Launch of the Daily: the verdict

A round-up of media comment on the launch of Rupert Murdoch’s new iPad newspaper.

Yesterday saw the launch in New York of the Daily, a newspaper designed exclusively for the iPad and other tablet computers. Rupert Murdoch has made an initial investment of $30m (£18.5m) in the project, in what is billed as an attempt to revolutionise journalism. Below are highlights of press reaction.

Shane Richmond, in an article for the Telegraph writes:

The problem for publishers is that I can get the latest news by opening up the iPad's browser.
And this is a general publication, which means that, whoever you are, The Daily will offer something you don't care about. For me, it's the "gossip" section: I couldn't care less. Perhaps for you, it will be sport or arts.
In print, this is a problem that you are just stuck with; you get what you're given. On the iPad I can have my own magazine.

Alexandra Frean, writing for the Times (£), takes a different view:

The Daily's engineers and designers have used every possible digital trick to make the publication's pages come to life, including still and moving pictures, sound and animated graphics.
Certain features work fully only when the device is connected to a wi-fi signal, a disadvantage perhaps for commuters. Breaking news will be displayed on a ticker but it may take readers some time to learn how best to navigate their way around the publication's news, gossip, opinion, arts & life, apps & games and sports sections.

In a blog for the Guardian, Dan Sabbagh writes:

What is also unclear is how far the Daily will act as a "walled garden". Will it be easy to link to the external content referred to in the Daily's news items? And will it be possible to link into the Daily's content via an iPad? Significantly, no Daily content will be available on the open internet, thus greatly restricting the pool of potential consumers.

Stephen Foley in the Independent comments:

Even the fun stuff, such as a piece on a New York disco for dogs, barely stands out from the great amount of "fancy that" fare available to iPad owners for free at the click of a Safari web browser button.
Here's the problem. The Daily's premise is that newspapers' decline is a delivery problem, that people are out of the habit of nipping to the newsagent and unwilling to pay the built-in costs of trucking papers round the country, but will happily pay a few cents for something that pops up on their iPad.

For the Financial Times, the columnist John Gapper writes:

Who exactly is it aimed at? The publication is sending very mixed signals to readers and advertisers about its editorial intentions.
The Daily is a crossover, not only in looking like a cross between a magazine and a newspaper, but in its style of reporting. It seems closest to the New York Post, with headlines such as: "Obama's No. 1 Nerd Now Citi Slicker in NY" over a piece about Peter Orszag.
As it happens, I had a chance to ask Rupert Murdoch my question at the press conference, but did not get much joy. "That's your suggestion," he growled amiably as I posited that papers tended to be aimed at distinct upmarket or downmarket audiences.

On the Huffington Post, Larry Magid comments:

The cover story, "Falling Pharaoh," did a pretty good job of covering yesterday's news including the subhead "Obama pushes Mubarak to quit now as a million march in Egypt revolution." That was accompanied by some gorgeous photos from yesterday's demonstrations and some sidebars about activism in Syria and Jordan and a profile of Mubarak's sons. All of this was great but as I was reading it, TV and radio news and all of the web-based news services were telling today's news, about counter-protests in Tahrir Square and violent clashes between pro and anti-Mubarak demonstrators. I found none of this in The Daily nor did I see any reports about Egypt turning the internet back on, a subject that I and multiple other online journalists had already covered.

Rob Pegoraro, writes in the Washington Post:

Reading the Daily can involve a certain amount of sluggishness. The "carousel" interface that greets you when you launch it lags behind your gestures, and some turns of an onscreen page also leave you waiting for a moment. I also noticed one outright bug: With the Daily open, an iPad would not shut off its screen automatically, quickly draining its battery.

There's no reason to think that the Daily or its business model represents the last, best hope for journalism. But there are many reasons to think we'll see more attempts such as this.

Jeremy W Peters and Brian Stelter, for the New York Times, write:

As groundbreaking as The Daily is, it is also freighted with risks. Whether consumers will regularly pay for news content on their tablets is far from certain. Sales of iPad applications for magazines have been uneven, and many newspapers give their applications away free.
And as with many first-generation innovations – the Newton tablet from Apple, the internet service Prodigy and the EV1 electric car from General Motors – there is always the risk that The Daily is ahead of its time.

Joel Mathis, writing for the website Macworld:

As a piece of technology, then, The Daily is promising. As a journalistic endeavour, though, it's confusing. Who is the intended audience? News junkies? Unlikely. New Yorkers? There's a Big Apple feel to the content, but the coverage is everywhere and nowhere all at once. Commuters? Why would they shell out a dollar a week for this when they can pick up a similar product, for free, off the rack in a subway kiosk?

