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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Hannan Fodder: This week, Daniel Hannan gets his excuses in early

I didn't do it. 

Since Daniel Hannan, a formerly obscure MEP, has emerged as the anointed intellectual of the Brexit elite, The Staggers is charting his ascendancy...

When I started this column, there were some nay-sayers talking Britain down by doubting that I was seriously going to write about Daniel Hannan every week. Surely no one could be that obsessed with the activities of one obscure MEP? And surely no politician could say enough ludicrous things to be worthy of such an obsession?

They were wrong, on both counts. Daniel and I are as one on this: Leave and Remain, working hand in glove to deliver on our shared national mission. There’s a lesson there for my fellow Remoaners, I’m sure.

Anyway. It’s week three, and just as I was worrying what I might write this week, Dan has ridden to the rescue by writing not one but two columns making the same argument – using, indeed, many of the exact same phrases (“not a club, but a protection racket”). Like all the most effective political campaigns, Dan has a message of the week.

First up, on Monday, there was this headline, in the conservative American journal, the Washington Examiner:

“Why Brexit should work out for everyone”

And yesterday, there was his column on Conservative Home:

“We will get a good deal – because rational self-interest will overcome the Eurocrats’ fury”

The message of the two columns is straightforward: cooler heads will prevail. Britain wants an amicable separation. The EU needs Britain’s military strength and budget contributions, and both sides want to keep the single market intact.

The Con Home piece makes the further argument that it’s only the Eurocrats who want to be hardline about this. National governments – who have to answer to actual electorates – will be more willing to negotiate.

And so, for all the bluster now, Theresa May and Donald Tusk will be skipping through a meadow, arm in arm, before the year is out.

Before we go any further, I have a confession: I found myself nodding along with some of this. Yes, of course it’s in nobody’s interests to create unnecessary enmity between Britain and the continent. Of course no one will want to crash the economy. Of course.

I’ve been told by friends on the centre-right that Hannan has a compelling, faintly hypnotic quality when he speaks and, in retrospect, this brief moment of finding myself half-agreeing with him scares the living shit out of me. So from this point on, I’d like everyone to keep an eye on me in case I start going weird, and to give me a sharp whack round the back of the head if you ever catch me starting a tweet with the word, “Friends-”.

Anyway. Shortly after reading things, reality began to dawn for me in a way it apparently hasn’t for Daniel Hannan, and I began cataloguing the ways in which his argument is stupid.

Problem number one: Remarkably for a man who’s been in the European Parliament for nearly two decades, he’s misunderstood the EU. He notes that “deeper integration can be more like a religious dogma than a political creed”, but entirely misses the reason for this. For many Europeans, especially those from countries which didn’t have as much fun in the Second World War as Britain did, the EU, for all its myriad flaws, is something to which they feel an emotional attachment: not their country, but not something entirely separate from it either.

Consequently, it’s neither a club, nor a “protection racket”: it’s more akin to a family. A rational and sensible Brexit will be difficult for the exact same reasons that so few divorcing couples rationally agree not to bother wasting money on lawyers: because the very act of leaving feels like a betrayal.

Or, to put it more concisely, courtesy of Buzzfeed’s Marie Le Conte:

Problem number two: even if everyone was to negotiate purely in terms of rational interest, our interests are not the same. The over-riding goal of German policy for decades has been to hold the EU together, even if that creates other problems. (Exhibit A: Greece.) So there’s at least a chance that the German leadership will genuinely see deterring more departures as more important than mutual prosperity or a good relationship with Britain.

And France, whose presidential candidates are lining up to give Britain a kicking, is mysteriously not mentioned anywhere in either of Daniel’s columns, presumably because doing so would undermine his argument.

So – the list of priorities Hannan describes may look rational from a British perspective. Unfortunately, though, the people on the other side of the negotiating table won’t have a British perspective.

Problem number three is this line from the Con Home piece:

“Might it truly be more interested in deterring states from leaving than in promoting the welfare of its peoples? If so, there surely can be no further doubt that we were right to opt out.”

If there any rhetorical technique more skin-crawlingly horrible, than, “Your response to my behaviour justifies my behaviour”?

I could go on, about how there’s no reason to think that Daniel’s relatively gentle vision of Brexit is shared by Nigel Farage, UKIP, or a significant number of those who voted Leave. Or about the polls which show that, far from the EU’s response to the referendum pushing more European nations towards the door, support for the union has actually spiked since the referendum – that Britain has become not a beacon of hope but a cautionary tale.

But I’m running out of words, and there’ll be other chances to explore such things. So instead I’m going to end on this:

Hannan’s argument – that only an irrational Europe would not deliver a good Brexit – is remarkably, parodically self-serving. It allows him to believe that, if Brexit goes horribly wrong, well, it must all be the fault of those inflexible Eurocrats, mustn’t it? It can’t possibly be because Brexit was a bad idea in the first place, or because liberal Leavers used nasty, populist ones to achieve their goals.

Read today, there are elements of Hannan’s columns that are compelling, even persuasive. From the perspective of 2020, I fear, they might simply read like one long explanation of why nothing that has happened since will have been his fault.

Jonn Elledge is the editor of the New Statesman's sister site CityMetric. He is on Twitter, far too much, as @JonnElledge.