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The Daily didn’t work, but it’s not the end for news on tablets

After launching with fanfare less than two years ago, News Corporation’s iPad newspaper, The Daily, will close after failing to attract a large enough audience. AAP

The Daily was launched in February 2011 to great fanfare. It was the first iPad only newspaper (although it did have a web mirror but that was just for sharing). It had a simple price, $1 per week, and had a slick tablet interface. Apple promoted it very strongly and gave News Corp assistance in app design.

So why did it fail? It failed because, as I wrote at its launch, “that this is the past of newspapers rather than the future of the news.” My reasoning for that was simple: it was a newspaper. It was a product designed to grab the exclusive attention of its reader for 30 minutes a day. Put simply, it was exactly the sort of product that News Corp had excelled in producing for many years, had strong capabilities in producing and so were naturally going to experiment with on a new digital media.

The problem is that that product is no longer valuable to consumers. Well, that is a little strong. It is valuable to some consumers. There are those who still devote their attention to a daily newspaper or equivalent. They do so because they are happy to accept exclusivity of the filter because they prefer how the filter curates the news for them. This is a shrinking segment of the market. And The Daily was competing for customers in that segment. And in that regard, apart from price, it had little to distinguish itself on.

But does this mean that news on tablets isn’t the way of the future? Felix Salmon seems to believe so but I think he is wrong. Tablets are great for reading in the way webpages are not. You just have to get the interface right as Macro Arment among others have learned.

Readers want text and there is a place for that. The hard thing is to mix text with a good browsing experience to find what you want to read. The Daily presumed you wanted to read something or flip. For the rest of us, how to find what to read is still the challenge. Someone will solve it for me and others will solve it for other people. But solutions will be found.

[Update: as if to prove my point, The Economist will now unbundle print and digital subscriptions as well as providing a bundled product. But they key fact is this: the print and digital editions both give you access to the website while the digital one is required if you want access to The Economist apps. In other words, The Economist thinks there is a difference between browsing and tablet use that is enough for consumers to pay a premium for.]

This piece first ran on Digitopoly. Reproduced with permission.

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