We didn’t have an iPad, but they were kind enough to loan us, and every other journalist in attendance, one loaded up with a year-long subscription to The Daily. We haven’t put it down since.
Leading up to its launch, whenever anyone asked News Corp. to explain how it plans going to make a publication with a $499 paywall a “must-read” the answer was always: “content.” They’ve invested in content. They made high-profile, high-cost hires. If they write it we will come. And they’ve been writing it–toiling in secret, churning out dummy issues for News Corp. suits.
But now that we’re here, we have to ask, where’s all that content you guys were talking about?
The Daily‘s News section is anchored by a cover piece from Egypt by New Yorker and New Republic writer Joshua Hersh–yet it appears to be only about 800 words long. Combined with a slightly shorter round up of where Egypt’s elite have fled and 200-word blurbs on Jordan, Yemen and Syria, the picture of the Middle East is wide, but shallow. The next biggest news story, on the snowstorm, had help from the Associated Press. Former New Yorker writer Avi Zenilman has a solid piece on Peter Orzag’s move to Citibank.
The rest of the News is comprised of blog-, or even Twitter-, length news items that seem thrown in for an excuse to use a fancy 360-degree photo. The Boxes and Briefs is a funny news digest in the style of–we’re sorry to say it–AM New York, with bizarro proposed laws from flyover states and out-of-context quotes from famous people.
The Arts & Life section feels standard–long and short reviews, unimaginative fashion coverage (street fashion photo complete with buy-her-look-here links), and an advice column–but does offer two strong features, which we hope are recurring. The History Page (which today was on significant objects in space) seems useful for The Daily’s editors because they can stock up the evergreen content. The Daily‘s inclusion of multimedia (a recording of Carl Sagan!) makes it more relevant than most blog posts or Wikipedia article. The Dunzo column has Mary H. K. Choi putting trends to bed with of-the-moment humor and poignant self-awareness. We’re glad they offered an unadulterated space to that voice.
Richard Johnson’s Flash gossip section makes up a healthy portion of the paper, but it buried legitimately funny stories about Baby Doc and Rihanna under a few new scraps about Natalie Portman’s pregnancy. It is a relief to have Richard Johnson blind items available to us again, though.
Oh and there’s an entire vertical, if we can call it that, on Games and Apps. Ignoring the squeamish-making coziness with Apple, it’s total fluff. They interviewed a child actor about his favorite apps. He chose Angry Birds.
All that said–the bells and whistles on this thing are distractingly good. It’s a relief to be able to customize your sports (local teams for the water cooler, home town heroes for your soul), weather and horoscope sections. A photo of the crowd in Tahrir Square, Cairo that slowly zoomed out to reveal the full enormity of the protest gave me chills and a pop-up graphic of Troy Polamalu’s luscious curls made me laugh out loud. The Daily has assembled a team that knows how to manipulate the medium to surprising new editorial ends. If they can do that with more textual gravity behind it, The Daily could be more than a morning must-read. It could be the second coming of “content.”
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