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The most striking thing about reading an issue of The Daily is how much it doesn’t feel like a newspaper. But that’s not necessarily a good thing.
In a time when most traditional newspaper publishers are cutting staff and trimming costs to stay in the black, The Daily represents more than just a potential revenue stream -- it’s a reboot of the whole industry. And as one of those fortunate enough to still have a job in said industry, I’ve hung on The Daily’s every word, hoping it would be every bit as revolutionary as the device it’s made for.
Suffice to stay, The Daily certainly has the iPad’s sense of style. Launching a new issue immediately brings up the carousel, a Cover Flow-like screen that presents a visual overview of the entire paper. It’s not quite as elegant as it could be -- fuzzy thumbnails and choppy navigation spoil the experience -- but it makes browsing the day’s content a breeze.
Everything about the The Daily’s design feels fresh and slick, from the instant poll results and audio comments to panoramic photos and sweeping animations. Every square inch of the iPad is utilized to its fullest extent, and it’s here where The Daily truly shines.
Most every news app in the store -- including my paper’s own iOS entry -- merely styles previously printed news in a stripped-down, mobile-friendly format. By tailoring its content specifically for the iPad, The Daily allows for coverage that existing newspapers can only dream about: in-article videos, interactive charts and graphics, and above all, a sleek presentation that feels like a cross between a magazine and a dynamic website.
But at its core The Daily strives to be a coffee-and-donut commuter newspaper. The latest issue is automatically delivered -- albeit fairly slowly -- upon launch (so if you skip a day, you’ll lose $0.14), and layouts take typography and design cues from tabloids. Individual pages can be saved, but entire stories cannot, so there’s no suitable archive apart from a personal library of “torn-out” clippings.
The creators of The Daily clearly want their readers to be immersed in content, so much so that the app disables the iPad’s auto-lock. The only problem is that the content isn’t quite there yet. Even major stories, while getting appropriate multimedia treatment, just don’t quite have the bite of a hard news publication. An exclusive Feb. 6 cover story on Reagan shooter John Hinckley Jr., for example, painted a threadbare portrait of the would-be assassin’s “soul mate.”
The bottom line. At the launch event, Rupert Murdoch proclaimed, "New times demand new journalism." But what The Daily really needs is some good old-fashioned shoe-leather journalism. Because it would be a shame to let such a gorgeous platform go to waste.
iPad with iOS 4.2 or later
Slick design. Reader interactivity. Exclusive content.
Bland writing. Buggy interface. No archiving.