Thursday, February 3, 2011

In praise of The Daily, and a cautionary note

Between that time when I started to wake up, and the time my iPhone alarm would go crazy, I drifted in and out of sleep, having all sorts of crazy thoughts. One of them involved Rupert Murdoch and his new team at his iPad-only news product, The Daily.
I dreamt Murdoch had gathered Jesse Angelo, Greg Clayman and Jon Miller together after yesterday's event at the Guggenheim. Murdoch turned to Angelo and Clayman and said in that familiar voice of his "now guys, I have great faith in you. I am leaving The Daily in your hands because I know you can get the job done. Now go back to your offices and get to work. And remember this: if you fail, you'll never work for News Corp. again. In fact, I'll make sure you never work at any media company again in your life times. Now good luck."

Off went Angelo and Clayman, a bit shocked, and more than a bit concerned that they better make The Daily a success. Miller turned to Murdoch and smiled: "wow, that should motivate them!" Murdoch revealed a small, wry smile, then turned to leave. But he stopped, turned, and pointed his finger at Miller and said "and that goes for you, too!"

It is very doubtful that Rupert Murdoch has burned the ships of The Daily staff, but that would probably be a very good idea. It may be there best chance at success.

Unlike many media writers who will want, and may already have, passed judgment on the new iPad-only digital newspaper, I feel that there is no way I want to fall into that trap. I know that I won't be held to my opinions -- just look who Postmedia brought on as consultants and you'll know that being wrong about all things related to the iPad isn't a drag on one's career -- but why bother passing judgment too fast on a daily product that will no doubt evolve quickly over the next few weeks?
No, at the moment I am just grateful that the folks at News Corp. realized that spending $30 million or more on The Daily is chump change in the greater scheme of the corporation -- about the cost of the first ten minutes of the next James Cameron movie.

Face it, us media types come pretty cheaply now-a-days. So rather than continue to bemoan the state of the newspaper industry News Corp. has taken the plunge in a major way -- and unlike the RSS driven and formatted tablet editions put out by the NYT and others, this one feels more like a native iPad news product, one specifically designed for the iPad.
While others may predict the ultimate success of The Daily, Greg Clayman and his team will be out there selling ads. Look at this one at right for Land Rover. There are also ads for Verizon, Pepsi, HBO, Macy's and Virgin Atlantic, as well as plenty of house ads for Fox. (What a great buy by Verizon! Today is the day Verizon customers can start ordering their iPhone 4s, and wouldn't an iPad owner who uses Verizon be the perfect prospect?) How many of these ads are in your publication this morning? (Rhetorical question.)

And that is the point here. Someone needs to be in the new land without their ships. Jesse Angelo is probably pretty sure that there will be a soft landing for him somewhere at News Corp. if things don't work out. But a little demon in me thinks it might be better if the team at The Daily is a bit scared this morning. Excited, adrenalin flowing, but still a little scared.