Faults aside, The Daily is the digital future
Publishers, editors and entrepreneurs who underestimate this valuable experiment – generously underwritten by News Corp. to the tune of $30 million – will do so at their peril. Setting aside the bewildering fact that the app billed as first news product for the iPad scarcely contains any news, here’s why The Daily matters:
Dramatic display. The Daily takes full advantage of the iPad’s ability to handsomely render rich media on a large, high-resolution screen. The cover of Friday’s edition stunningly featured a 360-degree view of Tharir Square in Cairo, which began panning as soon as the page was launched. Every issue features photo galleries that appear when the tablet is turned in a horizontal direction. The Daily is the real deal when it comes to high-tech eye candy.
Concise storytelling. The Daily has disciplined itself to hold stories to a screen or two, packing as much punch as possible into every paragraph. Even though reading a book on the iPad can be pleasant for as long as your upper-body strength holds out, those publishing news for the digital media need to respect the limited time and attention span possessed by the typical info-overloaded consumer. Long-form programming is best left to the legacy print and broadcast media. Shoveling those formats onto the iPad is an unnatural act that will turn off most consumers. The Daily is differentiated from the legacy publishers because it is a digital native.
Rich-media integration. The Daily fully leverages the storytelling power and emotional impact of video, audio, photos and graphics. This is not to say that the implementation is perfect. Technical gremlins trip up the daily download of the app and often freeze and pixellate videos as they are playing. Some of the videos seem forced, off-point or just, plain dubious. In the latter case, a video of Rep. Gabrielle Gifford was promoted in a way that suggested it was produced since she was shot, rather than recycled from a filming that took place prior to the Tucson tragedy. Audio clips add texture and verisimilitude to the coverage and a slick recording format in the comments section lets visitors literally voice their opinions. Photos and graphics are bold, creative and help tell stories without the proverbial thousands of words. Notwithstanding the missteps described above, The Daily has the power to take rich media to the next level.
Interactive advertising. Ads don’t just look good in The Daily. They come alive. Best of all for advertisers and motivated consumers, the iPad makes it possible to connect immediately (assuming the stuttering AT&T network cooperates). Big buttons on the Macy’s ad in The Daily help readers click and buy at the department store’s website, download its iPad app or become a follower at its Facebook and Twitter pages. If instant gratification is the future for consumers and marketers, then The Daily is pretty, darn gratifying.
The sad part of the story is that the creators of The Daily evidently got so caught up in building a dazzling technical platform that their editorial platform became an afterthought.
As noted previously here, the journalism is too lightweight to substitute for the New York Times or CNN, the news is too generic to satisfy consumers of local print or broadcast media, and the 99-cent weekly tab is too high for devotees of such free products as TMZ and Entertainment Tonight.
Thus, serious questions remain about whether The Daily can attract a sufficiently large audience of paying customers to achieve commercial viability.
Shortcomings aside, The Daily stands as a gift and a challenge to the media industry.
It’s a gift, because Rupert Murdoch generously is sponsoring an eight-figure science fair experiment to stretch the boundaries of this important new publishing genre.
And it is a challenge, because The Daily has stepped up the expectations for digital publishing. Those who are not prepared to compete will be left behind.