Rupert Murdoch released The Daily — a new, iPad only newspaper. I watched the press conference and downloaded it. Let me answer some questions.
Is it revolutionary? Well, not quite. It is exactly what you would expect a daily newspaper on the iPad to look like that is modelled on newspapers of old. It is just upgraded with nice colour photos, embedded video, a way to comment and post to twitter and Facebook and ads which sometimes do things other than just stare at you hoping for attention. So not revolutionary and the idea is you read it pretty much from cover to cover. That said, want to send a letter to the advice columnist and it is one click away. So it is digitally integrated. The weather also gets updated.
How is the content? Very News Corp. A couple of main stories up front, followed by a Gossip Section, opinion (quoting Tyler Cowen’s book), arts & life, apps & games (including a crossword and Sudoku) and the sports at the back — you know, just like a newspaper. Sadly, no comics. It looks like a newspaper but it doesn’t look like one that is of niche appeal. This is desired to hit the average iPad user.
Who is going to pay $1 per week for it? Well, it isn’t too expensive, I’ll give it that. If you want to read a newspaper cover to cover every day and don’t want it too heavy on content then this fits the bill. It is a commuter or breakfast newspaper. It is then worth the cost. I personally don’t read that stuff on my commute — I’m into reading the feeds and seeing what is up on the NYT, CNN and ABC Australian news sites. My days of newspaper reading passed years ago so don’t look at me. The question is whether there are still newspaper as opposed to news readers out there.
What about advertisers, will they fork out for it? My guess is that it will be useful for them given that this application will appeal to cover-to-cover readers. That is a chunk of attention they will pay to access. That said, it is no broadsheet. The ads pop up on pages as you flick through and I’m not sure that has the same display effect.
Will it last? So this is a strategy straight out the recent management literature. If your traditional business faces disruption, create a separate unit and compete in the new path. The problem is that there is only so big a market and there is little that The Daily is doing here that can’t be replicated by others. If it is successful, the NYT will work out how to provide something essentially similar. If it is not, it is not. So News Corp are paying the costs of being first without necessarily much upside.
To survive The Daily needs 500,000 readers to cover the $500,000 weekly operating costs plus taxes plus return on investment plus cannabilisation of something or rather. That is alot of readers and about 5% of the iPad market as it will likely be around mid-year. If I had to guess then I would conclude that this is the past of newspapers rather than the future of the news.