Death of The Daily: Is Online Journalism Doomed Too?
By Dennis Bailey
Pesident, Savvy Inc.
I’ll confessthat I am a subscriber and regular reader of The Daily, Rupert Murdoch’s and Apple’s experiment in iPad-only journalism. I rather enjoyed it first thing in the morning. It gave me a quick review of current news, kept me up to date on entertainment fluff (generally before I read it elsewhere), and I dug the crossword puzzle.
That’s not to say that the publication was without its flaws. It had many. And now the soul searching begins to figure out why exactly did The Daily fail and what it means for the future of online publications. Was it the content or the technology, or something else altogether?
Here are my thoughts:
The Daily sure looked nice. It had a nice clean layout, fairly easy to navigate, and I liked the way it incorporated video and interactive media into the platform. But it was frustratingly slow to download, especially in the beginning, and often seemed buggy. Having to wait to download the entire publication when most people would probably only read a few of the articles is inexusable, especailly in an age when web pages load lightning fast over wifi.
The biggest problem though was that it was too much like a newspaper and not enough like a good online publication. It was posted in the morning and updated only sporadically, if at all, throughout the day. There was no search function, no easy way to share or archive stories to read later (it had a save function, but every time the app was updated, the saved stories would disappear). So if you wanted to go back and read something you’d seen a few days ago, you were usually out of luck.
The content was fairly light and definitely slanted toward the right. (And I never saw a publication with so many different tables of content throughout each issue.) That didn’t bother me all that much, but it did make The Daily a bit unfocused and broad. It seemed to be trying too hard to be a “real” newspaper, competing with the big boys like The New York Times to cover everything – news, entertainment, sports, business, etc. It was no niche publication. What it should have been doing is competing against magazine apps that aggregate news, like Zite or Flipboard that work well not just on the iPad but on the iPhone and other tablets. And if you want a quick review of the overnight news, Twitter or other social media sites are generally better and faster.
But it would be wrong to conclude that the future of online publications is bleak now that The Daily has crashed and burned. The Daily had something like 100,000 paid subscribers and was generating revenue in the millions. There are plenty of online publications that would kill for numbers like that, and would succeed handily.
The problem with The Daily appeared to be its high operating costs, which is ironic since high operating costs are exactly why dead tree journalism is declining and publications are heading to the web. Too many reporters, too many editors, not enough ad revenue – it’s as if The Daily took all of the newspaper industry’s worst problems with them when they went to the iPad.
Someone will come along and do it better, faster and leaner. And it will most likely be web-based instead of an app. They'll take the lessons from The Daily and do it many times better. In the not too distant future, The Daily will look like an early, failed experiement that only hinted at things to come.
Any readers of The Daily disagree?