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Update on The Daily iPad newspaper

Amid the swirl of controversy surrounding News Corp. over its ever-deepening News of the World scandal, one of Rupert Murdoch’s other papers, The Daily, continues to quietly lurk in the shadows.

With much fanfare, Murdoch and company unveiled the publication, designed exclusively for the iPad, six months ago. As inVocus reported shortly after its launch, on first glance The Daily appeared to offer some enticing bells and whistles for the tablet-owning consumer: 360-degree photographs, high-definition video, and several other high-tech features. It also boasted an impressive roster of veteran journalists nabbed from other high-profile publications. As editor in chief, longtime Murdoch favorite Jesse Angelo appeared to be confidently leading his newly assembled team into uncharted territory.

It wasn’t long, though, before critics and consumers alike began to criticize the limited scope of The Daily’s editorial content as well as various bugs in its software. Tech blogger Shane Nickerson went so far as to call the paper “a complete failure of imagination” and suggested that the publication was simply “a news magazine torn up and stuffed, page-by-page onto the iPad screen.” While some other outlets, such as The Wrap and PC Mag, were somewhat kinder in their initial reviews, the general attitude from the media was skeptical at best.

So, six months on, how has the presentation and content of The Daily evolved? Recent editions indicate that not much has changed on an editorial and aesthetic level since its launch. The look of the publication still resembles The New York Times Magazine more than any traditional newspaper on the market, and its content leans more towards feature articles relating to current events than straight news. The cover article for a recent edition focused on NFL contract negotiations, while other pieces included a report on the history of the U.S. debt ceiling and an update on the status of the Goldman Sachs corporation. The paper also continues to focus heavily on pop culture and entertainment stories, with Los Angeles bureau chief Richard Johnson supplying plenty of juicy celebrity gossip.

The bigger question, though, is how The Daily is performing from a business standpoint. Murdoch reportedly shelled out $30 million to develop and start the paper with partner Apple. According to News Corp. president and COO Chase Carey, the publication lost an estimated $10 million in its first quarter. This would seem to indicate some serious trouble afoot. Even more telling were the abrupt departures of a number of key staffers – including Gabriel Dance, Jim Gaines and Jon Ward – not long after the paper launched. In addition, as reported by the Huffington Post and a number of other outlets, News Corp. has staunchly refused to release information about the number of readers who have purchased subscriptions to The Daily following its initial free trial period.

Combined with the massive scandal facing its parent company, all of this paints a potentially grim picture of The Daily’s future. At the same time, the paper is backed by financial heavyweights who are likely willing to pour a good deal more money into the venture before letting it die. The paper recently partnered with Spotify to launch an improved edition that seeks to address some of the technical problems that plagued its inaugural version. In addition, The Daily’s recent coup in hiring business editor Tom Lowry away from Variety offers a glimmer of hope on an editorial level.

Regardless of the direction in which it heads, The Daily’s progress will certainly be monitored closely by the publishing industry as it continues to serve as a pioneer into tablet-based print media.

–Katrina Wolfe

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