With new tablet Web app, New York Times may avoid Apple’s fees

Nieman Lab | The Next Web | News release
The New York Times launches a new “experimental” Web app today for its subscribers with iPads.

So if you’re a Times subscriber you can now access its content on your iPad through the main NYTimes for iPad app, The Collection fashion and style app, the Flipboard app, plain old nytimes.com in the Safari browser, the experimental Skimmer Web app and now the new tablet Web app at App.NYTimes.com. Read more


How news organizations are taking advantage of the latest iPad’s features

The newest iPad has ushered in a new high-resolution Retina Display that renders text that’s similar to the quality you see in print.

The core of most news apps is the printed word. The coarse typography of the iPad 1 and 2 and other tablets led to less than ideal news experiences because letters and words literally don’t stand out as much on low-resolution displays. But that’s changed with the latest iPad.

News outlets have been updating their apps to take advantage of the new iPad, which features a display with twice the pixel density, 264 PPI. Apple says that pixel density qualifies the 9.7-inch iPad as a Retina Display. (Individual pixels are not perceptible by the human eye).

Usability expert Jakob Nielsen said in a phone interview that the new iPad’s display will cause people to use the device more because it’s a more enjoyable user experience, particularly for reading text.

Nielsen highlighted the crispness of typography on the new iPad. He said the higher resolution display impacts both reading speed and eyestrain, two issues that plague other consumer-grade computer monitors. These two issues have also caused people to shy away from reading longer-form content on computers.

“All commercially available computer screens have all had bad typography,” he said. “For the entire history of computers we’ve always suffered under reduced reading speed and increased eyestrain compared to print.”

States of “retina” readiness

News outlets are in various stages of adjusting their apps to the latest iPad and are facing some challenges with larger file sizes and difficult technology revisions. Some news apps aren’t updated at all for the new iPad, while others are completely redone for it. The Daily, a news publication originally created for the iPad, is naturally leading the way when it comes to taking advantage of the higher resolution display on the new iPad.

The Daily iPad app has clean-looking text that uses the native text rendering engine built into iOS. The Daily has also updated photos to look great at this higher resolution.

Greg Clayman, publisher of The Daily, believes that the higher resolution Retina Display on the new iPad will foster more reading.

“It’s just so comfortable to read on the new iPad,” he said via email.

Nielsen agrees with that assessment and believes the new iPad and rival tablets on the horizon with high-pixel density displays will prompt people to read more on tablets.

“The crispness of the typography really impacts both reading speed and eyestrain and the pleasantness of reading,” Nielsen said.

The Daily was a news organization created to produce journalism on the iPad. It would be silly if it weren’t making full use of the latest iPad technology. But what about apps from established news organizations?

The Economist hasn’t been fully updated to take advantage of the new display on the latest iPad, but overall the apps looks pretty good. This is largely because The Economist app has always made use of native text within iOS, unlike a lot of other magazine apps that rendered text as images. (Those images didn’t scale well to higher resolutions.) The Economist didn’t have to do anything to get text to render properly on the new iPad, and all old issues do a good job of rendering text on the new iPad as well.

The Economist, however, has not updated its graphical assets or photos to take advantage of the new display. Photos look pixelated and not nearly as good as what The Daily offers. Oscar Grut, managing director for Economist Digital, said in an email that higher resolution images are coming to The Economist app.

Using native iOS text made the transition much easier for some apps, he said. Other apps that used Adobe’s InDesign plugin needed to be redone.

“We haven’t faced the same problems as some other magazine publishers because we use core text, so the text renders perfectly on the new iPad,” Grut said. “We have not had to update the app for this.”

Distracting and fuzzy text

Non-updated text is distracting and hard to read on the new iPad. It’s a bit like watching standard definition content on a high-definition TV. Just as standard definition TV looks worse on a high-definition TV than it does on a standard definition one, the same effect happens on the iPad. It’s not that apps need to be updated to look even better on the new iPad; it’s that if they aren’t updated, they’re very hard to look at.

I’ve found that apps that haven’t been updated are not worth using. The text is so hard to read and distracting that it ruins the reading and news consumption experience. It’s hard to imagine someone who enjoys the typography of print getting into such a pixelated reading experience.

