This Week in Review: Paying up with Apple and Google, Twitter and activism, free labor for HuffPo

Every Friday, Mark Coddington sums up the week’s top stories about the future of news.

Apple lays down its terms: Publishers have been quite anxiously awaiting word from Apple about the particulars of its subscription plan for mobile devices, including the iPad; they got it this week, but it wasn’t what a lot of them were hoping for. The New York Times summarized publishers’ initial reaction with a few of the basic details — Apple gets a 30-percent cut, owns subscriber data (whether to send data to publishers is up to the subscriber), and publishers’ options for subscription services outside Apple are limited.

The Lab’s Josh Benton aptly laid out some of the primary implications for news organizations: Apple is setting itself up as toll-taker on the new news highway and putting a heavy incentive on converting print readers to tablet readers, but not putting restrictions on browser access within its devices. Media analyst Ken Doctor offered two astute takes on what Apple’s proposal will entail; we’ll call them glass-half-full and glass-half-empty.

Most of the reaction to Apple’s deal, however, was overwhelmingly negative. Media consultant Alan Mutter pointed out a couple of gotchas for publishers; Dan Gillmor called Apple’s policy stunningly arrogant, and the publishers that sign up for it “insane, or desperate”; ITworld’s Ryan Faas accused it of “gouging content producers”; Gizmodo’s Matt Buchanan dubbed it “evil”; developer Ryan Carson urged users to fight Apple’s  ”extortion”; and the Wall Street Journal raised possible antitrust issues.

The beef that most of these critics have with Apple is not so much the 30-percent cut (though that’s part of it) as it is Apple’s restrictions on publishers’ alternative subscription methods. Apple is requiring that publishers that want to have a non-App Store subscription method can’t charge less than their Apple-sanctioned route, and can’t show app users how to access it, either. This means that, as Buchanan states, “Effectively, all easy roads to getting content on the iPad now run through Apple.” (Plus, as TechCrunch’s Erick Schonfeld noted, those terms could easily become even worse once Apple has publishers and readers hooked.)

Of course, the system looks a bit different from the consumer’s perspective — it may be the most user-friendly subscription system ever, argued MG Siegler of TechCrunch. (Publishers, of course, disagreed about that.) As GigaOm’s Mathew Ingram pointed out, this may come down to how much publishers think it’s worth to have Apple handle their mobile sales for them.

We got some mixed early signs about how publishers might answer that question. PaidContent reported on publishers who felt Apple’s terms could have been much worse, and Poynter’s Damon Kiesow talked to publishers who plan to offer multiple options. Popular Science became the first magazine to jump on board and Wired is following suit ASAP, but Time Inc. pre-emptively struck deals with Apple’s competitors, and another publishers’ group threatened to take its business elsewhere.

One Pass to rule them all?: As if to underscore that point, Google announced its own One Pass digital paid-content system the next day. Unlike Apple, Google will keep about 10 percent of publishers’ revenue and allow publishers to own their subscribers’ data, according to Advertising Age. Much of the commentary about Google’s plan positioned it in opposition to Apple’s proposal: The Wall Street Journal described it as a fired salvo at Apple; search guru John Battelle summed it up as “Hey Apple, we’ve got a better way;” Alan Mutter detailed the ways Google’s plan “trumps” Apple’s; and others from The Next Web, mocoNews, and Fast Company compared the two proposals.

But several others — particularly the Lab’s Josh Benton and Poynter’s Rick Edmonds — explained that while it might seem natural to compare Google’s system to Apple’s given the timing of their announcements, Google One Pass is focused far more on web access than app access, making the paid-content company Journalism Online a more direct competitor than Apple. Journalism Online’s Gordon Crovitz made the case to paidContent for his company over Google, highlighting its flexibility, and paidContent also noted that newspaper chain MediaGeneral is trying out both systems at different papers.

A couple of other notes on Google’s plan: TechCrunch’s MG Siegler argued that Google’s agreement to allow publishers ownership of subscribers’ data is at least as big of a deal to publishers as the revenue split, and GigaOM’s Mathew Ingram ripped One Pass, saying that as long as its clients’ content is on the open web without the exceptional user experience of the best apps, it’s just “a warmed-over content paywall.”

