The Daily - stunning but too slow
Sunday, 06 February 2011

Five days after the launch of The Daily, the iPad only newspaper has attracted praise and criticism. Can it be a considered an epublishing success?

We have already given you I Programmer's thoughts on the subject so we thought we should take a look at some other opinions.

A very positive reaction comes from Tim Molloy in The Wrap:

The layout is beautiful, the interaction between video, photos and websites is for the most part flawless, and the presentation is easy to follow.

Its touch-screen interactivity combines all the advantages of video, print and photojournalism to make you feel in the center of the news -- sometimes literally.

The 360-degree news photos, which make you feel like you're in the middle of the action ... have to be seen. The better word might be experienced.

Molloy's only criticism was of it being "fluffy", pointing out "there are many, many photos of runway models, trophy wives and starlets.

A more temperate verdict was delivered by Martin Bryant for TNW (The Next Web) describing it as "Just a magazine". He was impressed with the journalistic content:

Loading up the app, it’s hard not to be impressed by the slick video animations and beautifully laid out pages.

Casually flipping through the pages, it’s easy to see that this is a quality production. The writing is generally top-notch and the video reports are as good as anything you’ll see on most TV news shows.

However, he also identified a frustration - there's no search something that as Internet users we are all used to:

I wanted to find an article about Bollywood that I had been reading earlier – and I have no way of finding it again without scanning through page after page of other content. I could have 'Saved' it earlier, but I didn't know I'd want to look at it again.

Complaint number two:

You can't zoom in: Pinch-to-zoom is nowhere to be seen, so if you find it hard to read small text you're stuck.

And:

Sharing is flawed: Share an article with Twitter and the iPad keyboard covers the button that lets you post the tweet. If you don't know how to hide the keyboard you'll give up in frustration. If you do choose to share, people who click through on your shared link will be taken to a version of that single page on the web – not a whole article if it's spread over multiple pages.

For the Business Insider, Dan Frommer sent up the plea Please Fix Your Terrible Typography saying:

The typography is highly flawed, stuck in the forced, "justified" alignment mode that is great for tall, skinny blocks of newsprint, but completely unnecessary on the iPad, which has lovely text handling.

He also points out:

You can't select text either, to copy and paste. Or make the text bigger or smaller.

and concludes:

It actually seems like the text in "The Daily" isn't text at all, but a big, full-page image, the way many iPad magazines are published. Basically a picture of letters. That's a lazy, halfway solution, so we hope they finish developing an app that's actual text.

In an episode of his Daring Fireball blog entitled The Daily Wait on Friday John Gruber tells readers that its slow loading speed means that he's "done with it":

From the time I tapped the icon on my home screen until I could read a single page, today's issue took one minute and twenty seconds. And to be clear, that was over a reasonably fast Wi-Fi connection.

One minute, twenty seconds. For over a minute of that time, this is all that I saw. At that point, it's already a lost cause. There's nothing the actual content or interface of the app can do to make up for the fact that it takes way too long to see anything at all. Imagine a paper newspaper that was wrapped in an envelope, and the envelope was so difficult to open that it took over a minute before you could see the front page of the issue. Who would buy that newspaper? No one, that's who.

The fix he suggests is to immediately download and make available the top stories, and let the rest download in the background.

The Zath Review is generally favorable referring to stunning and polished content, a high standard of writing. Zath doesn't seem as bothered by the download time commenting:


Over Wi-Fi, the paper took no longer than 2 minutes to be downloaded on to my device, but it may take significantly longer over a 3G connection due to the contents inside each issue, such as high resolution images and embedded video.

He is bothered by other performance issues:

Although this is version 1.0 of the app, there is a noticeable lag when scrolling through the stories on the Carousel, and the animation isn't as smooth as it could be.


dailycarousel

Another complaint he voices is that when you're flicking through images, and then rotate back, you'll have jumped quite a few pages forward unless you go back to the start of the gallery. It would be much easier if you could rotate back to the story and pick up where you left off.

On the iTunes store The Daily is currently at number 20 in the chart of popular free apps and in terms of  customer ratings after 3199 reviews has an average of 3 stars (the maximum being  5). A 1-star review by Kirk McElhearn sums up the app as "Nice layout, crappy content", explaining
After a quick flip through all of the pages in the first issue of The Daily, it's clear that Murdoch is aiming at the lowest-common-denominator news reader. This is scarcely better than a free paper, and is full of crap like gossip, sports and non-news. I found perhaps two articles that I'd read in the entire thing.

However, the interface and implementation are quite good.

A similar complaint is voiced in a 2-star review:

The iPad effects are great, but the stories seem more like something out of Reader's Digest than a serious paper.

I'll be sticking with WSJ and FT for my daily fix.


daillyissue1

Given that the first two weeks of the 99 cents weekly subscription to The Daily is being funded by Verizon we won't know for another 10 days how many people will be prepared to pay for it. It is being hailed as being inexpensive at 99 cents a week but iPad owners are used to apps being free. A recent survey conducted by online research company Knowledge Networks indicated  a decided reluctance to pay anything for informational content. 86% of iPad owners said they would be willing to "watch" ads to gain access to free content such as TV shows or magazine and newspaper articles. In practice, iPad users download an average of 24 apps, and of those, only six, or about a quarter of them are paid.

Related article:

The Daily - how will it change epublishing?

 

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