The Daily vs. Flipboard: One of These is The Future of Newspapers…

February 8, 2011

Last week Rupert Murdoch’s iPad-only newspaper The Daily was launchedThe Daily is a newspaper app available to U.S. users on the iPad for 99c per week (the first 2 weeks are free; non-U.S. people can download it for trial via this method). The Daily has been touted as the “future of the newspaper” by News Corp. Audrey Watters wrote our initialreview of The Daily and she was underwhelmed. In my own testing, I’ve found The Daily to be inferior to my current iPad ‘newspaper’ of choice:Flipboard. Here’s how I came to that conclusion…

In an informal breakfast news test, this morning I sat in bed with my coffee and peanut butter toast and browsed both The Daily and Flipboard. OK, it was also an excuse to lounge about in bed for an extra hour! But to the point: in both content and user interface, Flipboard served up most of the articles that I ended up consuming this morning. If it had been a paper product, I’d have flicked through The Daily in about 5-10 minutes and discarded the scrunched up newspaper at the foot of my bed.

At first glance, The Daily has a few nice interactive touches – like 360° photos, a short 2-3 minute video review of the day’s big news, and other multimedia features. While it could be doing a lot more with the iPad’s interactive functionality, it’s a decent start and shows the promise of what’s to come with digital newspapers.

Where The Daily mostly fails to deliver is with the content. There are two big issues: firstly a lack of choice for the consumer, and secondly the blandness of the content that is on offer. As we’ll see, Flipboard is able to deliver much more than The Daily on both fronts.

Much of The Daily’s content this morning was of little interest to me. I hadn’t expected the sports or gossip sections to appeal to me, but I’m very interested in the arts and The Daily has an ‘Arts & Life’ section. Today, Sunday in the U.S., there was an article about an iPad version of the bible, a feature on halftime shows at the Superbowl, a review of a movie called ‘The Roommate’, and a review of a book about Michelle Obama. All pretty standard mainstream newspaper fare. The bible app article was a nice touch, although oddly there was no interactivity on that particular article.

The main issue on the content side is that there is no real choice of what content is served up. It’s middle-of-the-road fare, with a few seemingly token geek stories.

For example in today’s issue there was a video story about live World of Warcraft. I can imagine the editorial discussion that produced that story: “Hey we need a story about nerds, because those people have iPads, right? World of Warcraft, you say… is that something nerds do? Well then, that’s perfect!” (if that story didn’t satisfy The Daily’s geek demographic, there was also a story today about what apps Buzz Aldrin uses.)

I wasn’t even halfway through my coffee and toast when I got bored with The Daily and fired up Flipboard. If you’re unfamiliar with Flipboard, it’s a self-styled iPad “social magazine” that lets you select what content to follow. So if you want the latest news of the day, there are multiple ways you can get that. There’s a section called “FlipNews” that offers up the latest news headlines. CNN, Fox, USA Today and other news brands have their own sections. You can plug in a selection of your favorite news RSS feeds from Google Reader. You can add a Twitter list that gives you breaking news.

Let’s take the arts example. As I mentioned, I follow the latest arts news regularly and one way I do that is via Flipboard. I have 3 different art sections in Flipboard: FlipArt (sources selected by the Flipboard editors), the ‘Art’ folder in my Google Reader (filled with my favorite art blogs and websites, such as Juxtapoz and FecalFace), and my art Twitter list (a private list filled with a bunch of my favorite art tweeters).

This morning, I happened to be interested in reading up on the latest news and reviews in the art world (and by art, I include music and books). I spent a good 40 minutes browsing and reading stories via those 3 sections in my Flipboard. Reluctantly, I closed Flipboard after that time – as I had work to do! But my point is, that was essentially my morning newspaper.

For other people, it’d be about reading the latest politics or sports news. Whatever your interests, you can plug in sections on Flipboard that give you a much wider and more interesting selection of news than The Daily offers up.

The crux of The Daily’s problem is that it tries to deliver a general interest traditional newspaper, except in the iPad format. However, the future of the newspaper is about increased personalization, interactivity, social features, more choice of niche content. It’s no longer about serving up a selection of middle-of-the-road fare every day and hoping that satisfies a large chunk of the newspaper-reading population (which is of course in decline, too).

There are ways that a newspaper, paper or digital, can still command interest and readership. Providing local news – like my city’s newspaper, which I read from time to time. Or in-depth, professionally reported features – such as most of the articles in the New York Times, Washington Post or USA Today. However, The Daily isn’t local enough and its articles seem light fare when compared to the three U.S. dailies I just mentioned.

I’ll be sticking with Flipboard for my daily news, together with my favorite sources of local and in-depth news. The Daily just isn’t doing it for me. How about you?

(from readwriteweb)

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