Falling just short of their two-year anniversary, News Corp is shutting down their iPad newspaper The Daily.
On the surface, this doesn’t sound like big news, but it’s a terrible blow for content producers. You see, The Daily was News Corp’s attempt to show that a digital / mobile was a viable substitute for the printed newspaper. With subscriptions and ad dollars falling, news publishers know they have to go virtual to remain in the game but it’s just not working — not in terms of ad sales or subscriptions.
In 22 months, The Daily acquired 100,000 paying subscribers. The prices varied slightly by device but in general we’re talking $19.99 a year for Kindle, $39.99 for iPad and other tablets. Initially, a lot of subscribers came on board for the novelty, drawn in by the promise of quality journalism in an interactive format.
Sounds good, but no go.
CEO Rupert Murdoch had this to say about the decision to close;
“From its launch, The Daily was a bold experiment in digital publishing and an amazing vehicle for innovation. Unfortunately, our experience was that we could not find a large enough audience quickly enough to convince us the business model was sustainable in the long-term. Therefore we will take the very best of what we have learned at The Daily and apply it to all our properties.”
Sadly, it’s true. The tablet subscription model just isn’t working out all that well for anyone, especially if you’re creating content solely for that purpose.
You can blame the lack of tablets being used in the US, but that number is climbing, so in theory, subscriptions should be climbing, too.
You can blame the content – if people are going to pay, it has to deliver more than what you can find online for free.
The truth is likely a combination of the two. I used to be a big magazine reader and even though many of my favorite periodicals have gone digital, I’ve yet to pay for a single subscription. Why? Information overload, that’s why.
Every day I get a dozen emails with updates from the various blogs and news sources I follow. Add in updates on Twitter and Facebook, articles sent to me by friends, articles I read for research, and the never ending list of intriguing sites I stumble upon in my travels — I’m never lacking for things to read. And that’s not counting the ebooks stacking up on my iPad. There aren’t enough hours in the day to process all of it now. The thought of paying to add another item to the list freaks me out. If it’s free and I skip it, no big deal. But if I pay for it, then I want to make sure I get money’s worth and read every last word.
No, it’s too much.
I’m sure that someday, getting your daily news delivered by tablet instead of by the paperboy will be common place. Until then, it’s going to be a rocky road for reporters as publishers struggle to find the secret to making this all work.