The 30th San Francisco edition of Macworldopens Thursday with a showcase of startups that organizers not surprisingly tout as the next game changers in technology.
But predicting the future is always easier in hindsight:
“The machine uses an experimental pointing device called a ‘mouse.’ There is no evidence that people actually want to use these things,”San Francisco Examiner columnist John Dvorak wrote in a column published in 1984 by the then-jointly produced Sunday Examiner & Chronicle.
To his credit, Dvorak correctly predicted numerous reasons the original Macintosh wouldn’t be as big a hit as Apple hoped. But we now know the mouse revolutionized personal computing.
Macworld itself has transformed several times since January 1985, when that first show drew 100 exhibitors and thousands of Apple fans to Brooks Hall. At the height of its popularity, there were two annual Macworld shows, including one on the East Coast.
Center of universe
But San Francisco has remained the center of Macworld’s universe.
The legendary Chronicle columnist Herb Caen described a swanky preshow party at the St. Francis Hotel thrown by David Bunnell, then chairman of PC World Communications, publisher of Macworld magazine and sponsor of the show.
The words “International Data Group” conjure up an old era of computers that took up entire rooms with data-punching experts wearing white coats. And it’s not a coincidence that the International Data Group, or IDG, was founded in 1964 near Boston. But what started as a research firm turned into a series of tech trade publications (e.g. InfoWorld, Computerworld), consumer tech pubs (e.g. PC World, MacWorld), and events that spanned the globe. Now, the private company is looking toward a data-driven, mobile future.
“I think mobile will be fascinating in two areas: How do you gate that content and use that channel to deepen that relationship with readers? And from the advertiser’s perspective and with responsive design, how are you going to leverage video and native ads on those platforms?” said Michael Friedenberg, who ascended to IDG CEO last summer, and spoke to me recently via Skype.
IDG has been slowly moving its U.S. publications from print to digital, moving InfoWorld in 2009and more recently PC World went online-only, with an emphasis on charging annual subscriptions for tablet editions. While newer tech blogs such as TechCrunch and Engadget have gained prominence — and borrowed from IDG’s playbook of mixing content with events and research — IDG continues to plug away quietly. The company has turned its focus to programmatic ad sales with its Tech Media Exchange, and continues its global ambitions by focusing on the emerging MINT (Mexico, Indonesia, Nigeria, Turkey) area.
While many people wrote off tech trade publications as obsolete in the digital era, IDG continues to expand, diversify and find new ways to serve the tech industry.
Below is an edited version of my interview with Friedenberg, with audio clips for some of his answers.
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Apple made waves during Tuesday’s media event when the company announced that its iLife and iWork suite would be free for customers who buy a new Mac or iOS device. But the apps are also free for users who already have the apps installed, and one app is free, period. Here’s our guide to demystifying Apple’s new pricing structure on its iLife and iWork apps.
How “free with purchase” works
When Apple first announced that its iOS apps would be free with the purchase of a new iPhone, I theorized that Apple might include a notification alert after you first activated your new device, with a link to download your free apps. Instead, there’s no link or alert to be found. If you want your free iWork and iLife apps—on OS X Mavericks or on iOS—you have to first visit the Mac App Store to do so. When you do, however, the “Buy” button for those apps will be replaced with “Download” or “Update” (or the iCloud icon on the iOS App Store). I’ll note that iWork and iLife apps only come free for the kind of device you’ve purchased—you won’t get the OS X versions of iLife and iWork for free because you recently purchased a new iPhone or iPad.
Though I can’t yet confirm it (I asked Apple for more details but have yet to receive a response), I suspect that Apple associates the iWork and iLife suite with your Apple ID when you first activate a new device. That way, when you visit the app’s page, it shows up as already “purchased” on your account, and you can download away.
Though the iPhone 5s won’t be available in stores until September 20, we were able to use some demo models for a little while on Tuesday after Apple’s media event announcing them. We scanned our thumbs, took pictures, and tried to imagine what part of space is gray. Here’s our hands-on first look.
The iPhone 5s feels an awful lot like the iPhone 5. It isn’t noticeably heavier in hand, nor is the look particularly different—save for its new color options.
In using the iPhone 5s briefly, we found it speedy and snappy, and iOS 7 looks great. We weren’t able to run any benchmark tests or particularly hungry apps, so there was no way to put to the test Apple’s claims of it being twice as fast as the iPhone 5 in many tasks. As we said, the iPhone 5s feels more or less like the iPhone 5. It’s truly an iPhone with an “s” at the end at its name—a whole bunch of upgraded internals built on top of a phone design that seems quite familiar.
