By Oscar D. Gomez-Garcia
If tablets were supposed to — among other things — save journalism, The Daily (the first publication designed exclusively for iPad) was supposed to rescue the pleasure of reading the newspaper, enjoying every sip. Nevertheless, one year after its launch, things seem not to be going as well as expected.
The Daily seems to be closer to a concept differing from the ubiquitous “presentism” of today’s journalism. In opposition to the tweet and the rushes of the blogosphere, a wide coverage, a written to a simmer and exalted in a detailed report. In opposition to photos taken with a cell phone, interactive graphics and high-resolution images by professional photographers that you can stare at for minutes. Its business model was quite promising at its launch. A format that could run in any Internet set-up, that could work for most — if not all — of the traditional outlets, and of course subscriptions based so not relying on advertising.
However, it seems that there are still some details that escape the most entrepreneurial minds. These days, the number of readers of The Daily has been revealed, showing that it’s still well below the 500,000 subscribers figure that had been established by News Corp. as the threshold for profitability of the publication. Greg Clayman, The Daily’s publisher, claimed days ago that the app is one of the “most successful subscription apps on the iPad,” but the number of paying subscribers was not finally disclosed until October 3th. If we don’t count the ones that are in the free trial period, only 80,000 out of 120,000 readers are actually paying.
Many wonder why, seeing these results, the publication of Rupert Murdoch — which cost $56 million to run in year one — continues his strategy or remaining iPad exclusive. The question gains these days more strength than ever. Not only the new and very affordable Amazon tablet was released last week, the Kindle Fire tablet is expected to sell more than 15 million units worldwide by the end of 2013 and it’s starting to be seen as the iPad’s greatest threat. In addition, India has just launched the world’s cheapest tablet, The Aakash, that will be sold at a price as low as $35 for students and $60 at stores. Both of these devices run on Android, a platform The Daily is still not giving clear signs to embrace any time soon.
These are times of great paradoxes in journalism. Now that making a cent out of reporting looks harder than ever, it is indispensable to know very well what doors to close and which ones to leave half-open. News Corp. recently released a social news app version of The Daily for Facebook, but it seems clear that if they want the number of The Daily subscribers to approach profitability figures, that is simply not going to be enough. Until when is The Daily going to be able to survive on this “iPad only” model?