Posts tagged publishers

Sorenson Media’s Kirk Punches talks about video encoding best practices, and the concerns online video publishers large and small have around encoding in a multi-platform, multi-device world.

For those of you wondering, I used Sorenson Squeeze 8 to encode this video. My source video was 1080p, but I don’t think any of you need to be watching this in 1080HD.

So I started with a 720p preset, which I tweaked slightly. I selected h.264 / MP4 for encoding, bumped up the target data rate to 2000kbps, with 2 pass Variable Bit Rate (VBR) encoding, and set key frames to every 10 seconds.

Sorenson Squeeze 720p h.264 MP4 VBR

Tech Allstars in Publishing

Media companies that expect to dominate in the future will need to add technology as a core competency. Making the transition from editorial and ad-sales / subscription competency to digital competency will require companies to attract all-star tech talent, a task easier said than done.

Digiday explores the dilemma:

Now that publishers have gotten religion about tech’s front and center position, they’re left with a dilemma: How do they get the talent to run the systems? Leaving aside all the talk of tech at places like Buzzfeed, The Huffington Post and Gawker, it’s not so easy when the tech-minded are more likely to work for Google or the next big startup.

“There’s huge demand for good CTOs, but it’s not enticing,” said Jonah Peretti, CEO of Buzzfeed. “If you’re a good technologist, you can build your own company.”

”The media landscape is one of the most in-turmoil, rapidly changing industries out there now,” [says Paul Berry, former CTO of The Huffington Post]. “It’s at the intersection of everything that’s being disrupted.”

“Too many people outside of tech companies think of tech as being just an implementation of the business ideas or editorial ideas — not of something that’s creative,” said Peretti. In order to entice a good technologist, the tech team needs to be on equal footing with the editorial team, he added — something that would be unthinkable at most editorial organizations.

From Editor to Curator: How to Generate Engaging Content

Jenny Rooney, editor of Forbes CMO Network, discusses her evolving role as an editor-curator in the digital age. She has previously covered interactive advertising for Advertising Age, marketing for Business 2.0, and been editor at Chief Executive magazine and Sales & Marketing Magazine. 

Great content, like a great product, is still the essential ingredient for audience-building. But how can we broaden the conversations around it when we have less control over who produces content? Here, Rooney explains her work at Forbes, which largely centers on finding and bringing novel, innovative, expert voices into the conversation and providing them with the publishing tools to engage an audience.

Bonus: She offers tips for recent grads interested in journalism.

USA Today Bets on Adaptive Mobile

Digiday highlights USA Today’s approach to app development. USA Today is the only “big 3” publisher (WSJ, NY Times, USA Today) to not charge for content on any device, relying exclusively on advertising: 

Newspapers are experimenting with different ways of distributing content on tablets. When it comes to mobile, most publications rush to replicate their content via an app. USA Today is thinking different.

USA Today is betting on an adaptive experience that morphs with the device. While there’s no dynamic personalization based on user behavior or any type of intelligence, the articles served up on the iPad vary from person to person. For example, I read USA Today sports stories, and my colleague reads tech and advertising stories. In turn, more sports stories appear in my app than in my colleague’s app, and she therefore receives more tech and advertising stories.

“We don’t create for the paper and port to the mobile,” said Matt de Ganon, vp of mobile product and operations. “We create content, and it gets certain finite production on the digital properties; it’s a fluid experience of, here is the format that works best, and here is the subset of content that works best on smartphone, or here’s the context of tablet.”

Three Unique Publisher Apps

Digiday points out 3 mobile apps created by publishers that go above and beyond just recreating the web & print experience (look, feel, layout, content). You know, actual innovation on the mobile front:

Unfortunately for readers, it seems as though media outlets often take the path of least resistance and just port their online content into an app. There are a few, however, who forge their own paths. Here are three unique mobile apps where publishers are trying something new.

Orange County Register: This local California paper (1.3 million uniques in February 2012, according to comScore) takes a unique approach to delivering content on its app, The Peel. The outlet plays to the audience, serving stories throughout six categories — news, sports, business, trending, things to do, and photo/video gallery — that are chosen based on iPad reader’s interests and many of the stories can only be found within the application. Additionally, the app pushes content in the evening and each addition features content exclusively for the app. A novel approach for a local outlet, this app can go a long way for those living in the OC — or those just stopping by.

Download the app here.

