REVIEW: The Daily for iPad

The Daily for iPad is a news magazine application that both Apple and The Daily’s parent News Corp are pushing as the next big step in digital media design and delivery. The App Store bills The Daily as…

“…the first digital news publication with original content created every day exclusively for the iPad. Built from scratch by a team of top journalists and designers, The Daily covers the world: breaking news, sports, pop culture, entertainment, apps, games, technology, opinion, celebrity gossip and more.

The Daily has the depth and quality of a magazine but is delivered daily like a newspaper and updated in real-time like the web.

Great stories, photos, video, audio and graphics come alive the more you touch, swipe, tap and explore. The customized sports section allows you to follow your favorite teams’ scores, pictures, headlines – and even players’ tweets.”

Hopes were high for The Daily, but after spending some time with it, problems with both the technical aspects of the app and the news content of the magazine quickly turn a good idea into an ugly milquetoast-bland exercise in frustration.

First off, the technical issues:

The Daily was the slowest, clunkiest, most temperamental app on my iPad. The first day it crashed twice. After the second day, it took 3-4 launches to get it to run. After that, I tried several times to start the app and got nothing but a blank screen.
Once you finally get it to load, you’re faced with some questionable interface design. The “Turn for Photos” convention is dreadful. It causes the reader to move the iPad from whatever comfortable position they had it in to see all the content. This prevents the user from going through the whole issue in landscape mode, for instance, because then they would miss the story. Rotation should work either way, and not lockout content in either mode. Navigation is spotty, and the rotating-carousel home screen is all fluff and bad, choppy function.

The app DOES NOT REMEMBER WHERE YOU WERE. It starts up on the front page each time. This would not be so bad if there was a way to mark your place, but there is not.
There IS a page-save feature, but this is useless because it only saves that one page – if you load a saved page, there is no way to scroll to adjacent pages, you have to back out of the Saved Pages screen and go back to the issue.

After a new issue is loaded, forget about the old one. It’s gone. Want to finish that crossword tomorrow? Sorry, bud.
There is no back button. If you click a link that takes you somewhere else in the issue, there is NO WAY to go back to the previous page, other than scrolling manually back through the pages. Sloppy. Just inexcusably sloppy.

The one truly great thing about the Daily, technically, is something that News Corp probably doesn’t want you to notice – the ads take forever to load, so when you come to an ad page, you see a status-clock icon before you see a page. This makes the ads very easy to just skip over as you scroll through the issue. This is a lot like those phone-sales auto-dialers. You know how you can hear a few seconds of silence while your foreign call-center operator is being connected? It gives you plenty of time to hang up. Same idea.

Now, a word or two on content:

The Daily is news for babies. Nothing but the most obvious and inoffensive details about real stories like Egypt are covered. I didn’t feel like I’d learned anything about the topics at all. It seems to be aimed mostly at football fans who like to make fun of hippies in Portland and who think that show is about real people. The TV spot presenter, Erin Aide (sp?) is blonde and orange and shiny and has all the journalistic credibility you’d expect of a former stripper who now works at a naughty-coffee drive thru. Why in the world does she lead the issue off? It says to me “…if you like the hard-hitting reports in People Magazine and Tiger Beat, you’ll love The Daily!”

Then there’s the fluffy Gossip nonsense, which, given the level of Hard News reporting, is difficult to distinguish from the actual news. Lots of little 1 paragraph blips on some home remedy or strange-but-true fact are easily invisible, and fill space that could probably be used better, but then they’d have to actually report more news. You get a few sports stories that aren’t in the sports section, like “…hey look at these players with their long hair… golly aren’t they interesting!” This effectively lengthens the sports sections and increases The Daily’s likelihood of having zero value at all to me. Maybe Murdoch really likes to look at that Vince Lombardi trophy, but to me it’s just an easy way to spot a section I’ll want to skip. And today (Superbowl Sunday) it’s on the cover. Well hurrah. I do comprehend that some people like football, but The Daily fetishizes it, and people who want that already have plenty of magazines. I thought this was going to be a news magazine.

I wanted to like The Daily. I really did. But there was just nothing to like. The news reporting is beneath amateur – it borders on insulting. The flaws in the app design can’t be ignored and constantly get in the user’s way. I don’t have any desire to even complete my 2-week free trial, much less purchase a subscription for the initially attractive price of $40 per year. If you like your news simple and controversy-free, and you like reading about celebrity baby-bumps and can’t get enough gridiron glory, then The Daily might be for you. It certainly isn’t for me.

So today, Sunday February 6, which is day 5 of the Daily, I have deleted the app. It’s really one of the worst I have ever used, so bad that it caused me to spend the time it took to write the above review, so that maybe you won’t have to waste your own precious time on this spice-less Taco Bell filler. Here’s hoping another news agency will learn from News Corp’s ‘What Not To Wear’ example and creates an app that truly lives up to the New Media promises. The Daily is not it.


~ by ChrissyOne on February 6, 2011.

5 Responses to “REVIEW: The Daily for iPad”

  1. I agree with your review and that’s the reason I don’t understand why S. Jobs said “The Daily” is “Terrific” (MDN, Feb. 2).

    • I have no idea why anyone would say that. It’s just dreadful. Unless it was a veiled burn, like “Oh yeah, it’s just *terrific.” That’s what I’ve been thinking, because nothing else makes sense.

  2. Come to think of it, maybe S. Jobs meant that it’s terrific to have a magazine published exclusively on the iPad… and he hadn’t seen the content yet ?

    • Hopefully The Daily will just be the first of many, and it’s doubtless that future developers will see The Daily as one of Scott Adams inspirational “bad ideas” and create something more attractive.
      I’d like to add here, that while The Daily is plain about its more conservative stance, I wasn’t put off by the kind of blatant partisan condescension you find on Fox News. I think The Daily is speaking to the same people, but perhaps trying to adopt a more civilized tone. But rather than removing all that rightward lean, it seems they just took out anything controversial and didn’t replace it with anything else. The Daily feels like a conservative’s commentary on what they think we all agree on.
      But it comes off too showy. The A&E Biography style of the video spots makes me feel less like I’m watching news as I’m watching one side’s version in a documentary.

  3. In the last couple of weeks I’ve started using Flipboard, and I’m almost ready to say that *this* is what The New Media should want to be. It lets me choose my own sections to add (though I can’t arrange them… can I?) and has a simple page-turning interface that doesn’t bog down the graphics processing. The sections are always updated from their respective sites, so there’s really no ‘issue’ format per se, and I don’t think that’s a bad thing. I do think it could use a better visually distinguishing characteristic for today’s news beyond the little bar on the bottom.
    I’ll post a review after I’ve used it a bit more.
    Flipboard is free, and even at twice the price, is still a better deal than The Daily.

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