July 29, 2014 Last Updated 1:17 pm

App updates: music services Beats and Spotify rush to add features as battle wages for ears

Time Inc. and Rogers Publishing update apps for major magazine brands; 120 Sports adds AirPlay support

The world of music, still recovering from the move from physical media to digital downloads, now is dealing with the move to streaming. Sales inside iTunes, which just a few years ago was blamed for the decline in CD sales, is now declining as well as consumer move to streaming services.

Not surprisingly, the services are having a bit on an arms war inside the various app stores as they update their apps to add in new features to lure subscribers.

Beats-iPhone5-W-lgAt this time of year, two months before the next release of iOS, most app updates are about working out the last bugs found in apps. But the streaming music apps are duking it out right now and eager to show their app is the one you want.

The Spotify Music app update issued adds an equalizer to the app, found in Settings. It also has redesigned the artist pages. (The app description also features a very minor joke about Lionel Messi, which would have been mildly funny a few weeks ago when the app was being worked on, and the World Cup was still being played, but today just seems odd.)

Beats Music, which for some reason still thinks Mother’s Day is coming soon, has made some changes to its settings which allows for changing the music selections suggested to customers. It also added a feature called Sentence History that brings up your most recently played music (“Recents”, in other words).

Like most services, it is now a race to the bottom: now can offer the most selection, and at the lowest price. The differentiator here will not be the app, as developers can endlessly update their app to make sure they have the features most wanted from users, it will be selection and price. That means lower prices, less money for labels and artists.

This was the point I was trying to make regarding magazine subscription services: the growth of unlimited (streaming, if you will) subscription services will mean lower revenue for publishers. The services will have to add titles to lure readers, but will not be able to raise prices to compensate.

Meanwhile, week after week, newspapers report on their local libraries adding digital magazines and audiobook services. These services are offered by Recorded Books, which works with the Zinio service.

The latest library system to add digital magazines is in North Carolina, the Richmond County libraries.

“There are all kinds of magazines people will enjoy, and they can be downloaded from anywhere onto your iPad or other device” Bobbie Grooms, director of the Richmond County Library System, told The Richmond County Daily Journal. “We have more than 90 so far, all paid for by Sandhills Regional Library System.”

“All you need is a library card in good standing,” Grooms said. “We’re always available for people who have trouble downloading titles at home, or for people to bring devices in. We teach them how to set those up. We’re going to be starting up our computer classes again around the first of September, too.”

seo_cw_productAmong magazine publisher updates, most today are for bug fixes.

Rogers Publishing has updated its Apple Newsstand app for Maclean’s Magazineto add improved graphics and performance. Time Inc., which recently updated its app for FORTUNE Magazine, has issued a bug fix update for MONEY Magazine today.

The Time Inc. magazine apps remain featured inside the Apple Newsstand. It will be interesting to see if the promotion of the titles ends at the end of the month.

Unlike magazines, which publish their rates publicly inside their media kits, Apple does not publicly reveal the price one would need to pay to receive such preferential treatment inside their store. In fact, they do not even acknowledge that they have such programs, though they are obvious.

The rather odd sports app, 120 Sports, has received an update to add in AirPlay support.

The app is the sport equivalent of news apps such as NowThis and Newsy in that if offers short video news clips. The start-up has the support of the major sports leagues, and so has access to valuable sports highlights.

But at the center of the app is the concept that consumers want to watch a group of young, rather colorless guys sitting around discussing sports – the sort of thing one might expect in a dorm room (but without the bong in the middle of the room – or am I aging myself here?).

User reviews remain very positive, though I will admit that I deleted the app pretty quickly after mumbling “really?”

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