Flipboard has been working hard over the last few years to build an app that makes reading stories on mobile and tablet devices as engaging as flipping through a magazine. With the latest version of its app, users will be able to find and discover content that is relevant to their interests, through the introduction of topics they can follow.
Already, Flipboard has done a good job of getting — and keeping — readers’ attention. It now has more than 100 million readers who have downloaded the app, and is adding 250,000 more each day. Those readers are flipping about 8 billion pages per month, and that number continues to grow. But the new app is aimed at keeping those users engaged through personalization.
When you first open up Flipboard 3.0, the app guides you through the process of picking a series of topics you will receive updates on. It asks “What are you interested in?” and provides a wide range of suggestions that vary from high-level content based around categories like “Technology” down to more granular topics such as “iPad apps.”
Once you’ve chosen several topics of interest, the app opens up to unveil a front page that features stories from multiple sources you can flip through. Stories are tagged by content provider as well as by topic, allowing users to drill down and see more content related to each. You can also choose to follow stories by source or by topic, which would provide even more content served up to users.
At launch, Flipboard will have more than 30,000 different topics to choose from, so there’s something for everyone. And the ability to easily add topics over time could keep casual Flipboard users keep coming back for more as the app becomes more personalized and relevant to them.
Users can click through to see which topics, people, and accounts they follow and drill down on stories shared there. Or they can search for particular topics. And even if readers are following hundreds of topics, the app will work to showcase the most relevant or interesting topics on any given day, according to Flipboard co-founder and CEO Mike McCue.
But it’s not all going to be algorithmically programmed. In addition to its topics, the app is also adding a “Daily Edition” of content that has been selected by Flipboard editors. It will be released every day at 7:00 am and will feature all the biggest news from the previous day, as well as a daily photo and “parting GIF” for readers.
For Flipboard, the move to a topic-following model is a departure from its previous personalization efforts. Last year, the company released a big app update that enabled users to create and subscribe to virtual magazines based on their own interests. By doing so, they could curate stories from multiple different sources and present it in a unified fashion. Readers, meanwhile, benefitted by being able to subscribe to magazines created by other like-minded users to discover content they might not have seen otherwise.
Magazines have been incredibly popular on Flipboard: The company says there have been more than 10 million of them created and curated by readers since launch. They can range from having just a few followers to hundreds and thousands of followers — and the top magazines have generated tens of millions of page flips from readers.
That feature also added a new potential revenue stream by enabling brands and retailers to create shoppable magazines and catalogs of products for sale. That’s on top of advertising CPMs that are closer to print publications than digital properties.
That said, Flipboard’s magazine model wasn’t perfect. After all, it relies on readers to keep updating their magazines over time in order to keep providing fresh content to others. Furthermore, each magazine reflects the interests of the creator or creators and may not be exactly what a reader is looking for.
The update is designed to improve upon the current experience with a more personalized feed, which users create by following different topics of interest to them. That ensures readers will be kept up to date on the news that’s important to them, without having to rely on another reader to curate a magazine for them.
McCue says the new version blends people-powered curation with algorithmic curation. For that, the app builds on its magazine creation tools and adds features from a couple of acquisitions Flipboard made over the last few years.
The first was its Cover Stories feature, which came about with help from technology it acquired as part of its purchase of Ellerdale several years ago. That gave Flipboard the ability to structure and display content more like a magazine.
It’s the more recent acquisition of Zite which helps to power the app’s new topic-centric following model, however. Zite was acquired from CNN earlier this year, and ever since the combined engineering teams have been working on ways to make Flipboard more personalized and more engaging.
It’s Zite’s technology that is being used to identify and categorize the topics that users can subscribe to. It can do that without its readers building magazines, which opens up a whole lot of new topics and content for readers to discover.
But that’s the whole point. Finding more relevant content is key to Flipboard’s business model, after all.
The more readers flip and the more engaged they are in its magazine-like experience, the more ads they see. The more ads they see, the more money Flipboard makes. And considering that Flipboard has raised more than $160 million since being founded, it’ll need a lot of flips to justify that funding. The good news is, whatever it’s done so far seems to be working.
