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So Does It Come Out Every Day?

The Daily:

New York, NY, February 2, 2011 – Today Rupert Murdoch, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of News Corporation, unveiled The Daily — the industry’s first national daily news publication created from the ground up for iPad.

“New times demand new journalism,” said Mr. Murdoch. “So we built The Daily completely from scratch — on the most innovative device to come about in my time — the iPad.”

“The magic of great newspapers — and great blogs — lies in their serendipity and surprise, and the touch of a good editor,” continued Mr. Murdoch. “We’re going to bring that magic to The Daily — to inform people, to make them think, to help them engage in the great issues of the day. And as we continue to improve and evolve, we are going to use the best in new technology to push the boundaries of reporting.”

The Daily’s unique mix of text, photography, audio, video, information graphics, touch interactivity and real-time data and social feeds provides its editors with the ability to decide not only which stories are most important — but also the best format to deliver these stories to their readers.

John Hudson at The Atlantic with a round-up

Erick Schonfield at Tech Crunch:

A new edition will come out every day, with updates throughout the day. it will feature a carousel navigation that looks like Coverflow, an dinclude video and 360-degree photographs.

Since there are no trucks and no printing costs, The Daily will cost 14 cents a day or about $1 a week. The first two weeks are free, thanks to a sponsorship by Verizon. You will be able to download it live at noon ET.

Murdoch also revealed that the total cost to get the Daily up and running—the technology, the staff, everything—has been $30 million, and that operating costs are half a million dollars a week.

I asked Murdoch why he thinks it is better to charge a subscription versus gaining a larger audience via free downloads and selling that larger audience to advertisers, who are lining up anyway because their ads look so much better in an iPad app. “I think they will pay much less per thousand if it was free,” says Murdoch. “We feel this is better for advertisers and will draw a better class of advertisers at a better rate.”

Jesus Diaz at Gizmodo:

Of course, he seems really adamant about his project. His letter is full of Cupertinian hyperbole: “this pioneering digital venture, fully championed by Steve Jobs and the rest of his team at Apple, establishes an entirely new category of delivery and consumption.” An entire new category. It must be really magical. This fair and balanced quote, however, makes me think The Daily may be just another glorified reader with lots of video thrown in: “I’m convinced that what they’ve created is the most immersive and unique experience available – one that will resonate with our audiences everywhere and change the way news is viewed.”

Peter Kafka at Media Memo:

The Daily’s formal debut is in a few hours, at which point we’ll have no shortage of pro/con opinions about News Corp.’s new iPad newspaper.But until then, here are the reasons the Daily won’t work, followed by the reasons it will. They’re both from the same guy–Stifel Nicolaus analyst Jordan Rohan. From his note published yesterday:

CONS:

1. Consumer Acceptance Could Take Time: Nobody really knows the future of the iPad daily, and the official launch party is not “where the rubber meets the road” in terms of understanding consumer acceptance of such a new concept.

2. Hype or Reality?: Hype does not necessarily translate into market share, revenue, or cash flow.

3. Control: Apple tends to control its environment so tightly that there may be clashes down the road with apps offered by Yahoo!, Google, Facebook, AOL, Amazon, and a host of other Internet companies. This could reduce overall profit potential for iPad publishers.

4. Understanding the revenue model will be key. Online ad networks and other intermediaries could be left on the outside, looking in, if the iPad remains a premium offering with high CPMs. The subscription model is somewhat irrelevant unless it scales to support a vibrant advertising environment. We will have to wait and see on that key point.

PROS:

1. Product Differentiation: News Corp could marshal the resources of its newspaper, cable television, studio, and Internet divisions to differentiate the product from most other companies.

2. Apple is a powerful ally. The recent track record of product innovation and commercialization at Apple is unmatched. If Apple is willing to throw its weight behind this initiative, along with News Corp, then the chances of success are high.

3. Playing Offense: If News Corp can make an iPad daily work, then other media companies will begin to play offense as well. And that is generally a good thing for innovation, and ultimately for advertisers and marketers alike.

4. Makes More Sense than Wired for iPad: Mid last year, we attended a pre-launch event for Wired magazine’s iPad initiative, which Conde Naste marketed at a surprising $5 per copy. The product was beautiful, but results were mixed at best. And it was a monthly, not a daily, which implied that the frequency of visitation was much lower.

