January 5, 2017 Last Updated 8:39 am

WaPo says NYT apps may have been pulled by Apple due to ‘potentially embarrassing story’

Morning Brief: Meanwhile, publishing brands also face enemies from within – including some managers and journalists sure they know the answer to the industry’s problems

The New Year is here and already my blood had been boiling over events in the publishing industry. We’re under attack, from both forces outside the industry, as well as inside.

It is hard to do business when one knows that a publication’s fate could be determined by a large, often anonymous group of people – like App Store managers – who could, at a moment’s notice, decide to pull your apps. This, of course, is what Apple has done to The New York Times apps in China – and in true Orwellian fashion, has not provided the company an explanation other than some vague notice that the apps “in violation of local regulations” – whatever the hell that means.

But our industry is under attack from within, as well. Media executives with little experience in either managing staff, or setting media strategy, find themselves running media companies. Often they are without a clue as to how their products run, and are prone to panic attacks each quarter, leading to the inevitable staff layoffs. (You will find these folks, by the way, being prominently featured at industry events – yet another reason to avoid these gimmicky, all-too-frequent, events at all costs.)

But we’re also equally under attack from some journalists, who for some reason think they are revenue geniuses, despite having never sold an ad or subscription in their entire careers.

They hear that Medium has given up on ad sales and immediately conclude that the ad model is dead for publishing – apparently completely unaware that Medium wasn’t selling display advertising but native advertising – that editorial decaying crap that is complicated to sell, and destroys a publishing brand’s editorial integrity – but is, for some reason, preferred by journalists. Medium called it “Promoted Stories” which should be a clue that we weren’t talking about the kind of advertising that is leaving publishing and moving to Google and Facebook.

If you’ve never sold an ad, never sold a subscription, why do you think you are qualified to comment on revenue generation? Because you sit in the same building as those that do? Should ad sales people be moved to the newsroom, because they have worked near those with “J” degrees?

NY Post, Keith Kelly:

Time Inc. pushes workers to sell out colleagues

Time Inc. is looking for a few good rats…

…Insiders at the giant publisher were surprised in recent days to see posters in their offices exhorting staffers to turn in colleagues they suspected of fraud, bribery or harassment.

At least one of the posters featured words in a handwriting font that asked employees to be on the lookout for colleagues padding their expense reports…

…Media Ink called the hotline and was told via a recorded announcement that the service was outsourced to a third party firm, Navex Global, which promises it will protect your identify if you want to squeal on colleagues.

Quartz, Sarah Kessler:

Gannett welcomed its employees back from the holidays in the worst way possible

When employees at Gannett, the newspaper publisher that owns USA Today, returned to work after the New Year holiday this week, some of them were greeted by emails that implied they had been fired.
The mistakenly sent emails noted that their recipients—who had neither quit nor been fired—would “be leaving the company in the near future” and requested they fill out exit surveys.

The Digital Reader, Nate Hoffelder:

On Moving a Blog to Medium

I won’t be moving this blog to Medium…

…As Medium’s help pages make clear, they’re talking about native advertising on my site, not elsewhere on Medium. And that, along with memberships/subscriptions, are the only revenues streams from Medium. (I might also collect affiliate fees or sell stuff, but that would be between me and some third party.)

Basically Medium wants me to publish my content on their platform for free. They’re not going to pay me anything for my work, but will instead pay me based on my ability to con my readers into opening an ad.

There’s a fundamental flaw in that model; it offers no incentive to create better content but instead encourages publishers to trick you into viewing an advert. (Yes, the membership/subscription encourages publishers to build a loyal audience but I don’t need Medium to run memberships for me; I am doing it on my own.)

And to make matters worse, publishers on Medium are all competing to drive you to the same native advertising. That is a finite resource which is limited by the number of copywriters working for ad agencies.

If there is any truth to this story, I think Apple is about to face a major backlash that could have serious consequences. Did Apple pull the NYT’s apps due to pressure from China, or is it more complicated than that? Did they, in fact, willingly pull the apps, as punishment for an upcoming story?

Many years ago, when discussing the desire of construction equipment companies to move to China, I heard from a businessman who said “the key to understanding doing business in China is that whatever business you do there becomes the government’s business, and you will be stuck.” Apple is stuck in China, with much of its manufacturing there, and it is stuck.

As this Post story puts it “California’s Internet companies may have once dreamed of liberating China through technology, but these days they seem more willing than ever to play the Communist Party’s game; case in point, news that Facebook is developing a censorship tool that many interpreted as an attempt to get its service unblocked here.”

The Washington Post, Simon Denyer:

Questions raised about Apple’s motives for pulling New York Times app from China

Apple has removed the New York Times app from its digital store in China, acting on what it says were orders from the Chinese government.

But the fact that the move was made on the same day a New York Times reporter contacted Apple about a potentially embarrassing story for the California-based company — as well as the fact that other international news apps were unaffected — has raised doubts about the precise motives behind the action…

…The Times said the app had been removed from Apple stores on Dec. 23, apparently under regulations issued last June preventing mobile apps from engaging in activities that endanger national security or disrupt social order.

But that was the same day that New York Times reporter, David Barboza, first contacted Apple for comment on a story about billions of dollars in hidden perks and subsidies the Chinese government provides to the world’s largest iPhone factory, run by Apple’s partner Foxconn. That story went online on Dec. 29.

I think business journalists have finally learned to be leery of those early holiday sales reports. Each year we hear that ‘early reports’ are that holiday sales were at record levels, only to find that the story was often more complicated than that. This year should have been a good one, with the economy doing better, consumer confidence at a high level, and unemployment at its lowest level since the Great Recession. But alas, many retailers are reporting miserable sales – though, not surprisingly, Amazon reported record sales.

The New York Times, Christopher Mele:

Macy’s Will Cut 10,000 Jobs After Poor Holiday Sales

Struggling with sagging sales over another crucial holiday shopping season, Macy’s announced on Wednesday that it was eliminating more than 10,000 jobs as part of a continuing plan to cut costs and close 100 stores.

Macy’s, the country’s largest department store chain, said sales at its stores had fallen 2.1 percent in November and December compared with the same period in 2015. Terry J. Lundgren, the company’s chairman and chief executive, said in a statement that while the trend was “consistent with the lower end of our guidance, we had anticipated sales would be stronger.”

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