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.