Last August, News Corp. announced the launch of a publication readable only on tablets and mobile phones — a news app not linked to an existing publication, but an independent venture wholly dependent on those who own the products it’s viewable on. Company brass named Page Six legend Richard Johnson to head up the project, and sources indicate that there’s some serious and hasty hirings going on to flesh out the team.
But will it actually work?
As a story today in AdWeek makes clear, it’s certainly a gamble. The project, when unleashed, will be the first standalone iPad news subscription, forcing it to rely on the tablet-owning population — just 4 percent of households, Nielson reports — for its entire readership. What’s more, the AdWeek story calls into question the digital chops of the News Corp. lifers anointed to take the project forward: Johnson and one-time fellow New York Post editor Jesse Angelo — who, as it’s revealed in a 2003 Observer profile, goes way back with the Murdoch clan.
Angelo met media scion James Murdoch while prepping at Trinity in the early nineties, and they attended Harvard together. As a sophomore Angelo wrote to his friend’s father pleading for a job — he was “restless” and “bored,” the story indicated. The 20-year-old paid his dues coffee-fetching before muscling his way into the Post by freelancing for Page Six. His specialty? “Crime, death, disaster, murders… the fun stuff,” he told The Observer.
Will the Johnson-Angelo pairing, the concoction of Page Six’s obsession with sex and Angelo’s tendency toward the sordid, work on the iPad? By focusing on tablets as opposed to easily accesible browsers, the project is placing a big bet on the iPad-owning population — a stylish and well-heeled group that’s a far cry from the Post‘s grittier, working class demo. Will these tabloid vets be able to translate their purview to the tablet format, while also taking the Post‘s distinctly Manhattan-centric approach national? The app is projected to launch at the end of this year, so we’ll know soon enough just how much traction an iPad-only publication can have.