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

The subscription-based app, unveiled at New York's Guggenheim Museum, is designed to expand Rupert Murdoch's media empire with a new business model for delivering content digitally.
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, February 2, 2011; 9:10 PM

The company behind the Wall Street Journal, the New York Post and Fox News 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 company 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 on 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, updated during the day as needed, and will run up to 100 pages. Its design owes more to the graphics-heavy layout of a magazine such as Time or Newsweek than to any newspaper.

Like a Web publication, it will include links to Web content - shockingly few, to judge from the debut edition - and can incorporate live Twitter updates. The Daily's readers can also share links via Twitter, Facebook and e-mail. Although recipients can read shared stories for free, the rest of each edition remains restricted to subscribers.

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

Furthermore, News Corp.'s other outlets don't appear in the Daily. Its news coverage isn't complemented by Wall Street Journal stories, neither does its "Gossip" section include pieces from the New York Post's Page Six.

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

Reading the Daily can involve a certain amount of sluggishness. The "carousel" interface that greets you when you launch it lags behind your gestures, and some turns of an onscreen page also leave you waiting for a moment.

I also noticed one outright bug: With the Daily open, an iPad would not shut off its screen automatically, quickly draining its battery.

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

It also includes an opinion section. Editor Jesse Angelo dodged a question about whether it would mirror the right-leaning ideological tilt of other News Corp. outlets, saying only, "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 said, adding that he thinks this year and next "belong to Apple."

For all of the media attention devoted to the Daily, it's only one competitor in the content to reboot journalism in a tablet form.

For example, the iPad-only Flipboard - which seems to have recovered nicely from an overhyped launch - combines the rich graphic design of print magazines with the easy navigation of a touch-screen device but also offers access to a wide variety of content from across the Web. (That menu now includes stories from The Washington Post's Sunday magazine.)

And 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 Washington Post Co. is an investor in Ongo.)

And let's not forget that News Corp. has shown itself to be eminently fallible online: This is the company that spent $580 million to buy the social-networking sinkhole known as MySpace. One sign of trouble this time around: Murdoch admitted in an interview with Fox Business Network that he's giving up the standard 30 percent revenue share to Apple for the first year but hopes to lower that later.

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

© 2011 The Washington Post Company