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SimpleFeed Screencast – RSS Reading in Windows 8

November 13, 2012

Today we look at RSS Feeds in Windows 8. We review two new “Live Tiles” apps, FeedReaders and Bento. We also look at RSS subscription in IE for the Windows 8 desktop and the common feedlist.

SimpleFeed Screencast – Understanding Content Syndication

November 8, 2012

In our inaugral YouTube Video we explain Content Syndication to web sites using RSS Feeds.

New Apple Podcast App – Time to Get Podcasting!

June 27, 2012

Like so much “dead” Web 2.0 technology Podcasting has quietly grown into a very successful medium. Bottom line is people listen to podcasts while commuting, exercising or just sitting at their desks. At SimpleFeed our customers routinely see downloads in the tens of thousands. That is nothing if you are CBS, but if you are a B-B marketer or niche retailer, that is great! And it is poised to get better.

 

Over the last five years, Apple rode its iPod/Phone/Pad hardware and iTunes media synergies to podcast distribution dominance. With the growth of other categories in iTunes, it is hard to find the Podcast section and once there, challenging to search, discover and subscribe.

 

That ends today with Apple breaking out Podcasting into its own iPhone/iPad App, called, Podcasts. After install you are greeted with two sections, “Podcasts” where any existing subscriptions reside and “Top Stations.”

Under the Top Stations section, users can quickly flip through sections to discover, listen and subscribe to new podcasts. New audio controls include the ability to skip back 10 seconds or move forward 30 ala DirecTV. In the upper right is a “Catalog” button which takes you back to the iTunes Podcast interface. Subscriptions are synced back to iTunes.

Off the Podcast tab click an icon for a subscribed podcast and you are taken to a smaller version of the familiar iTunes Podcast “Artist Page.” Here you can listen to podcasts instantly. Apple also add the ability to Tweet, iMessage or Email the Podcast as you listen.  That is a nice feature which should make Podcasts more social and increase the virality of podcasting.

 

 

 

So if you have a podcasting program it is about to get better. If you never had a program think about publishing the sessions from your customer conference if you are a B-B company. If you are a B-C company public appearances, sponsorships, and really any audio product information is great. It is a cheap and effective way to market your offerings and it is about to get a big boost.

iPad for Marketing app review – StreamGlider

March 6, 2012

After an off-again/on-again rollout, the StreamGlider app is back on the market. Featuring a free, standard version as well as an ad-free pro version, it’s one of the latest entrants in the pantheon of news-and-social-media aggregators.  How does it stack up against other go-to apps, such as Flipboard, Livestand, and Pulse?

The app opens to a clean matrix of images and headlines panning from left to right. Streams are stacked vertically down the page like filmstrips.  Each stream is a different category – news, sports, tech, images – and each frame in the filmstrip is a feed.

Customizing streams and feeds is easy with intuitive, tap-to-add navigation. If the feed a user wants to add is featured on the landing pane, then they’re in luck – with a tap it appears in their stream. However, as the list of featured content providers is only about eight advertisers long, most likely users will need to browse for content at some point.

And this is where the app stumbles. While the app includes standard browsing buckets, several buckets don’t have many feeds from which to choose. If feeds readers wants are not on the list, they’ll need to do a search. But if their feed doesn’t advertise with StreamGlider, it won’t show up in a search.  I tried all sorts of feed names and URLs, well known and obscure, and not one of them came up lucky.  Even a search of “baseball” – an active topic with spring training around the corner – yielded nothing. 

A similar mismatch occurs with StreamGlider’s social media sync. During start-up of both standard and pro versions, the app offers to sync with Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, and YouTube accounts. Though it goes through the process of login/password, it doesn’t automatically pass the content through to a stream. Readers can manually add content from social media accounts, such as activity on Facebook. And while StreamGlider streams updates, it won’t prowl for news and information based on social media preferences or patterns.

Social media streams notwithstanding, users ought to wonder: If StreamGlider limits content to that of featured advertisers, will browsers find the app relevant?

