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May 28 2013

16:46

A look at the custom tech behind the FT’s HTML5 mobile app

At Smashing Magazine, FT Labs front-end developer Wilson Page details some of the back-end tech behind the Financial Times’ shift from native apps to HTML5 on mobile platforms.

Among the highlights: using flexbox to fill defined vertical space, a JavaScript library called FTEllipsis to manage text flowing in a confined area, icon fonts for retina-ready images, and more natural-feeling scrolling. Much of the new code is open-sourced on the FT Labs GitHub.

We didn’t just want to build a product that fulfilled its current requirements; we wanted to build a foundation that we could innovate on in the future. This meant building with a maintenance-first mentality, writing clean, well-commented code and, at the same time, ensuring that our code could accommodate the demands of an ever-changing feature set.

April 03 2013

10:33

What's Holding Back Responsive Web Design? Advertising

Responsive web design -- where "one design fits all devices" -- continues to gain momentum. Dozens of responsive sites have popped up, and a recent post on Idea Lab from Journalism Accelerator outlined how and why media sites should go responsive.

onlineadsevolved_seriesimage_sm.jpg

But hold your horses. Despite the mounting hype, responsive websites are still far from becoming ubiquitous, and for good reason.

As much as responsive web design improves user experience and makes it easier for publishers to go cross-platform, the industry's struggle with delivering profitable ads during the first big shift from print to web is still happening. And in this second big shift to a responsive web, that struggle is magnified.

It Has To Look Different

The surface-level problem that a responsive-designed website poses for advertising is that ads are typically delivered in fixed dimensions (not proportional to the size of their container) and typically sold based on exact position. Initial solutions to this issue largely focus on making ads as flexible as the web page, i.e., selling ads in packages that include different sizes to fit all sorts of devices, rather than the traditional fixed-width slots, or making ads that are themselves responsive. Ad firm ResponsiveAds, for example, has come up with various strategies for making ads adjust to different screen sizes.

rwd2.jpg

These diagrams from ResponsiveAds show how display ads themselves can respond to different screen sizes.

But these approaches are not yet ideal. For example, when the Boston Globe went responsive in 2011, the site used just a few fixed-sized ads, placed in highly controlled positions that could then move around the page.

max.jpeg

Andrés Max, a software engineer and user experience designer at Mashable, told me via email: "In the end technology (and screen resolutions) will keep evolving, so we must create ads and websites that are more adaptive than responsive."

Here, he means that ads should adapt to the medium and device instead of just responding to set resolution break-points. After all, we might also need to scale up ads for websites accessed on smart TVs.

Miranda Mulligan, the executive director of the Knight Lab at Northwestern University and part of the team that helped the Globe transition to responsive, agrees. She told me via email, "We need a smarter ad serving system that can detect viewport sizes, device capability, and they should be set up to be highly structured, with tons of associated metadata to maximize flexibility for display."

rwd3.jpg

Moreover, many web ads today are rich media ads -- i.e., takeovers, video, pop-overs, etc. -- so incorporating these interactive rich ads goes beyond a flexibility in sizes. A lot of pressure is resting on designers and developers to innovate ad experiences for the future, but evolving tech tools can help clear a path for making interactive ads flexible and fluid. The arrival of HTML5 brought many helpful additions that aid in creating responsive sites in general.

"HTML5 does provide lots of room for innovation not only for responsive but for richer websites and online experiences," Max said. "For example, we will see a lot of use of the canvas concept for creating great online games and interactions."

Display Advertising Is Still Broken

In the iceberg of web advertising problems, what ads will look like on responsive sites is just the tip. According to Mulligan, a major underlying problem is still the lack of communication between publishing and advertising. The ad creation and delivery environment is infinitely complex. Publishers range from small to very large, and much of the web development code and creative visuals are made outside of the core web publishing team.

One of the problems is that there are so many moving parts and parties involved: ad networks that publishers subscribe to; ad servers that publishers own themselves; ad servers that publishers license from other companies; sales teams within large publishers; the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB); and more. The obligatory silos make it very hard for good communication and flexible results to transpire.

mulligan-headshot.jpg

The challenge of mobile advertising on responsive sites, Mulligan later said via phone, "has very little to do with the web design technique and has a lot to do with the fact that we have really complicated ways of getting revenue attached to our websites."

