Tag Archives: Publishing

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.

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.

Enhanced by Zemanta

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?

Apple’s subscription system: A mess

From ‘Apple Just Fd Over Online Music Subs’ | paidContent:

“Music and video services do not have a 30 percent margin to give away to Apple NSDQ: AAPL. It means you’ll see them exit the market on iOS devices, paving the way for Apple’s own iTunes streaming.”

Does the subscription system include music content? No one knows, and Apple isn’t saying.

Does it cover content sold piece by piece, like books? This quote:

“We are now requiring that if an app offers customers the ability to purchase books outside of the app, that the same option is also available to customers from within the app with in-app purchase.”

from Apple’s Trudy Muller certainly says it does. But no one really knows, and Apple isn’t saying.

I doubt that Amazon could follow this rule, even if it wanted to. What’s more, the only ambiguity in that statement is around “outside of the app” – because if that also means “in a browser from any machine” then Kindle on iOS is dead in the water. Is Apple confident enough of its own position to do that?

Of course, some publishers will just go for it. Apple is betting that the publishers will see the opportunity as great, and the risk of being left behind as greater still. The fear factor of missing out will loom large.

But it will leave a sour taste, and publishers will know they’ve been screwed over. In the short term, that won’t matter much. But when a company keeps playing hardball constantly, insisting on the same cut no matter what service it provides because it’s in a position of power, sooner or later it gets bitten back.

Enhanced by Zemanta

I couldn’t have put it better myself

Mathew Ingram, writing for GigaOm:

“Call it a deal with the devil or whatever you want, but Apple is the one that came up with devices that are so appealing, and a content-distribution model that is so effective, that it has sold 10 billion apps in less than three years, and created a whole generation of users who look to it for content such as newspapers, magazines, e-books and games. Putting your eggs in Apple’s basket is a great way to get them to market — but just remember who owns the basket, and who you have to pay for carrying it, and who controls the route to your customer. Meanwhile, over in the corner stands Google, waving frantically.”

Sometimes, “think like a startup” isn’t the best option

In an interesting piece on the problems at MySpace under Murdoch, Om Malik mentions this:

Kevin also mentioned that Murdoch, and every large media company, need to think like startups.

Good advice – but only to a point. The fact is that News Corp (like all major media companies) can currently make more money online creating products which leverage other assets they own than standalone digital-only properties.

One simple example: a site tying into Avatar will have an instant audience and massive opportunity for cross-promotion and cross-sell, as long as it doesn’t suck. It won’t take years to build audience, won’t have large ongoing costs, and won’t need to have much in the way of work done on visual identity. It’s an instant money-spinner.

So if News Inc was developing digital-only properties from scratch, as I’m sure it will do in the future, “think like a startup” is good advice. But most of the time, it needs to “think like a corporate” – creating digital properties based on other media, linking them all together, and using the power of old media to create instant brand identity in the digital space.

(Picture via World Economic Forum)

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Guardian CEO says charging for specialist content an option

The Guardian may still be considering a paywall, at least for specialist content:

[Chief Executive of Guardian Media Group Carolyn] McCall added that the Guardian, like the New York Times, had looked at six different pay models including a complete a complete “pay wall”. She said that introducing pay barriers would restrict the Guardian’s journalism.

I’m sure she didn’t quite mean it this way, but thinking about whether to implement a paywall from the perspective of it “restricting journalism” – which I take to mean “restricting the reach of the audience for journalism” – is a bit of a case of putting the cart before the horse.

Without a viable revenue stream, without a viable business model, there is no journalism. Everything else has to be secondary. If it isn’t, you don’t have real journalism – you have some kind of charity.

If introducing pay barriers “restricts journalism” but makes what you can do profitable, that’s a better option than trying to sustain a business which is consistently losing money. With the newspaper loses running at £100,000 per day, The Guardian is not in a position to reject business models on the basis of them “restricting journalism”.

(Image by Gigijin)

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Amazon caves in to Macmillan, pouts and sulks

Macmillan E-books – kindle Discussion Forum:

We want you to know that ultimately, however, we will have to capitulate and accept Macmillan’s terms because Macmillan has a monopoly over their own titles, and we will want to offer them to you even at prices we believe are needlessly high for e-books.

Someone should tell them that companies which have a monopoly over their own ebook-reading hardware and use DRM to tie books to that platform really don’t have a lot of a ground to be pouting over “monopolies”.

Will someone do to Photoshop what InDesign did to Quark?

Back in the days when I did proper print publishing instead of all this new-fangled online nonsense, everyone used QuarkXPress – and everyone hated Quark with a passion. The price of the product always seemed to go up, never down, and it cost a fortune. You could never get a decent discount, even if you were buying hundreds of copies. And support was (ahem) “somewhat hit and miss”.

Unsurprisingly, when InDesign came along, everyone jumped ship as quickly as they could. Quark went from dominating the industry to losing its leading role, because everyone hated them and was looking for an excuse to dump them.

You’d think, having been the beneficiary of this, that Adobe would have learned the simply lesson that ripping your customers off and treating them poorly just makes them hate you – and that if any credible competitor comes along, they’ll be off like a shot. But, it seems, they haven’t. Adobe has just used the excuse of exchange rates to hit British customers hard, again – and, as Charles Arthur elegantly points out, this is complete bunk.

Of course, the difference between Adobe’s situation and Quark’s is that it’s difficult to see where competition for Creative Suite might come from. Adobe bought Macromedia, which was its brightest competitor, and Quark isn’t in that part of the business. I’d be happy for Apple to pick up the ball and kick Adobe hard, but placing even more power in the hands of Apple isn’t something that appeals.

But sooner or later, someone is going to come along and create something that kills Photoshop, just as InDesign killed XPress. And Adobe will deserve it.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]