News Corp.'s daily news publication for the iPad launched today, banking on low operating costs, subscriptions and advertising revenue. The Daily app went live in the iTunes app store shortly after Rupert Murdoch and team unveiled the publication at an event in New York, which was also streamed live (available for playback on The Daily's website).
For any digital publisher, The Daily has several features worth considering to see if this app — and others that follow — will be profitable. Here are the essential attributes.
Photo: Murdoch (center) stands with (left to right) Miller, Cue, Angelo and The Daily Publisher Greg Clayman during The Daily's launch.
Subscription deal with Apple
As we've known for some time, The Daily has teamed up with Apple to enable in-app subscriptions (99 cents per week or $39.99 a year ― which comes to 14 cents an issue). At today's event, news publishers were given another tease of Apple's broader subscription plan coming “very soon,” said Eddy Cue, vice president of Internet services at Apple.
Some publishers have already created subscription workarounds for the iPad. When asked whether those models will continue to exist, Cue didn't offer much information, but said publishers should “rest assured” that Apple wants customers to be able to get publications easily from both the Apple store and a publication's website. (UPDATE: Meanwhile, The Wall Street Journal reports that Apple is cracking down on publishers not accepting payments through iTunes, but app developer Texterity blogs that Apple will allow publishers to sell their own subscriptions, as long as they also sell via iTunes. We'll have to get official clarification from Apple soon.)
While Apple was a big part of The Daily's launch, Murdoch made it clear that The Daily will not be exclusive to Apple in the future. "As other tablets get established, we will develop the technology to get on them," he said. "We expect to be on all major tablets."
The Daily is also offering advertising, launching with several big brands, and eventually planning on monetizing with a 50-50 subscription and advertising model, said Jon Miller, CEO of the Digital Media Group of News Corp.
Murdoch is confident that The Daily provides an appetizing platform for advertisers, and that making it free wouldn't have been better in the long-run. “I think [advertisers] would pay a much lower rate per thousand if it was free,” he said. “We believe it's better for advertisers and we'll draw a better class of advertisers at a better rate.”
Miller added that News Corp. is encouraging advertisers to take take advantage of the medium; like other publishers, The Daily offers interactive advertising formats. "We are encouraging advertisers to produce for this,” he said. "Going forward into the future, only high-quality environments are going to demand the premiums that people like to see in advertising."
So far News Corp. has spent $30 million getting The Daily out the door, Murdoch said. He seems confident the investment will be worthwhile and profitable, thanks to low operating costs running about $500,000 per week.
"Our ambitions are very big but our cost is very low," he said.
Murdoch said The Daily aims to be an indispensable source, aimed at recapturing the sophisticated readers who no longer read newspapers. The publication will publish 100 pages each day, covering news, sports, gossip and celebrity, opinion, arts and life, and apps and games.
One interesting aspect to watch will be how the publication manages to be both “lean-back,” taking advantage of high engagement levels on the iPad, while also providing more immediate “need to know” news content. The mission of The Daily is to be a vehicle to both break news and offer features, though Editor Jesse Angelo wouldn't say what the mix will be. Breaking news will be updated to the app throughout the day ― but not too often, he said.
Murdoch's mission was to create a product specifically for the medium in a way that hasn't existed before ― beyond moving a legacy print brand to digital (as other iPad-only launches have professed). The Daily's journalists come from many backgrounds (print, broadcast, etc), Angelo noted.
"New times demand new journalism," Murdoch said. "Simply put, the iPad demands that we completely reimagine our craft."
Early viewers of the app told AllThingsD that the digital paper seemed “both old-fashioned and new” ― offering some stories like any other publication and other stories in a more interactive format. Skeptics said it's similar to what magazines like Wired are already doing.
While I haven't had the opportunity to play with the app yet, today's presentation showed how features are built specifically for the iPad, including: 360-degree interactive photographs, HD video, a news anchor reading some of the stories, and a customizable sports page (featuring the team of your choice).
Incorporating social features
The Daily is also pushing to be social and connected to the Web. Users can share articles on social networks such as Twitter and Facebook and write (or even record) comments. Angelo showed how The Daily incorporates Twitter feeds from relevant people or hashtags into news stories. A movie page links out to IMDB, for example, and a fashion story links out to a designer.
But how this openness will work behind a paywall remains awkward. Angelo said items shared on a social network will be viewable, but non-subscribers can't access content for free directly. Subscribers will have access to mirrored content on the Web, stripped of graphical elements. Angelo said the publisher might use the Web version to promote via social networks.
In many ways, Murdoch is presenting something we haven't seen before in a daily news publication, incorporating personalization and social features in a new way. "In this exciting new era, we believe The Daily will be the model for how stories are told and consumed,” he said.
On the other hand, the initiative is very traditional: employing a staff of reporters to cover many channels presented through a single source. Poynter's Damon Kiesow pointed out earlier this week that the media industry needs to build a “Flipboard for news." Calling itself the “social magazine,” Flipboard represents the trend of content consumption moving toward social aggregation. The Daily is far from Flipboard.
Of course, publications like The Daily offer traditional, edited journalism in a way aggregators like Flipboard do not. The Daily will have to prove it can coexist with newer ways of consuming content in the Flipboard style by offering enough value to be a single, go-to source for media consumers on the iPad — all from its perch behind a paywall, within an app.