In other words, the display ad system is still broken. And now, the same old problem is more pronounced in responsive mobile sites, where another layer of complication is introduced.

"We have to go and talk to seven different places and say, 'you know how you used to give us creative that would've been fixed-width? What we need from you now is flexible-width,'" Mulligan said.

While responsive web design inherently may not be the source of advertising difficulties, the fact that it amplifies the existing problems is a good reason for web publishers to be cautious about going responsive. In the meantime, a paradigm shift in how web content generates revenue is still desperately needed. Instead of plunging into using responsive ads for responsive sites, perhaps everyone can get in the same room and prototype alternatives to display ads altogether.

The Boston Globe screenshots above were captured by the BuySellAds blog.

Jenny Xie is the PBS MediaShift editorial intern. Jenny is a senior at Massachusetts Institute of Technology studying architecture and management. She is a digital-media junkie fascinated by the intersection of media, design, and technology. Jenny can be found blogging for MIT Admissions, tweeting @canonind, and sharing her latest work and interests here.

This is a summary. Visit our site for the full post ».

March 31 2013

17:49

10 examples of bespoke article design and scrolling goodness

Have you been noticing all the pretty sliding/scrolling articles that are popping up around the Internetz? My students think they’re wonderful, and so do I. So let’s look at a roundup of some great ones.

Screenshot: Snow Fall

Of course we’ll begin with Snow Fall: The Avalanche at Tunnel Creek. This New York Times multimedia feature had the world journalism community talking and tweeting like crazy as soon as it appeared online. This blog post – More than 3.5 million page views for New York Times’ “Snow Fall” feature – reproduces an internal New York Times memo about how popular the multimedia feature turned out to be. In this post at Source (a project concerning journalism code) – How We Made Snow Fall: A Q&A with the New York Times team – the graphics director, graphics editor, video journalist, and deputy director for digital design who created this feature explain how they did it.

Screenshot: America: Elect!

America: Elect! (from The Guardian) is not only a fun, slidy mini-graphic novel – it’s also the subject of a short but very helpful how-to article: How we built our “America: Elect!” graphic novel interactive, by interactive developer Julian Burgess. Parallax scrolling libraryskrollr (check this one out).

Screenshot: Dock Ellis 1 of 2

Screenshot: Dock Ellis 2 of 2

ESPN was ahead of the pack with The Long, Strange Trip of Dock Ellis, a lavishly illustrated story about the Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher. Plugincurtain.js.

Screenshot from Pitchfork 1

Screenshot from Pitchfork 2

Pitchfork magazine used the technique as a showcase for photography, featuring Bat for Lashes singer Natasha Khan, in a cover story titled Glitter in the Dark.

Screenshot: Lost and Found

Lost and Found, an NPR story about photographer Charles W. Cushman, has a beautiful horizontal scrolling audio story in the middle of the page. Look for the Play button below the heading “The Year Is 1938.” Frameworkpopcorn.js.

Screenshot: Fracking

Screenshot: Every Last Drop

The Guardian‘s Burgess linked to a scrolling graphic story about fracking — What goes in and out of hydraulic fracturing (it appears that designer Linda Dong rolled her own scrolling code for this one) — which reminded me a little of Every Last Drop, which uses scrolling graphics to tell the story of how much water we waste every day (parallax scrolling libraryskrollr). I found the fracking story to be more journalistic, especially given the sources listed at the end.

Screenshot: Cycling's Road Forward

Another long-form narrative dressed up very nicely with this technique: Cycling’s Road Forward, from The Washington Post. Framework: Bootstrap. Tools include Modernizr.

Screenshot: Unfit for Work

Unfit for Work (from Planet Money, a program that runs on NPR) has a beautiful responsive article design. I love the big data graphics embedded throughout the article. I’ve been all over the code looking for the bit that slides the sections up and down, but all I can find is very clean CSS and HTML, great attention to responsiveness, and assorted JavaScript files that don’t reference the section element, the H3, or the wallpaper class. I’m super-impressed by the code, because it looks like it can be replicated for other articles. In other words, this design is repeatable.

Screenshot: Too Young to Wed

Too Young to Wed (from the United Nations Population Fund) is a little harder to navigate than the others, in my opinion (it interrupts the vertical scroll with horizontal-scrolling slideshows), but the gorgeous photography and heartbreaking story make it well worth a look. jQuery plugin: ScrollTo.