Some magazines are more known for their visual flair than The Economist. Vanity Fair is now taking advantage of the higher resolution display to feature higher resolution photos that show off more detail. Many users and app developers had concerns, however, that the new iPad would lead to magazine issues that were too big.

Vanity Fair, Wired and others had large file sizes, sometimes 500 MB or more. The smallest iPad has about 13.5 GB of usable storage space. At 500 MBs an issue, that doesn’t leave a lot of room for many issues or other apps or movies. And that was 500 MB per issue on a device that needs to push four times less pixels than the new iPad.

Vanity Fair recently switched to a bundled PDF format from a PNG format, which has allowed the magazine to use higher resolution art assets while also reducing the file size of their issues. Its May issue weighed in at 135 MB.

Art Director Chris Mueller said in an email that Vanity Fair also rethought some of the apps’ usability. Issues now feature less scrolling content. The Table of Contents page is several individual pages instead of one big, long scroll.

“We’re adapting and working through other quirks as they come up, but overall the huge improvement to the appearance of type and images on the tablet is worth the effort,” Mueller said of the changes made to the Vanity Fair app for the new iPad.

The Washington Post is another iPad app in transition. The text looks great, but photos are low resolution. Joey Marburger, designer for mobile and new digital products at the Post, said in an email that higher resolution photos are on the way. He cautioned that a balance needs to be struck between high resolution photos and download speed. He said that offline storage is another issue that iPad news app makers need to take into account. (iPads hold a small fraction of what desktops and laptops can hold.)

Marburger said that tablets need high resolution because they are easier on the eyes and make for a more enjoyable reading experience.

“The Kindle essentially has the highest perceived resolution because it seems so natural,” he said. “That intersection is paramount.”

The issue with old issues

Publishers also have to take into account the problem of old issues not being updated, or only partially updated. The Wired app has largely been updated, and it looks good on the new iPad. Previous issues prior to the switch look terrible on the new iPad, and Wired hasn’t gone back and updated old issues to look good on the new display.

This is true of a lot of iPad news apps. One of the nice things about the iPad is the ability to store years worth of old issues of magazines on one device. However, when some of the issues feature really crisp text and photos, and other issues feature pixelated text and blurry photos, the reading experience can be jarring.

The process of creating news apps for the iPad and other tablets is still in its infancy, and best practices are still forming. The new iPad and other tablets on the horizon may finally be able to offer some of the best parts of print in a digital format. Read more


High Country News raises bar for clever mobile promotions

YouTube | iTunes
High Country News is earning a reputation for nontraditional marketing of its new digital products.

Last December, the nonprofit news magazine about the American West sent an unusually honest press release about its new digital subscription plan and iPhone app. The news release quoted reader feedback that the new product “sucks,” and admission that the publication “turned to highly underpaid coders” to build the iPhone app. But hey, it’s a start.

Now HCN is out with its first iPad app, accompanied by this mockumentary about readers picketing the office with slogans like: “HCN is full of crap; we deserve an iPad app!”

Read more


Few news orgs cross the ‘Continental Content Divide’ between social and immersive journalism

Edelman Digital
Steve Rubel outlines what he calls the “Continental Content Divide” that has emerged among media companies:

Some publishers see social networking as their primary path to growth. As a result, they are mixing journalism and web culture in clever ways that get their stories shared so they find you.

Others, meanwhile, believe the future is in immersive experiences that audiences seek out and, perhaps, even pay for.

Very few media brands are equally adroit. The reason, according to Darren Burden form Australia’s Fairfax Media, is that “news you read is different than news you say you read.”

The goal of the social strategy is to create news that finds you, while the immersive approach results in “news you find.” Another way of describing it: “spreadable media” vs. “drillable media.” Read more


Denver Post’s new iPad app ‘advances how news apps should look’

Garcia Media | Digital First Media
Design expert Mario Garcia has high praise for the new iPad app launched by Digital First Media’s Denver Post. “It advances how news apps should look like, it does not pretend to look like a newspaper … Bravo. … a news app appearing today does not need to remind us of the iconic newspaper look,” Garcia writes.
Read more


Huffington iPad mag stops charging, renewing concern about readers’ willingness to pay

Capital New York | GigaOM
The Huffington Post’s new weekly iPad magazine — originally priced at 99 cents / $1.99 a month / $19.99 a year — is dropping its price to zero after five issues, Joe Pompeo reports. AOL claims about 115,000 downloads of the app, Pompeo writes, but it wasn’t clear how many of those ever paid for an issue (the first month came free).