Parsing out the “social media and revolutions” debate: Despite having been declared “over” early this week by The Daily’s editor-in-chief, the protests in Egypt continued to dominate conversation, including in future-of-news circles. Via The New York Times, we got a glimpse into how Egyptian officials were able to shut down their country’s Internet and how Facebook is wrestling with its role in the protests. NPR’s Andy Carvin continued to earn plaudits (from The New York Times and PR exec Katie Delahaye), and the Lab’s Megan Garber looked at the way Carvin spontaneously launched a personalized Twitter pledge drive.

But the bulk of the discussion revolved around the same discussion that’s been on slow burn for the past few weeks: What role does social media play in social activism? Washington grad student Deen Freelon has once again produced a fantastic synopsis of what we know and what we have yet to learn in this arena, so consider this a supplement to his post.

The parade of articles arguing that Twitter doesn’t cause revolutions continued at a steady pace this week, prompting NYU j-prof Jay Rosen to profile the Twitter-debunking article as a genre, concluding that the argument  — along with the glib social media triumphalism it’s refuting — is a cheap detour around thoughtfully considering the complex issues involved in social change. Several others built on Rosen’s point: Aaron Bady delved deeper into the social media-debunking article’s function; CUNY j-profs Jeff Jarvis and C.W. Anderson focused on protecting those technological tools and opined on the difference between academic and popular discourse on cause-and-effect, respectively.

That doesn’t mean there aren’t substantive things to say about social media’s role in recent protests, of course. POLIS’ Charlie Beckett noted that newly adopted technologies (such as mobile phones) have helped create a more “networkable” power structure in the Middle East, and NDN’s Sam duPont looked at social media’s role as an organizing tool, news source, and public sphere in Egypt.

To pay or not to pay: With a few exceptions (Frederic Filloux’s short, fierce takedown of The Huffington Post as a “digital sand castle” is well worth a read), the second week of commentary on AOL’s purchase of The Huffington Post centered on the question of whether HuffPo’s thousands of unpaid contributors should start getting paychecks for their work.

At The New York Times’ FiveThirtyEight blog, Nate Silver attempted to calculate the worth of a typical HuffPo post, concluding that they follow a classic power law relationship and that most of them aren’t worth much. The New York Observer’s Ben Popper said Silver is undervaluing HuffPo’s contributors, and Gannett’s Ryan Sholin made the point that having those posts within a single platform is worth more than the posts themselves.

Most of the grist for this week’s conversation, though, came from Silver’s Times colleague, David Carr, who used HuffPo as an entree into some observations about creating online content for others for free through platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Quora. Paul Gillin of Newspaper Death Watch built on Carr and Silver’s analyses to make the case that in the face of devalued online content, demand for higher-quality material might bring us out of the basement of online pay.

Several others countered Carr with similar points: Web thinker Stowe Boyd, British j-prof Paul Bradshaw and HuffPo’s own Nico Pitney said that HuffPo bloggers have eminently legitimate non-monetary reasons for writing there; GigaOM’s Mathew Ingram pointed out that The Times’ op-ed system isn’t much different from HuffPo’s; and Jeff Jarvis said news folks should be thinking more about value than content.

Reading roundup: Some interesting bits and pieces to round out the week:

— Google unveiled the latest tool in its effort to fight content farms this week — an extension to its browser, Chrome, that allows users to block any site they choose from Google search results. TechCrunch called it “crowdsourcing” Google’s content farm detection, and Gizmodo said that it allows for the arresting possibility of “an Internet that never disagrees with you.”

— A few miscellaneous items regarding The Daily: Slate’s chairman, Jacob Weisberg, ripped it (“It’s just a bad version of a newspaper in electronic form with a very condescending view of the audience”); Scott Rosenberg wondered what’ll happen to its archives; and the publication updated its glitch-ridden app.

— A couple of great data journalism resources: Poynter’s Steve Myers broke down the difficulties in integrating data journalism into the newsroom, and ProPublica’s Dan Nguyen wrote a wonderful post encouraging journalists to get started with data analysis.

