Thursday, February 3, 2011...2:36 pm

Sorry, www.thedaily.com is not the saviour of journalism

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There’s been lots of hype about Murdoch’s new iPad-tastic digital news “paper” The Daily. Mainly by itself (Wired refers to its claim that it is “the newspaper of the 21st Century”.)

And that link is one indication of the problem with TheDaily. I can’t actually link to the paper itself, because it’s not online – you have to download it to your iPad. Which is cool and all – but not if you live in the UK, as it’s not available to us in the UK iTunes store. In fact, whatever comments can be made have to be based on its promotional video, as I couldn’t, as a consumer, actually buy it, even if I wanted to. Now there’s a revenue model.

There’s a good analysis of the problems with The Daily over at Recovering Journalist, but for what it’s worth here are some more early impressions in conversation with media commentator (and keen allotment gardener) Soilman.

Soilman: So it’s here. Not as bad as I expected… but still pretty unimaginative. It’s more like a newspaper than a website, as feared. The Twitter integration is OK, but that looks to be about it. They seem to think a 360 photograph is terribly exciting. Jeez: estate agents have been using them for years. And they’re NOT exciting. They come to the end of the ‘new, imaginative’ features awfully quickly. It’s a newspaper pasted on an iPad. With Twitter integration.

Would you pay for it? ‘Fraid I wouldn’t. If this is the future of journalism, it’s going to be an awfully impoverished one.

Freelance Unbound: Basically, it’s a beefed up Issuu or PageSuite product. Publishers love this – and a year or so ago Adobe was trying to sell it hard as the solution to the “problem” of the web – controllable, billable rich multimedia that mimics print structures.

The key issue is that publishers are looking at format and delivery, and not restructuring the revenue/content model. Any time you go and talk to a web-only publisher who has started from scratch, you see that the key to their success has been ditching newspaper structure and thinking.

“What do people need that will generate revenue” is the key question they ask. Sometimes it’s journalistic style content – sometimes it’s something else, such as reviews or user-generated content.

A good example is Broadband Genie – a product comparison site that does have a journalistic element to it – but would not really be seen as journalism by the mainstream media. But it is getting the web right, and providing content that is seen as valuable by its users, not just its producers.

Soilman: Couldn’t agree more: the old news people just seem incapable of starting from that simple question: “What do people need?” rather than “How can we give them pretty much what we’ve always done?”

You could almost mention Flipboard and Pulse. Not brilliant, either of them, but they at least offer something genuinely new that attempts to use the web properly. Both started by tech people, not old news people. And it shows.

All of media is excited about the Daily idea because it offers, again, that gorgeously elusive hope of the return to the walled garden where the wretched punters have to pay you – the only model we’ve ever found where people actually pay for newspaper content. Reason? Newspaper content just ain’t as good – and never has been – as newspaper publishers and trad journalists believe it to be.

Freelance Unbound: Tellingly, the promotional video says: “just flip the way you would a newspaper or magazine” – because obviously we don’t want people accessing content in radically different ways. It’s a bit like Pink Floyd not wanting people to download individual tracks from an album.

Will it survive? Clearly I can live with being wrong on this, and it may have a niche (commuters especially) – but I suspect it won’t be the dominant future of journalistic media…

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