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The iPad Daily

Posted on Thursday, February 24, 2011 at 10:56 AM

How the iPad's daily newspaper is bringing the traditional newspaper into the Digital Age.

By Meredith L. Dias

Earlier this month, Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. launched The Daily, a daily newspaper for the Apple iPad. With this digital daily, News Corp. hopes to marry the traditional concept of the daily newspaper and tablet technology. Forrester Research has forecast that tablets will overtake desktop computing by 2013. News Corp. seems poised to take advantage of that trend.

The Daily is Murdoch's appeal to a new generation of readers. Will it become the gold standard for digital newspaper publishing? Will new readers latch on to Murdoch's vision? And just what subscription model is News Corp. going to use, anyway?

An App-based Subscription

Thanks to Verizon sponsorship, The Daily will be available to iPad users for a free two-week trial. Satisfied readers can subscribe for 99 cents per week or $39.95 per year through the iTunes App Store. There is a new issue each day, with periodic updates throughout the day for breaking news content.

There are, of course, limitations. Currently, the publication is iPad-only; not even iPhone users can access it. What this means for the ultimate success of The Daily, which just debuted on February 2, remains to be seen. While the iPad is certainly popular, it stands to reason that News Corp. would get more mileage (not to mention profit) out of the daily, which will cost an estimated $56 million to run in its first year, if it were at least available to the millions of iPhone users in the United States.

Publication Features

So what does a subscription to The Daily get you? "A newspaper that's both old-fashioned and cutting edge," says Peter Kafka of MediaMemo.com. Journalistic content is beefed up with photographs, 360-degree panoramic images, streaming HD video, and links. Users can share some content with their social networks, but other content remains behind a paywall.

Interactivity plays a role in The Daily's identity, too. Users can share certain articles with their social networks, and there are both text and audio comment options for readers to sound off about stories. They can also customize their reading experience with features like local weather data.

Some early adopters of the app describe their Daily experience as "more like reading a news magazine than a traditional newspaper." Others have dismissed the newspaper as tabloidesque. Still others have lauded Murdoch's incorporation of snazzy multimedia extras into news copy.


News Corp. hopes that, eventually, subscriptions and advertising will each account for half the publication's revenues. For the time being, the newspaper will rely primarily upon its subscribers to pay the bills. However, in a recent article on RedHerring.com, newspaper analyst Ken Doctor predicts that less than one percent of iPad users will buy subscriptions to The Daily, which would necessitate a less balanced, advertising-heavy revenue model.

For the time being, the newspaper remains in a foundational phase, developing relationships and name recognition with advertisers and readers alike. CNBC reports that HBO, Land Rover, Macy's, Paramount Pictures, Pepsi, Verizon, and Virgin Atlantic are among the first advertisers.

Can The Daily Go the Distance?

The Daily has one advantage over its competitors: It is brand new and, therefore, free to explore its own potential without the burden of heavy reader expectations. Unlike the New York Times or Time, this is a new brand. It has no print or digital predecessor and, therefore, can evolve with a freedom impossible for an established publishing brand. However, with its powerful Murdoch backing, The Daily has enough resources and name recognition to become a powerful contender if it employs sound strategic planning.

There are, as mentioned earlier, limitations. With several high-profile tablet models, not to mention the perpetually expanding crop of smartphone users, it would be wise for News Corp. to reconsider its iPad-only strategy. The iPad makes for a compelling test market, but with other tablets now on the market and several more due to hit stores this year, it seems unwise to remain iPad-exclusive for long. We can't know how popular The Daily will become, but if it does meet or exceed expectations, expanding beyond the iPad could mean the difference between 50,000 and 5,000,000 subscribers.

Meredith Dias is senior editor of STRAT.

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