Videohaastattelu taloudesta ja journalismista

Espoolainen viestintätoimistoyrittäjä Leena Jokiranta pyysi äskettäin minua piipahtamaan UMA Esplanadin kahvilassa tiivistämään näkemykseni taloudesta ja journalismista. Videohaastattelu on nyt katsottavissa Jokirannan Viestintätoimisto EBC:n Facebook-sivulla.

Toukokuussa olen lupautunut vielä alustamaan esityksen talousjournalismista, mutta sen tarkempi sisältö on vielä mietinnässä. Ajankohta ja paikka ovat 18.5. klo 14 Helsingissä UMA Esplanadissa (Pohjoisesplanadi 29, Akateemisen kirjakaupan yläkerrassa).

Paljon lehtiä, hyvin piilotettuna

lehtiä kotona
Ostin pitkästä aikaa aikakauslehtien irtonumeroita. Valikoimaa on tekniikkalehdissäkin vielä paljon enemmän kuin odotin.

Nykyisin Fokus Median kustantama Pelit-lehti täyttää 25 vuotta, minkä kunniaksi kävin etsimässä kaupan lehtihyllystä juhlanumeroa. Tämä olikin hieman yllättävä kokemus.

Kävelin lähikauppaani Olarin Prismaan ja kohti lehtihyllyä. Sehän on siinä jossain kauppaan saapuessa jo ennen maitokaappeja. Ei olekaan tässä kaupassa. No sittenhän se on poistuessa kassojen lähellä. Ei ole tässäkään. Onko lehtihylly kadonnut kokonaan? Ei sentään.

Löysin lehtien irtonumerohyllyn viiden minuutin kiertämisen jälkeen sivusta, kirjojen ja kodin käyttötavaran välistä. Nämä eivät selvästikään ole kaupan sisäänvetotuote enää.

Pelit-lehti löytyi onneksi, kilpailijansa Pelaajan vierestä. On käsittääkseni melko harvinaista, että meillä on Suomessa kaksikin painettua pelilehteä edelleen. Muualla useimmat julkaisut ovat muuttuneet jo kauan sitten pelkiksi verkkojulkaisuiksi. Monet niistäkin ovat sittemmin lopettaneet, kun eivät onnistuneet myymään sisältöä verkossa.

Olin ainoa asiakas Prisman lehtihyllyn luona. Muistan, kun joskus vielä 2000-luvun alussa näki joskus jopa pienen ruuhkan lehtihyllyillä.

Tähän nähden aikakauslehtien suuri määrä yllätti. Tarjolla on ainakin kolme tietotekniikkalehteä, monta kuntoilu- ja urheilulehteä, kolme historialehteä, terveyslehtiä,  lapsi- ja perhelehdet ja tietenkin vielä yleisaikakauslehdet.

Kun etenkin Sanoma on luopunut erikois- ja harrastelehdistä, tilalle näyttää tulleen monta pientä kustantajaa, joilla on yksi tai pari nimikettä.  Poikkeus tähän on entisten sanomalaisten perustama Fokus Media, jolla on Pelit-lehden lisäksi seitsemän muutakin aikakauslehteä, joista tuoreimpana Allerilta ostettu Fit-lehti. (Lisäksi Sanoma näyttää ulkoistaneen Finnairin Blue Wings -lehden tuottamisen Fokus Medialle.)

Pelit-lehteä oli ilo lukea pitkän tauon jälkeen. Lukijasuhteeni katkesi joskus kauan sitten, kun peliharrastus jäi sivuun. Tilasin tosin hetken lehteä vielä 2010-luvulla, mutta määräaikaisen tilauksen päätyttyä se unohtui. Eivätkä Fokus Mediasta tohtineet soitella perään uuden tarjouksen kanssa.

Selailin etenkin noita hifi- ja tietotekniikkalehtiä, ja taso näytti visuaalisesti vähintään tyydyttävältä, jopa hyvältä. Mainoksia on vain kovin vähän, eli ei tämä ole pienillekään kustantajille helppo bisnes. Lehdissä tuntuu olevan paljon pitkä lukujuttuja, mikä tarkoittanee sitä, että kohdeyleisö on ikäluokkaa yli 30-vuotiaat. Eivät useimmat nuoret kuulemma enää jaksa keskittyä pitkiin teksteihin. Tosin ihmettelen löytävätkö ihmiset enää edes lehtihyllyjä, jos ne ovat muissakin kaupoissa näin piilossa. Jatkossa kiinnitän tähän huomiota kaupoissa.

Huom. sidonnaisuudesta: Työskentelen siis Alma Media -yhtiön Alma Talent -yksikössä, joka kustantaa useita talouden ja tekniikan aikakauslehtiä, kuten MikroBitti, Talouselämä, Tekniikan Historia, Tekniikka&Talous ja Tivi.)

