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January 03 2012

16:34

Daily Must Reads, Jan. 3, 2012

The best stories across the web on media and technology, curated by Nathan Gibbs


1. The Internet changes how we remember (Scientific American)

2. Larry Downes: Why Best Buy is going out of business...gradually (Forbes)

3. The verified Twitter account for Rupert Murdoch's wife was fake (ReadWriteWeb)

4. Volkswagen turns off Blackberry email after work hours (BBC News)

5. Laura Hazard Owen: What's 2012 holds for book publishing (paidContent)



Subscribe to our daily Must Reads email newsletter and get the links in your in-box every weekday!



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

16:34

Daily Must Reads, Jan. 3, 2011

The best stories across the web on media and technology, curated by Nathan Gibbs


1. The Internet changes how we remember (Scientific American)

2. Larry Downes: Why Best Buy is going out of business...gradually (Forbes)

3. The verified Twitter account for Rupert Murdoch's wife was fake (ReadWriteWeb)

4. Volkswagen turns off Blackberry email after work hours (BBC News)

5. Laura Hazard Owen: What's 2012 holds for book publishing (paidContent)



Subscribe to our daily Must Reads email newsletter and get the links in your in-box every weekday!



Subscribe to Daily Must Reads newsletter

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

July 01 2011

21:14

US antitrust laws - Twitter investigated over dealings with apps firms including UberMedia

Guardian :: Twitter is being investigated by US regulators over its dealings with third-party companies including UberMedia, the firm behind popular BlackBerry and iPhone apps. The Federal Trade Commission, or FTC, is investigation whether Twitter's business relationships with other companies comply with US antitrust laws.

Continue to read Josh Halliday, www.guardian.co.uk

June 17 2011

22:00

Blackberry - Research In Motion's (RIM) astounding collapse in The U.S.

Business Insider :: Blackberry | Research In Motion (RIM)'s share of the U.S. market collapse right around the time Verizon decides to throw its weight behind Android. As RIM's marketshare in the U.S. collapsed, so did its average selling price per phone. Sure, RIM is proud of its expansion into other markets, but they're not as valuable to RIM.

The chart can be found here Jay Yarow, www.businessinsider.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.

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

February 17 2011

16:45

Blizzard Builds KOMU Community with Mobile Video, Facebook







Education content on MediaShift is sponsored by the USC Annenberg nine-month M.A. in Specialized Journalism. USC's highly customized degree programs are tailored to the experienced journalist and gifted amateur. Learn more about how USC Annenberg is immersed in tomorrow.

I've always dreamed of a time when my community could come together with the help of our on-air and online collaboration. All it took was a blizzard to make it happen.

Mid-Missouri was hit with a blizzard-like storm that dumped 17.5 inches of snow into Columbia, Mo., and even more south of the city. The entire viewing audience of KOMU-TV was home and stuck inside. An ice storm had threatened to cut power across the region, but that didn't happen. Instead, the community was snowed in with power to their computers and high speed Internet connections. They were contained and ready to be engaged.

The KOMU newsroom was ready. The staff is a mix of professional reporters and journalists who are still students at the Missouri School of Journalism. The managers of the newsroom -- who, like me, are also faculty members -- encouraged the students to step up and help out in the coverage of what was looking to become an epic storm.

About 40 faculty, staff and students essentially lived in the newsroom to make sure all of the newscasts got on the air. I gathered up multiple teams of reporters, who were then placed into different communities. Each team had a really nice camera and at least one person had an iPhone, Android or Blackberry phone that could shoot video and/or Skype. I had the reporters download a set of tools that would help them tell multimedia stories about their locations and how those smaller towns were dealing with the heavy snow.

My recommendations were:

While we didn't use all of them, I wanted to make sure we were ready and able on all kinds of platforms.

Videos on the Scene

The reporters went out to their various locations, found a hotel, and got ready. As the day went on and the snow fell harder, the mobile reporters went out into the storm. They were looking at scenes no one else was willing to travel out to see -- like what a closed interstate highway looked like:

My favorite was taken the morning after the storm when one of our student reporters hopped onto a snow plow to survey the bad road conditions:

While the reporters were out sharing their stories of the snowstorm, our viewers were at home watching every link, video, and live broadcast. When the majority of the storm was over, the KOMU 8 viewers took over by sharing many of their own stories about the storm. Our newsroom has an email address that accepts moderated photos into a Ning network. Hundreds of photos were sent to KOMU -- and that was in addition to the more than 620 photos posted to the KOMU Facebook wall.

