World Cup was most talked-about sporting event in Facebook history

Here’s our roundup of the top digital and social media stories you should know about (and from Andrew Beaujon, 10 media stories to start your day):

— At, Abigail Edge rounds up seven tips from Google’s Dan Russell on how to use search more effectively in your newsgathering — including how to use Google Trends, and when it makes sense to search by color.

— AllFacebook’s David Cohen reports that “350 million Facebook users generated 3 billion interactions” during the 2014 FIFA World Cup, “making it the most-talked-about sporting event in the social network’s history.”

— Nieman Lab’s Joseph Lichterman explains how some news organizations “are stashing staff around the world to keep content fresh.” The rise of mobile means “readers are demanding news content earlier and earlier, and that doesn’t line up with how most newsroom schedules have traditionally been structured.” Read more

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Magazines, including a Rolling Stone issue featuring president-elect Barack Obama, are displayed at a newsstand Wednesday, Jan. 14, 2009 in New York. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)

Magazine industry ad decline slowing, but 4th quarter not good

The final tally came in this week for print magazine advertising in 2013. It is the typical good news/bad news scenario.

Ad pages — the industry’s traditional measure — were down 4.1 percent for the year. That could be read as a step forward from 2012 when the decline was 8.2 percent.

Quarterly year-to-year comparisons had improved through the year, with the third quarter off just 1.8 percent compared to a year earlier, the best performance in two years. But the fourth quarter headed back the wrong way, off 4.8 percent, indicating marketing budget cuts at year’s end and perhaps a below par holiday season.

The weak fourth quarter at magazines suggests that newspaper ad results for the period, which will be reported by public companies in February and for the industry in March will probably soften too.

We will return to the overall measures in a minute, but here is a tasty tidbit.  Can you guess which category of magazines did best, bucking the negative trend and finishing up 11.2 percent in pages for the year? (I couldn’t).

The winner, according to a compilation by Media Life Magazine was men’s titles. Men’s Health and Men’s Fitness were both up by more than a quarter for 2013. Details, Esquire and GQ, all had gains of 10 percent or better. Maxim (-16.8 percent)  and Playboy (-5.4 percent) were down, reflecting declining circulation as their genre of photo offerings are now readily available online, in varying degrees of raunch, for free.

Among the weakest performers were the three surviving newsweeklies — Time (-11.4 percent), The Economist (-16.1 percent), and The Week (-19.7 percent).

So among print magazine readers, at least, abs and prostates are hot, news not so much.

The Media Life list is detailed and can be scanned to see how your favorite titles or categories did last year.  Entertainment and celebrity magazines were strong; high-end general titles like The New Yorker, New York and The Atlantic were off.

A few notable growth categories of the last decade — like food and shelter — have now leveled off and saw a small decline in ad pages

Media Life is directed at media buyers. That group includes young professionals at ad agencies and specialized boutique firms. The buyers are notorious for moving as a herd, so being a hot title begets still more business and comparatively weak performers are scorned.

The Publishers Information Bureau, source of the statistics, also now provides an estimate of revenues. They were better than the ad page counts for almost every title and came out even or just up for the industry compared to 2012.

This measure also does not include digital advertising. That’s not an area of strength for magazines, which even more than newspapers continue to lose ad share to the digital giants and other digital-only offerings.

Tablet editions, though a small contributor to magazine finances as yet, continue to grow both audience and advertising. A separate study commissioned by the bureau’s parent association, MPA, found that the 69 magazines that measure iPad ad units increased the units by 16 percent in 2013.

The limitations of considering just ad pages as a measure of financial health disadvantage organizations furthest up the curve in digital transformation. For instance, The Atlantic’s traditional monthly print magazine was down in pages 16.8 percent for the year. But the company’s broader portfolio includes a hugely successful conference business and the strong launch of the digital-only Quartz business news site.

Especially if the tablet use is included, magazine audience is stable or up slightly for the year.  However, as numerous reports including Pew’s State of the News Media 2013 have noted, single copy sales, the highest margin circulation revenue, have crashed.