It could be that StreamGlider wants to be a slick, customizable transport vehicle, rather than an aggregator. According to the website, interested parties can distribute private-labeled or co-branded content via StreamGlider to closed audiences. This model could be interesting for companies looking for a sure-fire way to reach customers or prospects who opt in to get tailored relevant content, such as a private-labeled corporate news magazine. But whether the app has real value for both consumers and publishers will depend on how well it’s able to marry the right content with the right audience.

The Overall Verdict

For users: C. The interface is well designed and easy to navigate, but the app’s relevance really depends on whether a user’s interests align with the featured advertisers.

For publishers: C. It’s disappointing that StreamGlider apparently only picks up feeds from advertisers. However, StreamGlider as a private-label distribution mechanism (where independent parties use the StreamGlider front-end to deliver content) resolves the relevance gap for both users and publishers. That’s A-range territory.

iPad for Marketing App Review: Google Currents

January 10, 2012

After much anticipation and speculation, Google has finally released Currents—its mobile newsreader. Designed to distribute content via tablet and mobile devices, it fulfills its mission in Google’s typical understated, yet powerful way.

Readers sign in with their Google account credentials and Currents opens to a clean palette of Library icons along with all the reader’s Google Reader content.  Information flows seamlessly across Google’s applications, so readers don’t waste time doing repetitive setup.

Adding subscriptions to the library is easy. Readers can search through a host of categories or by publication or RSS feed. Toggle to the Trending plate to view headlines and Library content along with a gallery of half-page images from each headline. Readers can watch the entire rotation or dive into an article.

A serious flaw: even though readers can sync with social media sites such as Facebook, Currents doesn’t use social media settings or activities to tailor content. And compared to Flipboard–which lets users browse their Facebook news in a visually rich, compelling way–Currents’ presentation of social media content falls flat.

If you’re a marketer, though, there’s a lot to like about Currents. Publishers are well supported through the Producer portal. Nearly anyone can quickly and easily set up digital content to flow to both Android and iOS platforms. You can design for tablets or phones and view how content will render across devices, and tie together content for a uniform deployment. It’s a big win for both large and small publishers.

As a content reader, Currents excels. But like so many straight-A students, Currents lacks depth outside its single focus. It doesn’t surprise or delight with unexpected but relevant content. It doesn’t woo with social media that could captivate readers to linger. And for that reason, Currents may not appeal to audiences hungry for the entertainment so effortlessly delivered by Flipboard and its peers.

The Final Verdict

The reader experience: B. Stellar functionality, beautiful rendering, clean and effortless navigation. A fantastic news reader; but at the end of the day, it’s just that: a news reader. Lacks the pep and verve of a full-life-view reader.

The publisher experience: A. If your publication or feed is out there, it’s easy for users to find it. And self-publishing digital content is easy and seamless across Android and iOS platforms.

iPad for Marketing App review – Yahoo! Livestand

November 16, 2011

Like so many others, I expected Yahoo!’s new Livestand iPad app to give Flipboard and the other personalized magazine and news apps a run for their money. And, Livestand entered the race with every conceivable advantage. Yahoo’s MyYahoo! property is the world’s most popular personalized information portal and RSS reader. And as the web leader in sports and finance, Yahoo has a vast, popular store of original and syndicated content. Yet, sadly, Livestand falls short.

It’s not all bad. The fit and finish are crisp. Yahoo! obviously exploited the talents of a truly pro team of graphic designers. The layout is clean, open, and airy, and the graphics are fresh and interactive. The display is split horizontally to accommodate a half-pane, swipe-to-browse visual menu. There’s very little verbal clutter – just topical pictures to browse.

Users can log in either using Yahoo! or Facebook accounts. I’ve been a Yahoo! user long enough that there’s lots of personal fodder on my MyYahoo! page: sports teams, weather, news groups, favorite modules.  So I expected the personalization to be pretty good. I was disappointed by the content Livestand thought I’d like. Sports and parenting? Yes. But motor cyclist? Not even close.

Users can manually tune the personalization by adding subscriptions to blogs and magazines. Livestand presents a list of categories, including arts and culture, sports, news, and politics. Within each category, Livestand offers a choice of blogs and magazines. Choose a magazine and it’s stored in My Library. Choose a blog and it’s stored in the Personal Mix. It’s not clear why Yahoo! decided to split content this way.

