Saturday, May 29, 2010

Week in Review

Short reads on a Saturday morning:

Last week was dominated by news from Google's I/O conference; this week was dominated by all things iPad as Apple introduced the tablet to the rest of the world, and developers and publishers rolled out their tablet offerings.

Next week, while shortened because of the Memorial Day holiday, will probably be more of a mixed bag. But Apple's own developer conference will occur the following week so once again may dominate the news.

• Yesterday Apple launched the iPad internationally, and with it came a stream of new news apps -- some written specifically for the tablet, others simply ported over. U.K. readers now have access to The Times as well as the Financial Times (both were released in the U.S. early), The Australian appeared yesterday for the first time, as did a series of apps for Polish newspapers and for Italian newspapers.
One of the stranger launches was for the Globe and Mail, one of Canada's better newspapers. For reasons I can't quite understand, a branded app called Globe2Go was launched on the day the iPad was launched in Canada. It is strange because the app did not come from the paper itself but from NewspaperDirect Inc., the company behind the PressReader app.

The PressReader app is a nice app, in its own way. That is, it gives iPad owners access to hundreds of newspapers across the world, but the app itself is a simple flipbook-type reader that adds very little interactivity or added content. Did NewspaperDirect bail out the Globe and Mail by providing a branded app at launch?

In the end, the pickings were slim as newspaper and magazine companies probably did not have enough time between the initial iPad launch on April 3 and the international launch yesterday to develop their own apps. The commercial developers I have talked to tell me the reasonable time between start and finish is at least six weeks -- right where we are at now. Therefore, I would expect the new apps to start trickling into iTunes now and through the summer.
• Barnes & Noble, which recently updated its NOOK software, launched an iPad app this week as it got onto equal footing with Amazon's Kindle.

As I wrote on Thursday, like the Kindle app from Amazon, the app is simply a way to organize and read your online purchases with the iPad. Once you have downloaded the free app you are requested to either sign-in to your existing account or else create a new account. The process is easy and does not require a credit card immediately. Buying a book then becomes an online experience rather than an in-app experience.

All-in-all, a very good e-reader. Now the issue becomes book prices and my own short amount of research shows that in this area Amazon is still the clear leader.

• More book publishing developments: Apple has opened its iBookstore to self-publishers. The Apple Connect program now includes books, as well as music. Authors need a ISBN number and would have to be in ePub format. Those a little concerned about doing this themselves can have an aggregator such as LibreDigital do the work.

Amazon has allowed self-publishers to submit books for Kindle, so Apple's move is hardly revolutionary. But book publishers have to be confused and concerned about the future of their industry, even while they may be excited about the growth of digital distribution. They should talk to the music labels to see if they can get advice.
• Lastly, as far as the iPad is concerned: the long-anticipated Wired magazine app appeared in iTunes on Wednesday representing the June issue. Initial reviews have been mixed, but my own views are that it is a winner.

Some may have been disappointed that the app can't walk on water (or sell two-page spreads by itself). Whatever. If Mr. Magazine is correct, digital can't save the magazine anyway so I guess creating an iPad app was a giant waste of time.

On the other hand, those thousands of new tablet owners appear to want to read publications on their devices. According to Wired, the publisher was able to sell 24,000 apps its first day. And as of Friday, the Wired app was the number paid news app in iTunes. I bet those advertisers that bought premium ads (containing interactive content in the iPad edition) were a happy bunch.

• The Bay Citizen, the non-profit news site and organization created with the financial support of F. Warren Hellman, the former head of the Investment Banking Division at Lehman Brothers, launched this week. The site describes itself as a non-profit, nonpartisan news organization, and hopes to survive off of large foundation gifts, memberships, sponsorships/underwriting and syndication.

Jonathan Weber is serving as editor-in-chief. Weber was co-founder and editor of The Industry Standard, at one time in its short life the magazine with the most ad pages in America.

• The New York Times own Bay Area blog may be the first casualty, if you will, of the Times new relationship with The Bay Citizen. Writers Felicity Barringer and Ryan and Mac wrote a farewell post yesterday -- San Francisco, the Rorschach Test -- and announced that the new entity would take over the content. The lead bloggers for the Bay Area blog have been Michelle Quinn and Katharine Mieszkowski -- Mieszkowski is now a senior writer for The Bay Citizen.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Photoblogging Friday - 21

It's Friday, and that means another edition of Photoblogging Friday, and frankly I'm worn out downloading and reviewing publication apps. So I'll let TNM's resident photography contributor, Dean Brierly, handle this weeks PbF. Dean points to these three photographs of recent demonstrations held around the world this week:

The spirit of protest is alive and well over the world, as these photos attest.

Seoul, Korea: Police wrestle with protesters attempting to burn the North Korean flag during a protest rally.
[photo: Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images]

Dublin, Ireland: Protesters express their dissatisfaction with government cutbacks in a more peaceful, yet still resolute manner.
[photo: Julien Behal/PA]

Bangkok, Thailand: That’s not a policeman holding the automatic rifle. It’s one of the participants in a staged protest against the country’s recent military clampdown.
[photo: Dita Alangkara/AP]

You can read more stories and interviews with photographers at Dean Brierly's website, Photographers Speak.

