After months of anticipation, News Corp. (NYSE: NWS)’s Rupert Murdoch finally showed off The Daily, his attempt to bring the daily newspaper to the iPad, as a finished product yesterday in New York City.
In the end, we have a multimedia magazine that's not all that interesting.
We've been hearing about this thing for so long, in some ways it was bound to be a disappointment. Robert McGarvey wrote an Internet Evolution blog on the matter back in November, suggesting it might save journalism. I'm here to tell you, it's probably not going to do that.
First, the details: The Daily, as the name suggests, is a daily iPad newspaper. It costs 99 cents a week, or $40 for a year. As you would expect, it has pictures and video and pages you can go through with the flick of a finger. So far, nothing earth-shattering, right? But don't just take my word for it. Check out this video from online magazine Fast Company
that shows off some of the features:
What strikes me immediately is that The Daily looks like a conventional news magazine. I don't know what I was expecting -- perhaps something new and more exciting -- but what I got was essentially a multimedia iPad version of Time.
Sure, the multimedia elements are nice, but I can highly recommend The Guardian's Eyewitness or the Life Explorer apps for some really dazzling photo journalism -- both of which are free, by the way. And the fact that The Daily includes video? Well, of course it includes video.
The problem here as I see it is the model. Murdoch apparently thinks that we still want a daily newspaper from a single voice, and that we are willing to pay for it. What he doesn't understand is that today's readers want to read the content they want from a variety of sources. The Flipboard app, for instance, creates a magazine-like experience on the fly from the sources you choose -- and it's free.
Unfortunately for News Corp, as VentureBeat reports, it's already invested an astonishing $30 million just to launch this thing, and it will cost another $500,000 a week to keep it going. While Murdoch says the right things about taking the presses and the trucks out of the equation to produce a leaner operation, I'm left wondering how many subscribers and advertisers it will take to make the initial investment back, never mind make it profitable -- especially with Apple taking half of the subscription revenues.
What really has to be troubling for the folks involved in this project is the short leash that Murdoch has given his experimental projects in the past. And make no mistake, this is one of his experiments. Writing on PaidContent, Evan Rudowski, co-founder of hosted Website platform provider SubHub, told the tale of iGuide, a 1995 News Corp. project he worked on with a similar mission to take the news business to the Web.
The parallels between the two projects are hard to miss, and it didn't take long for Murdoch to conclude he was throwing good money after bad. Rudowski writes: "With no partner to help pay the freight at iGuide, Murdoch soon lost his resolve and shut things down - ironically right at the beginning of the dot-com bubble."
Rudowski wonders if The Daily will suffer a similar fate.
The surly Murdoch surely understands the news business, even as he struggles to “get” the Internet, the Web, and a new generation of tablets. But like a new restaurant owner, he also understands he has to sell a certain number of meals to make this work, and even he has to wonder how he's going to get the economy of scale to make that happen.
Unfortunately for Murdoch and News Corp., The Daily is doomed from the get-go because it's a 20th-century model in a 21st-century package -- and what the old newspaper man in Murdoch can't see is that nobody wants that anymore.
— Ron Miller is a freelance technology journalist, blogger, FierceContentManagement editor, and contributing editor at EContent magazine.
I didn't like the two column layout, had a very print feel. Making use of the iPad is not just using video, it's presenting information in a clever way. A really good example of this is Shape Magazine's New Year, New You issue. I don't love the content, but I think the presentation is very well done.
Print requires big buildings and large staffs, deadlines, printing presses and distribution of the paper product. It's big and expensive. Most traditional newspapers have to cover their print side, so they can't go all out online.
Conversely, an online publication is cheaper and leaner from the start. It's not handcuffed by trying to protect an existing business model and it can start with as few staff as required and only add as needed. All you need is a computer and some reporting savvy.
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