iPad Newsstand

David Jacobs of 29th Street Publishing talking about magazine apps:

What we have learned is that the replica will never be successful. Consumers have soundly rejected them: digital subscriptions make up only 3% of total subscriptions. But I am of course optimistic about the future of magazine apps, since the industry has an opportunity for a reboot. There is a challenge (and an opportunity) since the mainstream conception of a magazine app is what amounts to a photo gallery of pages of a magazine, with the occasional widget or animation. But that’s not a transformation that is going to happen overnight.

Why did it all go so wrong? Joe Zeff of Joe Zeff Design, an app studio, is direct:

It’s easy to blame Adobe DPS for the spate of lookalike magazines; instead, I blame the publishers. They blindly followed AAM née ABC guidelines and created digital magazines that were hardly different from print. They prioritized customer retention over customer acquisition and focused on rate base expansion instead of new product development. They have failed to excite advertisers, blaming weak CPM numbers that could be strengthened by aggregating audiences through networks.

In short, rather than prioritising creating greta customer experiences, the magazine industry prioritised protecting its own business model and workflows - with appalling results.

The whole iPad Magazine roundtable at Newmanology is well worth a read - as it gets right to the heart of the challenges and opportunities of this format.

A brand new, responsive OM&HB

The days when I switched my blog design every few months are very long gone, but here we are again with a new look OM&HB, only 20 months after the last one.

Here's what it looks like right now:

Responsive OM&HB

And this is why it is significant:

A responsive OM&HB

Yes, I've finally gone mobile-friendly and responsive.

I pretty much had no choice: tablet and phone traffic is nudging towards 50% of my site traffic - and it gets even higher than that on "big hit" posts. If I care about my readers - and I do - I should be catering to their device choice.

Also, frankly, when I'm talking to publishers and journalists about mobile strategy, having a design that's not mobile-friendly was getting rather embarrassing.

What's changed?

  • Responsive design! Yes, I said that above. But it's the most important thing...
  • The sidebar returns. Yes, I tried to bury it all at the bottom of the page, but it didn't work. A single sidebar is still useful.
  • Sharing buttons are gone. An experiment: I want to see if the lack of sharing buttons has any traffic impact.
  • Pagingation. You can actually (at long last) page back through older entries from the homepage of the site.
  • Taupy RIP. Yes, the lizard finally bites the dust. Here, for a final time, is Taupy, the mascot of this blog for the best part of eight years:


What do you think?

Declan Curry

The above photo was circulating Twitter yesterday, and at least two media outlets - Romenesko and FishbowlNY - ran it as an example of a BBC captioner having a bad day.

They found the image and they ran with it. They didn't contact Declan or the BBC. And today, they're both apologising.

As it happens, I was at university with Declan - we worked on Imperial College's student newspaper Felix together. I'd seen the photo before - when he posted it to Facebook, sharing a joke he'd written himself. Yup, the caption was by him - and was the best part of a year old:

click on the comments link to see the discussion

And there we have it. Two media outlets turned their journalistic instincts off when presented with something fun on social media, and made fools of themselves.

You don't get to stop applying the basic techniques of journalism just because you found something on social media. Verify, check, double-source. Or you'll be apologising to your readers - or your editor - pretty quickly.

Back on the blog

Today has been defined by server problems and vomit. Server problems kept me from posting this morning, and vomit (as produced by my daughter) for the afternoon.

But I am back.



If you're reading this, you're almost certainly a regular reader of my blog - because I'm going to do exactly no promotion whatsoever of this post. This is just something for my regulars, if you like, and those they choose to share it with.

I'm going to start doing a newsletter in the next few days, which will be called the Digital Publishing Irregular.

It will be, as the name suggests, about digital publishing, and it will be irregular. It will be more opinionated and broad than posts on this blog, and will represent, in many ways, the first draft of ideas that will eventually make their way here.

If you're interested in this, feel free to sign-up below:

powered by TinyLetter

Expect occasional missives thereafter…

Livio and Lee at Post*Shift

When some of the social media gurus of the world started proclaiming that "social business was dead" a while back, my immediate thought was "this is where it gets interesting".


Well, when the shiny suited bandwagon jumpers move on it's pretty much a sign that the peak of inflated expectations is over, and that we're passing through the trough of disillusionment towards a plateau of productivity. And yes, gentle reader, I am alluding to the Gartner Hype Cycle here:


Once the flash and dash of the early hype is over, the serious work gets done. We're seeing some interesting new businesses emerging in the space, like my friends Agile Elephant and now a post Headshift/Dachis Lee Bryant and Livio Hughes with Post*Shift.

They held their launch part last night, and while I can't claim to completely understand what the company is right now - some hybrid of an incubator, an investor and a strategic consultant as far as I could tell - I'm certainly interested to see what they do over the next couple of years.

