I wouldn't be surprised if you didn't know about Rupert Murdoch's previous web based newspaper; this is the first I'd ever heard of it. Back in 1995 New Corp launched iGuide, a pioneering effort to bring daily news coverage to the web. It failed, and Evan Rudowski watched it happen. He wrote an article today on PaidContent.org detailing why iGuide died.
My enduring image from that time is of Murdoch himself, his hand bandaged and in a sling following a sailing accident on Larry Ellison’s boat. The iGuide team was gathered in a standing circle at our trendy downtown Manhattan offices as Murdoch rallied the troops in his gruff Australian accent. Everything was going great, he assured us, and Ellison was coming on board to help foot the bill for our extravagant operation. But, in the end Ellison, wasn’t in—and maybe six weeks later we were all out.
It's a fascinating read.
Women's Wear Daily had an extensive story this week on The Daily, Rupert Murdoch's tablet newspaper. (Do you recall the one that was supposed to have been cancelled? I guess it wasn't.) WWD don't have much in the way of technical details, but they did say that:
News Corp. has spent the last three months assembling a newsroom that will soon be about 100 staffers strong. The Daily will launch in beta mode sometime around Christmas, and will be introduced to the public on the iPad and other tablet devices in early 2011. It is expected to cost 99 cents a week, or about $4.25 a month. It will come out — as the name suggests — seven days a week. The operation is currently working out of the 26th floor of the News Corp. Building on Sixth Avenue in a space that looks like a veritable construction zone. The staff’s permanent home will be on the ninth floor, and they’ll move down once it’s ready.
Whenever I've covered the Daily in the past, I've raised my doubts about whether this is a good idea. I'm still not convinced it is. I have dozens of free sources of daily news, more than I could possibly read in a day. Why would I want to pay for another?
Peter Kafka has the scoop over at AllThingsDigital. He's reporting that Greg Clayman, formerly of Viacom, is going to head NewsCorp's new tablet news unit (or whatever they end up calling it).
I've pretty much assumed that this would happen, and I'm pretty sure it will also fail. But I never really explained why. It comes down to competition, cost, and news coverage.
This new tablet news service (TNS) is going to have to compete with all of Newscorp's established blogs, websites, and daily newspapers, most of which are freely available online. And a lot of them already have apps, too, which will only make things harder for the TNS.
My guess is that the TNS will be a general news source rather than have a specialty (finance, tech, gossip, etc). Why would I pay for the TNS when I can get the same general news coverage elsewhere for free? Heck, I can even get good coverage from other parts of Newscorp for free.
Unless they're going to lock down all of Newscorp's blogs (including AllThingsDigital), their subscription based TNS will be competing with other divisions that are giving the content away. When you look at it that way it doesn't make much sense, does it?
There's a story in today's LATimes that says just that. But I have a problem. A close reading of the LATimes article does not indicate that the have a new source. For all we know they might be working off the Wall Street Journal rumors we read last week.
Here's an excerpt:
News Corp. Chief Executive Rupert Murdoch is embarking on an ambitious plan for a new national digital newspaper to be distributed exclusively as paid content for tablet computers such as Apple Inc.'s iPad and mobile phones.
The initiative, which would directly compete with the New York Times, USA Today and other national publications, is the latest attempt by a major media organization to harness sexy new devices to reach readers who increasingly consume their news on the go. The development underscores how the iPad is transforming the reading habits of consumers much like the iPod changed how people listen to music.
On the other hand, I really do think he's going to follow through on this. But I also think it's going to fate as the tech bubble or multimedia CD-ROMs.
The Australian have an article on a talk given by Rupert Murdoch at a "new media" breakfast event. He spoke at length about tablets, and he said they were:
"a perfect platform for our content. We can deliver our content to our readers when, where and how they want it. It's cheap, convenient and constantly up-to-date,'' Mr Murdoch said.
"Initial expectations that (Apple) would sell a few million (iPads) will fall way short of the mark. It looks like they will sell around 15 million iPads this calendar year and more than 40 million by 2012.
"And the iPad is just one of many tablet or slate computers in the pipeline. News Corp fully intends to be across all those platforms too."
I've made my position on tablets clear (they're a fad). I think tablets will go the way of the netbook.
P.S. I don't agree with him, but I will note that he has just justified all the tablet coverage on this blog.
James Murdoch attacked the British Library's plans to digitize their several hundred year old, 40m page archive in a speech yesterday. The archive will be available online, but only as a for pay service. Here is an excerpt the Guardian:
"This is not simply being done for posterity, nor to make free access for library users easier, but also for commercial gain via a paid for website. The move is strongly opposed by major publishers. If it goes ahead, free content would not only be a justification for more funding, but actually become a source of funds for a public body."
Speaking after the speech Murdoch said he was not planning any immediate action against the British Library but stressed "from the publishing industry's point of view we are very, very concerned about some of the approaches that they seem to be taking. But at the same time there is a dialogue with the library about it."
"The copyright holder needs to be part and parcel of determining how further exploitation digitally is conducted and that really has to be the centre of this," he said. The worry for News International, of course, is that the British Library's move could undermine its paid-for content model. "It's not to say that there is a big fight here: what there is, is a question right now is: they are looking at those assets and asking 'how do I do these things' and they would like to reach as many people as possible, and rights holders are saying 'hang on a minute'."
He has a point, but I disagree about the real problem. As I see it, the real issue is that in the UK you've created these vast taxpayer funded, quasi governmental, non-for-profit organizations who then go out and compete with commercial enterprises. Take the BBC, for example. Do you remember how some were upset when the BBC announced the free news apps? This is more of the same.