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Another day, another hire at News Corp.’s super-duper secret iPad venture dubbed The Daily–and another reason to question whether this is going to be yet another wobbly Rupert Murdoch digital-news enterprise.
The New York Times (NYSE: NYT) reported Tuesday that New Yorker music critic Sasha Frere-Jones has been hired as culture editor of The Daily, which the article quotes anonymous sources projecting will debut before the end of the year.
Frere-Jones is a top-notch writer; there’s no argument there. But just what he and several other recent hires bring to the table–er, tablet–is questionable.
The Daily isn’t just another ink-stained publication; this is going to be a new brand that will get a ton of attention for being native to the iPad, as opposed to the scores of existing news brands that are being repurposed from the print world. It’s going to require not just quality content, but minds capable of reinventing what on earth the editorial mix will be for this new medium.
And yet with all due respect to the fine journalists who are moving over to The Daily–jeez, even the name sounds oldfangled–there’s little in their backgrounds that suggests they can create something ahead of the curve. Richard Johnson and Jesse Angelo come from the News Corp.-owned The New York Post, where they have distinguished themselves in the gossip and crime beats, respectively, but innovators they don’t seem to be. At least editor Mike Nizza has some AOL (NYSE: AOL) experience, but still, AOL hasn’t done anything on its own digital grounds that’s distinguished itself.
The problem here may lie beyond just personnel and in the very conception of the project as a newspaper. Who’s to say this early in the game that the iPad won’t be every bit as much a video-centric medium as it is one for text. In terms of hiring, News Corp (NSDQ: NWS). isn’t just fishing in the wrong pond, it is ignoring a more promising pond in its own backyard: the film and TV industries, where the conglomerate has TV networks and a studio with video-minded talent to be tapped.
Don’t take my word for it; listen to what John Skipper, executive vice president of content at ESPN (NYSE: DIS), had to say on the subject in an interview with Marketwatch. And in today’s iPad app bow from O Magazine, editor Susan Carey seems to have the right idea; as she told PaidContent, “There is no need to repurpose or do the exact same thing over and over again.”
It’s savvy of News Corp. to try to craft a brand from whole cloth to dress a new medium. But if it’s not too careful, The Daily is going to find itself out of fashion.