Daniel Lyons, author of Options: the Secret Life of Steve Jobs, in Newsweek:

In both the Murdoch and Denton approaches [CEO of Gawker Nick Denton is planning to launch a new advertising business concept], the vital thing is the content itself. Their strategies will work only if their sites deliver compelling, unique material, stuff you can't find anywhere else. That too is a bold idea, as up to now the goal has been to get content as cheaply as possible, either by persuading people to write articles for little or no pay or by aggregating stuff that's been published elsewhere. As a result, the news business has been engaged in a race to the bottom, churning out more and more garbage and then wondering why our industry is collapsing.

Ryan Tate, at Gawker.com:

Being walled off will hurt not only The Daily but its readers, too, who expect, as Rosenberg puts it, "news that you can respond to, link to, share with friends." As web inventor Tim Berners Lee recently wrote, "Walled gardens, no matter how pleasing, can never compete in diversity, richness and innovation with the mad, throbbing web market outside their gates."

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I can’t follow Marie Kondo's advice – even an empty Wotsits packet “sparks joy” in me

I thought I’d give her loopy, OCD theories a go, but when I held up an empty Wotsits bag I was suffused with so many happy memories of the time we’d spent together that I couldn’t bear to throw it away.

I have been brooding lately on the Japanese tidying freak Marie Kondo. (I forgot her name so I typed “Japanese tidying freak” into Google, and it was a great help.) The “Japanese” bit is excusable in this context, and explains a bit, as I gather Japan is more on the case with the whole “being tidy” thing than Britain, but still.

Apart from telling us that we need to take an enormous amount of care, to the point where we perform origami when we fold our underpants, which is pretty much where she lost me, she advises us to throw away anything that does not, when you hold it, “spark joy”. Perhaps I have too much joy in my life. I thought I’d give her loopy, OCD theories a go, but when I held up an empty Wotsits bag I was suffused with so many happy memories of the time we’d spent together that I couldn’t bear to throw it away.

After a while I gave up on this because I was getting a bit too happy with all the memories, so then I thought to myself, about her: “This is someone who isn’t getting laid enough,” and then I decided that was a crude and ungallant thought, and besides, who am I to wag the finger? At least if she invites someone to her bedroom no one is going to run screaming from it, as they would if I invited anyone to my boudoir. (Etym: from the French “bouder”, to sulk. How very apt in my case.) Marie Kondo – should bizarre circumstance ever conspire to bring her to the threshold – would run screaming from the Hovel before she’d even alighted the stairs from the front door.

I contemplate my bedroom. As I write, the cleaning lady is in it. To say that I have to spend half an hour cleaning out empty Wotsits packets, and indeed wotnot, before I let her in there should give you some idea of how shameful it has got. And even then I have to pay her to do so.

A girlfriend who used to be referred to often in these pages, though I think the term should be a rather less flippant one than “girlfriend”, managed to get round my natural messiness problem by inventing a game called “keep or chuck”.

She even made up a theme song for it, to the tune from the old Spiderman TV show. She would show me some object, which was not really rubbish, but usually a book (it may not surprise you to learn that it is the piles of books that cause most of the clutter here), and say, “Keep or chuck?” in the manner of a high-speed game show host. At one point I vacillated and so she then pointed at herself and said, “Keep or chuck?” I got the message.

These days the chances of a woman getting into the bedroom are remote. For one thing, you can’t just walk down the street and whistle for one much as one would hail a cab, although my daughter is often baffled by my ability to attract females, and suspects I have some kind of “mind ray”. Well, if I ever did it’s on the blink now, and not only that – right now, I’m not even particularly bothered that it’s on the blink. Because, for another thing, I would frankly not care to inflict myself upon anyone else at the moment.

It was all a bit of a giggle eight years ago, when I was wheeled out of the family home and left to my own devices. Of course, when I say “a bit of a giggle”, I mean “terrifying and miserable”, but I had rather fewer miles on the clock than I do now, and a man can, I think, get away with a little bit more scampish behaviour, and entertain a few more illusions about the future and his own plausibility as a character, when he is squarely in his mid-forties than when he is approaching, at speed, his middle fifties.

Death has rather a lot to do with it, I suppose. I had not actually seen, or touched, a dead body until I saw, and touched, my own father’s a few weeks ago. That’s what turns an abstract into a concrete reality. You finally put that to one side and gird up your loins – and then bloody David Bowie snuffs it, and you find yourself watching the videos for “Blackstar” and “Lazarus” over and over again, and reach the inescapable conclusion that death is not only incredibly unpleasant, it is also remorseless and very much nearer than you think.

And would you, dear reader, want to be involved with anyone who kept thinking along those lines? I mean, even if he learned how to fold his undercrackers into an upright cylinder, like a napkin at a fancy restaurant, before putting them in his drawer? When he doesn’t even have a drawer?

Nicholas Lezard is a literary critic for the Guardian and also writes for the Independent. He writes the Down and Out in London column for the New Statesman.

This article first appeared in the 05 February 2015 issue of the New Statesman, Putin's war