Rohan, by the way, is ultimately bullish on the Daily, and he was that way before he got a look at the thing at Rupert Murdoch’s apartment last night. Now he’s very, very bullish, but he’s been embargoed from talking about it until noon today.

Darrell Etherington at GigaOm:

Unlike many existing print and newspaper magazine conversion apps, The Daily seems to feature a lot of clickable and interactive elements. Web links will bring up pages in a built-in browser, and Twitter feeds are accessible from within the app. There’s also an in-app text and audio commenting system for greater reader interaction. The app will also be able to pull in breaking news using Twitter and other sources, so that it stays fresh throughout the day without undergoing the kind of massively frequent overhaul you see on blogs. It’ll be interesting to see how The Daily strikes this balance.

No back-issues will exist at launch, and users instead will have to save articles for later from within the app or retrieve them on the web via HTML. Plans for improved access to older content are in the works, but won’t be included at launch.

At launch today,  The Daily will be available only to customers shopping in the U.S. store, and will be free for the first two weeks. According to a leaked official memo published by Gizmodo (which was completely accurate regarding other details), News Corp. is planning to bring The Daily to international markets (and other tablets) in the coming months.

Apple VP of Internet Services Eddy Cue announced the inclusion of new in-app recurring subscription billing with “one click,” but didn’t offer any further details. Cue noted that an upcoming  (“soon” was the only timeline hinted at) Apple announcement would detail this new feature further, including implementation plans among other publishers.

Colby Hall at Mediaite:

There is no question that the partnership between Apple and News Corp. is a big story worth covering, as it received a lot of deserved attention months ago when it was announced. And yes, Rupert Murdoch is arguably the single most powerful media mogul (best evidenced by his place on the Power Grid); his enthusiasm and embracing of a new media platform (and pouring of $30 Million into its development) is a compelling and relevant story.

But the story unfolding in Egypt right now could not be more compelling, since it appears that the American ally (with huge strategic influence on the U.S. economy) is on the brink of complete and total destabilization. Ironically, the Murdoch-led press conference was introduced by Fox News’ Neil Cavuto, an individual who has repeatedly reported the relevance of the Egyptian uprising on the price of oil. The decision to go with The Daily press event over the revolution in Egypt seems odd at best.

Obviously, other news networks continue to air short, fluff pieces in between their Egypt coverage, and if Fox had relegated this to such a segment, clearly disclosing the relationship, then they’d be much less open to criticism. But this was neither short nor fluff.

In many ways this feels similar to Sunday night’s programming decision at MSNBC to air reruns of their Lockup series, while Fox News and CNN covered Egypt live. As we reported earlier, MSNBC was rewarded by getting the highest ratings of the night!

Clearly this event was planned well in advance of the upheaval in Egypt, and when two giant corporations like Apple and News Corp. partner, it is big news (particularly with regard to the future of media and news.) But the Fox News’ decision to forgo real news coverage in Egypt for the promotion of a new commercial information platform (from which they hope to profit) seems to be at best a perfectly ironic example of the state of media today.

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The “Where’s The Beef?” Lady Is Probably Dead By Now

Erik Hayden at The Atlantic:

Taco Bell’s “seasoned beef” appears to be a clever mirage. That’s what an Alabama law firm is alleging when it slapped the chain with a “false advertising” suit for misleading customers about the actual content of its Taco fillings. Surprise! The “meat” is only 36 percent actual beef.

Jesus Diaz at Gizmodo:

Taco Bell “beef” pseudo-Mexican delicacies are really made of a gross mixture called “Taco Meat Filling” as shown on their big container’s labels, like the one pictured here. The list of ingredients is gruesome. Updated.

Beef, water, isolated oat product, salt, chili pepper, onion powder, tomato powder, oats (wheat), soy lecithin, sugar, spices, maltodextrin (a polysaccharide that is absorbed as glucose), soybean oil (anti-dusting agent), garlic powder, autolyzed yeast extract, citric acid, caramel color, cocoa powder, silicon dioxide (anti-caking agent), natural flavors, yeast, modified corn starch, natural smoke flavor, salt, sodium phosphate, less than 2% of beef broth, potassium phosphate, and potassium lactate.

It looks bad but passable… until you learn that—according to the Alabama law firm suing Taco Bell—only 36% of that is beef. Thirty-six percent. The other 64% is mostly tasteless fibers, various industrial additives and some flavoring and coloring. Everything is processed into a mass that actually looks like beef, and packed into big containers labeled as “taco meat filling.” These containers get shipped to Taco Bell’s outlets and cooked into something that looks like beef, is called beef and is advertised as beef by the fast food chain.