The fan page was the centerpiece of our online interaction during the storm. A year ago, KOMU had fewer than 500 "fans" on the page. Before the storm, it was up to 3100. After the storm, it was up to 5500. Our newsroom has yet to use contests to encourage fans to join our page so this jump was huge. Along with the increase in fans, more and more people join in on the conversations and share on the page.

Big Moment for Sharing

This is what I've always craved as a journalist working in a regional market. It's exactly the sort of interaction I've taught my students to foster for years. I have always wanted open the line of communication and sharing with my news audience. This blizzard was the first time I really had that opportunity.

During the storm, I lived on my computer. I commented and reacted to every discussion for at least 36 hours. I slept very little.

My experience was not unique for the staff. My husband, who also works in the newsroom, and stayed there for two days while I worked from home with our children. I had student employees who slept at the station and worked with me throughout the storm.

It was awesome and exhausting. But the relationships formed during that storm seem to be holding. In the two weeks since the storm, KOMU's Facebook page has only had about ten "fans" leave the page.

The downsides? The amount of user-generated content we gathered was overwhelming. I wanted to make sure we had opportunities to share all it. Our anchors did stories about the content viewers had shared, and we featured the images and video by showing off an iPad on the air. I also had my students create collections of the photos our viewers uploaded. Here's our Blizzard Kids collection:

The best moment? I'd say it was when our team found a woman and her son digging out the reporters' car. They were compelled to help by a Skype conversation during our newscast about how the reporters' car had been buried at a local hotel. The mother and son, who were staying there at the time, left their room just to help the reporters get their car out of the hotel parking lot:

What lessons did we learn? That when you have a chance to engage, grab it. We used mobile tools to report and encouraged our viewers to do the same. We shared, we compared, and we were a true community on-air and online. I would suffer through a hundred more blizzards if it meant we could continue to share and collaborate like we did during this one.

Jennifer Reeves worked in television news for the majority of her career. In the last six years, she has moved from traditional journalist to non-traditional thinker about journalism and education. Jen is currently the New Media Director at KOMU-TV and komu.com. At the same time, she is an associate professor at the Missouri School of Journalism and was a part of the inaugural class of Reynolds Journalism Institute fellows (2008-09).







Education content on MediaShift is sponsored by the USC Annenberg nine-month M.A. in Specialized Journalism. USC's highly customized degree programs are tailored to the experienced journalist and gifted amateur. Learn more about how USC Annenberg is immersed in tomorrow.

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

February 15 2011

16:00

What Apple’s new subscription policy means for news: new rules, new incentives, new complaints

Apple has announced its long-awaited subscription policy for newspapers, magazines, and other outlets who want to sell content for the iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch. The high points:

— Publishers who sell subscriptions to content on Apple devices must make that subscription available for purchase within their apps — a path that promises easy, one-click purchases for users but that also gives Apple a 30 percent cut of the payment.

— Publishers can still sell access to subscriptions outside the app — say, by taking a credit-card payment on their website. But the cost can be no lower than the price offered inside the app, and publishers are responsible for setting up their own authentication system for those subscribers.

— Customer data for in-app subscribers will remain with Apple, generally speaking, but customers will have the option to send their name, email address, and zip code to publishers. (Opt-in, not opt-out.) If handed over, that data will be governed by the publisher’s privacy policy, not Apple’s.

At first glance, this is exactly what a lot of publishers were fearing: Apple setting itself up as a toll-taker on news orgs’ road to a new business model. (Excuse the metaphor.) For publishers who had been counting on a new rush of tablet revenue to support a lagging print model, it’s disappointing to learn that, in exchange for the convenience of a “Buy” button in their iPad app, they’ll have to give up 30 percent of the revenue it generates. We’ll have to see how it plays out in the coming months, but first, here are four quick reactions to what the latest word from Cupertino means for news outlets.

