Why the Murdoch-Jobs iPad alliance may be headed for choppy waters

Reports that Apple is working with Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. to produce an iPad-only newspaper, called the “Daily,” sets a troubling precedent. It has not done the same with music, TV or movie studios.

Reports the Guardian: “The collaboration, which has been secretly under development in New York for several months, promises to be the world’s first ‘newspaper’ designed exclusively for new tablet-style computers such as Apple’s Apple’s iPad, with a launch planned for early next year.

“…there will be no ‘print edition’ or ‘web edition’; the central innovation, developed with assistance from Apple engineers, will be to dispatch the publication automatically to an iPad or any of the growing number of similar devices.

“With no printing or distribution costs, the US-focused Daily will cost 99 cents (62p) a week

“According to the US elite fashion industry journal Women’s Wear Daily, the Murdoch-Jobs ‘newspaper’ will be run from the 26th floor of the News Corp offices in New York, where 100 journalist have been hired…”

Apple’s alliance with News Corp will ring alarm bells among other newspaper publishers. What isn’t clear from the reports is if Apple is providing News Corp. with technology and assistance not available to other companies.

Apple should not get into the content creation business it should remain a neutral distribution platform and maintain a level playing field for all publishers. Apple should make its technology available to all publishers not just News Corp.

Without a web version of the “Daily” its news will only be available to iPad users, which means news and headlines cannot be shared.

This also means Google News and other news aggregators won’t be able to list “Daily” news headlines and send traffic. Murdoch has been a vociferous critic of Google and other aggregators.

Bloggers will still be able to write about “Daily” news stories under fair use provisions but they won’t be able to link to them. This could result in potentially damaging misinformation campaigns by nefarious third parties if content on the “Daily” can only be verified by iPad subscribers.

There are other potential problems: Online ads try to target users across a range of web sites but this won’t be possible within the closed system of the iPad. This means ad networks won’t be able to operate on the iPad/Daily giving Apple’s own ad network a captive customer.

Also, it’s not clear if Apple will maintain its veto rights on publishing through its online iTunes store. It has blocked publication of major publications such as Germany’s respectable magazine Die Stern because of a nude gallery of photos.

Murdoch’s publications include racy tabloids with half-naked “page three girls”.

There are several unanswered questions: Will Apple be allowed to censor the content of the “Daily” before publication? Will Murdoch allow Steve Jobs to essentially become the Editor of the “Daily”? How will Apple be able to monitor for racy content without introducing publication delays when newspapers have such tight deadlines? Will Murdoch allow Apple to censor the “Daily” at any time it chooses? Or will Apple relax its strict publication rules?

It’s either one or the other. It’s a potentially shaky alliance with plenty of room for discord.



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