The Daily: An Assessment

The Daily
The Daily

I helped hype The Daily last week, the day News Corp. — with the help of Apple — unveiled the iPad-only daily news app they’re asking you to pay 99 cents a week for.

Built from scratch every day, The Daily promises a new era in journalism. It’s a bold new model that puts the future of news consumption on tablet-like devices, where enough people will (hopefully) pay to read news, thereby supporting journalism in much the same way it was supported in the age of newsprint.

I’ve been reading The Daily, well, almost daily during its 14-day free trial period.

Will I eventually subscribe? Probably not.

Why? An assessment, after the jump.

Content-wise, The Daily’s not compelling enough to justify its expense. At best, it’s a mediocre mix of general interest fare that I can get anywhere else on the Web for free. At worst, it’s a mediocre mix of general interest fare that I can get anywhere else on the Web for freeĀ the day before it hits The Daily.

Furthermore, any “exclusives” The Daily has boasted so far — including the cover story last week about Reagan shooter John Hinckley Jr.’s new girlfriend — have underwhelmed.

Gawker made this, God bless 'em

If The Daily does have an exclusive piece that I absolutely have to check out, it’ll most likely find me. That is, one of the other news sites I routinely visit — Gawker, for example — will have summarized and linked to it. This week, the big “get” was the video and interview with those campy Facebook villains, the Winklevii. All I really needed to know about this story was available to me here — along with free .gif to boot!

Again, the content is neither compelling nor unique to justify the admittedly small expense. Particularly when so much is free on the open Web or in other apps.

Technically, The Daily works reasonably well. But I ditto pretty much everything I’ve read from others complaining about sluggish page load times or, worse, photos or pages that don’t load at all.

In what should be of major concern to News Corp. publishers is a habit I’ve quickly developed in the two weeks I’ve read The Daily: quickly swiping past slow-to-load ad pages before I even see an advertiser logo. Yep, the ads are so slow to load that it’s easy to A) know when an ad is about to load on a blacked-out page and B) quickly swipe past them and on to the next article.

Booting up The Daily means a long wait — depending on your connection, it could be a full minute before you see the cover. Sometimes, I wait 30-40 seconds for the Sunday edition of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette to download. But I’m more willing to wait for that because the local paper, as inelegant as it is in app form, has higher relevance to me than The Daily does. And if The Daily crashes mid-load, as it often does, you can forget it. It’s on to other things.

Apart from the sluggish loads and some other bugs, there’s some nice ideas in the packaging. The seemless blend of video, photo slideshows, audio clips and animation is great (even though you can find that very same mix on the open Web). The pages are colorful, easy to read and nice to look at. The weather page is nifty. And during the run-up to the Super Bowl, I loved the video series of each teams’ plays.

Bottom line: The Daily, as an app, is a nice idea that executes reasonably well. It’s probably among the best of these so-called “digital publications.” But the content is far from essential and doesn’t justify the 99 cents a week subscription rate.


The Daily – ‘We’re listening.’ Noted: This is a work in progress.

Jack Shafer: Does Murdoch have the patience to make The Daily work?

The Daily: Indexed – All The Daily’s stories, available free on the open Web