News Corp on Wednesday took the wraps off The Daily, its national news publication built specifically for the iPad. The media giant is touting its new offering as the first national daily news publication built from the ground up for Apple's tablet, while Apple is using The Daily's introduction to usher in a new form of subscription billing for iOS apps.
Available as a download from the App Store, The Daily will feature a mixture of text, video, photos and other interactive content. News Corp executives promised a product that blends what CEO Rupert Murdoch called "the best of journalism" with "the best of contemporary technology."
"The iPad demands that we completely re-imagine our craft," Murdoch told reporters.
Meet The Daily
The Daily will be published every morning and delivered directly to the iPads of subscribers. The publication's editors say that updates will be delivered throughout the day.
The app opens to a carousel view of the day's stories, not unlike the Cover Flow view that's now a staple of the Mac operating system. Readers can flip through the carousel with a swipe of the finger; tapping on a story brings up its content. A Shuffle button brings up stories at random.
The design choices were deliberate ones, according to News Corp, as it will help readers come across stories they might not otherwise see. "The magic of newspapers and blogs lies in discovery... and the deft touch of a good editor," Murdoch said.
Sections at The Daily will include News, Gossip, Opinion, Arts & Life and Sports, but curiously for an app geared toward a digitally savvy audience, no tech section. Sports lovers, however, should be pleased: the publication offers users a customisable dashboard for viewing news highlights on their favourite teams. Users will also be able to access localised weather reports from within the app.
The publication's Apps & Games section includes profiles of App Store offerings, including links to download apps directly from the store, in addition to a daily crossword and sudoku puzzle, perhaps explaining why The Daily includes integration with Apple's Game Center service. All told, The Daily promises to publish up to 100 pages of content a day.
Content at The Daily includes written reports as well as photo essays, videos and animated graphics. The first issue, for example, includes an animated diagram of a shovel pass in advance of Sunday's Super Bowl. The Daily's creators also promise 360-degree photos and graphics that respond to touch. A button on the main page of the app triggers an audio summary of the day's stories, and there's also a video that summarises the main stories in a particular issue.
"The Daily is not a legacy brand moving from print to the digital world," Murdoch said. "We have licence to innovate."
"It's incredible to believe something of this production value can be done every single day," said Eddy Cue, Apple's vice president of Internet services.
Users are able to post comments to stories, either in written or audio form. The Daily also offers sharing capabilities, you can post stories to Facebook or Twitter or share them via email. Content will be mirrored on the web to enable sharing, but not all pages and features will be available at The Daily's website.
The first issue of The Daily hit the App Store after the event. While the app is free to download, a subscription will cost 99 cents a week. However, for the first two weeks users will be able to access content at no cost, thanks to a sponsorship from Verizon. The wireless carrier currently sells the iPad through its retail stores and will further expand its relationship with Apple this month when it begins offering a CDMA version of the iPhone 4.
To support The Daily's launch, Apple introduced a new form of subscription billing. The News Corp publication is currently the only app in the store with this feature, though other iOS apps could conceivably incorporate it in the future. Up until now, there's been no way to charge subscription fees in iOS apps.
That changes with The Daily. In addition to the 99-cent weekly subscription, users will also have the option to pay $40 for a full year's subscription. The charges will be billed directly to users' iTunes accounts.
In fact, the App Store terms of service agreement has been changed to include information about in-app subscriptions. Users can set up charges to auto-renew, though that feature will be disabled if a subscription rate goes up, and can manage their subscriptions via a new section of their iTunes account.
Cue told reporters that more information on subscriptions for other iOS apps would be coming soon.
In addition to subscriptions, The Daily will generate revenue from advertising, which News Corp says will also take advantage of mobile technologies. The inaugural issue of The Daily includes advertising from Pepsi, Macy's and News Corp's own Fox Network. Including advertising in a subscription-based app will draw "a better class" of advertisers, Murdoch said.
The Daily and iPad
The Daily has been in the works for some time, with its launch reportedly delayed so that Apple could work out issues involving user subscriptions. Murdoch says his company has poured $30 million into developing and creating the app so far, but that the costs of publishing a daily digital app are minimal compared to print publishing.
"Our ambitions are high, but our costs are very low," he said.
While Cue was Apple's representative at the event, the name of Steve Jobs was invoked early and often on Wednesday, even though Apple's CEO remains on an indefinite leave of absence from his day-to-day duties. In a Q&A session following the launch of The Daily, Murdoch said he had spoken to Jobs about the app as recently as last week and hailed Apple's CEO as "a champion of The Daily from Day One."
That said, Murdoch expects The Daily to eventually arrive on other tablets, which would presumably include the slew of Android-based tablets expected to hit the market in 2011. "But last year, this year, and next year belong to Apple," Murdoch said of the immediate plans for The Daily.