Travelers, especially those looking for something to watch or read on a plane, are increasingly choosing digital alternatives, rather than the old routine of buying a handful of magazines before they board.

Curiously, the print revenues of all magazines — $19.7 billion for the Publisher Information Bureau titles — is just ahead of those of daily newspapers. Those were $18.9 billion in 2012 but sure to decline more when 2013 full-year results are compiled. Read more


Does new Web app bring New York Times a step closer to abandoning native apps?

New York Times

The New York Times has officially released an HTML 5 Web app, previously in beta for iPad but now available on all browsers, called Today’s Paper.

The app includes all sections, articles and photos found in the print edition, as well as some select video. Users can access editions from the previous seven days. The app features swipe- and scroll-friendly navigation; optimized, responsive designs for both portrait and landscape modes; and offline reading for a seamless, efficient reading experience.

Putting aside free RSS feeds and the Kindle e-reader edition (which isn’t included in the Times’ All-Digital Access subscription), subscribers have a number of elegant ways to read Times content on tablets: Read more

Press members photograph the Nokia Lumia 1020 during a Nokia event in July (Photo by Diane Bondareff/Invision for Nokia/AP Images).

What mobile journalists should have on their holiday shopping lists

Here are a few ideas for the mobile journalist’s holiday wish list as news production increasingly relies less on expensive, high-end cameras and laptops. Read more

Esquire app on an iPad

Why news organizations shouldn’t write off tablet magazines

Jon Lund in GigaOM recently declared tablet magazines a failure.

That’s true in the sense that they haven’t substantially impacted overall magazine circulation. Using Alliance of Audited Media numbers, Lund lists the percentages that “digital replica” paid subscriptions, such as for tablets, contributes to the total circulation for 25 magazines. They ranged from a high of 38 percent of total circulation (Game Informer Magazine, a noted outlier) to 2 percent (People magazine).

Like Lund, I’d discourage any new publication from focusing solely on tablet apps, stored deep inside iPad folders or in the dreaded Newsstand, far from the dynamic reach of social media and the Web.

But sometimes it’s nice to retreat to a dark, quiet, closed-off space on a tablet. And magazine apps are contributing enough to circulation figures that we shouldn’t write them off as worthwhile components of our larger digital strategies — especially if publishers are smart about how much they invest in producing them.

Lund cites The Daily, which failed not only as a tablet-only publication but also as a tablet-only publication granted lots of free publicity by virtue of its status as an iPad pioneer. That’s a useful example in the argument against interactive magazines as digital media panacea.

But consider two of my favorite digital magazine apps: The New Yorker and The Atlantic Weekly.

The former, despite its irritating recent switch from paginated content to breathtakingly long scrolls, offers the cleanest, most convenient way for me to read New Yorker pieces. And it takes advantage of the tablet form without resorting to flashy interactive design. Short videos and poems read aloud by authors enrich the content without requiring lots of extra production resources.

The Atlantic’s foray into weekly publishing, meanwhile, also presents a model for tablet content that doesn’t profess to be a game-changer but fits nicely alongside the company’s other digital products. The Atlantic Weekly bundles pre-existing content from the Web that readers might have missed during the week. It collects only a few stories, presenting them all in the same simple design template.

Although these relatively simply apps certainly cost something in terms of staff and publishing-platform fees, Atlantic editor-in-chief James Bennet told Poynter in an email: “We do put a good deal of work into The Weekly – we wouldn’t be asking readers to pay for it if we didn’t – but we’ve been pretty rigorous about scoping that work to keep the costs in line with sales,” Bennet said.

The Atlantic Weekly requires work from four primary staffers: an editor, copy editor, designer and producer, none of whom work on this product full-time. He didn’t disclose sales figures but said they’ve exceeded expectations. Three-quarters of readers are monthly ($2.99) or yearly ($19.99) subscribers; single editions cost $1.99.

While it’s true that The New Yorker’s digital edition only accounts for 7 percent of total paid circulation, we tend to frame print circulation drops of 7 to 10 percent as pretty significant. If 10-percent circulation drops inspire feelings of doom, shouldn’t the prospect of 10-percent circulation boosts thanks to digital editions inspire feelings of hope?