— The second blogging Carnival of Journalism, focusing on increasing the number of news sources within communities, began going up over the past day or so, so keep an eye out for those posts. I’ll have a roundup here next week.

— If you want a 30,000-foot summary of what’s happening on the leading edge of news right now, you really can’t do much better than Josh Benton’s speech to the Canadian Journalism Foundation posted here at the Lab. It’s a fantastic primer, no matter how initiated you already are.

Links on Twitter: Ending search rankings, local web traffic stats in question and new media ethics

(Know of a great mobile or tablet app for journalists? Add it to this growing database http://nie.mn/fTMKYl »

Got an Android phone? Use Blogger? Here’s 5 tips for you http://nie.mn/gvlQwt »

Could newspapers of the future be published on these flexible paper like display devices? http://nie.mn/hDI8CS »

Got a workshop in mind for ONA11 in Boston? The session selector is up http://nie.mn/hy8GC3 »

With media in a state of flux, how do you teach ethics to J-school students? http://nie.mn/dJrDfN »

.@NewsHour talks to NPR’s @acarvin about how he verifies and shares updates on Middle East protests http://nie.mn/eydgOf »

“Why aren’t data apps taking off at every paper?” http://nie.mn/hZYjgR »

Pray I don’t alter it any further: Should publishers be worried Apple will want more than 30% some day? http://nie.mn/fzNfmh »

Apps of the revolution: Two apps that encrypt communications were made available to protesters in Egypt http://nie.mn/eq7utt »

Tablets are disrupting more than journalism – Restaurants replacing menus and waiters with iPads! http://nie.mn/i8j3g5 »

So busted: Google says Forbes.com is selling links on its site to game their search results http://nie.mn/hmZOk9 »

The University of Colorado’s j-school may be replaced by a school of information and digital future institute http://nie.mn/fed9Xp »

Is a better alternative to search engine rankings to have no ranking at all? http://nie.mn/hmPLB3 »

A new study says as much as 25% of traffic to local news sites is from fly-by readers http://nie.mn/hpr3pQ »

Popular on Twitter: Google updates social search, Roger Ebert’s new business model and the future of programming and journalism

  • Four factors important to the future of programming and journalism
  • Forbes.com caught selling links
  • News Hour talks with NPR’s Andy Carvin about Twitter and sourcing
  • Roger Ebert’s business model on Twitter
  • Google expands social search results
  • Al Jazeera English’s live stream of Bahrain protests
  • Flickr, Twitter and Quora come to Google search
  • Highlights from a WJchat on radical change in newsrooms
  • The Guardian hosts a student social media cafe in Cardiff
  • Google Blog: Social search and connecting accounts
  • Popular on Twitter: Google updates social search, Roger Ebert’s new business model and the future of programming and journalism

  • Four factors important to the future of programming and journalism
  • Forbes.com caught selling links
  • News Hour talks with NPR’s Andy Carvin about Twitter and sourcing
  • Roger Ebert’s business model on Twitter
  • Google expands social search results
  • Al Jazeera English’s live stream of Bahrain protests
  • Flickr, Twitter and Quora come to Google search
  • Highlights from a WJchat on radical change in newsrooms
  • The Guardian hosts a student social media cafe in Cardiff
  • Google Blog: Social search and connecting accounts
  • How public is public data? With Public Engines v. ReportSee, new access standards could emerge

    A recently settled federal court case out in Utah may affect the way news organizations and citizens get access to crime data.

    Public Engines, a company that publishes crime statistics for law enforcement agencies, sued ReportSee, which provides similar services, for misappropriating crime data ReportSee makes available on CrimeReports.com. In the settlement, ReportSee is barred from using data from Public Engines, as well as from asking for data from agencies that work with Public Engines.

    At first glance, the companies seem virtually identical, right down to their similar mapping sites CrimeReport.com (Public Engines) and SpotCrime.com (ReportSee). The notable exception is that Public Engines contracts with police and sheriff departments for its data and provides tools to manage information. ReportSee, on the other hand, relies on publicly available feeds.

