Rupert Murdoch, the News Corp. tycoon, has never been known for nursing modest ambitions. And while his gambits don't always succeed, his world-straddling media empire is testimony to a potent combination of calculation, intuition and a flair for publicity.
All three elements are operating in conjunction with the launch of The Daily, a digital newspaper for Apple's iPad, available via an app costing $0.99 per week or $39.99 per year, with Apple receiving one-third of this. Murdoch is said to have invested $30 million in creating The Daily, which has a staff of 120, led by Jesse Angelo, formerly of the New York Post, with support from another ex-Post man, former "Page Six" gossip editor Richard Johnson.
With contributors who made their reputations at titles including Vanity Fair,Men's Health and Maxim, the digital newspaper features eye-catching graphics and a combination of local, national and international content, including general news, sports, entertainment and gossip, all tailored based on the user's location.
The first issue, unveiled at the Guggenheim in New York City on Tuesday, featured a cover story about the Egyptian revolution with the headline "Falling Pharaoh."
With its global distribution, The Daily represents a gambit not only to take the lead in digital publishing for mobile devices, but to use the transition to mobile readership to begin making consumers pay for digital content -- something of an uphill battle, following a decade in which most readers became used to getting newspaper content for free.
However, the business model includes some compromises: to raise awareness of the new publication, it will encourage readers to share some stories via social media like Twitter and Facebook, as well as via email.
While most of the content will be produced in-house by The Daily's own editorial staff, the publication may also draw on the established resources of Murdoch's far-ranging media holdings, including business information from The Wall Street Journal, and general news from the New York Post and Fox News.
In an interview with Fox News' Neil Cavuto, Murdoch said Apple boss Steve Jobs phoned him to praise the new publication after getting an advance view and expressed confidence that large numbers of consumers will pay for quality journalism. Murdoch predicted that in a few years there will be "well over 100 million tablets in America" and "over a billion around the world, adding, "I want to beat 'American Idol'."
By persuading consumers to pay for the product, Murdoch explained that "advertisers will respect it more" as well. He also said he hopes to renegotiate the terms of revenue sharing with Apple, so News Corp. gets to keep a larger share of the subscription price
Separately, The New York Times is developing a new digital iPad app, called News.me, which will deliver a "social news" experience by presenting participating readers with the news being read by people they follow on Twitter. The paid app ranks the stories by the overall number of readers. The app displays full articles, some of which are licensed from other news organizations. For this reason, the app won't be free.