Monday, November 22, 2010

The iPad As Newspaper Boy: News Corp's 'The Daily' Digital Newspaper Preps To Roll The e-Presses

In perhaps the biggest change in newspapering since Al Neuharth created a “comic book” newspaper and called it USA Today 28 years ago, News Corporation's Rupert Murdoch is soon to deliver The Daily to the world.

The Daily is being built from the ground up as a newspaper optimized for the iPad. 

 It will be available only on the iPad. 

 That aspect of The Daily speaks volumes of Murdoch's estimation that the iPad will be the giant in the tablet computer market. He called The Daily his “No. 1 most exciting project.”

With an investment of $30 million and a staff of around 100, The Daily will be the first of a kind — a 'newspaper' with rich media and photography built especially for the iPad,” David Carr reports in The New York Times today.

Murdoch and News Corp. spearhead the the global struggles of the entire newspaper business to find a way to survive in a world awash with “news” from traditional publications to niche-expert bloggers. He's built “paywalls” around the digital versions of The Times and The Sunday Times in the UK, and pronounces early subscription sales “promising.”

UK Times execs pointed to some 205,00 paying subscribers as proof that people are willing to pay for quality journalism.

But will they pay enough to support the huge teams of reporters, editors and support staff required to put out a comprehensive news report every day? That question plagues the minds of US publishers as they watch what's happening in the UK and plan ahead.

At home, our own New York Times is giving away two-month trial subscriptions in both the Amazon Kindle Store and in the iPad store. The Times is building toward the time early next year when the it goes behind its own paywall.

For e-newspaper subscribers in the US—at the moment—the only way they can get their NY Times (and other periodicals) on their iPads is in the Apple store. While Amazon sells subscriptions to 77 newspapers, including all the big names, subscribers can only read them if they have an Amazon Kindle ereader. But that, too, is about to change in the volatile epublishing world.

The Amazon Team announced recently periodicals would soon enjoy “buy once, read anywhere” visibility across subscribers various devices, similar to ebooks. Currently, ebooks bought in the Kindle Store, come with free apps to make them show up on the iPad, iPhone, Blackberry and Android smart phones as well as on anybody's personal computer, among others.

Strictly for ebooks at the moment, those apps make give Amazon a strong chunk of the book-buying iPad owner base. Despite the relative ease of buying an ebook on the iPad, hard core readers who buy over 25 books a year prefer the Kindle Store in droves. As many as 44% of iPad hard core book readers buy mostly in the Kindle Store.

The way it looks now, Amazon won't be able to grab a piece of The Daily's action, even after Amazon frees periodicals from the Kindle device.

Carr's story in today's NY Times sketches in rough outline the unknowns ahead for The Daily and, indeed, for all newspapers, and speculates on how many will subscribe.

In the meantime, reaching about 100,000 people seems far more likely, which would yield less than $20 million annually, even before Apple gets a cut,” Carr wrote. “And the discrete market for advertising within applications seems promising, but it is largely untested.”

What kind of news will be delivered now that the “newspaper” is leaving the “paper” part of its heritage behind?

The shape and content of what we all know as “a newspaper” have grown together over centuries, the content evolving to meet the restrictions of on-paper delivery. Putting it all on an electronic device that delivers not only black and white text, but vivid photos and smart looking video can be expected to change the very definition of what “quality journalism” means. And it threatens the livelihoods of newsboys and newsgirls across the land.

Just where it will go is anybody's guess as traditional publishers struggle to survive and thrive in the digital age, faced with competition coming at it all directions, even such lonely niche news sources as blogs like Planet iPad.

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