    In the settlement between the two websites, a new question arises: Just what constitutes publicly available data? Is it raw statistics or refined numbers presented by a third party? Governments regularly farm out their data to companies that prepare and package records, but what stands out in this case is that Public Engines effectively laid claimed to the information provided to it by law enforcement. This could be problematic to news organizations, developers, and citizens looking to get their hands on data. While still open and available to the public, the information (and the timing of its release) could potentially be dictated by a private company.

    “The value in this kind of crime data is distributing it as quickly as possible so the public can interact with it,” Colin Drane, the founder of SpotCrime, told me.

    In its news release on the settlement, Public Engine notes that it works with more than 1,600 law enforcement agencies in the US. Greg Whisenant, CEO of Public Engines, said in the statement that the company is pleased with the outcome of the case, concluding, “The settlement ushers in a new era of transparency and accessibility for the general public. It clearly validates our perspective that law enforcement agencies should retain the right to manage and control the data they decide to share.”

    Naturally, Drane sees things differently. “I just don’t think people recognize that the data is being, essentially, privatized,” he said.

    That may be a slight exaggeration, evidenced by the fact that SpotCrime is still operating. Instead of signing contracts with law enforcement agencies, SpotCrime requests data that is available for free and runs ads on its map pages. The company also partners with local media to run crime maps on news sites.

    Through Drane sought to create a business through data mapping, his methods are largely similar to those of news organizations, relying on open data and free mapping tools. And just like news organizations, Drane finds that the hardest part of the job can be negotiating to get records.

    “The technology has been here for years, but the willingness to use it is just starting for many cities,” Drane said.

    The open data movement has certainly exploded in recent years, from property and tax records at the municipal level all the way up to Data.gov. As a result, news organizations are not only doing data-backed reporting, but also building online features and news apps. And news organizations are not alone, as developers and entrepreneurs like Drane are mining open datasets to try to create tools and fill information needs within communities.

    I asked David Ardia of the Citizen Media Law Project whether this case could hinder development of more data products or have broader ramifications for journalists and citizens. The short answer is no, he said, since no ruling was issued. But Public Engines could be emboldened to take action against competitors, Ardia noted — and, as a result, developers looking to do something similar to what Drane has done may think twice about using public data.

    “This is just the tip of the iceberg,” Ardia said. “There are tremendous amounts of money to be made in government information and data.”

    In this case, Public Engines saw crime data as a proprietary product — and Dane’s company as infringing on their contract. It also claimed misappropriation of the hot news doctrine, arguing that it gathers and publishes information in a timely manner as part of its business. (An interesting link Ardia points out: On its FAQ page, CrimeReports.com says it does not make crime data downloadable “to the general public for financial and legal reasons.”)

    Ardia said the larger question is twofold: first, whether government agencies will let third parties exert control over public data, and, second, who can access that data. As more local and state departments use outside companies to process records, tax dollars that go towards managing data are essentially paid to limit access to the public. Drane and his company were barred from using or asking to use public crime data in certain cities: If crime data is the property of a third party, the police department could either direct people to CrimeReports.com or, Ardia worries, say that it’s not free to make the information available to others.

    “This is a problematic trend as governments adapt to and adopt these technologies that improve their use and analysis of information,” Ardia said.

    Obviously all of this runs counter to established practice for public records and data in journalism, and Ardia said that it’s likely the issue won’t be settled until a case similar to Public Engines v. ReportSee makes its way to the courts. (We should have a better view of how the hot news doctrine holds up overall, though, after an appeals court rules on the FlyOnTheWall case.) But a better option could be to adapt current open records laws to reflect changes in how data is stored, processed, and accessed, Ardia said. Businesses and developers should be able to build products on a layer of public data, he said, but not exclusively — or at the expense of greater access for the broader public.

    “We don’t have to wait for the courts to resolve this. Part of this can be addressed through changes in open records laws,” Ardia said. “Put the onus on agencies to make this data available when they sign agreements with third parties.”

    The Newsonomics of Apple/Press+/Google’s pay-for-all

    Editor’s Note: Each week, Ken Doctor — author of Newsonomics and longtime watcher of the business side of digital news — writes about the economics of news for the Lab.