Read more from the original source: Flipboard’s New App Gets Personal By Making Topics The Center Of Attention
With Kindle Scout, Amazon’s taking a 21st century approach to publishing, letting readers nominate which books progress to funding. It’s like your favorite reality TV show, except for books.
Amazon launched Kindle Scout in the US a couple of weeks back, but today sees the program officially open for voting. It means you can now read excerpts from hitherto unpublished books and, if you like them, give your thumbs-up.
Each book, across romance, science fiction and mystery & thriller for the time being, has 30 days to get as many votes as possible. After this period, Amazon checks which titles have the most backing, and selects which will be published.
There is, of course, scope for authors to get friends and family to up-vote their new title, which is why Amazon still ultimately makes the final call on which proceed to publishing. But its decisions are at least influenced by the public.
So why would you wish to nominate a title? Well, if you like what you’ve read in the short extracts, it of course means you can read the full shebang when it hits publication. But more than that, you also receive a free Kindle edition a week before it’s officially released.
There are existing Kickstarter-style crowdfunding platforms for books such as Pubslush, but Amazon’s scale and audience will be a big draw for many budding authors. Though writers will have to give up 50 percent of e-book royalties, they also receive a $1,500 cash advance, and the might of Amazon’s marketing machine. It’s in Amazon’s interests as well as the author’s to push published titles into the wider reader realm, after all.
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Thousands protest in Hungary over proposed internet tax
Continue reading here: Amazon’s crowdsourced publishing program, Kindle Scout, is now open for voting
Square just closed the Series E round it had been raising. Filings in September showed the e-commerce payments company was set to raise at least $100 million, but the deal wasn’t done just yet. Now a Square spokesman has confirmed the raises to the New York Times, led by new investor the Government of Singapore Investment Corporation (GIC). This puts Square at A $6 billion valuation. Goldman Sachs and Rizvi Traverse Management also participated in the round, according to the same source.
This last round is right on the heels of Apple’s new payments reveal and a split between payment rival Paypal and eBay. There were earlier rumors that Apple and Square were in acquisition talks but that Square walked away.
As we reported a few weeks back when the filings first popped up, Square’s valuation has fallen behind its payment processing rate. Square is expected to process $30 billion this year. It reportedly totaled $20 in 2013. The valuation at the time was at $5 billion.
The card payment processing realm may get even tighter in the next little bit. Amazon has also challenged Square with its own version of a card reader this year called Local Register. Eventbrite also has it’s own version of a card reader and app but says it plans to stick to just venue payments for now. That could change in the future.
Continued here: Square Closes $150 Million Round At $6 Billion Valuation
E-mail newsletters are so hot right now.
Some of the best known are by Ann Friedman, Alexis Madrigal, Dan Hon and Rusty Foster. There’s a web ring for e-mail newsletters now, but really the best newsletters are secret. The authors encourage readers to share the subscribe link with other people who might be interested, but request that no one share the subscribe link on social media or the open web, creating a sort of darknet of semi-underground dispatches.
But it’s more than just individual bloggers. Two or three years ago every site on the web was doing all it could to
trick coax readers into “liking” them on Facebook. Today much of that focus has shifted towards getting readers to sign-up for an e-mail subscription. Just look at the prime screen real estate e-mail subscription forms are given at Mashable, The Verge and, of course, TechCrunch. Upworthy — the most “social media native” publication to date — goes so far as to put a huge sign-up form below the first paragraph of every story:
Quartz has a much loved daily e-mail blast (though the sign-up form is oddly buried in a pull-down menu) and sports news company The Slurve is going so far as to build an entire business off its newsletter. And it’s not quite the same as a digital newsletter, but the likes of Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter and Medium are all sending daily or weekly activity summaries to give people an overview of what’s been going on on those sites, and try to entire people to interact. Just last week Madrigal declared that e-mail is still the best thing on the internet.
So why all this effort to herd readers into a medium that is supposed to be dying? And why are we, as readers, so willing to invite even more e-mail into our lives?
Joanna McNeil has suggested that e-mail newsletters give writers a greater sense of intimacy with their readers than today’s social media services, while Rebecca Greenfield suggested the end of Google Reader as a driving factor in sending more people into the arms of e-mail. I think both of these are part of something bigger: sending e-mail gives publishers a greater sense of control over how they reach their audiences.
