20% of All US Newspapers Are Digital

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Newspapers in the US are on the decline right now and the entire industry is seeing explosive growth via the digital offerings. The New York Times is the current poster child of implementing a solid paywall strategy and seeing the largest gains. Currently, 20% of all newspaper circulation in the US is now digital.

The entire newspaper industry a slight decline by 0.7%, according to a recent poll by Alliance for Audited Media. The saving grace to most the newspaper industry was The New York Times, which saw a total digital subscriber base of 1,865,318 people. It had recently surpassed the USA Today in terms of the increased visibility of its brand.

As explained in this article, the New York Times, USA Today, and the Wall Street Journal currently lead the entire digital newspaper segment by a long-shot. They all have an active subscription base of at least 1.5 million people. The competition basically evens out at 300,000.

One of the most interesting aspects about the 593 companies that contributed their data was the decreased interest in Replica Editions, due to the preference of using apps. Replicas are basically the digital mirror images of the printed edition. You see local advertising, crossword puzzles, obituaries, and much more. The digital editions, as found in apps, often have a very image and text heavy format, but are designed for tablets and smartphones. This gives readers an inherent advantage over just visiting the website. Some apps allow the newspaper to be read aloud, or give new abilities to edit the font size, font type, or margins.

Newspaper companies are starting to see dividends by making custom versions of their apps for the Kindle Fire, Nook HD, and Blackberry. The main key to digital growth, is making your content accessible, and all three of those companies employ the same tactics.

It seems that the newspaper industry is fairly even, in terms of the current subscriber base. The real growth is digital, and it will be interesting to see if the next six months see continued elevated growth patterns.

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

When the IDC forecast past 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?

Why most of you start with iPads

So far, Symbolia, a comics journalism anthology launched late last year by Erin Polgreen and Joyce Rice, has avoided those questions by publishing its first two interactive issues for iPad only.

With just three tablet devices to worry about — standard display iPad, retina display iPad and iPad Mini, all with the same aspect ratio — iOS presented the quickest, cleanest way to reach a large chunk of the tablet audience at launch.

Another point in Apple’s favor: iOS devices are some of the more powerful tablets on the market, ensuring that Symbolia, loaded with pop-ups and HTML animations, would perform cleanly. But as Polgreen and Rice explore expanding to Android, performance and screen size are primary concerns.

“Some of the Androids are very powerful, but some of them aren’t, and I don’t think you get to make a lot of choices in the Android marketplace about who can see your content and who can’t,” said Rice, the creative director. “So it’s definitely a balancing act. I want it to look awesome for everyone, but it’s really determined by the window you’re looking at it through.

That’s a balancing act that Polgreen, the editor and publisher, said Symbolia has no choice but to face. The top request from readers of Symbolia, which also publishes a non-interactive PDF version for those without iPads, is for an Android edition.

“Androids are the primary global operating system,” Polgreen said. “iPads are great. They have a very strong market share, but we’re a global publication. We leave Android out at our own peril.”

Having an Android presence can mean many different things, some of which could be perilous themselves.

Adobe DPS saves production time

The New Republic, which introduced a cross-platform redesign in January, publishes an elegant interactive iPad version of the magazine, with a tappable table of contents, animated section headers and interactive features.

But the version in Google Play’s magazine store is merely a PDF replica of the print magazine. (It also costs a dollar more per issue, but that’s another story.) On a 7-inch Nexus 7, I found it tough to read unless I switched to Google’s magazine text mode. Doing so, however, removes the pleasures of experiencing a magazine layout.

Why the inferior Android product? “It comes down to the simple basic principle of manpower,” TNR’s creative director Dirk Barnett said, adding that his staff of three designers are working on an iPhone version next. “I think we’re just going to sort of pick it off one device at a time once we have it integrated into our workflow process.”

Barnett’s design team uses Adobe’s Digital Publishing Suite to develop and publish the TNR app for iPad. InDesign CS6 introduced liquid layout and alternate layout, tools that drastically reduce the manpower it takes to design for various screen resolutions and orientations.

But until that additional time investment is eliminated altogether, newsrooms will face tough choices about which platforms are worth the sweat and tears required of making tedious adjustments.

