Non-pulp friction: The Daily app goes after a new generation on tabs

Feb 3, 2011
Finance

Media magnate Rupert Murdoch, of New Corp. (NWS), and his new best pal Apple (AAPL) founder Steve Jobs were making headlines Wednesday with the launch of the new The Daily newspaper app for iPad. Murdoch may see this app as his legacy. It’s a new age pubication with text combined with video and interactive features. […]

Media magnate Rupert Murdoch, of New Corp. (NWS), and his new best pal Apple (AAPL) founder Steve Jobs were making headlines Wednesday with the launch of the new The Daily newspaper app for iPad.

Murdoch may see this app as his legacy. It’s a new age pubication with text combined with video and interactive features. It includes 360-degree photos. You can share stories via social media—something once rejected by News Corp.

The Daily costs 99 cents per week or $40 per year, billed via iTunes with Apple of course taking a cut.

An iPad newspaper would appear to be a great solution to reaching a tab-savvy crowd, most of whom don’t want to get ink on their hands.

Personally, I still support the dead-tree format. But snowbound in suburban Chicago Wednesday, I never ventured out the door. I don’t know if my New York Times arrived or was buried in two feet of snow on my driveway.

The Daily, or web-based news, would seem to help me through this blizzard of discontent, providing news and keeping my feet dry and fingers clean.

The Murdoch news sent me on a semi-sentimental journey back to when I was a reporter on the Chicago Sun-Times.

Back in 1984, Sun-Times management told us that the paper was up for sale. But our dapper publisher Jim Hoge promised there was one person to whom they would never sell.

Of course, he was hinting at Rupert Murdoch. In my experience, whatever management denies turns out to be exactly what happens.

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Murdoch landed in 1984, sending many Sun-Times journos for the exits, collecting buyouts on the way.

His ownership caused all sorts of mischief and trashed the paper’s reputation. But I’ll say this: It wasn’t so bad for the employees. We did some excellent stories. And we got some of the biggest raises in my 26-plus years at the paper.

(I left with a buyout myself three years ago.)

Murdoch owned the paper for two years, selling the paper for profit and buying a Chicago TV station and then founding the Fox Network. The effects are dizzying—from the impact of Fox News to creation of The Simpsons, which often take shots at Fox and even Murdoch.

As a tech reporter, I remember covering a meeting, years after Murdoch left, at which Murdoch described his ambitious plans to include the Internet in his media future. He is a visionary and a newsman to the bone. He also likes to turn a profit.

He hasn’t always succeeded.  He spotted the potential of social media when he bought MySpace. The success of Facebook shows Murdoch was in the right direction, just the wrong horse. Now Murdoch is aiming to dump MySpace.

The Daily has received mixed reviews. Some praise; some felt it landed with a thud on a snowy driveway.

Gizmodo said: “The Daily is finally here. It’s good all the way through, occasionally great, and it will certainly be an impressive feat (and a good value) if they can keep churning it out like this every day. But it’s no revolution.”

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Scott Rosenberg in wordyard said: “There are no links of any kind in the content. Reading it feels like a spin in the Wayback Machine. I guess News Corp. thinks that’s what people want? But surely, for $30 million, Murdoch could at least have gotten something a little more up-to-date — with, say, the mid-90s?”

Peter Christy, a retired engineer and tech-smart friend of mine from Glen Mills, Pa., downloaded The Daily. He was once a committed subscriber to print editions, but he has cut back on the pulp and welcomes The Daily in principle.

He said: “I think The Daily is a great idea, but I’m glad I get two weeks free before committing to a paid subscription, especially since it won’t replace a wood pulp subscription. I downloaded it today, quickly went through the premier edition, but will leave it to professionals who write reviews to judge it on the first day.”

Personally, even as one who supports the dead-tree format, I think newspapers and magazines should save the paper and save the delivery costs and switch to tablets.

Murdoch and Jobs are blazing a trail that other publishers can follow to develop apps that will finally enable them to tap into their brand recognition and writers to extract some cash on the iPad or the flock of other tabs that is emerging. Maybe they could help things along and give their subscribers free tabs.

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