Converting print-to-tablet rather than tablet-native

As Steve Jobs says in the press release: “Our philosophy is simple — when Apple brings a new subscriber to the app, Apple earns a 30 percent share; when the publisher brings an existing or new subscriber to the app, the publisher keeps 100 percent and Apple earns nothing.” (We could debate what “brings” means all day.)

That means news organizations will be incentivized to convert customers they already have relationships with — a.k.a. print subscribers — into tablet-only or tablet-also readers. If you’re a newspaper and you can convince your 20-year subscriber to pay a little extra for a tablet subscription, you get to keep that marginal revenue because you “brought” that subscriber to the app and processed her billing outside Apple’s systems.

In the long run, though, such a strategy could hurt newspapers who already have disproportionately older audiences. Converting 20-year subscribers to a new platform isn’t as valuable as converting non-readers into tablet readers. Part of the appeal of tablets and smartphones is that they promise to put newspapers in front of a younger audience that, frankly, hasn’t picked up a print paper in years, or ever. For those people — people who download an app, like what they see, and decide to subscribe — Apple will take its cut. It’s a perverse incentive for publishers.

The big question here is what this policy will mean for bundling. Lots of publishers are selling bundled packages — pay one price and get print, web, iPhone, iPad, and whatever-else access. Apple’s press release is unclear on how those would be handled. Lots of publishers get away with “charging” an extra penny for access to an e-edition no one uses. Will they be able to get away with bundling tablet access with print outside an app? Or will they have to funnel their print revenues through Apple too if they want to sell as a package? Giving up 30 percent of tablet revenue is one thing; giving up 30 percent of print subscription revenue is suicide.

A missed opportunity to create a new pricing tier

It’s been rumored that the next iPhone, due this summer, would include near field communications, or NFC, capability. That’s similar to the technology that lets you tap your credit card instead of swiping it at some stores, and it could, in effect, turn your Apple device into something like a credit/debit card that lets you pay for physical items in physical locations, not just a Mighty Eagle in Angry Birds.

If that’s in the iPhone’s future, it’s clear Apple would need to create a different pricing tier for buying via NFC. Taking a 30 percent cut isn’t tenable if you’re buying a laptop or a week’s worth of groceries. Store owners will need to be convinced to embrace NFC payments, and they’ll only do so if they can do so at a cost that’s competitive (for them) with credit and debit cards. So the assumption’s been that Apple would, in a few months, debut a separate tier of pricing for Apple’s share of those purchases.

And it makes sense that, as Apple’s universe grows, a one-size-fits-all pricing model isn’t going to work. What made (grudging) sense to iPhone developers three years ago isn’t going to make sense in every other market. Selling subscriptions to content — content generally produced at substantial cost in a non-digital context, in the case of most newspapers and magazines — would seem to be a logical place to offer a smaller cut in an attempt get as many news orgs headed to iPads as possible. But that’s not what Apple’s chosen.

An opening for competitors?

The iPad dominates the tablet market, and most of the new competitors announced in the past few months appear to be overpriced to compete with the first iPad, let alone the second one expected in a few weeks. (Not to mention that most of them haven’t even shipped yet.)

But the vast majority of the world still lacks a tablet, of course, and there’s still a lot of selling to be done. It will be interesting to see whether Apple’s competitors will see an opportunity to get news outlets — which still have major marketing power — to shift their favor in some other tablet’s direction. RIM and HP both have proprietary operating systems on their tablets that could offer better deals in stores; the Android world remains something of a free-for-all, with rival stores for apps and what seems to be a real difficulty getting anyone to pay for anything. But if a rival OS could pitch a great deal to news orgs, the field is still fresh enough that some of them might be willing to promote the hell out of it as their preferred tablet choice. For a market where Apple takes up a lot of the oxygen, that promise of a promotion platform could be appealing.

No mention of restrictions on browser access

One thing absent from today’s announcement: any requirement that a news org selling subscriptions to an iPad app disable or charge for access to its website on iPads. Our own Ken Doctor predicted that would be part of the new Apple model, intending to funnel all tablet users through the app rather than relying on a still-free alternative a few taps away in Safari.

