Yet Another Kindle Competitor: Here’s “Alex,” Powered by Google’s Android

alexIt’s e-reader preview week, apparently. Last night, Plastic Logic formally named its would-be Kindle killer; tomorrow, Barnes & Noble is supposed to show off its own branded device. This morning’s entrant:  Spring Design, which says it has produced a reader that boasts two screens and an operating system that runs on Google’s Android.

Before I get to the supposed details on this one, though, some big chunks of salt you should consume while reading: It’s hard to take Spring all that seriously at this point, given that it doesn’t appear to have any track record creating mass market consumer electronics. Or much record at all, really.

Spring’s press release says it was founded in 2006 and that it “delivers innovative e-reader solutions and products to the e-book market”, but aside from that release and a bare-bones Web site, the company has next to no footprint, at least on the Internet.

LinkedIn says CEO Priscilla Lu started running the company in July of this year; it also says she is still running something called ViDeOnline, Inc., “a digital media network company.” (LinkedIn also says Eric Kmiec is doing double duty, as VP of marketing, at both firms). That’s about it.

Which isn’t to say that “Alex,” the gadget Spring Design says it will release “later this year” for “selected strategic partners,” doesn’t look interesting. It’s just that the e-reader/tablet wars won’t just be about specs and features, but about distribution and marketing, which is partly what has given Amazon (AMZN) a huge head start, and what gives heavyweights like Sony (SNE) and Barnes & Noble (BKS) a fighting chance. And, of course, Apple (AAPL), if it really does enter the fray.

So. For what it’s worth: Alex is actually two gadgets in one–a conventional-looking, black-and-white “reader” screen that sits atop a smaller, full-color screen that runs a Web browser powered by Google’s (GOOG) mobile operating system. That looks cool, as does the notion that that two screens are connected, so that a hyperlink in the “reader” screen would sync up with information supplied by the Web browser.

Also for what it’s worth: Alex looks similar–but not identical–to mockups we saw on  Gizmodo last week. The gadget blog says it got its images and information via  “a source within” Barnes & Noble, and that the book chain will show off the device to the public tomorrow.

David Keene To John Ziegler: “I’m Not Gonna Hit You, But I’d Like To” (VIDEO)

John Ziegler, voracious defender of Sarah Palin against all media criticism, has turned his sights from the liberal news to conservative politicos.

In his movie "Media Malpractice: How Obama Got Elected and Palin Was Targeted," Ziegler went after the mainstream media for perceived liberal bias and slights against the Alaska governor. This weekend at the Western Conservative Political Action Conference (WCPAC), Ziegler went after a target closer to home: David Keene, chairman of the American Conservative Union. In the end, the documentarian gets cursed at and kicked out of the conference. In response he's put video of the entire encounter on Mediaite.

Ziegler was after Keene for criticizing Palin, but he also attacked the conservative leader for supporting Sen. Arlen Specter (pre-party switch) and reportedly trying to sell his group's support to FedEx.

Keene initially agreed to a sit-down interview, but he tried to leave when the questions turned aggressive. After offering a few rebuttals he quickly gave up and resorted to name-calling. "I'm not gonna hit you, but I'd like to, because you deserve it," Keene said at one point. Before finally freeing himself of Ziegler, he added, "You're an asshole. You got that on the air? Asshole."

Keene says he would like to hit Ziegler at around 1:35 and calls him an "asshole" a little after the three minute mark. Watch:


Ziegler was scheduled to appear on a panel; after the altercation with Keene he was "fired," and security was told not to let him enter. He elaborated on the encounter in his blog post.

I am sure that there will be those who will wrongly think that I did this for personal attention. Those that know anything about me understand this is not the case. I will gain absolutely nothing from this and will likely lose quite a bit. My only goal was to try to shine light on the issue of whether David Keene as individual should be a leader in the conservative movement as well as this broader issue of far too many members of the conservative establishment being motivated by the wrong factors.

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Stranger than Fiction

You know that scene in Independence Day, in which the president and his motley crew of alien-invasion survivors are taken to Area 51 and shown a nearly-totaled alien saucer, the craft hovering even despite the damage it's incurred? Well:

Foodies Mourn Loss Of Gourmet

NEW YORK — Foodies noshing on jerk riblets and carrot cake macaroons at a Manhattan fundraiser Sunday paused to mourn Gourmet magazine, which is closing after nearly 60 years of publication.

"It's a terrible tragedy for the food world to have squashed this very important voice," said Kemp Minifie, who was Gourmet's executive food editor until Conde Nast announced that the magazine's November issue would be its last. "We were tackling some of the hard issues in food, and now there's just fluff."

The event at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel overlooking Central Park was a benefit for "Action Against Hunger" and a book signing for several dozen chefs who contributed recipes to two new books by photographer Alan Batt, "Small Things Sweet" and "Small Things Savory."

