Archive for the ‘Mobile’ Category

Today we launched the new USAToday.com.
Thank’s to the magnificent and tireless work of an army of engineers, designers, programmers, product managers, editors, etc., under the direction of Gannett Digital president David Payne, we are taking a huge step into the future, not without risk, by creating what we believe is a major step for our viewers and advertisers.
The new USAToday.com is a dramatic change for both.

For our readers and viewers it represents a significant step toward visual storytelling, but one that respects the fact that no two readers are alike, especially during times of significant technological change. We give you several options on how to view news, information, entertainment and advertising but all involve significant curation by our editorial staff, the heart and soul of the value we bring to this storytelling process. This creation is truly a collaborative work between dedicated technologists and equally dedicated journalists.

We give the reader the ability to use visuals or words in varying degrees in their consumption process. And we will do it in varying degrees. If the reader wants, for example, he or she can view each story by starting with a photograph or a video. They can even use a device we call “Cover Mode” (see the little book-like design at the top of the page) that allows them to see each story via a full-page photograph, the most dramatic use of still photography in the storytelling process we have ever seen on the Internet.

We give you the ability to view by our definition of importance or by anyone’s definition of timeliness. By merely scrolling over a visual reference to a story they can also see more text to put that story in context. And by viewing our “Right Now” column along the right side of the page, you will see relevant social media reactions to the ongoing story in real-time.
Our horizontal navigation, inspired by the growing and already massive use of tablets, allows the reader to “peruse” the sections or the stories on the site by turning pages, re-imagining the “discovery” process we so love in the print media. It allows you to be surprised by content you didn’t know existed, but to do so at your own speed, depending upon your time and inclination.

Cover View: A new way to peruse stories through their most dramatic images

The horizontal “page-turning” experience also allows our advertisers to reclaim the full-page ad they so dearly want and need. We allow those advertisers the chance to use the entire palate in whatever way they want to grab your attention, all the time giving you the same ability you had in print to turn the page. But watch out, you are going to see some wonderful ads that use dramatic visual tools from interactivity to video to draw you in.

Advertising in general has also changed in a big way on this site. Gone are the many small units that appears in different places on the page, frequently below the “fold” or unavailable until you scrolled down. We listened to our readers and our advertisers, and we have reacted by giving both a better experience. We have limited the advertisers to fewer but much more dramatic positions, giving them the same chance we are giving ourselves of telling their stories better and reaching more people with increasingly dramatic tools.

This is truly a major step into the new world of digital storytelling, one that empowers them, as storytellers with their own story to tell, to use every tool available: video, audio, text, photography, interactivity and more to tell his or her story. This is a step in the reinvention of storytelling, it’s also a step in the reinvention of how news will be created and consumed. We’re extremely excited to be part of that process.

Much more to come. Watch over the next few weeks as we roll out our new tablet and mobile apps, and if you haven’t recently, take a look at our print newspaper, too. It has also begun to embrace the strengths of a print product in today’s media mix and you will be surprised. And we are making it easier on all platforms for you to contact us. In the spirit of this new era of communications, please send us your comments, ideas and suggestion.

It was a great New Year’s gift.

I was at our home in California this week and looking forward to watching my alma mater, Syracuse, play DePaul in basketball on New Years Day. The Orange are undefeated and the number one team in the country this year, and despite my brutal travel schedule and the fact that we are splitting our time between San Francisco and New York City, I’ve had the opportunity over one form of media or another, to watch most of their first 14 games live on TV, a computer, my IPad or my IPhone.

This time I was really looking forward to seeing the game on our big screen TV at home. Even though the game was scheduled on ESPN3, the digital channel available on the internet, I had purchased the pay-per-view package on Comcast’s Xfinity Service that was also carrying the game on cable.

But when I sat down to watch the game at 2pm on New Years day, all I could get was a notice on the screen saying the game would be available soon, and a useless code number.

I called Comcast, which is normally pretty responsive to my calls.

First, whatever choices I made on their infuriating automated call system only got me to a tape that their offices were closed for the holidays. Then, after altering my selections to “technical” difficulties I was able, after 15 minutes (the game was 10 minutes in at this point) to find an agent who was very nice and tried to help me. After several restarts of my system and long pauses while she spoke to co-workers, presumably about my problems, the game finally reached half time (nearly an hour on the phone) before she gave up trying to get this pay service started on cable box. After talking to various people she also came back to tell me there was no such game on the schedule (it was on the on-screen guide in great detail) and then that maybe it was on the schedule but she couldn’t explain why they couldn’t start it..they were able to take my money for the special package, but couldn’t seem to deliver me the content. She seemed as frustrated as I was and was trying to be helpful. Ultimately, all she could do was schedule a service call for later this week.

