Tuesday, February 1, 2011

The Daily -- The Future of Tablet News?

(Borrowed from Electronista.)

Here's how one of my tech-happy, Apple-centric cohorts put it:
We are witness to history.

Watch and learn as Apple DOES what everyone's been talking about for years: Making big money selling digital fishwrappers (Also known as online news).

At 99 cents/week, there are more than 15 million iPad users out there who will be able to view The Daily.

If 10% of iPadders subscribe for one year, that's $700 Million. More than enough to pay the bills. And then there's ad revenue... Should be at least a $1Billion/yr business.

It's projected there will be 30 million more iPad users by year's end. I'll be one of them, so I see this working out well.

It will be fascinating to watch what happens. Every online news organization will be watching closely and taking notes.
I'm not sure, personally, how much of this will pan out, not knowing the specifics beyond what's been blabbed online, and not having an iPad – nor the inclination to subscribe for 99 cents a week for that matter. But what my friend says in his last sentence is absolutely true: This'll be interesting to see how it all plays out.

We've all seen how newspapers and magazines have struggled in transitioning their products to the online realm, so I'm not really holding my breath on this one.

What may be the saving grace of this effort is that by targeting iPad users through Apple's App Store, they're hitting an online, mobile community that is -- and this is very important -- warmed already to the idea of paying for online content.

But there are lots and lots of questions.

Will this be cross-platform? If I buy a non-Apple tablet, can I subscribe? And given that Rupert Murdoch's News Corp is behind this effort, that right there will scare off some potential subscribers. But then again with News Corp behind all this, this is one company with extremely deep pockets and lots of reporterial resources. I'm not sure they can count on brand loyalty as we've seen with the online-only versions of the Christian Science Monitor and the Seattle Post-Intelligencer with the iPad's current audience, but they've certainly got the journalistic chops to pull it off.

How advertising-intense will the product be, and will users support the advertising? Yes, they don't have the overhead of printing presses, paper, and such -- but staffing and salaries have always been the most expensive parts of news production. To pay one staffer a salary of $60,000 (admittedly high in the journalism biz) will take 60,000 subscribers if the $1 a week is their only income.

One great challenge will be to ensure that content produced for The Daily is unique to The Daily – because it's been proven time and again that if readers can find what they want online for free, they're not going to go behind any paywall, no matter how flashy the content behind that paywall may be. The presser says a companion site will offer about 10 percent of The Daily's content for free, but will retain the rest for its paying customers. That's well and good. But for this to work, The Daily not only will need unique content, but content that's valuable enough to its readers to make them fork over the 99 cents a week. That sounds odd in an industry where people already fork over for subscriptions, but we've seen how well subscriptions have done online. There's so much free stuff out there, the reasoning is why pay for stuff?

Lots of questions. It WILL be fascinating to see what happens.

No comments: