Category Archives: Publishing

Jeff Bezos and the Washington Post

““We’ve had three big ideas at Amazon that we’ve stuck with for 18 years, and they’re the reason we’re successful: Put the customer first. Invent. And be patient,” he said. “If you replace ‘customer’ with ‘reader,’ that approach, that point of view, can be successful at The Post, too.””

Jeff Bezos sounds like he's prepared to carry on losing money at the Washington Post.

When will Paul Dacre admit his newspaper is out of control and sack himself?

The libel record of Associated Newspapers, publishers of the Daily Mail:

Alan Sugar: £100,000

Diana Rigg: £30,000

Elton John: £100,000

Dr Austen Ivereigh: £30,000

Carole Caplin: “Substantial” damages

Ossie Kilkenny: “Substantial” damages

Lady Kristina Moore: “Substantial” damages

Luke Cooper: £25,000

Kate Winslet: £25,000

Edwina Langley, Lisa Beard-Rogers and Thema Davis: £30,000 in total

Sir Michael Parkinson: £25,000

Barbara Broccoli: “Substantial” damages

Neil Morrissey: “Substantial” damages

Reza Pankhurst: “Substantial” damages

Parameswaran Subramanyam: £47,000

Marlon King: Apology

Cheryl Cole: Apology

Sheldon Adelson: “Very substantial” damages

Mike Hollingsworth: £75,000

Chris Jeffries: “Substantial” damages

Gordon Taylor: “Unknown settlement”

Given that The Mail has been one of the most vociferous critics of the BBC’s recent issues, when will Dacre follow the example of the BBC’s director general and take personal responsibility for the failings of its journalism?

I can guess what the answer is.

Fans with typewriters

“It was obvious Lance Armstrong was doping”

It touches on a wider issue in the world of sports journalism – what Walsh describes as journalists as “fans with typewriters”.

“There was a time when it wasn’t cool to be a fan with a typewriter. When you went to a stadium you went as a journalist, and you didn’t express any partisanship for one team or another.

“Because the Armstrong story was deemed to be so good, so remarkable, an inspiration to countless millions, who wants to rain on that parade? Who wants to be the one to say, ‘hold on, it may not be what it seems’. Journalists then begin acting like fans with typewriters.

For “sports journalists” read “tech journalists”. Whether they’re following Google or Apple, we have way too many “fans with typewriters”.

It’s all about discovery

The biggest problem online since the turn of the Century has been that it’s really hard to discover new stuff. Not find stuff: discovery isn’t the same thing. If I know roughly what I want, Google makes it easy to find. But finding things that I might like that I don’t know about yet? Much harder.

Part of discovery is about social. If my friends like something, I might like it too. But part of it is also about taking time to browse, and the problem, in media at least, is that good places to browse which have multiple possibilities are few and far between.

That’s why I’m not surprised at the success of projects like Apple’s Newsstand in iOS 5:

Poynter’s Jeff Sonderman reports that Newsstand, the long-awaited feature in Apple’s newly released operating system for iPhones and iPads is causing explosive growth in news app downloads. A stunning 1.8 million iPhone users downloaded NYT’s free app last week, eighty-five times the rate of a week earlier, Sonderman reports, and the iPad app’s downloads were up seven times, to 189,000.

(via Audit Notes: Paying for Newspapers Edition)

Before anyone starts muttering “but that works on a closed system” under their breath, it can work on the web too. Take Slovakia’s Piano Media as an example:

For Piano Media, it gains that awareness through a thin, top bar appearing across its nine member websites. (That bar is much like CircLabs has touted in its “Circulate” concept.) Click on that banner and you get this offer: “For a single monthly payment, you can get shared access to premium content on 9 different websites.” Your choices: €0.99 for a day, €2.90 for a month, or €29 for a year. (Is “nine, nine, nine” spreading?) Sign in and get access to all: one price, one login recognized persistently by all member sites. Most buyers opt for the monthly deal.

