July 9, 2014 Last Updated 8:11 am

HarperCollins relaunches website, begins direct sales; music streaming services step up app enhancements

Morning Brief: NYT updates both iOS apps, adding more push notification categories, ‘In Case You Missed It’ section

Magazine publishers who have begun launching digital editions are often faced with the dilemma of which platforms to develop for, often choosing to support as many as possible in order to reach as many readers as possible. They also sell direct, of course.

HC-newsite-featureBook publishers, on the other hand, have generally sold their print products exclusively through booksellers – whether those are independent stores, or giant online retailers like Amazon.com.

But the battles with Amazon, and the dwindling number of independent stores, may be convincing major publishers to concentrate more on direct sales. HarperCollins, one the world’s largest publishers, yesterday unveiled a new website designed to do just that.

“We are excited to be able to offer an e-commerce solution to our authors, ensuring their books are always available to their fans,” said Chantal Restivo-Alessi, Chief Digital Officer, in the company’s announcement for the site. “As a publisher, we want to offer as many paths to the consumer as possible.”

The site offers discounts, just as one would find on Amazon.com, but that few would find in brick and mortar stores. That means that already weakened indy stores face yet more competition for sales.

The move to direct web sales is really about supporting authors, of course, many of whom have not been happy with the move by Amazon to delay shipments of their books, and their publishers continued inability to end the stalemate with the online retailer. But what both authors and publishers will soon learn is that to become a retailer will mean having to increase marketing to consumers to inform them of the new sales outlet – this could prove an opening to magazine and newspaper publishers to sell advertising in support of any new sales channels.


NYT-update-iPadThe New York Times today updated its two main iOS apps. The update adds a new ‘In Case You Missed It’ section to the iPad app, a curated collection of stories meant to be a quick review of the latest news.

The apps also add more push notification alters, introducing new categories readers can choose: usiness, Politics, Sports and New York City.

Readers are quickly learning, though, that they have to manage carefully their notifications as many are beginning to complain of receiving far too many alerts. Most apps, such as these from the NYT, allow readers to manage their alerts, though others only offer two choices – on and off.

Many iOS device owners have opted to have their updates delivered automatically, thus eliminating one reason for frequent syncs. This move has meant that many device owners no longer see the details of the latest updates they receive.

One result is that many developers are no longer providing details concerning what the latest update is about, simply writing “bug fixes” or similar short messages. NPR has taken this one step further by using the app description to add a promotional message rather than any real information about the update.

Today’s update for NPR News, for instance, says the following:

NPR brings you great story telling and rigorous reporting. Download the NPR iPhone and iPod Touch App to access these stories in addition to your local station streams and podcasts. Thank you for supporting public radio.

This is not a trend I want to continue to see grow!

rdio-iPhone-featureThe streaming music app space is getting crowded, more competitive. With the major platform owners like Apple making acquisitions of streaming services such as Beats, those remaining in the space are being pushed to differentiate their services from the rest. This is why we are starting to see more updates as these services attempt to improve their apps.

Both the Rdio and Spotify Music apps were updated today. In the past, frequent updates were only about bug fixes, now they are about better artist pages, added features, etc.

This is great for users, of course, but there is bound to be a shake-out in the category as some services struggle to attract listeners as users move to services now owned by Apple, Google or Amazon.

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