In the last year, a good number of legacy newspapers have adapted to digital distribution channels, namely the iPad. Most recently the Washington Post joined the Wall Street Journal, USA Today, The Financial Times and the New York Times. But like an old habit that's hard to quit, they all maintain a printed version of the paper. Today, Rupert Murdoch and Apple joined forces to announce the launch of the first iPad-based newspaper, simply named The Daily.
Distributed electronically to the iPad, The Daily will be exclusive to Apple's tablet device only and will sell for 99 cents for a week's worth of news. According to David Carr, reporter for the New York Times, "people who own an iPad will tell you it makes everything look sexier. Maybe even a newspaper."
Rupert Murdoch, dubbing himself the "digital savior of paid content," has hired a staff of 100 and has invested $30 million in launching the first true digital newspaper, with rich media and photography develoiped exclusively for the iPad.
Clearly, with legacy newspapers and print media dying faster than the trees they were killing, Steve Job's iPad looks like a major conduit to bring subscription revenue back to the publication of news. Carr describes the transition as "an ancient motif on a modern device," where it will be produced in the evening, and released when a button is pushed to "print" digitally for the morning edition.
Differing from online news sites, The Daily will become a walled garden of sorts. At a time when the ecosystem of the Web is driven by hyperlinks, The Daily will have no inbound or outbound links from other sites. How this will work with advertising seems counter-intuitive. If users are unable to link to an ad - The Daily will have to derive the majority of its revenues from subscriptions.
Additionally, from a social media strategy standpoint, without an integration with Facebook or Twitter to broaden the distribution of the content, I think Murdoch and Jobs might want to re-think eliminating links from the equation. As part of the Web 2.0 Age, consumers sharing content with their friends and followers is not only desired today, its required to build readership.
According to Carr, estimates of a 100,000 subscribers seems likely but would yield less than $20 million annually in the first five years, even before Apple gets their cut. With $30 million in start-up funds, it looks like Murdoch may have to wait a long time for any kind of positive return on his investment.
The iPad, as a paid distribution medium seems to be acceptable for its owners. In addition to newspapers transitioning to the new platform, books are also by-passing traditional print publishers to be sold exclusively on the device. The first graphic novel about Facebook, titled, "Facebucks & Dumb F*cks" will only be available on iPads. Sold online at FifoBooks, the majority of books on the digital publishing site have no printed versions.
While everyone expects their literary and news content to be free on the Internet, the iPad is a channel where the targeted demographic places greater value on exclusivity and convenience versus cost. Time will tell if the The Daily fits that bill for the long haul? Your thoughts readers? Is this venture just another Murdoch folly? Or, a viable option on the digital horizon?
For other articles relating to Murdoch and his drive to replace free Internet access with paid content, check out ome of my previous posts on this topic.