This would have been a totally infurating process had I not decided (about 15 minutes into the game) to check to see if I was able to get the game on my Ipad via ESPNWatch, a service I get because I’m an ESPN subscriber on Time Warner Cable in NYC and Comcast in San Francisco.

Sure enough, I found the game on my IPad and watched the last 2/3rds of it while waiting for it to appear on my TV. Ironically, if I had the right wire attachments, I could have ported the game from my IPad onto the TV and watched it, with no commercials!, on the big screen.

So despite my frustration with Comcast’s inability to delivery their own service, I still had access to the event. While I still wanted to see it on my big screen, I had found an alternative that wasn’t available to me until this year.

What will it mean for next year, when I’m deciding whether or not to add the extra sports package to my Xfinity service from Comcast?

Take a guess.

The latest industry to see the rise of a potential game changing start-up is the Hotel Biz.

A little known startup called Room 77 was profiled today by Nick Wingfield in the Bits Blog of the New York Times.
Earlier this year Room 77 launched a web site that allows its customers to select specific rooms in hotels instead of just “Types” of rooms.

With a very clean interface that enables a consumer to study the layout of rooms in the hotel and even see the view from the hotel window for that room, Room 77 allows a traveler to check out things that may be important to them, like distance from elevators or stairs. In the beginning not a lot of hotels will be able to offer the information needed for this product, so getting the exact room will be difficult for a while.

But when they do start offering this service, they will be embarking on a new world for hotel operators: transparency.
Most hotels aren’t thrilled about the idea of a consumer knowing exactly what he or she wants. The problem is obvious: Hotels haven’t been particularly good at giving people what they want, so they use their own judgement frequently to give the potential customer something close to what they really want, but not the exact room type because it may not be available. That process becomes much more complicated if the requests are for specific rooms.

The hotels worry that they will lose customers who can’t get the specific room they want. There is a legitimate question as to whether or not the hotel managers really want to see this kind of information out there in real time.

The Room 77 Site Showing the View from a Cosmopolitan Hotel Room in Vegas.

But the fact is, if you can give the consumer something he or she wants, you are doing the right thing. One way or another they will get the information they want, so if you are a hotel owner/manager, you would be better off embracing this technology and running to be up first and best with it.

On top of that, this opens the door for a new pricing model. The very “best” rooms, based on the demand from customers, could cost more. Think of the airline seats with more space that now sell that added space for more.

No matter what, this is the case of technology improving the relationship between the customer and the company.

A few weeks ago I learned that the cheapest way to sign up and pay for the New York Times digital products was in fact to order the weekend delivery (Fri-Sun) of the printed New York Times to our apartment in New York City. If you are a print subscriber to the Times, even just a weekend one, you get free access to the digital versions. The cost of the weekend-delivered-Times ($15.20 every four weeks) was already less than half the cost of buying the printed paper from the newsstands, so when you added in the fact that it was ALSO LESS than half of a full 24/7 subscription to all digital platforms ($35 every four weeks), this deal looked too good to be true.

And some criticized the Times for “paying people to take the print paper” and accused them of undercutting their stated goal of getting people to pay for content, while others speculated they might not have even realized they were undercutting themselves.

But I have a different take. I think it’s a brilliant strategy to deal with the biggest problem the Times and other traditional news media businesses face: the painful transition to business models that will work on digital platforms. These companies need to maintain the print revenues AT LEAST long enough for Digital Advertising to become big enough and effective enough to attract substantially more ad revenues. That means preserving as many users and page views as possible in spite of the pay wall – enough to ultimately attract advertisers – while still charging the heaviest digital user customers, and at the same time keeping as many people as possible reading the print editions.

One of the biggest problems newspapers face is the erosion of advertising to digital platforms. But while it is obvious that categories like auto and home classified advertising are much more efficiently done on digital platforms — and have moved on — many display advertisers have not yet figured out how to use the web or even mobile or tablet devices, more efficiently than print. Those display advertisers feel comfortable in print, and still get enough results from print, to be hesitant to shift larger dollar commitments to digital platforms.

