Once known as a required tool for journalists to be “social-media savvy”, Storify will soon have gone the way of floppy disks, Google+, and relying on platforms for distribution (okay, maybe not that. Yet.)
The decision by Adobe, the big fish that in 2016 ate smaller fish Livefyre which had already eaten Storify in 2013, to close the tool as part of a product realignment puts journalists who relied on it (now or in recent years) in a bit of a conundrum: What happens to the hundreds of thousands of stories that have been Storified? And how can we keep this from happening again?
Unlike previous shutdowns of online news tools, Storify/Livefyre/Adobe are giving a five month warning signal. The content on the platform will cease to exist on May 16, 2018, and users are encouraged to export their materials before then. But the question of online preservation perseveres.
For industry, activating data is the key to creating great media and customer experiences. In our world of connected devices, companies of all sizes are using data to discover, automate and optimize media experiences. It is essential students not only understand the basic concepts around how data analytics are used to shape media experiences, but students must also have opportunities to practice prior to graduation. Education must adapt because our industry requires it.
A ‘Pracademic’ Approach
As “pracademics” (A.K.A. Practicing Academics), we have a unique view into the challenges within our industry and opportunities for academia to evolve and meet those challenges. In addition to the academic space, we both have worked in marketing-related roles for various Fortune 500 companies, media agencies, and major nonprofit organizations. Upon reflection, some of our greatest challenges typically occurred when trying to fill entry-level digital analytics and digital strategy roles. There was
Three years later, the world’s biggest publisher is sending out cautiously optimistic vibes about the tablet industry again. Advertisers have yet to fully embrace the new format, but some readers are beginning to accept it — helped in part by a peace accord Time Inc. and Apple signed last year.
And now Time Inc. hopes to lure more digital-only readers to its magazines with a tried-and-true marketing tactic: It will let people browse its titles on their iPad before they buy them.
Up until today, for instance, someone who downloaded the free Entertainment Weekly iPad app would see a page like this when they opened it up — a sales pitch, without the ability to see what is actually inside the current magazine, the way they could at a real newsstand:
But, as of this morning, EW will now let users read a handful of articles from this week’s magazine — without having to hand over payment or other information — and will tease a few more:
Does that sound like an incremental change, and one that should have happened years ago? That’s a reasonable argument.
On the other hand, the fact that it’s just happening now shows you how nascent the digital magazine really is: Time Inc. officials said they’re only able to pull this off because they’ve been working with Adobe on a back-end system that allows them to easily change up their free offerings on the fly. They’ll implement the new software for all 21 of their titles on sale at Apple’s iTunes Newsstand by the end of the year.
The idea, said George Linardos, who heads up digital marketing and business development for Time Inc., is to build up the publisher’s roster of digital-only subscribers. People with subscriptions to the publisher’s print magazines already have the ability to read digitized editions on their tablets, and some 2.7 million people are using “authenticated” subscriptions to do that.
But Time Inc. wants to boost the number of people who get its magazines solely through the tablet. It says it has more than 500,000 of those customers, most of whom have come on in the last year, after the publisher began selling digital-only subscriptions through iTunes.
More than half of those subscribers are new customers, Linardos said. And he thinks he can boost that number by giving browsers more to see: “We know we have hundreds of thousands of people downloading the app, opening it, and walking away,” he said. “We want to give them a reason to stay.”
A Netherlands-based company wants to revolutionize iPad publishing. In much the same way that Quark enabled desktop publishing in the eighties and platforms like WordPress and Tumblr allowed anyone to cheaply and easily set up their own blog in the aughts, Prss wants to put iPad publishing in the hands of people who lack programming skills.
The app is the latest in a series of tools that democratize publications, giving high-level capabilities to those who want to distribute their message but don’t necessarily have the technical skills.
The idea for Prss came after entrepreneur Michel Elings and longtime travel writer and photographer Jochem Wijnands constructed their own iPad publication called TRVL. They had been using an iPad conversion platform WoodWing but became fed up with what they saw as its limitations. The platform is based off InDesign, which they felt made it inherantly print-centric.
“In the two-and-a-half years that we publsihed TRVL, we didn’t see something that did justice to the iOS platform,” Elings told me.
After devising a “cookbook” of all the features they wanted, with an eye toward capitalizing on the iPad’s native features for interactivity, TRVL was born. It’s now the most-downloaded travel publication for the iPad, with a 5-star rating on Apple’s Newsstand and over a million installs.
