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Apple Introduces Podcast Analytics Beta

During as session about podcasts at WWDC in June, Apple announced that it would introduce podcast analytics later in the year. Today, the feature was rolled out as a beta service as part of iTunes Connect, Apple’s content creator portal. At release, the data available to podcast producers includes unique device downloads as well as playback metrics.

Historically, podcast analytics have been rudimentary. Producers could track downloads, but there was no way to tell how many users were behind those downloads or how long they listened. Those sorts of features are something that some podcast producers, especially those coming from the radio industry, have wanted Apple to add for a while.

With the beta introduced today, producers can track the number of unique device downloads and view graphs of how long listeners lasted before giving up on a show. The data is aggregated to protect user privacy, but it’s nonetheless substantially more information than podcasters have had in the past.

The data is limited to users using the Apple Podcasts app on iOS 11 and later or listening via iTunes 12.7 or later on macOS, which limits its utility for some show producers. For example, Apple Podcasts listeners account for barely over 5% of listeners of our podcast, AppStories, a number which counts users of the app on all versions of iOS.

One of the big proponents of these sort of analytics has been big brand advertisers who want to more closely measure the performance of podcast advertising. As podcasts have boomed in recent years and producers have looked to bring larger advertisers along for the ride, pressure has mounted for the kind of analytics that are employed on the web. It remains to be seen whether podcast analytics do to podcasts advertising rates what click-through and other metrics have done to other online media outlets’ advertising revenue.

The beta is available at podcastsconnect.apple.com/analytics.


Apple Releases iMac Pro and Updates to Final Cut Pro X, Motion, and Compressor

As expected, Apple introduced of the iMac Pro today, and an update to its professional video-editing app, Final Cut Pro X. Companion video-editing apps Motion and Compressor received updates too.

Specifications of the new iMac Pro are in line with what was reported earlier this week. In its press release, Apple provides examples of the kind of performance increases that different professionals can expect:

iMac Pro takes Mac performance to a whole new level, even when compared to our fastest quad-core iMac.

  • 3D designers can visualize huge 3D models and render scenes up to 3.4 times faster.
  • Developers can run multiple virtual machines and test environments, and compile code up to 2.4 times faster.
  • Scientists and researchers can manipulate massive data sets and complex simulations, visualizing data up to 5 times faster.
  • Photographers can work with enormous files and perform image processing up to 4.1 times faster.
  • Music producers can bounce (export) massive multi-track projects up to 4.6 times faster and use up to 12.4 times as many real-time plug-ins.
  • Video editors can edit up to eight streams of 4K video, or edit 4.5K RED RAW video and 8K ProRes 4444 at full resolution in real time without rendering. The iMac Pro can also export HEVC video 3 times faster.

All that power comes at a substantial price. The iMac Pro starts at $4,999 but can be configured to over $13,000.

Apple also updated Final Cut Pro X, its professional video editing app for macOS. According to Apple:

new features including 360-degree VR video editing, advanced color grading tools and support for High Dynamic Range (HDR) video. Optimized to take full advantage of the incredible performance capabilities of the all-new iMac Pro, Final Cut Pro users can now edit full-resolution 8K video for the first time on a Mac. Apple is also extending 360-degree VR video support to Final Cut Pro companion apps, Motion and Compressor.

Susan Prescott, Apple’s vice president of Apps Product Marketing said:

“With new features like 360-degree VR editing and motion graphics, advanced color grading and HDR support, Final Cut Pro gives video editors the tools to create stunning, next-generation content…. When combined with the performance of Mac hardware, including the all-new iMac Pro, Final Cut Pro provides an incredibly powerful post-production studio to millions of video editors around the world.”

