Friday, March 12, 2010

Hearst enters app business

Celeb Journalism Apps Get ‘Thumbs-up’ Across The World
///Want the newest iPhone apps, from the Astros to Angelina Jolie?

The following report was written by Matti Posio, who covers innovation issues in the Washington bureau.

Dozens of new iPhone applications that aggregate highly reliable content about popular topics were announced this morning by LMK, a Hearst digital service.

The new kind of applications called LMK (short for "Let Me Know") deliver content to subscribers on a wide variety of topics, from sources hand-picked by a pool of "expert editors." Among the sources are official media, such as the Washington Post and the New York Times, but also a selection of the most authoritative blogs and fan pages specializing on the app's subject.

Even before official release for sale early on Friday, the apps had been discovered in more than 30 countries by hundreds of iPhone and iPod Touch users who had searched the most popular keywords in the Web's Apple Store during the last 48 hours.

It's not surprising that word of mouth and keyword searches have worked wonders, as the applications aggregate facts, pictures, stories and links about the most discussed celebrities, such as Lady Gaga, Angelina Jolie, Tiger Woods, the Houston Astros (also the New York Yankees, San Francisco Giants ... you name it).

The first "passion applications" include cupcakes and Barbie, but may be expanded to include politics and lifestyle or health topics.

The idea behind the launch, says Michael Gutkowski, president of LMK, is to enable consumers to break through the clutter of Internet searches.

"We want to deliver only the most trustworthy information to consumers who can get what they want, wherever they want it," he said.

Gutkowski said the applications are driving user traffic to the original website instead of simply quoting its contents. Google earlier used a similar method to aggregate headlines but led users away from media-company websites, causing an outcry from journalists and publishers.

As people have started more and more to surf the Web while on the go, Hearst has also shifted LMK's strategy from offering website-based solutions to apps created for mobile devices. For now, 66 applications are available, at less than $2 each, but the company plans to introduce thousands more.

Hearst Entertainment & Syndication plans to expand the aggregating service to other mobile platforms such as Google's Android phones, or hand-held devices including the various e-Readers or Apple's iPad, expected to reach customers in April.

Published online at the Houston Chronicle / Texas on the Potomac

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