There are many tutorials for parallax scrolling — here’s one.

Related: The future of the feature: Breaking out of templates to build customized reading experiences, by Kevin Nguyen, November 2012

Do you have other examples to recommend? Please share links in the comments!

17:49

10 examples of bespoke article design and scrolling goodness

Have you been noticing all the pretty sliding/scrolling articles that are popping up around the Internetz? My students think they’re wonderful, and so do I. So let’s look at a roundup of some great ones.

Screenshot: Snow Fall

Of course we’ll begin with Snow Fall: The Avalanche at Tunnel Creek. This New York Times multimedia feature had the world journalism community talking and tweeting like crazy as soon as it appeared online. This blog post – More than 3.5 million page views for New York Times’ “Snow Fall” feature – reproduces an internal New York Times memo about how popular the multimedia feature turned out to be. In this post at Source (a project concerning journalism code) – How We Made Snow Fall: A Q&A with the New York Times team – the graphics director, graphics editor, video journalist, and deputy director for digital design who created this feature explain how they did it.

Screenshot: America: Elect!

America: Elect! (from The Guardian) is not only a fun, slidy mini-graphic novel – it’s also the subject of a short but very helpful how-to article: How we built our “America: Elect!” graphic novel interactive, by interactive developer Julian Burgess. Parallax scrolling libraryskrollr (check this one out).

Screenshot: Dock Ellis 1 of 2

Screenshot: Dock Ellis 2 of 2

ESPN was ahead of the pack with The Long, Strange Trip of Dock Ellis, a lavishly illustrated story about the Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher. Plugincurtain.js.

Screenshot from Pitchfork 1

Screenshot from Pitchfork 2

Pitchfork magazine used the technique as a showcase for photography, featuring Bat for Lashes singer Natasha Khan, in a cover story titled Glitter in the Dark.

Screenshot: Lost and Found

Lost and Found, an NPR story about photographer Charles W. Cushman, has a beautiful horizontal scrolling audio story in the middle of the page. Look for the Play button below the heading “The Year Is 1938.” Frameworkpopcorn.js.

Screenshot: Fracking

Screenshot: Every Last Drop

The Guardian‘s Burgess linked to a scrolling graphic story about fracking — What goes in and out of hydraulic fracturing (it appears that designer Linda Dong rolled her own scrolling code for this one) — which reminded me a little of Every Last Drop, which uses scrolling graphics to tell the story of how much water we waste every day (parallax scrolling libraryskrollr). I found the fracking story to be more journalistic, especially given the sources listed at the end.

Screenshot: Cycling's Road Forward

Another long-form narrative dressed up very nicely with this technique: Cycling’s Road Forward, from The Washington Post. Framework: Bootstrap. Tools include Modernizr.

Screenshot: Unfit for Work

Unfit for Work (from Planet Money, a program that runs on NPR) has a beautiful responsive article design. I love the big data graphics embedded throughout the article. I’ve been all over the code looking for the bit that slides the sections up and down, but all I can find is very clean CSS and HTML, great attention to responsiveness, and assorted JavaScript files that don’t reference the section element, the H3, or the wallpaper class. I’m super-impressed by the code, because it looks like it can be replicated for other articles. In other words, this design is repeatable.

Screenshot: Too Young to Wed

Too Young to Wed (from the United Nations Population Fund) is a little harder to navigate than the others, in my opinion (it interrupts the vertical scroll with horizontal-scrolling slideshows), but the gorgeous photography and heartbreaking story make it well worth a look. jQuery plugin: ScrollTo.

There are many tutorials for parallax scrolling — here’s one.

Related: The future of the feature: Breaking out of templates to build customized reading experiences, by Kevin Nguyen, November 2012

Do you have other examples to recommend? Please share links in the comments!

August 22 2012

20:39

HTML5, Apps and JavaScript Video

Watch video from the August 2012 TimesOpen event on HTML5, Apps and JavaScript.

August 17 2012

01:07

HTML5, Apps and JavaScript Wrap-Up

The first TimesOpen event of 2012 was a big success and a lot of fun.

August 02 2012

21:47

Announcing TimesOpen 2012

It's that time of the year again! We've just released our schedule for TimesOpen 2012. As always, we'll have four events leading up to an all-day hack day in December.