Thread 3: Last look at International Launch Day

A live blog of new media apps and events surrounding today's international launch of Apple's iPad:

It is almost impossible to get a feeling for the reaction to news apps from buyers of the iPad overseas by looking inside the U.S. version of iTunes. For instance, on Monday of this week, The Times of London app was introduced into the U.S. iTunes store. Selling for $16.99 for four weeks worth of access, the app still has no reviews.
Today, however, the same app has appeared in the U.K. app store. The app, named simply The Times, costs £9.99 for the same four weeks of access. But in the U.K. store, the Times app has several more screenshots, and already has 45 ratings -- predominately positive. Some early reviews from this morning were completely negative because apparently the newspaper was making the content available yet. A little while later the reviews became more positive.

Trolling around the app store this morning also reveals some interesting insights from new iPad owners who are downloading their first apps. For instance, one reviewer of the Wired app from the U.K. comments that he/she much prefers the iPad version because it is the U.S. version of the magazine versus the U.K. version -- which he/she calls "outdated".

Another observation: paid apps are more highly rated than free apps. This may seem counterintuitive, but makes sense when you realize that you can only rate an app if you have downloaded it. Because of this, a free app can be downloaded and installed, then rated as a one-star app -- even if the owner really is up to some mischief. A paid app, of course, implies a bit of commitment to really owning the app.

Stephen Page, chief executive of book publisher Faber and Faber, has penned a column as part of the Guardian's iPad launch coverage.
The iPad's arrival is unlikely in itself to create a revolution in ebook sales but, like Amazon's Kindle electronic reader before, it will accelerate the reading universe that's coming. That's great news for readers. It should also be good news for writers, as these are genuinely new ways for their work to be discovered, paid for and read. But what about publishers?
He answers his own question here.

The Australian's iPad coverage includes a story about their photographer, Alan Pryke, getting pushed about by security personnel. The video though seems to show that it is the photographer that is being a bit out-of-line, but I suppose this is all a matter of interpretation.

Le Monde also has extensive iPad launch coverage today. One of its stories concerns Apple's Steve Jobs and his stated goal to keep porn off the iPad. It's a bit of an old story by now, but current for the French since the device became available for purchase today.

The story recounts both sides of the issue, but misses one point: Apple seems more interested in keeping the app store clean than it is good. That is, Apple continues to let developers spam the store with worthless apps while at the same time declining apps from legitimate publishers who happen to show more flesh than Apple approves of. Apple is coming off as not only puritanical but hypocritical, as well. (I've already proposed that Apple adopt a channel manager approach where they employ channel managers who have industry -- in this case, media -- experience. I've also volunteered for the job. No word yet on my start date.)

Le Monde's main story about the device mentions that the devices success is caused not just based on the device's merits but by the shocking lack of competition.

Thread 2: International launch of the iPad

A live blog of new media apps and events surrounding today's international launch of Apple's iPad:

Paperlit, a start-up company that has been releasing iPhone apps for Italian newspapers since late last year, has just released its first app for the iPad.
The free news app, for the newspaper EPolis Milano, is a simple flipbook type app with no interactivity. It looks at first glance that the app was a simply optimization of the iPhone app. One additional navigation feature, not seen in the screenshots below is a row of page thumbnails can be pulled up along the bottom of the screen to assist moving from one area of the newspaper to another.

Paperlit is certainly an interesting company. Formed last year by Gionata Mettifogo and Mario Mariani, the company states they are a Menlo Park based company with operations in Cagliari, Italy. All the company's clients, though, are Italian (as you'd expect, I suppose). The company received start-up money from The Net Value, Annapurna Ventures and Zermike Meta Group. Mariani is listed as being the head of biz dev, but he is also the CEO of Tiscali Italia, a telecommunications company also headquartered in Cagliari.

Left: First screen where user picks edition to read; 
Middle: The front page once you have selected the edition; 
Right: an article, in this case, a story on the oil spill in the Gulf.

Paperlit has been developing news apps for the EPolis group from the beginning, so I would expect to see more iPad apps for EPolis newspapers appearing over the next few weeks.

“iPad is for us the best way editorial groups can express their full potential. Contents here become pure emotion involving readers in a brand new way”, said Gionata Mettifogo, founder of Paperlit in a recent release.

Despite this enthusiasm for the tablet format, the app for EPolis Milano is really a flipbook and not a good idea of where the medium is going. Nonetheless, the newspaper from Italy can proudly claim that their product was available on Day One of the iPad's launch.

How is your French? In the first thread I posted a video of an Apple Store opening this morning in Australia. Here is a better video from the Apple Store in Paris, complete with interviews.

In non-iPad related news . . .

Today is the international debut of tablet publishing: a live blog of iPad news, new app launches, and more

A live blog of new media apps and events surrounding today's international launch of Apple's iPad:

The Guardian this morning reports on the launch of the iPad in Britain, reporting that Stephen Fry, the actor/comedian, who seems to be at every Apple launch, was on hand in London, as well.

Photograph: John Stillwell/AP;
courtesy of the

"Just think of it as like if Lady Gaga were releasing a new album in a record store in New York and the frenzy there'd be – it's a cultural event rather than a technical one because the nature of the iPad is cultural rather than technological," Fry is quoted by the Guardian.

International media apps have been filtering their way into the iTunes store over the past few days. Just like their U.S. counterparts, publishers overseas are using different models -- from totally free, to free app/paid subscription, etc.

One of the more outlandish models being employed is coming from eGazety for a string of individual newspaper apps.
Apps for Dziennik Gazeta Prawna, Parkiet, and Rzeczpospolita, all Polish newspapers, will set you back anywhere from $24.99 to $34.99 for a year's worth of access.

eGazety had previously this month released a free iPad and iPhone app, eGaxety Reader, which provides access to "300 eNewspapers".

Did you read the Mediabistro interview with Samir Husni, the man who promotes himself as Mr. Magazine?

Here is the money quote which concerns digital:
I bought an iPad. I am forcing myself to love it. I mean, heck, I figured I spent $700, I better love this thing. I mean I didn't really enjoy the magazine experience on it, like some people who were like -- because, you know, if you are not interested in the subject matter, no matter how many bells and whistles you are going to add, it's not going to convince you to buy it on the iPad instead of print. People who think the salvation of our magazine industry is going to be on an iPad or in digital delivery, they need to think twice.
What can I say? In a battle for the future I'll gladly line-up in the corner of digital.

Here is a new YouTube video from Australia: the Apple Store in Bondi Junction, an eastern suburb of Sydney, opens for business this morning at 8:00 AM local time. A long line of prospective iPad buyers march in to pick up their devices. Warning: turn down the volume.

more to come

Morning Brief: iPad hits Japan; Real Simple, Newsweek apps coming; Daily Mail still leading UK news site

The iPad hit Japan last night and the New York Times was there to report what it describes as the "shock" of yet another major electronic gadget hit that is coming from America instead of Japan.

“Apple never fails to wow me, time after time,” said Sayuri Aruga, 38, who sings in a progressive rock band in Tokyo. Ms. Aruga, who said she owns multiple iPods, an iPhone, and a MacBook Air, flew to San Francisco in April just to get her hands on the Wi-Fi model of the iPad, but now wants a 3G model, she said. She arrived at the store at 4 a.m., four hours before the store opened. “I’m going to do everything on it — read, write music,” she said. “The possibilities are endless.”
The Times reports that Japanese publisher Shufunotomo, the publisher of women's titles, will bring about 50 magazine and book titles to the iPad, while Yahoo Japan plans to offer free 100 comics for the iPad.

With Apple launching the iPad internationally today, you'd think the prospects for Apple's tablet was all rosy. But the New York Post reports that several major media companies -- and they name Time Warner and NBC Universal specifically -- have told Apple they won't reformat their video libraries to accommodate the iPad because Flash still dominates the web.

That all this with a grain of salt, however, because I have detected more than a bit of cynicism coming from the Murdoch owned publications of late.

Look for more iPad apps from Time Inc., but still using the same model of selling the apps at cover prices -- something that has actually made most iPad users extremely angry (don't these folk listen to their customers?).
Next up is Real Simple, selling for $4.99, the same price as Time magazine. That should prove popular (snark). It should be noted that as of today, less than 6 percent of iTunes reviewers consider the Time app a five-star app; while 74 percent consider it worthless. (I know these numbers are a bit bogus -- but at some point they need to step back and try a different approach, if only to test the possibilities.)

In news that won't get many excited, Newsweek is said to be launching their iPad app next week. Will anyone (other than TNM) notice its launch?

The Guardian seemed to take great pleasure in reporting that the Mail Online, the website for the Daily Mail was the U.K.'s most visited newspaper site with slightly over 40 million monthly browsers, according to the Audit Bureau of Circulations. The Guardian's own site ranked second.

So why would this delight the Guardian? Well, I think they love reporting the fact that Rupert Murdoch's News International had withdrawn its websites from the ABC's audit last month as he takes his sites behind a paywall.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

E-media company FierceMarkets launches a series of mobile apps: a ton of B2B content for multiple industries

The trade press is largely missing from the growing mobile media market. But FierceMarkets, a B2B e-media company that specializes in e-newsletters, websites, webinars, and live events, has broken from the pack and launched a new mobile app that serves several of its market segments.
The app was developed and launched by Handmark, Inc. and is free-of charge for downloaders. Separate apps are available for Windows Mobile, Blackberry, Android and iPhone. (The iPhone version can be found in the iTunes app store.)

Since the app offers FierceMarkets content from the telecommunications, life sciences, healthcare, IT, and finance industries, there is a lot of content to be found -- enough, in fact, that it would not have been out-of-line to have charged a small price for the app.
Right now there is one ad spot taken up by an ad for the paid app from Zagat, I assume this is coming from the developer, Handmark, since they are the developer of that app, as well. As a paid app, this ad spot might have to be eliminated, but as a free app there is no reason for readers to complain.

I assume we will eventually see more apps from B2B titles, especially trade magazines. The single-sponsor model works especially well in mobile app launches. Another option is allowing the developers with ad networks to offer the space. The readership of B2B titles is generally a very attractive audience, it's too bad B2B publishers like to keep that a secret.

The Bay Citizen launches non-profit news organization and website for community journalism for the Bay Area

As a former Bay Area resident and newspaper manager, I probably should say a word about the launch of The Bay Citizen, the non-profit news site created with the assistance of a $5 million investment by F. Warren Hellman, the former head of the Investment Banking Division at Lehman Brothers. The local news site launched yesterday (see screenshot) with a series of investigative articles.
Photobucket, describes itself as a non-profit, nonpartisan news organization. →

Since TNM is all about moving media towards a profitable future, a site dedicated to the idea of non-profit journalism is definitely a bit out of bounds. (I suppose there are two schools of thought: great journalism will save media, and great media will save journalism. While I respect those who want to pursue a non-profit path, I think I'll leave discussions of the merit of that path to its proponents.)

