Murdoch's Big Bet Gone Bad: iPad Only Publication Not Engaging Readers Much

from the that-was-tough dept

You know, it really wasn’t that hard to predict that the brainchild of Rupert and James Murdoch — an iPad-only news publication, called The Daily, that people would pay for — would flop. The Murdochs (father and son) don’t have a particularly good history of succeeding on the internet. In fact, they have a history that is mostly littered with failure when it comes to internet ventures. But, in an age when ubiquity, availability, access and sharing are what consumers want, coming up with a publication that was locked down, specific to a single platform, and quite limited, just seemed like a bad recipe from the start. We’d already noted that a bunch of the “big name” journalists and staffers that had been brought on to The Daily had been leaving just weeks after the publication launched.

But what about readers? While the Murdochs have been quiet, the folks over at Nieman Lab put together a nice proxy, in looking at how many people were Tweeting stories from The Daily’s iPad app. I’m sure it’s not a perfect correlation, but if people were really engaged with the news from The Daily — which, increasingly, is an important aspect of news communities, you would expected to see this number continue to go up. Instead, as Joshua Benton describes, it’s “decline, plateau, decline.” Here’s the graphical representation:

Again, this almost certainly does not represent a direct correlation to readership. We see stories that gets lots of traffic get very few tweets or comments, and stories with relatively little traffic get a ton of comments. But, on the whole, as an overall proxy, it at least suggests something not good is going on at The Daily in terms of actually getting readers engaged.

And, I think, that’s the obvious problem the Murdochs always run into with their online efforts. They’re good at producing content. They’re dreadful at actually engaging with a community. They bought MySpace, but their failure to understand what people there wanted resulted in its rather massive decline. It seems clear, with the Daily, that engagement and interacting were an afterthought. At best, it was a “let them tweet!” sort of discussion, rather than a look at how to actually engage the community in any meaningful way.

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Comments on “Murdoch's Big Bet Gone Bad: iPad Only Publication Not Engaging Readers Much”

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Ken (profile) says:

I used to have a lot of respect for Rupert Murdock but not any more. He is an IP Maximilist that tried to force the IPM agenda through his publications. It did not work and now the Times of London has lost almost all its readers, influence, and relevance. Even the dead tree addition has suffered. Murdock does not do well with the Internet because he hates the very idea of it.

fogbugzd (profile) says:

I doubt the discussion focused on whether to “let them tweet.” I would guess that at least part of the discussion was whether they could charge extra to tweet. After all, when someone tweets about an article in The Daily they are stealing content from the publication. Not to mention that Twitter is making money from the tweet and should share its revenue with the publishers.

Bob Hahn (profile) says:

Re: SkyGrid

I have both. When The Daily first came out, I went through it every day, mostly because of the novelty factor. These days I still go through SkyGrid every day, but some days I just don’t “get around to” The Daily.

Basically they are both news aggregators; it’s just that The Daily has a human staff that decides what material will go into it, whereas SkyGrid appears to use an algorithm and will use sources you give it. After a month or so of use, my sense is that The Daily spends more time than I want to spend on Celebrity Gossip type stuff, and not enough on things I can cause SkyGrid to tell me.

This still leaves the long-run problem that Murdoch is trying to address, which is “where are the aggregators going to get material if all the original-journalism efforts go bankrupt because no one will pay for them?”

I applaud Murdoch for trying an experiment, but it looks like I’m not the only one who is gradually losing interest in The Daily.

Gene Cavanaugh (profile) says:

The Murdochs

Great article, but I take exception with the “good at producing content” remark. The Murdochs are, and have always been, in what was formerly called “yellow journalism”, that is, biased reporting.
They happened to be big in that when the world-wide tastes went from considered journalism to biased journalism, and so satisfied the current tastes in “news”.
It does go along with what Techdirt keeps pointing out; when the public tastes turned to the more trivial, the older, more conventional businesses failed to adapt, and the Murdochs took the market away from them.

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