Rupert Murdoch of NewsCorp (NASDAQ:NWS) announced the launch of what he believes will be a revolutionary news product yesterday. “The Daily” will be available exclusively on the iPad and soon on other tablet devices. This new aged newspaper/magazine will cost about $40/year. It will include a lot of pretty pictures, sound bites, movies, and interactive play things.
Is this an advancement from the old school paper newspaper or magazine? Hell yea it is. To have all of this content in a rich format, downloaded automatically every day and updated throughout on your iPad is amazing. Paper is dead, thank god, it was such a waste of money and resources, between the printing, the shipping, the loading and unloading, and the selling, just a complete waste. I see advertisements now on television from the New York Times that say, “don’t you want to feel that paper in your hands, don’t you like the smell.” No, I don’t, it was hard to fold and got in everyone’s way on the train. If someone got on the subway with me in the morning and tried to open one of those up I would laugh.
So yes, really cool Rupert, the product is nice. But the bigger question is, does it do anything to change your failing business model? The answer, a resounding NO.
The cost thus far is about 30 million dollars a month for the daily. I have no doubt that it will get a ton of signups initially as there are about 14 million iPads sold to date. Let’s give a very liberal estimate of 25% adoption and you’re talking about 3.5 million people, which pans out to about 14 million dollars a month in revenue. Obviously the iPad market and tablet market as a whole will be huge, but they aren’t going to be profitable for a while unless they get a ton of advertising in there quickly.
But beyond that, what Rupert doesn’t quite get is the fact that the way people consume information has radically shifted over the past few years. It’s about two things, the quality of the content, and the way in which we are connected to it.
Most New York Times content is useless at this point. I can get that information for free, from anywhere. There’s no way I’m paying for it. I’m not saying we don’t need it, or that it’s bad content, I’m saying that it’s not worth anything anymore, it’s a commodity, that’s just a fact. This is why so many local newspapers have gone out of business, what are they really offering? Craigslist destroyed their classifieds, done.
The content that is worth something today is the stuff that is extremely specialized, unique and deep. How could a newspaper ever wish to do this kind of research or reporting? The answer is they can’t, which is why they are dying. The idea of having a central publishing place create content on all sorts of different topics is over. I want the best from each field, I want my science news from the most in depth science publication, my sports news from the most insightful reporter or blogger, on and on. I don’t want one editorial board deciding what I’m going to read on a daily basis Are you kidding me?
Rupert still seems to think there is a place in this world for him to force his editorial voice upon a massive audience of readers. Sorry buddy, it’s over. People don’t have one view on every subject. People are people, they are all different, they all want their information on different subjects from different sources, which have their own views.
And they don’t want to consume it in this centralized newspaper style anymore; we’re done with that. My Twitter feed gives me the real time posting of all my favorite sources of news and entertainment. In my feed I have the best of the best from around the web. When I see something I want to read I open the link and it takes me right to the story, I don’t have to fumble through reading all of that other nonsense in a newspaper, which isn’t relevant to me. This product that you’ve just build is a regression in choice from my Twitter feed. Why would I ever want to use it? I want more personalization, more customization, not less.
Your business model is screwed because you are trying to get people to pay for your editorial voice and content that isn’t ever going to be that great. I’m sure, just like any other news outfit, you will break stories and do some great reporting. But it won’t be enough for anyone to pay for it. And there are people better than your editors who can curate the web for me.
You are trying to force an old model of information consumption, which is broken, onto a new platform. What makes you think this is going to work? I think I understand, it has to do with the age from which you come. You built a media empire by brining together content from each and every corner. The media empire building days were about controlling the information flow, controlling the voice. Those who were biggest and loudest won. That ain’t the case any longer, technology has disrupted that by allowing everyone to access the best of the best, even if they aren’t the loudest. You can’t control the voice anymore just by being big.
Now, as I understand it, "The Daily" will be tinted towards entertainment and lifestyle. I don’t blame you from going this route, it sells. People gobble up this garbage left and right, just look at your cable news networks. You have turned news into entertainment, and the rest of the world is following step, unfortunately, because that’s what sells.
Good luck selling entertainment. If that’s what you want to sell, so be it. But if your goal was to sell a news product, something that is going to actually inform people, this ain’t it. Your whole model of information dissemination is broken.