Updated: ‘The Daily’ Has A Big Problem

The Daily has all the elements to get people in the door: a splashy, hyped launch, the formidable marketing power of News Corp (NSDQ: NWS) and Apple (NSDQ: AAPL) plus it’s free for two weeks. It’s also buggy, which means a lot of that may go to waste and a “please try again” campaign should be in the works.

I ran into problems downloading and installing The Daily at launch but gave it some leeway because the app was just going live. Getting the second issue open in about 30 seconds didn’t seem too bad but it pushed the patience meter. Reopening the app later in the day was a chore. I started to get messages that a new issue was being delivered, which struck me as odd; at one point, the section order changed so I thought that might explain the glitch.

Issue #3 loaded much the same way at first but by the end of the day, when it opened at all I could only see black space. Today, issue #4 was a dead end. It took more than a minute to load, then it crashed. That happened four times. I was about to give up completely when I remembered a resource issue I’ve run into before with iOS and shut down the iPad. I rebooted, tried The Daily again and within 40 seconds Saturday’s edition was finally loaded and ready to read. (When I saw the cover, I was a little sorry I’d gone to all the effort. Even if the pix are exclusive, John Hinckley Jr.’s love life? Really?)

I’m not the average user, something I try to keep in mind when I review apps or devices. The average user running into these issues would have given up Wednesday, or if he or she made it as far as #4, would have given up after one or two crashes. The average user doesn’t want to problem solve to try an app. He or she just moves on.

Not everyone has run into this. I suspect it may have something to do with how you use your iPad, including whether you turn it all the way off every day, and possibly how often you access the app during the day. Today, the few times I’ve opened it since finally get it loaded have been fine and I have yet to see the “new issue” message again. If it behaves the same as the first few days, once I start to see that message, problems will follow. There doesn’t seem to be a way to make a change in one part of the issue without redelivering the whole edition again — which partly explains the reluctance to update.

But I’m not alone. Fed up with the delay in loading without any accessible content, John Gruber won’t be back until there’s a software update:

At their announcement event Wednesday, one of The Daily’s editors spoke about the remarkable amount of time that many iPad owners are willing to spend reading on their iPads each day. I’m sure that’s how they justify this deplorable launch time. If readers are going to spend 20, 30, maybe even 40 minutes reading The Daily each day, a one-minute launch time isn’t significant. But they’re wrong. It is significant, because the first minute is the most important minute. That’s the minute where the reader makes their impression of The Daily. Waiting is death.

The #thedaily Twitter stream is full of loadtime and crash complaints. The iTunes rating is 3.5 stars. More than 1,100 of the 2,800-plus reviews so far give it five stars but it has 677 1 star ratings as I type. Many of those are aimed at Rupert Murdoch’s politics and some at the content, but messages about the app crashing are peppered throughout.

Getting people to pay is hard enough. Getting them to switch from free to pay — or to even try the free version — gets a lot harder when this many people are going public with negative experiences. If News Corp. is planning to use the Super Bowl on Fox for publicity (which it did), it will wind up wasting a lot of those impressions.

Just before the launch I suggested that The Daily had better s**t diamonds or come with a Swarovski iPad case to live up to the hype. At this point, it simply has to work.

Update: Friday, The Daily offered a audio post from EIC Jesse Angelo promising “cool stuff” over the weekend. It took until Sunday afternoon for a post from “The Daily team” to address tech issues:

We’ve had massive uptake since Wednesday’s launch, and with that kind of audience scale in such a short period of time, we’ve seen some stability issues and bugs that need to be addressed. We’re working as quickly as we can to find these problems and fix them. The beauty of the application ecosystem is that we can constantly iterate on and improve our product, and we’re aiming to put out an update within the coming weeks. …

We are addressing the technical issues that we’ve seen and we want you, our readers, to know that this is a major priority for us.

Meanwhile, The Daily has passed 3,400 ratings and has lost a half star in the App Store, where often even the positive reviews mention load problems and crashes.