How News Corp.’s Daily Can Succeed Without Paper

Nic Newman’s Tigerspike, a digital design agency, has developed seven iPad apps for News Corp. (NSDQ: NWS), including The Times’ Eureka and The Australian, as well as for The Daily Telegraph, The Economist and others.

What I notice from our research and analytics is how long the tablet experience is. An average iPad session is 30 to 40 minutes; the number of page views is well above the average of the web — you’re more in to a gaming scenario: a deeply immersive experience.

The Daily, News Corp.’s forthcoming U.S. mass-market news title on tablets only, is a very interesting model. They’ve recruited some interesting journalists that people like to follow anyway; they’ve got some good writers. Their cost-to-market is very low, therefore they can afford to market it more highly.

What’s the differentiator? Why have The Daily on your iPad versus The New York Times or Wall Street Journal or anything else? It’s going to have to be an obsession with the user interface, the design and the level of social interaction.

If you can begin to integrate Facebook or serve content that you’re already sharing with friends and design it in an elegant way for the iPad, which many magazines have struggled with, that’s an opportunity.

Sixty to 70 percent of iPad editions don’t have the level of interactivity and grace or finesse that the device can offer. They look like a PDF copy of the magazine. News Corp. does understand the importance of these things — if The Daily can crack them, too, it can succeed.

What will be critical is the level of free vs. paid and the subscription model they chose to use.

If you put everything behind a paywall and put it on at a monthly basis, you get a low number of sign-ups as you are only appealing to brand advocates. If you put a low amount of content for free so they can get something and give people the opportunity to subscribe daily, you’re offering people the same choice they have on the newsstand: I can decide to buy The Telegraph today and then on Saturday; it’s an impulse purchase.

The same will be true to The Daily. If they put it on a monthly subscription model, they will lose out. If they offer the punter the opportunity to buy it daily, they will win.

The numbers we’ve seen in a few different models suggest £9.99 per month (the price that the The Times‘ iPad app launched at) doesn’t take advantage of people’s impulse nature for news. If you look at people who buy papers occasionally, rather than subscribe, it suggests you need a more flexible model. Long-term, the £9.99 per month model will be replaced by £9.99 plus the opportunity to buy weekly or daily — replicating the virtual newsstand.

The Telegraph (free on iPad) has gone with the idea of building audience first — their app is free and sponsored by Audi. They’ve already gone out there to the press to say there is a version two coming next year – with a lot more functionality and moving to a paid model.

If people are already paying for a magazine or newspaper, there’s no reason they should also be paying for the iPad edition.

This article originally appeared in Tigerspike, managing director.