I think not going there is smart — too many news organizations are still betting on a mixture of free and paid for their digital strategy to tie web and app access together so closely. If we lived in a world where everyone was committed to Times (UK)-style paywalls, it might make sense. But there’s still a lot of nuance to be figured out on where to charge and where to give away, and any rule from Apple governing such a big part of the mobile web would stifle the experimentation I hope we’re finally going to see in 2011.

Finally, that’s one other question left unanswered by Apple’s release: How much leeway will publishers have to balance free and paid within an app. Outside the news world, app developers have complained that Apple doesn’t allow free trials for apps — you can’t download an app, try it out for seven days, then decide whether or not to pay. Developers complain that makes it harder to sell expensive apps, which people will rightfully want to try out before spending $50.

How will that idea carry over to publishers? Will someone be able to download an app and get the first three issues of a magazine free before getting pitched on a subscription? Will someone trying a metered model, like The New York Times, be able to let someone read 10 articles a month before hitting the paywall? The in-app purchasing model Apple’s using for subscription would seem to allow some leeway, but we’ll have to see how it works in the real world.

August 26 2010

18:06

Free Speech at Stake as India Demands Encrypted BlackBerry Data

Next week will be decisive for BlackBerry corporate users. BlackBerry maker Research In Motion (RIM) could provide a solution to help security agencies in India access corporate email by obtaining encrypted data in readable formats. If RIM does not offer a solution before the end of the month, India has warned that it will block BlackBerry Messenger service in the country for corporate users.

BlackBerry phones encrypt their services better than most smartphones do, and this has been one of the selling points for BlackBerry as a device for corporate users. RIM has to this point refused to provide access codes that would allow governments to monitor the content of encrypted messages. Should RIM provide the Indian government with access to the data, it would not only hurt freedom of expression -- it would likely also hurt the BlackBerry's reputation as the business device of choice.

About More Than The BlackBerry

The Indian government isn't the only seeking access to BlackBerry data. The United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia claim that BlackBerry's services break their laws and threaten national security. The UAE's Telecommunication Regulatory Authority announced that it will suspend BlackBerry's instant messaging, email, web browsing and roaming services starting October 11. Saudi Arabia, meanwhile, is still allowing BlackBerry's instant messaging service to operate. Saudi authorities had planned to suspend it on August 6, but they only ended up blocking the service for a few hours. The company and government continue to work toward a compromise.

Reporters Without Borders is worried about the BlackBerry issue because the "national security" argument is just a pretext for these countries to take steps to restrict access to new technology and to tools that help with freedom of expression. In the UAE, some BlackBerry users were arrested for using BlackBerry Messenger to try to organize a protest against increased gas prices.

What really bothers these countries is their inability to monitor the communication flowing via BlackBerry's services. Indonesia, Egypt, Lebanon, Algeria and Kuwait have also voiced concern about BlackBerry's encrypted services, and it's no coincidence that some of these countries are home to a wide range of censorship measures. In Indonesia, for example, the government requires ISPs to filter out porn -- without providing them a specific list of offending sites. The inevitable result is that the ISPs cause collateral damage by blocking other websites with no direct link to pornography. This is also the case in Saudi Arabia. Filtering also slows down connection speeds throughout the country. Aside from censorship, these countries are also known for monitoring the communications and web usage of citizens.

It's therefore natural to question whether the requests for BlackBerry to offer access to its services are truly meant to fight terrorism, or if it's about finding another way to monitor the communications of citizens?

U.S. Perspective

These countries would do well to learn from an example in the United States. In 2003, the Department of Justice drafted legislation that would have lengthened prison sentences for people who used encryption in the commission of a crime. Defenders of encryption said it would do little to help catch terrorists, and would instead hamper the work of activists. The legislation never passed -- even though the fight against terrorism was a top priority of the government.

RIM's BlackBerry encryption isn't alone in being targeted. India plans on asking Google and Skype for similar access, which means this issue is about more than just one company's device. It's about the future of private communications in countries prone to censorship and other abuses.

Clothilde Le Coz has been working for Reporters Without Borders in Paris since 2007. She is now the Washington director for this organization, helping to promote press freedom and free speech around the world. In Paris, she was in charge of the Internet Freedom desk and worked especially on China, Iran, Egypt and Thailand. During the time she spent in Paris, she was also updating the "Handbook for Bloggers and Cyberdissidents," published in 2005. Her role is now to get the message out for readers and politicians to be aware of the constant threat journalists are submitted to in many countries.

