Murdoch's paperless newspaper finally debuts

The Daily, News Corp's iPad-only newspaper, was unveiled in the US today. By Angela Long

Billed as the world's first entirely digital newspaper, The Daily, an App, has been six months in preparation and cost Rupert Murdoch (pictured on left) around $30 million (€21.8 m). The product is edited by Jesse D'Angelo, formerly of The New York Post, and with an alleged raft of buy-in talent, some of them big names in US journalism.

Newspaper editors and chief executives all over the world will watch its success or failure with keen interest.

A big-gun launch was originally on the cards, with Steve Jobs of Apple (pictured, above right) lining up beside the News Corp patriarch at the San Francisco Art Museum on January 19. Jobs' continuing health battle meant he withdrew from public life on January 17, but other technical issues were cited for the delay.

Today's launch, revealing a news platform which looks more in the middle to lower ground of Murdoch's news print stable, was held in the classy surroundings of the Guggenheim Museum of Modern Art in central Manhattan. Eddy Cue of Apple's internet services division stood in for Jobs. Mr Murdoch, 80 next month and looking older but spry, spearheaded the press conference and took a number of questions. 'The magic of good newspapers is their elements of serendipity and surprise,' he said, saying the same thing applied to online products.

The News Corp chief executive stressed it was essential to make news production on the internet financially viable.

He refuted the suggestion by a reporter from the Financial Times that newspapers fell into the category of upmarket, serious or tabloid.

The app for the Daily is initially tailored for use only with the iPad, but News Corp spokesmen said it will be offered on other tablets, as well as internationally, in coming months.

The new product is to sell for 99 cents a week, or $39.99 a year.

"The Daily will have to be a breakout product to break the longstanding habits of avid news consumers," according to former San Francisco Chronicle editor Alan Mutter. Mutter's paper went online only two years ago. Around 9,000 news Apps are already available for the iPad.

Rupert Murdoch refuted the suggestion by a reporter from the Financial Times that newspapers fell into the category of upmarket, serious or tabloid.

Although News Corp also now owns the Wall Street Journal, which is America's biggest-selling newspaper with a circulation of over one million, it has turned to the less risky ground for the mass market. App 'covers' seen before the launch featured Oprah Winfrey and retired American footballer Brett Favre (using the tired pun, 'A Bridge Too Favre' for the headline.) quoted Peter Kafka, of website All Things Digital, who said some of the first to sample The Daily said it was like the Daily Prophet, the magical newspaper read by Harry Potter and his wizard pals. Fox News is also controlled by News Corp.

This version might not be the answer to an editor's prayer, but the move to reading news online is implacable and this could be a solution. The Wall Street Journal reported last month that newspaper websites in the US chalked up around 105 million unique visitors in the last quarter of 2010. This, says Dow Jones Newswire, is a 46 per cent increase on the year before. A survey done for the Newspaper Association of America found that 62 per cent of adults who use the internet were now reading news sites.

The Daily is the ultimate hybrid, so far, of old media and new media. Murdoch is an old media guy, who among his many perceived failings, has always demonstrated a love and commitment to the news form where he cut his teeth, and which he inherited form his distinguished father, Keith. Can Murdoch, then, save newspapers, even if he can't preserve the thud of the rolled-up chunk of newsprint on the front lawn every morning?

The Daily's website is here.