Commentary

A Real-Time Encounter With The Daily: Wake Me When the Revolution Begins

I am literally writing this as I use the new The Daily from News Corp. 

First impressions only.  

It is amazing how familiar and un-revolutionary this seems.  

The coverflow interface on the splash page thumbnails the majors sections and reminds us that, basically... this is a magazine. And it has the ratchety performance of so many iPad magazines. In fact, the editor greets us with precisely the same message I have seen in just about every iPad magazine app I have seen (tons of them): "Welcome to the newspaper of the 21st century," it says. Well, with one big foot in the 20th. The columns look like magazine columns, the layouts like magazine layouts. Little if any live content is coming into the mix. And the initial download for me was tortuous. The videos did not load properly much of the time, too. There is a story on the storm titled -- I kid you not -- "Here We Snow Again" (because the local TV news anchors haven't overused it yet.) And guess who is pregnant? And oh so damned happy and glowing about it? No, really, you can't believe. Natalie Portman. Hadn't heard that. 

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I am being ruthless, I know, but it just so happens that after about an hour into the Daily I am not sure where the new is. The stingy collection of celebrity images in the gossip section are a fraction of what USA Today delivers. The embedded video is nice to have, as are the Sudoku and crossword puzzles. But I didn't find all of this very navigable. Most of the top-line section buttons land me on the front page of what seems like a magazine section. Finding specific content requires too much shuffling or fine-tuning the scrubber above.  

The picture does light up a bit once we get to sports. There are live Twitter feeds, and you can customize your own list of teams to follow, their team tweets, latest headlines, etc. One wonders why the news and other sections couldn't be more like this? Isn't a stream of headlines or links to related new stories a good idea for this? I understand the basic model of creating an edited daily magazine of triaged news, but the content mix doesn't seem especially rich. Surely there must be a more thoughtful compromise by now between top-down media and bottom-up interactivity and personalization.

The best part of the first issue of The Daily is an ad from Virgin Atlantic. Multiple pages bring up a nicely formatted set of video windows that entice the user in with auto-loaded clips. The visual are stylish and inviting, the use of the technology attractive.  

I am sure there is more coming. I gather that the content will feel more varied and an editorial voice will poke through as readers and creators get into a daily schedule. But I am a bit surprised at the familiarity of it all and some of the navigational quirks. Much as with Richard Branson's Project, I am left feeling that these guys have ignored or want us to forget that a number of other publishers have been doing a lot of this stuff all along. And like many of the apps from traditional media, what feels like a great break with the past to them does not feel so novel to us.  

It seems to me the publications that have succeeded in being effective filters of information online, like e-letters Daily Candy and Thrillist, or even blogs like Gawker and Mashable, have strong editorial sensibilities and voice behind them. They are triaging information for particular people. The audience is identifiable in the publication, as it would be for the best of magazines. Granted, any pub needs to establish that voice and sensibility over time to justify its role as trusted "editor" by establishing some kind of identification with the reader. This is what The Daily needs for me to keep reading.

Or am I being harsh?

1 comment about "A Real-Time Encounter With The Daily: Wake Me When the Revolution Begins".
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  1. MediaMark Walker, February 3, 2011 at 12:51 p.m.

    WOW- you spent an HOUR looking at that? You REALLY wanted to find something there, didn't you? Sadly, like most treasure hunts involving News Corp- there is no treasure to be found...

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