WP Politics The Washington Post has an election 2012 specific app, which does way more than port content from its website. Sure, there’s news from the paper and a website that finds its way onto the app — like Ezra Klein’s blog or The Fact Checker — but the app delivers additional information that’s not on the site: a polling map for the uber-wonky who want to know how each candidate is faring in sentiment at any given time; candidate issues tracker, which uses motion graphics to provide users with an “at-a-glance” understanding of where each of the candidates stand, and previously stood, on the major issues of the campaign; the historical election results map, which includes every vote, in every state, for every candidate, in every presidential election since 1789, and is presented with Washington Post articles written before and after every election since 1880. This app is a political wonk’s dream as it gives information that can’t even be found on the Washington Post’s site.

Download the app here.

King’s Cross, London – Streetstories The Guardian recently released an app that lets users listen to the sounds of Foggy London Town while walking the streets of King’s Cross. Additionally, the app serves as a walking guide with more than 70 stories and two hours of audio material, all relevant to a user’s location. The app boasts of readings from Dickens (location-specific), the architecture of Gilbert Scott’s St. Pancras, as well interviews with former street workers giving listeners an oral history of the area. This is a great idea for users who want to learn more about their surroundings. Hopefully other major news outlets will follow in The Guardian’s footsteps, especially in cities around the world.

Download the app here.

Gannett’s Paywall Gamble

From Digiday:

The challenge facing any publisher today is that news content is readily available — often for free — from a multitude of sources. The paywall means there needs to be depth to the content that can’t be found anywhere else. 

The New York Times has seen success with its subscription system, but can such a strategy work for the hard-hit local-news business?

Gannett, the nation’s largest newspaper publisher with more than 80 outlets, is about to find out. It’s following the likes of the New York Times, taking a metered approach — allowing a certain amount of content to be read for free (Forbes reports five to 15 articles a month, depending on the publication) before requiring readers to buy a subscription. Gannett is exempting its flagship USA Today property from the ambitious experiment, which seeks to add up in direct reader payments what local papers have lost in classifieds and ad revenue as news consumption has shifted online. The company expects to generate $100 million through this metered model starting in 2013. It’s a risky bet as any paywall, even a porous one, is bound to cut into the lifeblood of Internet advertising: traffic…

For some publications, like the Wall Street Journal, a paywall makes sense… Many of the 537,000 WSJ digital subscribers are financial leaders who slap down corporate cards more often than not.

The New York Times, on the other hand, posits that its exemplary journalism is worth a couple bucks a day to read online…

Gannett is looking to reproduce the success of its large-newspaper brethren. However, outside of USA Today, Gannett’s readers are smaller in scale compared to the WSJ and NYT. Readers of Gannett-owned publications like the Asbury Park Press, Detroit Free Press, Fort Collins Coloradoan are not looking to these outlets for national news. They’re looking for hometown information.

Publishers Enter the API Era

Via Digiday:

The tech world is obsessed with platforms. Facebook and Twitter have grown, in large part, thanks to opening up to outside developers. More companies are doing so in the form of application programming interfaces, which allow data to be easily manipulated by others. Foursquare and Spotify are just two recent examples of Internet services opening up their data to others.

Now publishers want in on the action. A handful of news publishers are looking at their vast trove of content as valuable data that developers can use to hack into something new. These efforts at opening APIs, while early, are being done with the hope that someday, new revenue streams will present themselves.

The New York Times now publishes upwards of 16 APIs, having launched its first back in 2007. The Guardian provides data-related APIs, in addition to ones that surfaces over 10 years of editorial content. Even USA Today is moving into content APIs, holding a hackathon in December at its Virginia headquarters that was won by a developer who used the paper’s census data to construct a mobile game in which users would guess the right census numbers.

Read the full article at Digiday.

BuzzFeed’s Ben Smith on Cats and Scoops

Digiday interviews Ben Smith, former Politico star and newly appointed Buzzfeed editor-in-chief. Read the entire interview at Digiday.

What is a social news organization, and how does it differ from how other news organizations function? You can’t assume that people are going to come to your site and explore all of your verticals. You need to be comprehensive. We are trying to create things that will be new to people. We don’t need to do other versions of other stories that are out there. We try to keep it original. We’re not going to waste our time rewriting or reporting big stuff that is covered everywhere else. I think those are the waters that most reporters are swimming in now — everyone wants to be writing original content. It’s hard to get the new reporters to adjust to putting out 10 original cat photos everyday though. You know I’m joking, right?

