I've been reserving comment on The Daily - the world's first daily newspaper for tablets, brought to you by Rupert Murdoch and News Corp. - because I am having trouble truly deciding what I think about it. As a technology journalist, the concept fascinates me. The iPad was, after all, said to be the publishing industry's savior. As a reader, though, I wasn't all that interested.
Reviews have accused the app of being sluggish and buggy. An update only made it worse, according to some reports. I don't have an iPad, so I can't really speak to those problems. What interests me is the content, and I haven't heard much about that, probably because no one I know has shared a story from The Daily on Facebook.
I did read one review that said the content was too narrow for a daily paper, and, more problematically, that yesterday's content disappears once you load today's news. The app allows you to save articles to a clipboard for later reading, but if you don't save the article in a timely manner or if you skip an issue, it disappears from your device. Apparently, there is a site called The Daily: Indexed where you can go to find old articles and read them in a browser. But who wants to do that when you're paying for an app?
I'll stick with the free stuff if I want to read it in a browser, thank you very much.
Content from The Daily is shareable on all the major social networks, which also means it's available for free by clicking on those shared links. That, of course, makes me wonder why I would ever opt to pay for it.
Something that keeps popping up in reviews that I've read is The Daily's reliance on the old print paradigm. Despite the HD videos and what is, by all accounts, stunning photography, the paper still seems to lag behind the times - unable to keep up with most current events coming out of the Cairo riots in its first weeks on the market-and it even features horoscopes. Horoscopes! You don't get much more retro than that.
The Daily also seems to ignore the reality of how we get our news today, which is to say that most of us check in with dozens of different sources over the course of the day. We have the sources we check in with regularly and the stories that come to us serendipitously through our social networks.
For instance, I listen to NPR, while I check the local daily paper's site or look through my Facebook newsfeed to see what my friends have suggested. I am a "fan" of Slate (www.slate.com), which promotes its stories in my newsfeed as well. When I go home at night, I watch the local news broadcast - which, as I write this column, is mostly about roof collapses and streets so narrowed by piles of snow that emergency vehicles can't drive down them. In other words, I have a lot of news sources, and I'm only loyal to two or three of them.
Apps such as Flipboard for iPad take these news gathering habits into account. Flipboard connects to your social networks and creates a "social magazine" out of the content that your friends are sharing, and it also allows you to pick web content to include as well. So, if your friend shared an article from The Daily on Twitter, theoretically, it would pop up in your Flipboard app along with all (or most) of the other content that you're interested in. This seems to me like an app experience that is far more in touch with tablet users. Why have a dozen apps for all your content sources when you can just have one?
A daily newspaper for the iPad was probably inevitable. The novelty factor alone is sure to propel it to initial success, but I wonder if The Daily is what tablet users really want or need. Will the hype eventually die down, leaving users to realize they have paid for content that they can get for free on the web without the trouble of a sluggish, buggy app? Will the bad user experience send readers screaming back to the apps (and websites) of their old media stalwarts, or will The Daily find a way to provide a tablet-ready experience that truly mirrors the way that tech-savvy users read today?