PDF replicas predominant on Android

TNR is far from alone in its decision to forgo interactivity on Android devices. Even Popular Science, which has seen 1.6 million unique downloads in Apple’s App Store and was hailed as “king of the hill” on stage by Steve Jobs, still only publishes a PDF replica in the Google Play store.

The Mag+ ecosystem, developed for Popular Science in 2010 and spun out as a separate company in early 2011, initially only supported iPad. It added Android compatibility in June 2011, with two options for publishers wanting to expand:

1) Manually rejigger each page’s iPad layout to fit various Android screen sizes (similar to Adobe’s alternate layout solution, but without the benefit of working within a single document); or

2) Allow Mag+ to scale and letterbox existing layouts automatically for Android devices.

(Full disclosure: I work as a tablet app designer at the Chicago Sun-Times, where we use Mag+ to publish a free Sunday sports magazine for iPad and iPhone. Our other sports apps are designed primarily for iPad with letterboxed Android versions available in the Google Play store.)

Mag+ recently reached a 1,000-app milestone, but just 20 percent of those apps are offered in the Google Play marketplace, Mike Haney, chief product officer, told Poynter. Most of Adobe’s North American clients are primarily focused on iOS, too, said Lynly Schambers-Lenox, group product marketing manager of digital publishing for Adobe.

One reason: workflow restraints like those at TNR. “If the platforms like ours are doing our job well, we make that easy for you to do,” Haney said. And for the most part, manually adjusting a page with either system is easy: Adobe has liquid layout, and Mag+ allows for exporting pages to other InDesign templates that then require mostly minimal adjustments. But these minor adjustments multiplied over dozens of page layouts can become majorly prohibitive.

Another potential reason for publishers’ hesitation to switch from PDFs to native apps on Android: the Google Play magazine store operates differently from Apple’s Newsstand. Whereas Newsstand serves as a hub for apps with the full, optimized functionality of any other app on iPads, Google’s magazine store acts as more of an app itself, facilitating the reading of PDFs.

That can be confusing, as magazine apps exist in the Play store outside the PDF-filled magazine store. At the same time, Haney said, differing expectations of what magazines can do in the Apple App Store versus the Google Play store can provide publishers some leeway when it comes to getting their feet wet with Android by going with PDF replicas. In other words, the competition isn’t as fierce on Android.

Plus, Haney said, the fact that the Google Play and Amazon Kindle stores haven’t developed a way to migrate readers of the PDF magazines to newly developed interactive apps could dissuade publishers who don’t want to lose the audience they’ve built.

Kindle Fire apps still lag far behind Google and Apple in sales, and some reports indicate Android users are less willing to pay for apps than iOS users. If Android users are indeed less likely to buy magazines, that could also be behind publishers’ unwillingness to invest much in them. And that’s a cycle that might not be broken until publishing tools reach a “design once, publish everywhere” solution—something Adobe’s pressing for, Schambers-Lenox said.

Game Informer and The Next Web: two extremes

Haney cited Game Informer as a magazine finding success in both major marketplaces, but even Game Informer’s tablet strategy has some wrinkles.

It publishes a massive iPad edition with Mag+, chock-full of screenshots and embedded video (the October 2012 issue I downloaded had 180 pages and more than 700 megabytes worth of content). The design team, led by creative director Jeff Akervik, also produces an edition for 10-inch Android devices such as the Samsung Galaxy Tab and Note.

For the 7- and 12-inch tablets, though, Game Informer sends its native InDesign files used for print to a team at Google to produce an interactive version with far fewer bells and whistles. “I’m not a real big fan of how vastly different they are from a creative standpoint, but it gets us in the space,” Akervic said of these editions in an email.

It’s definitely a step up from PDF replicas, and workflow restraints mean the Google outsourcing is the only way an interactive version on smaller tablets can exist. “Otherwise, there’d be no way we could physically do that many different designs,” Akervic said. “It’s a tough haul as it is.”

Others publishers, meanwhile, have determined the haul is too tough to include Android at all. The Next Web announced in December that it would stop publishing TNW Magazine for Android. The nature of its content meant it was too cumbersome to adjust layouts and links, founder Boris Veldhuijzen van Zanten wrote in a blog post:

“In theory you simply adjust for a different format and platform and do a new export. But then trouble starts. As one developer put it to us: ‘You make a beautiful magazine for the iPad, and then you dumb it down for Android.’” And once they did so, he wrote, iPad downloads outpaced Android 80-to-1.

