Mark my words; we will look back on Feb 2, 2011 as a groundbreaking day for tablet publishing. It was the day The Daily, News Corp and Rupert Murdoch’s much talked about iPad only news publication finally launched.
The reviews came ticking in only hours after launch, and while some were positive, many tech experts gave it a death sentence right away. “Why the iPad Newspaper is Doomed” said Gawker, “It’s a Second-Rate iPad Magazine, Not a Newspaper” added Mashable. I could not help but be reminded of Bloomberg’s review of the iPhone in 2007: “Apple iPhone Will Fail in a Late, Defensive Move.” Ups.
As the screenshot below shows, as of today the iTunes average grade from regular users is significantly more favorable.
In fairness to the detractors, The Daily is not perfect. There are technical bugs and some issues with the navigation, but by golly, we are talking about a product that is a few days old on a platform that was launched in April last year. I am convinced they will get the technology right (crashing, load times), and when they do we can focus on what is really important. The content.
It would be easy to categorize The Daily as a traditional “newspaper” landing every morning on your iPad. But in reality it is not. The Daily is deceptively familiar with it’s organized news sections and added crosswords, Sudoku and weather, but look through it, and you will find that there is actually not a whole lot of “real” news. There is definitely no breaking news. And that is a good thing. You can get your breaking news on your Twitter, RSS feed or any free news website/app.
What The Daily is doing is different. It is almost like a daily magazine with a mix of current, curated and unique content. Think Time Magazine published daily. It has content the younger and plugged-in iPad audience will immerse themselves in (in my 30s, male and owning plenty of gadgets, I guess I am part of that audience).
Take yesterday’s article about Amish raw milk smugglers or today’s story on how keeping the same heart rate as your date means there is a love connection. Both stories surprised, informed and entertained me. Then there is the conflict in Egypt. All news outlets have of course covered the conflict. The Daily covered it too. However, like a magazine, the focus is on the stories behind the story. One added bonus was the 3-D generated visual of the battleground at Tahrier Square. I have not seen that in any of the free news apps.
The iPad audience is curious by nature. They are interested in news, and the research suggests they are very engaged in the apps they choose to spend time with. The competition for The Daily is not necessarily other free news apps and Websites. Instead the question is, when the iPad user comes home from work and sits down on the couch for a “lean back” experience, which app will he open? Angry Birds? Netflix? iBooks? Project Magazine? Facebook? The Daily? Huffington Post? Ultimately, The Daily needs to be part of the user’s evoked set of apps. It is an exclusive bunch of apps that are invited into a user’s mind, and I bet for the regular iPad user, there is only room for one or two “news” apps.
On the subscription side, Apple and The Daily are leading the way with the new iTunes payment model. $0.99 per week charged automatically to your credit card with a one-click purchase. I know, I know. It is difficult for legacy publishers to come to terms with not “owning” the relationship with the customer, and it is even tougher to swallow giving up 30% to Apple. But the attraction of a one-click experience and a non-threatening price point are crucial elements in the quest to get readers to – once again – pay for content. Forget trying to integrate with an outdated legacy subscription system. Forget forcing customers through a cumbersome registration process. Let us just be happy they are willing to pay.
So, what does the launch mean for local and regional publishers like us? I would say The Daily has set the bar pretty darn high. Local and regional newspapers that have decided to go with a straight page-for-page replica of their print newspaper need to rethink their strategy. Quickly. For us at Freedom Communications, I think (hope) we are on the right path. We do not have the luxury of 100 people devoted solely to the iPad. We have, however, hired four talented people to produce our daily iPad product, targeted for a March launch date. Their job will be to curate and enhance stories coming out of our content center as well as adding unique and compelling content targeted specifically at the iPad audience.
We should all hope for the success of The Daily, because that means success for our whole industry. We will be following. Onwards!