What makes Prss different
Like Quark, Prss has its own type of file: .prss. These files are smaller than traditional magazine layouts because Prss reuses the same image for different orientations and uses algorithms to shrink their size. According to Elings, this can lessen the file size of retina-version magazines from 200 MB to 25 MB without visibly losing photo quality. The small file size is extremely important because Prss operates off the cloud and streams information, as opposed to downloading it.
WoodWing, which counts Time Inc. and Hearst Magazines among its clients, requires the use of Adobe InDesign and essentially converts those layouts of text and images into iPad format as JPGs. Readers then download these heavy files all at once. Prss instead utilizes Apple’s native Core Text, which communicates the text as text and holds places for the images, which load from the cloud as you read each article.
“We wanted to increase the speed from the start,” Elings said. “Much like just picking up a magazine and turning the pages—not waiting to download the whole issue if you’re simply reading one article.”
Alternatively, one can save the entire publication for offline use—much like most iPad magazines work now.
It’s in the design
Among the other features: Users can tap on images and they will appear on a map using Apple’s map API. Voice-over capabilities read the Core Text (as opposed to text rendered as JPGs) aloud for those who are visually impaired. Share Sheets enable all of the content to be shared over a variety of social media. Elings says that Prss will soon incorporate other native iOS capabilities.
In an earlier career, Elings, a self-proclaimed Apple fanboy, helped organizations transition from Microsoft to Macs at his company AppleCloud. Now the 30-year-old is fixated on the iPad.
The problem with many iPad magazines, he says, is that they bring print—with all of its contraints—to technology, instead of beginning with the technology and its possibilities. From the bottom up, Elings wanted Prss to fit iPad. That included designing its interface to visually fit with iOS. With the introduction of iOS 7, Elings had to make further updates.
Prss magazines won’t have menus but instead will rely on what Elings says are intuitive commands: swiping, tapping and double tapping, and pinching. Social media and mapping functions are located at the lower right. If an image contains geolocation data, you can tap on it to see where it fits on a map.
“I want to make print feel stupid,” Elings said of Prss. “The way to do that is to add more functionality than print.” Elings believes that good design will make readers excited to read magazines again.
What he believes will most disrupt standard iPad publishing is Prss’s price structure.
Under WoodWing, TRVL had to pay both the licensing costs for the software as well as the distribution costs for Apple Newsstand (30 percent of revenue). Publishers use Prss for free and instead pay a small fee per download. They can decide whether to pass that cost on to consumers or to find other revenue models. Elings would not disclose the fee’s amount but said it was far under a dollar and so far from the current pay models that “it will be funny.”
Apple has developed a platform called iBooks Author to help anyone from large publishers to moms make e-textbook for iOS. But it hasn’t built anything specifically for magazine publishers yet.
What it will take to succeed
Prss will need widespread adoption to be successful. Though the app is aimed at smaller publishers, it will need at least some bigger clients to demonstrate that it’s a viable alternative. Many of the large publishing companies already have their iPad apps and are notoriously inflexible about change.
Or perhaps, like Tumblr is to WordPress, Prss can succeed in being the small and much-loved alternative.
Prss will start its beta this summer. So far Elings says 10,000 publishers have expressed interest, but the beta will start with only a handful of those. The public release is set for the end of summer.
Below see an introductory gallery of how Prss will appear to publishers.
Adobe, which has made a series of acquisitions to build out its marketing and services business, has made another buy: It has spent $600 million on Neolane, a Paris-based “cross-channel campaign manager.”
Neolane, which has raised a reported $34 million from backers including Battery Ventures, said it generated $58 million in revenue last year. (Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly reported Neolane’s 2012 revenue). Adobe said it will bring all of Neolane’s top managers, including CEO Stephane Dehoche, on board when the transaction closes later this summer.
Twitter is officially launching its ads API, which will allow marketers to buy Twitter ads via tools provided by third-party service companies. That’s an important step toward scaling its ad business, and one that helped boost Facebook’s revenue as it traveled down a similar path. Twitter is launching the tool in conjunction with five partners: Adobe, HootSuite, Salesforce, Shift and TBG Digital. TechCrunch predicted the move late last month.
Here’s yet another ad tech company raising a bunch of money, long after everyone said that investors are done with ad tech. Today’s example: DataXu, a four-year-old Boston company that’s announcing a $27 million round led by Thomvest Ventures.
Previous investors including Atlas Venture, Flybridge Capital Partners and Menlo Ventures are back as well; DataXu has now raised $65 million.
DataXu started out in life as one of many “demand side platforms” that helped marketers place their ads in “real time” ad exchanges and took a cut of the media they bought.
