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Posted at 1:00 PM ET, 02/ 2/2011

News Corp. launches its tablet-only The Daily app for the iPad

By Rob Pegoraro

The company behind the Wall Street Journal, the New York Post and Fox News just launched a tablet-only news application called The Daily that owes nothing to those media brands.

News Corp.'s designed-from-scratch The Daily, a free download for Apple's iPad, will cost 99 cents a week or $39.99 a year after a free two-week trial. It's the most ambitious attempt yet by a traditional media firm to merge the subscription-plus-advertising business model of a print publication with the multimedia and interactivity of the Web.


News Corp. chairman and chief executive Rupert Murdoch and other executives introduced The Daily at an event in New York Wednesday morning. "Our aim is for The Daily to be the indispensable source for news, information and entertainment," said Murdoch.

Each issue will have original content and will run up to 100 pages, with a design that owes more to the graphics-heavy layout of a magazine such as Time or Newsweek than to any newspaper. Like a Web publication, it includes links to Web content and can also incorporate live Twitter updates. The Daily's readers can also share links via Twitter, Facebook and e-mail. But while their friends can read shared stories for free, the rest of each edition remains restricted to subscribers.

(2/3, 1:02 p.m. This didn't take long: Journalist and programmer Andy Baio has set up a site, called The Daily: Indexed, that aggregates all these shared links into an archive that--unlike The Daily's app--can easily be browsed by both category and date, and which costs nothing to read.)

News Corp.'s press release spells out some other notable features and limitations. Advertising, for example, will be confined to full-page ads instead of the traditional banners. But with bureaus only in New York and Los Angeles, not only is meaningful local coverage impossible, but even regional coverage may be selective.

The Daily's application does ask to use your location when you first launch it, but doesn't seem to use that information for much beyond providing a local weather forecast and filling out a "My Teams" page with scores and other updates. On an iPad in the District, that page lists the Wizards, Nationals, Redskins and Capitals (a selection that can be changed) but doesn't cover other sports leagues or college teams.

The Daily can bring news updates -- grabbing your attention with a "push notification" alert on the iPad's screen if you allow it -- but they may not come as frequently as with other publications. Editor Jesse Angelo said in a Q&A after the announcement that he didn't love "constantly changing" news sites that revised themselves every five minutes.

Like a newspaper--but unlike many other iPad newspaper apps, the Post's included--The Daily will feature a daily crossword and Sudoku puzzle.

It also includes an opinion section. Angelo dodged a question about whether it would mirror the right-leaning ideological tilt of some other News Corp. outlets, saying only that "we are patriotic, we love America... we believe in free ideas, we believe in free people."

News Corp. plans to ship versions of The Daily for other tablet devices -- presumably starting with those running Google's Android software -- but perhaps not soon. "We will be on all major tablets," Murdoch, but added that he thinks this year and next "belong to Apple."

For all of the media attention devoted to The Daily, you should remember that it's only one competitor in the content to reboot journalism in a tablet form. The iPad-only Flipboard -- which seems to have recovered nicely from an overhyped launch -- already combines the rich graphic design of print magazines with the easy navigation of a touch-screen device, and does so while offering access to a wide variety of content from across the Web. (That menu now includes stories from The Washington Post's Sunday magazine.) The subscription-based, advertising-free Ongo -- also available on the Web -- lets readers build their own news service from a selection of U.S. and British newspapers. (The Post Co. is an investor in Ongo.)

And let's not forget that News Corp. has shown itself to be eminently fallible in the online realm: This is the company that spent $580 million to buy the social-networking sinkhole known as MySpace.

There's no reason to think that The Daily or the business model behind it represents the last, best hope for journalism. But there are many reasons to think we'll see more attempts like this.

What else would you like to know about The Daily? Leave your questions in the comments, and I'll update this post with answers to them and further thoughts on this venture later today.

6:05 p.m. Read after the jump for those extra observations. I also added a disclaimer above about the Post's business relationship with Ongo that I should have included before.

After a day of browsing through The Daily between other things, I can't help thinking that this feels thinner than its page count would suggest. It's so heavy on the photos--especially in its Gossip and Arts & Life sections--that its text seems light in comparison.

To answer one question that quickly came up from colleagues: No, News Corp.'s other outlets don't show up in The Daily. Its news coverage isn't complemented by Wall Street Journal stories, nor does its "Gossip" section include pieces from the New York Post's Page Six.

Browsing through this thing continues to be a pleasant experience overall, but the inexplicable absence of a search function also means that you have no other way to navigate through this, er, paper.

Reading The Daily can also involve a certain amount of sluggishness. The "carousel" interface that greets you when you launch it lags behind your gestures as you try to flip through it. Some turns of an onscreen page also leave you waiting for a moment or two.

The Daily's sharing features do work as adverrtised--here, for example, is a story a friend shared via Twitter. It's easy to visualize a scenario in which nearly every story on The Daily wind up becoming public via shared links, except that some of its multimedia components don't translate to the Web.

But when you set aside those sharing features, The Daily seems weirdly aloof from the Web in general. The debut issue is shockingly bereft of links to other sites, and it's also walled off from many traditional forms of reader input. As journalist Scott Rosenberg noted in a blog post, this app lacks the usual feedback options: "no masthead page, no contact us page, nowhere to report errors or find corrections or anything of the sort."

The Daily doesn't seem to care if you have an active Internet connection; with an iPad in airplane mode, it worked almost exactly as it did before. You can also use a Saved Pages function, available through the "share" button at the top of each page, to save pieces for reading after the next day's edition arrives.

A tweet from tech journalist Steve Wildstrom confirmed that I wasn't alone in noticing one outright bug: With The Daily open, an iPad would not shut off its screen automatically, quickly draining its battery.

For more opinions on this debut, see the roundup of Web reactions posted by the BCC's Katie Connolly. And don't forget to read PaidContent's summary of some revealing quotes from an interview of Murdoch conducted by Fox Business Networks' Neil Cavuto, in which the CEO admits that he's giving up 30 percent of the upfront revenue to Apple for the first year but hopes to lower that share later on.

By Rob Pegoraro  | February 2, 2011; 1:00 PM ET
Categories:  Apple, Tablets, The business we have chosen  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: The Daily screen grabs: Part II
Next: Google demonstrates Android's Honeycomb tablet version, brings Android Market to the Web


The fact that this is "News Corp." and includes Fox "News" makes it a non-starter for many people. Tea-baggers might pick it up though.

Posted by: deanrd71 | February 2, 2011 2:00 PM | Report abuse

It sounds like it's going to have more of a centrist tilt in order to appeal to young people.

Posted by: andrew23 | February 2, 2011 5:33 PM | Report abuse

I did a trial subscription to The Post on my Kindle last Fall, and decided to cancel. Weaknesses: No Comics - I didn't expect the entire comic section, but a selection as in the Express would be nice. Unless you know which writers are columnists, giving opinions, it is hard to see which articles are hard news, and which are opinion. Adding the name of the column (like "Fast Forward") to the article title would have helped. I would have liked to see a few more photos or graphics, though I know that would need to keep in mind the Kindle's limitations. And yes, I know, the version of The Post on the iPad, or other larger color tablet would probably be better.

Altogether, I think The Daily might have it about right for e-readers, though I personally would never subscribe to what passes for "news" there. Now that I think of it, The Express would probably be great for Kindles and their bigger cousins. But I would miss Fast Forward, which doesn't appear in The Express.

Posted by: jcflack1 | February 3, 2011 9:26 AM | Report abuse

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