Earlier this month media tycoon Rupert Murdoch made waves in the media world with the launch of The Daily, trumpeted as the first newspaper specifically designed for the iPad.
This daily publication is now downloadable in the U.S. app store with a free two-week subscription and the option to renew at 99 cents a week. While four dollars a month isn’t going to break the bank, the big question is whether an iPad newspaper is something anybody really needs.
When Apple’s groundbreaking tablet computer came out last January, many saw the iPad as the struggling publishing industry’s knight in shining armour.
But in the year since customers like me lined up outside the Apple store, traditional media outlets like the New York Times have found it difficult to charge a subscription fee under Apple’s strict in-app purchasing guidelines. So instead of redesigning the newspaper for the iPad age, legacy papers simply reformatted their existing iPhone apps for the supersized device.
While a few magazines have been specifically tailored for the iPad in the past few months (most notably Wired magazine and the iPad exclusive publication Project by Virgin), these are monthly publications that do not offer the scope and timeliness of my local newspaper.
Apple’s new in-app subscription policy opened up the door for companies like Murdoch’s News Corp. to create apps using a business model they’re familiar with.
At first glance, The Daily brings the best of print, broadcast and online media to the iPad’s rich screen. Once you start the application and load the latest issue, you’re taken to a home screen featuring a TV news-style video of the day’s headlines (or, if you prefer, an audio stream). Touch the screen at any point to interrupt the announcer and jump to the relevant article.
The articles themselves have several “touchpoints” that allow you to interact with the content and scroll through panoramic photos (I loved the picture of Egypt’s Tahrir square in the middle of the protest), sound clips, and videos. While the text downloads to your device, the video and audio stream from the Internet, limiting anyone who doesn’t have a 3G-enabled iPad if they’re on the go and away from a Wi-Fi connection.
As you’d expect, The Daily makes an effort to integrate social media networks like Facebook and Twitter into the content. While the Facebook sharing capability is still very raw, an article on Rihanna is complemented by the pop star’s constantly updating Twitter feed.
Of course, none of this is particularly new. Newspaper websites already have social networking widgets. RSS feeds, Twitter lists and existing apps like Reeder, Feedler, Newsrack, and Early Edition already allow us to customize and streamline the way we get our news. Why would I pay for something updated daily when there are so many 24/7 news sources available to me for free?
Perhaps it’s a matter of convenience. RSS and Twitter still require you to do quite a bit of legwork. It can be a pain to sift through your favourite sites and import them into yet another app. If you’re someone who prefers to have your news curated for you, The Daily may be the closest thing to opening the door and finding today’s newspaper on your doorstep. Or is that yesterday’s newspaper?