News Corp.’s Daily sets high bar for tablet news

Many people have talked about the eventual death of the daily printed newspaper because of the rapid adoption of the Internet and 24/7 news availability.

Many people have talked about the eventual death of the daily printed newspaper because of the rapid adoption of the Internet and 24/7 news availability.

As a pioneer in what was then called “new media,” I wrestled with the issue of whether I was speeding print newspaper’s demise. I was creating one of the first online newspapers, using dial-up bulletin board software. And there was always a struggle about whether we were “cannibalizing” the daily newspaper in choosing what to put online.

News and entertainment magnate Rupert Murdoch and his News Corp. are setting out to change the discussion with The Daily, the first “newspaper” designed for the amazingly popular iPad. News Corp. spent some $30 million on developing the first new tablet news site from the ground up and eventually will charge a buck a week or $40 a year for a subscription.

The product has gotten mixed critical reviews since rolling out earlier this month. The Daily initially launched Feb. 2, but there were application crashes causing a do-over. The second version was relaunched late last week. (The Daily recommends uninstalling the application completely and reinstalling from scratch.)

The newspaper takes about 10 seconds to refill every time over a Wi-Fi connection and offers a wide variety of content designed to give the user an overall glimpse of the world in 10 minutes. Critics who are calling The Daily too fluffy simply don’t understand the core audience of the daily online news product today, which is the 22- to 40-year-old iPad user. When I was a kid, my dad brought home five daily newspapers on his train ride from Chicago, which in no small part led to my becoming a print journalist. With eight children, I have had a close-up view of the next generation’s news viewing habits, and they’re not the same the previous generation’s. Despite having both a mother and father who were once print journalists, none of my kids would be caught dead reading a print newspaper. However, The Daily gets it.

Just the other day, my 17-year-old son was staring in awe at The Daily’s coverage of Easter Island, thanks to a 360-degree photograph that let him feel like he was standing right there. Clearly, the ability to play to the iPad’s strength makes The Daily work. Because the staff doesn’t have to play to the least common denominator (every grandma’s computer), the stories can have video, audio, 360-views or breathtaking photography as well as compelling text. Yes, the stories often are pretty short. And the critics who don’t like that haven’t raised any kids recently or looked at web penetration stats. People who need more in-depth coverage still have that button for The New Yorker. But as a news source, I find The Daily compelling and a great use of the technology. Other repurposed print newspapers for the iPad don’t nearly take full advantage of the iPad and its HD-video and other capabilities. Now, will a generation used to getting nearly everything online for free pay for anything? That is the big question. Many free news apps certainly are good enough for the iPad. So only time will tell if enough consumers will support The Daily or if enough advertising support someday will make it free