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January 06 2012

Publishing News: Can the Nook be a viable business by itself?

Here are a few of the publishing stories from that caught my eye this week.

B&N looks at spinning off its Nook

NookLogo.png Barnes & Noble made a few ripples in the news this week when it announced the sale of its Sterling Publishing arm. But news that it might also spin off its Nook business caused a bigger stir.

Publisher's Weekly took a look at the Nook's numbers, noting that Nook device sales overall were up 70% year over year during a nine-week holiday period, with the Nook Tablet exceeding expectations and the Nook Touch falling short. The PW post also outlined the planned revenue streams of the proposed Nook business:

The new Nook group would be comprised of four revenue streams: devices; digital content, including e-books, subscriptions, apps, textbooks; accessories; and warranties and extended service plans. While e-books and other digital content sales would be made through BN.com, those sales would become part of the Nook business.

MarketWatch said there's not enough data to determine the profitability of B&N's ebook business on its own. Losses are expected to exceed expectations for 2011:

[Barnes & Noble] said it expects digital content sales to total about $450 million for the fiscal year ending in April — which is about 6% of the total revenues estimated for the company for that period. The total Nook business, including hardware, content and accessories, sold about $448 million in the nine-week holiday period, up 43% from the same period last year. But its investments in the business — along with a shortfall in sales of its E-Ink-based SimpleTouch reader — will crimp the bottom line for the year, bringing in a loss that is deeper than Wall Street had been expecting previously.

In an interview for the MarketWatch post, analyst Scott Tilghman said a Nook spin-off could be good for investors: "My sense is that the brick and mortar booksellers and related valuations are such that a spin of a more highly valued (in the eyes of investors) asset could boost overall shareholder returns."

Others, however, are arguing that the move signals B&N is closer to bankruptcy. In any case, the Publisher's Weekly post pointed out that "B&N said it was not a certainty that it would go ahead with the spin off."

Ingram Content Group Inc. is the world's largest and most trusted distributor of physical and digital content. Thousands of publishers, retailers, and libraries worldwide use our best-of-class digital, audio, print, print-on-demand, inventory management, wholesale and full-service distribution programs to realize the full business potential of books. Learn more at ingramcontent.com.

Newspapers look to capitalize on aggregators

Twenty-nine news organizations, including the Associated Press (AP), The Washington Post Co., and The New York Times Co., banded together this week to launch News Right, a news rights clearinghouse that, according to the AP story, will "measure the unpaid online use of their original reporting and seek to convert unauthorized websites, blogs and other news-gathering services into paying customers." The AP explains how it will identify the use of news:

NewsRight encodes original stories with hidden data that includes the writer's name and when it was published. The encoded stories send back reports to the registry that describe where a story is being used and who is reading it. The technology can even locate stories that have been cut and pasted in whole or in part.

Edmund Lee at Businessweek compared the venture to the way the music industry manages — and polices — rights:

The larger aim for NewsRight is to capitalize on interest among digital enterprises that want to legitimately use content, much the way the music industry manages rights through ASCAP [American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers] , which helps musicians get paid for their songs played in public.

NewsRight isn't just a policing move, however. Newspaper analyst Ken Doctor pointed out in the AP story that the data gathered will be a selling point for advertisers, too, and could help them "measure the audience they want to reach more effectively."

Apple rumors fire up: Will iBooks support EPUB 3?

Apple_Logo.pngStraight out of the gate is as good a time as any to get the Apple rumors milling in 2012. Apple (probably) won't be announcing an iPhone5 (so, I won't be able to put my 3GS to rest just yet) or the anticipated Apple TV, but "sources close to the situation" report that "Apple is planning an important — but not large-scale — event to be held in New York at the end of this month that will focus on a media-related announcement."

Many are presuming the event will center around Apple's publishing arm, including its iBooks platform. Chris Foresman at ArsTechnica highlighted Apple's recent offering of a free ebook version of "The Yellow Submarine" to show off the platform and said, "based on information from our own sources, we believe the announcement could likely involve support for the EPUB 3 standard." That would be welcome news, indeed.

Related:

September 09 2011

Publishing News: Google gets local with Zagat

Here are some highlights from this week's publishing news.

Google looks to corner local content market with Zagat acquisition

GoogleLogoGoogle officially entered the business of distributing content written by real, live human beings this week with its acquisition of Zagat. This opens up a whole new world of competition for Google — some think to the extent of possibly raising conflict-of-interest questions. Regardless of the possible dangers of the acquisition and arguments that it should be "blocked, reversed, annulled, undone, or whatever the right word is, to protect consumers, to protect restaurant owners, and to protect competitors," this is big news on the local content and mobile search fronts.

