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Can The Daily beat free news sources on iPad?

The real litmus test is whether The Daily can make itself truly indispensable in a world acclimated to 24-hour news cycles and no-cost blogs and RSS feeds.

The Daily

Watching with great interest (and a little skepticism) the launch of The Daily, the new iPad new publication, it's easy to marvel at the design, technology, and ambitious scale of the project. But after spending a few hours leafing through the inaugural issue, you are left with the same nagging questions. Will readers pay 99-cents a week, or $40 a year, for what is essentially a daily downloadable news app, especially when so much high-quality news is available online at no cost?

The real litmus test (at least for someone such as myself, having worked in newspapers, magazines, and broadcasting before the Web), is whether The Daily can make itself truly indispensable in a world acclimated to 24-hour news cycles and feature-free blogs and RSS feeds.

Since the iPad's April 2010 launch, I've developed what I think is a pretty killer daily reading list, designed to give me a look at the day's top issues from a variety of perspectives. Interestingly, while I initially used reader apps, such as Pulse, for content aggregation, I've since gone back to simply using the iPad's Safari browser, and I choose news outlets that format themselves well to being viewed and navigated on a touch screen.

While The Daily's scope and deep editorial bench are impressive, the product is by its nature not as dynamic or real-time as Web-based news, and largely ignores the most basic of interactive features--the outgoing link to another Web page or publication. There are a handful of Web links, but they launch in their own feature-free mini browser, rather than in Safari. (I once worked at a media company skittish about linking out to other sites...back in 1999).

And while the team behind The Daily certainly has editorial experience and credentials to spare, will it really have the boots-on-the-ground ability, or the institutional memory, to master complex global stories?

Put another way, I'm not yet convinced The Daily can compete with my preferred one-two punch of the New York Times and The Atlantic for up-to-the-minute current events reporting and analysis.

I've put together a quick tour of my daily iPad reading list. It's not designed for everyone or every topic, but I do consider myself a lifelong news addict, and I find the iPad mostly ideal for news consumption (my biggest current complaint is that the videos on are in Flash and won't play on the iPad). My main criteria for inclusion are:

  • Good-to-excellent formatting in Safari on the iPad
  • Real-time updates to content
  • Easy to read with plain black text on a white background
  • Quick loading, even on a 3G connection
  • Few, if any, intrusive ads
  • No registration required (with a single exception for the New York Times)
Peruse the full list in the slideshow here, and let me know which sites you'd recommend instead in the comments section below.