The Daily: Murdoch’s iPad Newspaper Can’t Wrap a Fish

For a media magnate whose empire first began to bubble in vats of newspaper ink, one might think launching the first of its kind iPad-only newspaper app would not be in their best interests. Unless, of course, the magnate is Rupert Murdoch of News Corp. whose vats runneth over ? and now with ones and zeroes.

Led by veteran newspaperman and editor-in-chief Jesse Angelo (late of the New?s Corp-owned New York Post), The Daily is being billed in-house as ?a category first: a tablet-native national news brand built from the ground up to publish original content exclusively for the iPad.? This one can glean from the new apps?s website (even apps have websites apparently) but that?s essentially where the new venture?s relationship with the web essentially ends. The Daily is meant to be consumed entirely within the sleek interface of Apple?s tablet phenom as a discrete standalone experience forged from words, images, video, infomatics and animations baked fresh daily and delivered piping hot direct to your iPad.

Sentimentalists wax fondly that ?newspapers are a daily miracle? (or in some cases, a weekly miracle), however, The Daily, for all its journalistic aspirations, serves more to remind how miraculous the iPad is. If ever there was a proof that there exists a unified field theory of media delivery ? supplanting television, radio, print, cinema and daily newspapers in its wake ? this is it. That said, Murdoch?s quotidian quota of bleeding leads and the sundry other tropes squeezed from ye olde printing press is quite impressive ? not least of which for sinking $30 million in development (and $500,000 in weekly expenses) into what amounts to a video game with news.

?My first impression is very positive,? said Roger Fidler, program director for digital publishing at the Reynolds Journalism Institute who also oversees the Digital Publishing Alliance, which brings together media industry leaders and innovators, including the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times and the Wall Street Journal. ?Team Murdoch has done what I?ve always hoped newspapers would do with their tablet editions ? create an interactive hybrid of print and web that is visually rich and enjoyable to read. It clearly demonstrates the value of involving publication designers in the production process.?

For Fidler, The Daily has been a longtime coming. Internationally recognized as a new media pioneer, Fidler first envisioned tablets and digital newspapers back in the 1980?s. Now that they?ve arrived bundled as The Daily for a mere 99 cents a week, or $39.99 a year, they might just save newspapers.

?The app has a lot of advantages, one I think simplicity for people, more of a feeling of being a curated package of information with a beginning and an end,? observed Fidler.

Or perhaps, The Daily is a so-called ?killer app? that will actually destroy newspapers but in so doing free their spirits to live in the Digital Age. Sure, the app might not save all newspapers but it will certainly help Murdoch?s newspaper holdings eventually transition into the light.

?I think newspapers have to realize that the publications being developed for the iPad may, in fact, become the dominant forum for reading news content in the not too distant future,? said Fidler. ?We clearly are seeing a steady trend of declining leadership of printed newspapers and of steady migration to digital.?

?Digital? is an abstract concept, the iPad is $600 of cold, hard cash in the midst of a recession. At that price point, will Murdoch?s new format find the ubiquity of the traditional media upon which his empire has previously relied?

?You know, people felt the same way about television when it first emerged in the 1940s and 50s, that only rich people would have it,? said Fidler. ?Now they have people with television sets in almost every room of their house and it?s become the common medium. My sense is that the tablet will evolve intro a common reading device and media device for education, for business, for a host of applications and that reading newspapers on it will be just one other important use for that device.?

Fade Out for Projectionists

So I?m at a wedding party and I?m talking to a movie theater projectionist about the trade. There is no trade he tells me. As more theaters have invested in digital projection technologies, the notion of a journeyman projectionist who knows how to cut film, load platters and thread the great heaving apparata that make the pictures move, is going the way of the zoetrope. Apparently, these days, distributors send theater managers a data cube ? a sort of flash drive ? loaded with the film and its constituent data? and a password. According to the projectionist, some kid then puts the cube in the machine, inputs the code, and then pushes play. Apparently, the cube is just a patch before they get the satellite distribution model worked out and the cube and the kid are cut out of the equation. And the whole thing is password protected to prevent hi-tech piracy, you know, by the kid.

CinemaWest, the local theatrical exhibitor of films and related content has outfitted many of its holdings throughout the Bay Area with digital projection, including Boulevard Cinemas in Petaluma, CA. On August 20, Delirium, a Cirque de Soleil prerecorded live music concert with all the acrobatics and contortions of the human form we?ve come to expect from the franchise, opened at the cinemas. The Circque performance is being distributed by Sony Pictures Releasing, which is also presenting upcoming Broadway performance of Rent in the same format. Didn?t we just see rent as a major motion picture on local screens last year? Yes. But we can also listen to This American Life on the radio, or watch the TV series on Showtime ? and that didn?t stop a successful one night run of This American Life Live, in which host Ira Glass was beamed by satellite to theaters nationwide. As Alana, a Facebook commentor opined ?Being in the theater last night with all those other people who love the show as much as I do was like being ?home.?? Now, Alana, might be a corporate shill, but I suspect that many might feel the same. Could this be the future of on-screen entertainment? I?m curious to find out. Delirium might not have a delirious business model after all.? Tickets are available at Sony?s site thehotticket.net, and lest I become their shill, considering its slogan, which suggests ?If you can?t be there, be here.?