Facebook is sending less traffic these days thanks to its algorithmic tweaks and the sheer number of things competing for attention in your feed. Twitter isn’t filtering content à la Facebook yet, but many fear it’s only a matter of time. And that’s to say nothing of the other problems of not having much control over the platform on which you share information. You could be kicked off the site for violating its terms of service. A site could do a massive redesign that renders your work moot, or pivot into a different market. Or, like Google Reader, it could just disappear.
E-mail gives publishers a bit more control. Yes, your newsletter could end up in a spam trap, and things like Google’s Priority Inbox and its smart labels do affect where your e-mails will be seen. But if you’re sending mail that your readers legitimately signed up for, it will probably find its way to them somehow, and that’s more than you can say for a Facebook status update these days.
And you can own your own mailing list, more so than you can own just about anything else online. Governments can seize your domain name. If you forget to renew it, some squatter will snap it up and try to sell it back to you for $1,000. But your mailing list is yours. Even if you’re using a service like Mailchimp or TinyLetter, you can back-up your mailing list and use it with another program. And if you use a self-hosted mailing list like Sendy, Dada Mail or the Newsletter plug-in for WordPress, you have even more direct ownership over your lists.
Author Warren Ellis, who has been doing the e-mail newsletter thing for years, has written that his mailing list has a 5,000 out of 6,865 open rate. That’s exceptional, but shows how powerful email can be. The newsletter for my personal blog has only around 320 subscribers. But according to Mailchimp, each e-mail has about a 20 percent open rate. That’s about 64 readers per e-mail. I have over 7,000 Twitter followers, but a very successful post will tend only to be clicked by about 20 people, according to Bitly, which works out to less than 1 percent of my followers.
So while it might be harder to get people to fork over their e-mail addresses than it is to get them to like or follow something, once you do, they’re much more likely to actually pay attention, and you can reach more people in the long run. Marketing types have known this for a long time, hence all the get-rich-quick spammer websites that try to entice you into swapping your e-mail address for a free e-book.
E-mail is great way to reach mobile readers without having to talk them into installing yet another pointless app. It works on everything from tablets to feature phones to Commodore 64s with dial-up Internet access.
That helps explain why publishers want us to sign-up for newsletters, but why do readers actually do it? I think a big part of it is social media fatigue. Other things try to replace e-mail, only to become just as cluttered, creating a bunch of separate cluttered messes to deal with. My inbox is a nightmarish hellscape. But I’d rather visit one nightmarish hellscape per day than a dozen. And while there’s no way I would want to get an e-mail newsletter from every single person I follow on Twitter, those e-mail digests of what’s been happening on Twitter are pretty handy. From a reader’s standpoint, I’d often rather just get a daily or weekly digest than try to follow yet another Twitter account or RSS feed.
For years, those of us who have advocated the indie or federated web have called for social networks to be more like e-mail, but it turns out e-mail itself is a pretty good social media platform. And while getting people to sign up for a Diaspora or Identica account was always a tough sell, just about everyone already has an e-mail address. And e-mail has social features like “reply” and “share” (aka “forward”) baked right in.
But beyond all that, it feels like an admission that the Internet went horribly wrong somewhere along the way. Google+, Tumblr and Facebook Groups felt like a tacit admission that the web had taken a wrong turn somewhere around Friendster and was finding its way back to LiveJournal. But now with the rise of newsletters and Snapchat and “right to forget” legislation, it feels like we’re going back even further, perhaps admitting that this whole web thing, with its search engines and caches and screenshots, were perhaps a bad idea to begin with and it’s not to rip it up and start again from e-mail on up.
IMAGE BY Shutterstock USER Mr. Aesthetics (IMAGE HAS BEEN MODIFIED)
View original post here: Why Everyone Is Obsessed With E-Mail Newsletters Right Now
This post originally appeared on the Buffer blog.
Funny, we’ve had the Facebook Like button along the side of every Buffer blog post for the past several years. And I don’t think I’ve ever clicked it.
I’ve hoped that others would, of course. I hope they click all the share buttons. But until now, I’ve never known what that experience was like for the end-user.
What’s it like to actually share a story to Facebook? And how can I make it a better experience?
