Rory Cellan-Jones - The Daily iPad newspaper

BBC's tech expert talks about the first iPad newspaper

Hitting the Apple tablet presses back in February, Rory-Cellan Jones gives his view on Rupert Murdoch's The Daily, the first iPad-only news "paper".

It’s the most anticipated new arrival in the media world since, ooh, Sky TV. And, just as in 1989, plenty of media watchers think Rupert Murdoch’s The Daily will crash to earth, taking the media magnate’s shirt with it.

Mind you, this time there are plenty more hoping that this tablet-based newspaper really is the shape of the future. Rupert Murdoch expects 50 million Americans to have tablets by the end of the year, and if he can make them pay for The Daily then the ailing newspaper industry may see a way out if its current mess.

But it’s a funny beast, The Daily. Ultra modern, yet retro at the same time. After downloading each day’s edition you find
yourself greeted by a video introduction, before spinning though a carousel of news, gossip, sport and sudoku.

Multimedia tricks assail the reader in just about every story: stunning photo galleries, graphics which animate at the touch of a finger, video trailers embedded in movie reviews. In fact, there is almost too much going on. It’s hard just to sit and read an article.

So far, so modern, yet in many ways The Daily chucks out all of the innovation that the web has brought to journalism and goes back to basics. Crucially, it’s not a “live” product; what you get is what the teams in the New York and San Francisco newsrooms saw fit to put in the paper last night. If the world has ended in the intervening hours, you’d be none the wiser if The Daily was your only news source.

What of reader interaction and usergenerated content? Well if you really want to you can leave comments, but they’ll be tucked away out of sight. The message from The Daily is that your job as a reader is to sit back and enjoy the product.

What we have then is an audacious bet on the way tablets such as the iPad will change the direction of online journalism. In the view of The Daily, there is now a big audience that wants a polished, mid-market take on the world, with plenty of technical wizardry but not too much interaction, and is willing to pay a small fee for it – The Daily costs $0.99 per week.

These are steady types who will sit down each morning for half an hour with their news app, getting a little bit of information, spiced up with lashings of gossip and sport.

Sure, the argument goes, there are many more of us who flit restlessly from link to link across the web, gathering titbits of news for nothing, and shouting the odds on blogs and social networks as we go. But that crowd, and that way of thinking, provide no future for journalism, at least according to Mr Murdoch.

Now he needs three quarters of a million subscribers to share his vision, shelling out a dollar every week for convenient access to information they could get for free elsewhere.

“Not a hope,” says the smart money. Then again, that’s what clever folks said about Sky TV two decades back… And that didn’t turn out too badly.

Rory is the BBC’s technology correspondent. He blogs at www.bbc.co.uk/rorycellanjones