Jonathan Weber is serving as editor-in-chief. Weber was co-founder and editor of The Industry Standard. When I mention the Standard to acquaintances I am always amazed that almost all had never heard of the magazine. I would say "The Industry Standard, you know, the Internet magazine, the magazine that for a while was the largest magazine in America?" All I get is a shrug. For a short time it was my favorite magazine (other than Roads & Bridges, my book). Then the dot com boom busted and the magazine started running chicken recipes. That's what I would call really losing one's way.

In an interview for the blog of the National Association of Black Journalists, Weber states that the new venture has a business plan that call for "four revenue streams: large foundation gifts, memberships, sponsorships/underwriting and syndication." One of those syndications, most likely, will be the previously announced deal with the New York Times where The Bay Citizen will produce a two-page Bay Area report for the Times print edition delivered in the San Francisco zone.

While I don't think much about the business model (other than getting good seed money), I do love the editorial model: lots of partnerships, community input for all corners, and a strong, seasoned staff. Because of that seed money, the operation should be able to survive while it gets its fund-raising machine in gear. Lisa Frazier, formerly a partner at McKinsey & Company will serve as President & CEO.

As a website, the design seems really minimal -- surprisingly so considering that I think the site, one that Weber has been involved with, is very attractive. It's early, of course, so many there will be some redesigns coming -- though my experience with web launches are that they often never look as good as on that first day when you make sure everything is just right.

Barnes & Noble debuts iPad app; Borders reports 15.4% decline in revenue, Kobo e-reader set for June launch

Critics of the iPad have pointed to the fact that Apple's iBookstore has not turned every iPad users into a book loving intellectual, pointing to somewhat disappointing sales within the iBookstore. This is probably true, not everyone is buying their iPads in order to read Kierkegaard (gee, why not?).
But if Danish philosophers are your thing, there is good news this morning as you now have a new source for your books. Barnes & Noble, who recently updated their own e-reader, the NOOK, has launched their own iPad app.

Like the Kindle app from Amazon, the app is simply a way to organize and read your online purchases with the iPad. Once you have downloaded the free app you are requested to either sign-in to your existing account or else create a new account. The process is easy and does not require a credit card immediately. Buying a book then becomes an online experience rather than an in-app experience.

Although one downloader complained about a lack of display controls in the app they must have been an Amazon employee because the controls are there. While the B&N app doesn't have a screen brightness slider the way the Kindle app does, it actually has far more controls (just kidding). B&N uses Themes, as well as font style and size controls, so there are more than enough controls inside this app, in my opinion (especially for a first version).

With at least three good apps now available for the iPad, book lovers will be comparison shopping. The book I'm reading now, The Publisher: Henry Luce and His American Century, is currently $26.00 for the eBook edition online at Barnes & Noble.  Buying it for the Kindle, or for reading on the iPad with the Kindle app, will cost you $19.25.  Buying the book through Apple's iBookstore is impossible, of course, because Random House, which owns the Knopf line has not signed up with Apple.

Left: Sign-in page greets app users; Middle: buyers must purchase online through the Safari browser, not with-in the app itself; Right: a look at the Themes that help control the look and feel of the reading experience.

So, what's going on with Borders, right?

This morning Borders Group reported that revenue had declined 15.4 percent for the quarter which ended May 1. Worse, despite cost cutting, the company reported a $64.1 million loss -- better than a year ago, however. In the last year the company has closed 214 bookstores -- no doubt contributing to the revenue decline. But in an era of cheap books, Borders (and B&N) are expensive options.

On June 17 Borders will be introducing their own e-reader, the Kobo. More than one reporter has said that the device will be competing with the Kindle, NOOK and iPad, but I fail to see how an e-ink reader will be competing with Apple's device -- they are totally different devices, surely everyone gets that by now.

The Kobo is a joint venture between Indigo Books & Music and Borders Group and will be priced at $149.99.

Point Reyes Light sold to local owners; readers unhappy with former owner, former owner not happy with readers

I forgot to include this story in the Morning Brief (and Morning Brief failed to make it into the e-newsletter this morning -- sorry about that).

The San Francisco Chronicle has the amazing story this morning of Robert Plotkin, the former Monterey County prosecutor, and his sale of the Point Reyes Light to a group of local owners and investors.

It's the tale of an outsider who had big dreams for his small town paper acquisition, which was bought for about $500,000, according to the Chronicle story. In the end, Plotkin sold the paper at a loss.

But the fun part of the story is the egos involved, as well as the complete lack of a connection between owner and readers. According to the Chronicle, Plotkin stated that we would become "the Che Guevara of literary revolutionary journalism." I'm sure that was well received by the readers and local residents.

When it turned out that local residents were less interested in Plotkins ambitions, and more interested in their local newspaper's coverage of local news, locals began a campaign to "Take Back the Light", while a competing publisher saw an opportunity and launched a new paper for the area.

Plotkin may be leaving the newspaper business, but it is clear he knows where to place the blame for the disaster:

"Sadly, West Marin did not want editorial excellence. They did not want to see behind the curtain," Plotkin is quoted as saying. "They wanted a newspaper that would record their births, celebrate their accomplishments and habitually congratulate them on living here. But most of all, the neo-romantics of West Marin took themselves too seriously."

Peter Fimrite wrote the excellent story for the Chronicle -- definitely worth reading the complete story. The small details and especially the quotes are worth the effort. My only complaint would be his use of the term "Pulitzer Prize winning paper", but then again journalists are worse than movie stars when it comes to awards and recognition.

