been an art director at a print magazine he, too, would be pushing the envelope of the new digital platforms, not creating Kindle Edition-like digital magazines.

For me, The Magazine is the equivalent of Tumblr, which many in the industry fell in love with when launched. It's bare bones design was attractive to many would-be publishers who didn't have the tie to worry about layouts and interactivity.

But then along comes Snow Fall and suddenly a whole other group within the industry is proclaiming that readers want the complexity and interactivity that the NYT's web feature gave them. Actually, many were the same people who said that readers wanted less, not more.

Few art directors I know think this
is the future of magazine design
The way I see it, you can pretty much predict where people will come down on the issue of design – art directors love the native tablet platforms; many publishers want it cheap and easy and are prone to the sales pitch that the PDF is the future of magazine publishing; editors want to keep it simple; I look at all this and say "when will the ads start coming, and why are we still stuck with ugly banner ads?"

(I have never heard an art director say that the future of digital publishing is automated layouts – gee, I wonder why? Maybe they like to eat like the rest of us.)

There is room in the market for The Magazine just as there is room for complex native tablet designs. But I think it is silly to believe that the future of publication design is to go back hundreds of years. (When you look at The Magazine on an iPhone what you see is pretty much the same look and feel as what BJPhoto: iPhone edition sports, the Mag+ built mobile version of the British Journal of Photography.)

As for the success of Marco Arment's venture, that was very much personality based. Proof that it's good to have friends. There is no The Magazine without Arment, just as there is no O without Oprah. What we'll see now is whether readers really did think the editorial content of The Magazine was great stuff or not. Editorially nothing is changing, but I wouldn't be surprised to hear some readers start to complain that something isn't the same without Arment in charge – even though, in fact, nothing really changes with the sale of the title.

Morning Brief: Mag+ releases version 4.2, updates reviewer app; Dennis Publishing issues major update for its universal iOS app for 'The Week'

This morning Mag+ announced the release of version 4.2 of their digital publishing platform, and with it the release of an update for their Mag+ Reviewer app.
We are happy to announce our v4.2 update to the Mag+ system! This update focuses on flexibility as well as faster and easier production. New features include two new iOS features that will make you rethink how you design digitally, faster production speed, monetization, and one breakthrough change to Android. Here are the highlights.

Android – Scaling MIBs
Now you can create one Android MIB and it will scale to cover all devices, bigger or smaller. Templates of specific sizes of the major Android devices are still offered if you want to design for specific devices. However, you now have the option to design one 1280x800 MIB, and our app will scale it up or down, saving you time and resources.

iOS – Overlay Layer
You now have access to an additional layer that sits on top of your other layers and stays as the user swipes pages beneath it. It is a permanent overlay for the issue. Check out WeSC, a cool street fashion catalog built by our Mag+ Studios division. This app includes the overlay layer.

AdMarvel Integration
You can better monetize your app by utilizing a new feature that integrates AdMarvel and AdMob. These networks allow publishers to place dynamic advertising into issues.

Production Tool – Better multiple device handling
Several new functions are included in this release that should shave substantial time off of your issue creation.

Dennis Publishing issued a major update to the company's universal app for The Week. The update is extensive and adds some important new features:
• Larger text sizes - developed particularly for iPad Mini users who want a bigger font for enhanced readability, but available on all iPads and the iPhone.

• Ability to save and share cover images - We know readers love The Week's witty cover cartoons. On the iPad app cover selector, hold down your finger to save or share the cover image.

• Pinch-to-zoom images - Tap on an image to go full screen, and pinch to zoom in for an even closer look.

• Improved subscription reliability and log-in - We know some users have experienced problems with access to issues. This app update increases reliability and adds more detailed feedback.

•Numerous small bug fixes, including improved push messaging.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Second issues find publishers changing things up: the publisher of 'By the Bottle' goes bi-lingual by using different orientations; 'Infocus Australasia' adds features

It is a sad fact that many new digital magazine fail to make it to their second or third magazine issue. Many new titles are what some call vanity titles, like those books that make it into Amazon from authors told they should write a book. New digital publishing platforms like MagCast make it fairly easy to launch a personal magazine, but it is the efforts of new commercial publishers where the interesting things are happening.

