When “The Daily” was launched by News Corp is was a new idea that had never been tried and thus felt a bit exciting, at least to me. I hate to admit this in front of this particular group of people, especially given the answers below, but I was a subscriber right up to the end. Luckily I can say that I would have cancelled long ago, but they made it nearly impossible for a busy guy like me–I simply never found the time to jump through all the crazy and unnecessary hoops needed to cancel (I’m actually a bit surprised the subscription ended when they folded). That said, to the untrained eye it might have looked as if “The Daily” was an experiment that just might have been working. Put into an equation, it might look something like this:
Backed by large corporation + good design + dedicated staff + big PR splash at launch = failure?
Even if the iPad-only publication wasn’t 100% on the right track to success, it did seem to have quite a few good things going for it. So the big question is: why did it fail? The Think Tank panel returns to tackle just that in this first question to the group in the new year. Be sure to chime in with your own opinion below!
Online Content is Meant to Be Interactive, Social and Current
While “The Daily” offered compelling content and an interesting design, it was doomed to fail for one important reason: online content is meant to be interactive, social and above all current. The only thing that separated “The Daily” from a traditional newspaper or magazine was the fact it wasn’t printed on paper.
Apps like Flipboard that offer users the ability to design their own interactive digital magazine from an array of content publishers are a compelling draw. Best of all, it’s completely free! It’s hard to compete with free. There has to be something of premium value to get people to pay a premium to access it. “The Daily” wasn’t it.
Control; I’d Rather Curate My Own News Sources
I never used The Daily app or any service like it–that said, there are many pieces to this puzzle, but based on my own experience I’d throw “control” into the mix. I prefer to curate my own sources of news and entertainment. I like the control and I imagine other people do too. I’d much rather go to my Twitter app and enjoy 90% of the content vs. a digital magazine where there may only be one or two stories that interest me. I wouldn’t buy a digital magazine subscription for the same reason I don’t buy traditional magazine subscriptions. There’s just not enough value between the first and last page. This becomes especially true in the digital publishing space where there are so many other content consumption options at our fingertips.
It’s Hard to Compete Against Free
The Daily ipad app failed the minute News Corp decided to charge a subscription fee for headline news you can get elsewhere for free. It’s hard to compete against free. Even if The Daily had exclusive news, the model wouldn’t have worked because, well, it’s the news with a shelf life of 5 minutes. Plus, sharing and spreading news is easier than ever before. All it takes is a couple of influential people to tweet or Facebook post breaking news and it spreads like wildfire. The share bear has been released and there’s no way of putting it back in its cave. I don’t think a digital magazine/news subscription service can succeed in a tech-connected world.
It’s Difficult to Mesh the Paper and Pixel Economies
I think The Daily misunderstood the market. They tried to be all things to all people, rather than focusing on a niche they could own. It’s nearly impossible to build the best content on a broad range of topics out of the gate. On an internet connected device, people have access to limitless content. A digital magazine is just one of an infinite variety of news sources available to you.
It’s difficult to bring the economics of the newspaper to the economics of the web. The NYT is successful because they have the best content. The Daily could have focused on a niche and claimed to be the best there. But few do that with a paywall.
I don’t think that a startup content app will be successful. A reader, sure. A new content provider, sure. But the combination? Unnecessary.