FAILED EXPERIMENT: On Monday morning, Rupert Murdoch confirmed the death of The Daily, his $30 million, much-touted, nearly two-year-old iPad magazine. The news was buried in an announcement outlining the split of News Corp. into two publicly traded companies, one dedicated to publishing and another, named the Fox Group, to entertainment.
Robert Thomson was appointed to lead the new publishing arm, and Gerard Baker to succeed him as editor in chief of Dow Jones and managing editor of The Wall Street Journal.
This story first appeared in the December 4, 2012 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
In the new configuration, there’s no room for The Daily, whose 100 or so staffers now face the possibility of layoffs.
The company assured them that “technology and other assets, including some staff, will be folded into the [New York] Post.”
That is true for some high-profile employees — editor in chief Jesse Angelo was kicked up to the publisher’s chair at the Post, a position once held by Murdoch’s son, Lachlan. Richard Johnson, the editor of The Daily’s gossip page, Flash, and once Murdoch’s main man at the Post’s Page Six, told Deadline Hollywood he will return to the daily tabloid, though he didn’t specify in what capacity. He did not return requests for comment.
Among the rest of the staff, including news editors, a source said there’s concern no one’s been guaranteed a position within News Corp.
The Daily’s death had been predicted since its grandiose launch in February 2011. Critics wondered who’d pay for a brand-new magazine that would work as a news digest, a USA Today for iPad owners.
The Daily wasn’t just another new venture. Murdoch saw it as “transformative,” part of a bold plan to upend the news business and lead other media companies in the new world of tablet publishing.
He spent lavishly on it — annual costs were between $30 million and $60 million, according to various estimates — and dedicated serious editorial resources.
In July, Angelo dismissed reports that The Daily was on thin ice by saying it had 100,000 subscribers. Angelo’s measure of success was shy of the 500,000 subscribers Murdoch had publicly said were necessary for The Daily to break even. In early August, The Daily experienced its first round of cuts, excising 50 jobs, the entirety of its sports and opinion departments. Then came Monday’s news — its last issue will run Dec. 15.
“Our experience was that we could find a large enough audience quickly enough to convince us the business model was sustainable in the long term,” Murdoch said.