There are many new devices included in our new beta website at USA Today. But one of the coolest is something we call “Cover View”. It lets you scan the stories of the day one page at a time, but with just a headline and a single photo dominating that page. It’s a fantastic showcase for photography, and a very different and new way to scan the news. Try it at http://beta.usatoday.com/cover-view/

Today we launched the “TV On The Web” section of the USA Today Life Section.  And we did so in the printed newspaper first.

Sounds a bit backwards, you say?  Actually, it’s a great example of how various forms of media can compliment each other.  In this case, print has the advantage of being an effective curator of digital content.  There is so much digital content out there that our readers and digital users appreciate our efforts to curate that content and find the best of it for them.  And print is a very effective way to display that curated list. 

By limiting our presentation to what we can fit in one section of the paper, we easily demonstrate to our readers that we have used the scarcity of space in the paper to display the best of the content we find.  On digital platforms our list could be much longer, but on paper we are forced to live within the space we have.  It’s always harder to do anything in less space, and to make the choices we have to make to choose “only the best.”  But that makes it even more valuable to the reader, who knows he or she will get a lot for the small amount of time they have to devote to see the printed list in its entirety.

Print imposed the kind of limitations that force us to work harder for the reader.  And in the end, the consumer appreciates that we put in more work to do that for them. 

It is also much easier to do something new for a print reader, because they are already looking at the page and will notice something new and different.  On a digital platform, it is harder to draw someone to anything new because they tend to go to and get the pages they know to ask for. Image

So for us at USA Today, the printed newspaper is both an editorial product and a marketing platform for the innovations we are planning across all of our platforms.   We sell that platform to other advertisers, so it should come as no surprise that we can use it effectively ourselves to prove its continuing value.

Congrats to the team for getting our new TV on the Web listings launched today, along with the fantastic coverage of Web-based video we are launching in the Life Section news columns (See today’s story on Tom Hanks and Jerry Seinfeld’s efforts to create online-only TV shows). 

TV on the Web is getting big and deserves the kind of coverage we normally give to traditional television.  How cool is it that we launch that coverage in a newspaper!

20120719-202849.jpg

Well it’s been two years and three IPads, so its a good time to step back and look at how my life as a heavy consumer of news has changed.

Much has changed.  But there is no question that I have come to use both the IPad and IPhone for a great deal of news consumption, though I still largely depend on traditional brands.  The latest IPad and IPhone have been particularly good to the news companies that embrace the tablet and mobile formats.  The speed of downloads has improved dramatically,  and the quality of video continues to improve.  And, finally, advertisers are at least trying the platforms.

Let me start with the The Daily, the first IPad native news business.  I use them more today than I did in the past.  The faster download times, the far better indexing and  briefing features and the quality of the journalism  have all made a difference, and as always, the application makes terrific use of the IPad’s true value to display beautiful photography.  It’s slickness still makes it hard for me to grasp how timely the information is — it’s almost too pretty to make you believe it’s very current — but that may just be my problem associating beautiful design with magazine journalism.  There isn’t enough video or interactive storytelling to make this a total home run yet, and too much of the video that is there  is a talking head.  I am a paid subscriber, but I don’t have the sense of urgency that I must have this product.  It think still needs some defining and exclusive content. I do love the new “Breaking News Alert” (see left) that blasted in front of the cover when the news of a foiled Al Qaeda plot was reported.

I still use the NYPost App, after it has moved into Apple’s newsstand.  It’s easy to navigate and a terrific digital manifestation of the paper’s look, feel and content, capturing much of the personality that the defines the Post.  I have subscribed and I rarely buy or see a print edition anymore.

For the several months I have been using a terrific App called “PressReader” from Newspaper Direct, which offers access to “replica” versions of hundreds of newspapers around the world in real time.  You can, for the price of a single subscription, get all the papers you want to get on the service.  Or you can buy single newspapers when you want them.  It’s a nifty App that shows the exact newspaper that is printed, but then allows you to drill down and navigate digitally by clicking on the stories you want to read.  Hard to explain, easy to use.  I have been able to keep up with the San Francisco Chronicle, Washington Post,  and several other publications including some British papers, on an as-needed basis.

I still read my old standby national newspapers:  The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and USA Today via their apps.  The Times is now part of the Apple Newsstand, but to me the application, while clean, loses too much of the look and feel of the times, and just seems less urgent and complete.   Too many stories are first presented with a headline and a couple paragraphs, with no graphic stimulation.   It’s easy to use, but has no soul and I frequently miss stories that I see in the Print Edition.  I still get the NYTimes printed paper at home on the weekends, and I much prefer it.

The Wall Street Journal app is a much better translation of the newspaper and its feel.  It also gives the reader a version of the journal that is updated to the time the reader has signed on.  It’s a great mix of a daily newspaper of record and updated news since printing. There is growing use of photos and video that shows real promise.

Finally the USA Today Ipad App is also very clean.  The good and the bad news about the USA Today app is that it is a close cousin to the look of the paper.  While it captures some of the design feature of the paper, some have become tired.   The site loses a sense of urgency and  news judgement by stacking stories with essentially the same look and feel as each other.  The larger layouts in the print version of the paper are often the most attractive devices in the newspaper, and they are not translated to this platform.  Photos dominate the visuals, and the reader gets little interactive or even passive, graphic presentation that approaches what is so great about the print paper.  The page looks the same every day.  USAToday’s IPhone app is slicker and faster to use.

Broadcast news outlets have become a large part of my news consumption through digital platforms as well.  On the financial news front,  I love Marketwatch, but hate that there isn’t a better presentation of it’s news product on the IPad.  There is a data app, which was recently updated, but while it’s clean and efficient, I hate that it is a fixed horizontal app, and when my IPad is in the upright position (I have a charger that leaves it vertically on my desk) the content is sideways and useless to me.  I have the same problem with the Wall Street Journal Live App.  So I have shifted to CNBC’s RT (Real Time) App, which is easy to use, gives me the most graphic depiction of Indexes, My Stocks, News (easy and efficient access to all news) and Videos and has the added bonus of being in Real-Time, not delayed data.  And, there are much better and more timely videos, which you would expect. This is CNBC’s first major success on digital platforms.

CNN’s IPad app is very visual (It should use more words) and allows the viewer to watch CNN live.  The ABC News, NBC News and CBS News Apps are all too visual, showing photos and a few words for every story, and linking to work they have largely done on TV.  They will, someday, discover that words are also important to the storytelling process on digital platforms.

All in all, I am spending a lot more time on my IPad, including the time spent on News sites.  My habits are changing…so are everyone else’s.  Clearly the transition is taking place.  But it still feels like we have some more changes to go and some new software and hardware to lead the way.

Posted: May 1, 2012 in Uncategorized

Larry Kramer:

One of Journalism’s Most Important Paths For The Future

Originally posted on Gigaom:

One of the big areas of focus for technology companies over the past year has been “big data” — in other words, the idea that there can be a lot of value in finding patterns in the massive quantities of user data and other information that a business generates. This has a corollary in journalism too: namely, the growing realization that there is a lot of value in finding patterns in news-related information. This weekend saw the launch of an e-book that could be a useful resource for anyone planning to explore that field: The Data Journalism Handbook.

Released at the 2012 International Journalism Festival in Italy, the handbook is a collection of testimonials, tips and in-depth case studies about data-oriented journalism — and fittingly enough, the information was crowdsourced from dozens of leading practitioners of the craft, from the BBC and the Financial Times to the

View original 767 more words

The latest tombstone in the “old media” cemetery is Kodak. Once the most powerful name in photography, Kodak stands out as a company that took too long to understand what its real purpose was. It wasn’t to make film, it was to take “pictures” that allow their customers to preserve images.

If Kodak understood that they were in the business of helping people preserve memories or create art, the would have been in the forefront of the digital revolution. It’s the same issue the newspaper industry faced because they were so busy protecting a newspaper business model that was dying in front of them that they forgot their real business, as defined by their customers, was to deliver news and information.

This isn’t a problem that has reared its head only in the media world. Remember trains? If the huge railroad companies saw themselves as transporting people and freight rather than running trains, they would have been more involved in the development of cars, trucks and airplanes than they were. And they would still be huge companies today.

It all comes down to a single simple point: As a business, define yourself through the customers you serve, not through yourself. In the end, if you are in business, you are in business to serve customers, not just yourself.

The problem with the fight over SOPA is that no one is playing by the same rules.  In fact, there are no rules and frequently people on the same side are fighting for completely different reasons. 

