This week in web publishing: the New York Times takes its pulse, energy management systems aim to rival the iPad and newspapers show results when they engage digital communities via innovative tools.

New York Times Takes Its Pulse

One of the most popular iPad apps is something called the Pulse News Reader, which aggregates news from various news sources and displays them in a well-designed, easy-to-read manner. Costing $US 4, the app has garnered more than 35,000 downloads and has become a favorite among iPad owners.

On Tuesday, the New York Times requested that this popular iPad app be taken down because it “makes commercial use of the and RSS feeds” which they claim was in violation of their Terms of Use.

Pulse was removed from the App Store after the Times’ legal counsel sent a takedown request. But, the app soon returned the store for reasons still unknown.

Yet, this incident seems to beg a different question? Why would making commercial use of one’s RSS feed be in violation of anything? After all, the Pulse News Reader takes the plain text from The New York Times RSS feed and displays it, directing a reader to the actual Times page in a new browser window, if they choose to read more. But the Times’ copyright policy clearly states that

You may not modify, publish, transmit, participate in the transfer or sale of, reproduce create new works from, distribute, perform, display, or in any way exploit, any of the Content or the Service (including software) in whole or in part.

Because the Pulse costs money to install, readers are in violation. The developers of the Pulse Reader are ready to provide a simple solution that should satisfy all parties: remove the Times’ RSS feeds altogether, eliminating the need for further legal counsel, and prohibiting readers from accessing the Times from one of the most popular and widely used eReaders.

Energy Management Systems May Build the Next iPad

Move over iPad, there’s another emerging competitor in your midst. Recently, OpenPeak, maker of dashboard-like devices with applications that look similar to the iPad, announced that they have raised US$ 52 million from Intel Capital and General Electric’s venture arm. Such funds could indicate that another tablet device may be in the works, or rather that OpenPeak may have positioned itself to be apart of what industry experts are now calling energy management systems.

Referring to the amount of energy such tablet devices require power, as well as the limited amount of space they occupy, energy management systems are being developed by a number of companies that have been working on building similar dashboard displays that exist separately from homeowners’ computers, televisions and phones that can also integrate with Microsoft and Google.

Financing projects within the energy management systems realm will be necessary, especially to compete with the likes of Apple. Thus, Openpeak’s recent financial success could be instrumental to offering alternatives in the marketplace.

Engaging Communities with Innovative Digital Tools

John Paton is chief executive of the Journal Register company, which publishes 19 daily newspapers among its 170 print titles and has 154 online sites. Recently he implemented the Ben Franklin Project, which aims to put “Digital First, Print Last.”

In order to do this, he is neither relieving key personnel of their duties nor relieving readers of theirs. He is simply advocating for the use of use of free and open web tools so as to engage the wider community.

Paton recently tasked two of its newspapers: The News-Herald in Willoughby, Ohio, and The News-Herald in Perkasie, Pa. with using online tools to involve the community in the process of news-gathering. The results showed that readers were willing to share their perspectives, which helped editors understand the issues that were affecting the local communities.

The Perkasie News-Herald asked its community via Twitter and Facebook to share their questions about local electricity rates, then asked those questions during an interview with local officials and created a separate article listing the answers.

The News-Herald also employed a third party tool called Timetoast, a free tool that creates interactive time lines, to show a history of the Perkasie Borough electric system. It also used to create a poll that asked readers for their thoughts on the electric rates.

Overall the Ben Franklin Project stresses the importance not just of crowdsourcing, but encouraging the integration of free and open-source tools, as well.

Paton’s next step is something he is calling “idealab” and is taking a page from Google’s successful work time initiative, Google Labs. For idealab, 15 employees will be granted 10 hours a week away from their work in order to experiment with the latest web tools - including an iPhone, an iPad and a netbook - and then report back on how to apply them for the good of the business. Like GoogleLabs, Paton hopes that encouraging on the job experimentation will heed successful results and reinvigorate an industry.