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Posts Tagged ‘Wall Street Journal’

Newsweek, Newspapers and Magazines: Not Undead (Yet)

In Entertainment, Technology on June 15, 2010 at 1:05 pm

So, on Monday — for people in the know, or at least those who might have been surfing — Newsweek’s website offered an experience that crossed the line from entertainment to metaphor.

Readers who typed a secret code were greeted with a large headline declaring “Zombies Attack!” and a series of stores chronicling an attack of the undead on the East Coast. There was a timeline, speculation about how the attack started and advice on fighting the zombies (aim for the head).

And while Newsweek’s staff posted a note stating “this isn’t some sort of commentary on our current ownerless limbo…” it’s hard not to see it that way.

The Washington Post Company announced last month that the magazine for sale and there’s been a variety of groups looking to take it over. In the meantime, the magazine is losing staff.

The question is are print publications like Newsweek already a bit undead?

A report out Tuesday from PricewaterhouseCoopers states that the Internet is set to overtake newspapers as the second-largest advertising medium, according to the Wall Street Journal.

The report points out that in the past five years, broadband penetration in the US has grown to 64% from 34% while newspaper revenue has declined almost fifty percent during that time.

And with the growing popularity of tablets and smart phones, PricewaterhouseCoopers sees the mobile ad market also growing, expected to quadruple by 2014.

While there are indications that magazines and newspapers will be able to capitalize on this emerging market, getting as much as five times as much for ads in iPads than they do for print — and that digital versions of magazines could help expand distribution, allowing for the delivery of issues in places where it’s actually easier to send a digital file than a print copy — it’s far from certain all of this will be enough to make a difference.

In the meantime, mobile ad giants such as Apple and Google aren’t taking any chances, battling to dominate the market and grab whatever advertising is to be had.

Of course, as with all competition, this is one battle that’s not exactly filled with polite niceties and it’s already attracted the interest of the Feds.

Maybe publishers such as Wired, GQ and The Wall Street Journal will find ways to make it work for them and develop significant revenue streams allowing them to survive.

Or maybe it’s already too late.

If You Build It, We Should Pay (And Often Do)

In Uncategorized on June 3, 2010 at 1:24 pm

It’s not clear where the expectation that if it’s on the Internet, it should be free first popped up but it’s a belief that’s taken hold and driven people to the point of madness.

Imagine that if all the time spent debating whether or not there should be pay walls and if there are how big should they be and should there be moats around them and what if we put windows in them and then what color should the shutters be was devoted to something like curing cancer or fixing a hole a mile down that’s been spewing out oil for more than a month.

Alan Rusbridger, the editor of The Guardian, strikes me as an otherwise sensical person who has been grabbed by the madness.

“If you erect a universal paywall around your content then it follows you are turning away from a world of openly shared content,” he said in a speech in January.

On Charlie Rose, he said: “I think it is a very profound statement journalistically to want to put a universal barrier between you and the way the rest of the world is going to work.”

And then again, last month. He said that paywalls could lead the industry to “sleepwalk into oblivion….If you erect a paywall around your content you kind of go into a vault of darkness.”

Actually, no. If you erect a paywall around your content, you’re merely trying to make sure that you can come up with some money to pay the people who create the content. The profound statement is that you recognize quality content requires some sort of investment.

Or, as New Yorker Editor David Remnick said in discussing his belief why a paywall is necessary:

“I was going to be damned if I was going to train 18-year-olds, 20-year-olds, 25-year-olds, that this is like water that comes out of the sink,” he said recently.

Remnick has said that while he can see a rationale in giving readers headlines and “the most superficial sort of news” for free, but if readers are going to get the sort of depth they expect from publications like The new Yorker or The New York Times “it stands to reason they will have to pay for it. And I really think the demand, and the readers, are there. I think there are millions of people who want something deeper than headline news.”

While it may be a little before we know if Remnick’s estimate is on target (or low or high), the fact is people are paying for content.