The moves comes shortly after The Daily, News Corp.’s iPad-only newsmagazine, laid off 50 staffers and scaled back content.

Mathew Ingram’s analysis is that single-source apps “don’t fit the way content works anymore”:

Whether media companies like it or not (and they mostly don’t), much of the news and other content we consume now comes via links shared through Twitter and Facebook and other networks, or through old-fashioned aggregators — such as Yahoo News or Google News — and newer ones like Flipboard and Zite and Prismatic that are tailored to mobile devices and a socially-driven news experience. Compared to that kind of model, a dedicated app from a magazine or a newspaper looks much less interesting, since by design it contains content from only a single outlet, and it usually doesn’t contain helpful things like links.

Read more

New wave of tablet devices could accelerate news-reading trend

The class of semi-portable, two-hands-required, touch-screen devices we generically refer to as “tablets” really contains two distinct species.

There are the 10-inch screens, where the $499-and-up iPad dominates and has reigned all tablets as best-in-class.

And then there is the insurgent class of 7-inch screens led by the Amazon Kindle Fire. Are they as good as the iPad? No. But they’re more than half as good for less than half the price — and so they offer a compelling value to the budget-conscious consumer.

Google's Nexus 7 tablet goes on sale this month.

In the next month or two, expect to see a new wave of impressive innovation in this smaller class of tablets.

Amazon is expected to debut the Kindle Fire 2 by August. This month Google will launch its own Nexus 7, which critics say is “the best 7-inch tablet yet” and “Applesque in its fluid touch response.” And if you believe the less-certain rumors from Bloomberg and the Wall Street Journal, Apple may launch its own “iPad mini” later this year.

These cheaper, lighter 7-inch devices have the potential to accelerate the tablet market to critical mass much more quickly than the iPad alone. The introduction of the first 7-inch Kindle Fire late last year contributed to total tablet ownership among U.S. adults nearly doubling in one month.

These trends are notable for the long-term future of journalism. A new study by Gartner finds about seven in 10 tablet owners use them for news consumption, and most “prefer to read news, magazines and books on screen, rather than on paper.” Some of the shift shows up in the times of day people use different devices, with tablet use peaking in the evenings.

Night owls prefer to read on tablets; Earlier in the day, computer use is more common.

This study seems more credible than many other recent ones, because participants kept a week-long diary of their device usage rather than just answer survey questions about how they think they use them.

Earlier: Steve Jobs hated the idea of a 7-inch tablet | Tablet users more likely to buy magazines, e-books than news, newspapers | Tablet owners use them to keep up with the news | Night owls read news on tablets as mobile overtakes computer for at-home browsing Read more


Four things for journalists to consider as full New York Times content comes to Flipboard

As of Thursday, New York Times subscribers can access the news organization’s content from within Flipboard, the aggregated magazine app for iPads and smartphones.

That’s news — even if you don’t subscribe to the Times. Here’s why.

This is what New York Times content will look like in Flipboard.

It is the first time Flipboard has fully subsumed the content of any publisher, and it is “the first time that The Times has offered paid subscribers full access to its content off a Times platform.”

But it won’t be the last. The Times says this is only the first step in a new strategy called “NYT Everywhere,” which will put Times content on many third-party platforms.

There are at least four things journalists and publishers should be considering as this transition occurs.

1. 20 percent of New York Times readers use aggregation apps like Flipboard, website general manager Denise Warren told the Times’ own Bits blog. That’s in line with a recent industry-wide study that found 22 percent of digital-content subscribers preferred to access content through an all-in-one newsstand app.

That raises the question: If one in five people prefer Flipboard-style apps to news orgs’ own apps, does that mean this Flipboard integration could persuade some new people to pay for a Times subscription? That’s certainly the hope.

2. The importance of APIs. Simple RSS/XML feeds of content power most of Flipboard’s sections. But for a deeper integration like this one, it was important for the Times to offer a robust API that could serve content and authenticate subscriber accounts. Flipboard CEO Mike McCue told TechCrunch “we worked closely with The New York Times technical team to integrate their content APIs and authentication back-end so it’s very easy to log-in one time then browse all the content … This was a ground-up build and our first authentication integration.” (If I’ve lost you there, check out four reasons your news org should use APIs.)

