Why Pay Even This Much?: Murdoch and Jobs Set to Launch “The Daily”

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You might know that News Corp. is set to launch “The Daily”, its much-anticipated (because everyone says so) daily iPad newspaper project next week.  According to Cutline, Steve Jobs will be joining Rupert Murdoch for the big event.

As Courtney Boyd Meyers notes at The Next Web: “‘The Daily’ is expected to cost .99 per issue and will implement a new ‘push’ subscription feature from iTunes that automatically bills customers on a weekly or monthly basis, with a new edition delivered to your iPad each morning.”

I have one very basic question.  Are you willing to pay .99 a day for content you can get elsewhere for free?  Sure, “The Daily”‘s content is exclusive according to a passing definition, but this only matters if you believe that people will pay to read “Daily” writers instead of their analogs on free news sites and marquee free niche and general interest blogs. While it’s true that the who and how of written content have been reasons for preferring one print publication over another, the same rules don’t apply when deciding what might compel you to buy a print magazine or paper instead of finding comparable web treatments of the same issues, trends, and interests .  If online (largely free) content is killing print, why should people pay for “The Daily”?  I won’t discount the pull of novelty and the excitement people muster about having the latest new thing, even if that thing is ephemeral (not to mention ethereal).  And I haven’t forgotten how the experts said “no one will pay .99 for a song” and how all of those experts were wrong.  I also haven’t forgotten that no one I personally knew was saying that, that most people wanted a cheap, easy, legal way to get songs online. There was a need, and Steve Jobs filled it.

I don’t know anyone who feels badly about reading free online content instead of plunking down subscription fees or cover prices for print.  It’s been said so much, but the rising (really, already risen) culture of consumers expects this kind of content to be widely available and largely free.  $30 a month for a newspaper, even a really cool, Steve Jobs-enabled one, doesn’t feel like a solution to anything.  It’s neat that creative people built the device and creative people of a whole different skill-set are using it for what will be, I’m sure, an intuitive and even beautiful publication.  But unless the endgame is the movement of all relevant content everywhere behind a handful of corporate pay walls…well, actually, that doesn’t even matter because it can’t ever happen as long as the net is neutral.  Crap.  I told you penmanship was the engine of democracy.

In any case, in 2011, most people have a daily newspaper they can read across all of their devices, and it even includes super-localized updates about the people they care most about. It can be custom-tailored, with very little effort, to their specific interests.  It’s free. It’s huge. It’s Facebook.

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