    We could call this week a paid content free-for-all, but that’s self-contradictory. So let’s call it a pay-for-all, a fray of still-developing schemes that are certain to keep morphing as both competition and publishers’ heads spin ever more quickly.

    It’s a head-banging adventure to figure out what’s unfolded just this week. Apple offered a proclamation of policy, and given its aversion to talking with the press — what kind of media company is it becoming? — managed to multiply questions rather than answer them. Google, coincidentally, announced its own publisher program on the heels of Apple’s release, which sounded better than Apple’s. European publishers are meeting today, in London, to sort out the who’s-doing-what for (and to) whom. Meanwhile, U.S. publishers burn up the phone lines and extend the e-mail streams, upset, irate, and confused.

    Well done. If Apple’s business strategy here is divide and conquer by muddle, misunderstanding and mix-up, it couldn’t have done a better job.

    If we had to pick one storyline for the Apple play, we could describe it as Old vs. New World, with Apple saying to publishers, “Sure, bring those oldster subscribers into our digital world and keep the change, but we’ll be the ones selling the new subscribers to come.” That storyline, though, lacks nuance. In addition, there are in-between solutions (no skipping ahead) to the issues.

    This week, let’s try a Newsonomics of the Apple, Google, and Journalism Online pay-for-all Q&A, to poke at and tease out the issues.

    • Is this all about money? Money and power, what else is there, right? This is really about money and data, though. The money is easiest to grasp — the 30-percent share that Apple wants for selling news and magazine subs through its store. The data is potentially more valuable, the real currency of the digital world. It’s better than cash, because it produces cash cumulatively: Data tells marketers, from Apple to news and magazine publishers to advertisers of all kinds, how they can better sell us stuff over time.
    • Is Apple’s move to dictate so many terms legal? We may as well ask whether it’s fattening (and to whose wallets) or moral. Anti-trust is certainly one issue here, but the anti-trust laws were never meant to tackle a rocketing market dominance from zero to 13 million (about the number of iPads sold in a year) in what may be a new category of business. Is the tablet simply a new device, or is it an entire marketplace, of readers and advertisers, quickly in the making? Current estimates say that Apple will have still have 70 percent or more of the $80 million U.S. tablet market by the end of next year. That’s all forecast, though. U.S. news companies are looking at several avenues of legal redress, already, around the notions of dominance and Apple’s alleged interference with their customer relationships and pricing policies.
    • Doesn’t Apple deserve just a small fee for enabling commerce, say a 2.5+ percent to cover its costs, and add a bit of profit? If you look at the actual costs of enabling a subscription transaction, you’d start with a low single-digit number. In fact, though, Apple does deserve some payoff for its market-making success. For publishers, especially, its tablet innovation — built on a couple of decades of failed tablet ideas — has provided new life, the chance for a reinvigorated business model that gets digital readers to actually pay for news. Apple deserves something for its investment in hardware and software, plus a bonus for outrageous ahead-of-the-pack ingenuity. Further, the company deserves kudos for forcing Amazon to flip its 70/30 revenue split of 2009 to 30/70, in favor of publishers. It wouldn’t hurt publishers to acknowledge the market-making feat Apple has pulled off with the iPad. My arithmetic, though, shows Apple’s just deserts to be something less than a 30 percent annuity.
    • What’s all this shouting from newspaper and magazine publishers about owning the customer? Pick apart a media company, and it doesn’t really have that much in the way of assets. In the digital age, the five-story downtown office building and the printing press — once part of the high barrier to entry for competitors — are now anchors, and being sold off as soon as the market allows. Brand — goodwill — is certainly valuable, but the definable hard assets are advertiser account lists and circulation lists. The circulation lists point, though more questionably today, to lifetime value. A buyer (O Brother, Where Art Thou?) values that list. Now, in this tablet age, the circulation list — really the connection to reader/customers — is the vital link in selling more stuff: tablet subscriptions, to be sure, but also a host of other digital products and services to come.
    • Hasn’t Apple, though, made it possible for publishers to sell digital subscriptions from their own websites? Yes, but its new rules on how they can do it appear to twist settled issues into new knots. The Financial Times and the Wall Street Journal, in part adjusting to the tablet era and Apple’s signals, have moved to all-access models (“The Newsonomics of News Anywhere“), offering digital bundles (desktop, laptop, tablet, smartphone), print and print+ digital bundles. Now it appears that while Apple will continue to allow them to sell those bundles from their own websites, they can no longer sell them from within the Apple app environment. (Only Apple can now do that, most think, but are unsure.)
      So if the Journal wants to be really all-access — offering one price to use your Android phone, your iPad, or your Kindle, and to get the paper — it can do that from its own website. But any customer who finds the Journal on the iPad can buy only a limited iPad or iPhone subscription, since Apple can’t authenticate  operating systems other than its own. The latest Apple move appears to fragment a clear trend in the industry to move to a simplified single-price, no-fuss, all-access model.