3. Can smaller news orgs follow this path? The New York Times already has its own apps for iPad, iPhone and Android, even BlackBerry and Windows Phone. So Flipboard integration is just an added bonus for its tablet-toting subscribers. But smaller news media can’t afford so much custom app development, and now they may find a similar Flipboard partnership is a good way to make their content available to paying subscribers who want access on tablets.

4. Content vs. Customers. On the other hand, there is a potential risk to news organizations in the long-run with this general model.

If you believe the maxim that Content is King, then it makes sense for you to sell and license your content far-and-wide so long as you get paid for it. You fear no disruption from those who produce no content of their own.

It’s a different calculation, however, if you believe that Customers are King. In this model original content is just one method (along with conversation, curation and others) to build audience relationships. The relationships, however originated, hold the true value that can be monetized by other methods like advertising, sponsored content, discount deals, events and licensed user data.

If customers are more important than content, then there’s a real risk to a news publisher of becoming just one of many commoditized content creators while Flipboard and other middlemen control the customer relationship.

Citing such fears, Ad Age reports that Conde Nast magazines Wired and The New Yorker are pulling back their content from Flipboard.

“Our intention is to adapt our model to allow Flipboard users to know what content at Wired is out there. It will have a headline and a sentence leading to a URL. If digital consumers want to interact with Wired, they can do so at Wired.com and not through an intermediary,” Publisher Howard Mittman told Nat Ives.

Of course, the Times itself is not in any present danger. It has its own popular website and apps, and controls its own subscriber data and revenue. Flipboard integration is just a good experiment and a potential way to acquire new readers.

But it will be interesting to see where else this new NYT Everywhere strategy will carry Times content, and if it does someday change the very nature of what it means to “read The New York Times.”

Related: Wall Street Journal extends premium content to Pulse news app Read more


LeVar Burton of ‘Reading Rainbow’ fame breaks print journalists’ hearts

The Atlantic

In an interview with Benjamin Jackson about the new “Reading Rainbow” iPad app (The Atlantic beat me to the obvious: “Take a look it’s on an iPad”) LeVar Burton says Twitter and Flipboard have pushed the newspaper aside in his daily routine:

LeVar, I’d like to know what media you consume when you wake up on a Sunday, where you consume it, and how? So, is it a physical newspaper or magazine, an iPad app, a website in a browser, an online video series, a podcast? Any or all of the above?

BURTON: Sunday morning is a traditional day for laying in bed, a little while — much longer than a normal day — and, you know my iPad charges on my nightstand, so it’s the first thing I reach for. Generally the first thing I do is check emails and then Twitter feed, and on Sunday morning, you know I like to play with Flipboard, and just sort of check in to the world and I can do that without having to get up. And I like that, I like that idea a lot. We get to the newspaper, but that’s not until we get upstairs. We get the Sunday paper, I like arranging it on the kitchen counter, section by section, and different members of the family come and grab their favorite section, and that’s kind of a ritual, but the ritual begins in bed with the iPad.

…. Do you find yourself reading less, more, or differently now that you have so many sources of information vying for your attention?

BURTON: I read fewer — I used to read the newspaper every day. I get most of my news updates from electronic and social media. I don’t read a newspaper anymore, I don’t — I think I’ve watched TV news less, certainly. I like the immediacy of Twitter, and — yeah, I really, I do read the newspaper less.

Read more

The chart that shows why iPad apps are so appealing to news orgs

Reynolds Journalism Institute
Roger Fidler’s survey of mobile media device users finds that iPad owners are, by far, the most likely to use a mobile device for news consumption. They also spend more time with news on average than those who do not own iPads.

RJI device owners keeping up with news

A few other findings:

  • iPad users said they spend 6.1 hours per week “keeping up with the news.”
  • Younger iPad users, ages 18-34, said they spend 7.3 hours per week “keeping up with the news.”
  • 84 percent of iPad users ages 18-34 said they use it for “keeping up with the news”

Related: Half of iPad owners still subscribe to print media (Poynter) | Study: Tablet users more likely to buy magazines, e-books than news, newspapers (Poynter) | New York Post drops iPad Web paywall (NY Convergence) || Earlier: ABC News iPad app changes by time of day (Poynter) | “Huffington” iPad magazine launches (Poynter). Read more


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