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Next news war: Murdoch's Daily iPad app vs. New York Times iPad app [Updated]

February 2, 2011 |  2:21 pm

News Corp.'s heavily touted the Daily, its daily news publication created expressly for Apple's iPad, debuted Wednesday, but it will be another day before anyone can get a read on its popularity.

That's because there isn't an independent third-party measuring service for app downloads as there is, say, for TV with Nielsen or for newspapers with the Audit Bureau of Circulation. The number of app downloads will either have to come from News Corp., or Apple. And generally, app download figures are only released by companies if the numbers are something to brag about.

The gold standard for the moment in news app downloads -- and one that Murdoch surely has his eye on -- is the New York Times iPad app, which according to a report on the tech news website Beet.TV has had 1.5 million downloads. But the New York Times iPad app has had a huge leg up: It's currently free, and it's unknown how many users will pay for it once the New York Times Co. begins charging.

News Corp.'s Daily app, which on first impression blends the visually arresting layout of a magazine with a tabloid's compacted and sudsy writing style, is offered as a free trial for the first two weeks. After that, subscribers will be required to pay 99 cents a week (or $39.99 for a year).

Chairman Rupert Murdoch, pronounced the Daily to be nothing short of a journalistic revolution -- a news application created from scratch to take advantage of "the most innovative device to come out in my time, the iPad." (Murdoch will turn 80 in March, giving him about six decades of professional perspective).

But it will be difficult to get an instant read on whether the Daily connects with a new generation of readers for whom newspapers are an anachronism.

Some publications whose iPad applications were downloaded with a burst of initial enthusiasm -- Wired magazine, for example, sold 60,000 downloads in the first days on the market last spring -- saw sales slow by the summer. 

And the men's magazine, GQ, met with anemic reception: selling a mere 365 downloads, according to some reports.

Games and utilities -- not news source functions -- dominate the paid iPad applicatons. The most popular, according to the Apple's rankings, sold in the iTunes store? The game Angry Birds HD.

[Updated at 3:30 p.m.: News Corp. President and Chief Operating Officer Chase Carey said during a quarterly earnings call Wednesday with analysts that the Daily is an example of how the media conglomerate can extend its brands and expertise into the digital world. 

One added advantage, Carey points out, is cost.

"You can create them at a pretty modest level of investment," he said, noting the Daily is free of ink, paper and distribution costs associated with News Corp.'s printed counterparts.

News Corp. expects to spend about $500,000 a week operating the Daily.]

-- Dawn C. Chmielewski

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