Friday, February 25, 2011

The Daily updates its app, extends free trial period; thoughts on the 'need' for The Daily, or the lack thereof

News Corp.'s iPad-only digital news app was updated today, extending the free trial period and claiming to fix several important bugs -- though after updating the app I found that it crashed continuously, deleting the app and reinstalling fixed the problem.
The free trial period has been extended to March 21. News Corp. probably picked this time because Apple will have updated its iOS by then. iOS 4.3 will bring in the new subscription services, as well as other improvements. Apple has scheduled an event for March 2nd where it is assumed that the company will unveil the iPad 2 -- we may get some guidance concerning the iOS update then, as well.

Today's app update did not contain the warning that the app should be deleted before installing the updated app. In fact, the description promises a "seamless app update experience" -- in fact, I've never experienced bigger issues with app than what I had this morning, as the app continuously crashed upon launch. As I said, deleting, then reinstalling the app did the trick.

As the days have gone by, and The Daily has essentially evolved into a tablet version of the NY Post, I begun to wonder about the value of Rupert Murdoch's tablet newspaper. It has been hard to separate out my professional judgement from my personal judgment as the iPad-only digital news product has moved steadily further to the right.

There is no doubt a strong argument to be made that it was vitally important for some major media company to launch a tablet-only newspaper to both experiment with the form, and to try out different business models.

But over the past few days I have begun to wonder if The Daily is, in fact, violating the basic principals of all media launches -- fulfilling a need in the market.

At first you could argue that since there are no mainstream media tablet only newspapers that The Daily is creating a first. But that confuses the product from the platform. What do I mean? The New York Times' iPad app may not be an iPad-only news product because it also has its website and print newspaper, but so what? There it is, on the iPad. Same goes for all the other news apps. So is being "iPad-only" a strategic advantage? It is hard for me to see it, other than from a design standpoint.

So why do we need The Daily? Isn't it just another News Corp. publication? Well, increasingly it is. Where Rupert Murdoch said during the launch that he wanted The Daily to appeal to everyone, the editors have increasingly moved the tablet product towards a New York tabloid look and feel. Instead of the grimy, inky feel of the Post, we get the shiny, brilliant look of the iPad. But it is still the same product, isn't it?

What News Corp. ended up producing wasn't something new, it couldn't, it staffed The Daily with News Corp. veterans and asked them to create for this new digital product. That is why The Daily today is filled with celebrity stories and, well, celebrity stories, and then an AP story about the Wisconsin Assembly passing the budget repair bill (looks like they just stuck that one in there late last night to go in front of the two other stories on the subject).
But there are some things that I will admit are coming out of the experiment that will be useful.

First, advertising is being designed for The Daily, it's always good to get some creative made for use both at The Daily and elsewhere. But I really, really think the ad agencies NOT careting for the iPad are missing out big time. The multimedia ads are fantastic and fulfill the promise of multimedia far better than those Flash ads for the web. Whether anyone want to play in the sandbox with Apple's iAds team is another story, but the medium holds tremendous promise. Further, those iPad owners who complain about ads in the apps don't seem to be complaining about these new ads that often have video embedded in them, as well as being animated.

Second, story length: The Daily is naturally going to produce shorter stories -- this isn't The New Yorker. But the standard length of a one-page iPad story is going to be different from your standard short web story. These things are getting worked out through this experiment.

But, I'm still at a loss to explain the market need The Daily is filling. It has been almost one year since I first unboxed my iPad and my reading habits have gotten pretty well established: I use the browser and some news apps to find instant information; I use the news and magazine apps to read long form content. I can see that if I were a Post reader, or Fox News viewer I might be interested in The Daily, but I would also be interested in the Post, WSJ or any of a number of MSM news products. The Daily is bringing me something new.

For "new" I will probably need to find something that is both iPad-only, and not produced by a major media company. Maybe that product will get launched later this year.


Anonymous said...

It does say to delete the older version prior to updating.

From the description:

What's New in Version 1.0.3
Essential update to The Daily! Including an extended free trial period.

For best results when updating please delete the older version of the app from your iPad before installing this one.

Douglas Hebbard said...

That's because you are looking at update 1.03, which was added again today due to the number of crashes 1.02 users were experiencing.

I noticed they have completely taken out the line I mentioned: "seamless app update experience". Gone.