The Daily – the first ever iPad-only newspaper – was released just about a month ago, by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. The company poured millions into the app leading up to its launch and has assembled an experienced and respected team of over 100 people to run it. Here’s part of the elevator pitch for The Daily, from its launch day press release:
The Daily is built from scratch for the iPad by some of the best in the business to bring you a package that’s smart, attractive, and entertaining.
The first digital news publication with original content created every day exclusively for the iPad®. Built from scratch by a team of top journalists and designers, The Daily covers the world: breaking news, sports, pop culture, entertainment, apps, games, technology, opinion, celebrity gossip and more.
The Daily has the depth and quality of a magazine but is delivered daily like a newspaper and updated in real-time like the web. Great stories, photos, video, audio and graphics come alive the more you touch, swipe, tap and explore. The customized sports section allows you to follow your favorite teams’ scores, pictures and headlines — even players’ tweets.
I’ve been reading The Daily since its release day, pretty much every day, and I think it’s time for a review of this promising and groundbreaking title …
— The Daily is published 365 days a year and covers breaking news, sports, pop culture, entertainment, apps, games, technology, opinion, celebrity gossip and more
— It is the first title to offer subscriptions using Apple’s new subscription service, as an In-App purchase for $0.99 a week or $39.99 a year.
Here are some of the app’s notable features:
• Over 100 pages of original content every single day of the year
• Original HD videos
• 360-degree photos you can explore by swiping
• Immersive photography
• Interactive charts, info-graphics and clickable hot spots
• Saving articles to read later
• Sharing Web-friendly versions of articles via Twitter, Facebook and e-mail
• Your favorite sports teams’ scores, news and photos
• In-app commenting — including audio comments
• Your local weather
• New crossword and sudoku puzzles every day
— Originally The Daily offered two weeks of free use before you needed to choose a subscription option. That has recently been extended by a few weeks.
— The Daily’s content is pretty good. It’s definitely not going to be a rival to some of the ‘serious’ heavyweight newspapers out there, but if you like a mix of major news and lighter topics it’s quite a good read. And if you like to keep up with the latest pop culture and celebrity news, it’s got plenty to offer.
Just as one quick example, their coverage of Charlie Sheen’s recent sad but comical meltdown The Daily has more than got you covered.
— The photography is very good – especially on some of the major news stories.
— It is updated regularly and frequently – numerous times per day.
— It works well in portrait and landscape modes – offering different views and functions in each, which some may like and others may not. I’m finding that I do quite like it.
— There are plenty of multimedia and interactive elements throughout The Daily – and the interactive pages are well done.
— The Sports section is decent – it’s missing box scores and standings but the feature articles are good.
— Each day there is a good short video overview of the day’s issue. This is very well done, and lets you tap to jump straight to lead stories from within the popover screen it runs in.
— The option to have articles read aloud is a nice little feature.
— It asks to use your location, and shows a summary of local weather at the top right of its main page. It could do more with location, and hopefully will in future, but this is a friendly little touch.
— The ads within the app are mostly attractive and interesting, though many of them take too long to load.
— It offers subscriptions that are quite reasonably priced.
— Sadly, nearly all the good things about The Daily are difficult to appreciate because of the many severe performance issues that the app has. For starters, it is terribly slow loading. It typically takes 10-15 seconds to launch if it is not downloading new issue content. That’s way too long. Initially the app’s splash screen was interesting to look at, now it is just irritating as the app takes forever to be ready to use.
If the app is downloading new issue content – which happens multiple times per day – it takes a horrendous 25-30 seconds to be usable.
— After one of its recent updates, the app started downloading new content in the background – so that you could start in on reading quicker. It doesn’t work well though, as quite often when tapping to load an article, you get a failure message saying that page is not found.
— The app’s main navigation method features a ‘carousel’ of page thumbnails. It’s good-looking but it is very jerky and awkward to work with at times. It badly needs to be made smoother and more consistent.
— Individual pages also often load too slowly. The app just needs a huge injection of speed generally.
— The app has had three minor updates thus far – it’s currently at Version 1.0.3 – and all have promised improvements in performance and stability. There may have been some minor improvement, but slowness and weak performance persist. And the updates are delivered badly – on each one the developers have suggested that you need to delete your existing copy of the app and install it fresh from the App Store. That’s not an update, that’s a reinstall. Not clever.
— In a month of use, the app has never sent me a single notification about breaking news, or anything else.
— There’s no search capability in the app, and no easy way to communicate with article authors.
— It’s a shame there’s no dedicated Technology section.
— The app’s worst problem is that it does not remember where you left off reading when you switch away from it and return to it. Even if you do not fully close the app out, when you switch back to it, you land on the default home page and have to waste time navigating back to the story you were just reading. This is enormously irritating, a huge time waster, and easily the most unattractive thing about the app. It makes it so much harder to want to spend time and enjoy articles.
The Daily is a promising title, purely on the basis that it is the first of its kind and News Corp is obviously committed to making it a top-notch title for the iPad and possibly other tablets as well.
It has a long way to go to deliver on its promise though. Right now its speed and performance issues are severe, and they are killing the user experience in the app. They’re bad enough that it is tough to stick with the title. I do because I admire the concept and, heck, I’m a reviewer – many typical users may not tolerate the poor execution and may well abandon ship when the free period ends.
I hope The Daily succeeds – I’ve already taken a week’s subscription and will re-up when it’s time – but they really need to buck up their ideas and get some real, solid updates out in order to make that more likely.
Here’s an App Store link for The Daily.