News Corp Chairman and CEO Rupert Murdoch took the stage at the Guggenheim Museum in New York City Wednesday morning to unveil The Daily, a newspaper designed specifically for the iPad.
Murdoch has sunk $30 million into the project thus far, and says it will cost less than half a million dollars to produce each week — meaning that The Daily will cost approximately $53 million to produce in its first year. Subscriptions, priced at $0.99 per week or $39.99 per year, are expected to generate the majority of revenue; Murdoch hopes that, in time, advertising will come to make up half of that figure.
A Magazine, Not a Newspaper
Murdoch and his cohorts stressed that The Daily is, first and foremost, a newspaper. Most content will be released in a single update in the morning, but breaking news will be added throughout the day and could include, for instance, a live feed from Twitter to deliver updates, executive editor Jesse Angelo said.
There are two problems with this strategy: one, that most iPad owners don’t use their iPads to access breaking news, and that The Daily, in its current iteration, isn’t really a newspaper; it’s a magazine.
Let’s take a look at the first issue. A recent study conducted by Read It Later found that most reading on the iPad occurs during “personal prime time”: typically, between 8 and 10 p.m., after users have left work and eaten dinner. There’s also a small spike in the morning, but otherwise relatively low usage throughout the day.
Ray Pearce, VP of circulation at The New York Times, noted similar habits among readers of The Times‘s iPad app in a recent conversation with Mashable. “Usage is heaviest in the early morning and evening,” he said, noting that the app attracted more readers on the weekends than during the week, as well.
As such, it would have made more sense for The Daily to focus resources on end-of-day and weekend content — which, it appears, is precisely the opposite of what it’s done.
As it stands, the news section is extremely weak. The first edition contains precisely two real news articles, one of which (a story about Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak’s global address) had been thoroughly covered by all the major news outlets the previous day; the other, about the snow storm currently hitting the U.S., was borrowed from the AP. (The third and fourth listed news articles, one about a prison where convicted murders make kid toys, and another about a late-night doggie disco in Manhattan, fail to qualify as “real news,” in my opinion.)
In general, there is far more visual content than editorial content, and the editorial content that exists is poorly written. Of the $30 million Murdoch says he has sunk into the publication thus far, little, it appears, has been invested in editorial talent, despite having pulled in editorial staff from admirably well-written publications like The Economist and The Atlantic.
The writing also lacks a consistency in quality and a cohesive editorial voice. Molly Young’s unauthoritative mandate to “pick stripes” in the Arts & Life section feels worlds — not a handful of swipes — away from Reihan Salam’s on virtual entertainment; one belongs in Lucky, the other could have appeared, possibly, in the “Talk of the Town” section in The New Yorker.
The strongest section is clearly the Sports section. It’s also the biggest. Still, it’s not anything you couldn’t find for free — and at far greater depth — on the web.
The Daily‘s biggest strength is clearly multimedia. It’s got a nice magazine layout with plenty of videos, slideshows and clickable graphics. (As for the quality of the videos, I can’t say: Every time I clicked “play” on a video, I was met with an error message.) Somewhat counter-intuitively, users must rotate their iPads to horizontal mode to actually view the slideshows. In the future, Murdoch says, full-screen, 360-degree photographs will grace its pages.
Social media was, at best, an afterthought for the developers of The Daily — disappointing, given the opportunity they had to essentially reengineer the news media experience on the tablet.
Yes, one can share articles to Facebook and Twitter, which non-subscribers can view on the web. Yes, one can leave written — and even audio — comments in the app (or so it appears; I wasn’t effectively able to register), although one won’t be able to see the comments in-line with the article. One can’t copy text (it’s not selectable) to share to social networks, one cannot share to Tumblr, one cannot clip articles to Instapaper, one cannot enjoy live chats with fellow readers, and one cannot surface content that one’s friends are reading — among other things.
One can pull up team tweets in the Sports section, but they aren’t streaming and lack context.
The Daily is a beautiful, multimedia-rich daily magazine. But I expected more from a product with such an enormous budget, produced in collaboration with Apple’s own developer team. Still, I could have forgiven all had the quality of the content itself been better, if it had offered one item I couldn’t have found for free, and more intelligently written, on the web.
Content is still king.
Via Mashable: http://www.mashable.com