Just look at how some iPad apps are doing.

The Wall Street Journal has 10,000 customers paying each month for access, the Australian saw 4,500 downloads in its first three days of availability.

GQ has sold more than 57,000 copies of the app version of itself.

Then there’s Wired Magazine, which has received a lot of praise for its app, which has already sold tens of thousands of copies.

And with Adobe releasing the software that Wired used to make the app, hopefully we can expect more along those lines.

Meanwhile, Advertising Age reports that Bonnier will be selling the iPad versions of their magazines (Popular Science, Popular Photography, et al…) for more than they charge for the print subscriptions and they’re not going to be alone in that model.

“It’s becoming increasingly clear customers will pay for trusted, quality content,” the magazine quotes Time Inc CEP Ann Moore as having said.

The fact is that there are websites that are mostly amalgams of opinion and, by and large, those sites don’t pay people because, really… the same investment is not needed to get people to opine.

But when you have people spending hours, researching interviewing, reporting, that requires an investment on the people supplying the content and the people who want to consume the content.

Information may be free but gathering it, presenting it… that requires an investment.

And I, for one and hopefully others, am willing to pay.

Google this… Let me know when there's news

In Entertainment, Technology, Uncategorized on May 12, 2010 at 6:18 pm
Image representing iPad as depicted in CrunchBase

iPad being targeted by hype

So, the Wall Street Journal today has a story about Google and Verizon working together to develop a table computer… or as the headline puts it an — “IPad Rival.”

And, as expected, the story’s getting picked up.

Over at The Baltimore Sun, writer Dave Rosenthal, posts about how this news comes “”just as I was getting ready to plunge into the world of e-books by buying an Apple iPad.”

Business Insider breathlessly reports that “Google and Verizon launching iPad Killer.”

And the Globe and Mail asks: “Can a Google-Verizon tablet computer rival the iPad?”

While pretty much everything Google touches makes a splash — just look at the success of their Android phones and Microsoft’s announcement that the new version of Windows will follow Google and have an online element  — let’s take a step back for a second and look at what the Journal is actually reporting.

Something about the story just doesn’t ring right.

Verizon Wireless is working with Google Inc. on a tablet computer, the carrier’s chief executive, Lowell McAdams, said Tuesday, as the company endeavors to catch up with iPad host AT&T Inc, in devices that connect to wirless networks,” the article begins.

Right there are a couple of telling signs.

One, the source of the article is Verizon not Google.

Two, it’s not about Google striving to catch up with Apple. It’s about Verizon trying to catch up with AT&T.

Then the Journal Quotes McAdams saying: “We’re working on tablets together, for example. We’re looking at all the things Google has in its archives that we could put on a tablet to make it a great experience.”

“Looking at all the things Google has in its archives?”

What does that mean exactly? They’re rummaging around the attic, seeing if maybe someone actually invented some spectacular tablet computer and then forgot about it? Whatever it means, it makes it clear that whatever they are doing it’s not about to happen.

So, any questions about whether it’s an iPad killer seem, shall we say, premature.

Now, yes. Verizon and Google have a great thing going with Android phones and it would make sense for them to work on future projects.

At the same time, it’s worth mentioning that it’s been long rumored that there will eventually be a deal bringing the iPhone and iPad to Verizon. So, maybe all this is a bargaining ploy?

Regardless. I think it’s one thing to excitedly report on lost or stolen prototypes. It’s something to else to take speculation about something that might or might not happen and elevate it to a ridiculous level.

In the meantime, I suggest we all be a little more patient and get excited when there’s real news to report.

Will Bookstores Lose as IPad, Kindle, Nook Welcome Google Editions

In Entertainment, Technology, Uncategorized on May 5, 2010 at 8:10 am
LONDON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 27:  Customers view...

Image by Getty Images via Daylife

It should get interesting.

The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday that Google will start selling e-books by early summer, putting them in direct competition with Amazon, Apple and Barnes and Noble.

It’s not exactly been a secret that this was coming.

