Yesterday Rupert Murdoch and Eddy Cue, Apple’s vice president of internet services, launched The Daily – another iteration in the online news saga. Available only on iPad (and only in the US for the moment) this new digital newspaper will, Murdoch hopes, get consumers into the habit of once again paying for their daily news.
The price of The Daily is just 99 cents (about 60p) a week which compares well with the £2 per week for the online version of The Times? Why the difference? True, for £2 you do get online access as well as various mobile versions of the paper, including an iPad version, but is The Daily’s pricing setting a new benchmark for the price of news – in recognition that most people are not paying the £2 a week to get through The Times’ Paywall?
It was also interesting to hear Rupert Murdoch justify the low price by listing the production and distribution assets (“no multi-million dollar printing presses, no trucks”) that he’d not need for The Daily. But surely this undercuts the true value of a good newspaper! People generally don’t consider the costs involved in producing a physical paper when they buy it. What they do consider, and importantly, VALUE, is the good journalism, writing and opinions that they find on the pages? Murdoch’s new App threatens to cheapen the work of the 100 journalists that he’s hired to write his new paper.
Which brings me to what I believe is the most damaging aspect of The Daily. By throwing his lot in with Apple, and selling The Daily only via the iTunes App Store, not only has he cast the die for all other subscription-based services for the iPad (this is the new model – complete with 30% revenues to Apple) but he has reduced news to just another app. Will The Daily be competing with the New York Times or Angry Birds? Even Murdoch admits that it is a commuter paper. This is to reduce journalism to mere entertainment, an impression only accentuated by The Daily’s carousel page selection (and even random story ‘playlist’!!). Also revealing is that each issue will have a ‘Top Apps’ section that will review other iPad apps and CONNECT Directly to the iTunes App store!
Newspapers undoubtedly do have a problem in the online world. News will be free, but considered opinion, well researched and well thought-through analysis, access to primary sources and the ability to ask searching questions are what differentiates journalist from mere reporting. This is expensive to produce, and as yet there seems to be no clear answers as to how to get fair recompense for this investment. However, reducing newspapers to cheap, transient parcels of digital entertainment is surely a step in the wrong direction.
PS – although only 14 cents a day I suspect that many subscribers may well end up paying more. All the video and interactivity included in The Daily does not download with the main ‘paper’ but is downloaded ‘on-the-fly’. People will need to be cautious when and where they consumer this additional content if they are not to run up large 3G data bills from their network providers.