Lessons From The Daily's iPad App Failure

The Daily's demise may appear to be a big blow to the future of iPad magazines -- but it shouldn't. Tablet publishers can learn a great deal from The Daily's shortcomings.

You've got to hand it to The Daily, the first iPad-only news app, which hit the Apple Store on February 2, 2011. The Daily, published by Rupert Murdoch's News Corp., folded this week. It's tough being a pioneer in online publishing, especially in the brave new world of tablets.

Here is part of Murdoch's official statement:

daily.jpg
"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."

More than anything, The Daily's demise shows the rocky footing of the nascent tablet publishing industry. Online publishers have made great strides in taking advantage of the iPad's multimedia capabilities and improving the user experience, yet the future remains precarious.

So what will be the fallout from The Daily? Many iPad watchers will point to The Daily's failure as proof that iPad magazines can't be successful—but they'd be wrong to do so, says tech analyst Rob Enderle.

"It seemed to me that The Daily wasn't that interesting," Enderle says. "Rather than focusing on speed or unique coverage, they seemed to have less interesting versions of the same story you'd see in a number of other places before they got theirs out. So I doubt The Daily would have made it regardless of the medium."

Slideshow: 10 Popular iPad Magazines

Early online publishers took to the iPad's multimedia capabilities. They complemented stories with interactive photos, video, sound and even e-commerce buttons. National Geographic magazine on the iPad, for instance, has made interactivity an art form with its award-winning photographs. Golf Digest has so many bells and whistles that a single iPad issue can take up more than 600MB.

But multimedia capabilities can distract an iPad magazine from its core mission. In fact, publishers should look to their print past in order to be successful in their online future.

"A new media publication has many of the same requirements of regular media: It must be timely, entertaining, relevant to the audience, and must have some aspect that makes it an important part of the targeted readers life," Enderle says.

The iPad can help publishers deliver on traditional print goals, such as targeting content to a specific readership. Even better, the iPad can make content more timely via online updates. Content on the iPad can also be delivered in more digestible formats, such as video.

"If you don't use the power of the medium to create a more compelling alternative to what is out there and market the result, you'll fail," Enderle says. "I think that is what happened here."

Tom Kaneshige covers Apple and Consumerization of IT for CIO.com. Follow Tom on Twitter @kaneshige. Follow everything from CIO.com on Twitter @CIOonline and on Facebook. Email Tom at tkaneshige@cio.com

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