Lund’s point that digital magazines suffer from lack of social connections is a good one. So is his point that phone and tablet users spend most of their time with only a few essential apps, and it’s better to meet them where they are — on Twitter, Flipboard and the like — than to hope they’ll remember to keep visiting your app, buried among dozens.

Yet the strongest media brands can meet readers everywhere; they don’t have to choose between having a website and having an app. That’s what makes initiatives like The Atlantic Weekly so fascinating — they recognize this notion that, sure, most of the time you just want to focus on your Facebook news feed and manage your email. But when you want to pull back from those demands on your attention and just read some good stories distraction-free — even if it’s just for the 20 to 30 minutes a week when you think to open the app — the Atlantic Weekly will be there.

Tablets are multifaceted — it’s pretty amazing that I can retreat from the chaos of the Web to a book or magazine or TV show on the same device that was overwhelming me before. (Remember: e-books, while no longer booming, have carved out a nice place in our modern lives despite being as disconnected from the social Web as digital magazines.)

Still, I’m concerned about some apps, like the sensational interactive Esquire. According to mobile editions editor Mark Mikin, it takes three designers, an in-house Hearst Digital Media post-production team and four editors to produce the magazine app. And that’s not all: “Every ‘print’ editor and every ‘print’ art director and photo editor contributes ideas for interactivity and multimedia,” Mikin said via email. “We really all sit down in one room with the intent of figuring out how to make every idea on paper something unique and engaging on the iPad.”

That all-in effort makes for a tremendous product, but it requires significant staff resources to reinvent so much print content. So I’m with Lund in one respect — it’s hard to look at the numbers and feel confident that a major investment in heavily interactive magazines will pay off. The many challenges — zeroing in on workable price points, figuring out how to bundle apps with other digital content, publishing on various operating systems, asking readers to routinely download large files, integrating app production into a publication’s overall workflow — make the task even more daunting.

Pages from The Atlantic, The New Yorker and Esquire

But that doesn’t mean publications should stop experimenting with apps completely — at least not until the Web becomes so robust that apps lose their advantages in bundling, design, and interactivity and this debate becomes moot.

// Read more

Travel Cybertrips iPad

How tablets are changing the way writers work

Journalists have long defined themselves by the medium that carries their work. They say they write for magazines, newspapers or the Web. No one says, “I write for tablets.”

Yet as more tablet-focused startups and spinoffs are developed, more journalists are seeing their bylines as tappable things connected to experiences, instead of articles. And this often changes how — and with whom — they work.

These days, many publishers are thinking “mobile-first” — even though they disagree on what that means. As always, where publishers go, writers follow — and the tablet is where journalists really want to go now, because that’s where the long-form print story has been reborn, and is being transformed through digital experiments.

More words, different experience

Each month dozens of pitches, mostly from magazine writers, pour into The Atavist, a Brooklyn, N.Y.-based digital publishing company that produces one original, long-form nonfiction story between 5,000 and 30,000 words monthly.

“We’re going to treat the piece the way it would get treated somewhere like The New Yorker,” said Evan Ratliff, co-founder, CEO and editor. “We’re going to make everything perfect, and then we promise them a very high production value on it.”

Now nearly three years old, The Atavist is notable for the seamless way it integrates audio, maps, video, photography, and even animation into its text narratives. But the story comes first: In a phone interview, Ratliff said multimedia elements aren’t added unless a good argument can be made for why they enhance the storytelling, and the reader can turn them off with a tap.

The Atavist’s artful inclusion of multimedia elements appeals to authors who believe their stories would benefit from that treatment. Take “Finding Shakespeare,” August’s story about a Vietnam veteran’s quest to discover how Shakespeare’s English actually sounded and to reproduce it on a New York stage. In reporting the story, Daniel Fromson said he gathered some six dozen film clips from the subject’s own documentary, as well as several boxes of letters, photographs, journals, screenplay drafts and other potential multimedia material “that ranged from receipts for his handyman business to readings of his horoscope.”

