NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- It's here, finally. Two weeks after a planned launch was delayed by Apple CEO Steve Jobs' health problems, News Corp. CEO Rupert Murdoch walked proudly onstage at the Guggenheim Museum in New York clutching his latest pride and obsession: a tablet-based newspaper, The Daily.
With it, he answered a few of the questions that have been swirling around the project, whose staff has been putting out dummy issues of the publication for the past six weeks.
First off, it is a national newspaper that will be reported, edited, produced and packaged on a daily schedule, albeit with video, 360-degree photographs and the kind of interactivity you would expect media to offer on a tablet. The debut cover story was a report from Egypt, "Falling Pharaoh," one that editor Jesse Angelo said was "tailor-made" for the medium, given the compelling images coming out of the region.
Mr. Murdoch also clarified some of the economics: The project, which now employs more than 100 editors, writers, designers and videographers, has cost $30 million so far and will operate at a cost of $500,000 a week going forward -- a fraction of the cost of publishing on newsprint but a huge investment in a digital-only -- let alone tablet-specific -- journalism operation. The price, as previously reported, is 99 cents a week, or as Mr. Murdoch noted, 14 cents a day. There will also be a $39.99 annual subscription, and a two-week free trial sponsored initially by Verizon.
New journalism or old model?
For Mr. Murdoch, The Daily is a bet that he can achieve meaningful scale for marketers while charging consumers for a general-interest publication, a hugely successful model for print media before the web but one that's challenged publishers in new media.
"New times demand new journalism," Mr. Murdoch said. "The devices that modern engineering has put in our hands demand a new service edited and designed specifically for them."
Mr. Murdoch also cast The Daily as an attempt to reach an audience that long ago abandoned traditional newspapers and TV news -- and old-fashioned packages of stories with them -- in favor of small bites of content, often targeted at their interests, whipping around the web.
"There is a growing segment of the population here and around the world that is educated and sophisticated but they do not read national print newspapers or watch television news," he said. "But they do consume media. And they expect content tailored to their specific interests anytime anywhere."
The Daily also ushers in a new way of dealing with subscription-based publications for Apple, which until now has largely required that consumers buy and download individual issues, rather than allow recurring subscriptions. Asked whether this meant other publications would have the same opportunity, Apple VP-Internet Services Eddy Cue demurred: "It's available today for The Daily. You will hear an announcement soon for other publications."
It remained unclear today whether Apple is taking its customary 30% cut from subscription sales or how much subscriber information it is sharing with The Daily, key sticking points between Apple and magazine publishers.
The product itself, which went live at noon, is visually arresting, with easy navigation, magazine-like layouts, photos that can be rotated and scaled, and, of course, video, including a trailer for corporate sibling 20th Century Fox's upcoming "Rio." Browsed horizontally, viewers see giant photos; when the iPad is turned vertically, a story layout appears.
|The Daily's promotional demo video|
Short bites packaged once a day
The stories themselves are short bites, like the New York Post, where Mr. Angelo remains executive editor. The gossip section is full of celebrity photography with a lead story on a pregnant Natalie Portman that reads as though it was lifted from Page Six. That's to be expected, because former Page Six editor Richard Johnson is The Daily's Los Angeles bureau chief.
The Daily will be packaged and sent once a day, hopefully recapturing some of the authority that a daily preparation had in the old days of newspapers and evening newscasts. "I like to have a great a voice telling me what they think is interesting and what's worth my time," Mr. Angelo said.
But News Corp. will have the ability to update the package at any time, though that's not the goal. "We can drop in a new story," Mr. Angelo added. "This is not a once-a-day static product."
A key question is how The Daily will be discovered, both in Apple's App Store amid 300,000 apps and 9,000 news apps alone. Apple didn't say how much promotion it would give The Daily in the App Store, but featured the app today at least.
Much of the app's content will be available on TheDaily.com, though primarily for subscribers and often without the tablet's interactive elements. News Corp. is also making some Daily content available online for non-subscribers if they receive a story link through social media.
The first advertisers
Advertisers were urged to come up with new creative executions for The Daily, according to Jon Miller, chief digital officer at News Corp. Verizon's ad within the app touts its coming 4G wireless network, for example, urging browsers to "turn to feel the power." Viewers who turn the iPad get more slogans and a video.
HBO, Macy's, Pepsi, Virgin Atlantic and Land Rover are also in the initial edition, along with a promo for Johnny Depp's "Rango."
"We are bullish on tablets and the iPad specifically," said Shiv Singh, head of digital for PepsiCo. "Few technology products have seen a faster adoption rate and few technologies enable us to engage with our consumers in as meaningful and rich a manner."
Advertising on The Daily will help marketers understand how the tablet medium will play out, according to Young & Rubicam's global chairman, Hamish McLennan, who has two clients in the app, Land Rover and Virgin Atlantic. "We believe in the concept of content mobility and I think this platform is giving us a window into how the communications revolution is going to affect advertisers," he said. "It gives you the opportunity to take messaging around the product to a new level."
Mr. Murdoch said he has big dreams for The Daily, but that those dreams wouldn't be expensive, at least when compared to legacy newspapers with trucks, presses and, at least at one time, powerful labor unions. Insiders said they expect News Corp. to experiment with pricing, incentives and special deals in the coming months. Even the cover price, they say, could change.
"Our target audience is the 50 million people who are expected to own tablets this year," Mr. Murdoch said. "The Daily's success will be determined by its utility and originality. This is not a legacy brand moving from print to the digital world. We believe The Daily will be the model for how news will be created and consumed."
~ ~ ~
Contributing: Natalie Zmuda