Rupert Murdoch’s latest news venture, The Daily, arrived on Apple iPad users' virtual doorsteps today. It’s the media titan’s bid for a digital seachange in institutionalized paid journalism in a world reeling with free online news content.
Similar to its print brethren, it looks and feels like a print newspaper as far as content goes, and will be delivered in the early morning hours, but it’s accessible only on the iPad – and nowhere else (in its entirety) on the web, although articles can be shared via Facebook and Twitter.
At the press launch today in New York, Murdoch kicked off the proceedings by saying, "New times demand new journalism. So we built The Daily completely from scratch, on the most innovative device to come about in my time — the iPad."
Murdoch credited Steve Jobs for his vision and said he was inspired to create an iPad-only (for now) newspaper by the financial success and compelling visuals of the Wall Street Journal's iPad app. He also confirmed that he has invested (and written off) $30 million to develop his latest media brand, one that 15 million iPad owners will now be wooed to subscribe to at 99 cents a week (Verizon is sponsoring a free two-week preview).
Eddie Cue, Apple's VP Internet services, was on hand to unveil the new offering with Murdoch, The Daily's executive editor Jesse Angelo (a veteran of Murdoch's New York Post); News Corp's digital guru, former AOL/TW exec Jonathan Miller; and The Daily publisher Greg Clayman, who previously headed up mobile for MTV Networks.
Despite Cue's involvement, Murdoch pointed out that The Daily isn't exclusive to the iPad, and will be open to other tablets. "We expect to be on all major tablets," he said, while acknowledging that the iPad is its primary focus for the foreseeable future.
Other editorial hires from beyond News Corp. include Elisabeth Eaves, a former Forbes hand who heads up the Op-Ed section; The New Yorker's pop music columnist Sasha Frere-Jones, the brand's culture editor; Bill Bradley, Vanity Fair contributor; Benjamin Carlson, The Atlantic; Heather Havrilesky, Salon.com; and Peter Ha, who helped launch Time's Techland blog.
“One of the things Murdoch is really known for is long-term investments that don’t pay out for 10 years or more,” commented tech analyst Roger L. Kay. “Initially, they’re going to make a big splash. Then there will be a lag where nothing happens, and once in a while they’ll break a story.
“The idea of creating a closed pay-wall, but a very nice environment, is an Apple story and Murdoch has been leading the charge in getting paid for content in the digital era.”
The Daily's launch follows another billionaire's iPadventure in publishing. Richard Branson's Project went live on the iPad in November, although it's a magazine and nowhere near as ambitious as what Murdoch & Co. are attempting to pull off with breaking news and daily journalism for tablets.
"The iPad demands that we completely re-imagine our craft," commented Murdoch at today's kick-off. "I'm convinced that in the tablet era there's room for a fresh and robust new voice."
It’s an opportunity, he added, to "make the business of editing and news gathering viable again. No paper. No multi-million dollar presses. No trucks. We're passing on these savings to the reader, which is why we can offer The Daily for just 14 cents a day."
As for how much patience he'll have while it builds a subscriber base, he noted that its current operating budget is $500,000 a week, or about $26 million a year. He’ll consider it a success, he added, "when we're selling millions (of subscriptions). Our ambitions are very big, our costs are very low."