These stats don’t surprise, but just confirm:
[…] one clear trend is the difference in the reading patterns on the iPhone vs. the iPad. On any given week, Pulse users on smartphones open the app twice as often as people on the tablet version. But all told, tablet users spend more time on Pulse, and their sessions are twice as long as those of iPhone users. What’s also interesting is that in some cases one platform feeds into another: “If you look at usage patterns, [users] will come in small bursts to look at news, and if they like it — long-form articles or something from The Economist — they’ll save them and read them on other devices,” he said.
So in a typical day a Pulse reader may drop in more than 3 times to check the news, but only spend 5-10 minutes scanning, Kothari said. From what they’re seeing, a good chunk of Pulse’s audience falls somewhere into this category of heavy-ish users who subscribe to multiple sources, as opposed to those who scan stories and headlines on Pulse with less frequency.
It probably shouldn’t be a surprise that Pulse tracks with patterns we’ve been seeing emerge in the ways people read on new devices. In terms of the iPad, Pulse seems to mirror similar evidence we’ve seen suggesting that people look for a comfy spot to do serious reading on their tablets. “The consumption pattern on the tablet is slightly different, spending longer time,” Kothari said. “The use-case is kind of like sitting in home, maybe lounging with the iPad and consuming lots of time and news stories.”
Another trend they saw was an increase in delayed reading. Not long after launching, it became clear readers were using Pulse to dip into and out of the day’s news and emailing stories to themselves. “We realized that a good majority of people want something to save (stories) and go back to it later, simple functionality to save from Pulse and synch with other devices,” he said. (They’ve since added Instapaper and Read It Later buttons.)
I do find the place-shifted reading interesting. It’s not just about time-shifting.
Flipboard burst on the scene this week like a Rodriguez movie trailer, or a new diet drug, and everyone rushed to download (following Scoble’s recommendation). Now that the dust has settled, and the controversy about Flipboard being unready to handle the surge of signups has started to abate, some larger issues are starting to arise from Flipboard’s modus vivendi:
Joel Johnson, Is Flipboard Legal?
Social news app Flipboard was yesterday’s hot new app, despite—or perhaps because of—technical problems that prevented some features from working. But there might be a bigger snag: Is Flipboard scraping content it doesn’t have the rights to?
Flipboard, the new iPad app that renders links from your Twitter feed and favorite sites in a beautiful, magazine-style layout, has a problem: it scrapes websites directly rather than using public RSS feeds, opening it to claims of copyright infringement.
Unlike some similar news apps like Pulse, Flipboard appears to eschew the older syndication standby RSS to instead grab URLs from Twitter and Facebook feeds. While news sources that maintain their own automatic Twitter feeds tend to link the same stories as they do in their RSS feeds, there’s one critical difference: RSS also allows content to be included in the feed, whereas Twitter provides only the URLs that link back to the full website. (Unless, of course, the site only writes 140 character news stories.)
Back in the ancient days of the mid-aughts, there was a healthy debate online about whether or not news outlets should provide full content feeds or simply headlines and excerpts. Rather than rehash that debate—one that’s still ongoing—just remember this: whether a company chose to publish “full feeds” or excerpts, the choice remained theirs.
The fact that publishers have some explicit means of controlling the use of their published materials through RSS (as well as devices like the robot.txt files used to control indexing by search engine robots) has not actually always provided strong enough controls for publishers. Said differently, publisher have still blocked or threatened services like Pulse and Flipboard even when they are only serving up what has been published in their RSS feeds. Murdoch has made the case that search engines ‘bots don’t have the right to index his sites even when robot.txt files indicate that those sites are open for indexing.
This suggests the need for some other mechanism to define what sort of reuse or aggregation rights that publishers care to allow. Creative Commons suggests an example, but it is likely to be considered too coarsely grained, and it doesn’t delve deeply enough into the nuts and bolts of actual reuse.