April 25 2012

10:03

Financial Times passes 2m users for its HTML5 web app

Guardian :: The Financial Times has attracted more than 2m users to its HTML5 web-app, 10 months after its launch. The app was launched in June 2011 in response to Apple's introduction of new rules governing subscription-based iOS apps.

Details - Continue to read Stuart Dredge, www.guardian.co.uk

January 19 2012

21:44

Google adds WebRTC to Chrome for in-browser voice, video chat in real-time

IDG News :: Google has built the WebRTC technology into a test version of Chrome to let the browser run voice and video chat applications within the browser interface. Chrome's Dev Channel version now has WebRTC, a technology Google acquired in 2010 and open sourced last year that uses Javascript APIs (application programming interfaces) and HTML5 to give browsers native, real-time communications capabilities.

Continue to read Juan Carlos Perez, www.pcworld.com

January 12 2012

16:53

January 09 2012

22:25

HTML5 will replace native apps - but it will take longer than you think

Business Insider :: As we enter a post-PC era dominated by many devices synced through the cloud, one crucial question is this: How will we consume software? Will it be mostly through the web, or will it be through apps native to our devices? 

[Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry:] We believe that HTML5 will replace apps, but we also think this process will take longer than HTML5 advocates think.

Which will win? Native apps or HTML5? - For this report, we interviewed Stéphane de Luca, CTO of LeKiosque.fr, the top-grossing app on the iTunes App Store in France, Romain Goyet, co-founder & CTO of Applidium, an app development company;  Thomas Sarlandie, co-founder & VP Software of Backelite, a mobile software company; and Steven Pinches, Head of Emerging Technologies at the Financial Times.

via Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry, www.businessinsider.com

Tags: apps HTML5

January 05 2012

13:54

Financial Times buys its web app maker Assanka, London

paidContent :: The Financial Times has acquired London-based web and application developer Assanka, which made the web app on which the publisher has based its independence from iTunes. Assanka launched the HTML5 web app with the paper’s in-house product team in June 2011, declaring “the craze for native apps is a short one and we are already seeing it on the wane”.

John Ridding's memo - Continue to read Robert Andrews, paidcontent.org

January 04 2012

15:20

2012: Why the Web Is Not Dead and Other Flashpoints

First the easy predictions for the new year: In 2012 we'll see a rise of politics in the digisphere, along with reporting as if the phenomenon is a surprise; more strum over the Murdochs' drum; and a snazzy new iPad 3.

But, there are bigger rumblings afoot in the year ahead, too. Here's my second annual round of predictions for the digital world.

The Return of the Web

Far from the web being dead, we're going to see more and more media organizations figure out how to use it well.

Publishers have started to realize that putting their stock in proprietary apps for Apple devices reaches only a subset of the potential universe, making it hard to "monetize" the investment, not to mention support an entire operation.

Costly to develop, the apps also give Apple more control of customers and their data than the publishers like. To make it worse, attempts to make money through Apple's iAds have been lackluster.

Publishers have started to understand, too, that the latest web applications can, via a browser, handle a lot of the latest whiz-bang interactivity and nifty tools. HTML5, the latest web coding language, can help take advantage of tablet and browser functions such as location, swiping, screen size, portrait and landscape orientation, shaking, tilting and more.

The newer web applications are getting better at integrating with payment systems, preventing unauthorized copying, controlling font size, typeface and other aspects that preserve the look and feel of "the brand."

By using the web, publishers can more easily create something that works across screens, offers similar functionality to a native app built specially for Apple or Android, and gives them access to data and control of revenue.

It also means a lot of the same stuff that hooks into a plain old website (POW?) -- web analytics, certain types of javascript and more -- can be used without having to do a lot of difficult recoding and workarounds.

Look, for example, at the Google Chrome web store (you may need the Chrome browser) to see just a few web-based apps, including NPR's for news and Sports Illustrated's for photos -- some of which require a fee.

Filipe Fortes

The Kindle Cloud Reader, the Financial Times and WalMart's Vudu all went the web route, eschewing native iPad/Phone/Pod apps in favor of the browser to get consumers to buy and consume books, news and video, respectively.

The experience on a computer, tablet or phone can be quite similar to the one on a native app. App companies, too, are gearing up for more web-based functionality.

Flipboard, the iPad app Steve Jobs called a favorite, hired HTML5 expert Filipe Fortes away from Treesaver (a former client of my company). Apple, too, has been listing multiple jobs for those skilled in HTML5.