“I really do believe the multimedia in the story enhanced the story,” said Fromson, who has also written for The Atlantic and Harper’s, in a phone interview. “It would have been a good story without it, but the multimedia convey the general air of commitment bordering on obsession and the eccentricity of my subject.”

Fromson wanted to be involved with such efforts, but Ratliff said no commitment beyond production of a story’s audiobook is required of writers. An in-house production staff coordinates everything else.

Ratliff said it’s “pretty rare that we send a reporter out to actually gather multiple types of media. They come from somewhere else.”

Research into how people use tablets is helping shape the work produced on them. Long-form content, for instance, does well because readers read for longer periods of time on tablets than on other devices. They also read in the evenings — and do a great deal of tapping as they read.

“A high expectation comes with the device,” Poynter’s Sara Quinn said in March at a South by Southwest session on how people consume news on tablets. “During our study, we saw readers tap and tap on elements that weren’t tappable.”

Warning: distractions ahead

As with print magazines, tablet publications share certain physical characteristics but don’t resemble one another that much in terms of content. Not everyone thinks more multimedia is better for tablet readers of long-form journalism. Consider the debate after The New York Times published “Snow Fall: The Avalanche at Tunnel Creek” to near-deafening applause. The team that created “Snow Fall” had tablet consumers in mind as they integrated video, photography and motion graphics into one seamless story, and the piece won the 2013 Pulitzer Prize for feature writing. Soon, however, dissenting opinions emerged alongside a legion of imitators.

Bobbie Johnson, the co-founder of Matter, which publishes long-form stories on science, technology, medicine and the environment “for consumption on any device,” wrote a post called “Snowfallen” with the subtitle, “Just because you can, it doesn’t mean you should.”

“Snow Fall was a good story, but it felt as if getting you to read it was the story’s secondary ambition,” Johnson wrote. “When I did it, I was constantly interrupted or distracted. And while the multimedia elements provided atmosphere, in all honesty they didn’t mean much. As a reader they drew me away from what I was there for. I came away from it thinking ‘ooh, lovely design’ —  not ‘this story is amazing.’ ”

Matter’s co-founder, Jim Giles, said their publication’s focus remains on the quality of the written stories. He said writers for Matter, which was acquired this spring by San Francisco-based Medium, haven’t told him they’ve changed anything about their process.

“So often I feel multimedia gets in the way,” he said in a telephone interview. “We’re selling an experience of being engulfed by a story — a story that’s meaningful, gripping, and you’re learning something about the world in the process.”

Mixing media

Elsewhere, though, examples of immersive multimedia stories featuring long-form writing are multiplying, and editors value the fusion of thoughtful, in-depth writing and interactivity. With the new capabilities of tablet publishing come new (or at least revised) expectations for writers.

At Quartz, a global business news outlet owned by Atlantic Media and based in New York City, reporters must think about multimedia and other visual elements, such as charts, said editor-in-chief and co-founder Kevin J. Delaney. For instance, when Apple recently released a chart showing cumulative iPhone sales, reporter David Yanofsky superimposed his own chart of quarterly iPhone sales. Although Apple’s chart makes it appear as if the iPhone universe is ever expanding, the quarterly information shows that sales are cyclical and have actually declined in recent quarters.

“[Yanofsky] has deep journalistic training,” Delaney said in a phone interview. “He understands how business works. He knows how to read regulatory filings by companies.”

Quartz reporters use a custom-designed chart-building tool to make such charts, which Delaney said are very popular with readers. (Quartz has open-sourced that software, and other news organizations are now using it.) Reporters also choose, crop and place the photographs accompanying their stories in the publishing system.

More collaboration required

At The Atavist, stories can include a range of multimedia. Alissa Quart’s story about an embattled abortion clinic in Jackson, Miss., began as a documentary film by Maisie Crow. Both women, reached via telephone, raved about the experience of working together — an opportunity made possible because of support from The Atavist as well as the nonprofit Economic Hardship Reporting Project.

“There is big value in pairing writing and short film,” said Crow. “I can get really intimate, but the writing can set the stage for why the story’s important.”

Quart said she wished she could have had a similar collaboration with a photographer on her new book, “Republic of Outsiders.” That didn’t happen, but Quart said she now always thinks about multimedia. In fact, she and Crow are collaborating on another project — a nonprofit-supported one about domestic workers.

So far, writing for the tablet doesn’t seem much different from writing for print: the style depends on the audience and the editor far more than the platform. In the case of The Atavist, the tablet has provided more opportunities to work with multimedia. At Quartz, it’s added a few more responsibilities. And for Matter, it’s not changed the writer’s process at all.

In part, that’s because nearly four years after the debut of the iPad, audiences are still adjusting to narratives that include multimedia — and how to find examples of such storytelling.

“The main problem is the market’s not developed,” Quart said. “People don’t know how to think about it. Is it sold on iTunes? Is it a book?”

In her view, old habits still prevail: “You go to the art house to see the movie. You read the book. There’s still that division.” Read more

Google Android Gadget

As Android tablets grow, publishers struggle to match the iPad experience

When the IDC forecast this month that Google’s Android operating system would soon surpass Apple’s iOS in tablet market share, publishers of digital magazines could be excused for some handwringing.

Since 2010, Apple’s dominance of the market allowed publishers to reach the majority of the tablet audience by targeting just one device: the iPad. But times have changed.

Thirty-one percent of American adults now own tablets, according to Pew. Much of the growth in the market is being driven by device proliferation, and many of these devices run Android.

The Nexus 10 Android tablet
A Google employee browses magazine issues on The Nexus 10 tablet at a Google announcement in San Francisco last fall. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

The relative affordability and portability of new down-sized tablets like the Nexus 7 offer more entry points for tablet consumers, but they present headaches for digital magazine publishers: How do they best reach readers on dozens of different devices with wildly varying screen sizes and processing power? Read more


How Flipboard just created 50 million magazine editors

Inside FlipboardAll Things D | Giga Om
If you wanted to draw up a plan for drastically remaking the landscape of mobile news discovery, it might look something like this: 1) Release a beautiful news aggregating app that attracts 50 million readers, then 2) Empower those readers as curators who can create thousands of hand-picked digital magazines.

Flipboard, one of the most popular news-reading mobile apps, has just done that. It is shifting its focus toward empowering users to create their own curated “magazines” for others to read.

“Now everyone can be a reader and an editor,” a company blog post says. Read more


Google prepares a mobile marketplace for news content

Android Police | The Next Web | Read Write
A newspaper section is coming to the Google Play store for Android-powered mobile devices, according to a report by Android Police. Google Play News would join the store’s existing marketplaces for apps, magazines, books, movies and music.

The scoop is based on Android Police noticing some hints in the JavaScript code that runs the Play store, with various messages for users to purchase “issues” or “subscriptions” of news “editions.”

It could become an important market for news publishers, as Android-powered tablets surpass iPads in market share. Publishers have been able to sell subscriptions within their Android apps for nearly a year now, but having a special storefront for news in the Play store could help drive readers that way.

But this news app market will face some significant hurdles. Read more


New studies offer 5 ways publishers can capitalize on mobile trends now

As Cory Bergman explored in a thoughtful piece here last month, mobile connectivity– people linked to the Web via smart phones and tablets — is poised to thoroughly disrupt news all over again.

News publishers must deeply understand the contours of the shift or risk mobile becoming “digital hesitation 2.0.” The market research firm comScore recently released its annual major mobile report. A dive into the data distills lessons for journalism right now, some of them counterintuitive.

Move aggressively to mobile immediately — don’t wait for revenue to materialize

Smartphone ownership grew 30% in 2012 to surpass the 50% mark of units owned. Americans also own 50 million tablets — a penetration in three years that took a decade for smartphones.

One in three minutes spent online (37%) is now on mobile devices — and growing. And news is a major part of the activity — close to two-thirds of tablet owners use the devices for news and half for smart phones.

(A separate report by Adobe Digital finds the level of engagement on tablets is so deep that globally minutes on tablets have surpassed those on smartphones.)