Morning Brief: The Australian iPad ready; Ronaldo gets 'Photoshopped'; Wired already the #1 paid news app

As expected, the international news apps are starting to appear. This morning The Australian iPad app appeared in iTunes.
The app sells for $3.99 -- meaning that the team is shooting for a bit of a revenue bump to cover the development costs rather than a steady stream of new subscribers. This is a method more common to the iPhone and Android markets.

Only one review in iTunes, as you'd expect at this early hour. But the review is spot-on: "To The Australian iPad app team: congratz on the launch...My suggestion: plz describe more about the app and its features."

This was from a couple of days ago but thought it funny, nonetheless.

Last week I looked at Vanity Fair's new iPad app -- a very nice step forward for the Condé Nast unit. But it didn't take long for that app -- or more specifically -- that issue to generate controversy.
The New York Post reported that one of the two soccer players featured on the cover was not happy.

"The world's highest-paid soccer star, Cristiano Ronaldo, is fuming that VFput him on the cover in tight underpants with rival player Didier Drogba," says Page Six.

"Ronaldo is freaking out," the source said. "He says he wants to sue Vanity Fair for using his image to promote the issue everywhere."

It seems that Ronaldo, probably the world's most famous player, who will be playing for his home country Portugal at the World Cup in June, didn't like the fact that he was Photoshopped into the cover shot. (Yes, that washboard chest is his own.) Who would have thought that a soccer player might have higher journalistic standards that Condé Nast? (Or was it that it didn't like to share the cover? You decide.)

Yesterday I took a first look at the Wired iPad app -- you can read the long report here. This morning the app is sitting on the top spot in iTunes -- the number one paid news app.

Yesterday I read this post on Gizmodo, and frankly it pissed me off. I understand that people are generally more cynical than they used to be. But this column just makes me want to write off Gizmodo completely. If you want to engage in some masochistic pleasure I suppose you should read it in full. But to me this just nonsense, stating that the author is still waiting for a great magazine app. Yeah, right, and I'm still waiting for a week to go by where Gizmodo doesn't make a fool of itself.

Apple has quietly redesigned its app store slightly. When searching for an app by category a couple of new sections appear: In the Spotlight and What's Hot. This is the same formula they have used for the front page of the store, but now brought to the categories.

I don't think it makes finding an app simpler, and with thousands of app in the store I don't know how it could be accomplished, but the redesign does give Apple more space to promote its favored clients. The app store, and the whole app operations team needs better brand managers -- people who really represent the clients and users to Apple.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Exact Editions Ltd. brings Publishers Weekly and other clients to the iPhone and iPad with universal apps

The recently sold magazine Publishers Weekly had its new iPad app debut inside iTunes on Tuesday and, unfortunately, my travels did not allow me to download it to take a look.

Publishers Weekly, if you recall, was one of the magazines sold by Reed Business Information as part of their recently completed major divestiture (or beating it out of town). A new company led by George Slowik Jr. has taken over the book, and now the mobile media offerings.
The app was developed by Exact Editions Ltd., a London-based company that creates the now traditional flipbooks, built from the PDFs provided by their publisher clients. Recently, though, they have been launching mobile apps for some of their clients. As of today they have a little over a dozen universal apps in the iTunes app store, and are rightly proud that they were able to have a number of apps available for download on April 3, the first day of iPad sales.

Back to Publishers Weekly: It is pretty ironic that the cover of the first tablet edition of Publishers Weekly would feature Random House's Chairman Markus Dohle. It was Dohle that announced in late March that Random House would not be in Apple's new iBookstore. Yet here he is, smiling out from the cover of a magazine being read on the iPad.

The app itself, being based on the PDFs, is pretty minimal. No additional content, other than embedded links, are in the first edition. The problem with links, of course, is that they take you out of the app and opens the Safari browser. Closing the browser only takes you home, forcing you to reopen the publication app again. This isn't the fault of the developer, of course, as neither the iPhone nor iPad allow multi-tasking -- well, not yet, anyway. This should be solved by the new iPhone OS to be introduced for the iPhone next month, and for the iPad in the Fall. We'll see.

Two examples of pages in the new iPad edition of Publishers Weekly.

Exact Editions launched their first iPhone app back in January. The app gives users access to a large selection of magazines for reading on their smartphones. Within a few months, though, they began launching individual apps. I think this is a trend you will see continue. In conversations with several developers you sense some frustration with publishers who are requesting their own branded apps. But frankly who can blame the publishers for demanding this?

It is clear that the company knows that it is going to have to move towards iPad development, and to their credit, they appear to be enthusiastic about tablets. This should mean being able to offer more features and capabilities to their publishing clients.

Le Figaro offers up a pared back news app in preparation for the iPad's launch in France

Last week was Google Week, as the search giant held its annual developer conference, rolling out a series of announcements (Google TV and the Chrome Web Store, for instance). The news will be shifting back to Apple the last half of this week as we begin to see a number of interesting iPad apps launched as Apple prepares to ship their tablet to Europe, Canada and Australia. (Today, Wired released their long-anticipated tablet app. A full report can be found here.)

The new tablet edition of Le Figaro
only can be read in landscape mode.

Le Figaro, the oldest daily newspaper in France, first published in 1826, had its iPad app debut inside the iTunes app store today. Compared to the generally nice app from the financial daily Les Echos, the app from Le Figaro seems like a rushed attempt. For one thing, the 'paper' can only be read in landscape mode. For another, the layouts, as seen in the intro pages, are rather unimaginative.

Nonetheless, once you have paid for your subscription -- the app itself is free, but you must pay a very modest price for a month's worth of issues -- the look and feel improve.

Video can be viewed without leaving the page -- click to enlarge.

