Murdoch's The Daily iPad experiment improves

Larry Kramer · May 2, 2011 · Short URL:

...with the help of technology, News Corp's news product gradually gets better

New Corp’s bold experiment to launch an IPad-native news product is starting to show a little life. With the release of Apple’s IPad2, the previously unusable App became a lot more responsive. Besides the launch, publisher Greg Clayman said the newer releases of the The Daily’s app also went a long way to deal with the technical issues that plagued the first, highly publicized, release of the product three months ago today.

It was a great experience to click on The Daily on my IPad and see a dramatic magazine-style cover blasting the death of Bin Laden. Next time, I’d like to see more interactive and video content, in real-time, bringing the story to life with every form of media available to the IPad.

That those elements were missing last night are proof that while the more powerful platform offered by the IPad2 does cut the response time of the Daily considerably and make it a much more usable product, there are still lingering editorial and user interface issues that will have to be addressed.

First, the User Interface: The major navigational tool is a “wheel” that is similar to one interface apple uses on its computers and mobile devices. It allows the user to “sweep” pages to the left or right and pick which page he or she wants to see. The problem with The Daily is that it is nearly impossible to read anything but the largest headlines on those pages so you don’t really have a great basis to decide if you want to read a page or not. The photo images are impressive, but you understand that tapping on that page will only increase the size of the same photo. It’s an unwieldy interface that actually slows down the speed in which a reader can find what he or she wants, whether it’s a story or a section of the publication. The great advantage of digital media is the speed with which it brings you information and the ease of navigation to find what you want. The Daily ignores both of those advantages, and, in fact, in cases like “the wheel” actually negates those advantages.

Next, the Content: Much of the content is quality writing and journalism and would be totally acceptable in either magazine or newspaper formats. But this is specifically NOT a magazine or newspaper. As a digital product it needs to stress the advantages of the media, and bring content to the reader in real-time and easy to digest, quick to access content. It also needs to be a place where text, photos, video and interactivity are used as part of the story telling process, which SHOULD be a much richer experience that can only be offered in this interactive world.

The App should also be “alive” when the IPad is connected to the internet via either WiFi or 3G. It should be constantly drawing down updated content and letting readers know that the content has arrived. The reason we need digitally native news products is because they are uniquely positioned to take advantage of the new digital platforms, NOT to do a good job of translating an old media product on to a new medium. News Corp.’s own New York Post app and Wall Street Journal app do the best job of THAT.

Instead, The Daily needs to be a medium that SHOUTS the advantages of being digitally tethered to the sources of news. The publication should be delivering both content AND context in real-time, and its audience should expect no less. There has been little attempt to create context beyond an uncomfortable combination of magazine and newspaper display.

This leads me to another critical question. Why doesn’t The Daily create a web-based version of the product? Just because it is an IPad-native product doesn’t mean that the content can’t also be used in every other form of media, which would, in the long run, be very helpful in building multiple revenue streams to pay for the overall news operation. The Web is the most obvious format because it also appears on mobile devices, including the IPad and other tablets. Just as every existing traditional news brand is trying to use the web to expand its audience and revenue, why wouldn’t The Daily do the same.

In fact, it’s actually EASIER to translate from a real-time medium to any other because you have already created the content you will need to present on other platforms. You will need to bring on some people with unique talents for each medium (the silken voice of radio, the appearance of an attractive AND intelligent anchor on television), but the major product you create in the newsroom, i.e. News, can and should fuel news products on many different platforms.

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