Now that News Corp. CEO Rupert Murdoch has proudly unveiled The Daily at an event in New York, I can begin to answer some questions — including a few I noted this morning — about the first publication “built from scratch” for the iPad.
The app appears rich and magazine-like. It is dominated by photos and includes interactive graphics, polls, Twitter feeds, video and audio.
The core navigational element is a carousel that features the first page of each story in the current edition. When browsing the carousel, a label at the bottom of each page indicates if you have already read that story. (While that’s a neat feature, it may not work well if an iPad is shared within a household.)
There are six sections: News, Gossip, Opinion, Arts & Life, Apps & Games, and Sports. Editor Jesse Angelo highlighted sports during his presentation, saying it was a “real show-stopper.” Features there include customizable team news, schedules, photos and Twitter feeds from teams and athletes.
Contrary to some earlier reporting on the topic, the app will be friendly to breaking news updates, according to Angelo. He said the publication will use a variety of techniques to keep up with developing news, such as inserting new story pages into the app, using Twitter feeds and posting tickers across the bottom of the screen. “This is not a once-a-day, static product,” he said.
The app doesn’t have a search or archive function yet; that feature is in development.
Apple’s Eddy Cue handled the subscription question, saying it would be “as easy as one click.” He confirmed that The Daily will be available for 99 cents per week or $39.99 per year, which will be billed automatically to subscribers’ iTunes accounts. He declined to answer when recurring subscriptions will be available to other publishers and what policy restrictions will be imposed on their business models.
The first two weeks of the app will be free, the result of an inaugural sponsorship by Verizon.
I tested out the subscription process, and it is as easy as any other in-app purchase via iTunes. You simply select the weekly or annual option, and that’s it. Interestingly, the app asks permission to “share your information” with the publisher — including name, e-mail and ZIP code — in order to “send you messages” about related products.
This indicates that publications using the recurring subscription service have gained some access to Apple’s customer information, but only on an “opt-in” basis. That is a small victory for publishers, but likely not what they had been hoping for.
At launch, The Daily is available on two platforms: the iPad, and to some extent the Web. Stories will be available on the Web, but generally only when shared from within the app.
Murdoch made it clear that the publication eventually would be developed for other tablets as the market for those devices becomes clear. However, he said the next year or two will be dominated by the iPad.
According to Murdoch, one of the benefits of being an iPad-only publication is the cost savings. “There is no paper, no multimillion-dollar presses, no trucks,” he said. “We are passing these savings onto the reader.”
When questioned further, Murdoch said the project would be successful when “we are selling millions.” But, he noted, “Our ambitions are very big, but our costs are very low.”
Specifically, he confirmed the launch effort was a $30 million dollar investment for News Corp., but actual operating costs are less than $500,000 per week. That puts the publication’s annual budget near $26 million, which on a subscription basis alone would require 650,000 subscribers to break even.
And although subscriptions are expected to be the main revenue source at the beginning, Murdoch pointed out that the app also carries advertising. He said that The Daily plans to share information with advertisers if users select something within the app to say they’re interested.
On a side note, Cue reported that there are over 9,000 news apps available in the iTunes store, which have accounted for 200 million downloads so far. However, he didn’t specify how many of those apps, or downloads, were built by traditional news organizations.
Much of what we heard in advance about the Daily’s integration with social media appears to be accurate.
The publication will have a website, but it will largely be available only via links shared within the app, such as this example from Wednesday’s issue. The front page of TheDaily.com will not have a list of articles to be browsed.
Angelo said The Daily would post to the Web features that would work on that platform, but not those designed for the touch interface. That presence will enable The Daily to be part of the larger Web conversation, he said.
The Daily staff will also support a Facebook page, a Twitter account and a Tumblr blog. There had been some talk of YouTube and Vimeo integration prior to launch, but they weren’t discussed at the event.
It is too early to pass any judgment on the content; in response to a questioner, Angelo simply said to stay tuned. But, he stressed that content would be a key to success.
He said The Daily would have “great content that is incredibly compelling,” filled with what he described as wit verve, and punch. “If you want people to come back, you have to make them think and make them smile.”