If you drop by the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art on Wednesday January 19, you will find some great Henri Cartier-Bresson pictures and an interesting exhibition on “Voyeurism, surveillance and the camera since 1870”, but you won’t find Steve Jobs and Rupert Murdoch.
Apple’s CEO was supposed to be bestowing on News Corp’s chairman the rare honour of shared limelight (Verizon’s Ivan Seidenberg must feel a little sore he didn’t get this treatment for his iPhone announcement) in return for the owner of The Sun and The Wall Street Journal launching The Daily, an “iPad-only” newspaper into which he is said to be pouring $30m (“iPad only”, that is, until a period of exclusivity runs out and the rival tablet manufacturers Mr Murdoch met at CES last week get access too).
Despite months of work and early expectations of a December launch, the two sides decided on Thursday that The Daily – an anagram for “delay hit” – wouldn’t be ready by Wednesday. Apple wasn’t commenting on Friday, of course, and News Corp was saying nothing beyond confirming that the launch had been delayed, but the issue seems to be how The Daily’s app would mesh with a planned new Apple “push” subscription feature.
This is supposed to bill customers for the 99 cent a week charge automatically, rather than force them to pay manually each time. Newspaper and magazine publishers, eager to replicate their subscription models rather than rely on a digital equivalent of newsstand impulse buys, have been pushing for such a model since before Apple’s tablet launched.
Confusion about Apple’s plans for publishers still reigns, with reports from Europe that some publishers have effectively been told they may not bundle print and app subscriptions.
Apple’s motivation, supposedly, is that if there is no charge for the app, it’s usual 30 per cent cut is 30 per cent of nothing. This issue would not affect digital-only Daily, of course, but the idea of forcing consumers to pay twice would make many other publishers deeply unhappy.
The word is that there are not many more bugs to iron out between Apple and News Corp, so The Daily should be hitting digital doormats within a couple of weeks. Rearranging Jobs and Murdoch’s diaries to get them both in the same place on the same day again may be the far harder task.