The impact on news sites is huge. Buzzfeed reported this week at South by Southwest that 45% of its traffic comes from mobile. ESPN in 2012 increased mobile traffic by 59% and that now rivals desktop computer traffic. Gannett, a local news company, grew mobile traffic by 32%.

Mobile deepens engagement

Mobile means people engaging with content more often, more conveniently — it adds to your brand not threatens it. And media companies will need to figure out how to monetize the hard way, building users first.

“An overall increase in media engagement … means more monetization opportunities for media companies and a greater ability for marketers to optimize campaigns across platforms,” comScore concludes. “Those who fail to devise an effective multi-platform strategy will likely be left behind.”

Mobile is deeply local. At the Borrell conference last week on local online advertising, Mike Ghaffary of Yelp noted, “Local is all about walking around. So is mobile phone technology.”

Think app — especially for the phone

This is not a Web browser world, especially on phones. Four out of every five minutes in mobile is spent on apps rather than on the browser-based Web. There is also limited real estate on smart phone home pages and on tablets. News operations should become one of those brands while they have the chance.

Consumers turn to “task-specific” apps, not brand portals

News companies also should consider building separate mobile apps for different tasks. Google and Apple are examples. Google’s task specific apps (Google Maps, followed by Google Play, Google Search, Gmail and YouTube) are four of the top five Droid Apps. The top five on iPhones are iTunes, Facebook, Yahoo! Stocks, Google Maps, and Yahoo! Weather.

Don’t make users enter your domain and then navigate with fat fingers on tiny screens to the task they want. Build apps around tasks, make them easy to use. This is what the Web rewards.

This may mean an app for a sports team, neighborhoods, shopping, real estate, and other core content or tasks — in addition to the news home page. There is a fair amount of inventing to be done.

Content must match the strengths and time of day for each platform

For all the popularity of “responsive” design — the idea that your content automatically fits each screen — the data suggest something else: Don’t simply put the same content on each device in the same way. The apps and the content should match how and when people use them.

Mobile news consumption varies throughout the day, just as afternoon newspapers are written for a different audience and a different point in the news cycle than morning papers, or early morning TV news is different than early evening newscasts.

Smartphone usage peaks during travel hours. By contrast, people use tablets most heavily in the evening, after 5 p.m. and particularly from 8 to 11 p.m. There is a smaller but significant spike in tablet usage first thing in the morning. People also read long form content on their tablets — more than they do on any other digital devices.

Tablet apps, it follows, should deliver more content that comes for the evening, after the headlines are known. It should offer more analysis, context and depth. The level of real-time updating might be limited. Much of it might populate after 4 p.m. Knowing this has real consequences for newsroom organization.

On smartphones, content would involve heavier updates at three points of the daily cycle when people are in transit, including lunch. In a converged newsroom, maybe there should be an audio news update. Again, experiment.

Some news leaders love the term “platform agnostic.” Mobile proves again that “agnosticism” is a mistake. Content must be designed to be platform orthodox — or specific to how and when people use devices.

Local publishers must act to help local retailers

The growth in mobile is drastically reshaping shopping, too. One of the biggest changes is called “showrooming,” a phenomenon in which a customer walks into a store, tries on or tries out an item in person, and then while still in the store goes on a smartphone to see if they can buy it cheaper somewhere else or online. Nearly four in 10 Americans (36%) tell comScore they have “showroomed” and nearly half (46%) of smartphone owners.

This challenge for local retailers is a huge opportunity for local news publishers. As a knowledge leader about consumer behavior in town, local publishers should help businesses in their communities remain relevant to showrooming customers. Can they offer price matching programs, local shopping discount clubs or something else?

This is also a way to keep those local businesses from shifting their online business away to non-news publishers who are coming hard at local search and display.

In other words, if publishers wait, Google and Facebook are coming fast — again.

Tom Rosenstiel, the executive director of the American Press Institute, is an author, journalist, researcher and a member of Poynter’s National Advisory Board. You can follow him on Twitter at tbr1. Read more


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