December 3, 2012: News Corp pulls the plug on The Daily, the world’s first iPad-only newspaper, less than two years after launching the publication.
While the writing has been on the wall for some time, the closure is a blow for those who view the iPad as the savior of the traditional publishing industry.
The Daily: An iPad-only newspaper
The iPad’s bump in screen size compared to the iPhone didn’t just mean a larger display to play mobile games. To those in publishing, it meant the perfect digital replacement for dying print media — particularly when you factored in Apple’s successful App Store business model.
The Daily went full tilt with this idea. Although dreamed up by an old-school publisher, News Corp, it presented an all-digital newspaper with stories available only on iPad. (It later added support for both the Galaxy Tab and Facebook.)
Rupert Murdoch gave The Daily a weekly budget of $500,000. Subscriptions cost 99 cents per week, with News Corp receiving 70 cents — plus any advertising revenue the company could generate. Due to News Corp’s size and clout, it negotiated Apple’s first recurring payment system for subscriptions.
News Corp launched the service in February 2011, and counted Apple CEO Steve Jobs among its fans and prominent cheerleaders.
Unfortunately, it didn’t take long before problems began to emerge. Although it garnered more than 100,000 paying subscribers in its first year, The Daily also lost $30 million. Tidbits’ Adam C. Engs calculated that the paper would need to hit roughly 715,000 paid subscribers just to break even.
The Daily suffers major flaws
As with similar attempts to offer news behind paywalls, The Daily suffered because it failed to offer content sufficiently different from free outlets.
It also faced a problem with sharing stories, since they appeared only in the app. That made it hard for organic growth to happen. On top of this, some editions of the digital newspaper ballooned up to 1GB in size and took many users 10 or 15 minutes to download.
Ultimately, News Corp decided it wasn’t in it for the long run. In July 2012, it cut 30% of The Daily’s staff. This proved nothing more than a stopgap measure, though.
When The Daily closed, founding Editor-in-Chief Jesse Angelo moved over to become publisher of News Corp tabloid the New York Post. Some Daily staffers, and assorted “technology and other assets,” got folded into the Post as well.
“From its launch, The Daily was a bold experiment in digital publishing and an amazing vehicle for innovation,” Murdoch said in a statement announcing the shutdown. “Unfortunately, our experience was that we could not find a large enough audience quickly enough to convince us the business model was sustainable in the long-term. Therefore we will take the very best of what we have learned at The Daily and apply it to all our properties.”
Today, The Daily looks like it was ahead of its time. Apple News+ offers a variety of magazines and newspapers for a monthly subscription within a pleasant walled garden. However, the fact that this service hasn’t exactly swept the world suggests maybe this type of distribution is just never going to work.