By Greg Mills
It is thought an iPad 2 was sighted at the launch of The Daily. That iPad sported a front facing camera, which made it at least a prototype of what is to come. Eddy Cue from Apple, Rupert Murdoch and other publishing execs were there to launch the first salvo in the battle of the digital divide that will make or break the publishing industry as we know it.
My editor and I both loaded the Daily app and checked out the content. While Dennis noticed a number of features I didn't investigate, I noticed that the new electronic newspaper is very thin so far on tech stories. There was one page with short paragraphs about tech issues of the day and none of them led to any further content.
If you have an iPad, The Daily is free for two weeks, so you have nothing to lose to try it out. Go to the Apple App Store and touch the Top Charts Star shaped button at the bottom of the screen and the #1 Free app is currently, The Daily. Touch the free button next to The Daily icon, you know the drill.
The Daily is an important, ground-breaking shot at establishing a new format of daily newspaper. The problems associated with printing on dead trees are compounded by the economic realities of publishing today. It is interesting to note that the scaleability of print vs electronic content are the lynchpin in what is going to bring down the ink on the paper style newspaper of our parents. Electronic publishing costs virtually nothing for each download, once the content is mounted on servers. Each old style newspaper costs something for paper, ink, deliver and such.
Remember the growing stack of old newspapers that builds up when you subscribe to a print newspaper? When I was a Boy Scout, our troop would go door to door collecting stacks of old newspapers. We hauled them to the curb for our dads to load into the family station wagon and haul to a paper recycling center to recover the 10 cents a pound bounty. If we gathered a few hundred pounds on a Saturday we could collect up to $100 for the troop, which in those days was a lot more money than it is now. No one though much about the waste factor in that mode of news delivery since there was no alternative.
Some of those very same Boy Scouts also made money delivering the very newspapers we collected once a month with our paper drives. The cost of running a newspaper has gone up to the extent a lot of them have already failed with most of the remainder floundering. In the economics of the current model of daily paper news and the electronic method, a number of foundational issues are different.
First of all the scalability of the old and new daily newspaper method is remarkably different. You buy giant rolls of dead trees, operate giant printing presses, have fleets of trucks and hundreds of paperboys hired to deliver your papers. Content in the form of stories written and pictures converted to print are a relatively minor part of the cost of doing business the old way.
Under the old method of news delivery by physical paper each additional paper you sell has to be printed on real paper, trucked by real gas-guzzling vehicles and delivered by real paperboys. Overruns are required to make sure there are enough papers to satisfy circulation. Waste is inevitable.
Under the new method of electronic delivery there are no rolls of paper, no presses, no pressmen, no press building, no trucks, no paperboys and no wasted overruns. The entire system is tidy. You get a check from Apple for 70% of sales and that's it. Apple and servers do all the delivery.
That leaves two areas in the new method similar to the old method of publishing: content creation and advertising. Content delivery is changed to include cool graphics, movies and even 3D elements to catch the eye of the reader. More about content creation in upcoming articles. Suffice to say that Apple will be providing software for electronic publishing that will make the new publishing model easy to accomplish.
The newspaper form for advertising is going to be changed dramatically as advertisers begin to see and use the power of the new forms available to them. Newspapers used to collect money from advertisers and people who buy their papers. That part of the economic situation has not been changed. I have not heard whether Apple gets a cut of advertising revenue from publishers or not. Clearly, the 30% of gross revenue from subscribers will allow Apple to host the app on their App Store and collect the money for subscriptions. Apple will certainly make a lot of money by doing this.
I also don't know if some sort of local classified ad feature related to zip codes is going to be added at some point. I advertise my Faux Wall Art services in the "Kansas City Star Newspaper." If the "Star" goes broke, which it is in the process of doing, I will be left high and dry for a place to run my classified ads. I bet someone at Apple and The Daily have thought of that.
The success of such a well publicized attempt to make electronic an old and failing media will be critical. Frankly, the old ways are hard to break; actually the people doing it the old way are what has to break. Revolutionary changes in well established industries are painful and hard to absorb, but the realities of economics are hard to ignore.
I will read The Daily for the free, two-week period and then decide what to do about subscribing. Millions of other iPad users will do the same thing. What isn't being said is that the competition for The Daily is already well established. Is the Daily just another news web site? How do you compete with free news web sites? What makes The Daily so value added consumers will pay for it? If there isn't enough compelling content, unavailable elsewhere to get us pay, The Daily is doomed.
That's Greg's bite for today.
(Greg Mills is currently a Faux Artist in Kansas City. Formerly a new product R&D man for the paint sundry market, he holds 11 US patents. He's working on a solar energy startup using a patent pending process of turning waste dual pane glass into thermal solar panels used to heat water. Married, with one daughter still at home, Greg writes for intellectual web sites and Mac related issues. See Greg's web sites at http://www.gregmills.info . He can be emailed at gregmills.mac.)