We talk a lot about reversing the decline in organic Facebook reach and succeeding with Facebook marketing. Maybe we’ve been overlooking a quick win right under our noses. The Facebook share button could be a huge opportunity todelight a reader with a seamless sharing experience, one in which you can control the look, feel, and message of what gets shared.
Come along to see what I learned (and what I’ve fixed) when I clicked on my own Facebook share button.
Each post on the Buffer blog has social share buttons that sit along the left side of the post (via the Digg Digg plugin for WordPress). Share button No. 3 is the Facebook like button.
Now for the moment of truth. What happens when someone clicks the Facebook Like button on a Buffer blog post? Drumroll please …
Not a whole lot.
In fact, to the naked eye, nothing happened whatsoever beyond the share number going up by one and the Like button changing to a checkmark.
Let’s hop over to my Facebook page. There are no new updates in my News Feed to tell others that I liked this awesome blogpost. No notifications, no alerts.
To find any evidence that I clicked at all, one would have to scroll 50 percent of the way down the page, past my About section, my photos, my friends, my places, my music, my movies, my TV shows, my books, and my groups, all the way to the very last item in the left sidebar: Recent Activity.
Phew. That’s a long ways down.
It’s worth noting that the Facebook Like experience on your blog might be different than it is on Buffer’s. When I ran the Like experiment by clicking on buttons elsewhere, a share box popped up after I clicked “Like.” You can see this in action at the KISSmetrics blog, for instance. Point being: Test your Like button on your own blog to see what happens.)
OK, new strategy.
How about if we change the Facebook Like button to a Facebook Share button? (Fortunately, there’s an easy setting inside of the Digg Digg plugin to do just that.)
Now that we’ve got the Share button live on the blogpost, what happens when we click it?
Voila! A Facebook Share box arrives.
This is likely the box that bloggers expect to show up when someone clicks a Facebook button. Readers get to choose where the message is shared, what they want to say about it, and which picture to use as the thumbnail.
After all these options are chosen, the post will show up at the very top of the News Feed on a profile page, and in the News Feeds of all one’s friends (depending on the Facebook algorithm, of course).
Takeaway: “Liking” and “Sharing” on Facebook are two totally different experiences.
Let’s continue our Goldilocks trip through Facebook sharing with the most native of share options: Posting a link directly via your Facebook page.
Assuming that there were no Facebook share buttons anywhere on a page and that you really wanted to pass the page along to your Facebook friends, what would you do? You’d grab the URL, head to facebook.com, and share the link yourself.
Here’s what that looks like when I share a blogpost directly on Facebook.
The experience is almost exactly the same as it was for the Facebook Share button. You get to choose who sees your update, what you say about it, and which picture is used as the thumbnail. Here’s the finished product as it appears in my News Feed.
After reading this far, you may have already chosen your preferred style of Facebook button. Your preference probably has to do with what you hope to gain from your social share buttons, and it’s important to note that there is no right or wrong answer when it comes to liking vs. sharing. Each has its own virtues.
The Like button is good for social proof.
There is power in seeing 600+ Facebook Likes on an article you wrote. The psychological explanation behind this is wisdom of the crowds, where large groups of people approving a certain something (a blogpost, for instance) motivates others to do the same.
There may even be a bit of FOMO (fear of missing out), an anxiety from new readers that they need to read this article to catch up with what everyone else has found so great.
The Like button is almost entirely frictionless.
Did you notice how little effort it took for me to complete the process of Liking a blogpost? If you want to make the experience as absolutely easy as possible for your readers, it doesn’t get much easier than the one-click Like button. There’s no messages to create, no networks to navigate. It’s just a simple, easy click.
The Share button gets your content maximum exposure.
If you want your story to be seen in more News Feeds, then go with the Share button. Liking a post keeps the post relatively hidden on one’s profile. Sharing a post puts the content front-and-center. (And the rest is up to Facebook’s algorithm to disperse.)
Smashing Magazine ran an interesting experiment on their popular blog, removing all Facebook buttons and trusting readers to share posts on Facebook individually when they found them worth sharing. The results:
The Share button lets you customize the visuals and message.
