NewsCorps' digital native product, The Daily, will close its digital doors later this month, not two years after its initial release on the App Store.
There are plenty of pre-postmortems being tossed about on the web from observers (and plenty of people dancing on its grave, apparently unaware that there are human beings that work there).
One such postmortem came from Felix Salmon, a blogger at Reuters. He made a couple of points I'd like to address, so let's take a look at some passages:
News apps, it has become clear, are unwieldy and clunky things. Every issue of a new publication has to be downloaded in full before it can be opened; this takes a surprisingly long time, even over a pretty fast wifi connection.
Holy generalization! If they are "unwieldy" and "clunky" that's not the fault of the tablet, that's the fault of the developer. When Salmon says "every issue of a new publication has to be downloaded in full" did he forget that many magazines -- like the New Yorker -- let customers begin reading the issue before its fully downloaded? Did he consider that The New York Times on the iPad takes less than 30 seconds to download an entire cache of stories from every section from its website?
Let's try another head scratcher:
On top of that, the iPad’s native architecture is severely constrained in many ways. Look at any publication you’re reading in an iPad app, and search for a story. Oh, wait — you can’t: search is basically impossible within iPad apps, which at heart are little more than heavy PDF files, weighed down with multimedia bells and whistles.
You can an edit a video using an iMovie, make music using Garage Band, play graphics-intensive games and yet search -- search! -- is responsible for the iPad's "severely constrained" "native architecture"?!
Again, this is an app design issue and not a problem with the iPad itself. In fact, I agree with Salmon -- why can't I search the NYTimes archive from the iPad app? However, to say that the lack of an in-app search mechanism is a limiting factor of the iPad is outrageously misguided.
Navigation is always difficult and unintuitive, and pages are never remotely as dynamic as what we’ve become used to on the web. This wasn’t The Daily’s fault.
This, actually, was The Daily's fault. The Daily's developers developed the app, including its navigation.
Again, take any native iPad publication at all. Read to the end of a story, and then see how many headlines you can click on: which stories are you being given the choice to read next? The answer is probably none, and again the reason for that is built deep into the architecture of the iPad, and of other tablets too.
Okay, let's take for example of the NYTimes for iPad app. After I read a story I select from the Top News section, when I swipe the last page, it takes me to the next article logically. I can draw up other stories by tapping the page. So the answer is actually "probably many" instead of "probably none."
The iPad then stayed still — the technology behind iPad publications is basically the same as it was two years ago — even as the web, in its manner, predictably got better and better.
So, a processor bump three times over the last 18 months is "the same"? So the iPad, which launched with iOS version 4.2 has stayed exactly the same, without innovations like Newsstand, which download recent content overnight.
No iPad publication is remotely as innovative or as fun to read as, say, BuzzFeed, because BuzzFeed has coders who can do very clever things with their chosen platform, and iPad publications don’t.
BuzzFeed, hmm, you mean the app that's available on the App Store?!
Salmon goes on to say that dynamic layout is a lot easier on the Web. Any app can show Web views, however; so I'm not sure I understand the point he's trying to make. The New York Times did some fantastic views for its coverage of the 2012 elections, including live results.
Honestly, has Salmon even tried to use a publication's iPad app in two years? These criticisms would be accurate years ago, when the App Store was nascent. It's 2012, and I can't help but feel his views are outdated, myopic and just plain misinformed.
The Daily's shuttering is hardly a referendum on the usefulness of the iPad as a content delivery platform. The Daily had a multitude of issues, but connecting its failings to the iPad as a platform is pretty off the mark.