Rupert Murdoch’s The Daily, a prospective, paid newspaper for the iPad, won’t have to replace all our news sources on the iPad to be successful. It merely needs to appeal to people who want a simpler, better informed life.
Much has been written about whether this project, The Daily, by Mr. Murdoch will be successful or not. He’s sinking a lot of money into it, but he has the money to try. Some point out that we already have all the news sources and apps that we need and that Mr. Murdoch and his team are trying to relive the past. Others point out that a very well done iPad app that presents a compelling value proposition has a good chance of succeeding.
I want to explore the positive side of that argument.
Pioneers who get rich tend to have a better understanding of people than the rest of us. Their vision, whether it’s Dale Carnegie’s, Henry Ford’s or Steve Jobs’s, translates into broad appeal and then great wealth for them. They don’t dwell on the most elite customers and become discouraged; rather, they listen to the heartbeat of America while everyone else is either too distracted or too self-important to give people what they need.
The iPad itself is a case in point. After years of being pummeled by a PC mentality, we had no where else to turn. The iPad gave us something we needed, but couldn’t quite put our finger on (pun intended.) The genius of Steve Jobs and his Apple team nailed it.
The Subtleties of iPad Life
There’s the argument that with all the news applications on the iPad, plus Safari, with everything generally free, no one will pay for a daily digital newspaper that can’t be linked to and has no outbound links. That approach seems so archaic. What critics miss is our enduring need for coherence and simplicity. Geeks will point to how “easy” it is to create an account, log in to Google.com, subscribe to RSS feeds, then read these feeds on the iPad with Reeder. But 90 percent of the population doesn’t have the expertise, the time or the motivation to explore such esoterica. They just want the news they trust to appear on their iPad each morning while they eat breakfast. To understand that is to understand what Mr. Murdoch is up to.
Another thing that’s been overlooked by critics is that some apps have the capacity to breathe life into an iPad by exploiting its capability to the fullest. The world lay asleep in old metaphors of WIMP computing until the iPad came along and introduced new ways of literally touching content. Exciting iPad apps have come along, like Twitter, ABC Player, and Star Walk that capture our imagination and make it fun to interact with knowledge and entertainment. If The Daily can capture our imagination in the same fashion, US$52/year will be a small price to pay for a full featured digital newspaper.
Finally, parts of the Internet have become all about individuals who want a voice they never had. We live in a cacophony of opinion. The appeal of social networks is that suddenly other people are aware of us in ways they never were, to our smug satisfaction. We feel connected and important. But to feel important, many bloggers find that they have to feed on the provincialism of their readers. Any sufficiently outrageous viewpoint will find a band of adherents, but that fanaticism seldom leads to productive work. It just boosts the ego of the blogger. The challenge of The Daily will be to bring experience, expertise, talent, judgment, insight and perspective to a world full of snarkiness and attitude. That’s why The Daily will be a classic newspaper, and not a hotbed of incendiary news opinion coupled with reader wisecracks.
Summary: The Metrics of Success
If The Daily can appeal to a wide audience, showcase the best technology of the iPad, and simplify the lives of its readers who are hungry for literacy and insight, then it will be worth every penny and become a runaway success. And that will happen along side, not in place of, all the fussing we geeks do now with Facebook, Twitter, news websites, RSS, Reeder, Flipboard, and iPad apps.
Traditional, quality news sources are searching desperately for a business model that will pull them from the dying embers of newsprint and into the age of digital news. This route is one of those visions that lesser men often overlook and is worth a try. And even if The Daily fails, by any arbitrary standard, it will be a thoughtful signpost for the road ahead.