Archive for the ‘Tablet’ Category

I really loved it when Rupert Murdoch launched The Daily two years ago. I thought he picked some great executives like Jesse Angelo and Greg Clayman to build and run it, and I thought they did a great job as a news organization. But they made a single huge mistake.

They built a news operation for a platform, not for a readership.

The Daily on the day they announced they would be folding

The Daily on the day they announced they would be folding

While no one can deny that the IPad almost immediately impressed everyone as a news consumption device, there was absolutely no reason to believe that it would become the only way people would want their news. While every media business was trying to figure out how to best use the tablet as another distribution device, no one was seriously considering moving to a tablet-only service.

That’s because it was clear that this device going to be an answer, not THE answer. We are still early in this latest reinvention of storytelling. The digital platforms will clearly change habits both because they have eliminated much of the time it takes to deliver news and they provide a medium that allows the storyteller to employ virtually every format, from words to pictures, to video, to interactivity.

The news industry is learning that newsrooms of the future will no longer be built around the medium they are in (newspapers, tv, radio) but rather around the subject they are covering (New York, Financial News, Sports, Politics). These newsrooms will need the revenue from multiple channels to support themselves, and will therefore need to leverage the value of their knowledge across distribution systems.

The Daily waited much too long into it’s brief life to build distribution outside of the Tablet. The lesson for future entrepreneurs is not that the Tablet can’t supports a news business, it’s that it can’t solely support a news business and shouldn’t have to.

Even readers who loved getting their news on the tablet were not likely to have it with them at all times, or likely to prefer it at all times. And even though The Daily’s presentation on the Tablet got better and better as time went by, and was never less than impressive and even beautiful, there were just times that their readers would rather learn of breaking story on their phone because it was more convenient, or see a news video on a computer or TV screen when they were in front of one, or perhaps even read a story in a newspaper if they were sitting on a beach or hear it in a car while driving on the way home.

Serving an audience in today’s information age means you have to accept that the audience will want timely information on the best possible platform at any given time and place. The same consumer driving a car home or sitting in front of their computer at work will probably prefer a different form of communication than someone sitting on a train with their IPad on a try in front of them.

So while The Daily was perhaps the most successful demonstration of how news could be delivered over a tablet, it was, by design, totally irrelevant on every other platform. Telling everyone they HAD to view them on a Tablet was no different than a newspaper or TV news operation refusing to put its content on the web.

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.

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.

Tablet owners have quickly adapted a preference of using their tablet rather than a computer for media consumption of all kinds. Weather, music, games, News and Information are all categories of information that tablet users would rather get from their tablets than from a PC, according to new research from Frank N. Magid Associates, Inc.
“Reading” has also quickly become something tablet users would rather do on their tablet than any other place.
Tablet users have taken the time they need to be on tablets from a number of other areas, including time they had spend reading print newspapers and magazines AND the Time they spent using the Internet on their phones.
Finally, Tablet users as a group are much more active media consumers than mobile phone users are. Those who get tablets spend much more time on their email accounts, on the internet and doing many different things on digital platforms.
The charts:



The New York Post hasn’t made any real money in years. That’s why it’s an unlikely frontrunner in the publishing industry’s uneasy turf war with Apple and the IPad. And even though it comes from a company that is spending tens of millions to invent a new news product for the IPad (News Corp’s “The Daily”), the Post has fired the loudest and most effective shots for the newspaper industry directly at Apple’s broadside.

According to the Media Industry Newsletter, The NY Post is the top grossing publisher’s paid App in the App store, and number 11 overall.

At issue is Apple’s insistence that any newspapers or magazines that sell single copies or subscriptions give 30% of their take to Apple for use of its system to deliver the Post content and collect the charges. Also at issue is Apple’s attempt to keep all or most of the customer data to itself.

Last year, the Post built a very effective IPad app that truly captures the look and feel of the paper but also takes advantage of the navigation and interactivity of the IPad. It downloads relatively quickly, giving the reader the ability to download and read while not connected to the web. It captures the fun and impact of Post headlines and layouts, and makes it easy to navigate to specific sections, pages or stories, giving readers multiple routes in a very intuitive platform.

It also engages you by giving you the opportunity to write your own Front Page headline and see what it would look like on a few variations of the front page. Your attempt goes up against everyone else in a competition each day to see who did the best job. And it allows you to share Post content easily to social media or others. For me, a life-long reader, it has replaced the print edition.

After a brief free trial period a year or so ago, they started to charge me to subscribe to the App. No public hand wringing for two years, no huge press events. They just put it up and charged for it.

Then it really got interesting.

First the Post began to block IPad users from accessing NYPost.com’s resident browser, Safari. So suddenly IPad users didn’t have the option to call up NYPost.com on their IPads. Now, to get any NYPost content on the IPad, they had to pay for it. (Here I have to disclose that since I had downloaded the Firefox IPad browser, too, I discovered that I could still get to NYPost.com on my IPad via that browser).

Then, the Post introduced a new feature IN the app that allows App subscribers to access the live NYPost.com website in a pop-up box on the App.

In the process of trying to force subscribers to pay for the Post on the IPad, and to maximize the transaction by pulling all live web content under the pay umbrella, the Post may be stumbling onto the most effective combination of content for the IPad. They offer both an IPad-optimized look and feel…with the easy navigation and the stunning photos the IPad features…. AND the constantly updating elements of the 24/7 website which are now available whenever the IPad is online. It’s a powerful offering together.

