The Daily’s Doom: Too Ambitious for Its Own Good?

The iPad-only news publication may have tried to do too many things, leading to its eventual demise. But don't give up on iPad publishing just yet.

The Daily, the first news publication created specifically for the iPad, is now the first one to shut down. The publication’s final issue will be December 15.

“From its launch, The Daily was a bold experiment in digital publishing and an amazing vehicle for innovation. Unfortunately, our experience was that we could not find a large enough audience quickly enough to convince us the business model was sustainable in the long term,” News Corp. Chairman Rupert Murdoch said in a statement regarding the closure.

Upon hearing this news, many associations with iPad versions of their publications are likely wondering: Was The Daily‘s aggressive publishing model to blame, or is the iPad just a bad format for making money in publishing? As Nieman Lab points out, everyone has an opinion.

But don’t be too quick to blame it on the platform or question your own spot on the iPad. The Daily had bigger issues to deal with. Here’s a quick roundup:

They set up an operation with $25 million a year in expenses. But there’s no reason why a daily iPad newspaper needs that sort of budget.

A challenging vision: The app, while technically impressive, tried to do a lot of things for a lot of people by having numerous sections and dozens of pages each day. The staff, especially on the technical side, struggled to keep up with the demand for content. “The Daily—with significant backing from Apple—was supposed to change everything, to usher in the dawn of a new age of publishing,” Gizmodo contributor Peter Ha, who once worked for the publication, wrote in a postmortem. “But we were still figuring out how to publish the damn thing every day.” Ha says the staff had only a few months to launch the publication, and it didn’t meet its original launch date.

A limited reach: While the news app did a lot of things well, one of the things it struggled with was the iPad-only model, which, as Poynter’s Jeff Sonderman points out, goes against the digitally omnivorous nature of online readers — a nature that’s even more pronounced among iPad users. “Were there fixes that could’ve improved the situation? Sure. But those don’t matter anymore. The Daily had every chance of flourishing and succeeding, but operating independently of the internet as a whole was clearly a huge mistake,” Ha wrote.

Too big, too fast? John Gruber, the Apple enthusiast who runs the popular Daring Fireball blog, suggests that the reason why The Daily struggled to meet its lofty goals was that it cost too much for what it was. “They set up an operation with $25 million a year in expenses. But there’s no reason why a daily iPad newspaper needs that sort of budget,” he wrote. While the publication had a strong user base of 100,000 paying subscribers, it needed half a million to break even, which may have proved too lofty a goal for News Corp. Gruber suggests that it could have narrowed the traditional newspaper scope and had a compelling product.

To put it simply, The Daily may have been too ambitious for its own good.

Do some of these organizational challenges sound familiar to you? Are there ways to keep your association’s endeavors smaller but still ambitious so things don’t get out of hand? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

(News Corp.)

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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