Last August, Google announced they were offering free downloads of more than one million books  hat are in the public domain and then in October, they revealed that they would be launching Google Editions with about 500,000 additional titles.

And last month, in The New Yorker, reporter Ken Auletta laid out some of the details:

“Google Editions will let publishers set the price of their books (the head of Google Editions) said and will accept the agency model. Having already digitized twelve million books, including out-of-print titles, Google will have a far greater selection than Amazon or Apple. It will also make e-books available for bookstores to sell, giving “the vast majority” of revenues to the store.”

In the beginning, though, it appears that that the only books Google might only be able to sell are those in the public domain.

They are still involved in a long-running court battle, trying to get approval to move forward with their plans for Google Books, which would display books that are copyrighted but out of print along with with books that have eetered the public domain.

Google’s plans had been challenged by the Author’s Guild and the Association of American Publishers. While there was a settlement, it has not been approved as the judge considers objections including some from the Department of Justice, which has concerns over several issues including anti-trust.

And even if they get approval, there does seem to be at least one more hurdle — last month several groups representing visual artists announced plans to challenge Google’s plans.

Another issue is that it’s being reported that Google does not yet have deals in place with publishers.

Regardless of potential roadblocks, this development has the potential to be tougher on Amazon than on Apple because Google Editions seems closer in design to Kindle than IPad in that while the IPad is a device, Kindle is software that works on multiple devices.

But — even more at risk from this latest news are actual bookstores, you know the kind you walk into where you can handle the books and interact with people.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for books being available for purchase online (just check my bank statements). At the same time, I am concerned that the more book sales take place over the Internet, the less they are taking place in stores.

And when that happens, you start reading about bookstores closing.

From Miami to Seattle to Omaha and Boston, the same story is being written: bookstores are closing.

So, as Google Editions gets set to launch and IPad and Kindle and Nook battle it out and new readers keep coming on the market, try to break away from the screen every once in a while and head down to your local bookstore (if you still have one, if you don’t a chain will do), peruse the shelves, buy a magazine, a book, something.

E-Rights and Wrongs

In Entertainment, Technology on April 29, 2010 at 10:07 am
Image representing Amazon Kindle as depicted i...

Image via CrunchBase

So, we have the Kindle and the IPad and the Nook and more e-readers coming out all the time.

And you have some big name writers making big bucks writing pieces just for these devices and you have other writers who are doing well enough, that they’re backing away from traditional publishing to focus on work to be downloaded.

So, all must be pretty good for writers as the world of publishing expands online, right? Well, not quite.

Much as what happened when ITunes started and some musicians withheld their music, complaining about the terms. And, there are some who are still keeping their music out of digital stores and there are others who have seen their music become available but are none too happy about how it’s turned out.

Well, it’s turning out to be the same with writers as it has been with musicians as authors struggle on several fronts from controlling the rights to their work to how much their going to get to well, if everything’s going to be sold online, what’s going to happen to bookstores?

The issue’s been in the news this week because after a month’s long fight, Random House has agreed to let the family of William Styron, author of Sophie’s Choice and other classics, to sell the e-rights to his books to Open Road Media.

What made this especially notable is that Random House has taken a pretty hard line when it comes to holding on to the e-rights of books.

As the Wall Street Journal reported in December, Random House CEO Markus Dohle sent a letter to literary agents asserting that the “vast majority of our backlist contracts grant us the right to publish books in electronic formats.

And in response to those who disagreed because contracts drawn up decades before e-books became popular — r practical — a Random House spokesman told the paper: “We believe Random House has the right to pblish out author’s backlist titles as e-books.”

Well, of course they do.

You would think Random House had learned its lesson — after all, it was nearly ten years ago that they lost a landmark case when it tried to get Rosetta Books from publishing some e-books.

In other cases, it’s been writers deciding to withhold e-versions of their books.

