Hearst eReader eInk Magazine

Hearst is taking eInk’s technology and coming up with a larger than 8.5″ by 11″ screen eInk magazine.

A Hearst executive said that Hearst has a “deep expertise” in eInk. I’d actually argue with that statement. What we do know is –

  1. Hearst Interactive Media are investors in the eInk company. Also,  via Wired,

    Hearst Interactive’s Bronfin already sits on the board of directors for E Ink, the company whose screens power both the Kindle and Sony Reader.

  2. They’ve probably been looking into making something based on eInk for a while, and finally decided on an eMagazine Reader. 
  3. They intend to bring it out by end 2009.
  4. The extent of their actual experience creating eInk products is that they had featured eInk covers for the Esquire – [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iKS12PMdJ6w]
  5. The Hearst Corp’s Seattle PI newspaper is up for sale, and if it isn’t sold by March 10th will be closed down.
  6. The Hearst Corp’s San Francisco Chronicle is in trouble too.
  7. In 2000, Wired and some other  magazines created the CueCat. Joel Spolsky’s thoughts on it are something Hearst should look at carefully.   

It’s really difficult to create a good solid product when you are in a position of weakness like Hearst currently is. This is a very reactive, survivalist step, and I doubt they’ll be able to create a compelling product. There are, however, two really interesting points –

  1. They are creating something that intends to help advertisers too. Which is almost certainly a recipe for disaster –

    The larger screen better approximates the reading experience of print periodicals, as well as giving advertisers the space and attention they require.

    I’m sure that that’s what magazine audiences really want – an eMagazine reader optimized for advertising.

  2. Fortune has some more details on Hearst’s plans and some hint of what they think will help them against Kindle 2 –  

    What Hearst and its partners plan to do is sell the e-readers to publishers and to take a cut of the revenue derived from selling magazines and newspapers on these devices. The company will, however, leave it to the publishers to develop their own branding and payment models. “That’s something you will never see Amazon do,” someone familiar with the Hearst project said. “They aren’t going to give up control of the devices.”

Google News gets Ads – I wonder what newspapers think

Google recently closed its Print Ads program – dealing a blow to Newspapers’ hopes that Google would find them a magical revenue stream. Now, to add insult to injury, Google is beginning to show Ads on Google News pages in the US (just confirmed that there are no ads for Google News users in Canada … for now).

There are a few possibilities for what happens  –

  1. Newspapers sue and get an agreement like book publishers did of 67% of profits.  
  2. Newspapers sue, win and stop Google from running ads.
  3. Newspapers sue and Google wins. And that would really, really shake everything up.
  4. Newspapers sue, win and prevent Google from using their content in Google News. 
  5. Newspapers do nothing. Rather unlikely.  

Here are a few more snippets from various sources –

Google announced last night it had begun serving ads on Google News results pages in the United States. Queries that now turn up AdWords paid listings include thermos, Kindle, marketing and many others.

And Google is pretty flippant about legal ramifications –

Google did not immediately respond to questions on the possible legal ramifications of its News search ads. Sandra Baron, executive director at the Media Law Resource Center, suggested an “economic tension” exists between publishers and Google that could bubble up into legal action.

“A significant issue for content providers is whether or not what Google provides becomes a substitute for going to the actual content providers site,” she said. “When that tension becomes too great, people seek legal solutions to it.”

Interesting that the two terms Google mentions on their blog are iPhone and Kindle –

What this means is that when you enter a query like iPhone or Kindle into the Google News search box, you’ll see text ads alongside your News search results

John Battelle has some great articles about this – worth checking out. And this snippet matches my thoughts exactly –

Here’s the Google post announcing the move….nothing at all mentioned about sharing revenues with the news orgs who provide Google News its content. I cannot believe that this issue was not proactively dealt with. It must have been. Right? Readers in the news industry, speak up – any insight?

Just at the basic level, this shows that Google feels its news collation service provides enough value to justify running ads and making money off of it, and not sharing revenues with news content providers. It’s incredible Google took this step without partnering with newspapers. Perhaps strategically, given all the problems newspapers have to cope with these days, this is the time to make a move like this.  

Google sure is making a lot of enemies all at the same time. At some point people are going to realize that letting Google morph into ‘the Internet + Custodian of the world’s information + Toll Charger for the world’s information’ isn’t necessarily a good thing.

Kindle 3 thoughts – Amazon needs to move beyond eInk

After reading, the interview with Russ Wilcox (CEO, eInk) it’s worth pondering the feature release schedule he outlines for eInk screens –

  1. 2009 – All about different sizes. 
  2. 2010 – All about flexible displays. 
  3. 2011 – All about color.

Hidden in there is the fact that 2009 (or early 2010 at the latest) will also see touch eInk screens become much more prominent (in a form that does not mess up screen visibility like in the Sony PRS700). However, a new feature a year just isn’t impressive enough. That would mean we don’t see a color Kindle until 2011 – 2 years too long in my opinion.

There are a lot of competing technologies for ePaper screens, with a few being –

  1. Army funded Arizona State University project for flexible wearable displays. 
  2. Fujitsu’s screen technology used in Flepia eReaders. 
  3. PlasticLogic’s screen technology. 
  4. Microsoft Research’s eReader Technology.

Depending solely on eInk makes Amazon susceptible to one of the few possible attacks against Kindle i.e. A much improved technology. A device that makes a significant jump over the Kindle technologically is one of the few products that is an actual threat to Kindle 2 and Kindle 3.  

Kindle 2 has little competition because WhisperNet, WhisperSync, the eInk screen, the upcoming Kindle Mobile, and the range of products in the Kindle Store combine to create the best eReading experience currently available. However, they have not raised the bar much screen technology wise – Kindle 2 is actually more like Kindle 1.5, and a Kindle 3 release that is merely Kindle 1.9 or Kindle 2.0 would not be enough.

Kindle 3 needs to have a screen and other technology that clearly wows people. Think iPhone multi-touch, Microsoft Surface etc. It needs some really strong, cool technology because it’ll probably be competing with a 9″ iTouch Book Reader from Apple that’s probably significantly improved over even the current multi-touch coolness.

If Amazon doesn’t start using/trialling additional screen technologies it risks linking its fate with that of eInk, which would be a dangerous and completely unnecessary strategy.