The Daily (the new iPad news publication from News Corp.) has been out for a day now, and after having the chance to mess around with it, it’s hard for me to know just what to make of it, and frankly I’m having a hard time seeing this as a revolution in digital content (or print content or paid content).
I should preface this by disclosing that I am not an avid iPad user, so the iPad experience itself is not something I deal with on a day-to-day basis. I find using an iPad to read a newspaper/magazine much more inconvenient, awkward, and uncomfortable than just holding an actual magazine or newspaper and reading it. But that’s the tablet reading experience itself, so I won’t dwell on that.
I was also using the app on a clunky AT&T connection, which may not be as ideal as the Wi-fi connection, but therein lies another problem. A. That’s not the most convenient experience for reading this kind of publication on the go. B. I really don’t have to worry about a connection with print.
Much of the content I found in The Daily is around topics that are widely discussed in other free sources on the web. In fact, non-subscribers can even access The Daily content for free on the web if someone chooses to share it with them. This makes the lack of a simple web site displaying the content annoying, but if it had that, it would just be another news site, and not a special paid iPad app.
Of course, it’s no surprise to see someone has already solved this problem. This person has made an online index posting links to all of The Daily’s content. It’s not stealing the content, mind you. It’s all available on the web. It’s just being linked to. We know how News Corp. has viewed such practices in the past (see past complaints against Google). We’ll see if the site remains up and running, and whether others pop up in its place.
Even within the app itself, the front page experience is quite lacking compared to that of any news site on the web. Most sites will allow you to take a brief overview of a lot of the top stories at a glance. It requires a little more digging with The Daily.
Not all of the content in The Daily caters to the web. The interactive stuff is unique to the app experience, but how much of a demand for this kind of stuff is there really? If this is the digital answer to newspapers and magazines, isn’t the point (from the user’s perspective) more about the content? The interactive stuff mostly seems like a gimmick. It looks cool, but is it something really worth paying for? Is the experience really that compelling for the long term?
Now, to be clear, I’m not knocking the quality of the content, although I will say it could use a bit more quantity and in-depth Wall Street Journal-type pieces. There is certainly stuff in there that plenty of people would read if it were on the web. There are videos that plenty of people would watch (the Egypt coverage stands out).
Much of this content is mixed in with a lot of intrusive advertising. Sure, there are a lot of ads on web content and in print content, but they are easier to ignore if you want to (not necessarily a bad thing for The Daily from an advertiser’s perspective, but from a user’s perspective, it’s a bit much).
The videos in The Daily have some issues. Sometimes the picture quality was severely lacking. The play button on videos leaves you wondering if a video’s even going to begin playing. It seems delayed before it even starts trying to load the video, and then you have to wait for it to load, and then you have to sit through an intro that reminds you that you’re using "The Daily".
The updating system isn’t the most user-friendly. The publication frequently updates, but you have to sit there and wait for it to do so, and when it does, it’s not very clear what the new content is without some digging. For comparison, if you were on a news website, you would simply see the new story appear at the top of the headlines.
To me, The Daily brings some of the drawbacks to print publications to the digital-style publication, while bringing back some of the drawbacks of the digital-style publication (aka: the web) to the print-style publication. For example, if you buy a newspaper or magazine, you can keep it and read it later easily. With the Daily there’s no apparent archive of past content. If there is one, it’s not clear enough.
To me, the presentation of The Daily feels like a step back for digital content rather than the way forward. I may be proven dead wrong, but I can easily use an RSS reader or Twitter or Facebook or Google News from the iPad and get realtime news as it comes from a variety of sources (as many as I like – personalized to my preferences) in a much better organized format – for free, which seems a lot more useful.
Now, if you really like the content provided by The Daily, then more power to you. Pay for it. If you love the writers’ perspectives offered, then great – maybe it’s worth paying for. I have nothing against these elements of the publication. But The Daily and all others who follow this model must bring something truly unique and compelling to make it worth paying for an app, that users have to use separately from the other apps they’re already using and from the web at large.
If you want to add another app to your list of things to check out on a regular basis, then maybe this is for you. Frankly, I can’t see using the app that much even if it were free. I might read the content if it were on a site or in a feed, but that’s a different story. I would almost rather pay for the same content in a traditional web format than for the app version, but that’s just my personal opinion. What’s yours?