AMITIAE - Tuesday 4 December 2012

A Comment on the Closing of The Daily

apple and chopsticks


By Graham K. Rogers

The Daily

When News Corporation announced that they were to set up a new online publication for tablet computers in February 2011, with the first version available only for the iPad, I had a sense of the wonderful possibilities that this was opening up. Although I am not always positive when thinking about the company, there is no doubt that Rupert Murdoch is successul and that he knows the news business beter than most.

I also saw it as a way that would release the potential of the iPad. Some early experiments were already available -- Condé Nast was a pathfinder here -- and they showed how the multimedia (how I hate that word) aspects of the device could be tapped, so that the news publication was no longer a 2-dimensional medium, but a source of content that could be manipulated in terms of size, viewed in motion, and even heard, both through using the iPad's own inbuit features and sound files included.

The implications for the device were clear: unlocking this easy to access content would be a key to sales. However, in the initial announcement of The Daily were its seeds of failure, despite its price of 99 cents a week (or $39.99 for an annual subscription). How could it fail?

The potential audience initially was one of the problems: limiting the access to US users only, when the device has world-wide potential was shortsighted. When the app first appeared not too long after, this lockout was confirmed. Although I could install the app, there was no access to content. I was amazed that someone with the business acumen of Rupert Murdoch could miss such an opportunity. But then, there are scores of international companies who limit purchasing to those in the United States: clearly not grasping what international means, nor the potential of the huge markets that are not US.

When I finally was able to subscribe to The Daily, what I saw was a disaappointment: a US-centric view, with little content that was relevant to the rest of the world; and in a bland style that left the reader yawning. Having been brought up on some of the sharpest journalism that exists and hunting out some of the best writing on a day to day basis, there was nothing in here that was worth bothering about.

It was no surprise to me when rumours began a few months later of fewer than expected subscriptions and diminishing in-app sales. There was (and is) far better news available online from a score of other sites in different countries. The Daily was a wasted opportunity, but in the end may have been a victim to an overdue reorganisation that News Corp has just announced, coincidentally just after the publication of the Leveson Report on the press in the UK.

Graham K. Rogers teaches at the Faculty of Engineering, Mahidol University in Thailand. He wrote in the Bangkok Post, Database supplement on IT subjects. For the last seven years of Database he wrote a column on Apple and Macs.



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