The Yester-Daily

Last week, News Corp unveiled their latest attempt to figure out this whole ‘new media’ thing with the launch of The Daily, an iPad-only newspaper-magazine hybrid that is published, uh… dailyLike Abed from Community, News Corp aren’t great at coming up with names. It wasn’t the smoothest launch ever and it has already drawn a couple of complaints from the tech community. The first is that the app itself is slow and badly programmed. Gruber timed how long it took from launching the app to actually reading a single thing - one minute and twenty seconds.

This is just a teething problem, and I’m sure it’ll be fixed in later versions of the app. I mean, Loren Brichter managed to fix problems with The Daily’s carousel (the thing you use to navigate the different articles) in around two hours. I don’t think this is a show-stopper.

The other issue is more complicated. People like Ben Brooks complain that the biggest problem with The Daily is that its content is stale. Rather than pushing out up-to-the-minute news, The Daily pushes out yesterday’s news. Is it still news if it happened yesterday?

With respect, I think that Ben is missing the point, and I’ll explain why.

First, as with everything I write, I have to take you on a little diversion that seems completely irrelevant, but eventually ties back into the first subject.

There’s a videogame magazine called Edge (or, if as it’s called in the US, Next Gen). It’s the one magazine I’m completely devoted to, and I’ve got every issue going back to issue 3. It’s published monthly, which means that 95% of the news and reviews in the magazine have been scooped by online sites like Joystiq or Eurogamer. I’ve gotten into more debates than I care to remember with nerds who said that there was no longer any place for magazines, arguing first, why would people want to read stale content that’s potentially a month old, and second, why would people pay for stale content when they could get the fresh content, online, for free?

Okay, so let’s take a slightly more highbrow example: The International Herald Tribune. This is essentially nothing more than a reprint of yesterday’s New York Times. Who would want to read that? Well, Speaking anecdotally, this is the one reliable English-language newspaper you can get in Italy. It’s the one newspaper we get delivered to our newsroom (although it’s used more as toilet-reading than a source of news). Less anecdotally, the IHT has a circulation of around 219,188 - not bad for a reprint of ‘stale’ content.

See, I think the issue isn’t about how ‘fresh’ the news is, it’s about the quality of the writing. It’s depressing to see how much Churnalism there is in the world. For example, BBC News – which is where I tend to go to for my ‘breaking news’ – is mostly reprints of AP stories. It’s an understandable practice: when you’ve got a 247 news cycle, you just have to get stuff out there as quickly as possible, without being able to put much effort into it. And so I’ll go to BBC News for breaking news, but I tend to go elsewhere for analysis.

It’s the same with Edge. I’ll happily take a wobble over to Eurogamer and have a quick breeze through their reviews, to see what score they awarded a particular game, but I won’t read the actual review because their writing isn’t great. I’d rather wait for the Edge review, even if I have to wait the full month for it. With the IHT, yes, I’m happy to read yesterday’s New York Times because it’s (for the most part) still vaguely relevant and still better-written than most other newspapers.

With The Daily, technical kinks aside, I think that if the content is compelling enough, its ‘freshness’ doesn’t matter.

(If you don’t have an iPad and want to see what all the fuss is about, Andy Baio knocked together The Daily: Indexed, where you can find browser-readable versions of all the stories from the iPad edition.)