So this is a newsstand — but it’s not a kiosk, a difference Bella emphasizes. A kiosk just lets you buy a single title, from a collection. It makes use of collective marketing, but doesn’t make use of how we like to digitally read, a little of this, a little of that, without barriers.

(via The newsonomics of Piano Media » Nieman Journalism Lab)

I’m convinced we’ll see more and more media adopt the newsstand model.

The unedifying arrogance of PC journalists

Barry Collins is angry. Specifically, Barry is almost splenetic about what he sees as “Apple’s unedifying arrogance” in its response to the brouhaha over the database which your iPhone carries of locations.

In particular, Barry is vexed over what he sees as Apple’s slipperiness over whether it’s tracking your location, describing its explanation as…

“at best, a distortion of the truth. Yes, the iPhone may only be plotting the location of Wi-Fi hotspots and 3G cell towers, but that’s often more than enough to build up an accurate picture of your whereabouts.”

Sorry, Barry, but that’s utter nonsense.

If I say to you “I’m tracking the location of your phone” that suggests that I have data from your phone which shows your location, tied to you (or rather, to your phone).  But no information which is identifiable to you or your phone is transmitted to Apple. The data which is sent to Apple isn’t tied to anything identifiable about your particular phone.

As Apple puts it:

“This data is sent to Apple in an anonymous and encrypted form. Apple cannot identify the source of this data.”

Therefore, Apple is not tracking the location of your phone. It’s really as simple as that.

Remember, too, that the majority of the data in the consolidated.db database isn’t actually from your phone – it’s downloaded from Apple’s servers to your phone to speed up the process of any app which calls CoreLocation to determine where you are (which apps do with your explicit consent).

To quote Apple’s release:

“This data is not the iPhone’s location data—it is a subset (cache) of the crowd-sourced Wi-Fi hotspot and cell tower database which is downloaded from Apple into the iPhone to assist the iPhone in rapidly and accurately calculating location.”

And there would be no way for someone who gets hold of your phone, jailbreaks it, and grabs than database to determine which was data originating from you, and which from Apple. So they best “location” they could get for you is effectively regional in scale: it can tell you roughly whereabouts you tend to go, but not in a way which lets you determine when exactly you went there or even if you’ve ever been to a particular place.

Of course, the real “unedifying arrogance” that Barry is bothered about isn’t really that of Apple towards consumers:

“And what’s all this about “very complex technical issues” that are “hard to communicate in a soundbite”? That’s a bit rich from the company that sprinkles soundbites like confetti in keynote speeches, describing its iPad as “magical” without revealing even the most basic of specs – like how much memory the tablet has.

Give us as much technical detail as you like, Apple: we can handle it. If we get stuck, we can even pick up the phone and ask your press officers, in the unlikely event they’ll ever answer a question.” [My emphasis]

Aha. There you have it. The reason that Barry – and plenty of other tech journalists – call Apple arrogant is mainly because Apple doesn’t jump when the journalists tell them. Apple, in fact, has a very bad reputation amongst tech journalists for being one of the least responsive companies out there. And that reputation is, I can tell you from years of experience, entirely justified.

But in this case, I think it’s not really relevant. Apple took its time, determined what the issue was and how they could fix it, and spoke clearly about what the problem was. There really isn’t much more to say about it.

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Amazon’s Ad-supported Kindle Price: Too High?

TUAW on the release of an ad-supported Kindle from Amazon:

“Still, the $114 price point seems a little silly; $99 would be a much better psychological buy-in point.”

I think that $25 is a fair reflection of the value of the ads. Remember, these ads are home-screen only, and not in the books. Pundits constantly over-estimate the amount of revenue that ads can bring in, and the expectation that Amazon could price a Kindle at $99 based on these kinds of ads is wrong.

No one in the world knows more than Amazon about pricing for a profit.

