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Groupthink at News Corp

July 31st, 2012 - 2:27 pm

More high-tech layoffs:

The Daily, News Corp.’s attempt to create a digital newspaper for the iPad age, is laying off nearly a third of its staff.

The publisher plans to tell its workers today that it will fire 50 of its 170 employees, according to people familiar with The Daily’s plans.

The initial release version of the app was so buggy and slow that I never did get around to giving the content a fair chance. I suspect that happened with a lot of people.

But calling it a “digital newspaper” is a bit of a misnomer. The Daily reads like a newsweekly, but with timelier articles — a strange hybrid beast which, apparently, has been unable to develop much of an audience.

And let’s think about why that might be.

If you want headlines, you hit your Twitter feed. For bloggy stuff, you go to your blogs. If there are longer pieces you want to read in full, you click on the links in your Twitter feed or from your bloggy buddies. The tech-savviest of all just get everything in RSS. Hardcore tablet readers might — might — have e-subscriptions to a major newspaper, such as the WSJ or the NYT. But mostly, we find our news socially.

So at what point in this process does it make sense to launch a tablet app, wait for it to load the most recent entires, work your way through its cumbersome interface, and then hunt down the stories you might want to read? Oh, good luck sharing the stories trapped behind the paywall.

The newsweeklies have been on a decades-long Bataan Death March. The newspapers aren’t far behind. Where did anyone get the notion that an electric hybrid of them could find a profitable audience?

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