The Daily debut flops: What went wrong?
The Daily debuted yesterday as the first scratch-built news publication for the iPad. But the initial edition of the long-awaited News Corp. project, which consisted of the barest possible news report backfilled by a bunch of vapid features, shockingly failed to live up to the ambitious mission it set for itself.
“It’s underwhelming,” said a friend paging with me through the new app for the first time. I couldn’t put it better myself.
The only thing not lightweight about The Daily is the amount of bandwidth required to download it. “The application is over 20 MB,” said a warning screen when I tried to acquire the app over AT&T’s wheezing 3G network. “Connect to wifi or use a computer to access it.”
Once The Daily was installed, I discovered that the day’s “news” report – which was not updated 12 hours after being introduced with great fanfare at mid-day in New York – was exactly four stories deep.
In addition to adequate but increasingly stale pieces on the turmoil in Egypt and the epic snowstorm in the Midwest, the other two stories on the “news” menu included a video on life behind bars at the Angola prison in Louisiana and an article on New York’s “doggie disco,” which was limned as “a hot spot for all kennel clubbers.”
From that inauspicious start, it was off to the really soft stuff, like a not-very-gossipy gossip piece on Natalie Portman, a yawner titled “Rihanna Who?” and the world premier of a game called “Oregon Trail,” which appears to be a cross between Farm Ville and Frontier Ville – as if we needed another one of those.
The lack of intellectual heft makes The Daily feel more like the Etch A Sketch edition of Us Magazine than the ground-breaking news platform it purports to be.
It was not all bleak. The pluses for the app included the ability to customize the sports section to feature your favorite teams, handsome picture galleries that switched on when the iPad was tilted to the horizontal position and a slick Macy’s ad that linked to the department store’s website, iPad app, Facebook page and Twitter feed.
Not even the appealing technological touches, however, made up for the weak and confusing mix of content.
So, what were they thinking at News Corp., where Rupert Murdoch reportedly earmarked $30 million to bring this project to market?
If The Daily is going after the New York Times/Huffington Post/CNN crowd, it fails for want of deep, broad, timely and authoritative content.
If it is going after the Miami Herald/Minneapolis Star Tribune/ Portland Oregonian crowd, it fails for want of local news, local flavor and local advertising.
If it is going after the New York Post/TMZ/Entertainment Tonight crowd, it is too tame, too wordy and too expensive to compete at even 99 cents a year.
As the producers of the Broadway version of “Spiderman” will tell you, it sometimes takes a while to get the kinks out of a new creative undertaking. So, The Daily may yet rebound.
Still, it is hard to understand how News Corp. – with all the global cross-media resources at its command – stumbled so badly on opening day. Is there a news doctor in the house?