Now CEO Mike Baker says the bulk of his revenues comes from software he licenses, which is supposed to let ad buyers navigate that world on their own.
All of these companies play in different parts of the complicated ad tech landscape, but all of these big dollar bets are headed in the same direction: Their investors think they’re going to end up bulking up — via growth and M&A — and going public.
A lot of these guys have now raised so much that they don’t really have any other option. At one point investors were assuming that all sorts of acquirers would step in and snap these guys up, but aside from Google and Adobe, most would-be acquirers have sat on their checkbooks. But some optimists/bankers are hoping to entice Yahoo and/or Facebook to come to the table…
That’s dumb, says Adobe — which could make this argument about any TV ad spending. On the other hand, Adobe and the rest of the digital media business have been making that argument for a very long time, and TV ad rates keep going up.
TV broadcasters and programmers must embrace a new set of video-delivery techniques to reach consumers in this age of mobile and social entertainment. One of these is over-the-top (OTT) video delivery: digital video programming via the open internet rather than over the air or through a facilities-based service provider that can be sent to any connected consumer electronics device, regardless of location. Online delivery to so many types of consumer devices means that video programmers must produce multiple internet-streaming formats that use different types of security and different ways of inserting ads. This report explains the technical details of the various format and delivery types. Other considerations include the need for maintaining high video quality despite external factors and choosing from among multiple architectural approaches to optimize delivery.
Adobe announced Wednesday night that it is going to power the BBC’s live streaming of the London Olympic Games, which are scheduled to start Friday with the opening ceremonies. The BBC has relied on support from Adobe in the past, but this is the first time it is officially using parts of Adobe’s Project Primetime, which represents the company’s next big bet in the video space. And it’s not all about Flash.
In fact, at the center of the BBC’s offerings is a new HTML5 app that has been built with Adobe’s PhoneGap, an open source HTML5 development framework the company acquired as part of its Nitobi Software buy late last year. The BBC used PhoneGap to build apps specific to the Games across tablets and mobile phones. Adobe will also deliver streams to connected TVs.
Here’s how this will look on the ground: The BBC is providing Adobe will broadcast-quality MPEG-2 feeds of the games, which the company will repackage on the fly for different devices and use cases. Adobe will use both its own HTTP Dynamic streaming (HDS) as well as Apple’s HTTP Live Streaming. For the BBC, this means that it can provide adaptive streaming for a variety of devices, with bit rates automatically adapting to bandwidth constraints without the need for a video stream to restart and rebuffer.
The BBC will offer a total of 24 live streams from the London Games through a new interactive video player, which will allow viewers to switch between events, pause, rewind and more. And the BBC’s existing iPlayer will be used to stream live coverage of the BBC’s 3 network channels. The 24 online channels alone will provide some 2,500 hours of live coverage of the events.
So how does Project Primetime factor into all of this, and what is it all about to begin with? Primetime is essentially Adobe’s very own video platform, and its attempt to compete with industry players like Brightcove and Ooyala. It’s squarely aimed at large-scale broadcast scenarios, and combines publishing, advertising and analytics components, with the ability to use a whole bunch of existing Adobe projects in the process.
The company announced Primetime in February, and will roll the product out in earnest later this year. However, it has been testing parts of Primetime with select broadcast partners for months, and the Olympics represent another of those tests. Being a publicly funded broadcaster, the BBC has no need for Primetime’s advertising component. Instead, it’s relying on Adobe for the actual publishing, and is also using the real-time ingestion and editing capabilities to create clips of highlights on the fly.
The bigger vision of Project Primetime is to use Adobe’s technology to help broadcasters serve videos on any device, be it through native apps, Adobe Air apps, HTML5 or evolving connected TV frameworks. The big challenge these days is for publishers that they have to target so many different platforms, Adobe’s director of product management, Video Solutions, Ashley Still told me last week. “In a lot of ways, it’s a mess,” she said. But of course, for Adobe, it’s also a big opportunity, especially as the company is moving beyond Flash. “We are trying to provide a shared video stack for all these services,” said Still.
Apple has hired Adobe executive Todd Teresi to run iAd, the Apple advertising initiative launched in 2010.
Teresi will report to media boss Eddy Cue, according to sources familiar with the hire. He fills a slot last occupied by Andy Miller, who sold his Quattro mobile ad company to Apple two years ago and left last summer. Bloomberg first reported Teresi’s move this afternoon.
At Adobe, Teresi had helped steer the publishing company through a series of advertising acquisitions, including Efficient Frontier, Demdex and Auditude. Prior to that he had been at Quantcast and Yahoo.