Tim Carmody points out at Wired that "much like Yahoo or Microsoft, Google increasingly owns outright some of the media content it serves up for searches, rather than simply indexing and influencing it" (this is probably among the "dangers" of the acquisition, but a very smart move on Google's part). The best part for me was highlighted in a Business Insider look at the ins and outs of the deal: "Imagine pulling out your Android phone, looking up local restaurants on Google Maps, seeing Zagat reviews for restaurants around you, and perhaps a coupon for some of them." Now, that is a service I would use.

TOC Frankfurt 2011 — Being held on Tuesday, Oct. 11, 2011, TOC Frankfurt will feature a full day of cutting-edge keynotes and panel discussions by key figures in the worlds of publishing and technology.

Save 100€ off the regular admission price with code TOC2011OR

Publish an ebook without writing a word

InstebooksIcon.pngIt seems content publishing platforms are popping up everywhere, allowing anyone with Internet access to publish, well, whatever they want. Just in the past two weeks, Dymocks announced a new "end-to-end" self-publishing service for authors, and Uncram launched a publishing platform that allows people to publish status updates, tweets and other social media fodder to a "diary" page. But the one that really caught my eye was Instebooks, which launched 50 mobile phone apps that will allow users to publish ebooks from their phones.

The mobile part isn't the most interesting bit, however. As explained on Good E-Reader:

The basic format of creating a mobile phone ebook is to allow users [to]click on an image in Instebooks' gallery then simply speak their stories. The file is then automatically converted to a text file from the speech and uploaded as an ebook ...

OK. Wait. Anyone can speak his or her story into a smartphone, then publish for the world to read? (We'll leave whole the speech-to-text accuracy problem alone for now.) Yes, I can see the actual value in this — writers brainstorming, lecturers planning class sessions, etc. — but seriously, this will add a ton of potential to the 2 a.m. post-bar philosopher discussions, and it could well put the whole drunk-dialing of the '80s and '90s to shame. The press release notes that upon publication, if the user opts to make the ebook public (yes, there thankfully is a choice), Instebooks not only will publish it to a web page , but will also "update a user's Facebook wall with a summary and a link to keep a user's fan base informed."

Reuters percolates new aggregation site

CounterpartiesLogo.PNGSome might argue that we need another content aggregation site like we need a hole in the head, but Reuters might actually be onto something with its launch of Counterparties.com this week. Reuters teamed up with Percolate to launch a site that focuses on usability and content value. Felix Salmon, a major force behind the site's creation, explained how Percolate works on his Reuters blog:

Percolate is a fantastic engine for this kind of thing — a pared-down, ultra-simple website which just tries to link to the best and most relevant information we can find. You show it your RSS feeds and the people you follow on Twitter; it will generate a dynamic list of stories generated by your own personal tastes.

Using the Percolate engine, Reuters pulls the top 30 or so financial stories each day and links to them directly, only rewriting the headlines — as Jason Del Rey pointed out on AdAge, it's a bit like Drudge Report. In that same post, Del Rey also noted that monetization wasn't the first and foremost concern, quoting Chrystia Freeland, digital editor at Reuters: "We want to see who's using it, and how they're using it, before figuring that out." This is an interesting take on aggregation — instead of aggregating content based on my preferences — thus ultimately limiting discovery and my exposure to interesting content I might not otherwise find — it's aggregated based on a news service's tastes.

Related:

August 26 2011

Publishing News: Publishing startups bet on curation and apps

Here's what caught my eye this week in publishing news. (Note: Some of these stories were previously published on Radar.)

A look at three publishing startups: BookRiff, MagAppZine, and LiquidText

TOC Sneak Peek series: BookRiff, MagAppZine, LiquidTextThe second round of TOC Sneak Peeks highlighted three new publishing startups. Their market areas included content curation, app creation for non-geeks, and multitouch content control.

BookRiff: Ever want to compile your own cookbook, travel guide or textbook? Has your publisher edited out sections of your book you'd like to share with interested readers? Publishing startup BookRiff aims to solve these problems by creating new ways to access and compile content. In an interview, company CEO Rochelle Grayson (@RochelleGrayson) talked about how BookRiff works and how it can benefit publishers and consumers. She said her company is based on an open market concept, allowing publishers to sell the content they want at prices they set and consumers to buy and customize that content as they see fit.

Read the BookRiff interview here.

