Today, Rupert Murdoch announced a new iPad app and a new business venture. The app is for the daily newspaper/magazine “The Daily,” an iPad-only publication that Mr. Murdoch believes is part of the future of journalism. The app displays content in an attractive, magazine style format, designed to be viewed with the iPad held in portrait orientation. Content is updated daily, though “breaking news” can be pushed to the device as needed.
If this sounds a lot like other news apps available on the iPad, that’s because it is. But what’s different is that The Daily takes advantage of new app “subscriptions,” meaning users can subscribe to the app and have content delivered, without needing to make in-app purchases for new content when it becomes available. In other words, The Daily costs money. Though the prices are insanely reasonable ($.99 per week or $40 per year), other news apps deliver content for free. Most notably, the New York Times app was upgraded a couple months ago to include all the paper’s content for free (though rumor has it that the Times will eventually start charging).
Does this new pay model have a chance? Can The Daily succeed? Having spent 20 minutes using the app, I’m impressed. Overall, the app has a nice format. I like the magazine style layout, even if some of the stories seem awful short. Navigation was a little confusing at first, but I eventually got the hang of it. The app seems a little buggy as well, with some stuttering in the animations, but I imagine that will be worked out eventually.
The best part is that the app does a good job of incorporating unique features into a publication that looks, on the surface, like a magazine in PDF format. Some stories have interactive quizzes or polls, or even embedded Twitter feeds. There are sudoku and crossword puzzles. (The sudoku puzzle was comically easy, but the feature was nice and worked well; I didn’t try the crossword.) Some stories have video content, and it seems likely that new features will be added as the designers get more creative.
The Daily’s first 2 weeks are free, sponsored by Verizon Wireless, so I’ll have plenty of time to keep checking out the quality of the content. In the end, the price for the content is extremely reasonable, and I’m inclined to keep using the app, even though I know that continued use will require payment. If the price was $5 a week, I probably wouldn’t bother, not wanting to be disappointed when my free trial went away.
In the end, though, it does all hinge on the quality of the content. If the news stories seem timely and well written, then I may become a subscriber. If I feel like I’m getting the same content I get through Google News or on the Times’ website, then Mr. Murdoch will need to try a little harder to remake journalism in the digital era.