OPA Intelligence Reports

Posted in News on 12/17/2012 By Mark Glaser & Courtney Lowery Cowgill

The Daily’s demise: Lessons learned

When News Corp. launched The Daily, a tablet-only daily publication, we heard about all it could teach the industry. Now that it has been shuttered, the lessons really do abound. Depending on who you talk to, the publication’s short life was either a colossal failure that spells doom for tablet-only publications (and paid content), an internal failure on News Corp’s part that doesn’t say much about the industry, or a huge success in clearing the way for a new kind of publishing. Or, perhaps, all of the above. The Daily had about 100,000 paid subscribers – a far cry from the 500,000 Rupert Murdoch said it would need in the beginning. The main reason News Corp. execs gave for the shutdown was lack of audience. But, maybe that’s because they didn’t offer something unique enough for people to shell out money for. “It didn’t offer anything that readers could not get from any other newspaper, and it lacked a brand. Had I been Murdoch I would have launched a version of something that was already branded,” Rebecca Lieb, analyst with the Altimeter Group told the AFP. 

Another theory is that The Daily was wrong to tie itself to one device (it launched only on the iPad at first and later on Android devices and smartphones). Even after adding more platforms, just offering it on mobile was a mistake. “Research has since shown that tablet owners are ‘digital omnivores’ who consume media seamlessly across tablets, smartphones, PCs and print publications. To serve them news on only one platform is not satisfying,” Poynter’s Jeff Sonderman writes. Then there’s the theory that it just wasn’t managed as a digital property should be managed – that it spent money like a legacy print publication with full coffers, instead of the digital startup it was. Still, even the mistakes are worth it for those watching. As Leandro Oliva writes on PBS MediaShift, “Rather than dancing around The Daily’s still-warm corpse, publishers ought to think of it as one of the most valuable post-mortems of the year: a fairly groundbreaking news R&D lab that mistakenly thought it ought to be a daily publication.”