By Jim Karpen on Wed, 02/09/2011
When I first tried The Daily, my response was, "Wow, this is cool. It makes me think of something that Steve Jobs would create." Then I read in the news reports that in fact he was actually involved in this project by Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. Simply put, The Daily feels visionary — different from other news apps. And for several specific reasons.
First of all, I like the fact that it's discrete. (And I don't mean "discreet.") Like a paper-based newspaper or magazine, it's a curated package. You don't get that with many other news apps, which mostly feed you a mish-mash of constantly updated content from a variety of sources. I like checking out the news sites, but I also very much like the experience of a newspaper or magazine, which has a sort of wholeness that web news doesn't. The Daily gives you a buffet of items, nicely displayed on an attractive carousel.
In addition, I like the fact that you can read it offline. When you first access the app each day, it downloads the new issue. On a fast WiFi connection, it takes less than a minute. I haven't tried it over 3G, and I'm not sure I'd want to. When it's downloading, I feel like The Daily is being delivered to me. It's much different from the experience of accessing a website.
Also, I like not having the distraction of connectedness. When I'm on a website, I'm always being distracted by something else, some connected thread that takes me elsewhere. There's always a feeling of wanting to go someplace new.
Plus, many news sites these days are a combination of articles and blogs and comments — and noise. Sometimes on the New York Times website, I'm not clear whether I'm reading an article or a blog, and if the latter, what sort of editorial control there is. Does a blog post undergo the same renowned fact-checking that articles do? With The Daily, I'm getting a real newspaper — a range of articles and other media that have been edited and fact checked and presented in quite an attractive way.
The Daily has variety that I can browse, like a newspaper, whereas when I read Internet news sites, I'm usually just focused on topic areas that interest me. And The Daily effectively — and judiciously — uses multimedia, such as animations, 360-degree panoramic images, and videos. While it has characteristics of a newspaper, it clearly is fashioned to take advantage of the new medium, but without the media aspects intruding on editorial. Rather, these aspects do a nice job of complementing it.
The cost is $0.99 per week or $40 per year, and I went ahead and subscribed.
It's interesting that Adam Engst, writing in TidBITS, is quite critical of The Daily — for all the same reasons that I like it. If you want the experience of Internet news, use a different app. If you want the experience of a newspaper, get The Daily.
My only criticism so far is that navigation can bog down a bit. And it took me a little while to get a feeling for how the app is organized. But once I understood it, I liked it a lot. (Of course, if I had watched the video that accompanies the post or even attended to the directions on the table of contents page, I would more quickly have understood it.)
Like others, I'm a little wary of content from News Corp because of Fox. And in the end, whether I continue with the publication or not will depend on editorial quality. For now, the concept seems visionary — extremely well conceived and refreshing in its effectiveness in combining the old and the new. It retains the advantages of a newspaper while successfully adapting it to a new medium.