Murdoch bets on the tablet platform with The Daily

Say what you want about News Corporation magnate Rupert Murdoch (and people do, mostly about his conservative brand of politics and radical reshaping of American journalism). But his unveiling of The Daily this week — a virtual news product built on the platform of Apple’s iPad — provided a prescient peek at the future of news delivery and consumption.

Murdoch introduced the tablet-only “newspaper” at a press conference this week at the Guggenheim Museum in New York:

In the end, however, it’s not Murdoch’s massive financial investment, determination or reputation that will see the virtual newspaper to sink or swim. It’s whether or not the tablet format and its presentation capabilities will catch on with news consumers. Here’s a glimpse of some of the features (not all) of The Daily on the iPad platform:

Murdoch and his team have made no secret of the fact they’re preparing to deliver The Daily to other tablets — they’re merely starting with the iPad and will discern future direction based on the newspaper’s success on that device.

For publishers, the arrival of tablet-only news products means no newsprint, no printing presses, no ink, no trucks, no home delivery contractors. Even The Daily’s website will be a scaled-back version of its tablet edition. The larger question for those of us in journalism is how much in the way of resources will be redirected to the editorial side of the product and, most importantly, to the kind of incisive journalism that, in the long term, sustains any news enterprise.

Tablet news products offer storytellers a vastly different canvas on which to paint their versions of the day’s events — quite different, in fact, even from online presentation via websites. What will it mean for the way we train journalists?

• Content will continue to be king — and that’s our job. Reporting, interpretation, insight and context remain the cornerstones of the journalistic enterprise. Journalists won’t need to learn to write code for tablets any more than they needed to learn to operate a printing press.

• Journalists will, however, need to continue to think about the storytelling process and how the tablet’s capabilities affect how they do that. Multimedia storytelling skills — lucid writing, digital photography, rich audio capture, videography, database development and mobile presentation — will become indispensable within an expanding journalistic toolbox.

• While journalists won’t need to become preoccupied with presentation, they’ll be required to be increasingly conversant and collegial with those who are. A couple of decades ago, reporters and editors (grudgingly at first) permitted art directors, designers, graphic artists and visual journalists to join their news meetings and, more importantly, their pursuit of new forms of telling stories. We began to learn the language of graphic artists and to see that linguistic capability as being essential to communicating ideas, vision and possible storytelling packages. The arrival of tablet news products will necessarily mean we learn the language, if not the technical expertise, of the designers and engineers who translate vision and aspiration into charged electrons on high-resolution screens.

In short, The Daily holds a bucketful of journalistic promise — and may be showing us the near-term future of news delivery and consumption.

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