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.