Disappointingly, I not only had to manually tune my interests, but the basics as well. Since I logged in via My Yahoo!, I thought Livestand would at least know my location for things like weather. Not so. The app offered to grab a forecast based on the location fed from my iPad. When I declined, it didn’t display my default location but instead panned through various locations nationwide.

Publishers should note that Livestand has no information on getting your digital content to the app. Your customers can’t even add your RSS feed. Livestand seems to rely solely on the subscriptions users add to their Personal Mix. If your content is featured and someone selects it, you’re one of the lucky ones. But your customers can’t keyword search for content.

For marketers interested in tablet apps, Livestand is worth a look for the advertising, as it is the first of the tablet news aggregators with ads. Our friends at Toyota are currently running an ad on Livestand for the new Prius V. The ad is visually appealing and integrated well into the Livestand content. To see the complete ad, readers simply “tap to expand.” It’s a nice use of the tablet environment. While the ad is expanded, readers can “tap to animate” to learn more about the car in a whimsical game-like environment. Unfortunately the fun (and HTML 5) ends when you click through and land on the generic Prius page on the Toyota mobile site.

   Overall, aside from having a promising ad-revenue-based business model, the app just doesn’t make sense. Livestand clearly doesn’t know a whole lot about me that I don’t tell it manually. And while it’s laid out neatly, the app really isn’t that intuitive to access or use. In short, Livestand fails to deliver on its promise.

The Final Verdict

The reader experience: C. It’s functional and pretty for users looking to browse content in pre-selected areas of interest. The depth of content is impressive. But for all that Livestand should know given its access to My Yahoo! and Facebook accounts, the apps is not really personalized.

The publisher experience: D. If your content is mainstream, it’s more likely to be picked up by Livestand. But if your content is something users have to search for, good luck.

iPad for Marketing App Review – News360°

November 2, 2011

News360° is a next-generation news app designed for a truly personalized experience. While it’s nothing new to tune an app to search and prioritize news through the “Settings” feature, News360° is one of the first  to translate social media “likes” and “dislikes” into an actionable news filter.

News360° is a next-generation news app designed for a truly personalized experience. While it’s nothing new to tune an app to search and prioritize news through the “Settings” feature, News360° is one of the first  to translate social media “likes” and “dislikes” into an actionable news filter.

Readers tap the “Settings” menu to sync News360° with social media, bookmarking, and RSS reader sites, including Facebook, Twitter, Evernote, Google Plus, Google Reader, and more. When I synced with Google Reader, News360° automatically pulled topics into the “My Interests” area for aggregation with the topics I’d already chosen within the app.

Now, privacy-patrollers alert: readers can opt-out of the social media integration at any time and create an account the “old-fashioned” way using an email address and password, then tinkering with the “My Interests” to tune feeds.

Click on a news story and up pops a headline and leading paragraph or two. Swipe down to open the actual source article. Going back and forth between app and source article is seamless, and navigation is easy.

Really cool: Readers can switch to 360° view and browse images, no words, as they scroll left and right. Tap one that’s intriguing and the article title and source appear. Choose to read more or keep scrolling other choices. If readers stop moving the screen, the scrolling restarts and automatically refreshes the image list of stories. It’s a great way to meander through stories.

Unfortunately, all the slick functionality came to a screeching halt when I tried tuning the app manually under “My Interests”. It’s easy to set up new categories, either by clicking on their palette of existing categories, such as Travel, Education, Military, Markets, MLB Baseball, etc.; or, by typing in a keyword. Problem is, sometimes choosing a category abruptly closes the app. Or choosing multiple topical areas causes the app to layer the icons one atop the other in a blurred mish-mash of text and images. And the custom feed I set up to test “healthcare” failed to populate anything but a “come back later” sign after 24 hours. I found this hard to believe, given the prevalence of healthcare reform discussions daily, so checked on the News navigation bar under “Health” and there was plenty of content. Disappointing that my preferences are slow to load, if they did at all – feels like a letdown after the promise of über-customization.

Digital marketers should note that searches are limited to keywords and topics. The searches I tried by feed URL came up with no matches. So getting to your content is a two-step dance, at least.

