How can Apple and News Corp get me to subscribe to The Daily?


Tomorrow Apple and News Corp will unveil The Daily and an iPhone/iPad subscription service for iOS to go along with it -- but will I subscribe? We've been discussing that for a few weeks now on the iPad Live! podcast and it's led to some of the most heated exchanges Chad, Georgia, and I have ever had on the show (and that's saying something.)

The issue is this -- news is already freely available on the web from both the largest profession news sites and the smallest one-person micro-blogger alike. Everything from full on features in the most traditional of old media fashion to real-time tweet streams of breaking news are there for the browsing.

Back when Apple launched iTunes, Steve Jobs famously said established recording labels didn't realize their competition wasn't other paid content -- their competition was free. Jobs said the way to compete with free-as-in-bootleg music was to offer fair pricing and incredible ease of use, and then people's consciences would lead them to make the right decision. With news, however, there are no P2P apps and sites to weed through, no chances of malware, no archives or transcoding to deal with. Clicking on an iTunes or App Store link won't be much easier than clicking on a web link. As for the conscience argument, where iTunes faced illegal bootlegged MP3 P2P systems the old media titans, The Daily, and iOS subscriptions face competition that's not only free but absolutely legal.

That leaves pricing, and thus far pricing of news and magazines on the App Store has varied dramatically in everything but its fairness. Media outlets have typically made their own dedicated apps and charged full cover price for each issue of their periodical when real world pulp-and-paper issues could be had for pennies on the dollar.

iTunes App Store subscriptions will likely change that, allowing for the same discounts typically given to the print editions -- if publishers choose to match them. They probably won't choose to match the web-based pricing of free, however, and they probably can't afford to.

It costs money to do professional news gathering and to put together a premium magazine or newspapers. It costs money to pay the reporters, editors, designers, and the rest of the staff. Even without printing and distribution costs there are developers and the 30% cut that will need to be giving to Apple to cover hosting, transactions, and fulfillment (getting the app and the issue off the servers and onto your device.) None of that is trivial.

Traditional newspapers and magazines charge a cover price, sell advertising, and aggregate and sell subscriber data to make their -- currently free falling -- profits. The latter, demographic and credit card information about the buyers, has reportedly been one of the biggest stumbling blocks in getting newspaper and magazine subscriptions onto iTunes. Apple didn't want to share the data or incur the privacy concerns and traditional media outlets absolutely wanted it and as opted-in and invisible as possible. (Because most users, if asked, probably wouldn't share.)

We'll see what Apple does for them when it comes to demographics. iAds or AdMob or other electronic ads, though nowhere near as profitable as paper ads will no doubt play a part. Since Craig's List has decimated classified ad revenue, that's off the table.

Georgia doesn't think there's very much The Daily or any iPad or iPhone subscription can do to woo her away from the free-as-in-web news she's gotten used to. I think that's likely to be the case for many users.

While some publishers may try going free like the web Rupert Murdock's News Corp certainly won't. The Wall Street Journal is behind a pay wall for a reason (the old joke is people will only pay for porn... and financial news) and if he had his druthers all his media properties would be likewise monetized. He reportedly sees the iPad as a second change, a way to give rebirth to internet news that isn't expected to be free-as-in-the-web.

So we're right back where we started. What can Apple and News Corp (and other publishers) do to get me -- and you -- to subscribe? To start paying for news again?

Fair pricing is obvious. The only other thing I can think of is compelling user experience. Amazon's Kindle lets you subscribe to newspapers and they're automagically downloaded, ready and waiting for you, early every morning. iPad has the potential to do the same and to run circles around the Kindle when it comes to UI.

Chad's hoping Apple releases a "NewsKit" framework alongside subscriptions so we get a standardized way to interact with subscription media. Given how zany and unusable some of the magazine UI have been to date, that's not a bad idea.

iPhone and iPad users already spend more time in apps than in browsers so if Apple can make it even easier than the web and more enjoyable than the web -- with better ads that never, not ever involve punching monkeys -- and News Corp can deliver pricing that's fair enough with content that's compelling enough...

...That just might do it.

Have something to say about this story? Leave a comment! Need help with something else? Ask in our forums!

Rene Ritchie

EiC of iMore, EP of Mobile Nations, Apple analyst, co-host of Debug, Iterate, Vector, Review, and MacBreak Weekly podcasts. Cook, grappler, photon wrangler. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.

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Reader comments

How can Apple and News Corp get me to subscribe to The Daily?