Nieman Journalism lab responds to John Gruber

Nieman Journalism Lab responds to John Gruber’s defence of the 30% Apple subscription take:

“But if someone searches for and downloads The New York Times app — after the Times has spent more than a century building up its brand, as the cost of billions of dollars — can it really be said that Apple has “brought” that subscriber to the app, and that they deserve 30 percent of the revenue the app generates, forever?”

To which the obvious and correct answer is: No, they don’t deserve it. Apple’s argument that it “brings” customers is hogwash. It’s like Mozilla claiming that Amazon ought to give it a percentage of my spend there as it “brings” me, just because I’m using Firefox.

It’s a good article, well worth an in-depth read.

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When is “the best price” for customers not “the best price” for customers?

OAKLAND, CA - JANUARY 08:  A Wal-Mart customer...

Image by Getty Images via @daylife

The Sage Gruber’s contortions to position Apple’s subscription pricing scam as “good for consumers” are getting so wild that he’ll be a high-level yoga master before you know it:

“Why not allow developers and publishers to set their own prices for in-app subscriptions? One reason: Apple wants its customers to get the best price — and, to know that they’re getting the best price whenever they buy a subscription through an app. It’s a confidence in the brand thing: with Apple’s rules, users know they’re getting the best price, they know they’ll be able to unsubscribe easily, and they know their privacy is protected… So the same-price rule is good for the user, and good for Apple”

John’s being obtuse here. How would a publisher offering a lower price than that offered through Apple’s store be bad for customers? It wouldn’t – it would be bad for Apple. Customers could choose to vote with their wallets – take the lower price on offer elsewhere, or take the convenience and privacy advantages of using in-app purchasing.

By the same logic, any large retailer could use its position in the market to force suppliers not to allow anyone to undercut it, and claim that it was simply ensuring “its customers got the best price”. I’m sure Wal-Mart would love its customers to “know that they’re getting the best price” by contractually obliging people not to sell their products for less elsewhere. Nothing to do with hobbling the competition, oh no sir.

As I’ve said before, Apple’s subscription offering is a mess. It offers publishers little value compared to what developers get, and it’s not good for consumers because it effectively stifles competition. No amount of juggling semantics by talking about “Apple’s customers” – like they own them – will change that.

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Apple 2011 = Microsoft ’97

Brilliant comment from “Chucky” on a post from from Michael Tsai:

Microsoft in 1997 had a very specific corporate strategy. They had a temporary situation of great market leverage. And rather than concentrating on making better products for their users, they began to concentrate on two objectives:

1 Using their leverage to avoid the rise of middle-wear.

2 Using their leverage to grab a rent-seeking slice of the commerce their users did out on the internet.

Microsoft in 1997 was willing to be incredibly evasive and disingenuous in its pursuit of those goals.

Does any of this remind you of Apple in 2011 in any way?

Apple has steadfastly avoided the creation of middleware on iOS – stuff like Flash, which acts as a layer between the OS and the application. And it is now using its leverage over the platform to grab a slice of all the commerce people do through apps.

Who’d have thought that Steve Jobs would have stuck so closely to the playbook written by Bill Gates?

This is why Apple’s subscription system fails for consumers

From Apple Subs: Publishers Seek Clarity, FT Concerned, Some Sign Up | paidContent:

“We have a fair and open approach for customers whereby we offer digital access to FT journalism for one price and enable access across multiple platforms for no additional fee. It is necessary to have a direct relationship with the customer to enable this to happen. The iPad and iPhone are two of those channels, but it is a market that is developing quickly and new devices are coming to the market at an increasing rate.”

The same is true of The Economist. I pay them a simple fee, for which I get the print magazine, access to the web site and its huge archives, the audio version of the magazine as a podcast, and the magazine on iPad.

Because they don’t get access to information about who is buying via Apple’s in-app purchasing, they simply can’t offer the same deal through Apple’s system – which, in theory, means they can’t offer The Economist via iPad.

So what they will probably end up doing is offering a separate iPad-only subscription, which I won’t get as part of my package. And that’s a victory for customers how?