There is a back-door way, though, to add to “My Interests” – and it’s clean, easy to use, and worked well. Just tap the search icon and up pops a menu of topics, objects, sources and articles. Select one you like and tap “Add to    My Interests” to organize into a new or existing category.

Unfortunately, as with so many of these iPad news apps, News360° hasn’t seemed to catch on that they should be talking to publishers. There’s no publisher-focused info on the News360° website or in the app itself. What’s clear however, is that if you’re using social medial to engage customers, your content has a better chance of finding the iPad apps your customers increasingly use every day.

The Final Verdict

The reader experience:  B. It’s an intelligent concept and the navigation is slick. Once News360° gets “My Interests” to work, it’ll approach A-range quality.

The publisher experience: B+. If your feed’s out there, News360° can deliver it. But your customers may have to add your feed to Google Reader first.

iPad for Marketing App Review – Feedly

October 13, 2011

Feedly has been in the reader game for a while—and it shows. It started as a browser-extension RSS reader for Firefox, Chrome, and Safari. Now, it’s a free native iOs app (one of the few in the space) built for iPad and iPhone. There’s also a version that works on Android phones and tablets.

Feedly is simple and cleanly designed—and doesn’t leave you wanting more. It lets you quickly browse through your feeds, yet borrows some of the visual appeal of magazine-style readers. And it includes some of the personalization magic that makes readers like Zite so appealing.

While it’s powered by Google Reader, Feedly serves up cool content before you even sign into Google. It’s loaded with “essential” articles in categories that span from tech, business, and world news to cooking, do it yourself, and gardening. You can navigate content via the contents menu on the home page (aptly called My Feedly) or tap “my contents” on the bottom menu, which opens a sidebar on the right of the screen that displays all feeds and topic areas. Feedly takes advantage of iOS, letting users swipe down, for example, to mark all as read or swipe up to keep as unread. 

You can also search for additional sources by name or URL and choose between black and white themes.

Feedly syncs with Google Reader almost instanteously, faster than any other iPad reader app I’ve used. I added feeds on Google Reader and when I looked down at my iPad a second later, they were already there. That speed will probably appeal to feed-geeks who love now love Reeder (yet pay for it). Read items in Google Reader and they’re marked as read in Feedly (across all their platforms) and vice versa.

And, like Reeder, Feedly has the functionality you want in an RSS reader. It’s easy to like, save, email, Tweet, or post an article to Facebook. You can even log in with your Tumblr account to access your dashboard and read and like articles.

Despite its simplicity, Feedly doesn’t feel quite as stark as Reeder. The user experience echoes magazine-style readers like Flipboard as you swipe to navigate and you can add content independent of Google Reeder. Feedly also recommends new content with its “you might also like” suggestions. While this personalization isn’t as robust as Zite’s, it’s a cool way to discover new content.

Like so many of these reader apps, Feedly doesn’t do a great job (or any job) providing information for publishers. I could find any publisher-facing information on Feedly’s website so it’s unclear how you’d get your company onto the “essential” A list. And yet the essential categories provide the richest content—both written and visual—and the best user experience.

Publishers can enhance the reader experience (making feeds visually similar to “essential” feeds) by including images in their feeds.

For digital marketers, Feedly is yet another promising channel for reaching prospective and existing customers looking for information and news on your company—and topics related to it. Your only to-do: get your content into RSS format so that it can find its way to apps like Feedly.

The Final Verdict

The reader experience: A-. It’s clean, easy to navigate, and essential sections are beautiful.

The publisher experience: A-. Your customers should be able to read your feed either by adding it to Google Reader or searching for it within Feedly. If Feedly provided insight into how to make the essentials list, I’d bump it to a solid A.

iPad for Marketing App Review: AOL Editions

September 6, 2011

AOL’s 2011 first quarter earnings weren’t exactly impressive. Arguably, the sole bright spot was the 4 percent growth in online display advertising revenue. Reinventing itself as a content provider, AOL is struggling to find its feet, though Tim Armstrong, the company’s chief executive, insists that the company is on its way up. Buying the Huffington Post and TechCrunch may have been AOL’s first big move to burnish its content provider image. The launch of AOL Editions, the latest personalized news magazine for the iPad, may be the second.