The rise of tools like Flipboard may represent a new day. Tools that intentionally sidestep RSS, and instead reach through the URL and spider the websites themselves, like search engines do. Search engines build indexes and return snippets clipped from the myriad sites they have visited based on the search queries users enter. But Flipboard is tapping into our social networks — like those that I follow on Twitter — by reaching through the URLs in the Twitter stream, and aggregating what they point to, and rendering it in a magazine-like UX.
But the presentation in Flipboard poses some real business problems. Where’s the ads? Publishers make their money on ads (and pay walls), and so they are going to start to howl if people are viewing their stories with all the ads parsed out.
Perhaps even more contentious will be the response of Facebook and other social services like Twitter. To the extent that Flipboard replaces their UX, they may lose revenue as well. Twitter recently has moved into the realm of building its own clients and does so with the explicit goal of making ad revenue. These social network giants could block access to Flipboard and other tools of this sort, simply because they will resist being treated as a dumb pipe of social messages. Facebook will certainly move aggressively if Flipboard ‘dumbs down’ what Facebook does for users, treating it just as a messaging bus with URLs, pictures, and social gestures embedded in it.
It is relatively simple to extrapolate to a near future in which Flipboard, or some other entrant with similar aspirations, has ginned up a superior user experience, one that involves its own layers of sociality. Imagine that Flipboard can offer its users greater benefits by communicating directly through Flipboard, and not through underlying services like Twitter or Facebook — for example, being able to share Tumblr like reblog capabilities, or some other dimension of sociality that naturally falls out of the iPad experience.
I am certain that Twitter and Facebook would consider this course of events — however hypothetical — with some alarm.I believe that these companies must retain control of their user experience, and they must resist being commoditized by a richer layer of sociality superimposed above their offerings.
Kara Swisher reports that gee-whiz iPad app Pulse has been yanked after very public praise yesterday at the Apple developer conference might be a tempest in a teacup. Perhaps — as many suggest — senior NY Times execs don’t know that Pulse is ‘just’ an RSS reader. Or is this step one in a way against RSS?
Mike Masnick probes at the edges of this:
I’m guessing their concern is with the fact that the RSS reader is a paid app. This likely this goes back to an issue I raised more than five years ago, about companies who were putting “non-commercial” licenses on their RSS feed. How do you determine what’s “non-commercial” in RSS? If I use that RSS feed as a part of my job, is that commercial? If I use it in a fee-based app, is that commercial? Either way, it’s hard to see how this is really commercial use in any way. Yes, the RSS app is a fee-based app, but it’s not “selling” the NY Times’ content. It’s just letting anyone access the free content that the NY Times put out for just this purpose. It’s selling the software. In the same way Dell or HP or whoever sells a computer and lets people “access” the NY Times website.
I don’t think this is about RSS, per se. It’s about the general trend into the web of flow away from the web of pages. And the Times and other media giants will resist this.
The web of flow that is emerging — based on RSS originally, but now the social web — turns pages into URL handles: not for navigation but for fetching. Instead of playing nice, and clicking on links to visit the hosting site, the flow will suck up the content at the end of a URL and pull it into a the stream. So instead of seeing a NY Times story on their site, the Twitter client or Pulse reader will display the piece in context.
The media want people to travel to their old web of pages — that they spend some much time editing, organizing, and curating — so that they can make money on ads (oh, and maybe people will look at other pages too).
The answer to this won’t be to block the inexorable web of flow from happening. The answer is to put flow ads into the posts being served up in the flow apps. Instead of fighting with Pulse the NY Times ought to be figuring out a way to build micro ads into the RSS that Pulse is using, or the shortened URLs that everyone uses in the microstream.
As just one approach, a shortened URL could be associated with not only a piece of content — the news story on /Message or the NY Times — but also with a micro ad, which could be rendered by readers or flow apps, like Tweetie running on my desktop or my iPhone, or in Pulse on the iPad. The responsiblity of Pulse and Tweetie would be to display the micro ad if and when the story is expanded in place. If the user just clicks through, no problems.
Pulse makes me want to buy an iPad.