Of the various possible business models for tablet-based content, a daily, subscription-based original news publication might not be the way to go. On Monday, News Corp. announced it was shuttering its experiment in tablet-focused publishing, The Daily.
In a statement, News Corp. Chairman and CEO Rupert Murdoch described the venture as "an amazing vehicle for innovation," but acknowledged that the publication could not "find a large enough audience" to sustain its business.
He added that the brand will continue through other channels at the company, and said that at least some staff, including the founding Editor-in-Chief Jesse Angelo, will move to the company's New York Post. Angelo, who had once been Executive Editor of the Post, will become its Publisher.
Tablets = 'Future of Media'
The Daily was launched in February of last year as the first iPad-only daily news publication, and attracted much attention because of the powerful, well-funded company behind it, and because of the bet that tablets, and specifically the iPad, were a sufficiently new medium that they they warranted an original, subscriber-based, daily news publication.
It took a general news approach, with original stories on news, sports, technology, fashion and other areas that a general newspaper might have. The daily editions, iPad focus, general news, original content and subscriber model were all considered test cases of those approaches in the new tablet medium.
Editions were added for Apple's iPhone, Amazon's Kindle Fire tablet, and various Android devices. Fees were 99 cents per day, or $39.99 per year. Earlier this year, the handwriting began appearing on the wall, with the company's announcement that it would lay off one-third of The Daily's staff of 150.
Andrew Frank, research director at industry research firm Gartner, said the demise of The Daily "doesn't change the fact that the tablet is the future of media." Given Microsoft's touch-centered focus of its new Windows 8, apparently that technology giant agrees that much of the future involves some incarnation of tablets, including tablets as part of hybrid tablets/laptops, or tablet features, like a flat touchscreen, in a desktop machine.
Less-Expensive Mobile Publishing?
Frank said that The Daily faced a variety of challenges, even beyond the normal publishing risks that any publication faces. "There's still a lot of free content it had to compete with," he noted, and said its general-interest editorial voice "wasn't necessarily well matched to tablet owners."
But he noted that The Daily's failure does not prove subscriber models cannot work on tablets and other devices, since there are successful subscription examples such as News Corp.'s own Wall Street Journal, as well as successful ad-only or combination models.
Another factor for future mobile publishing is the rollout of publisher tools that make publishing for mobile devices just another step in the workflow process. Quark, for instance, has just released its cloud-based App Studio that allows publishers to originate content in publishing software they commonly use and then, as a last step, add interactivity and deploy the content for given devices.
There are also competing solutions that offer similar publishing options, without extensive custom coding and design, including Adobe's Digital Publishing Suite and smaller vendors such as App Press. They offer the possibility that original publishing for mobile devices could become considerably less expensive than a venture such as The Daily.