World’s first iPad newspaper prepares to launch

2011-01-13 11:48

Los Angeles – Stop the presses ... completely. The world’s first iPad newspaper, The Daily, is prepping for launch.

Journalists have been hired and are in place at multiple US bureaus, including Los Angeles and New York.

The formal announcement of the digital publication owned by News Corp will be made at an event at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art on January 19, according to two people familiar with the matter.

The sources said the event would be attended by Steve Jobs, chief executive of Apple, and Rupert Murdoch, CEO of News Corp.

The sources were not authorised to speak publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.

Details are scant, including how much a subscription to the tablet-only paper will cost, if there is indeed a fee, but the name at least implies it will come out once a day.

It will cover general news, culture and entertainment, and will include video.

The publication is a bold attempt by Murdoch to rewrite the business of journalism, as revenue from print circulation and advertising has plunged, and growing advertising sales on websites have not made up the difference.

At an investor’s conference last month, News Corp Chief Operating Officer Chase Carey called The Daily a “small bet” because costs were limited mainly to a modest editorial staff.

By contrast, printed newspapers also have such costs as newsprint, ink and delivery.

Carey touted the benefits of tablet computing technology.

“We didn’t want it for a PC,” he said. “We think the tablet is a unique experience. You can design something that takes advantage of that experience, takes advantage of the multimedia capabilities, the technological capabilities of it. I think it could be an interesting product.”

News Corp’s other digital initiatives are setting the pace in a struggling industry.

The Wall Street Journal’s website has required a paid subscription for 14 years and now has nearly 450 000 electronic subscribers, according to the latest report by the Audit Bureau of Circulations.

The newspaper charges $3.99 (R27) per week for an iPad subscription, which includes access to its website.

News Corp won’t say how many people are paying, but more than 1 million have downloaded the app for free (it contains some preview material, but full access is restricted).

In Britain, since July, News Corp’s The Times of London and Sunday Times require at least a £1 (R11) payment to access content beyond the front page online.

While online visitors have plummeted, Carey has been upbeat about the financial prospects of the new model, though he acknowledged the businesses will take years to build.

The company’s push towards paid content comes as its MySpace entertainment site, which is free to users, has lost hundreds of millions of dollars annually and moved this week to slash half of its staff, or 500 people.

Newspaper publishers view the iPad and other tablets as a golden opportunity because they can sell ads and subscriptions at higher prices than they have been able to get on websites, though those rates are still lower than for print.

User behaviour so far has indicated that reading on the iPad is more of a “lean back” experience akin to perusing a print newspaper.

Apple is the clear leader of the tablet makers, selling an estimated 13 million iPads since its launch in April, but a bevy of electronics makers, including Motorola Mobility, Toshiba and Dell, showed off their tablets last week at the International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

Technology research firm Gartner expects that 55 million tablet computers will be shipped this year.

The New York Times offers a free iPad version of its newspaper.

Installed on about 1.5 million tablets, the app will require a subscription later this year when the Times also will start charging to read multiple stories on its website.

USA Today, which boasts the most print subscribers in the US, also is counting on its iPad app to help lift its advertising revenue, which has been declining for the past four years.

The newspaper, owned by Gannett, has no plans to charge users of the iPad app, which has been installed on about 1.25 million tablets.

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