      One more knot: The Apple rules seem to force publishers to restrict access for desktop/laptop access to their websites, if they want to bundle iPad/iPhone subs. That may be a good business model, but it’s not one that a single manufacturer should be able to force. Overall, this week’s announcement raises new questions about publishers’ abilities to effectively bundle and unbundle — and that’s a big key for next-generation success.

    • But, wait a minute, isn’t Apple talking about providing more customers to newspaper and magazine companies? Yes, no and sort of. Here’s the compelling number to breathe in for a moment: 160 million. That’s the number of registered iTunes account holders, more or less. The largest U.S. newspaper by circulation, the Wall Street Journal, counts only 2 million subscribers, print and online. Even the biggest in the world, Japan’s Yomiuri Shimbun, boasts less than a tenth of that 160 million.
      Potentially, that one-click-away-from-a-news-subscription installed base could bring in lots of new, paying readers for subscriptions, week passes, and various special editions. Apple says to the publishers: We’ll rent those subscribers to you, but you won’t own them — they are ours. Taking a pro-privacy stand, always good for the masses, Apple says it is willing to ask new subscribers, coming through the Apple store, whether they want to “opt in” to “share your information.” The publisher would like your name, email, and ZIP code so it “can send you messages about related products” in accordance with their privacy policy. Fat chance a lot of them will take that bait.

      So, unless new customers opt in, they’ll presumably be getting app products with as little relationship to the publisher as an iTunes buyer of a Springsteen track has to Columbia Records. Publishers won’t be able to market to them, or presumably (but not certainly) customize their reading or shopping presentations — both hugely important in the years ahead.

