6 questions about The Daily & the viability of an iPad publication

So far we know what The Daily will look like and who will work there — and that’s about it. We will learn more at 11 a.m. Wednesday when Rupert Murdoch unveils the new e-paper/newspaper/app at the Guggenheim in New York.

Murdoch’s experiment is nothing if not bold, and in the coming months I hope The Daily will help answer these questions regarding not just its own success, but the future of digital journalism, tablets and paid content.

Will The Daily be updated more than daily, and if not, will it be viable?
As Ken Doctor wrote on Tuesday, in light of events in Egypt, how will a “daily” tablet publication stay relevant? I have described how mobile news apps must focus on breaking news because a lack of frequent, authoritative updates discourages readers from checking in on a regular basis.

Publishing once a day is probably not enough for any digital news outlet, even one apparently positioned as a “daily” e-paper. Peter Kafka at All Things Digital reports the app is designed to allow “midday” updates, but even with a stable of current and former bloggers in the newsroom, it appears breaking news will be the exception, not the rule.

How will the subscriptions work, and what does that mean for iTunes subscriptions for news products?
Much of this will depend on how Apple implements its new periodical subscription service. I’d like to know what deal News Corp. negotiated with Apple — revenue share, subscriber data, “push” updates — and if those terms will be available (or applicable) to other news organizations. Apple appears to be tightening control over the iTunes Store again, which continues to concern newspaper and magazine publishers.

Can subscribers access this content on other devices, and how will that impact readership?
People don’t carry their iPads around town. Consumers will desire a subscription that enables them to access content on their smart phones and desktop computers. This “read anywhere” approach is emerging as the linchpin of many media strategies, including Murdoch’s own Wall Street Journal.

However, Kafka reported Tuesday that TheDaily.com, which will be free, will include a “grudging” 10 percent of the overall content. Without a significant Web presence or smart phone app, the typical reader will have scant opportunity to stay in touch with the publication during the day. If multi-platform access isn’t included at launch, I will be surprised if News Corp. doesn’t deal with it in some way.

How social will it be?
For media organizations, “getting” social means more than just encouraging story sharing. It entails using the power of social networks to enable news discovery and filtering.

On Friday I suggested that The Daily, along with others such as The Huffington Post and The Washington Post, were well positioned to reinvent the tablet news app by combining the best aspects of original reporting, curated content and social media feeds. Though I don’t expect to see this level of social integration from The Daily on Wednesday, this is an important issue.

What topics will it cover?
App design and technology are important, but content will make the difference. How will this publication cover the entire country with only 100 staffers? The Daily will have a technology editor, opinions editor, culture editor, ideas reporter, celebrity and gossip reporters, and even health, science, space and military reporters. How much will it rely on outside sources, such as wire services?

Who is going to buy it, and will imitators follow?
The $30 million dollar question (the publication’s reported budget) is who will subscribe and how many. As Alan Mutter pointed out on Monday, The Daily is facing a Web full of free content — so it must be a “breakout product” to compete.

That said, if The Daily is successful, who will follow it onto the iPad? Publishers are already moving in that direction, but print-based competitors will have trouble matching Murdoch’s price of 99 cents per week or $4.25 per month. As major publishers such as The New York Times embrace paid content strategies, it will be even more important for them to bundle print and digital subscriptions.

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