In the media world, we have journalistically-minded companies who have spent a lifetime defending freedom of speech and fighting anything that seems to impair that right.   In that world such freedom overshadows the original reason for the proposed rules, which was the fact that most of those companies are losing billions of dollars because their intellectual property is being stolen and reused by others for profit.

Then we have the Googles of the world, who beat the Freedom-of-Speech drum as well, but who really are among those who have built huge businesses on the back of every content creator with little or no compensation for their content.  In their case, it’s Freedom-of-Profit and Growth that they are protecting.

Having Google out front defending the media on the SOPA issue is like having Larry Flynt be the point person defending Freedom of Speech in court.   We like what he is saying, but is he the right person to make the case around?

While this is a fight about rights for the media, for Silicon Valley its really a fight about an entirely new economic structure that tech firms have built around managing and presenting other people’s content.

The real problem is we have no standards yet to build an intelligent discussion around gray areas. Right now this has become a black and white, for or against, issue.  But like all things, there are going to be many ways to do this right and to do it wrong.  But we don’t even have fundamental building blocks in place.  We still haven’t defined, legally, what fair use is for content on the internet.  That’s something we did a long time ago for print and broadcast media.

Imagine having this fight in the print world without any existing idea of what is fair use.  None of us believe we should be able to sue someone for using a word or two that might be the same as two words in something we created last year.  But in print that doesn’t happen, because their are rules that loosely define how much of an existing work or idea you can repeat with stealing an idea or creative work.  And it’s a reasonable amount.

In television there are rules about how much video someone else can use from the creators of that video, and under what circumstances they can use it.  Beyond that, intellectual property is protected.

In both cases the industries came together and agreed on fair use.  Then  they figured out how to protect appropriate activity. 

With SOPA, the problem is everyone is shadow boxing against a massive grey cloud of “evil.”  
In the digital universe we have not brought everyone together, and we need to. It’s ridiculous to provide massive powers to shut people down when we can’t even agree on what exactly they are doing wrong.

How about as a industry, content creators of all kinds, text, video, photographic, graphic, audio, get together and come up with realistic guidelines that allow for freedom of speech and expression to grow, even around our content, and yet still make sure that those who fund the content creation itself are reimbursed appropriately for what they have given the world? Let’s try to agree on what “fair use” is before we agree on how to punish people for not being fair. 

It won’t be easy, the players in the many subsets of the content universe, music, newspapers, television all have had a hard time agreeing with each other about much simpler issues, but at least we’ll have a better idea of what we are trying to accomplish than we do now.

 

It’s not widely known here that most of the highly-discounted fashion sites in the US, like Gilt,  HauteLook, Beyond The Rack, Rue La La,  Fab.com and others are really copies of a site that began in France almost a decade ago,  called vente-privee.

A fascinating company with nearly a billion dollars in revenue,  vente-privee began the process of daily sales of luxury products that were generally remnant inventory from high fashion designers discounted by about 70%.  its sales were generally posted at 8 in the morning, and enormously popular in France.  

The business soared because it offers a totally different experience than a direct sale from the brand itself.  The prices is considerably cheaper, yet doesn’t threaten the relationship between the brands and their best customers, who look for the latest and hottest fashions.  Vente-privee makes the brand accessible to a more mass audience because that audience is willing to concede certain things in order to own products from the brand at a more affordable price.

Vente-privee’s founder Jacques-Antoine Granjon had, until now, avoided the American market, making the case to me in an interview in 2010 that it was different and now more competitive.  But he found a way in.  He found a partner, American Express (NYSE: AXP).  By partnering with American Express he avoids the huge costs of having to build his brand here..they will do it for him.  And because of his relationships with the European designers, he might be able to bring more exclusive products to this market, which otherwise has become very crowded with copycats.

This international move is another example of the power of the internet to remove barriers to doing business everywhere.  Vente-privee is now able to bring its size and pricing power into the US Market without huge upfront costs because American Express, like so many US companies looking for pathways to grow, is expanding it’s presence into e-commerce.  This is a perfect opportunity to test the e-commerce marketplace with a successful partner.  By working with an established business from another country, American Express is able to extract value from the relationship in the form of a learning process in exchange for something it can trade with little incremental expense, branding and exposure to the US Market.  It’s a smart move for both companies.

The impact on the US competitors is yet to be seen.  It could make life more difficult, but it could also serve to expand the market for everyone by making this kind of shopping more acceptable.

Image