No ads, offer the option of being able to research or peruse older articles in the included subscription, include video reports as CNN does, cover all areas of interest, such as the New York Times attempts to do, and provide actual objective reporting/journalism.
Doubt that last bit will be offered however...

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Nothing. There are too many free resources for news. Why would I pay to give my private information to News Corp? That's stupid.

If they offer something I want, that I can't get anywhere else, and at a good price, I would give it a shot. I'll eat my ipad case if The Daily fits those requirements, but another magazine might fit the bill, provided any more launch on the platform given Apple's ludicrous actions of late regarding publishing and in-app sales.

I consume a great deal of news and opinion my iPad. I have tried all of the news applications as they became available but have always gone back to the websites. I do pay for for the news (probably more than a dollar a week) and will probably end up paying for the NY Times for the opinions.
I will try The Daily but don't hold out much hope if it is like the other news apps. The websites are more comprehensive and with their hierarchical organization are easier to navigate than the selected articles presented in a linear fashion by the apps.

if it wasnt done by Fox News....i'd pay for it. Unfortuantly, you couldnt pay me to take ANYTHING they say or do seriously.

You couldn't be more correct about that! Fair and balanced? Are they kidding? It would be laughable, except for the fact that a lot of people seem to actually believe it.
I'm not interested.

Ratings would indicate that you're in the minority. Most of us feel the same about ABCCBSNBCCNNPMSNBCNYT etc...

They have to come up with something amazing that I can't even think of if they want me to pay. I've only ever paid for news one time, when I bought a USA Today at Heathrow in London in 2005. I just don't know what will get me to pay.
Side bar, if all you're going to do is vent your dislike for Fox news please don't waste the comment space. We get it already.

If it isn't coming from fox, and has features that blow me away for a SMALL fee, I'd consider it. Otherwise there isno reason to.

I have a Kindle and have never bought a newspaper or magazine subscription for it. All the information I need is available online for free. I cannot see anything that would convince me to pay for the information that is freely available. The only time I ever buy a newspaper is when I fly, and that is only so I can do the puzzles during take off and landing (when I cannot use my electronic devices).

Never in a million years. Why would anyone with a working brain subscribe to a
service that also creates Fox News. Never ever, ever.....


Folks, here is a perfect example of a typical libretard. Bury your head in the sand, blame Bush 'til your heart's content, kiss Obama's sweet chocolate butt, but please lay of the caps.

I'm sure Jobs will be kept awake at night by the thought of you - or anybody else - losing respect for him having teamed up with the No. 1 money-making news machine in the world. Why would he want to join forces with a cash-hemorrhaging outfit like CNN? Take a look at its microscopic ratings when you get a chance.

So the bottom-line is it seems that everyone wants something for nothing. Never mind that the news get to you via working people. People that have bills and love ones to take care of. I don't know that reporters go to war torn countries, battlefields or stand in horrible weather to report the news were all volunteers!
I don't care if this site is created by Fox News parent company, but if it provides superior content why would you not pay for it?
If you like to get things free and dont like paying for someone elses hard work then why don't you just give your paychecks back to the boss and work for free!

Can we please stop saying the Web is "free?" I don't know how you guys do it, but I pay for Internet access. The CNN Web site is no more "free" than CNN the channel is - I pay for cable, after all.
If the Daily offers something I don't already get through the services I currently pay for, then I suppose I might subscribe. To continue my TV analogy, if something comes along like HBO - offering quality content I can't get anywhere else without ads or other restrictions - I can see myself paying extra for it. I don't think The Daily will be it, though.

I don't see the point in announcing the release of a single newspaper. I'm with Chad, they need a whole framework for standardizing subscriptions and operation instead of the silliness we have with each edition of some magazines being a separate app. They also don't need to be multimedia extravaganzas taking up 500MB for each edition. It could just be an extension of iBooks.
For it to gather any pace Apple needs all the major national publications along with local newspapers. Oh and it needs to download the content overnight when it is made available so I can read it the next day without a network connection or even needing to think about syncing in the morning. Only then would I consider subscribing to, say, a national and local paper and maybe a tech magazine.

I love how the "open minded" libs are passing judgment before they've even looked at it.
Liberal-s. noun; an individual who is so open minded that their brains have fallen out.

Nook Tablet only has only set aside 0.9 GB for personal use, so you can't side load much. So you're stuck with the Barnes & Noble app store, which has only about 1500 apps. Angry Birds costs $4.99... yes, anywhere else it's 99 cents. Wish I would have bought a Kindle Fire.