MagAppZine: This startup is a platform that allows publishers to create custom apps without a lot of overhead. In an interview, company founder Paul Canetti (@paulcanetti), who worked at Apple during the birth of the iPhone and the subsequent app revolution, talks about how MagAppZine works and the benefits he sees for publishers.

Read the MagAppZine interview here.

LiquidText: In an interview, company founder and CEO Craig Tashman (@CraigTashman) said his annotation and document manipulation software began as an academic project, but commercial applications quickly became clear. The software allows users to annotate, highlight and manipulate PDF content with multitouch gestures. LiquidText may be the next major step toward making etextbooks more practical for students — and it's another nail in the coffin for the "death of marginalia" debate.

Read the LiquidText interview here.

TOC Frankfurt 2011 — Being held on Tuesday, Oct. 11, 2011, TOC Frankfurt will feature a full day of cutting-edge keynotes and panel discussions by key figures in the worlds of publishing and technology.

Save 100€ off the regular admission price with code TOC2011OR

Jim Romenesko's semi-retirement

Romenesko.pngAfter spending the past 12 years at Poynter blogging and aggregating news (which he started doing before anyone even knew what those words meant), Jim Romenesko announced his retirement this week. Well, semi-retirement. Julie Moos, director of Poynter Online and Poynter Publications, explained in an announcement that Romenesko will continue posting part-time at Poynter. The Romenesko blog will live on, but under its new name, "Romenesko+" — the "+" designates an expanded staff that will include Romenesko and co-posters Julie Moos, Steve Myers and Jeff Sonderman.

Romenesko also will launch a new personal blog. In an interview with the New York Times, he explained he was ready to go back to his roots and start reporting again. His new blog "would still cover media but would also touch on other topics he's interested in, like food, finance and real estate."

So, though an end of an era might have been reached with Romensko's semi-retirement, being Romenesko'd might still be in the cards.

New York Times data artist Jer Thorp on the intersection of data, art, science and publishing

This segment was written by Audrey Watters

Jer Thorp (@blprnt), data artist in residence at The New York Times, was tasked a few years ago with designing an algorithm for the placement of the names on the 9/11 memorial. If an algorithm sounds unnecessarily complex for what seems like a basic bit of organization, consider this: Designer Michael Arad envisioned names being arranged according to "meaningful adjacencies," rather than by age or alphabetical order.

The project, says Thorp, is a reminder that data is connected to people, to real lives, and to the real world. I recently spoke with Thorp about the challenges that come with this type of work and the relationship between data, art and science. Thorp will expand on many of these ideas in his session at next month's Strata Conference in New York City.

Our interview follows.

How do aesthetics change our understanding of data?

Jer ThorpJer Thorp: I'm certainly interested in the aesthetic of data, but I rarely think when I start a project "let's make something beautiful." What we see as beauty in a data visualization is typically pattern and symmetry — something that often emerges when you find the "right" way, or one of the right ways, to represent a particular dataset. I don't really set out for beauty, but if the result is beautiful, I've probably done something right.

My work ranges from practical to conceptual. In the utilitarian projects I try not to add aesthetic elements unless they are necessary for communication. In the more conceptual projects, I'll often push the acceptable limits of complexity and disorder to make the piece more effective. Of course, often these more abstract pieces get mistaken for infographics, and I've had my fair share Internet comment bashing as a result. Which I kind of like, in some sort of masochistic way.

What's it like working as a data artist at the New York Times? What are the biggest challenges you face?

Jer Thorp: I work in the R&D Group at the New York Times, which is tasked to think about what media production and consumption will look like in the next three years or so. So we're kind of a near-futurist department. I've spent the last year working on Project Cascade, which is a really novel system for visualizing large-scale sharing systems in real time. We're using it to analyze how New York Times content gets shared through Twitter, but it could be used to look at any sharing system — meme dispersal, STD spread, etc. The system runs live on a five-screen video wall outside the lab, and it gives us a dynamic, exploratory look at the vast conversation that is occurring at any time around New York Times articles, blog posts, etc.

It's frankly amazing to be able to work in a group where we're encouraged to take the novel path. Too many "R&D" departments, particularly in advertising agencies, are really production departments that happen to do work with augmented reality, or big data, or whatever else is trendy at the moment. There's an "R" in R&D for a reason, and I'm lucky to be in a place where we're given a lot of room to roam. Most of the credit for this goes to Michael Zimbalist, who is a great thinker and has an uncanny sense of the future. Add to that a soundly brilliant design and development team and you get a perfect creative storm.

This story continues here.



Related:


  • Why blogging still matters
  • When judging visualizations, intent matters
  • Data science is a pipeline between academic disciplines
  • More Publishing Week in Review coverage

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