JK Rowling has chosen to keep Harry Potter off of e-readers for now and, in November, John Grisham (lawyer, that he is) made a very passionate argument about why he wasn’t allowing e-versions of his books to be sold.

“You’re going to wipe out tons of bookstores and publishers and we’re going to buy it all online,” he told the Today Show. “I’m probably going to be all right — but the aspiring writers are going to have a very hard time getting published.”

And while Grisham’s holdout didn’t last long (unsurprisingly, perhaps, there’s no comment from him or his representatives), his arguments are still valid.

So, as you download books (something I’ve done) and curl up with your IPad, Nook or Kindle or Sony Reader or whatever, keep in mind that someone created the work and that there’s a chance that person is still fighting for the ability to have some control over it.

It’s especially important when you realize there are still battles on the horizon.

Is Pricing the Point?

In Entertainment, Technology on March 28, 2010 at 10:53 pm
SAN FRANCISCO - JANUARY 27:  Apple Inc. CEO St...

Image by Getty Images via Daylife

So, here we are less than a week away from the arrival of the IPad and more details are beginning to come out, including details about what Apple’s bookstore will be charging.

When the IPad was introduced, Apple boss Steve Jobs seemed to tell Walt Mossberg of The Wall Street Journal that when it came to pricing ebooks, his company would take advantage of publishers’ anger at Amazon, which was trying to drive prices down.

“Publishers are actually withholding their books from Amazon, because they’re not happy with them,” Jobs said.

Apple reached agreements with Hachette, HarperCollins, MacmIllan, Penguin and Simon and Schuster — five of the six largest publishers in the country; the company is still talking with Random House —  allowing the publishers to set the prices (believed to be from $12.99 to $14.00) with Apple taking a 30 percent commission.

Amazon, meanwhile, has clearly been taking the Apple threat seriously. Two weeks ago, The New York Times reported that Amazon “has threatened to stop directly selling the books of some publishers online unless they agree to a detailed list of concessions regarding the sale of electronic books.”

Well, it turns out that Amazon may have even more reason to worry.

The tech website Appadvice is reporting that despite all the talk of Apple sharing more, it appears not to be the case.

The site said they had seen a preview of Apple’s ibookstore and of the 32 books featured in The New York Times bestsellers list, 27 of them — including the entire top ten are priced at $9.99, the same as Amazon.

One thing that’s a little weird about appadvice.com’s report is that the screenshot they include lists the numbers 2-6 on the fiction list and numbers 1,11,12 and 15 on the nonfiction list… so something might be a little off.

Maybe part of the agreement with publishers calls for bestsellers being held at a certain price but allowing for more flexibility for backlist and other selections?

Also, pricing only seems to be part of the point as more and more books become available for Apple’s devices.

According to Mobclix, a mobile phone advertising company, books are now the most available items in the ITunes store — there are 27,237 book apps available compared to 25,238 games.

And then there’s what some publishers are doing to enhance what they are selling.

For instance, check out Enhanced Editions and what they are doing for books like Homicide: Life on the Killing Streets by David Simon and Wolf Hall by Hillary Mantel.

And then there’s YouYube preview of some of what Penguin has planned.

It’s getting very interesting, very quickly.

As I said, less than a week until IPad.

Deal Close on Closing Gitmo

In Crime, Politics on March 19, 2010 at 3:14 pm

That’s according to the Wall Street Journal, which is reporting that Republican South Carolina Senator Lindsay Graham has been working with Democrats Carl Levin, Ben Cardin and Dick Durbin. The paper also reports that two unnamed Republicans are prepared to go along with the deal.

The Journal says that as part of the deal more detainees — including 9/11 Mastermind Khallid Shaikh Mohammed — will be tried before military commissions.

Curiously, ten days ago, The New York Times reported a similar deal was in the works but that Graham was without support from Republican colleagues, leading the ACLU to throw an ocean-full of cold water on the idea.

So, what’s changed? Not really clear.

My only hope — and I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again — is that before they close Guantanamo, they figure out why four people died there — were they murdered?