Vimal Chatwani's new launch, By the Bottle (original TNM post here) launched in January and the new digital wine magazine (actually, it is the magazine that is digital, the wine remains the same) has released its second issue.

The second issue has a very unique feature, it is bi-lingual (English and Chinese), but it is how it accomplishes this that is unique – portrait layouts are in English, landscape in Chinese.

There are, of course, other magazines offering bi-lingual editions. Many handle the job as in print, with different languages side-by-side. Still others are offering separate language editions from within the app's library. By the Bottle appears to be the only using the orientation of the iPad as the differentiator.

It's a creative solution to the issue of how to reach a new market through a new edition without publishing completely separate apps. (Going into the Chinese App Store I see English in the app description, though I don't know if this is because I'm coming from the States, but it would be smart to change this for the Chinese market.)

By the Bottle is a fully native tablet magazine whose second issue weighs in at 385 MB because of the two orientations. It is now priced at $1.99 per issue and is worth checking out. The publisher's goal now had to be to see if the new digital magazine can reach its intended audience – both in the English speaking world, and now in the Chinese.

Infocus Australasia, from CustomMade Media Australia, has also released its second issue (see original TNM post here).

The new photography digital magazine uses the Oomph platform to build its issues, and is obviously on a more regular publication schedule as the first issue hit in April and now this second issue has appeared.

The new Newsstand magazine has a licensing agreement with Dennis Publishing to use some of their content to, as Keith Barrett, managing editor at CustomMade Media Australia told me, "allow us to cover off the basics."

The second issue, which weighs in at 276 MB, now features new original content – a cover story and a News and Events page.

The magazine remains free, being supported by advertising found inside. It's quite an app, one that obviously is able to show off the photography.

But the magazine is really about photographic equipment more than photographs from fine art photographers. So to liven things up a bit the designers have used animation to slide in headlines and text. But while this can be somewhat of a cliché, the use of animation for the navigation is a great idea. Small buttons bounce as you go from page to page making sure the reader knows there is more content to be found if one scrolls, or swipes to go to the next article. There is also plenty of hot linked captions and other interactive features to keep the reader interested (they should remember than all the DSLRs can shoot video, too).

Both By the Bottle and Infocus Australasia have made it to issue number two and found ways to improve their digital magazines. Now it is all a question of the long term viability of both titles and the persistence (or insanity) of their publishers as to how long they can keep it up.

Trinity Mirror releases a couple eye examine apps (disguised as newspaper Newsstand iPad apps)

Over three years after the release of the original iPad by Apple it is hard to believe that newspaper companies are still releasing apps as bad as those released today by Trinity Mirror. Far worse is that the newspaper executives behind these apps still don't quite have the basic language of the medium down.

Two replica edition apps were released today: Irish Mirror Newspaper for iPad and Evening Gazette (Teesside) Newspaper for iPad (Irish App Store links), though only one of the papers made it into the U.S. App Store – that made downloading a bit difficult.

One app descriptions talks about "our interactive e-edition" but there is nothing interactive here except the subscription process. Otherwise, the apps are strictly replicas of the print edition.

Newspaper replicas basically come in two flavors: one is simply a PDF of the print paper, possibly with some embedded links, maybe even some video or photo galleries; the other takes the print PDF and uses it as a navigation tool to lead readers to new layouts that work better on the iPad.

Examples of the latter would be the apps from NewspaperDirect and the new Washington Post app. Both work well because they have the look and feel of the newspaper format, but the easy readability of native tablet solutions.

Then there are the pure replicas like these. Reading them will give you a headache (and must certainly been promoted by newspaper executives intent on proving that the tablet platform is a fad).