The update to Final Cut Pro X lets editors create 360-degree video content and view those projects in real time using an HTC VIVE VR headset and SteamVR. Apple has also added professional color grading tools and supports popular HDR formats. Other features Apple touts include:

  • Easily import iMovie projects from iPhone and iPad into Final Cut Pro for advanced editing, audio work, motion graphics and color grading.
  • HEVC and HEIF support for importing and editing high efficiency video and photo formats from Apple devices.
  • Updated audio effects plug-ins from Logic Pro X with redesigned, resizable interfaces.
  • Faster, higher quality optical flow analysis built on Metal, Apple’s advanced graphics technology.

In addition to the update to Final Cut Pro X, Apple has updated Motion, which lets users create 360-degree VR titles and effects that are accessible from Final Cut Pro. Compressor has also been updated to let ‘users deliver 360-degree video with industry-standard spherical metadata.’

Final Cut Pro X, Motion, and Compressor are available on the Mac App Store as free updates to existing users. For new users, Final Cut Pro X is $299.99, Motion and Compressor are $49.99 each. Educational users can purchase the apps as a bundle for $199.99.


Twitterrific for iOS Adds Black Theme, Dynamic Type, Temporary Muffles, Poll Support, and More

Twitterrific 5 for iOS was updated today with several new and improved features. My favorite addition is a true black theme that looks striking on the iPhone X. Users that pick the black theme are given a choice between a dark theme that has been modified for ‘greater contrast and clarity’ and the true black theme.

The app’s design has undergone other changes too. Users can pick avatars that are rounded rectangles, circles, squares, or squircles, and text sizes can be adjusted with more granularity thanks to the use of Dynamic Type.

Muffles, which are rules that partially hide tweets from your timeline, can be temporarily disabled now. Previously, the only way to deactivate a Muffle was to delete it.

Twitterrific’s experimental support for polls, which debuted on macOS recently, has been added to the iOS app too. To celebrate the holiday season, The Iconfactory has also added a new icon option: ‘Jolly Ollie,’ which features Twitterrific’s mascot in a Santa hat.

Twitterrific is available on the App Store.


iMac Pro First Impressions Around the Web

The iMac Pro was debuted on Apple’s online store today, but won’t be available to purchase until December 14th. Over the past week, the company provided test hardware to a handful of photographers, videographers, an aerospace engineer, and programmers. Each seems to have been given an iMac Pro with a 10-core 3GHz processor, 128GB memory, 2TB SSD, and the Radeon Pro Vega 64 graphics with 16GB memory. Although no one had time to put the machine through a thorough review, they each put the new iMac through a unique series of tests and real-world tasks to see how it performed.

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Apple Announces iMac Pro to Begin Shipping December 14th

Apple updated its website with news that the iMac Pro is shipping beginning on December 14, 2017. The pro-level iMac features a long list of impressive specifications. The desktop computer, which was announced in June at WWDC comes in 8, 10, and 18-core configurations, though the 18-core model will not ship until 2018. The new iMac can be configured with up to 128GB of RAM and can handle SSD storage of up to 4TB. Graphics are driven with the all-new Radeon Pro Vega, which Apple said offers three times the performance over other iMac GPUs.

The desktop, which Apple touts as a solution for video editing, virtual reality development, and other graphics and processor-intensive tasks was taken through its paces by Marques Brownlee on his YouTube channel:

According to Brownlee, the machine runs quiet and cool, but suffers from the inability to upgrade components, which is uncommon for a pro-level computer. Brownlee also notes that the iMac Pro worked well on Final Cut Pro X tasks that would typically choke another iMac.

Jonathan Morrison also got an opportunity to preview the iMac Pro, showing off his setup here:



Apple Opens App Pre-Orders to All Developers

You may recall that when Super Mario Run was announced in 2016, customers could request notification of its release, which was a first at the time on the App Store. Now, all developers can do something similar by offering their apps for pre-order. According to iTunes Connect’s Resources and Help documentation:

Now you can make your new apps available for pre-order on all Apple platforms. Customers can see your product page and order your app before it's released for download. Once your app is released, customers will be notified and your app will automatically download to their device. For paid apps, customers will be charged before download.

