Will anyone buy Rupert Murdoch's Daily?

The Daily may be the first iPad-only newspaper, but the big question is: will it sell?

Rupert Murdoch's iPad-only newspaper known simply as The Daily hasn't exactly been a secret. Reports and speculation about the venture have been floating around for months. Today, Murdoch's News Corp. sent invitations for a press event to various members of the media. The even will be held at the Guggenheim in New York next Wednesday (February second) and will feature Eddy Cue, Apple's vice president of Internet services (those services include Tunes, the App Store, and Mobile Me).

Unlike Apple's usual media invitations, which are often cryptic phrases and images, News Corp. is making it very clear what this event is about. The text on the invitation reads "News Corporation Chairman and CEO Rupert Murdoch invites you to the launch of The Daily" – not subtle, but it gets to the point.

The Daily will be the first daily newspaper delivered entirely in electronic form and only to a specific device. Aside from lacking any print or online counterpart, The Daily will also be unique in that it is expected to use a new Apple-designed iTunes subscription model. This new subscription model is expected to allow a user to subscribe for a weekly fee (presumed to be $.99 per week) that will be automatically billed to a user's iTunes account (which can be tied to a credit/debit card, Paypal account, or be funded using iTunes gift cards). Each morning, a new issue of The Daily will be automatically downloaded. The process would be similar to the Season Pass feature in iTunes that allows a user to pre-pay for all episodes of a show's season and have them downloaded as they air.

It's assumed that Apple will eventually make this model available to other publications. Currently iTunes users must buy each issue of a publication individually (though usually as an in-app purchase). Apple recently told European publications that it will begin barring them from offering free in-app content to print subscribers beginning in April. The most likely reason is to push them towards this new subscription system (which Apple will presumably take a 30% from as it does all App Store sales).

Whether or not The Daily succeeds is an open ended question. Subscriptions to magazine apps on the iPad largely fizzled after the initial excitement this summer. Part of that could be because most publications offer much of the same content on their websites or that there isn't a major cost savings to purchasing app-based editions over print copies.

The Daily's existence as an iPad-only paper could change that dynamic. The big question is whether there will be enough unique content to attract readers to the publication (a question also faced by Virgin's Project, the first iPad-only magazine, which launched in December). Obviously, it's too soon to tell exactly what content The Daily will have (or whether it will have an social or political slant that might appeal to one demographic over another). It also remains to be seen if News Corp. will try to cross market The Daily with its other outlets.

Certainly, the cost of $.20/issue is lower than that of your typical daily newspaper, but I'm not sure if that will make it a success. The Daily will most likely be national in scope (ala USA Today), which means that readers won't get local information or stories. That means many readers may still want a subscription to a local paper as well (or at least be willing to make regular visits to one's website). Depending on the local paper, that might be more or less incentive to subscribe to The Daily. Of course, the paper will also face online and app-based competition from other news outlets and papers, many of which make their stories available online for no charge.

Whether The Daily itself succeeds or not, the real test of its launch will be Apple's subscription mechanism. Even if The Daily doesn't do well, a subscription mechanism could be big news for plenty of other newspapers and publications. That mechanism, if done well, could turn the tide of app-based magazines as a whole.

Ryan Faas writes about personal technology for ITworld. Learn more about Faas' published works and training and consulting services at www.ryanfaas.com. Follow him on Twitter @ryanfaas.

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