Can you call beef something that looks like ground beef but it’s 64% lots-of-other-stuff? Taco Bell thinks they can.

Jonathan Turley:

Taco Bell Corporation spokesman Rob Poetsch responded by saying that “Taco Bell prides itself on serving high quality Mexican inspired food with great value. We’re happy that the millions of customers we serve every week agree. We deny our advertising is misleading in any way and we intend to vigorously defend the suit.” That is an interesting statement. It does not appear to deny that it is serving marginal beef products but that the company never really promised anything more than it serves. Presumably, if the company issued a statement that it was in fact serving “beef” in response to this lawsuit, it could be cited as part of the alleged effort to deceive in advertising (assuming they are not serving “beef” as defined by federal law).

The class action alleges the company is serving what is referred to as “taco meat filling, which is comprised mainly of “extenders” and other non-meat substances, including wheat oats, soy lecithin, maltodrextrin, anti-dusting agent, autolyzed yeast extract, modified corn starch and sodium phosphate as well as beef and seasonings. Of course, the company could claim that it is the anti-dusting agents and maltrodrexin that gives it that “high quality Mexican inspired food” taste but it would not actually have most Americans “running to the border.”

MB Quirk at The Consumerist:

Hey, at least they’re making the distinction of “Mexican inspired food,” although that might be stretching it, too.

Robert Sietsema at The Village Voice:

Five Reasons You Should Hate Taco Bell, Besides the Lack of Real Meat

1. Meat, schmeat – are you ever certain of the meat supply at any fast food outlet? A few years ago, there was a website that claimed the average McDonald’s hamburger had been lodged in permafrost for around three years before it was thawed and served at an outlet. The rancid meat explains the odd smell you associate with stepping into a McDonalds.

2. When you order something made with ground meat (we used to call it “mystery meat” in school), you get exactly what you deserve. I’m much more annoyed by the other ingredients at Taco Bell – the gummy flour tortillas that turn into glue in your mouth, or the weird micro-“cheese” curls that seem to be poking out of every orifice: The white ones look exactly like pinworms.

3. The astonishing lack of spice in nearly everything you get at TB (that’s Taco Bell, not tuberculosis – though maybe you’ll get that, too, if you linger long enough). And the little plastic packets containing what tastes like Tabasco — when there are zillions of authentic Mexican hot sauces available — don’t help at all.

4. What Taco Bell has done to Mexican food, which – with its dependence on minimally refined corn products, beans, and fresh vegetables – must be one of the healthiest cuisines on earth, is criminal! The chiles, cumin, oregano, scallions, and other herbs and spices seem to be entirely missing, and in their place, bad mayo.

5. Have you ever seen a Mexican eating in Taco Bell?

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Four Bars, Three Bars, Two Bars, One Bar

Apple:

Dear iPhone 4 Users,

The iPhone 4 has been the most successful product launch in Apple’s history. It has been judged by reviewers around the world to be the best smartphone ever, and users have told us that they love it. So we were surprised when we read reports of reception problems, and we immediately began investigating them. Here is what we have learned.

To start with, gripping almost any mobile phone in certain ways will reduce its reception by 1 or more bars. This is true of iPhone 4, iPhone 3GS, as well as many Droid, Nokia and RIM phones. But some users have reported that iPhone 4 can drop 4 or 5 bars when tightly held in a way which covers the black strip in the lower left corner of the metal band. This is a far bigger drop than normal, and as a result some have accused the iPhone 4 of having a faulty antenna design.

At the same time, we continue to read articles and receive hundreds of emails from users saying that iPhone 4 reception is better than the iPhone 3GS. They are delighted. This matches our own experience and testing. What can explain all of this?

We have discovered the cause of this dramatic drop in bars, and it is both simple and surprising.

Upon investigation, we were stunned to find that the formula we use to calculate how many bars of signal strength to display is totally wrong. Our formula, in many instances, mistakenly displays 2 more bars than it should for a given signal strength. For example, we sometimes display 4 bars when we should be displaying as few as 2 bars. Users observing a drop of several bars when they grip their iPhone in a certain way are most likely in an area with very weak signal strength, but they don’t know it because we are erroneously displaying 4 or 5 bars. Their big drop in bars is because their high bars were never real in the first place.