The app also uses window-within-window to show video. I prefer this approach so long as an option exists to go to fullscreen.

We'll be seeing apps from different countries quite soon. You can call me naive or silly or whatever, but I find it exciting to be watching this development of a whole new medium and to see the different approaches being used by newspapers and magazines.

Wired makes its iPad app debut today

Weighing in at 576 megs, the long-anticipated Wired magazine app has made its debut in iTunes this morning. The app (iTunes link) for the June issue of the magazine features Toy Story on its cover and contains a long feature on Pixar -- the animation studio formerly owned by Apple's Steve Jobs, and now owned by Walt Disney Company (whose largest individual share holder is Steve Jobs -- it's OK to roll your eyes).
Wired was one of the magazines that, like Sports Illustrated, produced a demonstration video that showed its early vision of tablet publishing. Unfortunately for both magazines, the demonstrations relied heavily on Flash, something that would not be allowed on the actual iPads Apple produced.

Wired also said they would be working closely with Adobe on developing their iPad app. Adobe promised cross-platform publishing, making it easier for publishers to port their print products over to the iPhone OS-based iPad, as well as future Android-based tablets. But that's where Apple supposedly stepped in to put a put a crimp in Wired's plans. Apple changed their developer agreement rules in such a way that it appeared that Wired would not be able to continue working with Adobe.

Feature stories can be read in portrait or landscape mode, with the layouts changing to accomodate to reader.

But, surprise, surprise, that doesn't appear to be the case. According to a post by editor Chris Anderson, Wired was able to get their app created and approved by Apple and still work with Adobe -- a move that forced Adobe to write the app using Objective-C, according to the Wall Street Journal.

"Wired, which has been working on an e-reader edition since last summer, has pursued a different path than its Conde Nast brethren by partnering with Adobe Systems. That decision later landed Wired on the wrong side of Apple, which has banned Adobe’s Flash technology from its devices. Wired and Adobe had to rebuild the magazine’s app in Apple-approved code," Russell Adams wrote today.

Feature article in portrait mode 

"To deliver this rich reading environment, we’re using new digital publishing technology developed by Adobe," Anderson wrote this morning on the Wired site. "The yearlong effort, spearheaded by Wired creative director Scott Dadich, will allow us to simultaneously create both the print magazine and the enhanced digital version with the same set of authoring and design tools."

First off, let's declare this right now: this is the best magazine app so far for the iPad. Vanity Fair's app was nice, and the Financial Times app is the best newspaper experience right now, as well. But Wired takes things one small step further, as you will see.

But flipping through the many pages of this June issue, one also gets the sense that there are elements missing. Anderson hints at this in his editor's note stating: "Over the next few months, we’ll integrate social media and offer a variety of versions and ways to subscribe in digital form. We’ll learn through experimentation, and we will watch closely as our readers teach us how they want to use tablets."

Wired obviously worked with their advertisers as many ads feature both landscape and portrait versions, as well as embedded links and video. 

So, what is missing? Probably more animation -- animation that just happens when the reader opens the page. This was the "wow" factor in the first Sports Illustrated video -- it was all eye candy to be sure, but one senses that Wired might have wanted a little of that for themselves, too. But, of course, using Flash for that type of work would have made the job easier (not because it can't be done outside of Flash, but because of the fact that so many publishing animators are so familiar with Flash).

It's possible, though that the editors decided to tone down the eye candy and work on the substance of the issue. If that is the case, it was probably a wise decision. I imagine that there was a bit of pressure, either self-imposed, or from corporate, to launch an app sooner, rather than later. There is, after all, always the next issue.

The Wired app will set you back $4.99, and since it is dedicated to the June issue, one can assume that the July issue will come in a separate app. The advantage of this is that every month the app will appear as a newly launched app and will, therefore, appear on the first page of the new apps. Time magazine used this approach for the first few issues, then launched a free app that will require readers to subscribe through the app.

So far, at least, iTunes downloaders appear very happy with the app, with a vast majority giving the app five stars and very few complaining about the price (everyone seems to want free in the app store).

As I mentioned above, the app is a hefty download as it contains all the embedded video and animation, making the magazine easy to read when not connected to the Internet. In other words, the reader gets the full content no matter whether you are online or not. In contrast, the Vanity Fair app only really shows its stuff when you have an Internet connection (either through WiFi or 3G, assuming the owner bought that version of the iPad).

Another advantage to having buyers get that big an app is that it gives the impression that you have bought something tangible. It's not just access to content that the reader bought but the magazine itself. It's an illusion, of course, but a useful one.

Morning Brief: Apple affiliate program could learn from Amazon

I've been traveling the past few days, as you might have noticed, a few items have piled up. A Morning Brief is as good a place to post them as any.

I received a notice from Apple Monday about their affiliate program. The program is so badly run that I was not even aware that I had already signed up for it. In any case, Apple's idea of a new development in its affiliate program was limited to placing ads on your site in hopes that someone will link back. In other words, a bad ploy to get you to place ads for free.
I just don't recognize Apple anymore. The company used to do things with style substance.

A better example of a good affiliate program is Amazon's program -- formally knows as Amazon Associates. It's better for one reason only: widgets. By making it easy to embed links and product pictures, the widget allows editors and publishers to provide these links without having to remember code, or affiliate numbers, etc.

The NYT reported last night that Apple is starting to face the same level of scrutiny of its business practices that was common for Microsoft. Whether Apple gets the irony is unknown.

