The big media story of the week has been the launch of Rupert Murdoch’s The Daily, a new iPad app that is a cross between a daily newspaper, a glossy magazine and a Web site. While an impressive feat of design and journalism, The Daily has an uphill battle ahead for mindshare and is saddled with some serious issues (not the least of which is that few outside of the media/tech world have even heard of it).
The content is sequestered into a iOS app, with few outside links allowed, its navigation is overly complex and sometimes slow, including annoying load times, and it lacks the ability to reflect real-time news in the way a blog or news Web site can. Case in point, even though The Daily promises streaming updates during the day, the Thursday edition launched with a cover story on the recent spate of snowstorms in the US, rather than on the overnight developments in Egypt -- something even many traditional print newspapers managed to get onto their front pages Thursday morning.
For all its vaunted interactivity, The Daily feels oddly lifeless, almost like someone scanned a bunch of magazine pages and managed to add a few Flipbook-style photo galleries. To truly take the next step in the evolution of media, a more radically interactive approach is needed.
Could adding some gamification elements help The Daily feel more like a living, breathing interactive publication? It may seem like a stretch, but drawing customers in with more to do, collect, and share can only increase reader involvement with this fledgling publication. Here's a few handy suggestions on how Newscorp can make it happen.
Create a community that will incentivize reader participation Currently, readers can only share articles via Facebook/Twitter/e-mail, and leave semi-anonymous comments on an generic comment board. Let’s start by creating a persistent in-app identity for people that does more than allow you to write comments and pay the 99 cents/week (or $30 a year) to read The Daily.
Earn badges and awards for being well-informed Are readers sticking to the gossip pages and avoiding the hard news? Lure them over by awarding badges, real-life rewards or other forms of recognition to those who, for example, ready every page of an issue. This is where the user accounts mentioned previously come in handy.
Unlockables for loyal readers By the same token, there must be extra content -- video outtakes, unused photos, raw interview transcripts, that can be awarded as a bonus for anything from suggesting a story to a friend to volunteering to fill out a reader survey.
Quizzes and puzzles Well, they’ve got Sudoku, I’ll give them that. But why not create current events quizzes, or arts and entertainment ones, based on the actual content of that day’s issue? From there, you can create leaderboards or even eventually spin off the games section into its own app.
These are only the tip of the iceberg (or appberg, if you prefer). For news publications to evolve, they must stop aping the dead tree hard copy products they aim to replace and add more than a thin layer of interactivity to cover up old-school thinking. If you’ve got any different gamification ideas for The Daily, feel free to share them in the comments section below.