Not only will Sharing a post put your content in front of more eyes, your content can look by-and-large how you want it. You can customize the title and description that Facebook grabs as well as the series of pictures that it uses to pull thumbnails.
Next: Here’s how the Facebook customization process works in detail
OK, here’s the fun part.
You can make your post a Facebook work-of-art with just a few simple tweaks to the code and the images on your page.
Facebook sharing 101: A primer on “og” tags
The engineering behind this customization comes from Facebook’s Open Graph, a system that lets third-party websites (like your blog) speak Facebook’s language when the two communicate. Facebook uses Open Graph functionality on its own network, and outside websites that do the same can create Facebook-optimized updates in a snap.
(Open Graph elements are used by other social networks, too, to customize the sharing that happens there.)
These Open Graph elements are represented in the code with “og” tags (“og” stands for, you guessed it, Open Graph). There are three main tags that deal with the look of a Facebook update.
We’ve found that the easiest way to implement Open Graph code on our blogposts is to use an all-in-one WordPress plugin like WordPress SEO by Yoast that handles the Open Graph elements automatically. In our experience, it works almost perfectly—with the exception of images. I’ll tackle that one below.
How to check the “og” tags on your blogpost
Before we begin, it might be handy to know if you already have these Open Graph tags in place. To quickly find out, you can inspect the code of your page to see what’s going on behind the scenes.
In your browser, right-click anywhere on the page and select “Inspect Element.”
Then look in the
section near the top of your HTML code. Inside the should be some tags that begin with “
You can also check the tags on your content by using Facebook’s Open Graph Object Debugger. This free tool will analyze your page and show you what data Facebook will pull (as well as any errors). Also, if you’re ever in need of resetting the cache for your page, plugging the URL into the Debugger tool tells Facebook to go check your page again for updates.
How to customize the title on your Facebook article
To create a specific title for your Facebook shares, use the og:title tag.
Best practice here is to keep the title to no more than 90 characters. If your title is longer than 100 characters, Facebook will cut it off at 88.
You can think of this og:title like you would the SEO title for your post. In fact, if an og:title isn’t present, Facebook will grab the SEO title instead. All the best headline-writing advice applies here, as you’ll want to make the most of the bigger, bolder fonts that Facebook uses in article titles.
As an example of what this og:title might look like, here is the code from the blogpost featured in the screengrab above.
If you click over to the post itself, you’ll notice that the actual headline used on the post is “What Is a Community Champion? Inside the World of Buffer’s Community Builder.” We went with a slightly shorter version for the og:title tag for Facebook.
How to customize the description on your Facebook article
To create a specific description for your Facebook shares, use the og:description tag.
Much like the meta description for your page, this sentence or two should serve as a good introduction to your content. Make it exciting and intriguing—and no need to fill it up with too many keywords because there is no SEO factor here.
Make the first few words count. In the example above, Facebook only revealed 79 characters before cutting off the description. In other cases, you might see up to 200. To play it safe, pack your description with impactful words first.
Here’s an example of what the description tag might look like:
How to customize the images on your Facebook article
Here’s where things get a little tricky for us.
If you have all your “og” code in place for your piece of content and your content happens to contain a lot of images that are all tagged og:image, what might you expect to happen?
I expected each image to be available as a thumbnail option. I was wrong. There are only three.
I tested this with the Social Media Strategy post on Buffer, as well as with some blogposts from other sites like KISSmetrics, Quick Sprout, and Hubspot. The results: There are always only three images to choose from, despite the code containing more than three og:image tags.
So which ones does Facebook choose?
In my limited experimentation, I believe Facebook chooses your three largest images.
That’s a good bit of information to know. In my case, most of my largest images are screengrabs, not the custom images I create for each post. It seems that the images I make in Canva and other custom apps are being outshone by some ultra-specific screenshots. Definitely not ideal.
So what are we to do?
Well, there are a couple options.
The latter option may require a unique plugin that lets you manually change the og:image tags for each piece of content. There are a few plugins out there—like WP Open Graph and the official Facebook plugin—that let you do this fairly easily.
And whatever method you choose to use, you’ll likely want to create some images that are meant to look good on Facebook. I’ll leave the design part up to you, but I can answer the question, “What image size is best?”
