What the iPad Daily says about the future of media

For no other reason than its creator is the world’s biggest media business, Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp, the news is worthy of attention. The fact that Murdoch has partnered with Apple is also a token of credibility here, of course.

But the sheer audacity of the application is the real story here. For the two decades since the Web started changing everything, traditional newspapers have been floundering and contemplating a slow death, basically. As static, paper experiences they have started to lose readers who want their news and information delivered in as easy to consume a way as they can get (and pay for).

Newspapers have tried online versions of themselves, and they’ve been sort of OK. But what The Daily’s done is not just reproduce the newspaper experience on a screen; it’s extended and revolutionized it.

So we have 360-degree photos you can zoom in and expand and flip as part of this new "touch enabled" newspaper. You can download embedded video on a story that interests you, you can explore in the sports pages endless tables of data and factoids to your sports geek’s heart’s consent, you can play with all the social media aspects of the entertainment section i.e. if a pop star is in a story, their Twitter link is produced for you automatically.

Essentially this is an expanded, 100 page multidimensional, ‘roomier’ fusion of what we already know as users of both print and online. But – does it ‘work’ and will it get enough people willing to pay for it to make it viable? Murdoch’s poured $30m into it to get it going, but as a very sharp businessman he’ll kill it off if it doesn’t thrive.

In fact, it’s going to be the content, not the form factor or coolness, that will decide that. "At the end of the day, the fate of The Daily rests on the shoulders of this crazy quilt of an editorial staff which has been assembled. Staffers include print journalists, bloggers, social media experts and broadcast journalists. How long it takes to get these folks to think and deliver in a unified fashion will go a long way to dictate this product’s future," says Allen Weiner, a research VP for analyst firm Gartner’s media-watching business unit.

From Wiener’s perspective, The Daily is a manifestation of what he calls the "Flipboard" revolution, the iPad app that is supposed to be a social media-content platform for the tablet world that, if used well, could offer a compelling "blend of visually striking and relevant content with a significant social overlay".

Thus he believes the job at hand is for the editorial and production team here to blend "Flipboard’s social sensibility, a tablet’s inherent attributes (video, geolocation) and a helping of well crafted of news and information".

There are some other question marks about whether we’ll see The Daily on other tablets/the Android platform and what kind of editorial stance will emerge (basically, will it be right wing or more inclusive/independent). But as it stands, this is one of the most interesting meeting points of consumer tech, information provision and use of the Web that we are likely to see this entire quarter – or maybe even year.

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