So the print media companies have had to deal with the fact that while readers have switched to the web and mobile in huge numbers, the advertisers haven’t moved nearly as quickly. That means that readers of the print product are still worth a lot more than readers of the web product in terms of how much revenue each reader generates. A print reader can be worth as much at 200 times more than a digital one in terms of advertising dollars generated.

So newspaper publishers are trying to keep as many people reading the print products as possible, at least until the ad dollars flow to digital as broadly as the readers have. They need to financial the transition period. But many of these newspapers have used absolutely the wrong incentives. The San Francisco Chronicle, for example, runs much of their best content in the print product only, boldly proclaiming “Print Edition Only” atop those articles in the paper. But rather than convince the reader to change their habits to suit the newspapers business model, this method only serves as a reminder that the newspaper’s web site is lacking and, in effect, tells the reader who prefers digital to go elsewhere because the paper’s best content won’t be on the digital platform. Duh.

Newspapers must respect their reader’s habits, even when they change, and they ARE changing rapidly. The papers must stop trying to get readers to help the papers out of their jam. Rather than trying to slow down change by forcing readers to do something they don’t want to do, newspapers should concentrate on beefing up the news output on the digital platforms and helping advertisers to find their “web” legs.

The Times has taken a much better approach. It is effectively inducing the reader to read the print product by “paying” that reader to do so. It is “rebating” some of the cost of reading the Digital Times, which the reader wants to get, by asking the reader to take three days of the Times in print and allowing the Times to make more money from those print advertisers for now. It’s actually not all that different from the strategies in happier newspaper times. When papers charged 25 cents, that cost didn’t cover the newsprint and the ink on that newspapers. So the paper was effectively subsidizing the rest of the cost of that newspaper being delivered to that home because the advertiser would pay plenty to be carried into that home on the back of the paper.

There is absolutely no reason consumers shouldn’t be paid to hear messages from advertisers. It’s a fair trade. The advertiser wants the exposure and the reader’s time has value. As long as that print edition is worth more to some advertisers, then it behooves the NY Times TOO give their readers a financial incentive to stay with print as long as possible. That will provide the continuing revenue necessary to support the paper until technology is sophisticated enough to give the advertisers the kind of true advantages in targeting and multi-platform selling that will drive significant increases in digital advertising revenue. In fact, it is quite likely that both digital AND print subscription fees will support a more realistic organization

There is also something else about this experiment that could yield very interesting information about changing reader habits. It is quite possible that the future of print newspapers may be on weekends or at least weekly. With information moving so quickly now, one conceivable scenario could be that newspapers put their breaking news on efficient digital platforms 24/7 but on weekends use print products to give context to the week’s news and to look ahead. Essentially, the print editions of newspapers become what the News Magazines were when newspapers ruled the real-time news world. These new weekend (or at least weekly) publications may even look more like the news magazines, with longer and more reflective or investigative pieces appearing well-displayed in a print product. Oddly enough, it might look like The Daily Beast and it’s new family member, Newsweek.

What’s really interesting is that the combined revenue streams from all these directions could begin to support the significantly-sized newsroom at the center of it all.

As a weekend reader of the print edition of the New York Times, and a religious reader of its website and mobile platforms, I feel like I might already be looking at the first version of what the newspaper of the future will look like, and I like it.

Android’s Market now has 250,000 apps, closing in on Apple’s App store, which has 350,000. (Chart from Silicon Alley Insider)

The Android operating system, which has shot into first places among US smart phone users, and Samsung, which increased on its lead as the number one overall phone manufacturer in the US, are big winners in the mobile world during the three month period ending at the end of January, 2011 according to the latest numbers from comScore, which tracks the industry.

The numbers will doubtlessly start to change significantly with the launching of the Apple IPhone on Verizon last month.

from comScore

But as of January, Android was being used by 31.2% of all phone users (up from 23.5% just three months earlier), while Rim (Blackberry Operating System) users had dropped from 35.8% three months earlier to 30.4% in January. The Apple IPhone operating system was relatively flat at 24.7% in January.

Samsung phones still lead the pack of phone manufacturers by a wide distance, with everyone else losing share accept the IPhone which should so significant gains in coming months because it will now, for the first time, be available on multiple networks.

from comScore

In other findings, comScore noted the continued growth in usage of phones advanced features. Increasingly in January, phones were shown to be used to access social networks, apps and music.

from comScore