Murdoch's iPad newspaper: Nice try, but no chance

There was some buzz over the weekend that a team over at News Corp., the parent company behind the Wall Street Journal and Fox News, is hard at work on an iPad-only "newspaper," called The Daily, set to launch sometime around Christmas.

There was some buzz over the weekend that a team over at News Corp., the parent company behind the Wall Street Journal and Fox News, is hard at work on an iPad-only "newspaper," called The Daily, set to launch sometime around Christmas.

A digital newspaper is an interesting idea, but this one generated buzz when someone reported that Apple's Steve Jobs was such a fan that he's offered up his engineering team to work with News Corp. to make this a must-have, 21st Century news product. I looked and looked but couldn't find the source of Apple's involvement, other than a line in a WWD Media post that suggested that Steve Jobs is a fan of the idea. If Rupert Murdoch had a vision that involved building greater demand for one of your products, wouldn't you be a fan, too?

But I digress. Before I start injecting my two cents, here are some of the early details being floated around the blogosphere about The Daily.

  • The company is investing about $30 million in the project.
  • The content will mostly be original, with 100 journalists reportedly hired or being hired.
  • The company will charge a subscription of 99 cents per week for the quality journalism that The Daily will deliver.
  • It would work on all tablets, though the iPad is clearly a Murdoch favorite.

The WWD Media post described it this way:

In addition to journalists, there will be plenty of people producing videos. Also, there will be lots of design staff. The Daily will cover the nation. Writers have been told to find topics, establish beats and break stories. Johnson’s squad, currently setting up in the MySpace building, will attempt to bring a Page Six sensibility to Los Angeles. If the TMZ and Nikki Finke world is saturated, there will be intense coverage of cocktail parties, charity events, crime and politics. There will be no foreign bureaus, and there are no plans for a D.C. bureau at the moment, but it’s expected reporters from New York will take care of important political news. Daily reporters will certainly go on the campaign trail as the 2012 elections heat up.

We journalists are naturally a skeptical group. As someone who would like to see newspaper-style journalism on a digital platform, I am rooting for concept behind The Daily. But, based on what we know right now, I'd have to say that it doesn't look good for The Daily - even if it does receive a glowing endorsement (or engineering help) from Steve "Midas Touch" Jobs. Here's why:

  • The biggest problem is right there in its name, The Daily. That implies that it is a "daily" publication, not something that's published in real-time. Even if, as some reports have suggested, it gets a couple of updates during the day, the product will have to compete with the immediacy of today's news delivery on Web sites and mobile phone apps.
  • One of its biggest selling points will be the original content - but there's already original content all over the Internet. This product will reportedly offer quality journalism worthy of a behind-the-paywall subscription?
  • Speaking of the journalism, can a team of 100 reporters covering everything from Hollywood to Washington really dig in deep enough to produce the type of content worthy of that paid subscription? Just from the description above, these reporters will be in the mix of the Hollywood elite, will have some solid sources within police departments or other law enforcement agencies across the nation and will be privy to the who's-who inside the Beltway. All of that and original content everyday, huh? With 100 reporters?
  • How can you share it if it's behind the paywall? These days, if there's no social strategy - a Facebook or Twitter approach, at the very least - how do you broaden the distribution of the content? Certainly, if a reader comes across something fascinating while inside the iPad's news walls, he or she will want to share it with friends. But what if those friends don't have iPads? That could present a problem.

Overall, trying to bring a newspaper-quality product into the digital age is a great idea, but I don't see The Daily making it too far.

Also: Apple alliance with Murdoch raises troubling questions


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