That brings the price tag for Adobe’s two-year ad business shopping spree to $2.4 billion. The bulk of that comes from Adobe’s 2009 acquisition of Omniture for $1.8 billion; it has also recently picked up Auditude and Demdex.
Adobe’s appetite for ad technology has been good news for a handful of investors who have been betting on the sector. In the case of Efficient Frontier, the deal is a big win for Mitsui & Co., Redpoint Ventures and Cambrian Ventures, who put less than $15 million into the start-up.
But while lots of VC cash has gone into ad tech in the past few years, there haven’t been a ton of big exits.
Beyond Adobe, the only other active buyer has been Google. And industry executives say that some ad tech firms looking for more funding are having trouble getting the dollars they want.
But here’s the counterpoint: Search — which means Google — appears to be doing just fine.
Citigroup’s Mark Mahaney has been checking with search marketers, who tell him that Q4 looks a whole lot like the rest of 2011, except maybe a bit better: “Our panel is tracking U.S. Search spend to be up between 15% and 27% Y/Y, rates that are largely in-line with or faster than Q1-Q3 trends.”
Mahaney notes that Efficient Frontier, the search marketer Adobe plans on buying, says its Q4 numbers show a “slight deceleration” from the rest of the year. But compared to the sour faces I’ve seen from some ad guys in recent weeks, that’s fine.
Also of note: Mahaney says that mobile advertising, which has generated lots of hype but not that many dollars, may finally be here, at least when it comes to search. There’s a “a clear consensus that Mobile Search spend is becoming material,” he writes, and will account for 10 percent or more of many search buyers’ spend.
Do you have an advertising business you’d like to sell? Adobe would like to talk to you.
The digital publishing company just announced yet another advertising acquisition: It has picked up Efficient Frontier, the company that’s best known for its search marketing business, but which is trying to expand into other ad buying/consulting fields, like social.
Adobe didn’t disclose a purchase price, but this one sounds like it will be material. The $4 billion-plus (revenue) company said it would provide “additional information regarding the potential financial impact to Adobe” once the deal closes, most likely in the first quarter of next year.
Today we either saw the first effects of Adobe’s decision to stop developing Flash for mobile, or another example of why it has not gotten very far on mobile in the first place: it turns out that the newest iteration of the Android OS, Ice Cream Sandwich, does not currently include Flash support. (As it turns out, Adobe (NSDQ: ADBE) has confirmed it will be there by the end of the year.)
The discovery was made first by the blog SlashGear, which notes that not only is Flash not pre-loaded on the new Ice Cream Sandwich device, but it doesn’t appear to come up in the Market app storefront, either.
When asked about this, Google (NSDQ: GOOG) confirmed to the blog that Flash for Ice Cream Sandwich had not yet been released but “as far as we know, Adobe will support Flash for ICS.”
Update: A spokesperson for Adobe has emailed us a statement:
“We are planning a final release of Flash Player for Android by the end of the year that supports the Android browser on Ice Cream Sandwich (Android 4.0), after which we will continue providing updates for critical bug fixes and security patches for existing supported device configurations.”
Additionally, Adobe also plans to release one more version of its Flash Linux Porting Kit by that time.
It was only two weeks ago, on November 9, that Adobe announced that it would be discontinuing Flash for mobile devices and would instead concentrate on developing for HTML5 (fast emerging as the standard for web video) and Adobe Air for apps.
At the time, Adobe confirmed that as part of that, it would “no longer continue to develop Flash Player in the browser to work with new mobile device configurations (chipset, browser, OS version, etc.) following the upcoming release of Flash Player 11.1” for Android and the BlackBerry PlayBook.
That Android Flash support came out the very next day, when Adobe posted a new app to the Market on November 10. Shouldn’t that, theoretically, be the end of the story? Google seems to indicate otherwise.
We have contacted Adobe to clarify this. Meanwhile, that it took a few days for the tech world to sit up and notice the lack of Android support in those new devices is a bit of a damning vote for how relevant Flash might for people to enjoy mobile content anyway.
The argument up to now has been that Flash is very ubiquitous in the wider internet, and as mobile devices become more capable there would be more need for them to work more like computers, and to therefore be able to read Flash-enabled video and audio content, in order to have a truly seamless web media experience.
But even that position seems to be getting questioned: a November report from Web Technology Surveys notes that Flash is only used on 26 percent of all websites, and is in decline.
That seems to indicate that even if Flash does get released for Android Ice Cream Sandwich, it might not be as useful as one thinks.