Batt, who calls himself "Battman," also shoots the photographs for the annual New York City Firefighters Calendar.

His photos in the "Small Things" books look less like beefcake and more like elegant edible miniatures shot against stark black or white backgrounds.

Batt said he put out a call to former Gourmet staffers to attend the event, known as the "Great Gathering of Chefs," so he could give them a plaque adorned with two golden forks.

"It's been around a long time," he said of the magazine. "It's an old familiar face."

Gerald Randolph, an ad salesman at Gourmet, said the magazine's closing was a shock, "but it was kind of expected because of what we'd seen with the other magazines and our partners in the industry."

Minifie, who was at Gourmet for nearly 32 years, said she believed Conde Nast underestimated the anger readers would feel over the loss of the magazine.

"They felt like this was a dear friend," she said.

Chefs signing cookbooks and offering tasty canapes ranged from the haute to the down home. There was David Waltuck, whose casual French restaurant Chanterelle also recently closed, and there was the Food Network's Sunny Anderson, who contributed a recipe with salami, cheese and frozen crescent rolls to "Small Thinks Savory."

"I'm honored to be in the same room with all these great chefs," Anderson said.

Ellen Anistratov, a co-owner of the venerable Yonah Schimmel knish bakery, said she was shocked to lose Gourmet.

"I couldn't believe my ears," said Anistratov. "It was an honor to be written about in Gourmet magazine."


Earnings: Gannett Profits Fall 47 Percent, But Beat Analysts’ Estimates

As the Gannett (NYSE: GCI) had warned investors last month, profits and revenue continued to decline in Q3, but the newspaper publisher can at least say it beat analysts’ estimates. The McLean, Va.-based company posted non-GAAP earnings $0.44, a few points ahead of an analysts consensus of $0.41(via Thomson Reuters).

Net income was down 46.5 percent from Q308, as revenue fell 18.4 percent, reflecting the ad revenue pains, particularly in classifieds. And while digital revenues were up 84.2 percent from last year, the increase was mostly due to the inclusion of its CareerBuilder investment in the quarter’s results. The digital segment’s operating revenues were actually 20 percent lower due to weak recruitment-ad spending related to the recession.

Earnings release | Webcast (10:00 AM)

2Q 2009 2Q 2008 Analysts Estimates For 2009
EPS $0.44 $0.76 $0.41
Net Income $85.1M   $159M NA
Revenue $1.3B $1.6B   NA

Publishing: The segment’s revenues were $1 billion, a 23.5 percent decline, which closely followed a 28 percent drop in ad revenues. Both the U.S. and UK, as represented by the Newsmarket unit, remained dismal, as ad revenues slid 26 percent and 28.7 percent, respectively. Both retail and national were 21- and 24 percent, respectively, but the real hit was in classifieds, which plunged 36.9 percent.

Over at Gannett flagship USA Today, the paper has been taken down primarily because of its heavy reliance on the travel industry, which has taken a hit from the poor economy. As a result, paid ad pages at USAT were down 30.9 percent in Q3.

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Home Improvement Social Net BeJane Sold To Unnamed Buyer

BeJane, the home improvement social network based in Burbank, CA, has been sold to an as-yet unnamed buyer, according to the company, in an announcement to its members. The company, founded in 2003 with the site launched in 2005, saw a management change last year brought on by its (mainly angel) investors to turn around the then-ailing company. No word on who the buyer is, to be announced in a few weeks, but my initial guess of Scripps wasn’t correct. Meredith? Industry players like Lowe’s?


Zenith Forecast: In ’09, Only Online Grows

Every major media category is set to see global revenues shrink this year, as only online is poised to end 2009 on the plus side, ZenithOptimedia said in the media agency’s latest forecast. Worldwide, online will be up 9.2 percent, Zenith said, revising its July prediction of 10.1 percent growth for the segment. Most of this growth is coming from paid search and other up-and-coming formats. The agency zeroed in on the performance of online sub-categories, where more granular data is available. That breakdown has paid search up by 20 percent this year, while online video grows 19 percent, social media’s up 45 percent and mobile gains 69 percent. To be sure, the actual dollar amounts in those subcategories remain relatively small.

Meanwhile, traditional display and classified are practically static in comparison: the Publicis Groupe-owned media shop says to expect growth of 3 percent and 2 percent, respectively, this year. Globally, Zenith says that internet advertising’s share of all ad spend will command14.9 percent by 2011, up from a 10.2 percent share of the ad pie in 2008.

Specifically, on a worldwide basis, online advertising will hit $60.2 billion next year, for an 11.5 percent rise, then gain another 13.8 percent   in 2011, Zenith says.

As for details about Zenith’s take on the UK’s internet market, which appears to headed to go from the plus side to the minus side this year, check out out sister site, PCUK.

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