Well, in a perfect world, our Facebook shares would look like this:
Instead of this:
We want the large, banner photo because it’s those kinds of photos that seem to instinctually draw the most interest and engagement.
To get this banner photo, Facebook recommends that images be at least 1,200 pixels wide by 630 pixels tall. This aspect ratio works out to 1.91:1. You can go as small as 600 pixels wide by 315 pixels tall and still have it appear as a featured image, but in general, you’ll want to get your pics as big as you can so they look good on high-definition monitors.
The takeaway: Create big, beautiful images at an ideal aspect ratio, and make sure they’re bigger than the rest of the images in your post. This is your best bet for getting the Facebook share style you crave.
Have you clicked your own Share and Like buttons?
I was really interested to learn the experience of sharing from the Buffer blog. It was not at all what I expected and a bit of a challenge to get it all working perfectly. In the end, changing the way I go about creating my images and being purposeful with how we set up our share buttons were big improvements for the shareability of our blog posts.
Feel free to share this post to see some of the changes in action!
Which of these tips might you try out on your content? Have you been using Open Graph tags for your blogposts and Web pages? I’d be keen to hear your experience in the comments!
Joe Hyrkin is the CEO of Issuu, the world’s fastest growing digital publishing platform.
The rumors of the publishing industry’s death have been greatly exaggerated. Long-form content is experiencing a resurgence thanks to new technologies that create new monetization opportunities for the publishers.
The ongoing and recently resurfaced, “Amazon versus the publishing industry” debate coupled with the recent news of Time Inc. going public seemly highlighted one thing: the publishing industry is dying. Common belief is that consumers prefer shiny screens to glossy magazines, tweets to tomes and publishers don’t understand how to embrace new technology to meet new consumer demands, both long and short.
Don’t believe the hype. That’s not the case, but the publishing industry is experiencing an evolution.
The changes in the publishing industry are being driven by two factors: one, the prevalence of new technology devices that allow us to consume more content on-the-go (like tablets, e-readers and phablets); and two, the resurgence of long-form content.
Let’s look at the bourgeoning importance of the latter. We’ve seen more and more that consumers don’t just like to nibble on content; they still enjoy full meals.
Twitter and Facebook are two massive and powerful media platforms that are enabling the discovery of long-form content. On those platforms, we often scan for news and interesting stories. But once we find an article or piece of interesting content, we dive deep into a publisher’s content, which could be from the likes of TIME, V Magazine or even a specialty surfing mag, smorgasboarder, with the best-kept surfing secrets.
So, instead of technology supplanting long-form content, consumers’ social feeds are like sample platters that offer a taste of something enticing, perhaps a short blast about a reader’s favorite surfer or a new product.
In the world of tweets, hashtags and Instagram, it’s easy to think attention spans are only shrinking and that consumers are only interested in reading the news or article summaries told in 140 characters. Instead, social is fueling long-form content discovery.
In addition to these new consumer habits, there is more evidence of the interest in long-form content. We’ve seen more digital magazines comes from the media companies themselves.
Earlier this year Yahoo launched Yahoo Digital Magazine and recently announced that its food and technology magazines had already attracted more than 10 million unique visitors in the first six weeks. Google offers “Google currents,” which are magazines on phones and tablets.
Consumers already have the wherewithal to read long-form content on-the-go, right in the palms of their hands. New research indicates that three in 10 adults read an e-book last year and half own a tablet or e-reader.
The digitally driven publishing evolution is here to stay and with the changing landscape comes a new consumer expectation that long-form digital content, especially online magazines and newspapers, should be free. So, as social fuels content discovery and mobile fuels digital consumption, how do we ensure that the “p” in publishing still stands for profit?
The answer lies in the continued evolution of the publishing industry. Here are three ways that publishers can embrace the shift.
New distribution platforms allow for a more streamlined, yet larger distribution universe for content where there is less need to rely on traditional marketing infrastructure. This opens up viable options for content to be free to the readers and highly profitable to the publishers.
Free content consumption on the part of the consumer is a controversial notion (isn’t that a main ailment of the music industry?) But by embracing new technology platforms and shifting the existing industry structures, we can create new ways to monetize long-form content.