Building a good newspaper tablet edition is not easy, let's be honest. To go totally native one would need to replicate The Daily, which means a dedicated production team. But The Daily looked more like a native tablet magazine more than a newspaper, and it suffered the fate of being too early, with a limited audience of Fox News aficionados, and with an overhead that would make any self-publisher blush. So much money was behind The Daily that it could never have succeeded simply because making back its investment was a non-starter.

The other solution is to follow the NYT's example of making your tablet edition into a reformatted version of the paper's website. I find this unsatisfactory, as well. After all, if your website doesn't work on the iPad your job is not to create something new but to fix your website, right?

That's why I continue to believe that newspapers need to think out of the box when creating their tablet editions - don't replicate print, don't replicate the web, do something new. Unfortunately, "doing something new" and "newspaper" is a bad combination.

So we get these monstrosities, newspaper apps that are better at testing the vision of the iPad owners than actually providing readable newspaper content.

Morning Brief: Twitter issues ninth update to Vine app released 5+ months ago; political TV favorite bows out

Twitter today updated its Vine app, the ninth update to be issued for the video sharing app since its introduction in mid-January of this year. The update is basically a big fix update, including fixing a bug introduced with the last update.

The app has been getting good reviews, and user videos are becoming more and more visible – the short six second are quickly becoming a staple of CNN programming, leading to a bit of user nausea as the videos recycle again and again.

I'm surprised, though, that users are not complaining about the frequency of updates – just when will Twitter think they've gotten the app right? Recently Senator John McCain asked Apple CEO "Why the hell do I have to keep updating my apps on my iPhone all the time and why you don't fix that?" It was a question asked after his time was up and was partly said in jest.

For me, the question I would have is how does Twitter get its updates and apps through Apple's review team so quickly when other developers are left to wait for their new apps to appear? The tales of woe I hear from media app developers on an ongoing basis lead me to believe the gap is service between the companies Apple cares about and all the others is growing each day.

So Michele Bachmann won't be running for a fifth term, I find that kind of sad, like the cancelation of one's favorite situation comedy.

The question on often asks when discussing Bachmann is how the hell does she continue to get reelected? As someone lives in a district sort of like Bachmann's – a red district in a sea of blue voters – the answer seems obvious: the system is designed that way.

Here in Illinois, the districts are so gerrymandered that one has no feeling for the district at all. The state legislature constantly changes the design of the district to maximize results, loading up one district with the voters on one party so that other districts become competitive.

For a couple years our district here was represented by a Tea Party favorite that appeared regularly on television, a favorite of liberal television shows because he would inevitably say something stupid while on air. But a changing of the district lines threw him into another district where he had to go up against a well-funded, well-known opponent and suddenly he didn't stand a chance.

But the district remains heavily red in order to make other districts more blue.

Minnesota is no different in this regards and redistricting and Bachmann exhaustion no doubt is leading to tougher reelection races (Bachmann barely won last year and was likely to face the same opponent again in 2014).

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

UK B2B publisher Aspermont Media releases its first Newsstand app for its title 'Mining Magazine'

Keeping to a bit of a B2B theme today (see Morning Brief) here is a brief look at a new tablet edition from the UK publisher Aspermont Media. The new app is called Mining Magazine 2013 which may, of course, cause them problems once the year is over, right?

The new Newsstand app is the first from the publisher, and the good news is that it is an attempt at a native tablet edition.

I would be curious as to what the platform is that is being used here – obviously it's not a PDF-based system, but it doesn't look like the Adobe DPS, either (maybe a TNM reader can figure this out).

The app itself has some issues, mainly linking to dead web pages. At first I chalked this up to the app appearing in the Apple Newsstand right after the Memorial Day holiday – but now it's late afternoon and the links are still dead.

Readers can subscribe to Mining Magazine for free as the publisher has chosen to go the free route with their tablet edition since no good qualification mechanism currently is standard with Apple's developer guidelines. (I really wish the trade associations would get off their rear ends and work on this.)

Aspermont Media also publishes other B2B titles such as Trenchless World, GeoDrilling, World Tunnelling and others so if they get any positive feedback at all we probably will start to see more Newsstand apps released in the near future.