 

 

HTML5 starts to challenge native apps

It’s interesting to see more and more media companies and service providers experimenting with HTML5 based web apps instead on special native applications for Android, iOS, Symbian or Windows Phone platforms.

A couple of recent ones I’ve tried and liked are app.ft.com, the new digital edition of the respected Financial Times publication. Another one is read.amazon.com, the cloud service of the Amazon book store. What’s common to these compared to their iOS apps is that Apple won’t get that normal 30 per cent share from their revenues.

Amazon Cloud E-book Reader feels and looks like an iOS client even though it runs on the web browser. Purchased books can also be read on Kindle devices and Kindle client on iPad.

Amazon Cloud Reader would not work on the 7-ich Android tablet from HTC.

The cloud service of Amazon first looks like a quite a traditional web site, but after you have added it as an iPad home screen item, it launches in a very nice app like full-screen mode which also supports offline mode; well supposedly at least, it didn’t work for me yet. The UI has been made about the same as the Kindle client on iOS. The book I purchased from their web app also appeared in my archived e-books on the iOS Kindle client. As far as I know, you can continue reading on Kindle devices too. (Although one limitation is book publishers limit the amount of copies you can have, typically to no more than five devices.)

It was a disappointment to notice the Amazon service didn’t work on a couple of 7-inch Android tablets I tried. The problem could be in some HTML5 elements or that it seems to have been optimised for 10-inch screens. It loads, but then gets stuck at the first welcome screen.

The Playboy magazine has also put all of their issues available online for a monthly subscription. It will open from their normal web address (www.playboy.com) when browsing on iPad. Their web app has a user experience a bit like a separate client, although it feels a little slow to navigate on iPad. I tried it on Android tablets too, but I only got their regular web site.

* * *

So unfortunately it seems obvious the first HTML5 apps are still far from software and device independent, and many of them actually only work on the iOS platform and iPad, a few on iPhone/iPod touch too.

Some of the first HTML5 apps still lack reliable offline reading too. You can’t always rely on having an active connection, and it also consumes too much battery too.

There are quite opposite experiments too. The German tabloid publication Bild (www.bild.de) has totally blocked access to their regular web site on iPad. They recognise iPad by the user agent information sent by the browser and direct users to buy and download their app from Apple App Store. Of course, you can hack your way around this by jailbreaking your device and editing the user agent field, but that’s not a valid option for most people.

It’s also interesting how Microsoft promises to push HTML5 as a tool to build touch applications on their forth-coming desktop, laptop and tablet platform, code named Windows 8 at the moment. To see more, check this YouTube video: Windows 8 introduction and demos in their partner event. Let’s hope they will really keep it device independent and not break compatibility with Windows specific code.

* * *

In Finland, media companies have mostly launched iPad apps of magazines, newspapers and online TV services. The representatives from Finnmedia (The Federation of the Finnish Media Industry. or Viestinnän keskusliitto in Finnish), a lobbying organisation of media companies, have said in a few public seminars they believe more affordable and open tablet devices are needed to really push digital publications and e-books to the mass market. The most affordable 7-inch Android tablets start at less than 200 euros. That’s under a half of Apple iPad. Some 10-inch Android tablets are more affordable too, but a few are surprisingly expensive.

So few tablet devices have yet been sold in Finland, it has made sense to make the first trials on Apple iPad which was the first tablet generally available here. According to operators, Samsung Galaxy Tab has also become quite popular lately. Hopefully that means more support for Android too.

There are a few nice examples of Android apps. The Finnish national broadcasting company Yleisradio has launched their web TV service as an Android app (link to Android Market) before an iPad app. I believe their plan is to build HTML5 based services as soon as possible to avoid having to develop native applications for all the different platforms and their different sub-versions.

The largest newspaper in Finland Helsingin Sanomat has also published an Android app (link to Android Market) allowing their subscribers to the read the full newspaper. However, this app has been optimised for smartphones, so it does not look very nice on a 7-inch tablet.

It’s pretty safe to predict more and more HTML5 sites and apps are going to be launched instead of native apps. How long will this take, probably depends on how well those apps and sites can be made device independent. At the moment there still seem to be problems.

Smartphones demolishing handheld consoles

Fresh news tell Nintendo has reported once again net losses (source: Wall Street Journal) and lower than expected sales of Nintendo 3DS, the handheld games console of the Japanese electronics company.  Nintendo hopes dropping the price of their console will boost sales.

I’m  very sure I’m not the only one who’s not surprised by this news. Who wants to pay 200 or even 300 euros (depending on market and sales channel) for a handheld console, and then 40 euros or more for games, when you can get very nice games for under under an euro for your Android, iOS or even Symbian smarphone?

I own a very old Nintendo GameBoy Advanced, but I stopped playing on it having bought Apple iPod touch (2nd generation) in 2008. I have downloaded tens of games for free or for a couple of euros.

The situation will only get worse for Nintendo and Sony when more affordable and still powerful Android and iOS tablets become available. Then you can often get the games which you bought for your smartphone for your 7- to 10-inch device, often without extra money.