A few interesting notes from the introduction talks

  • Existing companies are prone to "innovation tourism" - where they go visit innovators and startups, and then go back to doing exactly what they did before.
  • Existing companies tend to become entities whose purpose is protecting their business model. They're disruption-adverse.
  • Startups may be more professional than many businesses, as they run lean and with zero waste - they just can't afford it.
  • There are many company structures which have existed conceptually for decades - but which social technology is finally making practical
  • The management consultancy model hasn't significantly changed in a century. It needs rethinking.

Right at the end of the talks, Lee touched on a small obsession of mine, when he started talking about how the disruption that the internet can bring could interface with more physical businesses - industry, manufacturing and the like (I've written about this for NEXT Berlin). I'm desperate to see startup thinking and social business start to spread beyond the obvious confines of knowledge workers and mobile apps. Looks like Post*Shift could be planning on making some inroads into a much wider discussion about the future of work - and that could be worth watching.

Liveblogging so be warned: typos, inaccuracies and vile, vile abuse of grammar and syntax ahead.

Peter Jukes: Livetweeting the Phone Hacking Trial

Peter Jukes

Peter is better known as a dramatist, but has always been interested in technology and journalism. He's fascinated by dynasties, power and corruption, as his books show. So, he started going to the pre-trial hearings on the hacking allegations.

And he realised he could tweet it. And he found it a more interesting process than writing conventional articles about it. He knew some of the things coming - but couldn't tweet them until they were told to the jury. That's contempt of court.

He built an audience rapidly - but he couldn't afford the tickets the loss of earnings from attending the trial to live-tweet the whole thing. He gave up for a few days, and there was a clamour for him to return. Someone suggested that he crowd-fund he tickets. He was initially resistant to this - despite the fact that his book has been crowd-funded. He was funded in 8 hours when he actually capitulated. Why? Because he was providing a service that people wanted.

With great crowd-funding comes great responsibility

The financial support came with emotional strings and he found he felt an enormous responsibility to his funders. He generally goes in the annex downstairs rather than the gallery, as he finds you have more freedom to work there, watching the streams, than in the gallery itself. But it's a grim, difficult environment for a writer. Over time, the trial became an incredible drama, unfolding as the trial went on. Why? Both the British justice system and the British media are on trial. That's a precarious situation.

People are following him, including court officials - and they're alert to any prejudicial statement he makes. What British journalism does is mix fact and opinion. That's a completely different situation to court reporting. If you comment, you're in contempt of court - so sticking to just the facts is an incredible discipline. Of course, you can't tweet everything. So he targets every salient fact or date - and the best of the quotes. The only editorial decisions he makes are compressing quotes.

Why did people fund him? Because he's independent - he doesn't work for any of the media organisations.

All his tweets are being archived to be made available as a searchable database on his blog after the event.

Put to the Question

Questions from the audience:

  • Did he do any media law training first? No. He wished he did. But he learnt from other journalist, and from getting it wrong.

  • He tweets from an iPad with a Logitech keyboard.

  • Did he pay tax on the crondfunded money? He needs to talk to his accountant about that...

  • What's the difference between what he does and lifestream of video or audio? How do you database or search or video? The internet is the revenge of words.

Al Brown, Vice News

Al Brown from Vice News

The most popular videos they did were the hard-hitting news and documentary work - the one about being in the middle of stories. So, they started building Vice News to focus on that, and launched about a month ago.

The documentary film-making they were doing was labelled news long before they started it calling that. They find the news cycle quite boring - and so do many of their readers. "The News" as it exists now is something you have to be plugging into all the time to understand what is going on.

They wouldn't cover the missing plane, for example, because there's nothing to film, and nothing they can add. They're quite opinionated in their reporting. They want journalists on site, saying what they see in front of them - and what it means. Henru Langston's tweets from the Ukraine racked up 20m impressions. But he followed that up with long-form work, and the camera team were using Instagram and Vine as they worked, which was followed by a documentary. That final result si something that can be looked back on in a year.

They're trying to use as many forms as possible - short form, long form. Whatever it takes to tell the story. Length isn't something they're hugely pre-occupied with. On YouTube they get people watching on average 20 minutes of video. The idea of the short video is beginning to be dispelled - because people are watching on mobile at tablets.

Money and People

He's not allowed to talk about revenue split with YouTube - but it's easier for content makers to make revenue from their own platforms than YouTube. YouTube is about audience growth for them. They have so many different ways of monetising on their own platforms, that they want to bring people there.

He's always looking for hungry young journalists with access and a desire to tell stories. There's lots of tattooed 22 year olds - and some older heads who stop everyone getting killed. They like growing their own talent. People start by writing for the, and then transition to film-making if they're interested.

Equipment? A lot of it is very conventional. They're not citizen journalists. They use phone for live streaming - and high end cameras with DoP for their serious filming. They spend quite a lot of money per minute you see on screen. What makes it feel "rough" is what they choose to show.

They're always been a counter-culture kind of brand. How will they build news? Do more of it. But they won't chase the news cycle, or cover things they don't think they have anything new to offer.

Over half of their audience arrive via social media.

They're safety compliance is pretty much that the same as traditional broadcasters. Their stuff just feels more dangerous because ether show journalists freaking out which other media outlets would cut.