The process for submitting an app for pre-order seems relatively straight-forward:

To make your new app available for pre-order:

  1. From the homepage, click My Apps, select the app, and select Pricing and Availability in the left column. You'll see the Pre-Orders section if your app has never been published on the App Store.
  2. Select Make available for pre-order, choose a date to release your app for download, then click Save in the upper-right corner. The release date must be at least two days in the future, but no more than 90 days in the future.

  3. Submit your app for review.

  4. Once your app is approved and you're ready to make it available for pre-order, return to Pricing and Availability, confirm the date your app will be released for download, and click Release as Pre-Order in the upper-right corner.

In addition to offering apps for pre-orders, Apple will report pre-orders as part of the Sales and Trends section of iTunes Connect. Apple has also included an FAQ with further information about the pre-order process.

It’s been about a year since Apple tested the pre-release notification waters with Super Mario Run and it’s nice to see that it’s been opened up to all developers who can use it to get customers excited about their apps ahead of launch.

Update: According to a new webpage published by Apple that summarizes the pre-order program, it also applies to macOS and tvOS apps.

In addition, Apple has added a 'Pre-Orders' section to the Games tab of the App Store, which currently includes five games. No similar section has been added to the Mac App Store or Apple TV App Store.


Apple Acquires Shazam Song Identification Service

On Friday, TechCrunch reported that Apple had agreed to acquire music discovery service and app-maker Shazam. Today, Apple made it official confirming the deal to BuzzFeed News. Shazam, which makes iOS, watchOS, and macOS apps that can detect songs, TV shows, and advertisements from their sound signatures, has been on Apple’s platforms since the early days of iOS and is the engine behind Siri’s ability to recognize songs.

The financial terms of the deal were not disclosed in the announcement, but according to TechCrunch, Shazam cost Apple somewhere in the neighborhood of $400 million. According to a report from The Wall Street Journal last year, Shazam accounts for about 1 million clicks per day and 10% of digital download sales. However, as streaming services have gained popularity over paid music downloads, Shazam’s affiliate link revenue from music sales has shrunken. To compensate, Shazam has turned increasingly to advertising. With today’s acquisition, Shazam should continue to drive traffic to Apple Music without the need to sustain itself as a standalone business.

In addition to Apple’s music services, Shazam sends significant traffic to Spotify. Shazam also has an Android app. It remains to be seen what will happen to the Spotify relationship or Android app now that Shazam is part of Apple or whether Apple plans to maintain Shazam as a separate iOS app. Deeper integration with Siri is one direction Apple may take Shazam’s technology implementing something like the Google Pixel 2’s automatic song identification feature called ‘Now Playing.’

Past MacStories coverage of Shazam is available here.


Timing: Stop Worrying About Time and Focus on Your Work Instead [Sponsor]

Timing for macOS is the first step to recapturing your most precious resource: time. Before you can find lost time, you need to understand how you are spending it. But manual time tracking interrupts your workflow, and it’s easy to lose track of what you’ve done. That’s where Timing comes in. It’s different because Timing automatically tracks how you spend time on your Mac.

Timing shows you how much time you spend per app, website, and document, and categorizes that time into projects. Timing helps you be more productive by analyzing how you are wasting time too. Best of all, Timing includes automation features to help you save more time by doing things like automatically categorizing activities. The app can even ask you what you did when you return to your Mac, so you never forget to track a meeting. In addition, freelancers will love Timing's ability to generate a timesheet for your clients.

Download Timing’s 14-day free trial today and save 10% when you decide to buy. You can also download Timing as part of Setapp, the service that gives you access to more than 100 Mac apps for just $9.99/month.

Stop worrying about time and focus on doing your best work instead with Timing.

P.S.: Check out Faviconographer too. It’s a free utility from Timing’s developer that adds a favicon to your Safari tabs. It’s a clever touch. When you have a lot of tabs open, it’s much easier to find the one you want when you can see its favicon.

Our thanks to Timing for sponsoring MacStories this week.