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

August 06 2010

13:57

Are Android phones the best option for journalism students?

A few months ago I was asked what sort of mobile phone I would recommend for a journalism student. Knowing how tight student budgets are, and that any choice should have as much of an eye on the future as on the present, I recommended getting an Android phone.

The reasoning went like this: iPhones are great at certain things, and currently benefit from a wider range of applications than other mobile phones. But the contracts are expensive, the battery life poor, and Apple’s closed system problematic, for reasons I’ll expand on in a moment.

Currently, BlackBerry smartphones (apparently you can’t say ‘BlackBerries’) and high-end Nokias are probably the most popular phones for journalists. Both have excellent battery life and BlackBerry smartphones (yes, it gets annoying after the first time) have a particular strength in the way their email works.

But these are also expensive, and Symbian (the operating system for most high end Nokias) does not have a long term future, while its replacement, Maemo, has yet to build a present.

Which brings us to Android – the ‘Google’ phone – and the most affordable option for the student journalist looking at a multiplatform future.

  • With Google behind the technology, Android phones have excellent email integration – not quite as strong as a BlackBerry, but more than good enough.
  • Android’s app store – the ‘Market‘ – competes with Apple’s – and is catching up fast. Most of the must-have apps for journalists are already in there, and on this score it’s much stronger than BlackBerry or Nokia.
  • The biggest weakness is Android’s battery life, which is around the same as the iPhone (some tips on that here).
  • But apart from their affordability it is the openness of the Android platform which presents the strongest case for being the student journalist’s mobile of choice.

When I advised that student to get an Android phone, it was because I think that Android will seriously challenge iPhone both in terms of userbase (which is already happening) and app development.

Computerworld’s Jonny Evans (an “Apple Holic”) compares the situation to the struggle for the PC:

“[Apple's] insistence on a closed system means partnership deals aren’t open to it in the hardware space.

“So, where Android can deliver multiple devices for multiple niches at multiple price points to the market, Apple delivers a limited number of devices, hoping the quality of its software will make a difference. It seems to attract customers that way.

“As fellow blogger, Sharon Machlis, noted last week, the result of that strategy during the PC wars enabled Microsoft to seize monopoly-level market share on the desktop.

The game’s not over.

The same post, however, notes that “Apple’s key advantage against Android is its developer community”:

“Despite criticism of the way it curates its store, Apple does have an App Store that works, where 95 percent of apps are approved fast.

“This means developers already have a reliable and profitable route to market at 100 million iOS users – set to climb with the addition of at least 24 million more iPhone 4 users this year.

“Android developers may be able to develop more openly, but development is fragmented by the need to develop for multiple devices.”

Apple alienated parts of their community earlier this year when they released a new developer agreement. Then, a couple of weeks ago, Google provided a platform for a whole new community when it announced the launch of a tool that can only challenge Apple’s dominance: the App Inventor for Android:

“To use App Inventor, you do not need to be a developer. App Inventor requires NO programming knowledge. This is because instead of writing code, you visually design the way the app looks and use blocks to specify the app’s behavior.”

For the student journalist, this tool also offers an opportunity to experiment with mobile journalism and publishing in the same way that Blogger allowed you to experiment with online publishing and distribution, or Yahoo! Pipes allowed you to play with mashups (TechCrunch’s MG Siegler compares it with GeoCities). Tony Hirst has already written a series of posts exploring how the tool works (it’s currently in invite-only beta), which are worth bookmarking.

This tool seals the deal for me – it’s the difference between doing the job now and redefining it for the future.

But what do you think? What features do Android phones lack? What advantages do other phones hold?

For the record, I use an iPhone and an old N95. I use the N95 for phonecalls, texts and streaming video (because of its long battery life) and the iPhone for web browsing and apps – particularly RSS readers, Audioboo, editing blog posts and checking comments, Twitter, and email. Each handset is with a different operator, which gives me better 3G coverage options too. I also pay for an Android phone (a HTC Magic) in my household.


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