Media mogul Rupert Murdoch and his News Corp. kicked off The Daily today, a publication built for the iPad and--Murdoch hopes--the next generation of readers.
For a yearly subscription fee of $39.99, The Daily will deliver to iPad owners up to 100 pages of news and information each day, News Corp. Chairman Murdoch and his lieutenants told the gathering of media and supporters at New York's Guggenheim museum. The Daily is available immediately at Thedaily.com and News Corp. will offer the first two weeks free, thanks to Verizon, which is picking up the tab.
The publication will feature HD-quality video and 360-degree photos users can interact with. And of course, what self-respecting digital-age news publication would be complete without lots of social-networking features?
Murdoch played up one early positive review for The Daily. During the question-and-answer portion of the press event, Murdoch said The Daily was applauded by Apple CEO Steve Jobs.
"He did call me last week and he did say that he believed that the app was really terrific," Murdoch said of Jobs, who is on a medical leave of absence. "He was extremely flattering."
Price is a big factor for The Daily. Murdoch is betting big that the publication will prove consumers of news will pay for digital content. News Corp. said people can pay either 99 cents per week for the publication or $39.99 up front for the entire year.
Will this work?
The trick to The Daily's success will be in the quality of journalism it can provide, News Corp. execs have said. Clearly, a media company can't charge for an online publication if it's simply stuffing the pub with the same content readers can find online for free, or if it's just repackaging material from existing magazines, newspapers, broadcasts, and the like.
Murdoch seems to understand that he needs to hand readers features they can't get offline (or elsewhere online).
When it comes to the financial framework behind The Daily, Murdoch said, "Our ambitions are very big. Our costs are very low." He said he's spent $30 million in development and that the publication will cost him less than $2 million per month to produce.
But even with all the whiz-bang features and heavy resources Murdoch is throwing behind The Daily, he's still trying to halt a long-standing trend. Circulation figures at newspapers and magazines began shrinking decades ago, well before the Internet arrived--though the Web has certainly helped hasten the decline.
In 1992, The Los Angeles Times could boast circulation of more than 1 million, for both weekdays and Sundays. In October, the paper was down to 600,449 readers on weekdays, and Sunday sales were 901,119.
Most of the country's top daily papers have dipped below the million-reader mark, with News Corp.'s Wall Street Journal among the few exceptions.