Murdoch shutters iPad news app ‘The Daily’ in major News Corp restructure

4 Dec 2012

The Daily, an iPad-based newspaper that was the brainchild of both Rupert Murdoch and the late Steve Jobs to exemplify the virtues of the iPad as a revolutionary force defining the future of news media, is closing down. The closure has prompted a rethink of the value of news apps overall.

The closure of The Daily comes amid an overall restructure at Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation.

Two new companies are to be formed from the split of the conglomerate – News Corporation and Fox Group.

The purpose of the restructure is to separate the news element of the business form the entertainment side of the business.

20th Century Fox, cable and TV assets, satellite broadcasting and movies will be managed by the Fox Group while News Corporation will manage the main newspaper and newswire assets, including The Wall Street Journal, Dow Jones, etc.

The Daily will cease publication on 15 December and staff will be folded into The New York Post.

Rupert Murdoch will serve as chairman of the new News Corporation and chairman and CEO of Fox Group. Chase Carey will serve as president and chief operating officer of Fox Group, with James Murdoch continuing in his capacity as deputy chief operating Officer.

Robert Thomson, who has served as editor-in-chief of Dow Jones and managing editor of The Wall Street Journal since 2008, will begin his work as incoming CEO to the publishing company on January 1, 2013.

A bold experiment

“This is an incredibly exciting time, for me personally, and for our companies’ ambitious futures,” said Rupert Murdoch. “The challenges we face in the publishing and media industries are great, but the opportunities are greater.”

Murdoch continued: “Under Robert’s leadership at News Corporation, we will build on our traditional mission to inform, entertain and enhance the lives of readers and viewers around the world, and relentlessly drive global growth by promoting excellence and investing in our businesses.

Commenting on the closure of The Daily, Murdoch said: “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.

“Under the editorial leadership of editor-in-chief Col Allan and the business and digital leadership of Jesse, I know The New York Post will continue to grow and become stronger on the web, on mobile, and not least, the paper itself. I want to thank all of the journalists, digital and business professionals for the hard work they put into The Daily,” Murdoch said.

The mobile, multi-screened future of news

The closure of The Daily, which was launched in February 2011 to much fanfare, has prompted much soul-searching as to why it failed. Some commentators have pointed out that it was isolated from the rest of News Corp and lacked focus, that its content was more tabloid than what would suit an early-adopter, tech savvy audience awash in a sea of quality content.

But the most likely reason is it had no actual website, and was confined to iOS and Android devices.

What this meant was, as an app-only experience, people couldn’t just access the news content from any connected device. They had to have the app first.

It also meant users couldn’t share the content socially, which is the life’s blood of how news is spread today.

The closure of The Daily after almost two years is a salutary lesson about news and apps. On their own paid apps for news may eventually be the future but that future is not immediate.

If anything there is a trend in news media to design mobile-optimised websites that work seamlessly across desktop, tablet, smartphone and whatever other kinds of screens users which consumers may choose at any time.

If anything, the web has become a multi-screen environment and most people now access their online news socially. That is the lesson.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years