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The Daily, Rupert Murdoch's new iPad 'publication,' debuts Wednesday

The Daily, the latest venture from the News Corp. CEO, is a bold bet that consumers will pay for digital information they have long gotten for free.

February 01, 2011|By Dawn C. Chmielewski, Los Angeles Times

"It's going to be a brand-new piece of journalism," James Murdoch, the CEO's son, said recently during the DLD conference in Munich, Germany. "We want to get out there quickly, at a good price, and I think it will surprise people. I also think it will succeed or fail on the journalism part — not the bells and whistles."

Alan D. Mutter, a former editor for the San Francisco Chronicle who now consults on new media ventures, applauded News Corp. for creating a news app that takes advantage of the iPad's multimedia and interactive capabilities.

But he noted it will compete with alternative news sources, such as the Huffington Post, that are likely to eschew charging for content — not to mention the plethora of well-established brands, from Google News to the local paper, that already deliver a general-interest news product.

"The Daily will have to be a breakout product to break the longstanding habits of avid news consumers," Mutter wrote on his Reflections of a Newsosaur blog.

Murdoch's mantra has been that people will pay for "quality" journalism. The Wall Street Journal online, for example, boasts more than 1 million paying subscribers — helped, in large measure, by company-paid subscriptions.

And since erecting pay walls last July, the Times and the Sunday Times in Britain have attracted some 105,000 purchases — about half of which were monthly subscriptions that would provide readers access online and on the iPad or Amazon Kindle, according to a spokeswoman. The rest were daily purchases, making it difficult to assess the long-term viability of the pay wall.

The spokeswoman declined to say whether the publications have lost advertising because of a decline in online visitors. Web traffic plunged 60% to 90%, depending on the estimate, after the pay wall went up.

Publishers of other major newspapers have come to a growing consensus that to survive they need to charge for news published online and delivered to portable devices.

The economic realities are impossible to ignore. Traditional print advertising has declined to half of 2005 levels, according to the most recent revenue figures reported by the Newspaper Assn. of America. And online advertising isn't picking up the slack: Barely 10% of newspaper advertising revenue came from the Web, after a 10-year effort.

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