Grand Tablet Experiment Shrinks As The Daily Cuts Staff

By Steve Smith

Can the iPad and its nascent business models really support a fully staffed news organization pouring multimedia assets into a daily app? Well, probably not really…or not yet. That appears to be the implied verdict from News Corp. More than a year after launching its ambitions daily news service for tablets (and more recently smartphones), The Daily is losing 29% of its workforce or 50 full time employees.

Nevertheless, News Corp. insists that the moves are designed to streamline an effort that will continue to develop. Sports content now will be provides mainly by partners such as Fox Sports as that division is folded in with the Opinion section. These two areas of The Daily content experienced the lightest usage. There will no longer be a separate Opinion section. Instead commentary will appear is clearly marked places throughout news content.

The Daily says that it will enhance the presence of the features that drew the most reader support, including original reporting, visual content, interactive features, infographics and video. The app will now work solely in portrait mode, which the large majority of users seemed to prefer.

News Corp says that the changes reflect the priorities of the readers and the “needs of the business.” While the company has claimed to exceed 100,000 subscriber to the paid daily, almost all tablet app advertising is still struggling to get consistent support from advertisers.

Publisher Greg Clayman says in a statement, “We continue to believe in the future of tablet publications because we know the market for tablets and touchscreen devices will only expand.”

The Daily launched about 18 months ago to rumors that News Corp had invested up to $30 million the subscription-based tablet-only venture. The publication has since migrated to other tablets and smartphones. Within the scale of the iPad, its original and still chief platform, the Daily has been a consistent top-grossing app.

In some sense the stumble at The Daily is not a good barometer of the health of the table content economy, because the company was so heavily overinvested at such an early part. With over 65 million Ipads alone in market, the base for sustainable content businesses surely is there, as more than a few game companies already have proven. Whether the touchscreen economy can yet support a full-bore newsroom and tech staff may have been shooting too high too early.