The Daily: Five ways it could fail
Rupert Murdoch's News Corp unveiled The Future of Journalism this morning in an elaborate, hour long event at the Guggenheim in New York. The product: The first tablet-native newspaper, a 14 cents per day, iPad-only publication called The Daily. There was some amount of fervor surrounding its debut; this has been in development for a long time and there are plenty of revolutionary things about it. If they get the subscription numbers and if the content really does take advantage of its medium the way they say it will (360 degree photos, intuitive videos, interactive graphics, etc.), this could be a big step toward creating a new media paradigm. It could also fall on its face. Here's how that might happen:
1. The Name
Let's go through the massively successful web-era media ventures: Google, YouTube, Facebook, Netflix, Flickr. Notice anything about those names? This is not rocket science -- to carve out an identity in an infinite internet, you need a brand name you can completely own. This will change, obviously, but the current number one result for a Google search of "The Daily" is the University of Washington's student paper.
2. The Editors
You can check the full roster here, where you will find print alumnus far outnumbering online alumnus. In the Show & Tell equivalent area of expertise, Lifestyle & Culture, they've hired Sasha Frere-Jones, who will also retain his job as The New Yorker's pop critic. Frere-Jones is a great, great music writer, but he has never been a particularly convincing advocate of web 2.0. Murdoch, even in the creation of what amounts to an online-only venture, cannot stop himself from favoring print.
3. The Format
Some things about it are insanely cool, and we imagine the unique flexibility afforded by the tablet will allow for a lot of creative storytelling. That said, this still looks and feels a lot like a print newspaper translated to a tablet. We've already seen that, and it's not exactly resurrecting the industry. A truly successful internet-native publication will need to more dramatically redefine the consumption of information.
4. The Pay Wall
It's a doable price: 14 cents per day, or $39.99 per year. They'll be able to get plenty of people to pay that. But will they be able to get enough? Right now, there is still too much information readily available for free for people to feel the need to pay for subscription services, no matter how clean and cheap. Journalism needs an online product people are willing to pay for, but are we there yet as a culture?
5. News Corp
Rupert Murdoch is a strange figure. On one hand, he is one of a very select number of people still willing to invest money in journalism. On the other hand, his influence is generally agreed to be somewhat less than free of agenda. This may just be the institutional wariness in us, but we sort of imagine the breakthrough new model for journalism will come from someone who isn't an old white rich conservative man.