March 7, 2017 Last Updated 11:07 am

Time Inc. board weighs first bids from suitors; TRVL app update adds iPhone support

Other media app updates: Major update for PressReader, bug fix updates for The Washington Post and Netflix, while Periscope’s update now allows user to create closed groups where only creator can add or remove members

When you get to be my age you tend to look at current events and try to compare them to times in your past. Has the publishing industry ever been this moribund? has politics been this divisive and corrosive?

Unfortunately, I would have to say “Yes”. The mid to late seventies were not exactly fun times. Nixon got reelected, in a landslide no less, and still was out of office before his term was up – a sign that the choices of the American people don’t always make sense.

The publishing industry, too, had serious issues. The Chicago Daily News closed in 1978, and for journalists in the Midwest it was a disaster, and one big reason I chose to head to the West Coast after graduating. There were simply no jobs – either in publishing, or even in things such as auto manufacturing. Roger & Me, Michael Moore’s first film, might have come out in 1989, but it was really about the layoffs that hit the his hometown of Flint, Michigan between 1978 and 1982. In those years there were no new auto jobs for guys coming into the job market. In my home state the joke was “last man to leave Michigan please turn out the lights.”

These are weird times, and so it might be good to remember that things did get better. In fact, when I was an ad manager in the newspaper business in the late eighties to early nineties things couldn’t have been better. When I moved to B2B publishing in the mid-to late nineties things were at an all-time high. Journalists were even being offered stock options to come over to start-up digital media companies.

Media reporters are struggling these days to grab the attention of readers, who really cares what is going on at such-and-such magazine when every day is a new revelation in the world of politics?

But today Time Inc.’s board is meeting to evaluate bids for the company. Meredith is once again one of the media companies mentioned, as well as an investor group led by Edgar Bronfman Jr.

I have no inside information, but there are some things that seem obvious. First, these bids have to be preliminary in nature. If Time Inc. had been very, very serious about finding a buyer it would have announced that it had hired a banker and had created a black book. What bidders are going on with their bids is what is public knowledge.

And what is that public knowledge: well, first off, the company is not barely profitable, so assembling a bid based on net income or operating income really won’t work. One based one revenue, though, makes some sense.

Time Inc. bought in just over $3 billion last year. Its stock market value of about $1.8 billion. That actually makes it a good takeover target, assuming the financing can be lined up.

So, finally, there are two questions that may be answered today: is there a company willing to look at this and “over pay” what the stock value is? and can the money be lined up?

There were a number of media app updates released in the past 24 hours. One of them is for our old friends at TRVL.

If you recall, TRVL was one of the first digital magazines to become popular, debuting for the iPad way back in the neolithic days of the iPad (in other words, September 2010).

It went through a few big changes tied to its digital publishing platform, and when Apple acquired the team behind the platform the app stopped being updated. But those co-founders of TRVL have since left Apple and the app was relaunched late last year.

TRVL is still a digital magazine, but the company now has a new mission: it is now a peer-to-peer travel booking platform.

“A lot of the business models are pretty much dead, like paid content, unless you create a niche newsletter. But for most publications, straight content is just not going to do it, it’s not going to work,” Jochem Wijnands told TNM in December.

“I started looking at TRVL, assuming all these people are active travelers, and if inspiration is their first step, then what is their next step?” Wijnands said. “The Internet is great, everything you want is there. I can’t imagine anything not being there,” Wijnands said. “But it is also where the problem lies. There is so much that it is hard to know where to start.”

“It takes too much time, too much choice.”

Now, as a peer-to-peer travel booking platform, TRVL is designed to take advantage of the leads that come in from readers/users, and their local expertise. So, the content TRVL continues to create will be all about providing more research material for travelers.

The most recent update takes the app up to version 4.0.3 and for the first time (I thought they had already done this) adds in iPhone support.

Other media app updates:

NYT VR: The papers’s virtual reality app fixes a bug that was impacting video playback.

PressReader: the app that used to be known (a while ago) as NewspaperDirect, has issued a major update, bringing the app up to version 5.0. It’s a big one so here is the full app description:

What’s New in Version 5.0
It’s #timetoshine! PressReader has a new look and a whole new attitude. We’ve completely rebuilt the app experience for iPhones, and added a ton of new features for tablet readers. Here’re the best bits:DESIGN
— Always know when you’ve successfully connected to a HotSpot. The green teacup will tell you when your magazine and newspaper downloads are being sponsored by one of our partners.
—We’ve lightened the app color scheme in keeping with our refreshed brand, and updated our logo and app icon.
— On iPhone, you can easily read entire issues. Swipe right on article snippets to pop them open and swipe back again when you’re done.
— Hide and seek is fun, but not when you’re looking for something. You’ll find the menu always on the left side on your iPad, and at the lower edge of the screen on iPhone.

— Look up unfamiliar words and phrases by highlighting them and tapping “Look Up”. This will return relevant dictionary, Wikipedia, website or maps results. (“Look Up” was one of our most popular feature requests — thanks for voting!)
— Skip the sign in process when you share articles using any of the apps you already have installed.
— Set the size of the type that you’re reading with our new text control.
— New users can save articles (without being signed in) to read or share later.
— Add multiple images to your comments after registering for a free account.
— Change from the printed view to a text view using the menu at the bottom of the screen.

— We’ve added a confirmation message for single issue payments after a HotSpot connection. This will avoid any confusion if one HotSpot has expired, and you haven’t picked up a new one yet.
— The titles shown in the catalog will be in your chosen language (because that makes good sense).
— We’ve added a ‘Forgot Password?’ process to the app on iPhones.
— The account page has a back button once again. It had disappeared for readers using split screen.
— We’ve fixed the way that articles are saved to note-taking apps. Now they’ll include every piece of the article when it’s continued on multiple pages.
— The Publications page has been updated to handle a much faster scroll of the cover thumbnails.

Of the others, most are bug fix updates: Hyper (the video app – and by the way, it has a really nice looking app page in iTunes), Netflix, and The Washington Post (the newer app, designed first for Amazon’s Fire phone).

Also: Periscope has now made it possible to create closed groups where only the creator of the group can add members (good idea).

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