Still, if your publication is small and without an overwhelming amount of interactive content, designing for Android should be a relatively small investment. Every reader counts, particularly those on a platform that seems poised to continue growing. Haney recommends building for iOS first, particularly if you’re a small publisher, because of the strong infrastructure already in place.

After that, publishing a standard 1280×800 Android layout will get the magazine on most Android tablets. Buy a Nexus 7—it’s only $199—and see how your content looks on a smaller device. If you don’t build it, they won’t come—and maybe Android users willing to pay for well-designed interactive apps are actually out there, ready to play ball.

Happy designing! (And redesigning… and redesigning… and redesigning… )

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Mobile shopping: retail app usage on the rise

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Microsoft Surface tablet release date confirmed in SEC filing

Microsoft has officially confirmed that it will release its upcoming Surface tablet to coincide with Windows 8 US availability on October 26.

The company revealed the date in a US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) filing on Thursday.

Surface tablet
Microsoft has confirmed the release date of its Surface tablet. Image credit: CNET News

“The next version of our operating system, Windows 8, will be generally available on October 26, 2012,” Microsoft said. “At that time, we will begin selling the Surface, a series of Microsoft-designed and manufactured hardware devices.”

The Surface tablet was announced in June, but no release date or specs were given at the time. Microsoft has not confirmed at the time of writing if the 26 October release date covers the US only, or if it will extend to other markets.

While the Surface tablet release was largely expected to coincide with Windows 8 availability, this is thought to be the first time the date has been publicly confirmed by Microsoft.

The Surface, which shares its name with Microsoft’s range of table-top touchscreen devices, could bring Microsoft into competition with its own OEM partners, the filing added.

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vjoon K4™integrates with Adobe® Digital Publishing Suite’s New API

Vjoon, a leading maker of cross-media publishing platforms and a global Adobe Digital Publishing Suite (DPS) reseller, announced on July 26th that vjoon K4 now supports the new interface to Adobe DPS Folio Producer services. This constitutes an unprecedented level of integration that boosts efficiency by enabling tablet publishers to upload their Folio files after planning, managing and organizing digital content in vjoon K4. This allows publishers to fully exploit the Adobe Folio Producer’s extensive feature set and eliminates the need for using Adobe Content Bundler, along with all its limitations.

“The new interface to the Folio Producer is a tremendous asset for customers because it integrates publishing systems such as vjoon K4 with the Adobe Digital Publishing Suite far more efficiently than anything that came before,” said Zeke Koch, Senior Director of Product Management for Digital Publishing at Adobe. “With recently released groundbreaking new features and automated functions, publishers now have access to one of the most innovative and efficient tablet publishing workflows on the market today.”

“vjoon customers such as Condé Nast, Credit Suisse, National Geographic and Red Bull are among the first and most successful users of the Adobe Digital Publishing Suite worldwide,” says Andreas Schrader, CEO of vjoon. “In a joint effort with Adobe, we have now developed the tools our customers need to continue optimizing their publishing workflows, thereby freeing up time and resources that they can devote to creating premium-quality print and digital publications.”

From day one, vjoon played a big part in developing this interface, so it benefited from the valuable experience gained with vjoon K4 customers’ many successful tablet publications. As a result, customers can now make full use of Adobe Folio Producer’s functionality. For example, push notifications, which let users determine when subscribers are alerted to a new edition, can now be used for integrated publications. Publishers can also pinpoint through vjoon K4 precisely which content of the published edition readers can share with friends and business partners via Web Viewer.

vjoon K4’s extended set of automated functions are a boon to the tablet publishing workflow. vjoon K4 uploads all content to Adobe Folio Producer, directly and automatically at the touch of a button. Automated functions also enable agencies to deliver individual ads in the required format, allowing the publisher to integrate them with their content and then upload them along with the layout for the entire magazine.

As the company recently announced, the new version of vjoon K4 also supports Adobe Creative Suite® 6. This release is available now and being tested by many integration partners.