Open Agenda Publishing launches a Newsstand app for its weekly multimedia magazine, Ideas Roadshow

Open Agenda Publishing has launched an iPad edition of its multimedia magazine into the Apple Newsstand, Ideas Roadshow. The digital magazine is, in essence, an hour long video in an app container, with introduction and transcription of the video interview.

The first issue inside the Newsstand app is an interview with David Bellos, Director, Program in Translation and Intercultural Communication at Princeton University. The interview is conducted by Howard Burton, who is the CEO at the Canada-based Open Agenda Publishing, and the host of the Ideas Roadshow video programs.

The digital magazine can really only be called a magazine due to its Newsstand presence, and the fact that the term magazine has seriously evolved over the years, as witnessed by its frequent use to describe news programming on television.

The app opens to the store where monthly and annual subscriptions are available. Inside the library is the first digital issue, available free until June 7.

The first issue weighs in at 424 MB, but that is due only to the hour long video. The layouts, that work in both orientations, are very simple, and broken out into chapters as one would an eBook. In fact, except for the video, one could see the this as a Kindle Single.

Ideas Roadshow are offering the issues for sale on their website in two forms: a video edition and an eBook edition, both priced at $2.99. The eBook is a PDF download, though the website states that they will soon be available inside the Apple iBookstore, Google Play "etc.".

As for the iPad app, the pricing here is very high: $9.99 for a monthly subscription, and $99.99 for an annual subscription. Regular users of the App Store will probably find these prices too high, but I'm sure the team at Ideas Roadshow believe they are fair. If they can find an audience at this level of pricing it would be a good sign that the digital newsstands can drive pricing set at fair and profitable levels.

Morning Brief: B2B publishers update their tablet edition apps; RR Donnelley signs deal with Williams-Sonoma to renew and expand catalog printing agreement

Several B2B publishers issued updates to their tablet edition apps this morning. Among them, GIE Media issued updates to Lawn & Landscape, PCT - Pest Control Technology and GCI - Golf Course Industry.

The UK trade pub InPublishing, which covers the newspaper and magazine business, issued an update to change out its branding. As is typical of almost all the trade magazines that cover the publishing business. InPublishing Magazine is a replica edition (and not even one inside the Newsstand), in this case produced by YUDU.

It remains a sad fact that the B2B magazines covering our industry are not providing much leadership when it comes to mobile or tablet publishing platforms.

Another UK publisher, Haymarket Business Media, has updated its advertising trade magazine app. Haymarket's app for Campaign Magazine, uses the Pugpig platform to create a native app, but one that is more like a mobile news app rather than a true tablet edition (see original post on the app here) – a somewhat logical solution for a weekly publication that feels it would be better off building a tablet edition off their website content rather than their print edition due to production limitations.

Finally, 30Dc updated its universal app for Digital Publisher, a magazine published at this point mainly to promote its MagCast platform. Like all MagCast apps, the magazine is fairly plain jane, though at least the pages are designed to iPad specs, insuring readable fonts.

In January 30DC bought out the business assets of Netbloo Media, acquiring 100 percent control of of MagCast, along with its digital magazine, which still appears under the Netbloo Media developer account name.

R. R. Donnelley & Sons nnounced that it has been awarded a multi-year agreement by the retailer Williams-Sonoma that
renews and significantly expands the companies' printing relationship. Williams-Sonoma's catalog titles include its namesake, Williams-Sonoma Home, Pottery Barn, Pottery Barn Kids, PBteen, PBdorm, Pottery Barn Bed & Bath, Pottery Barn Outdoor, West Elm, Rejuvenation as well as its recently launched Mark and Graham, Agrarian and West Elm Market.

Pottery Barn was among the first to produce a digital version of its catalog for the Apple App Store, a buggy replica built by PixelMags. That horrible app appears to have been wisely pulled from the App Store, but the retailer has not moved develop a more progressive digital publishing strategy since that first effort, relying on third party catalog aggregators instead. Donnelley has its own digital publishing solutions, though those, too, are all about producing replica editions of print products.