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Despites the tablets, The Daily died

Tuesday, 4 December, 2012

“The Australian-born media mogul thought he could launch a new breed of news product from scratch. But in his quest for bold digital efficiency, he failed to see that a news product with no history, no breadth, no soul, no character could only face an uncertain future.” So noted Frédéric Filloux about The Daily, the first news app for the iPad which, after costing Rupert Murdoch $80 million, was unplugged yesterday.

The thing is, the canny Filloux wrote his pre-obit on 16 July this year. Almost six months later, following reports that The Daily‘s life support was being switched off, Jeff Jarvis argues in the Guardian that it wasn’t worth paying for: “Though it looked quite nice and its content was competent, that content was all-in-all just news and news is a commodity available for free in many other places. Larry Kramer, publisher of the much-larger USA Today, just said with admirable candor that he can’t put up a pay wall online because his product ‘isn’t unique enough’. Ditto The Daily.”

For publishers staking their future on tablet devices, the death of The Daily sends an ominous message, says Felix Salmon at Reuters:

“As far as news and journalism are concerned, the verdict is in: tablets aren’t a new medium which will support a whole new class of publications — there’s almost nothing you can do well on a tablet that you can’t just put on a website and ask people to read in a browser. Publications of the future will put their content online, and will go to great lengths to ensure that it looks fantastic when viewed on a tablet. But the tablet is basically just one of many ways to see material which exists on the internet; it’s not a place to put stuff which can’t be found anywhere else.”

Web wins. But it should be noted that Ben Johnson rebuts Salmon along the line here. “But there’s much, much more to publishing on the iPad than just blindly reproducing antiquated print metaphors, and there are plenty of developers out there doing amazing things with the medium,” he writes, and adds: “Publishing for a single platform, whether print, web, or the iPad, is a foolish move, and I think we knew that before The Daily was excised from News Corp.’s balance sheet. But to write tablet publishing off entirely due to one poorly-planned app from a massive traditional publisher would be terribly short-sighted.” The search for the viable successor to print continues.

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