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The Daily, The Tablet, and The Editor

Posted on Monday, February 28, 2011 at 10:14 AM

Viewing News Corporation's launch from an editor's perspective.

By Meredith L. Dias

"New times demand new journalism. The devices that modern engineering has put in our hands demand a new service, edited and designed specifically for them."

With that statement, media mogul Rupert Murdoch of News Corp. has thrown his hat into the digital publishing ring. Earlier this month, he launched The Daily, a daily iPad newspaper. So just how "new" is the Daily brand of journalism? Is the "new service" really all that new? What is the role of editorial in tablet publishing?

The Daily Contents

The Daily, says Carl Bagh in a recent International Business Times article, "is an attempt to rekindle the old print-based newspaper on a different platform, the tablets." It is, in New York Magazine's words, "an iPad-only tabloid."

An editorial team, led by The New York Daily Post managing editor Jesse Angelo, creates each iPad-optimized issue and beefs up the text with photographs, panoramic images, HD video, and the ability to share certain content with social networks. Subscribers log in to the app daily to receive the latest issue. They can scroll through a "carousel" of stories and select the content that interests them, much like flipping through a traditional print newspaper.

Will readers latch onto this multimedia-enhanced version of a traditional newspaper? Some believe that its app-based subscription model could be the answer that has eluded newspaper publishers for years. However, for the time being, The Daily is available to iPad users only, so its reach is limited. Still, the newspaper constitutes a compelling tablet publishing experiment. Will 3D imagery, streaming HD video, and sharing capabilities be enough to shift reader habits away from free content and a 24/7 news cycle?

The Daily takes into consideration the twenty-first-century news cycle; editors can update the issue throughout the day to cover breaking news that arises. About that, James Poniewozick of Time.com says, "I haven't seen much evidence of that yet."

Editorial Responsibilities

The Daily presents a challenge to its editors. They are responsible not just for a collection of up-to-the-minute news articles, but also a multimedia experience. To quote The Princess Bride, "That doesn't leave much time for dilly-dallying." So much more is involved than just formatting articles in a grid. It's seeking out the photographic and video content that will engage the reader and turn the article into a rich multimedia experience. It's keeping the content relevant when there other online news outlets update constantly throughout the day. And it's generating attention-grabbing Facebook- and Twitter-ready headlines for social sharing.

A publication this media-intensive would be difficult enough to maintain on a monthly basis. So how will editors churn out issue after daily issue of multimedia news coverage? According to macstories.net, editor-in-chief Jesse Angelo's newsroom is powered by over 100 journalists. In a memo to his editorial team, reproduced on New York Magazine's website, he expresses his desire to move beyond web and wire reporting. He wants exclusives. He wants The Daily to become an original source, rather than an aggregator of wire content. He wants his "crack news team" to produce original, groundbreaking content on a daily basis.

The Element of Reader Choice

According to some media analysts, The Daily falls short in its failure to incorporate the concept of reader choice. Like a print newspaper, The Daily is a static editorial product -- readers cannot filter daily content to suit their specific preferences. Apps like Flipboard, on the other hand, allow readers to create their own magazine based on personal interests. "Thus," says Bagh in his article, "the choice before the user is to create their own customized content experience or to rely on a group of editors to define their experience."

However, readers can define their Daily experience to a point. The app allows them to personalize their subscription with local weather data and preferred sports team news.

A Compelling Experiment

Just how important is reader choice in today's digital publishing world? Vital, according to some. The Internet has empowered readers to seek out the content that interests them and ignore what doesn't. So how appealing will a digital version of the traditional print newspaper be to young readers who have cut their teeth on the 24/7 news cycle? Will they embrace this repackaged version of a classic concept, or will they continue to rely on tailored newsfeeds from their favorite sites? Can News Corp. and other publishing entities lure these readers away from constantly updated (not to mention free) news content from Google News?

The Daily has posted a YouTube video that demonstrates the newspaper's major features. Their iPad publishing vision: "Touch, swipe, tap, and explore to bring stories to life." If enough readers heed this intriguing instruction, The Daily may prove to be the first of many daily news publications edited and designed specifically for tablets.

Meredith Dias is senior editor of Editors Only.

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