News Corp. executives again declined to describe circulation numbers at The Daily, its ambitious but unproven attempt to forge a new kind of media business on the iPad, calling the product and its platform both very young on Wednesday.
"In the quarter we lost about $10 million on The Daily," said Chase Carey, deputy chairman, president and chief at News Corp., in response to an analyst's question during an earnings conference call. "Look, it's real early days at The Daily. It's a work in progress. It's only a month-plus that it's been pay based. It's actually one of the most downloaded news apps out there but it's a work in progress."
"The tablet market is still in its infancy," Mr. Carey added.
The media industry is keenly watching The Daily for signs that consumers will pay for a news product on the iPad during an era of declining print circulation for newspapers. Despite the iPad's frenetic sales, however, the platform still hasn't achieved big scale, limiting what The Daily can achieve. Bloggers and the tech press also gave The Daily mixed reviews at the start.
But The Daily hasn't been up, running and billing consumers for long in any case. News Corp. CEO Rupert Murdoch introduced The Daily on Feb. 2 after what he said were $30 million in development costs stretching back into 2010. The product would cost News Corp. $500,000 per week going forward, he said, a fraction of the cost of running a print newspaper but a giant budget for an all-digital product.
News Corp. also secured The Daily 30 seconds of commercial time during the Super Bowl on corporate sibling Fox. But it didn't begin demanding that readers start paying once their free two-week trials were done until late March, after it had made some fixes to the intial app.
"We're not going to build this in a fishbowl," Mr. Carey said later in the call Wednesday as he declined to answer a reporter's question about the proportion of free trials that are leading to paying subscriptions. "It's a work in progress. It's an experiment in many ways."