Like Zite, Editions claims to be the magazine that “reads you” – learning what you like so that it can deliver personalized content (which can include content from AOL properties such as Huffington Post and nonaffiliated content). Like the other iPad news magazines, it’s easy to share articles via email, twitter, and Facebook.

It took me several attempts to set up the free app; it timed out the first time I tried to connect to Facebook. Editions claims that connecting to Facebook, Twitter, or AOL/AIM will improve customization. The second time I entered my Facebook credentials, it took – 30 seconds later.

After choosing a social network (or choosing not to connect to a social network) readers enter their zip code and select 10 sections from a list that includes topics such as Top News, Technology, Business, Entertainment, Sports, and Local News. Then, the app assembles the magazine – it took several minutes to build my first edition.

The “cover page” of the magazine resembles old-school magazines, complete with a mailing label and a lead article written large. [l1] The following page includes the date, local weather, cover article picture and title, and a calendar, presumably pulled from iCal. Next up is the table of contents, which allows readers to view and jump to each section.

After that, the reading experience doesn’t differ much from that of Zite and Flipboard. Readers can read the magazine “cover to cover” or navigate to articles in a few different ways. They can jump to a specific section by tapping it on the table of contents or chose the section from the Sections menu item at the bottom of the screen. To see all articles in the magazine, readers tap the Articles menu item, which launches a scrollable sidebar that lists each section and the articles in it.

When readers open a story, the app displays terms associated with it. For example, when I opened an article on Rick Perry’s presidential bid, the terms included Federal Reserve System, Texas, Prayer, Republican Party, and The Republican. Readers let the app know which terms they like and which they don’t by giving each a check or an X. They can also give a thumbs up or down to the content source, such as TheAtlantic.com

 

Readers can take a more active role in personalization by adding sources (none that require a paid subscription, such as New York Times) or interests. They can even choose to track products or companies. But if the product or company – say SimpleFeed – isn’t on the list of available sources, they’re out of luck.  

Editions may run into some real trouble with its “daily magazine” concept. Because the app refreshes content only once a day, articles may feel stale by the time they appear in Editions. Even in the 24-hour news cycle, traditional magazines can allure readers with in-depth stories. Readers don’t expect the New York Times to have New Yorker style articles. However, for all it claims to be a magazine, Editions pulls articles that are, for the most part, news-style articles. And everyone expects news-style articles to be fresh.

There’s also bad news for digital marketers that want to get their company’s content to Editions users. There’s no way for readers to add your company’s RSS feed to their Editions magazine. You can hope that by developing rich RSS content and creating lots of buzz around it, Editions’ algorithm will snag it. AOL doesn’t seem too concerned about catering to content publishers (ironic for a company trying hard to get ahead in the content game). I couldn’t find any information on the Editions website or AOL help for Editions tailored for publishers. Even so, it’s clear that iPad apps like Editions are changing the paradigm for content consumption – and that means that you need to deliver it in the RSS format they utilize.

The Final Verdict

The reader experience: B. Editions doesn’t offer anything truly different, other than a few old-style magazine design elements. And while the personalization is cool, it doesn’t match Zite’s for effortlessness.

The publisher experience: D. Like Zite, Editions need to give users a way to add specific RSS feeds. Right now, Editions holds all the cards in determining which content a user will see – and which companies and products they can follow. However, if you create buzz around your company blog, your content has a better chance of reaching Editions users.

Finally! “Save to” comes to iPad RSS Readers

August 31, 2011

Obviously we are enthusiastic about tablet apps as a marketing channel. Of the top ten free and paid iPad News Apps, six are primarily RSS aggregators. That is amazing given that it is nearly impossible to subscribe to specific content in these apps. Customer typically view your content through syncing with Google RSS Reader, which is not a user friendly experience.

Yesterday Pulse began breaking down this wall by adding a “Save to Pulse” bookmarklet. Best of all  it is really simple.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Drag and drop the bookmarklet from this page to your browser bar. When you find interesting content, click the button. Next time you fire up
Pulse, that article at the top of you content queue. Nice!

 

As the ReadWriteWeb points out, a bookmarklet approach to a challenge for consumer adoption. This feature is getting media attention because it is such a glaring need. An “Add to” button would put the onus on the publisher resulting in much easier adoption.