Apple and News Corp launched The Daily, an iPad-only newspaper, Feb. 2 in New York City. Priced at 99 cents per week (and $39.99 per year), the publication enters a complicated and dynamic media environment that seems to take special pleasure in crushing upstarts.
The question is whether the iPad's popularity and News Corp's production muscle can translate into an offering with marketplace endurance. In addition to created-from-scratch news content, The Daily offers built-in games, weather updates, a customizable sports dashboard, interactive video and photos, and stories read aloud.
"The Daily is a manifestation of what can be called the Flipboard revolution. Flipboard, launched in 2010 and listed as an app of the year for iPad, offers a blend of visually striking and relevant content with significant social overlay," Allen Weiner, an analyst with Gartner, wrote in a Feb. 2 posting on his corporate blog. "Pilot season for Flipboard newspapers has just begun. The New York Times, AOL and others will soon be out with similar products. Is being first an advantage?"
In a Nov. 9, 2010, interview with The Australian Financial Review, News Corp CEO Rupert Murdoch suggested that The Daily would need a circulation of around 800,000 readers to become economically viable-a number he believed achievable in the context of the iPad's sell-through rate. "By the end of the next year there will be 30-40 million iPads," he said at the time. "I believe every single person will eventually have one, even children."
Indeed, iPad users apparently rely on their device to deliver fresh news content, according to a recent survey by the Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute at the University of Missouri.
Around 84.4 percent of that survey's 1,600 participants said they used their iPad to follow breaking news and current events, a bit behind the 89.2 percent who said they used their PC for the same purpose. Some 70 percent said they relied on an iPhone as a news source.
"These findings are encouraging for newspaper publishers who plan to begin charging for subscriptions on their iPad app editions early next year," Roger Fidler, the Institute's program director for digital public and research project leader, wrote in a Dec. 9 statement, "but our survey also found a potential downside: iPad news apps may diminish newspaper print subscriptions in 2011."
Contrary to some early reports that suggested The Daily would attempt to segregate the entirety of its content from the Web or outside world-a walled garden within the iPad's walled garden, say-users can apparently share the newspaper's content via Facebook, Twitter and e-mail.