Global from the get-go

Feb 08 2011 11:00
Simon Dingle
WE WERE told that the new wave of tablet computers currently sweeping the globe would revolutionise publishing, and we certainly have seen promising signs of that happening.

Last week a newspaper was launched specifically for these new devices which promise to take things to the next level - and it missed its biggest potential trick.

The Daily was concocted by Rupert Murdoch's News Corp under a new division called The Daily Holdings. It is available exclusively on the iPad as an application but advertises itself as a nonspecific "tablet newspaper", suggesting we'll see it for other tablet systems in the future.

The Daily aims to rekindle narrative news - a format that has fallen by the wayside of an information super highway littered with tweets, and on which users have the attention span of a meerkat on crack.

The Daily takes long form narrative and supplements it with video, interactive images and other things made possible on touch-based tablet platforms.

The Daily has dedicated editorial staff and delivers original, professional journalism to save us from a world of aggregated blogging. But it's of little relevance to anyone living outside the USA - and that's its biggest problem.

It seems daft that you would use a device that knows exactly where its owner is situated geographically and is able to pull content across the globe in milliseconds to deliver news for Americans only, but considering the nature of that news it is easy to see why.

Creating original editorial content for users around the globe on a daily basis would require far greater editorial resources than The Daily currently has - but I'm sure Murdoch could afford it.

We live in a world where hyper-localisation is possible. The tablet and smartphone devices increasingly being used to access news and other online content are almost all fitted with GPS technology and other ways of pinpointing users geographically.

Google and others are already leveraging this fact to aggregate customised news feeds that take congnisance of location and interest. What the aggregated news providers can't do is provide original, comprehensive, quality journalism. But why can't we have it both ways?

Murdoch could have captured a global audience if he had installed multiple editorial teams for different regions and given the world the newspaper it's been waiting for, instead of just the USA.

There's nothing wrong with hitting your home market first, but then you have to make peace with the rest of the world being captured by local publishers fencing off their markets. Good for maintaining cultural diversity and sticking it to globalisation, bad for News Corp's bottom line.

What Murdoch does have that other publishers do not is a special arrangement with Apple for subscription billing. He cooked up the daily with Steve Jobs and enjoys benefits from that relationship. So while other, local providers could fill the content gaps left by The Daily, they can't yet bill for that content in the same way News Corp can.

The Daily only takes one aspect of the new digital age into consideration. Yes, tablet devices are awesome. Cloud computing, touch interfaces and interconnectedness offer new and exciting ways of packaging and delivering content. But a far more important trend is that content is now inherently global from the get-go.

Information is being democratised globally, yet publishers and content licensors frustratingly miss this point and foolishly ignore the rest of the world.

This may be a tad unfair to lay on a newspaper like The Daily, but is a valid point in the broader context of 21st-century content that has no excuse for not hitting global markets simultaneously.

The Daily has a unique subscription model and claims to deliver over 100 pages of original content every day, including high definition video and games.

And it is polarising its audience - always a good sign. On the iTunes app store The Daily has almost equal amounts of one-star and five-star reviews, averaging out at three stars.

It may not be perfect, but it is a glimpse of what's possible in online publishing. Too bad only Americans will care.

 - Fin24
apple  |  news corp  |  steve jobs  |  rupert murdoch



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