First Impressions: The Daily

Rachel Lovinger   February 16, 2011

Delivered to your door every day. (image via Rob Gallop)

The Breakdown: Publishers have been wondering if the tablet is going to save journalism. News Corp recently put a stake in the ground with their launch of The Daily. It’s way too early to tell whether this experiment is going to be a success or a failure, but we’ll let you know what we think of it so far.

When The Daily, the first publication created exclusively for the iPad, had been out for a week I sat down with Beth Lind (@bethl), the head of the Media & Entertainment practice in Razorfish’s NYC office, to discuss what we liked and what we thought still needs work.

Beth had seen a preview presentation of the prototype, and the first thing she commented on was that they had launched with all of the features they demonstrated at the preview – and that’s no small achievement these days. Then, as she pulled up the app, it announced that there was a new version, but she had to uninstall the old version before updating. This had the unfortunate side-effect of clearing out all of her saved articles. Here are some of our other initial observations:

What we liked

Beth is excited that someone is finally using the tablet to present content in ways that go beyond static pages. The layout is still pretty magazine-like, but it uses interactivity in some subtle and fun ways.

  • 360 degree images
  • Images that can be zoomed in and out
  • Animated design elements
  • Graphs that build as the page loads
  • Seamless use of inline video
  • Embedded polls
  • Audio functionality reads the news to you!

What we didn’t like

Oh, it’s always easier to criticize, isn’t it? Here are the things that fell short of our expectations.

  • It crashes, it freezes, it takes a long time to load
  • The interface of the app is confusing and inconsistent. I often found myself clicking on things that seemed like they should do something, but they didn’t.
  • It was wise for them to include the ability to share, but in order to make it work the content has to be mirrored on the web (which makes it not-exactly-iPad-only). This is a shortcoming of the platform, not the app, but whose fault is it that when you share a link it offers unhelpfully vague messages like “Check out this article from the Daily” (on Twitter) and “I want to share the web version of an article from The Daily, the tablet-based original news publication.” (on Facebook)?
  • The audio feature is awkward and only applies to some of the articles
  • It’s a walled garden. We think it must be aimed at that super-select segment of early adopters who want to get all their news from a single source. If you want to read other points of view on a story, you still have to visit any of the thousands of other news sources online.

Of course, we’re sympathetic about these shortcomings – these aren’t easy problems to solve. But the bigger question is the value equation: Does The Daily bring something valuable enough to the table to make people look past the bugs and pay for a weekly subscription? A lot of these issues will be fixed sooner or later, but halfway into the 2-week free trial period, neither of us was convinced that it was something we wanted to pay for. The coverage is not unique enough, and the features are not quite there. We’ll keep an eye on it though and see how The Daily develops. 

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2 Responses

  1. Michael Harper says:

    I have a similarly half-and-half impression of the Daily. The real question in my head, though, is less about the Daily and more about where digital is going in general. The Daily is an example of a digital experience that looks ALOT like its analog counterpart. That is either a step backwards, and more digitally native experiences like Gawker.com or HuffPo are the future; or a step forwards, and the key to digital really replacing dead trees. I don’t know the answer, but am excited to be in this transition time in which we figure it out. Because our kids will simply be born into the future; we have the opportunity to show the courage of those who leave the past behind.

  2. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Razorfish and Robert A Stribley, John Saywell. John Saywell said: RT @Razorfish: #Razorfish Scatter/Gather blog gives first impression of The Daily (via @rlovinger) http://rzf.sh/eDeoGh ~@ktlamkin […]

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