What is it?
The Daily, iPad, $1 a week or $40 a year. If there's a publication that has a shot at making a convincing case for your tablet replacing your newspaper, it's the Daily. Bankrolled by News Corp, backed by Apple, and built from scratch expressly for the iPad, it's guaranteed to be a one-of-a-kind app for at least some time.
And the first edition, which went live in the App Store earlier today, is in many respects one-of-a-kind. Overall, it's probably the best iPad newspaper/magazine/multimedia experience/whatever to date. There's a staggering amount of high quality content in a variety of sections—News, Gossip, Opinion, Arts & Life, Apps & Games, and Sports—with sharp writing, beautiful photos, and well-produced video sprinkled throughout. In the sports section, in particular, the Daily really shines. There's a cool, narrated visualization of one of the Steeler's go-to plays; there's a box score and highlight panel you can customize with your favorite teams in every sport; and there are several interesting video pieces that would only make sense as videos—it's not as fun to read about how the Harlem Globetrotters do their tricks.
You can jump around between all of these piece to piece with the carousel view or simply swipe through panel by panel. It's a rich publication but accessibly so. And for 14 cents a day, or whatever a buck a week works out to, it's definitely a good value. Even if you don't cancel your real newspaper subscription.
But its progress past the Wired and Time and Popular Mechanics apps before it is evolutionary, not revolutionary. It's nicely designed, but it's susceptible to lagging and crashing. The carousel navigation is painfully slow. Interactive elements, like the hot spot text blurbs, seem perfunctory, like they're just there for the sake of having something be interactive. At times it seems less like a single coherent publication and more like a collection of distinct (but still well made) apps within apps. And the Daily's scheme for sharing—sloppy web versions of some stories that can be linked to friend on Facebook or Twitter—is clearly an afterthought, something they cobbled together because someone at some point said, 'hey you guys you can't have this stuff JUST exist in the app.'
So where's that leave us? It's hard to say. It's got subscription billing going for it (finally!), which is essential if any of these things are gonna work. Rupert Murdoch is a stubborn man and he seems determined to see this project through, so the Daily will probably get better technically—things will scroll smoother, the app will crash less—and we can hope it gets better conceptually, continuing to develop its sense for where multimedia and interactivity add to a piece and where they simply distract from it. But it's off to an alright start, and even though reading the news on these shiny tablets in these frenetic tablet apps feels kind of weird and probably will continue to feel weird for a while, it's not impossible, looking at the Daily, to see how this vague Newspaper of the Future could come into focus.
Who's it good for?
People who are interested in the Newspaper of the Future; media types; tech types. It's free for two weeks, anyway, shouts to Verizon, so you can try it out for yourself.
Why's it better than alternatives?
More good content more often, thanks to its huge bankroll and the indomitable Mr. Murdoch. Some moments of true multimedia transcendence; times when you think, "oh I wish I could watch a video of this" and then there's one waiting for you. A badass sports section.
How could it be even better?
It's gonna have to be smoother, faster, and more coherent to be anyone's primary newspaper.
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Music by Kevin MacLeod