The iPad App Bubble Has Officially Burst – News Corp is Shuttering The Daily

When the iPad launched just under 3 years ago many hailed it as the future of journalism, the future of publishing, and the savoir of mankind. It was going to rescue publishers by giving them a new way to sell content to consumers.

Thank goodness that nonsense can now be put to bed.

The icon of the iPad publishing bubble, The Daily, is winding down operations. Newscorp put out a press release this morning with the news. They announced the closure as part of a general reorganization, and buried it as a footnote near the end:

News Corporation also announced that effective immediately, Jesse Angelo, the founding Editor-in-Chief of The Daily and long-time Executive Editor of The New York Post, will assume the role of Publisher of The New York Post. As part of a digital restructuring initiative, the company will cease standalone publication of The Daily iPad app on December 15, 2012, though the brand will live on in other channels. Technology and other assets from The Daily, including some staff, will be folded into The Post.

The Daily launched in early 2011 amidst a lot of fanfare, hype, and a massive advertising campaign. It expanded beyond the iPad in early 2012 with new Android apps, but clearly it was not growing fast enough nor was it currently covering its costs. It was reportedly losing 30 million dollars a year.

So it seems that Rupert Murdoch's News Corp has finally learned that you cannot pin your hopes on selling content via a single channel. Apparently all those other potential customers who don't have iPads really do matter. And even though The Daily did expand to Android in early 2012, changing the name of the single distribution channel from iPad to "tablet" doesn't change the fact that it was a single narrow channel.

The funny thing is, this is a lesson which should have been learned the last time News Corp tried it.

Back in the 1995, News Corp decided to get into the online news business in a big way. They launched iGuide, a news magazine which was going to only publish content on the then-nascent WWW.

That sounds ambitious, or at least it would if not for the fact that there were only about 16 million people online in 1995 - worldwide.  (Even I wasn't online in 1995; that's how small the audience was).

As for The Daily, it should have been pretty obvious at the time it launched that the numbers didn't really add up. At that point there were only about 15 million iPads in use (according to Apple).

Yes, The Daily had a smaller potential audience than iGuide, and for it to succeed The Daily would have needed to sign up somewhere between a tenth and a fifth of all the iPads owned when it launched.

Update: This post inspired a discussion on Twitter in which i had to explain why i was so down on The Daily. So let me amend this post.

This publication was launched as a result of the iPad app hype. There was a period in 2010 when selling content via iPad apps was supposed to save publishing. Needless to say, that didn't happen.

The Daily launched several months after it was clear that an iPad-only approach would not work, at a time when many publishers were turning instead to bundling digital content with print subscriptions. It was almost certainly doomed from the start.

6 thoughts on “The iPad App Bubble Has Officially Burst – News Corp is Shuttering The Daily

  1. We see it as an over budgeted try. When you set up a 30m+ yearly budget, no store really is going to help you. Your point about multi channels vs. one channel is very valid.

    What whould you suggest to The Daily 12 montsh ago? Publish on own website, Issuu, sell in other stores, add Android?

    1. Start small, sell everywhere, and treat it as a channel not a source.

      In reverse order:

      I would have found content for The Daily by cherry-picking stories written for other parts of News Corp. It would be a new channel for content which News Corp had already paid for elsewhere. This does mean double posting but it also reduces cost – significantly.

      To this day, you still cannot pay to read the content in a web browser, much less preferred reading apps like Google Reader, Pocket, Instapaper, or others. Making the reader come to you rather than going to them was an obvious error.

      I’d have picked just a couple newspaper sections to focus on, and gotten good at running them before launching more sections. Thinking that they could launch multiple news categories and publish content (all of which was supposed to be better than the free content found elsewhere) was hubris.

      How is that for a 5 minute analysis.

  2. Funny thing is that my wife is/was a subscriber and actually enjoyed The Daily. The surprising thing is that we aren’t ‘People’ magazine folks but this wasn’t bad.

    The app had some nice things, the zoom in pictures and animation was actually pretty good.

    I agree with Nate where I would get stories from the other channels I own but I would spruce them up to make them richer. I disagree that you can’t get people to pay for good content, I’m of the generation that remembers paying for stuff you consume and don’t have a problem with it.

    For example, iTunes _finally_ got Dr. Who in the US the day after it shows in the UK and it was a decent (IMHO) price (< 15 bucks for the first 1/2 of the season). I jumped on that, its not worth my effort to get it via other channels and hopefully supports the show in some minor way.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>