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FEBRUARY 3, 2011 8:23PM

Murdoch’s Daily: post-Web innovation or CD-ROM flashback?

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A decade ago, if you were a “digital” person — if you were interested in how computer technology was changing our culture and economy — then you were a Web person. The Web, built on top of the Internet and ultimately eclipsing its source, dispatched its competitors — the closed online services, the packaged-goods multimedia/CD-ROM industry — and became, for a time, the single face of the digital revolution.

This week’s launch of Rupert Murdoch’s iPad “newspaper,” the Daily, is a milestone: It’s the first significant attempt, since the Web conquered the digital world in 1995, to create a major new media product that embraces technology yet spurns the Web — and the public Internet, too. Chris Anderson’s Wired “Web is Dead” package was the warning shot for this phenomenon, but the Daily’s introduction puts it in front of us in palpable touch-screen form. It boldly declares: We’re digital people but we’re not Web people.

Why do I say that the Daily spurns the Web and the Net? I mean, beyond the obvious reason that there is no Web site that offers its contents in a convenient form each day. It’s not just that. The Daily also contains no links. (Some today see this as a plus; I do not.) There are no RSS feeds. No email addresses to contact the writers and editors. No email alerts or mailing list. Comments on the articles, yes, but not reachable through the Web. No, archives, back issue index, or search! (They’re on Twitter, however. They have a blog, too, and it’s not bad.)

In other words, most of the apparatus of two-way communication that every serious digital publishing venture of the past 15 years has taken as a given is missing from the Daily. They’re serious about this iPad-only thing! But they don’t seem to realize that they’re repeating the mistakes of the very recent past.

The Daily’s designers are eager to show off sparkling graphics, integrated video, and the swipe-ability that the iPad allows. Unfortunately, they are defining “interactivity” the way the lost pioneers of the 1994-era CD-ROM “multimedia revolution” defined it. They have built a gleaming but limited set of interfaces for users to interact with static, prepackaged content. The Web taught us that true interactivity was the interaction between people moderated by the network — along with the personalization you could build into the network based on those people’s behavior.

The Daily’s one concession to today’s Web is the mechanisms it provides for its readers to share individual stories via the usual routes — Facebook, Twitter, email. The recipient of your share notice receives a link to a URL that’s a Web-page version of the Daily article. We don’t know how long these web addresses will be good for. But for the moment, at least, it’s pretty easy to assemble a set of links that points you to the Web-accessible versions of each article in the day’s Daily edition. That’s what Andy Baio has done.

How long will Baio’s index last? Will it still be easy to assemble after the Daily’s first-two-weeks-free period ends? Will the News Corp. folks ask him to take it down? We’ll have to wait and see.

The question is whether the Daily’s secession from the Web is a matter of convenience or ideology for its creators. Did they put their energy into spiffing things up for the iPad — the hard, fun, innovative part — figuring that they can circle back to beef up their Web offerings later? Or do they feel that it is their calling, their mission, to leave the Web behind?

My prediction: If they’re pragmatists about the Web, they’ve got a chance — they can adapt and evolve their product so it’s a little more up to date, less hermetic and more inclusive of the public that lives online today. But if they’re ideologues — if they really believe that what is essentially a magazine “pasted on a screen” is the future of journalism — then they’re in deep trouble, and the Daily will only be Murdoch’s latest and most spectacular digital money-sink.

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Congratulation on the editor pick. EP's are like riches.
EP's are like finding a ipod in a Burdock Dollar Stores.
That equal to finding bargain - second half rotten fruit.
It's just fun. Rudolph attends farmer market fruit loops.
Rudolph the corporate news stand guru buys old Fords.
Maybe? Hope R.M. will be CEO of Goodwill Industries.
Let's Hope.
There are no luggage rack in the farm market wagons.
There are no storage compartment in a hearse buggy.
If the Farmers come to town it's a more precious day.
The mule sadle bags and wagons are piled gold high.
The wagon is filled with safe and nourishing greens.
Yea, and a precious day, and more valued than gold.
wild stuff man. a magazine that is a Walled Garden for a hardware system that is also a Walled Garden.
this is an amazing venture and I commend Murdoch [generally otherwise the King of Evil] for his actual genuine innovation in this area.
it seems to me the Ipad is a natural match with the blogging world & am hoping to see someone make that connection, but so far not.
I try so hard to understand all this stuff, and your forays into it here on OS help. I think you are saying that in the big picture, the future of digital media is peer-to-peer interactivity and this new Murdoch Daily acts too much like a static magazine that just happens to be presented in the venue of a digital device. I agree with you that things like archives and sharing and contact information are essential, and that the lack of them--which again makes it all seem that much more like I'm sitting in a doctor's office with an actual paper magazine--would drive me crazy. I remember the links discussion a while back and think I disagreed with you about liking all those links in the text. I see them as distracting. But I like them at the end of the article and would not want them eliminated altogether.

The thing I have the most trouble really understanding is precisely what is the Web and what is the Net and what is Digital. To some of us nontekkies, those words are all kind of the same thing. I would love it if Scott or someone else around here would simply say, in the babyest terms possible, what these things are in relation to each other.