The Daily, which was launched to great fanfare in February 2011, was a victim of the digital economy. Murdoch staffed the publication with marquee editors and journalists, the way a glossy magazine might, to attract new readers. News Corp. invested an estimated $80 million in hopes of luring young, digitally savvy subscribers.
But the app economy couldn’t support such editorial largesse, said Cameron Yuill, chief executive of AdGent Digital, a digital media company.
News Corp. has never publicly revealed how many people paid 99 cents a week (or $40 a year) to read the Daily. But in an email to the staff in July, editor in chief Jesse Angelo said it attracted more than 100,000 subscribers.
That would net roughly $4 million in annual revenue — minus Apple’s 30% fee. That’s hardly enough to support the Daily’s staff of 120 people, many of whom were dedicated to writing and editing original content, said Yuill.
The Daily might have stood a better chance of survival if it instead drew from the reporting resources of News Corp., with its global broadcast and newspaper holdings, Yuill said. That would have substantially lowered the app-based publication’s overhead.
Murdoch’s experiment was one of the few digital ventures that didn’t reuse stories that first appeared in other outlets. It failed to learn from the success of the Huffington Post, which mixes original reporting with comment, or draw from the wealth of content it was producing at the Wall Street Journal, the Times of London, the Post and even its Fox News Channel.
“If you were trying to launch a news app in the digital world, the model has been proven,” Yuill said. “At the end of the day, the model is there for anyone who’s trying to produce content, produce it as cheaply as possible, and distribute it as widely as you can.”