Rupert Murdoch’s new iPad newspaper, The Daily, debuted last week amid a choking dust cloud of hype and expectation.
“Finally,” media analysts exclaimed, “A new journalism model for the 21st century. We’re all saved!” And yes, the 99-cent per week subscription model is reasonable and appealing for an intelligent and easy-to-read daily iPad newspaper.
But…not so fast on the intelligent part.
The Daily simply is not worth 99 cents a week. The formatting is fine — the photos and graphics are impressive on the iPad, even if the functionality is a little confusing and inconsistent. But the real problem is the content.
The paper has six “sections”: News, Gossip, Opinion, Arts & Life, Apps & Game, and Sports. Unfortunately, not one of these section contains any creativity in the way it’s presented, or much quality in the way it’s written.
The News section is a cross between what you’d find in a big-city tabloid’s first few pages — the stories of the day, retold with no ingenuity or new angle — and worthless human interest stories like you’d find in the opening section of Time Magazine. Today’s “Daily” contains a story with the headline “No-Spin Zones: Sticking to a bike lane is 28 times safer than pedaling in traffic.” A) No duh. B) That header should be enough, right? What else is there to say. Eleven more paragraphs of things to say, apparently, that don’t say anything you can’t figure out from the lede.
The Gossip section makes good use of the iPad’s visual capabilities with big pictures of famous people, if you’re into that kind of thing. But other than that, it’s the same old Page 6/Us Magazine garbage (“Ashlee’s breakup woe” e.g.).
Politically, The Daily seems a little right of center — it’s not as extreme as most of Murdoch’s fare, but it can’t be given its target market of young, savvy tech users. The editorials don’t take strong or controversial stands, and it feels like the Opinion section is there just because newspapers always have Opinion sections.
Arts & Life is filled with a lot of fluff and fashion pieces, and sadly wastes the talents of Heather Havrilesky by not giving her enough space to actually say anything. The pop culture reviews don’t add anything to the collective discussion.
Apps & Games seems to be: a crossword puzzle, a Sudoku, and C-list celebrities listing their favorite iPad apps. Because that’s a big help to everyone.
Worst of all is Sports: Almost everything in the entire section since The Daily’s launch has been taken directly from the Associated Press or other wire services. The few original pieces feel like they were pulled directly from the USA Today, colorful graphics and all. The Daily makes a big deal out of letting you select which teams you follow (though only in the four major U.S. pro sports) to receive customized content — Ooh, it’s magic! It’s not like you can do the exact same thing on every other sports website, and for free. 99 cents a week isn’t much, but stories pulled from AP and decade-old technology aren’t worth even that paltry fee.
None of the sections on its own is worth the admission price, and the whole is less than the sum of the six parts. Good writing pops up here and there, but it’s always hampered by lack of length. Almost every article in each edition of The Daily fits on two small iPad pages, with large type. That’s simply not enough room to tell an interesting story, or delve into details on a news piece. Luckily for Murdoch’s staff, most of the writers needn’t worry about such restrictions. The writing is either completely dry, or tries too hard to be modern, hip and winking.
The entire application is also riddled with a “Tweets On This Topic” feature, with useless Tweets from random people. It’s visual pollution.
Functionality-wise, The Daily works decently, not perfectly. The app crashes on occasion, and the vertical vs. horizontal swipe to continue stories is needlessly confusing. But it works fine, for the most part. The journalism aspect of this new model of newspaper is much more troublesome than the form.