The Daily vs Livestand: which provides tablet news content?

News Corp’s iPad only newspaper, The Daily, has had some of the wind knocked out of its sails lately. Having touted an ever increasing number of subscribers since its launch in February, Paid Content has reported the actual number of subscribers is around 80,000 – according to publisher Greg Clayman.

Livestand

That’s still not half bad, with the majority paying the $39.99 yearly subscription rate. Obviously the content and iPad only consumption model must appeal to some. It’s also around 10,000 subscribers a month, with an average engagement time of 20 minutes.

But it’s not the only model for tablet news consumption. Yahoo has been touting its own tablet news app since February, but taking a different tact. The Livestand project, which may launch as early as this week, offers up aggregated content in the same fashion as existing apps, but with a key difference – its HTML5 based. This means there’s no need for an app store to distribute to tablets, and no cut of subscriptions to Apple, potentially better integration of ads for advertisers and a single destination for users to pull in all the rich news content the web has to offer.

It’s tough to guess which of these will be the more popular format for tablet-based news – the fully personalised aggregation experience or the more traditional single stream of news and features laced with the political and economic beliefs of its publishers. Whichever wins the day, the heavyweights of the web world are certainly bought into the tablet format.

The Daily ‘UK Edition’ gets a quite soft launch

Rupert Murdoch’s iPad-only newspaper, which launched back in February, has been quietly released to UK readers. According to The Guardian, although there was no official launch date it seems to have been available for over a week.

And it’s been getting mixed reviews – mainly because of the lack of localised content. The paper still contains US-based stories, including reports on US politics, current affairs and a two-week trial offer from Verizon Wireless – a business that does not have a UK consumer offering.

Ads are also US-centric, advertising Fox TV shows and a 4G smartphone. Anyone notice our Gs only go up to three?

It seems a strange tactic to try and woo a new perspective audience, especially from a media mogul with so much experience. So strange in fact, you have to wonder if this is really an actual launch or simply testing the water for something more tailored to the UK. The Wall Street Journal doesn’t just slap ‘Europe’ on the end of its header and hope for the best – so why is The Daily any different?

Is The Daily worth a PR pitch?

It’s not been long since The Daily launched and it has already been branded a “complete failure of imagination”. Why exactly? Despite significant investment and heavy input from Apple, The Daily is apparently nothing that hasn’t been seen before.

To quote Shane Richmond:
“It’s not a ‘native’ iPad experience at all, it’s a news magazine torn up and stuffed, page-by-page onto the iPad screen. After months of waiting to see Rupert Murdoch’s grand vision for this new medium, it turns out he wants to sell us the old vision but with a couple of videos thrown in.”

Admittedly, Shane writes and blogs for The Daily Telegraph, a bit of a rival to News Corp. But his argument is a balanced one, admitting his own publication’s iPad app is not perfect and noting existing aggregation services, such as Flipboard, work as well as, or better than, dedicated news apps.

So what does The Daily mean for PRs? Not much, for the time being at least. Without a high number of subscribers, or an international or European version, those of us in the UK have minimal opportunities.

As a concept, the first ‘iPad only paper’ presented a new opportunity for PRs to pitch new content formats on a client’s behalf, and pitch in new ways. From this assessment, it seems quite the opposite is true. If The Daily is simply a torn up magazine stuffed into a virtualised package, a good old fashioned home grown press release should work in the same way it works now (and I use the term ‘work’ loosely, given the generally poor standard of releases across the industry).

The one exception to the rule is video.

With The Daily’s focus on video content, PRs have the opportunity to get a visual story, or the visual nature of a story, through to readers (or viewers?) in video form. I’m not suggesting Daily editors would take an entirely contributed video, anymore than BBC News or Sky News would take more than a smattering of stock B-roll. But if video is a focus, and there are 100 pages a day, logically there’s more space for video content than before – on a device where video is a native medium.

I’ve already mused on the PR value of online newspaper sites with paywalls, when The Times take up figures came out. The argument came down to reaching a high number of casual, potentially unengaged readers vs a targeted audience. It’s a tough one to call.

With The Daily it’s more clean cut. Without an ‘edge’ in the digital publishing world or a high daily circulation, it won’t compete with established national papers in PR terms – unless you’re really precious about ink-stained fingers in the morning.

What The Daily Could Mean for PRs

Today was a momentous day in the digital publishing world, or even the entire publishing world. Maybe.