I'm not saying that native apps will go away -- just that we'll see more development of snazzy new media via the web, which itself is entering a more structured, app-like phase. (See last year's predictions for a discussion of Open vs. Closed philosophies.)

A Year of Legal Wrangling, Wheeling and Dealing

Last year brought a wave of patent acquisitions, including Google's $12.5 billion purchase of Motorola.

This year, we'll see deals done and court cases launched in which holders of various patents, especially in mobile, either sue each other or reach agreement to allow cross-usage. Apple will continue to pursue Google via phone makers over Android.

We'll see legislative and regulatory pushes on privacy and piracy, egged on by powerful lobbyists. (See Mark Glaser's previous piece for a rundown.)

I don't believe that any law will keep people from getting the media they want, though. People will find a way around it, without paying if need be.

Big Four Coop-etition

Just because others have predicted the clash of Google, Facebook, Amazon and Apple doesn't mean it's not worth mention here, too. But, it also doesn't mean it's absolute: They often help each other, as well.

In my media management class, we recently drew a representation of Amazon as a multi-faceted behemoth, and it dawned on me how formidable the company is as a media distributor.

Not only has Amazon created a proprietary portable platform in the Kindle Fire, but Amazon Prime now includes music, video and borrowed e-books, along with free shipping, all for the same $79 yearly fee.

Amazon is also a content producer through its IMDb movie and TV site and its new book publishing imprint. In the past, it has produced at least one movie and a show hosted by Bill Maher.

Its financial position makes it stronger than many others. For Amazon, advertising is supplementary revenue, unlike for most media companies, like Google or Facebook. It makes its real money through e-commerce, web hosting and as a Content Distribution Network (CDN) that even competitors such as Netflix use.

Is there any company with big ambitions that Google doesn't compete with in some way? From Google Offers in coupons, to Places in location, to Google+, to its suite of document and email products, Google Reader, iGoogle, Google Voice, Analytics and on and on, the company is spread through nearly every digital media and interactive sphere.

Like many a media company, Google makes most of its money from ads, on search and through YouTube. Google's share dwarfs all others in digital, and will continue to generate serious cash flow in 2012.

Meanwhile, it's chipping away at Apple's perceived dominance in smartphones with its Android operating system, which is on more smartphones than any other. Its mobile ad company, AdMob, is getting accolades and market share.

Android's feature set challenges Apple's iOS (see legal wrangling, above) and its newer versions seamlessly hook into Google applications like Places, Picasa photos, Maps, Books, Music, Gmail, Docs and more.

The Kindle Fire, based on a "branched" version of Android, is the first tablet to come close to denting the iPad's market share.

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg says everything -- search, media, commerce -- is better when your friends help you find, evaluate and understand it.

He and COO Sheryl Sandberg told broadcast journalist Charlie Rose in November that Facebook cooperates rather than competes with the rest of the digital universe.

That is, unless you notice that the social network competes head-on with Google for ad dollars in targeted cost-per-click advertising.

Facebook has also beefed up search, is gathering tons of data via the "like" and Facebook Connect APIs, and is grabbing some of the best Silicon Valley talent that used to work at Google, including Sandberg. It has incorporated some of Google+'s favorite features.

You could build the case for cooperation by noting that Facebook now works well on Android and iOS apps. Amazon includes Facebook's "like" button on its pages, and allows sending of gift cards through Facebook Connect.

Mainly, though, Facebook competes for attention, often called the currency of the digital age. Every hour someone spends socially networking or consuming media through its pages is time they don't spend on YouTube, Amazon, Kindle or iTunes.

Apple is, well, Apple -- one of the great brands of all time. Though we'll see a little bit of concern over Jobs' absence -- maybe a little stumble or two -- the company should continue to rack up oohs, ahhs, and sales as it turns out new devices.

Even if its focus slips a tad, the company can use its billions of dollars of cash to try just about anything, and even fail a few times.

No one tops Apple's ability to charge for digital content via iTunes and Apps, and content distributors will have to play along even as they beef up their web app offerings.

If the rumored Apple television comes to pass, we'll see more frisson in the media sphere, and more pull from Apple against Amazon's efforts to wrest away sales of music and video -- a battle that's continued for years.

Relative to the big four, traditional media companies are playing on the weaker side of an uneven field. They are masters of content production, but that content is expensive and doesn't scale and acquire new customers as cheaply as an engineer's algorithm can.