The rumors were true: Apple really is hosting another of its flagship events on September 10, and all signs point to its using the occasion to unveil at least one new model of iPhone. My colleague Dan Moren and I have already made a slew of predictions about what new iPhones might look like. But what else might be on the docket? And what’s definitely not going to happen?
No chance: A new iPad
The iPad and the iPhone have plenty in common, so a case could be made for unveiling new versions of both iOS devices side by side. But one of their many commonalities is that both devices garner significant media attention when new versions are unveiled, and Apple would prefer to have that press spotlight shined upon itself twice instead of just once. The iPhone now owns September on Apple’s theatrical schedule, but watch this space for an iPad event in October—just in time for the ho, ho, holiday season.
Very likely: New iPods
A year ago, Apple debuted all sorts of new iPods. It seems as if each year the iPad nano scores a significant facelift, each year the iPod classic is on the chopping block, and each year the iPod touch receives an update to make it more like the latest iPhone. Any new iPhone will (rightly) get the lion’s share of the attention, but new iPods are almost certain to be on the September 10 agenda, too.
The consumer tech site, from the publisher of PCWorld and Macworld, forges a partnership with car-shopping resource Edmunds.com to expand car tech coverage
SAN FRANCISCO – TechHive, the newest consumer tech media brand from IDG, has struck a partnership with popular car-shopping resource Edmunds.com to expand its car tech coverage and help its audience find their automotive sweet spot.
“Automakers realize that today’s drivers want cars that work well with their personal technology,” notes Jason Snell, SVP, Editorial Director for IDG Consumer & SMB, the division that manages TechHive. “As important as smartphones, tablets, and always-on Internet connections have become to all of us, it’s become far more important for our cars to fit into our digital lives.”
With the unique, collaborative editorial partnership, Edmunds.com will bring their auto tech expertise directly to TechHive’s audience to help them get the most out of their devices. TechHive editors will bring their consumer tech expertise to the Edmunds.com audience of car shoppers to help them make the best tech choices. Content produced together will appear on both TechHive.com and Edmunds.com as it’s created, with the first feature length story, Best Tech-Friendly Cars of 2013, slated for this spring.
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PCWorld, Macworld, and TechHive, get a big boost in click-through rates with high-impact ad placements
SAN FRANCISCO— Two months after the launch of redesigned HTML5/responsive websites, IDG Consumer & SMB is seeing encouraging results from its changes to PCWorld.com and Macworld.com, along with newly launched site TechHive.com. Overall, ad placements are delivering an average click-through rate (CTR) around 80% higher than pre-redesign levels.
IDG Consumer & SMB’s sites are also performing well against industry benchmarks. Ad units scheduled as run-of-site are delivering an average 0.38% click-through rate, compared to the tech industry average of 0.11% (MediaMind Global Benchmarks 2012). All three sites have better than average click performance with content and user targeting as well.
“We’re very pleased with these metrics,” notes IDG Consumer & SMB Chief Revenue Officer Brian Gleason. “We focused our redesign efforts on giving users visually-rich and intuitive websites that work across devices. We also wanted to make sure our advertising partners had a prominent place among our content. We’ve hit the mark for both readers and marketers.”
Banners aren’t going anywhere, but publishers are busy trying to remake them into something more interesting — and that advertisers will pay more for them than the rock-bottom rates available in programmatic ad buying.
For some sites, that means rethinking the page. Gannett, for example, eliminated 47 percent of its ad slots in its September 2012 redesign of USAToday.com. At the same time, IDG Consumer & SMB took a “less is more” approach, removing two to three standard display ads per page. It instead rolled out what it’s calling “the content hero” on TechHive, PCWorld and Macworld. The oddly sized unit, which is 1130 x 500, takes over the site on the homepage and highlights the advertiser’s offering. The unit sits on top of editorial content for the first eight seconds of the user’s visit. It then reduces in size and leaves the brand logo on the site.
“By taking fewer ads, we thought it was risky because eliminating ads means we may lose money,” said Brian Gleason, chief revenue officer at IDG TechNetwork and IDG Consumer & SMB. “But [this] proves larger units, more impactful units that can fit in with the design of a page without taking away from the user experience is being welcomed on both sides.”