According to the Times, the Justice Department is looking closely at Apple's iTunes store and the pressure the company supposedly has placed on the music labels to do busy with Apple, and to decline making deals with other retail outlets like Amazon. Specifically, the article talks about a promotion Amazon promoted.

"The magazine reported that representatives of Apple’s iTunes music service were asking the labels not to participate in Amazon’s promotion, adding that Apple punished those that did by withdrawing marketing support for those songs on iTunes," the Times wrote.

Publish2 announced a news exchange program that it says is "a platform aimed at disrupting the Associated Press monopoly over content distribution to newspapers." Really. They really said that in a release.

A few outlets including Folio: picked up the release and posted a story. But I had to read the release several times simply to marvel at the tone of the thing. Judge for yourself, here are the first two paragraphs:
Today, at TechCrunch Disrupt, we’re announcing the launch of Publish2 News Exchange, a platform aimed at disrupting the Associated Press monopoly over content distribution to newspapers. With Publish2 News Exchange, newspapers can replace the AP’s obsolete cooperative with direct content sharing and replace the AP’s commodity content with both free, high-quality content from the Web and content from any paid source.

With Publish2 News Exchange, we’ve created what the AP should have become, but can’t because of a classic Innovator’s Dilemma. The New AP is an open, efficient, scalable news distribution platform. We’re enabling newspapers to benefit for the first time from the disruptive power of the Web, and from the efficiency of content production on the Web.
Somebody needs to hire a PR firm.

Finally, Steve Smith over at Mobile Insider read the same Financial Times story I did yesterday that questions whether newspaper publishers are really ready of the iPad. Smith's take is about the same as mine: yes, results so far have been hit-and-miss, but there have been some good implementation of tablet technology so far, including the Financial Times own iPad app.

The reason behind the story, of course, is that the iPad is being introduced in Europe this week (as well as Canada and Australia), and editors are rushing to make sure they have something in print about it. This leads, I'm afraid, to some rather misguided stories. There seems to be a desire to predict the future success of a product days and weeks before it is actually launched. I especially liked PC World's stories on the iPad -- they posted so many reviews, judgements and rants that you it will be impossible for anyone not to say that PC World got it right.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Travel day continues

While I'm still trying to figure out a good way to size photos I think I'll limit the number of posts today. Back to full time tomorrow.

Orange County News Network is shuttered

The Orange County News Network, part of San Diego based U.S Local News Network, has been shuttered after only four months.

In an e-mail to staff, obtained by the Orange County Business Journal, Chris Jennewein, president of U.S. Local News Network, said “the Orange County Local News Network has been forced to cease operations effective immediately.”

Back on February 1, sister site wrote that according to ClickZ, Chris Jennewein, president of San Diego News Network, described Orange County as an "under served market," a remarkable statement considering the presence of the Orange County Register. But the OCR's parent company, Freedom Communications, is currently clawing its way out of bankruptcy court, and their current web site has the word "Beta" as part of the flag.

Working with the iPad: media consumption "yes"; productivity "no"

My schedule has included very little travel in the past few weeks, and as a result I have not been traveling with my iPad to test it out in the field. As a result, I have experienced media apps more or less in perfect conditions: with an extremely fast Internet connection, at my leisure.

As a media reader there is no doubt that the iPad is best in class. Kindle owners can talk all they want about the e-ink format, but the iPad is no slouch. Early critics -- read "non-owners" -- talked about eye fatigue and the like, but that was just talk.

But out in the field the iPad does present some challenges for those wishing to consume their media on the tablet. First there is the challenge of downloading media. Just because it is a tablet does not mean that secure, fast Internet connections will appear out of thin air. The airport is, and remains, a hit or miss situation. What might appear as a good 3G signal can just as easily be a phantom.

Because of this, good planning is essential. Yesterday, using PressReader, I downloaded the Sunday editions of the Observer and the WaPo. Since PressReader can be used offline, all was well at the airport and in the air. Unfortunately, I had failed to remember to download my Monday edition of Sporting News Today. A masochistic streak compelled me to read about the Sharks latest collapse. I suppose it is just as well that the connection prevented me from completing the download by boarding time.

While in the air my iPad caught the attention of a fellow passenger who demanded a demonstration. I opened the Vanity Fair app to show off the two versions: the landscape just-like-print version, and the portrait tablet version. But I forgot that they ads in the portrait version required a live Internet connection to view the added video content. Big fail.

As a productivity tool the iPad is challenging. For media folk, the biggest drawback is the inability to work effectively online or within content management systems. The problem is the keyboard.

It is not that typing is slow using the touchscreen keyboard -- people get used to it, and besides, speed isn't everything -- but the problem is navigation. Without a mouse, it is extremely slow and difficult to edit.

The solution is a wireless keyboard, of course. I carried around the Apple wireless keyboard -- a perfect match. But the problems for reporters, editors and bloggers extend beyond the keyboard. Picture editing on the iPad is possible, but not as efficient as on a laptop or desktop. For many media writers who simply input copy and leave the rest to others, this won't present a problem. But I like to make sure the images here are properlu sized, and often I use tables within posts.

So here is the bottom line: if you a consumer of media the iPad is without a challenger, but media is still best consumed with online. Buy the 3G version, jailbreak your iPhone, or tether your iPad to a non-AT&T phone.

If you are a member of the press: practice using the iPad before venturing out. Even with an external keyboard, the iPad can not compare to a laptop with a mouse.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Leaving the laptop at home: on the road with iPad

Posting will be light today and tomorrow as I travel to the West Coast. I've decided to leave the laptop at home and make due with just my phone and iPad. It will be interesting to see this will be enough firepower.