In my opinion Nintendo and Sony have also made big mistakes by focusing on wrong types of games. None of my very tech-savvy frinds, who spend hundreds or even thousands euros a year in games, electronics and computer stuff seem to want 3D. The other big mistake is to assume people want the same kind of action games on handheld devices than big living-room consoles. What’s the idea of playing a 3D action games on a 3-inch screen, when you have 37-inch or even larger TV in your living-room? I guess marketing guys don’t play very much themselves.

The third big change is moving from physical media to online stores. It’s a lot easier to download and install games from Apple’s, Google’s, Microsoft’s or Nokia’s apps stores than walking to a limited numher of physical stores. Nintendo and Sony have launched some kind of online shops too, but I don’t know how well they work. My friend, who used to be a Nintendo fanboy (and proud of it), complained they’ve failed in this area.

Many Nokia followers may wonder what’s different now compared to what Nokia tried with their N-Gage. Well, they had pretty much all the problems with their initial launch: 1) Games trying to imitate big consoles, 2) too expensive games, 3) a difficult physical MMC media and to finish it all, 4) a device with a very small screen and bad useability. Of course, smartphone hardware was not as advanced as today.

It’s interesting to see if Nintendo and Sony come up with something that justifies buying a special handheld gaming device. After all, consumers, especially young people, only have a very limited amount of money. Already that Chinese Android smartphone (from Huawei or ZTE) costing less than 200 euros or under 7 euros a month with a subscription smoothly runs Angry Birds and other very fun games.

Google+ app for iPhone, but not yet iPad or iPod touch

Yesterday Google released a Google+ app for iPhone 3G/3GS and iPhone 4. It’s in early beta, and Google+ developers have admited there still are many bugs. I tried it immediately on iPhone 4 with a recent iOS 4.x release, but for some reason I can’t even get in. The login says I “appear to be offline”. I could download the app from App Store and I can access plus.google.com on Safari, so there should not be any problem with my connection.

A big disappointment is that G+ only became available for iPhone. You can’t install it on iPod touch or iPad. App Store does not even show it in iPhone downloads for iPad.

Could this be a weak signal of iOS getting fragmented a bit in the same way as Android has? Of course, this kind of an release has been decision made by Google, not Apple. Will Google want to favour Android users against iOS users?

As a nice detail Google+ Mobile Lead Product Manager Punit Soni has been actively posting about their development. They have got a lot of feedback and answered to many bug reports and feature wishes too.

My primary device is still Nokia N8, but I haven’t noticed Google to promise a G+ app for Symbian 3 yet. I have a bad feeling Symbian is losing support of software developers very fast, and if this happens, many users will quickly want to change to Android, iOS or Windows Phone.

Google+ and mobile access

I have been trying to get familiar with Google+, the so called ”Facebook and Twitter” killer of the search engine giant. It’s in early beta, so I don’t want to make any kind of judgement how good or bad it is. It will need more time and users to prove its place too. However, there are positive new things which make me want to follow it, especially Circles, a new way of grouping friends, family members, colleagues and just random people whose thoughts are interesting to follow.

Google+ on Symbian phones, such as Nokia N8, is a very simple mobile site.
Google+ on Symbian phones, such as Nokia N8, is a very simple mobile site. (I have blurred this image to hide names and pictures.)

However, one big problem is the modest mobile support at the moment. Google+ has a very simple and badly working mobile site for Symbian, and they have published a more sophisticated app based service for Android phones. The situation is quite bad compared to how you can connect with Facebook and Twitter on all the smartphone and tablet platforms in different ways. I have got addicted to Facebook pretty much, because they have a decent mobile site m.facebook.com which I’m checking many times a day typically when I’m waiting for something etc.

I assume Google is working hard to improve this. There’s a nice To-Do list in the UnwiredView.com article.

It will be interesting to see if Google will favour Android in the future too, or will iOS, Symbian and Windows Phone users get a good Google+ client, or at least a good mobile site. There have been some unofficial iOS apps already, but I’ve heard developers complain Google would need to open more APIs to get better third party support.

As Google+ is in early beta, many Android users (for example some using Samsung Galaxy S)  have complained the Google+ Android client has made their phone slower and unstable,

More and more native apps seem to be needed. Could HTML5 be a better solution? Building a native app for all the platforms of all the services doesn’t seem like a realistic future. TechCrunch had a good summary of the apps versus HTML5 situation back in February 2011. Research VP Ray Valdes from Gartner made some interesting points about HTML5 versus Adobe Flash already last year, but the situation has not changed pretty much since then.

Here in Finland media companies and service providers are announcing with new apps for Android and iOS smartphones and tablets in fast pace, and many have published apps for Nokia’s Symbian smartphones too. Most of them are free, and there’s no clear business model. I would guess in the future we will see more HTML5 based services instead of native apps, but this is a big enough topic for another blog post.