Honorable Mentions

A few other trends merit some mention. There will be continued froth among ad networks and exchanges, and those buying and selling data around them, with consolidation and some shakeouts.

I see a continued push and pull among human- vs. machine-driven solutions. As Facebook tweaks its Edge Rank algorithm, companies like Demand Media will try to regain ground in search results and companies like Trada will introduce humans to the ad-optimization equation. (I hope to write more about this human-vs.-machine issue at a later date.)

At least one of the big six book publishers may have to fold or merge at some point, though that may not happen just yet. It's a truism that in the digital age, middlemen with decreased marketing, distribution and production muscle get squeezed. Amazon, Google Books and iBooks are helping apply the pincers.

There's likely to be activity in the hyperlocal space. Local news services such as Patch and many more localized efforts such as New York's DNAInfo will need to show investors they're gaining ground.

Location-based services like Foursquare, Gowalla (now owned by Facebook), and Google Places will increasingly hook into and compete with the hyperlocals. "Location-based marketing" is already a buzz word.

Where Does This Leave You?

Like last year, I'll say this to media operators: Don't bet on just one horse. Pay attention to who has access to and shares the data you help generate. Offer your media on as many popular platforms as is feasible, and make some level of it easy to share.

Make sure your business model accounts for sharing of your content, including sharing you may not appreciate. No regulation will protect your content completely.

If you're a consumer, don't expect Apple or Android to do everything you need or want, but you may want to weave your media tech life around one or the other for simplicity's sake. Do expect to be delighted and infuriated as you upgrade your computer only to discover some of your favorite old stuff doesn't work as well. (And by old, I mean from like two years ago.)

Me, I'll play with my new Android phone, my new MacBook Pro, consider the new iPad and any new Kindle, keep hacking my Windows computers, getting media any way I can (I still use a VCR sometimes!), and learning with great enjoyment.

Happy New Year!

An award-winning former managing editor at ABCNews.com and an MBA (with honors), Dorian Benkoil handles marketing and sales strategies for MediaShift, and is the business columnist for the site. He is SVP at Teeming Media, a strategic media consultancy focused on attracting, engaging, and activating communities through digital media. He tweets at @dbenk and you can Circle him on Google+.

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October 07 2011

17:46

TimesOpen full-length videos

Full-length videos from the first two TimesOpen events, HTML5 and Beyond, and Innovating Developer Culture, are now available.

September 14 2011

07:51

Newspaper video: Time to reconsider your video strategy?

A few issues have popped up in my reading round the web that make me think that if online video has fallen off your agenda then it may be worth thinking again. A few things make me think that.

Engagement with HTML5 by publishers means that the idea of cross platform (web, tablet etc) video becomes a reality. The recent announcement by FT that they were moving away from the apple fold to deliver their apps from a web base shows a certain maturity in that area. It may not be universal but those publishers who engaged with apps with half an eye to html5 and associated tech are starting to see the benefit. They also have an exit route from Apple’s walled garden.

The announcement that the WSJ is upping it’s online video would, on the surface, seem to be a simple illustration of the point. But theres a bit more to it:

The Journal has expanded its video content in spite of its contract with CNBC, the leading business news network on television, and in spite of the fact that The Journal’s parent has its own business network, Fox Business.  The CNBC contract expires in about 15 months, but already Journal reporters tend to appear more often on Fox than on CNBC.

The shifting approaches of print in particular to the challenge of keeping your voice in a spreading market, often rests on the idea of impartiality. An alignment to Fox is as blunt a move to prove the point as you can get. But if you want to establish a ‘voice’ then video can be a key part of that changing ‘brand’.

Newsless broadcast

But there is also a shift on the other side of that relationship. There is a very clear by broadcasters towards product and not a service focus. That will leave a gap that print will have to backfill. Yes there is a big investment in online delivery services but the commercial driver is very much a product proposition. Most of the large broadcasters are seeing a real benefit in exclusive and value-added programming online. The ‘watch again’ of the iplayer-like channels, the webisodes and web exclusive episodes are all examples of how broadcast has ‘finally’ found its feet online.

I think that news is low on the agenda in a broadcasters strategy. For broadcasters, news is very much a service. It’s often something they have to do as a requirement to a license or a sop to public service. It’s easier to advertise around the x-factor than it is news at ten and that’s where the money will go. Non-broadcast providers will pay the price for that.

