Tablet Journalism: Can Rupert Murdoch’s iPad Adventure Save the News Business?

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repurpose or transcode anything, because News Corp built the 100-employee newsroom from the ground up to generate tablet-friendly content and array it in touchscreen-friendly ways.

What do I mean? Well, you’ll know all this if you already have the app, but The Daily is covering the astonishing social revolutions underway in Egypt and other Arab countries with an immersive combination of video reports, narrative text from a reporter on the ground, audio interviews, and dramatic full-screen photographs (some of which are so large they can be “explored” by zooming and panning). Many articles have full-page opening spreads with clever, sometimes animated illustrations. Many images are “touchable,” supplemented with pop-up graphics. There are interactive polls—I was in the minority in a poll asking whether “cutting carbon emissions” or “investing in green technology” is more important—it was 22 percent to 78 percent, respectively.

Sports fans should especially love The Daily, as the sports section is where the designers and animators seem to have lavished the most attention. The app’s Super Bowl preview yesterday included a 360-degree photo taken inside Cowboys Stadium and an interactive timeline of all 44 previous Super Bowls. For puzzle fans, there’s even an interactive crossword and a sudoku puzzle. (No comics though.)

While the actual reporting in The Daily isn’t as deep or as level-headed as what you might find in the New York Times, I find that the overall package, especially for the lead stories, is far more informative. That’s because I’m one of those people who Murdoch described at the launch event: educated and informed, but unlikely ever to pick up a print newspaper or watch a TV news show. On occasion, I’ve worried that my lack of a TV habit means I’m cut off from the big news stories—I don’t recall seeing a single video on the Gulf oil spill or the Chilean mine disaster, for example. For me, The Daily’s offerings could help fill this gap, by offering a genuinely multimedia experience on the platform I’m already using for most of my information-gathering.

All of that said, there’s plenty about The Daily that needs work. The app takes too long to load new content (even over Wi-Fi). Interactive features are often sluggish, and the app has crashed on me several times in the last two days. The writing feels a little too bloggy, the editing rushed; one article about Silicon Valley darling Quora, for example, spelled co-founder Charlie Cheever’s name two different ways. I’m not sure why I expect more from The Daily, but maybe it has something to do with the beautiful packaging. It feels like a magazine, so I expect magazine-level copyediting.

And there’s another, more complicated issue: how The Daily relates to the rest of the information universe. At the launch event, The Daily’s editors claimed that articles would include hyperlinks to outside Web content, but I’ve only found a couple. And forget rich Web-style hyperlinking from within the text itself—in that respect, at least, The Daily is like an old-fashioned magazine.

You can share an article from The Daily from within the app via Twitter, Facebook, or e-mail. If you do that, your tweet or post or message will include … Next Page »

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Wade Roush is a contributing editor at Xconomy. Follow @wroush

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