    • Today, though, doesn’t Apple have a new competitor in Google’s One Pass, which undercuts Apple’s 30-percent revenue share by two-thirds, asking publishers for a 10-percent cut? No, not really. If a publisher wants to reach those 160 million iTunes account holders, it looks like Apple is saying, “We’ll do that selling and send you 70 cents on every dollar you charge.” If you want to buy from the iTunes store or any iNewsstand to come, the only vendor will be Apple. Where Google’s One Pass comes in is as a competitor to Journalism Online’s Press+.
      Until yesterday, if you were a news publisher who wanted to start charging for digital content, you had two major choices: 1) build it yourself, as The New York Times, the Dallas Morning News, and Memphis’ Commercial Appeal, among others, are doing, with and without outside help; 2) partner with Journalism Online. JO would do the commerce and authentication, connecting up databases of print subscribers with digital sign-ups. Though the publicly known JO take has been seen as a 20-percent revenue share, JO co-founder Gordon Crovitz told me yesterday that the revenue share number can “get meaningfully below 10 percent at larger volumes.”So, on the one hand, we have newspaper companies — with commerce partners like Journalism Online or Google taking a 10- to 20-percent revenue cut as they extend their print franchises digitally — and, on the other, we have Apple wanting 30 percent to bring in new digital customers. With Apple’s new policy, these may make two separate islands of selling.
    • Isn’t it great that Apple has such a strict privacy policy, collecting only certain pieces of profile info, if buyers opt in? That’s their strict policy for publishers. Remember that Apple’s 160 million account holders have provided names, e-mail addresses,  credit cards — and lots of preferences. We gave those up willingly way back. And you can bet that Apple plans to use that data to do two kinds of targeting in the future: 1) targeted advertising, through its iAds program, initiated last year for iPhone and iPad ad placements; 2) targeted content (and music and video and…) buying, as it collects all the aggregate information about its customers’ reading, browsing, and buying habits over time. Over time, Apple becomes more like Amazon in anticipating our very wants.
    • Is Apple’s subscription program a Trojan Horse for iAds? Well, iAds are certainly a big push at Apple, and I’ve heard that Apple has said it needs more inventory (ad space) for six-figure-campaign iAds, which is one reason that signing up lots of tablet-based news products makes sense. The subscription program, though, is probably a horse of another color. Add up the 30-percent take — if it could stick — on newspaper and magazine subs, Hulu and Netflix subs, and lots more recurring revenue, though, and that’s a golden horse. In fact, if iAds were a front-and-center goal, Apple would be smart to offer package deals to its new subscription partners — lowering those 30-percent subscription revenue shares as partners agree to take Apple-sold iAds into their tablet products.
    • What about publishers’ abilities to sell targeted ads through the tablet? Now, that’s a hornet’s nest. I’ve talked to a number of publishers and app developers, and they are all unclear on just how much in-app tracking of user behavior Apple will let them do within apps. So, here, we have questions of just how trackable tablet behavior is: with apps, no cookies. Then we have the further question of what Apple will allow, invoking…privacy. That’s a huge question as readers move quickly from print to tablets: Publishers must hope and pray that the print ads, with print-like pricing, move along with them, and targeting is the key technology to do that.
    • What’s the likely consumer result? Someone’s got to put together an effective third-party news (plus) app store. You’ve got all kinds of players here, potentially, like Yahoo’s Livestand, the start-up GetJar, and companies like Ongo, trying to cross-title sales. They will get into the fray, joining the single-operating-system app stores, from Apple to Palm to Blackberry to Nokia. Wouldn’t it be great for a news consumer to go to one place — in addition to the news site itself — to get a clear package of digital news offers, with small commissions going to the selling site?
    • What’s a solution to the mess? Well, there are any number of solutions. Here’s mine: Apple goes ahead and sells digital subscriptions in its store. On revenue shares, it takes 30 percent the first year, 20 percent the second year, 10 percent the third year, and 5 percent each subsequent year the sub is live. It further offers “add-on” products, like print subscriptions and even subscriptions to other non-Apple digital products, with those sales enabled through a publisher’s site; Apple gets a 5-percent revenue share for the first year on any of these add-ons. Apple shares with publishers the user data it already knows and the data to come, still being a major victor here because it alone sees the big picture of news behavior aggregated across all news apps. Apple incents publisher partners to gladly join in the iAds program, giving them preferential revenue shares in the program. Do all that — and everyone can advance.

    Links on Twitter: A widescreen tablet, a journo-hacking primer, a Quora competitor

    "Revolutions, at their core, are not about weak ties": Gladwell talks social media and political change http://nie.mn/i8Pibl »

    Turn to TimesElite "for the latest on society weddings, Tuscan getaways, and the rising cost of boat winterization" http://onion.com/i0hbAq »

    On the way: Angry Birds in 3D http://nie.mn/fiO8Ya »

    Q: Is TED trying to launch a Quora-killer? A: Looks that way. http://nie.mn/fZ3SGQ »

    A fantastic primer for journos who want to learn programming (by @dancow and via @publici) http://nie.mn/gZwFfD »

    RT @zseward: Google One Pass http://nie.mn/fe9joS seems like a manifestation of the platform pitched to the NAA in 2009 http://nie.mn/gaXXWF »

    "An internet that never disagrees with you": A Chrome extension blocks the sites you hate from your Google results http://nie.mn/eywbQ0 »

    "With the movie watcher in mind": Apple competitors are designing wide-screen tablets http://nie.mn/eHVVT2 »

    Ad giant WPP prepares to unveil an interactive network with $100 million in projected revenue http://nie.mn/eeWWrp »

    A former news exec considers forming a nonprofit news site for LA http://nie.mn/i936tx »