The Daily is a bold experiment in news that delivers an engaging package of content to the iPad. It does not match some of the excessive expectations others have placed upon it, but news readers should give it a serious look during the two-week trial period.
The news and features that fill The Daily are dripping with live tweets, video, reader polls, interactive graphics and excellent photography. Almost everything that isn’t text can be pinched, viewed or swiped.
For example, tapping a photo expands it to fill the screen. A story about the Super Bowl includes a scrolling panorama of Cowboys Stadium, site of Sunday’s game. Photographs bleed over from one page to the next. The cover photo zooms out from behind The Daily logo when the app launches. It’s The Daily Prophet meets USA Today.
Another pleasant surprise: even after hours of use, it only crashed once. I have reviewed countless apps that are far less stable on launch than The Daily. For an app that is packed with data, The Daily was very stable.
The Daily will not be free for long. Compared to other news apps available in the App Store, the rates are low enough to lure buyers: $0.99 for a week and $39.99 for a year. It is a long way from free (what most people currently pay for news on the Internet) yet it isn’t the $4.99 per month that most magazines are charging for their iPad editions. Also, many of these lack the multimedia and iPad-specific features that The Daily has painstakingly made sure to include.
Like any publication, The Daily exists to make money. Users have two weeks to take the app for a test drive before the paywall goes up.
Getting around The Daily is pretty easy, though there are some quirks that will probably throw off a few users. To master The Daily pay attention to the different navigation options and learn what they do.
The home screen includes a Cover Flow-type view of The Daily’s pages. Tap an arrow along the bottom of the screen to launch a navigation bar that includes dedicated buttons for additional content.
Tap the television icon for an anchored newscast previewing this day’s issue. The headphones icon give a brief audio tour of the contents. The fast-forward arrows will quickly flip you through the pages, while the shuffle icon pulls up a random story.
The bottom right features two more buttons; the paper clip brings up any stories that you have saved. The widget wheel launches the settings menu, where you can subscribe, set the location and horoscope (provided you know your new one).
The top of the screen also has navigation options. Tap The Daily’s icon on the top left to get back to the “home” page. A blue bar indicates your progress in the publication; tapping it launches The Daily by tapping the blue navigation bar. Previews of other pages flow from the top, which can then be scrolled through to discover other content.
For many stories the content changes based on how you hold the iPad. Portrait mode reveals the story, while turning the iPad to landscape provides additional photos or video.
The news isn’t the only thing within The Daily that is multimedia-enhanced. The advertisements also jump to life, with flying graphics and videos to try and hold your attention longer. Fortunately, they can be dispensed with a quick flick swipe.
Set down your iPad and The Daily is not content to just lie there. The pages will slowly scroll on their own.
The writing is good, if not short. Many stories stop after one “page,” reminding me of the dreaded USA Today with its emphasis on shorter copy to account for shorter attention spans and readers’ desire not to have to turn the page.
The Daily’s compatibility with iOS 4.2 was also schizophrenic. Sometimes re-launching the app would open a story that was the last viewed, while other times it would display the them song, graphics and go to the main navigation screen.
The Daily is organized into six categories: News, Sports, Gossip (sigh), Opinion, Arts & Life and Apps & Games.
Without good writing and reporting, no news site is worth the time. The Daily obviously takes this seriously, as the news articles were solid and timely. The inaugural issue had coverage from Egypt, along with several features that were reported on previous to the launch.
The Daily even scored a video interview with Rep. Gabrielle Giffords that took place not long before the shooting incident in Tucson.
It is News Corp., so that means gossip and celebrity news is going to get major play. The Daily would be hard pressed to ignore celebrity news given how popular it is, but it is unfortunate that it is one of the prominent sections. Just like with the rest of the site, the photos and short stories do wrap the coverage up nicely.
The sports section was more magazine-like than a traditional newspaper sports section, with features dominating the coverage instead of specific game stories. There is, however, a polished, customizable section for one’s favorite sports teams. It does not match the depth of ESPN or other sports sites, but it should give a sports fan a fix while perusing the rest of the content in The Daily.
The Arts & Life pages bring entertainment and culture features; a recent issue covered the breakup of The White Stripes. An entire section dubbed Apps & Games is a good fit for the target audience; obviously this site agrees that apps deserve serious news coverage.
Each day brings a new issue of The Daily, though updates happen more often than just once per day. Refreshed content is never a bad thing, though the download process could sometimes be quite slow, even over a strong Wi-Fi connection. Given the large amount of data that goes into The Daily it is not too surprising, so expect to only open the app and flip through it if you have some time set aside.
The Daily is an impressive piece of work, and it is hard not to root for its success. The entire site is truly geared toward the iPad: you can’t go to thedaily.com and read the same content or also get it through an iPhone app. This is a bold move, but one has to wonder if readers who are used to getting their news from multiple sources and devices will be loyal enough to pay for a subscription.
The Daily shows promise, but it needs to nail every issue ofr the next few months to gain a following and earn a profit.
The Bottom Line
Users should take advantage of The Daily’s two-week trial run to find out if a subscription is worth the cost.
- Well packaged
- Stunning photography
- Cool games
Off the Mark:
- Some confusing navigation
- Slow downloads for new content
- Gossip gets prominent play