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Thoughts On The @daily And My Challenge To Rupert Murdoch

Thoughts On The @daily And My Challenge To Rupert Murdoch

//This originally appeared on the Onswipe company blog.

I love the notions of the daily and what they are trying to achieve. I think at it’s core they truly want to do something risky, innovative, and something that was not possible before. There’s a lot to love, but there’s also a lot to dislike in the execution.

It’s against the real time nature of the web

Even delivering an “update” daily is just too slow for the way the web works. Setting any sort of defined delivery period is just silly. The web isn’t on a set time schedule, but an always-on network of flowing information. That’s the real special sauce of what’s happening in the media industry. The flow of information is no longer constrained by time, it is instantaneous and transcends time itself. By fighting against that, we’re taking a step backward.  Many people claim that the initial wait to download is too long and I agree, but the biggest problem is the day long wait for an update of any size.  It’s the time period, not just the size that is bothersome.

The Daily and apps in general are also against the real time nature of software. If the team at The Daily wants to update their software, it should be available instantly whenever anyone visits the site again. It should not go through the app model of sending an update to Apple and eventually all platforms, then requiring a delay and new download from the user.

Read The HIG

The human interface doesn’t feel like something meant for the iPad. It’s just awkward and uses button controls, especially on the bottom that are out of place. Each content app should be different, but it should feel like it’s within a consistent human interface. The fullscreen feel of The Daily is just weird too. I get the point, but it just feels out of place.  Flipboard did a good job of “effects”, but keeping things elegant.  The Daily should try to do the same.  Instead, things don’t feel readable, but more like an old school CD-Rom.

Subscriptions Are The Solution To a Problem That No Longer Needs Solving

Subscriptions and paying for content are a solution to the old economic model of newspapers/content. It cost a lot to print and deliver content via traditional media methods. Every night a newspaper had to be printed and then physically delivered. In order to do this, it just cost a lot of money. In the digital world, delivery costs are minimal, eliminating the need to have subscriptions costs cover them. In short, the problem of covering the cost of physical delivery no longer exists, therefore its solution, paid subscriptions, no longer needs to exist.

Not Optimized For The Social Nature Of The Web

The Daily just isn’t optimized for the new nature of the web which is now all about social. Social is not a bolt on aka adding share buttons. The commenting included inside of the Daily is interesting, but I would take it another level to show the entire conversation around a piece of content and also add geolocation to it. It’s time to reinvent media completely, not slightly add something new.  Gawker has the right idea by keeping relevant/highly shared content surfaced over a chronological order of articles.  Social and the presentation of the daily should be one in the same.

Too Susceptible To Churn

The Daily has one main point of access, which is through the user’s home screen. If the daily fails to deliver, the app will get deleted off the home screen, and will never return. On the other hand, if it were web based it would be easy to navigate to a site directly later on. Going to the app store and re-downloading it? Very very difficult. Being 100% reliant upon the app model makes content providers highly susceptible to churn.

Images Of Text

The articles are designed for print first and the web as an afterthought. Essentially, the articles are exported from InDesign or something like it as images and put into a simple app builder. I don’t want intense interaction, but I want to feel like I’m doing more than interacting with a glorified PDF reader. The iPad and the shift we’re seeing in media isn’t about making incremental improvements, but rethinking the entire solution as a whole.

The Ads Are Its Best Example

The ads in the daily are absolutely awesome. They aren’t interruptive, have taste, and not “too interactive”. iAds are the world’s best Flash ads… done in HTML5. The Daily decided to not use iAds, which was really smart. They took the essence of print, but brought it to the web with something new.

May A Million Dailies Bloom

The Daily right now seems ahead of its time, but it will eventually be something we look back on as common place. Slate started out being forward thinking, but eventually the Slate model of content delivered over the web became a standard. The same thing will happen to the Daily. Delivering content and tailoring it primarily for tablet devices will become the standard, not something special.

My challenge to Rupert Murdoch and “The Daily”

Make a version of the daily that lives in the browser on tablet devices. Provide the same native like experience of an app and own your user.  See which version is the better business after 6 months. (I’m only suggesting tablet devices and their browsers, NOT the traditional desktop with browsers there such as Firefox).

Use the Onswipe platform to take care of all the digital aspects of The Daily in the browser- making it work, delivery, functionality, and everything. It will be browser based and work on all tablets + smart phones out of the box. This is what we do at Onswipe and the process works the same for publishers whether they are personal bloggers or ambitious enterprises like The Daily. It’s robust and fully customizable. All the Daily needs to do is produce awesome content, which it is already doing.

I’m not a huge favor of being a paid subscription only, but I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt. We’re toying around with subscriptions paywalls. Outside of the processing fees, go ahead and keep way more than Apple will give you. Most importantly, get actual subscriber data. In the physical print world, having the data of your subscriber is very important. You get zero subscriber data with Apple’s solution. With Onswipe, you can get more data than you ever imagined on a subscriber.

What about the ads? The ads in the daily now are pretty awesome and a step in the right direction. We’re doing something even better that readers will love, advertisers will lust after, and The Daily will profit with. Ads have traditionally sucked on the web, especially compared with the beauty+elegance of print. Let’s combine that beauty/elegance with slight interactivity from the web.

I have an early early prototype of a web version of the Daily sitting in my hands as we speak and it rocks…


I don’t know what the future holds for The Daily. This is just the first version and there’s a fair chance they will overcome its shortcomings. Rupert is a smart guy, the content team at the daily is top notch, and I would not count them out.

Jason L. Baptiste
February 2011