Mainstream media companies are still in the early innings of the game when it comes to new business models. But the Post is aggressively pushing in the right direction. They are gradually matching their journalism to the new medium. If they continue to build their interactive storytelling skill and develop video content and presentation, they could eventually have the first killer news app.

The Bloomberg Businessweek + app, which launched today, starts off by showing me a fever bar that tells me how much of the issue is loaded. Feels like a common courtesy, but so many apps, including native apps like THE DAILY, do NOT tell you where you stand in the loading process. And we all know that the lack of knowledge breeds the assumption that the worst case is true.

So, it takes some time, but I can see the end and will wait for it. And there are basic elements of the new digital landscape, like changing the type size or searching through text or even selecting specific text.

The design seems more native to the IPad. You can read related content at the touch of a button. Navigation is simple and intuitive. You can read the text on any page it brings up. One of the frustrations with the “wheel” that THE DAILY has, is that you can’t really ready any of the content from the wheel, so it’s hard to decide what page to select. Here the navigation is easy, intuitive and content-driven.

Also, section “fronts” had indexes of stories as well as visuals, making them more functional than just “covers”. And, Businessweek has made a deal with the devil, Steve Jobs, and will be selling subscriptions to the IPad version by giving Apple its 30%.

The content fits the medium well, too. It’s magazine content that adds to ongoing stories and looks ahead, but is tightly written. It’s also well indexed. They have a cool section that is part of Bloomberg’s coverage of government called the BGOV Insider that projects interesting ideas around government activity, like changes in the Tax Code. It covers discussion and adds to it.

On the downside, some images didn’t load very quickly, or at all. But I liked how it went back to the page I was on when I shut it down before.

All-in-all, a great start, giving me renewed optimist about media’s ability to learn how to exploit the new platforms.

Make no mistake about it. There have been skirmishes in the past, but this week in the hallowed halls of big media, war broke out.

Just as the “The shot heard round the world,” launched the American Revolutionary War in Concord, Mass, and the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria kicked off World War 1, on Monday Time Warner Cable used the Internet to announce to the world that it was going to give some of its customers “more freedom to watch on more screens” by allowing them to watch several TV networks on their IPads.

The viewing is limited to the customer’s home, and can only happen if the customer downloads a new TWC IPad app and subscribes to both cable TV and the Internet from Time Warner Cable.

To many of the top cable networks, TWC’s actions are nothing less than a land grab, or rather a spectrum grab. The networks, owned by parents like Viacom and Scripps networks, have claimed that TWC’s actions are violations of their contracts, and that if TWC wants to put their shows on a form of distribution other than cable TV, they have to pay for that privilege. Time Warner Cable says it doesn’t owe them a thing.

Bring on the Lawyers.

This all goes to the heart of convergence. Suddenly the video world is in the midst of a content platform convergence that promises to be as confusing and unsettling as everything that has happened in the newspaper, book, magazine and music worlds.

All the traditional forms of distribution have been turned on their head by technological advances that have allowed television viewers to see their favorite programs on all sorts of new platforms, from computers to cell phones to IPads.

And, there are as many new ways to deliver those programs. The IPad can receive via WiFi or 3G (soon to be 4G), All the new TV’s can take input from over-the-air, satellite, cable, telephone networks or even the internet. Cell phones can take video over multiple networks, too.

Since the cable and satellite companies now pay the programmers billions of dollars each year, they make the case that those payments imply certain exclusivity and protection. The networks, for their part, say they specifically gave the rights for the cable companies to broadcast their programs over the cable networks, and the cable networks only. If the cable companies want to distribute those programs over a difference system, that’s fine, but it means a new negotiation with the content creator.

No one could have anticipated how quickly technology would enable consumers to get their programming on scores of devices both anchored and mobile. The business models that led to unprecedented growth in media creation over the past few decades were built in a world with limited alternatives for distribution and now suddenly seem so badly outdated.

So the plight of a pure distribution company is going to be challenged, as it has been in many businesses since the internet came into being. Whether a company is selling books, tickets, research, shoes or almost anything else, or an individual is looking for a buyer for a used car, antique or stamp collection or even a house, the internet has totally redefined those marketplaces. Anyone or any company in the middle of that process has been squeezed. The Internet allows buyers and sellers to be in direct contact with each other.

It is why companies like Comcast, predominantly a cable distribution company, spent billions to also become a huge content creator. Owning content through NBC and all of its associated cable networks becomes more of a hedge as the process of distributing that content is in flux. The one sure thing is that customers will consume the content SOMEWHERE.

But most cable companies have begun to adapt a strategy that would have them manage the consumer relationship for content creators across multiple platforms. Called “TV Everywhere,” the concept is that the consumer only needs to pay for the content once, but will have access to it on several platforms. To that end most cable operators are developing both the customer payment infrastructure and the ability to authenticate customers from each network over every available platform: an extremely difficult and highly technical task. They argue that this would be much more efficient than every network building the same function for themselves.

They are also building those apps for the IPad and other tablets that will allow their paying customers to view programs however they want. And starting now, they are launching those apps with content they believe they already have the right to distribute within the home.

At the same time new competitors, in the form of Google and Apple are also vying to build efficient systems to do much of the same thing through their special boxes.

This is a tough situation. The Cable Operators and the Networks have a history of pushing each other to the brink, usually in response to one or the other threatening to pull programming over a proposal by the network to charge more for the programming or by the cable company to pay less for it.

But over the years they have also been good partners and helped build their businesses together. Most insiders are hopeful that the two sides can work out their differences and take on the brave new world of digital chaos together.

(Writer’s Note: I am on the board of Discovery Communications, which has several cable networks caught up in this skirmish.)