The Daily isn’t as bad as Virgin’s Project

[Update: 12/3/2012 – Why The Daily Failed]

Unlike what I wrote in the instant and rather-rough review of Virgin’s iPad “magazine” called Project, I can at least write that the Rupert Murdoch/Newscorp daily news app (not a magazine or a newspaper) called The Daily is not crap.

Indeed, there are several things to like about it. Here are some:

1. It’s free for two weeks.

2. It downloaded to my iPad and I could actually make it work (unlike Virgin’s Project app).

3. Unlike Virgin’s Project, I didn’t have to purchase it to discover it wouldn’t download or work (see: #1 and #2).

4. The Sudoku puzzle and crossword puzzle integrate with Apple’s Game Center. Indeed, I give them props for having content directed specifically toward people who own iPads — it’s a rather “duh” thing, but one pretty much overlooked by every other news organization app.

5. Did I mention it’s free for two weeks?

6. It means about 100 journalists have jobs.

7. A user, even if the navigation is still somewhat mysterious and unintuitive, can still make it through an issue by flipping pages to the right (although, sometimes you must scroll down for reasons I haven’t had time to fully discover.)

8. Naming the Cover Flow-like interface option that allows you to flip through all the pages The Carousel was a clever inside homage to Don Draper. Or, at least that’s what I’m going to believe until told differently.

9. The photos are awesome.

Some things not to like about The Daily:

1. It embraces many of the mis-guided notions of how people use an iPad that former NYTimes.com designer Khoi Vinh wrote in his now-famous blog post on iPad magazine design, especially when he wrote this: “They’re bloated, user-unfriendly and map to a tired pattern of mass media brands trying vainly to establish beachheads on new platforms without really understanding the platforms at all.”(Note: Khoi wrote this a couple of months ago, and it’s about magazine app design, in general: not about The Daily.)

2. Go to the front page and look for an “about” or “help” or “table of contents” button and you’ll see what I mean by quoting Khoi’s “user-un-friendly.”

3. Was there anything in it that I couldn’t find dozens of other places? Any compelling content I can’t live without? Perhaps some reviews and commentary by individuals who work there, but is it enough to make me want to purchase it?

4. It’s underwhelming.

5. It’s very USA Today-ish.

6. It places text in multiple columns. Why do designers design pages on an iPad using a convention that is tied to a legacy medium and that is totally unnecessary?

Some neutral thoughts (or, at least, non-gripes) and predictions about The Daily:

1. It will be popular with people who have iPads and who are interested in the kind of stories that you read in USA Today — but not popular enough to pay $40 a year.

2. Advertisers will love seeing their ads on it.

3. The numbers will be underwhelming in six months.

4. In that group of 100 or so journalists and staffers, there are lots of talented people who, if things don’t work out there, will go out and start their own media apps that won’t be bloated.

5. The world doesn’t need general interest news packaged in a magazine metaphor.

6. Before you design an iPad app that has text as a primary means to convey information, take a month off and read lots of ebooks on an iPad and gain insight into the whole “reading” thing.

Or…

7. The smart folks among those 100 staffers will fix a lot of the things I’m complaining about and they’ll figure out how to throw out magazine and newspaper conventions and start all over. And they may just end up with something worth caring about.

  • http://gravitationalpull.net/wp/ ampressman

    Great post, my feelings exactly. I’m surprised that navigation and discovery are so horrible. Should be the strength of an iPad-only publication. I still have yet to see much better than the NPR app or EW’s best list. The content also seems a little low brow for a paying iPad audience.

  • http://gravitationalpull.net/wp/ ampressman

    Great post, my feelings exactly. I’m surprised that navigation and discovery are so horrible. Should be the strength of an iPad-only publication. I still have yet to see much better than the NPR app or EW’s best list. The content also seems a little low brow for a paying iPad audience.

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  • http://www.thefutureofpublishing.com Thad McIlroy

    Very informative summation: thanks. You refer to “Khoi Vinh’s…now-famous blog post.” I think you over-estimate people’s ability to read and listen. That post –should– be famous, but I suspect a still small group are aware of it. There are less than 100 unique references to it on Google in the 3 months since it appeared. Let’s keep spreading the word, and saving the world from useless apps.

  • Scotchio

    ha ha ha what a load of old bollocks.nbasically it’s better than the virgin app because it’s free for 2 weeks, it has some ‘awesome photos’ and a Sudoku puzzle.nReally? Is this your well constructed argument?nnVirgin is done by a total team of 12 rather than 100 journos plus designers and developers and prroduction staff, oh and cost $30 million.nI bloody hope it’s better than project with that kind of budget.nThe cover flow is clunky and low-res as well as a bad rip-off of apple itunes coverflow – nothing to do with Mad Men.nIn fact your list of negative aspects about the Daily are longer than those about the virgin app, and yet… you still maintain that the virgin app is CRAP and The Daily is not.nnEngage brain, then type next time.

  • http://rexblog.com Rex Hammock

    wow. i guess i need to include foot notes for the irony-challenged. here, let me help you: i think both daily and project are crap

  • http://rexblog.com Rex Hammock

    good point. i guess i should say that its famous among the small corner of the design, development community who care about usability and the opprtunity the iPad provides to do something more than mimic print conventions with some gimmicks thrown in. ill spread the word whenever possible

  • http://twitter.com/rwilliamsmedia Roger Williams

    Good point on the multiple columns thing. The WSJ does the same thing with its RSS feeds. Its a cool effect in FlipReader but thats all it is, and effect.nnOn a computer I measure my time on a website in clicks. the more i have to click to get to what i want to read the less i respect the website.nnOn an iPad its about the taps. If I have tap three times to get to one article I am losing interest.nnI might be willing to pay for something that can get hyperlocal news about where I live. World news can come in so many free forms that it doesnt make sense to use just one source any longer.

  • http://twitter.com/chrisfahey Christopher Fahey

    The world doesnu2019t need general interest news packaged in a magazine metaphor. nnThat’s the most important observation, and very well put.