For further information please see www.vjoon.com.

About vjoon®

A fixture on the publishing market since 1990, vjoon is a leading developer of workflow solutions based on Adobe® Creative Suite®. vjoon rapidly integrates all Adobe innovations into its solutions and consistently develops its products to meet market needs. vjoon’s flagship product vjoon K4™ is one of the most innovative cross-media publishing platforms available in the market and lets you deliver your valuable content to any output channel – print, online, mobile, tablet. Based on the time- and cost-saving Unified Publishing Process vjoon K4 provides the tools that allow your team to publish anywhere, smoothly and efficiently – whether you produce magazines, newspapers, sales materials, annual reports or books. Renowned customers worldwide and in configurations from 10 to more than 1,200 concurrent users benefit from this sophisticated solution. Headquartered in greater Hamburg, Germany, vjoon partners with a global network of more than 30 qualified integrators to deliver premium system integration and support services to its customers.

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Tablet Shipments to Surpass Notebooks by 2016

In four years, your laptop could be as outdated as that bulky 8-track player gathering dust in your basement.

Well, notebook computers may not become extinct by 2016, but they are expected to fall short – very short – of tablet PC sales before the end of the decade, according to a forecast report from NPD DisplaySearch.

Laptop shipments are expected to hit 393 million units by 2017, while NPD expects exponential tablet progress, 121 million shipments this year to 416 million by 2017.

Tablet growth will get a push from growing popularity in what NPD called mature markets – North America, Japan, and Western Europe, which will account for 66 percent of shipments this year, and remain in the 60 percent range through 2017.

NPD DisplaySearch senior analyst Richard Shim said that while the lines between tablet and notebook PCs are blurring, consumer preference for mobile computing devices is shifting in the direction of slimmer, sleeker tablets.

“Tablet PCs are expected to evolve in form factor and performance,” the report said, “making them a compelling alternative to notebook PCs.”

As tablet technology advances, so will the machines’ features, bringing instant-on capabilities, long battery life, and extreme portability, along with multi-core processors, stable operating systems, growing app libraries, and high-resolution displays, DisplaySearch said.

Still, laptops are expected to remain a large segment of the mobile PC market, accounting for almost 50 percent of the market by 2017.

Overall mobile PC shipments, including notebooks, mini notebooks and tablets, are expected to grow from 347 million units this year, to more than 809 million by 2017, NPD reported.

The data is in line with a similar DisplaySearch report from May.

In February, Apple chief Tim Cook reiterated that tablets will one day outsell PCs. That same month, IDC reported that the smartphone market eclipsed the PC market in terms of sales during the previous quarter for the first time.

 

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Survey: Tablet users love digital magazines, want to buy directly from ads

A new report from The Association of Magazine Media reveals that, thanks to the rise of digital magazines, tablet owners are reading more, but want the ability to buy directly from adverts.

The report found that 66% of people who read magazines on tablets and e-Readers think they’ll be spending more time with digital issues over the next year, while 90% are respondents said that they are consuming as much – if not more – magazine content since acquiring a tablet.

Many readers prefer the newsstand-style of magazine subscription, and 76% prefer this format to reading magazines through individual apps. Approximately 55% would like to read back magazines in digital format, while 83% and 86%, respectively, are interested in archiving or sharing an article or entire issue.

Furthermore, the study found that 69% of people like watching in-app videos that run for less than a minute, and indicated that 89% of readers want publishers to adopt a uniform way for navigating digital magazines.

The survey also discovered some interesting patterns regarding mobile commerce. A considerable 59% of respondents said that they want to buy directly from adverts, with 79% saying that they want to be able to purchase products and services directly from editorial features.

‘The Magazine Mobile Reader’ report is one of the first studies to look at how tablet and eReader owners consume digital magazines and was conducted earlier this month by research firm Affinity. The study comprised 1,009 adult mobile device owners.

“Digital magazines are taking the medium to the next level,” said Christopher Kevorkian, EVP/Digital, MPA.

“While various research has long proved that print magazines drive purchase behavior, digital magazines hold the promise of creating a direct link between purchase intent and actual transaction. The study proves that consumers look to magazine media to create that opportunity.”