Will The Daily's Demise Chill Publishers' Mobile Innovation? No Way!
You might have heard that The Daily, News Corp's iPad-only newspaper, is shutting down as of Dec. 15. It was certainly the buzz yesterday at Manhattan's New Yorker Hotel, where publishing people gathered under art deco friezes for the Media App Summit, a one-day event produced by MediaBistro (with Publishing Executive as a media partner).
Jason Hirshhorn, CEO of the ReDEF Group and former MySpace co-president, offered an insider's view of the original motivation for The Daily within News Corp and what its closing means for the company. He believes The Daily (and MySpace) were worthwhile endeavors for the media giant, regardless of perceptions.
"You can look at MySpace and The Daily as failures by News Corp, but you could also see them as impetuses for how they modernize their company," he said, pointing out News Corp's many successes in digital distribution including the Wall Street Journal app. "They are very modern when it comes to media distribution … this came out of having the expertise of MySpace and The Daily and other businesses to educate and partner with the rest of the company."
Hirshhorn said Rupert Murdoch, whom he describes as "the most curious guy in the world," wanted to demonstrate what a tablet-based publication could look like, which is why he partnered with Apple early on to bring the The Daily to the iPad. He chalked up its failure to catch on in high numbers to its platform exclusivity. "You can't really have a huge business based off of one tablet in a nascent space," he said.
This is why News Corp's experience with The Daily should not put any publisher off the idea of pushing products to mobile. Most in the industry recognize the value of extending trusted brands across many platforms; News Corp's mistake was creating a brand exclusively for one device, then expecting people to pay for it when similar products could be accessed for free elsewhere.
The reasoning was that the company could create a digital global brand, sort of a USA Today for the planet; the reality is that the quality news and graphics to be found in The Daily were not enough to draw users and advertisers when there are so many good cross-media experiences to be had. The future of digital media is in brand extensions and HTML5-based products that flow seamlessly from Web to mobile, enabling rich media experiences without long downloads—none of which was possible for The Daily.
News Corp can afford to take big risks and eat losses. The rest of us can learn from them, and observe what The Daily's publisher, Greg Clayman, does as he takes this experience to his new job overseeing News Corp's global digital strategy.