To fix this, we are adopting AT&T’s recently recommended formula for calculating how many bars to display for a given signal strength. The real signal strength remains the same, but the iPhone’s bars will report it far more accurately, providing users a much better indication of the reception they will get in a given area. We are also making bars 1, 2 and 3 a bit taller so they will be easier to see.

Clive Crook:

Don’t say I didn’t warn you about the new iPhone. (I just had a hunch.) Interesting to see how Apple switched today from, “it’s not an issue, you’re just holding it wrong,” to, “it’s not a reception issue, it’s just that the signal strength indicator tells you you’ve much better reception than you have–and by the way previous iPhones have the same defect.” So after all that fuss, the answer is really very simple. And you all thought there was a problem!

Richi Jennings at Computerworld:

The upcoming firmware patch will make the bars display differently. Perhaps in a way more consistent with the way other phones do it.

The patch will not fix the actual problem. It should be clear to anyone who has a little understanding of RF, that allowing users to touch an antenna in such a way as to change its impedance will have a significant effect on signal strength and quality — possibly improving it, but usually making it worse.

Yes, holding older iPhones also caused reduced signal, but to nowhere near this extent. The more scientific tests — such as those performed by Brian Klug and Anand Lal Shimpi — show that actual signal strength as measured by the UMTS hardware is reduced by 10 or 20 dB more on an iPhone 4 than on an iPhone 3G.

Don’t forget, this is a logarithmic scale: a 10 dB reduction is a 90% loss of signal. 20 dB is a 99% loss: basically catastrophic, unless you’re really close to the cell tower and not in an environment with too much RF noise.

The iPhone 4 antenna design is certainly innovative, but as I said last week, those of us with a little understanding of RF knew that a bare metal antenna was going to be trouble, as soon as we saw the pre-production unit lost in a bar. The natural assumption was that Apple would cover it with a transparent film; I can only speculate as to why they didn’t.

Still, from early indications, it looks like the Apple fanbois are lapping up the explanation. The famous reality distortion field strikes again: it’s not a design flaw, just a firmware bug.

Jesus Diaz at Gizmodo:

Michael Anderson, who used to work at Motorola’s FCC testing lab, points out that “it’s a fundamental flaw that can only be fixed through a redesign. If that is redone, all the FCC will have to be completed again. This may be a long slow process to fix.”

In his reply to Apple’s letter, Richard Gaywood—PhD on wireless network design from Cardiff University—thinks the signal display fix is a good step to fix user perception, but it won’t fix the antenna interference problem that exists in the iPhone 4:

But if there is no design issue at work here, why did Anandtech and I both show significantly different attenuation when holding an iPhone 4 in a bare hand compared to holding it in a case? And why did Apple themselves recommend “using a case” as a possible solution to the problem?

The antenna interference problem

According to wireless experts consulted by Gizmodo, the iPhone 4 antenna interference problem happens to everyone, and it’s not a matter of signal bars displayed in the phone. However, some people are not noticing it. Why?

Scientific tests conducted by Anandtech, there’s always up to a 19.8dB signal loss when you grab the iPhone naturally with your hand, with your skin touching the deadly spot. That’s losing signal by a factor of almost 100.

This technical measuring has been demonstrated empirically in both voice calls and internet access by thousands of users around the world, independently of their network.

Robin Wauters at TechCrunch:

I trust by now you’ve read Apple’s letter claiming that there’s absolutely nothing wrong with the antennae on the iPhone 4, and that any real reception issues are inexistent and merely a result of faulty displaying on Apple’s part, which it intends to fix in the coming weeks.

Unimpressed by that statement? You’re not alone.

Mason LLP, one of the multiple firms that have filed a class action lawsuit on behalf of customers who recently purchased the iPhone 4 alleging that the antenna on the phone is in fact defective by design, isn’t terribly impressed either.

The firm, which filed the lawsuit seeking an order requiring Apple to ship a protective case for the iPhone 4 to all consumers who purchased one as well as monetary damages, provides us with the following statement after reading and analyzing Apple’s letter:

Our investigation revealed that users lost reception when gripping the phone in a conventional manner. We believe that the problem is not merely how the signal strength is displayed but involves a physical blocking of the antennae which cuts off calls.

In other words, don’t expect those lawsuits to go away now that you’ve written up your version of the truth, Apple.

UPDATE: Farhad Manjoo in Slate

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