If you buy in your video from a third party, expect the prices to go up and the quality, range and relevance to go down. 

LocalTV

Here in the UK, we also have the looming Spector of localTV. There is obviously a new market to explore there. I’m skeptical about the range, depth and return that market will have for journalism but, hey, it never hurts to consider it.

So video gives you a good opportunity to extend your identity and cut free those ties with an increasingly newsless broadcast sector. Just invest a little in understanding the technology underlying the new platforms.In the long run it might be a better investment than simply paying to be on those platforms.

 

August 03 2011

07:37

In search of talent - Facebook snaps up e-book startup Push Pop Press

As Colleen Taylor, GigaOM, points out, it looks like that Facebook is in search for talent, rather than interested in moving into the epublishing market.

GigaOM :: Facebook has acquired Push Pop Press, a San Francisco-based digital publishing platform startup purportedly aimed at “redefining the way we publish and experience books.” Terms of the deal have not been released.

Push Pop Press was co-founded by Kimon Tsinteris and Mike Matas, both of whom used to work at Apple.

Continue to read Colleen Taylor, gigaom.com

July 14 2011

14:40

Dear Publishers: Why ponder 'digital editions' when you could be building digital experiences?

If you’ve ever sat in a room where I’ve given a presentation on digital publishing, or run into me at a soem kind of publishing-related event, you will already know that I am no fan of so-called ‘digital editions’. In my experience, they are often expensive and questionable investments that rarely lead to any significant revenue (unless you’re Playboy).

As each year passes, I think to myself “finally, it must be the end of digital editions.” Alas, that has not proved to be the case.

There is such a burst of new technologies available today for creating divine digital reading experiences that I am just floored that certain well-known digital edition vendors are still (very successfully) peddling crap.

I know they are still successful, because I continue to be asked by publishers “Do you think we should invest in a digital edition? If so, who should we work with? Or what tool should we use?

Publishers are in a predicament, it is quite clear to see. Readers are asking for digital products as more of their life moves to new devices. The advantages of having a digital product to offer those readers are clear:

  • Keep the subscriber instead of losing them
  • Deliver a product that (hopefully) costs less to produce and deliver, while still charging a reasonable subscription price
  • Provide a ‘free trial issue’ with very low fulfillment costs
  • Make international subscriptions more affordable and easier to fulfill
  • Access to back issues
  • Last but not least, keeping the cost of renewals low because “digital in, digital renewal”

The challenge is that the range of devices that readers are using is multiplying and the digital edition vendors have not caught up. Not only have they not caught up on the devices, but — more importantly — they are not even close to catching up on the reading experience that people expect today.

Anyway, this is turning into more of a rant than a useful blog post, so I’ll try to get it back on track here…

If you’re a publisher and you’re thinking about investing in a digital edition, start with these questions:

  1. Digital edition vs. adaptable reading experience: Do you want to provide readers with an experience that is device-appropriate, or one that is simply a replica of your print layout? (The reasoning “We can re-use photos licensed for print in a new medium if we don’t change the layout” should not drive your answer to this question.) The term ‘mobile’ applies to just about everything these days — laptops (increasingly smaller), tablets (various sizes), and smart phones (various screen resolutions) — and it’s unlikely that a print layout is going to be an enjoyable reading experiences across them all.

  2. InDesign-centric vs. Web-centric: Do you want to work from the Web version of your stories — the version that includes links to other sites, links to related articles, and so on — or the version that comes out of the print workflow? Remember, if you have a Web site there’s a good chance that you’ve already invested in getting your print-centric content into a digital content management system — thus, you’ve already done the work of the print-to-digital conversion for most devices.

  3. “Somebody do it for us” vs. Do-it-yourself: Finally, do you want to have the control to present your publication the way you want, with the features that your readers want, and own all the data? Or do you want someone to just “get it done” and “keep it working?” Remember, it’s pretty likely that you already have a circulation plan that can be adapted to these digital subscribers, and it’s likely that you’re already taking payments online and managing access to your Web site. Integrating those processes and system into your digital products is not as hard as you think.