What does it mean to write for the social Web, and how can publishers compete when there is so much noise on social channels like Twitter? It’s a couple of different things. All of the parts of the social Web are very different. For Twitter you want scoops and new stuff. But in general it’s about producing stuff that people want to share. And really there is no secret formula to that. Jonah has been experimenting and playing around with this for years, so he knows better than anyone. Then there are certain things that are search-driven, too, like something like a “Britney Spears Naked” story that someone might search but wouldn’t want to post to their Facebook. It’s not a zero-sum game. Publishers can do well by producing great stuff. But that doesn’t mean you are going to dominate everyone.

Time Inc. Skips The CES Bins, Sort Of; Offers Free Downloads Of All Titles
From paidContent:

Not too long ago, grazing the magazine bins was a perk of going to a trade show. But consolidation and closures mean fewer publications—and digital platforms offer access to the info without lugging around the ones that are left. Time (NYSE: TWX) Inc.‘s solution at CES this year?
A magazine-shaped promo piece stacked in the publication bins but with none of the publishers’ content inside. Instead, the company played up its tablet editions and their cross-device access by offering them all free of charge at CES for download to iPad, Kindle Fire, Nook Tablet/Nook Color and Android devices via NextIssue. (You can try it this weekend; the free trial ends Sunday night.)…
Instead of handling out cards for one free download or sticking with a single title or device, the company tried something that matches the best of its digital intentions: getting attention for its tablet strategy, while showing the device makers it can be a good partner and stressing an ecumenical approach at the same time.

Time Inc. Skips The CES Bins, Sort Of; Offers Free Downloads Of All Titles

From paidContent:

Not too long ago, grazing the magazine bins was a perk of going to a trade show. But consolidation and closures mean fewer publications—and digital platforms offer access to the info without lugging around the ones that are left. Time (NYSE: TWX) Inc.‘s solution at CES this year?

A magazine-shaped promo piece stacked in the publication bins but with none of the publishers’ content inside. Instead, the company played up its tablet editions and their cross-device access by offering them all free of charge at CES for download to iPad, Kindle Fire, Nook Tablet/Nook Color and Android devices via NextIssue. (You can try it this weekend; the free trial ends Sunday night.)…

Instead of handling out cards for one free download or sticking with a single title or device, the company tried something that matches the best of its digital intentions: getting attention for its tablet strategy, while showing the device makers it can be a good partner and stressing an ecumenical approach at the same time.

Chris Stevens, CEO of digital publisher Atomic Antelope and designer of the Alice in Wonderland iPad app, has some fighting words for traditional publishers:

The major publishers have completely abdicated responsibility for producing the digital versions of their catalogues: it’s all handed over to amateurs. You see it throughout the industry. From the typographical horror of most eBooks, through to the lacklustre iPad titles being produced. The big problem is that most publishers don’t care about the iPad or eBooks very much, whether this is an aesthetic rejection based on the publisher’s historical reverence for the printed page, or a reflection of the relatively small profits to be made on the iPad so far, it’s hard to know.

What’s happening at the moment is that most publishers are handing their major titles over to app developers who are ruining these titles with rushed, unprofessional layout and design. There is this weird situation where programmers are suddenly being given free reign to design books. We watch as publishers like Random House outsource the design of cherished titles to programmers who—despite their excellence at programming—are not designers. The complete lack of care and attention paid to the production of digital books is genuinely mystifying.

When the Alice app was released 2010, it was criticized by the New York Times for disrupting quiet and reflective reading.

Stevens responded at the time in a Fast Company interview, saying, “”The paper publishers have clearly demonstrated that they have absolutely no acuity in the digital realm, and are stuck… Working with them is a waste of energy. Imagine if Henry Ford had decided to team up with a horse stables to make the Model T.”

The E-book Investigations: Are Publishers And Apple Breaking The Law?

paidContent has a good primer on the European Commission and Justice Department investigations into the e-Book industry.

Before Congress today, the head of the Justice Department’s antitrust division reportedly confirmed months of rumors by stating that the federal government and state attorneys general are investigating the electronic book industry. Earlier this week, the European Commission said it has begun formal investigations to follow up on raids of publishers’ offices that took place in March.What is the Conspiracy?

The case turns on “agency pricing,” a scheme under which the publishers set the price for e-books on the iPad. In return, Apple (NSDQ: AAPL) collects a commission.

What is the Point Of Agency Pricing?

Publishers watched in horror as Amazon (NSDQ: AMZN) decided to build up its market share in e-books by selling prized titles for less than $10. Amazon sometimes sold at a loss. This set a low floor for e-book prices and also threatened the sale of more expensive hard cover books. The agency model lets publishers set higher prices and ensure customers don’t become used to cheap e-books.

What’s the Problem with Agency Pricing?

The class action suits complain that agency pricing is an illegal cartel. Here is how one complaint describes it: “As a direct result of this anti-competitive conduct as intended by the conspiracy, the price of e-books has soared. The price of new best-selling e-books increased to an average of $12 - $15—an increase of 30 to 50 percent.”Is Agency Pricing Against the Law?

For decades, it was illegal for manufacturers to impose prices on retailers. That’s why you used to see “Manufacturers Suggested Retail Price” on many items—companies could suggest a price but not impose one. This changed after a 2007 case called Leegin in which the Supreme Court said it wasn’t illegal for a handbag maker to control prices. Now, the analysis is done on a case-by-case basis to see if pricing is fair. In this case, the publishers are the manufacturers and Apple is the retailer.

Mark Coker of SmashWords, which works with Indie authors to get their titles on e-Books, adds some insight from the small guy perspective in support of Apple, Amazon and the large publishers:

It would be a sad day for authors, publishers, readers and online bookstores if agency pricing was overturned, because it could allow one or two well-funded companies to sell books at below cost and effectively drive every other ebook retailer out of business.  That would lead to *less* competition in the ebook retailing market, not more, would prevent the development of indie ebook retailers in smaller markets, and would ultimately lead to less competition and higher prices.

What critics of agency pricing forget is that these large traditional publishers are becoming less and less relevant each year as more authors independently publish and distribute their own books.  At Smashwords, we distribute over 90,000 of such indie ebooks, and we let our authors and publishers set their own prices. We only distribute to agency retailers.  These indie authors benefit from the higher royalty rates enabled by agency pricing, and they set the average price of their book under $5.00.  Why do they price low when they have the power to price high?  Because they know they can sell more copies at a lower price, and since they’re earning 60-70% of the retail price under agency vs. 42-50% under wholesale, the author can still earn more at a lower price to the consumer.

If an author wants to earn $2.00 for each book they sell, they’d set the price to customer at $2.86 under Agency and $4.00 under wholesale.  In this new world of indie publishing, Agency facilitates lower prices.

The book market is extremely competitive, and that’s a good thing.  If publishers make the mistake of pricing their books too high, readers now have 90,000+ lower cost alternatives.

Here’s an interview I did with Michael Dunn, CTO of Hearst Interactive Media, at the Streaming Media conference in Los Angeles a few weeks ago.

We cover everything from producing video for tablets, devices and mobile, to metadata and adaptive streaming.

To watch all video interviews from the conference, visit StreamingMedia.com

- Peter

11% Of Magazine Readers Are Digital-Only, Survey Shows

Out of all U.S. adults who read magazines, 11 percent do so exclusively via digital platforms, new data from GfK MRI says. But with newsstands available on more devices, that number should increase.

Between May and October 2011, GfK MRI estimates that 1.58 billion U.S. adults read magazines. Of those, the company pegs the print + digital audience at 135 million people, and digital-only at 166 million people. That digital-only group is made primarily of men (63 percent), and they’re more likely to be young, affluent and well-educated. The sample size for this survey was 12,546 people, and GfK MRI extrapolates its results to the entire U.S. adult population.

Digital magazine reading is likely to increase as digital newsstands become available on more devices. The Apple (NSDQ: AAPL) Newsstand, launched in October, has broughtsome magazine publishers a significant number of new readers. Conde Nast, for example, reported subscription sales across nine titles up 268 percent in the two weeks following the Newsstand’s launch.

Facebook Looks for More Apps in Partnership With Media Brands

Get ready to see even more of what your friends are doing throughout the day.

It’s been nearly two months since Facebook launched a new breed of social apps in partnership with media brands including Netflix, Spotify and the Washington Post at its f8 conference, allowing users to consume content within Facebook’s platform and share what they’re watching, listening to or reading in real-time. Now the social network is gearing up to announce a slew of new partnerships in 2012….

Facebook’s Timeline — which will soon be widely released and has the ambitious goal of telling the story of users’ lives on their personal page — will give media apps greater visibility, since users who have opted in will have their activity on the app displayed in a module on their page.

In particular, Mr. Mitchell noted that The Guardian’s Facebook app, which includes an activity stream showing what a user’s friends are reading, had flourished, with the British newspaper reporting a million installs in the first month. He also cited Yahoo News, which chose to integrate social features that show what a user’s friends are reading on its own domain instead of creating an app within Facebook, had reported 2 million installs as of Nov. 2.

If your boss was ever wondering whether you’re being productive during the day or cruising the Internet, he can just become “friends” on Facebook.