I already know from experience that Blogger does not play nice with Apple's mobile version of Safari -- either on the iPhone or iPad -- so I'm taking along a wireless keyboard (have to have those arrows).

Foreign publications take advantage of two month gap to develop their own apps: Les Echos for the iPad

The Apple iPad was launched stateside on April 3rd. For two months buyers in other countries have had to either travel to the U.S. to buy an iPad (and then experience the frustration of not being to access apps back home) or else wait for Apple to launch the tablet in their country. But now Apple will be launching the iPad in eight additional countries later this week and publishers overseas have been used the time between the U.S. launch and now to develop their news apps.
(I'm not thrilled using the term "foreign publications", after all, in the short time this site has been live, TNM has been accessed by readers from 79 different countries. What may be a foreign newspapers to one reader, is, of course, a local newspaper to another.)

One paper that is ready to go is Les Échos, the financial daily newspaper from France. Their free iPad app appeared in iTunes late Friday, and as you might expect, has not seen any reviews to date.

The app works wonderfully, as you might expect, as the company had added time to work on design, navigation and implementation.

Navigation can be accomplished through a drop down index on the left, or the reader can simply swipe pages as if it were a flipbook. A tap of an individual story, however, brings up a new window with a text version of the story. Again, though, the reader has the choice of using multi-touch gestures to zoom into the print version. I like choice. (This flipbook approach, of course, allows all the ads to be seen. The ads, as far as I can see, currently do not have any embedded content such as links or video.)

One final touch made me smile: one of the bottom navigation options is Écouter Radio Classique, which when pressed gives you classical music to accompany your business reading.

Left: The splash page; Middle: navigation; Right: an article in text view.

NewspaperDirect may find new life with iPad app

If magazine lovers have the Zinio Magazine Newsstand & Reader to bring them many of their favorite magazines, then newspaper readers may want to download PressReader to access their many of their favorite newspapers.
PressReader is the newspaper stand application from NewspaperDirect, the Canadian company that has been bringing electronic editions of newspapers to readers since 1999.

The company's online kiosk, makes newspapers available to web readers in a typical flipbook format.

The associated iPad app, PressReader, brings this same technology to the tablet, where it may find the kind of success missing from the online version. The reason for this is simple: the tablet appears to be a leisure-time reading device, whereas browsing on a typical computer is a search-and-find activity.

“At last, readers can hold a digital edition in their hands and read it from front to back, just the way the title was printed — with no compromises in quality, fidelity or content. With PressReader, the Apple iPad is truly the breakthrough product publishers and readers have been waiting for, said Alex Kroogman, CEO of NewspaperDirect in their launch announcement.

As I wrote last week, the recent ChangeWave Research study of e-reader users found that iPad owners are more likely to be requesting newspaper and magazine content -- with 50 percent of iPad owners reading newspapers with their devices. No surprise, really, since the device is much more flexible to different formats that devices like the Kindle, for instance.

Left: PressReader delivers over 1,500 newspapers from 90 countries.
Middle: Canadian newspapers; Right: making a selection.

NewspaperDirect is offering the PressReader app for free, and the first seven titles downloaded will be free, as well.  After the free trial period, newspapers and magazines (there are a few) will be available for 99 cents per issue, or can be downloaded as part of a paid subscription acquired through
The experience of reading a newspaper on the app is far inferior to the new apps coming online, so newspaper publishers developing applications for their own titles will not see PressReader as a permanent solution. The problem, of course, is that the app simply attempts to duplicate the print experience, much as a flipbook does online. As I have said before, however, the flipbook experience is not a good solution for the web -- but for tablets maybe.

An individual app, complete with multimedia and constantly updated content, is definitely the future. The Financial Times app, for instance, is for more attractive, easier to read, and provides readers with a more, dare I say, modern version of the tablet newspaper than a simple exact copy approach as employed by NewspaperDirect.

But as a newsstand, and as a way to quickly access a newspaper while on the run, about to board a plane, PressReader will prove to be a winner.

Morning Brief: AT&T ups termination fee; Apple prepares to ship international orders

They must know something you don't know.
AT&T must believe that they are about to lose their iPhone exclusivity because they have announced that they will be raising the early termination fee on smartphone users to $325.

The move is also a sign that AT&T wants to take advantage of customers who will soon want to upgrade their iPhones. Apple is set to unveil its newest generation of the iPhone at its developer conference in two weeks.

This is the week Apple launches the iPad in nine more countries: Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Spain, Switzerland and the U.K. (guess they are out of luck in Liechtenstein).
In preparation, Apple has opened up its international iBookstore and iTunes app store for the iPad. Previously, a non-U.S. resident that may have purchased their iPad in the U.S. and then travelled home to their home country was prevented from accessing iPad apps via iTunes. As a result, news apps from countries other than the U.S. are beginning to appear such as the BFMTV app from France -- logo seen at right.

One app that submitted an update in time for the international roll-out was Zinio whose Zinio Magazine Newsstand & Reader is probably the most way iPad readers access magazines -- the alternative being individual apps. Their update initially appeared minor, just support for French, but a closer look reveals that users will now be able to delete titles completely, something impossible with earlier versions. This is probably not important online, but iPad users  have asked for the delete feature so they do not have to swipe through pages of icons to find their magazines (extra important when you are subscribing to a daily product like Sporting News Today. Another good update for the leading magazine newsstand app.