Every day, it seems like someone is predicting the downfall of print journalism. Digital media and online news portals seem to make traditional, newspapers and print media less relevant every day. The latest assault on traditional media is The Daily, a unique news source, providing content on a daily basis exclusively for the iPad. Because the content is formatted for the iPad, it is able to take advantage of the technology and interface in ways which no news app has been able to before…or such is the claim. I downloaded free two week trial of The Daily in order to put it through its paces. This review will look at three distinct elements of the app: interface, content, and impact on journalism. Will this be the app which forever changes the way you access the news? Or will it merely supplement the tools you already use? Read on for our thoughts, and then let us know what you think in the comments.
I was immediately impressed by the interface of this app. True to the hype, it really does utilize the iPad’s unique format of the iPad effectively. The main interface consists of a carousel view, with image of each article. Just flick the screen to send the images spinning through the various articles. While I found this was great for browsing, it was far too easy to spin right past the article you intended to read. The whole thing just felt a bit imprecise.
Each article has a section header on top, which helps with organization, but really seemed a bit superfluous given the structure of this interface.
Perplexingly, strewn throughout the articles, you will find various ads. While some of the ads do utilize impressive media elements, such as embedded video, I still found it a bit annoying to find these ads in an app which requires a paid subscription.
Beneath the main interface is a category list. Just tap one of the categories: news, sports, gossip, opinion, arts and life, games and apps, and jump straight to that section. This is a nice way to find the articles you want to read, without having to scroll through each one.
Once you have found the article you want to read, just click on it to open the full article. From here, you can also leave live written or recorded audio comments, share the article via Facebook, Twitter, or email, or save the article within the app.
You can return to any saved article to read later. This is a nice feature since, as we will see, articles do not remain in the app forever. This allows you to keep reading once the article has been removed.
Heading back to the main screen, the background behind the main interface will change based upon the time of day, depicting an image of the sky over your head. This is a nice feature, though I would have preferred an option to customize this background in order to display an image of your own.
In the upper right hand corner is the current weather. Tap on this icon in order to open the weather page, which will show the current weather, forecast, horoscope, maps, and radars.
Overall, I was pretty impressed by the interface generally. it is clearly a first attempt, and lacks some of the polish you might have otherwise expected, for example, the app I tested was extremely buggy. The app regularly crashed during my testing, and the responsiveness of the carousel could be a bit laggy. That being said, the developers have already released an update addressing some of these problems, and they continue to tweak and improve the interface.
Despite the bugs, I thought the developers did a fantastic job designing an app which incorporates many of the iPad’s features and abilities, especially when it comes to the embedded video, audio, and other multimedia content.
In order to discuss the content in this app, it is important to understand what it is and what it is not. Although this app is updated with new content daily, it is not a newspaper. As such, you will not find the kind of hard news coverage you would expect from CNN or The Washington Post. Instead, this is a magazine, with magazine-style articles. in other words, they are short and tend to lean toward features….and of course, far more than your fair share of gossip and entertainment.
One of the advantages of a magazine is that the extended news cycle allows for more in-depth coverage or analysis than a daily newspaper. So, they are able to get more involved and more in depth with a particular issue or story. The Daily, since it is published daily, does not necessarily meet that definition. I found that while the writing was superb, many of the articles did not offer the depth of coverage I would have expected from a magazine-style format. Instead, they tend to rely more heavily on the multimedia aspects, with somewhat mixed results. That being said, this is a new publication, and I would expect their coverage to continue to improve as
they add additional writers and (hopefully) expand the categories covered.
Most troubling for me was that the app really did not offer anything which is not otherwise available from a myriad of other websites and apps…mostly for free. Other than the unique interface, I am not convinced that the content warrants the price of the subscription when so many other news sites and apps offer much deeper and broader coverage for free, or a minimal fee. Again, though, I am inclined to give The Daily the benefit of the doubt due to their newness, and hope that their coverage will continue to develop to the point that they are able to offer more unique content which truly sets them apart from the crowd. At this point, though, I really have not seen much from this app which would warrant the steel cost of the subscription.
When I got my degree in journalism, print media pretty much ruled the day. There was no such thing as the Internet as we know it today, and digital media existed only in science fiction. So, to me, journalism means late nights and black, inky fingers. Obviously, a lot has changed (well…not the late nights so much). So, I get a bit nostalgic anytime I hear things like the death of print media, even though I get most of my news from the Internet these days. So, I decided to take a look at what journalism means to me, and whether The Daily met these needs.
Obviously, journalism, regardless of the format, plays an important role in society. Not only does it ensure a well informed citizenry, but it also serves as an important check against our leaders, both political and civic. Additionally, and at times most importantly, journalism provides an ongoing record of our society, an important resource for future historians.
This is where The Daily really fell short for me. The content in the app is ephemeral. Each time it updates, old content is removed, never to be seen again. There is no record for the future, no indication of the importance of current events, and no archives of past articles. What you see is what you get…and all you get. This inability to create a searchable archive significantly limits The Daily’s effectiveness as a true tool of journalism.
The larger question though is what an app like The Daily could mean for digital and online journalism, especially for iPad users. The Daily, more than any other app on the iPad has sent a loud and clear message that subscription services have arrived. Can other apps be far behind? Are the days of free (or almost free) news coming to an end? Will free news sites be going the way of…print journalism? Only time can tell.
I absolutely loved the idea of The Daily when I initially read about it. This is exactly the kind of app which initially spurred me to buy the iPad in the first place. It is a news app designed specifically to utilize the unique features of the iPad interface. What is there not to love…at least on paper (pun intended). Well, how about bugs, crashing, a laggy interface; not to mention the and disappointing lack of death and breadth of the coverage. Sure, the quality of the writing is good, but there is not nearly enough of it; and the articles you do get do not delve deeply enough into the subject matter in order to provide the kind of analysis you would expect from this kind of magazine-style format.
Additionally, at $0.99 per week or $39.99 annually, The Daily does not come cheap. Compare this with the fact that AP Newswire and CNN both offer free news portals. The Washington Post costs $0.99 per MONTH (for print subscribers). Likewise, on the sports side, there are plenty of free and customizable sports apps, including ESPN Scorecenter and SportsTap to name just two of my favorites. Unlike The Daily, both allow you to customize your favorite pro and college teams (The Daily only allows customization of pro teams).
At the end of the day, I really wanted to love The Daily. I expected to be the first in line to sign up for an extended subscription. Sadly, it does not appear that will be the case. Poor execution and an abundance of bugs and crashes have rendered this app virtually unusable for me. It has a lot of potential, and it could be a great app one day, but for the time being, at least, it would appear that print journalism has survived yet another challenger.
- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad