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Friday, February 4, 2011

The Daily

Everybody's been talking about Rupert Murdoch's The Daily for the iPad: “New times demand new journalism”. Well, the last time we heard about “new journalism” it didn't work out all that well, but what about its present reinstantiation?

Well, see for yourself. For a two week period after the launch, it's free: you can just go to the iTunes store and download the application and every day a new issue of The Daily will be “pushed” to your iPad. If you have one of these devices, I encourage you to give it a try. After the initial trial period expires, a subscription will cost US$0.99 a week, or about fifty bucks a year (their site claims a total of “$39.99 a year”, but I can't puzzle out the math behind that).

My reaction so far, based upon reading most of the parts of the first two daily editions which interest me most—unimpressed. The presentation is magnificently done, the integration of audio and video content into the articles makes the most of the capabilities of the iPad, and the navigation is reasonably intuitive (although why one must tap on “targets” rather than the main title of an article one wishes to view isn't clear, and it's disconcerting to navigate from a page which one scrolls horizontally to one which scrolls vertically). But these are minor quibbles which can be ironed out as the presentation matures and user feedback is incorporated. The reason I don't anticipate prolonging my subscription past the free trial period is the content, or rather lack of it. The Daily is a slickly produced publication, incorporating original content available nowhere else, written and edited to high professional standards, and presented in a format ideally suited to reading on a device such as the iPad. But there isn't very much in each daily edition, especially if your interest is in just a few of the topics it covers.

The articles read more like those of a news magazine (remember them?) than a newspaper, and there are just a few in each category. If you aren't interested in “Gossip”, “Apps & Games”, or “Sports”, half the content you've paid for goes into the poubelle the moment you've downloaded it. And asking “What's your sign?” on the Settings page to configure the horoscope—puh-leeze!

This could have been a breakthrough, and perhaps may still be as its producers adjust their strategy to the reactions of the audience. What I was hoping for was, for a buck a week, to have the electronic equivalent of the Sunday New York Times thud onto my iPad every day. As the Times used to say in promoting their Sunday edition to rubes in what wasn't yet called “flyover country”: “Even if you don't read it all; it's nice to know it's there.”

Yes, there's the (very easy) crossword, but where is the chess column, or reviews of museum exhibits around the world, or detailed financial statistics and business coverage, or any of the myriad other things the Murdoch media empire could source for an all-inclusive publication for which people would pay more than the present subscription price? Here's my marketing blurb: “Imagine the Sunday New York Times, delivered every day of the week to your iPad, ready to read when you awake.” I'd pay twice the price of entry of The Daily for that. The publication as it's presently defined, not so much. But I will continue to check it out during the free trial period and see how it evolves.

Posted at February 4, 2011 00:01