One of the appealing aspects of digital content is that it is not limited by space as with traditional magazines. There are endless numbers of ‘pages’ to explore topics, illustrated with vibrant photo galleries and linked to corresponding articles that go deeper into additional subjects of interest.
This ability to expand content can take one article and make it a multi-faceted feature story that readers can follow many trails of interest.
As technology changes the way we view the world and the way we consume content, readers expectations have changed too. There is a mass expectation of good design. A sleek and engaging design can help to retain new readers.
Leveraging responsive design, for example, is one way that publishers can cater to a reader base that expects a great experience across devices. Others take an app first approach to mobile experiences and design accordingly. Either way, the bar has been raised, and design-oriented publishers are winning.
It won’t be long until the next hurdles for the publishing industry arise and new innovations are born to conquer them. So, before declaring the industry dead, next time let’s see what’s rising up to save it.
The cynics among us believe that the Amazon Fire Phone is going to be a flop. As Matt Haughey shows us in the above image, a phone attached to a product finder sounds like a mercenary mess, aimed at improving Amazon’s life and not ours. Our own Darrell Etherington believes that the price is too high at $199 (and a wild $649 for an unlocked model). Instead, he believes that it should cost $1 and the service be nearly free. After all, this is a marketing machine instead of a general purpose mobile phone. It’s another pointy tendril that the evil Bezocthulhu can embed into our wallets.
First, I love Matt’s picture. For those not familiar, that’s the CueCat, an aborted product marketing UPC reader that magazines once thought would save them from the onslaught of the web. The company sent out the UPC readers and expected users to scan URLs in printed magazines like Wired and then go to websites (this was before humans could comprehend the complexity of the Internets). It was a flop and when hackers reverse engineered them so they could scan the UPC codes on wine bottles and books, CueCat tried to sue.
But this is no CueCat. Amazon knows we can all type google.com into our browsers and find products and services in a second. What they want is for you to not type in Google and instead wave your phone at your TV to buy a download of an episode of House.
Amazon is a marauding army that is about to eat most retail. Bricks and mortar stores will become havens of last resort for those who need Red Vines at a moment’s notice and grocery stores aren’t going away, but everything else that can be shipped will be shipped by Amazon. With further economies of scale and sped up shipping times I could imagine a moment when almost all of our non-perishable sundries come from Amazon.
And this phone is part of that future. It’s not for us nerds. We want a phone that can run a terminal emulator and Dragon’s Lair. We want something we can hax0r with a janky home-brew operating system or a phone that anticipates our every need in terms of music and media. What Amazon made is a phone that lets Amazon shoppers excel at what they do best – shop on Amazon.
If you do not see the value in the phone, it’s because you’re not a regular clicker of “Buy It Now.” This strange retail power, available to mere mortals for only a few years now, has changed the way humans buy hot sauce. Why go to the store, park, walk in, buy hot sauce, drive home, drink hot sauce when you can order a case of twelve bottles of Cholula for immediate delivery. It’s like Costco without the people handing out free sausage.
I feel that the naysayers are tut-tutting at the behavior suggested by an Amazon Fire Phone. What kind of capitalist brainwashed moron would want a phone that works solely within a certain ecosystem, has very specific media sources available by default, and encourages you to buy within a certain range of products if you want everything to work together and want to ensure fast, friendly service? Ahem. Ahem.
TextTeaser, the text summarization API that TechCrunch first profiled back in October 2013, is now open source and available on GitHub. Creator Jolo Balbin says that he decided to make the code available after “stumbling upon some scalability issues, especially in the API.”
So he took down the API and recoded TextTeaser to make its auto-summarization process faster. Developers can chose from two plans, including one that costs $12 for every 1,000 articles summarized. The second is an enterprise plan that costs $250 per month and comes with a dedicated server that can store article source. That means each time someone uses the tool to summarize an article, TextTeaser will learn the keywords in the text and use it to improve its results.
“In this TextTeaser, you can train your own summarizer. You can provide the category and source of the article that will be used to improve the quality of the summaries. In the future, users might also have the ability to provide what keyword is important and what is not,” Balbin explains.
Developers have integrated TextTeaser with news reader apps, including Gist. Balbin is also planning to optimize it for financial, medical, and legal documents, which are often very long and onerous to read.