There have been some incredible advances over the last year in the capabilities of the modern Web browser. It is the idea of ‘the Web in your pocket’ that draws many people to these new digital devices. And these new devices all run ‘the Web.’ Each of the major platforms — iOS, Android, Blackberry, Windows Phone, Palm WebOS, Kindle — have versions of their devices that support current Web technologies like HTML5, CSS, and Javascript. This opens up a whole new field of opportunity for you — as a publisher — to think about delivering amazing digital experiences, not just a ‘digital edition.’

If you don’t know where to start exploring what’s possible, here are a few pointers:

Hopefully that will give you a place to start. Still have questions, drop me a line. Are you experimenting with a framework, technology, or approach not listed above, leave a comment.

June 30 2011

20:08

Don't wait for the native app, explore Google+ via mobile web app already

TechCrunch :: Don't wait until Apple has completed the review process for Google+ or until you get an invite. If you simply point your iOS Safari browser to plus.google.com, you’ll find a solid web app written in HTML5. You can’t do quite everything you’ll be able to with the native app, such as Huddle (group chat). All main parts of the Google+ functionality appear in the main menu: stream, photos, circles, profile, and notifications.

Continue to read MG Siegler, techcrunch.com

 

June 14 2011

20:45

How Publishers Can Bypass Apple with HTML5 Web Apps

When the iPad first arrived on the scene, our Belgian business newspapers, De Tijd and L'Echo, embraced it. We knew tablets, with their lightness and convenience, would become important for our communities, and so we dove into building apps and offering our readers special deals on iPads.

Quickly though, we learned that despite the opportunities the iPad offered, there were strings attached.

It wasn't surprising that Apple wanted a piece of the revenue. But I'm not sure everybody anticipated the possibility that the company would also claim ownership of users' data -- a sensitive issue in the digital media world.

HTML5 to the Rescue

We all started to wonder if the iPad would be just a shiny prison for unfortunate media outfits, all of us forced to offer our precious content through that new channel while having to pay a hefty price. But HTML5 seems to have come to the rescue.

The Financial Times made headlines last week when it launched a web-based application for smartphones and tablet computers written in HTML5 -- allowing it to bypass Apple's App Store and Google's Android Market, as well as other distributors.

In doing so, the British newspaper is aiming to secure a direct relationship with readers.

For the user, it makes no difference. The FT icon on my iPad looks the same as the native app icons, and the whole experience is very app-like.

The Benefits of Bypassing Apple

So what are the advantages and disadvantages of using HTML5 and bypassing the App Store? I asked my colleague, multimedia manager Tom Peeters of Mediafin, the Belgian publisher of De Tijd and L'Echo, and he explained that as targeted advertising grows, the user data part is a crucial one.

"I think it's very important for us as a publisher to have full access to the user information ... in the App Store it's totally impossible to have this data," he said.

In addition, having an HTML5 app would allow Mediafin to keep the 30 percent revenue that goes to Apple every time a sale is made. In fact, taking into account the VAT (value added tax), it's more like 40 percent.

HTML5 will also enable Mediafin to shorten the app's release time.

"Updating the app will be easier and faster, and what's also important -- at times that we decide," Peeters said.

An App Store app has to be approved by Apple, a procedure that takes time and is fully controlled by Cupertino.

Peeters also expects that it will be easier to tweak the HTML5 apps to optimize them for other platforms such as Android or BlackBerry. However, he admitted the project has its challenges. Here's an extended interview I conducted with Peeters recently:

So our strategy for now seems to be a hybrid one: maintaining the native app in iTunes while also launching HTML5 apps for the iPad and other tablet devices.

What will your media organization do? Go for the native app or take the HTML5 route?

Roland Legrand is in charge of new media at Mediafin, the publisher of leading Belgian business newspapers De Tijd and L'Echo. He studied applied economics and philosophy. After a brief teaching experience, he became a financial journalist working for the Belgian wire service Belga and subsequently for Mediafin. He works in Brussels, and lives in Antwerp with his wife, Elisabeth.

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May 26 2011

11:39

AdMob adds four new tablet ad formats

Google Mobile Blog :: In the last six months alone, traffic from tablets on the AdMob network has increased by 300 percent according the company. To help advertisers better connect with tablet users, they decided to launch a variety of new, tablet-specific rich media ad formats. These new HTML5-based ad formats are built specifically for tablets’ larger, high-definition screens, and make use of features like touch, tap and swipe. Together, these features will enable advertisers to develop rich, engaging campaigns and run them across multiple mobile platforms.

Continue to read googlemobileads.blogspot.com

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