 

 

Rupert Murdoch and some equally big deal types from Apple got up on stage to launch The Daily, the first newspaper designed solely for the iPad. Solely for now, that is. Although Murdoch believes “this year and last year belongs to Apple” in tablet terms, he isn’t ruling out farming The Daily out to more tablets as they emerge. The new paper will feature 100 pages of fresh, original content daily, costing 99 cents a week or $39.99 a year on subscription.

So what does this mean for PRs? Well, the obvious starting point is there are 100 extra pages that need to be filled every single day. More pages mean more space for client coverage. Bob on.

But that’s the superficial, old school view. Column inches. What, if any, is the value for clients? According to Apple’s stand-in CEO Eddy Cue, the 10 billion downloads from the App Store to date mean people are finding apps they want. Logic carries that if they want a newspaper designed specifically for their precious ’Pad, they’ll find and use The Daily. It’s anecdotal evidence, but the numbers carry weight. Apple’s marketing clout will certainly help with take up too. So that’s audience reach covered, for now.

But what of social media integration, the ability to discuss and engage with content and the ‘news discovery’ element. That’s where things get a little iffy. News Corp isn’t exactly a fan of making content free online, what with paywalls going up all over the show. The Daily isn’t exempt from the walled garden approach. Although the demo video ends with a plug for the app’s Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr pages (yep, Tumblr gets a mention) the reality for users is different.

According to Jon Miller, News Corp’s digital head, content from the app will be mirrored on the web. That’s fine for text and images, but not so fine for the 360 degree photo features. Additionally, Jesse Angelo, newly appointed editor of The Daily, says of sharing, “While users will be able to access articles that are shared on The Daily’s website, they won’t be able to go beyond an article to access the site without paying.”

So for PRs, The Daily is a mixed bag. An extra 100 pages a day is no bad thing. With print media continuing to decline and the future of web content uncertain at best, it’s encouraging to see new media forms emerging. Apple’s marketing clout should take care of that pesky value add question too.

But the lack of social media integration is a concern. The paywall model employed by News Corp is yet to be proven, although The Times does seem to be doing well enough to get by. The limit with a paywall is the lack of ability to share. With a web and tech enthusiastic audience the most likely to adopt The Daily, you have to wonder how long before the frustration with lack of sharing will make them jump ship. Even Apple’s marketing muscle can’t fix that.

Jobs, Murdoch, The Daily and Fawlty Towers

This weekend must be a welcome respite for anyone involved in the development of The Daily, the new iPad only newspaper from those lovely tycoons Rupert Murdoch and Steve Jobs.

A quick recap: on Wednesday The Daily was on for next week, by late Thursday it was off as both parties decided “to give Apple time to tweak its new subscription service for publications sold through its iTunes platform”. It is, however, delayed by weeks, not months. Regardless, somewhere as I type there is an Apple developer or two sweating like billy-o to get it done.

What else might Apple employees be doing? According to Mashable, they might just be fiddling about with their services to stop European newspapers offering print subscribers free access to iPad editions of their publications. Two publications in The Netherlands, deVolkskrant and nrc.nl, have been informed of “stricter rules” by Apple that will ensure the company has control over subscriber data and the 30% revenue cut from those accessing content via an app. These new rules are due to come into force on 1st April. As yet, no publications in the UK or other territories have encountered similar rule renewals from Apple.

Regardless, this anti-competitive behaviour does stink worse than yesterday’s fish and chips. Might Apple want a greater level of control over subscriber data to facilitate intelligent marketing of their own iPad publication? Seems logical. The number of people reading periodicals on an iPad must still be relatively low, so best start with those already comfortable with tablets as a daily reading device, right Steve (even if it’s just a flash in the pan).

While all these goings on are going on, the number crunching types at the Financial Times are making profiting from digital look like child’s play. Figures released on Friday say digital subscribers tipped the 200,000 mark in 2010, a 71 per cent increase over 2009. iPad subscribers represent a tenth of new digital subscribers, according to CEO John Ridding. Compared to other newspapers, the FT seems to be doing well (although, as James Holland of Electric Pig pointed out to me, the niche nature of the FT’s audience gives them a head start over the competition).

While it is unlikely The Daily will become the single ubiquitous publication for the iPad (remember Virgin has a more entertainment focused project in the works), Apple is seemingly putting up as many barriers to the competition as possible. If this doesn’t work, Murdoch and Jobs can always take a round the world trip and begin slapping anyone reading a newspaper app on the forehead with a spoon in a sort of Fawlty Towers slap stick kinda way. “Steve! There are too many newspaper apps on that iPad”, “Qué?!” etc.

Even with such measures in place, it’s the content that will be the ultimate decider of success, provided those iTunes tweaks get sorted out soon.