The Day the Daily Died. It Didn’t Have To Happen.

Posted: December 3, 2012 in Content, Digital Media, News, Tablet

I really loved it when Rupert Murdoch launched The Daily two years ago. I thought he picked some great executives like Jesse Angelo and Greg Clayman to build and run it, and I thought they did a great job as a news organization. But they made a single huge mistake.

They built a news operation for a platform, not for a readership.

The Daily on the day they announced they would be folding

The Daily on the day they announced they would be folding

While no one can deny that the IPad almost immediately impressed everyone as a news consumption device, there was absolutely no reason to believe that it would become the only way people would want their news. While every media business was trying to figure out how to best use the tablet as another distribution device, no one was seriously considering moving to a tablet-only service.

That’s because it was clear that this device going to be an answer, not THE answer. We are still early in this latest reinvention of storytelling. The digital platforms will clearly change habits both because they have eliminated much of the time it takes to deliver news and they provide a medium that allows the storyteller to employ virtually every format, from words to pictures, to video, to interactivity.

The news industry is learning that newsrooms of the future will no longer be built around the medium they are in (newspapers, tv, radio) but rather around the subject they are covering (New York, Financial News, Sports, Politics). These newsrooms will need the revenue from multiple channels to support themselves, and will therefore need to leverage the value of their knowledge across distribution systems.

The Daily waited much too long into it’s brief life to build distribution outside of the Tablet. The lesson for future entrepreneurs is not that the Tablet can’t supports a news business, it’s that it can’t solely support a news business and shouldn’t have to.

Even readers who loved getting their news on the tablet were not likely to have it with them at all times, or likely to prefer it at all times. And even though The Daily’s presentation on the Tablet got better and better as time went by, and was never less than impressive and even beautiful, there were just times that their readers would rather learn of breaking story on their phone because it was more convenient, or see a news video on a computer or TV screen when they were in front of one, or perhaps even read a story in a newspaper if they were sitting on a beach or hear it in a car while driving on the way home.

Serving an audience in today’s information age means you have to accept that the audience will want timely information on the best possible platform at any given time and place. The same consumer driving a car home or sitting in front of their computer at work will probably prefer a different form of communication than someone sitting on a train with their IPad on a try in front of them.

So while The Daily was perhaps the most successful demonstration of how news could be delivered over a tablet, it was, by design, totally irrelevant on every other platform. Telling everyone they HAD to view them on a Tablet was no different than a newspaper or TV news operation refusing to put its content on the web.

  1. Larry, here’s what I think is an apt analogy to your premise regarding consumer behavior: iPod. In the ’70s, quadrophonic hi-fi systems were all the rage, filling a room with surround sound, now commonplace for home viewing. But, as with news consumption in your column, it is the convenience, the immediacy of the low-fi genre of wearable digital devices — exoskins really — that is embraced by the masses. Metaphorically, we might even dub your scenario iPod Journalism. Or microjournalism. Who ever thought we’d be writing anything but display copy to a character count?

  2. Larry, do you mind expanding on this a little?

    “The news industry is learning that newsrooms of the future will no longer be built around the medium they are in (newspapers, tv, radio) but rather around the subject they are covering (New York, Financial News, Sports, Politics).”

    • Larry Kramer says:

      Sure. Instead of a newspaper newsroom like the nytimes, centered around editing desks, or a tv newsroom like cbs news, centered around assignment desks, the modern day newsrooms will have central desk with editing tools for video, text, audio, graphics, etc…and centralized assignment/editing. Content will be managed on a hub-and-spokes system that brings it into a core group of editors/producers and sends it out in different forms to different forms of media. Shared content over multiple platforms will rule the day.

  3. Bruce Apar says:

    Ivan, what Larry’s saying evokes (for me at least) the Mies van der Rohe epigram: “Form follows function.” Adapted to the media business, distribution channels (form) should be empty vessels filled by the content chain (function) rather than content being defined by distribution channels. Sorry, Mr. McLuhan. Today’s medium is not the message. Rather, message monetizes medium.

  4. @Larry, to follow up on the idea of distribution and a traditional news organization’s strength to not only create unique content, but to curate it also, what are your thoughts around what Arianna and her crew are up to at HuffPo with the introduction of the iPad Magazine “Huffington” or Engadget’s “Distro”. Where now you are getting content that may take cues from your “flagship” sources, but allows for a deeper dive or adds interactivity.

    Also, to take it a step further, What do you think the opportunities are utilizing channels like email, which is migrating towards mainly mobile consumption, to deliver unique content exclusive to the channel?

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