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He said he was going to do it, and now details are beginning to come to light.

Rupert Murdoch said earlier this year that he planned to create and finance an online-only newspaper that would, conceivably, help to rescue an industry that has a business model that often seems moribund at best. (It is not for nothing that former Washington Post columnist Tony Kornheiser now refers to his former place of employment as the “Wall Street Post,” clearly believing that it is an institution that has lost its way.)

According to David Carr of the New York Times, “Murdoch is currently leading the charge to build The Daily, an iPad-centered newspaper under construction in the News Corporation’s Manhattan offices that is scheduled to appear at the beginning of next year.

“With an investment of $30 million and a staff of around 100, The Daily will be the first of a kind — a ‘newspaper’ with rich media and photography built especially for the iPad.”

Carr reports that while The Daily will take advantage of text and video content generated by some of Murdoch’s other properties - such as the Wall Street Journal, Fox News, Fox Sports, and the New York Post - most of the content will be original, with designated staff responsible for creating this new business.

One of the advantages of an iPad-centric newspaper - as opposed to an old fashioned newspaper website, like all of them have - seems to be that people may be less resistant to the notion of paying for content there. We’re used to many applications costing something, and if The Daily can tap into that mindset, it may have a chance to create a new economic model.

The eye-opening approach here has to be seen in Murdoch’s willingness to gamble on a new business model, to accept the notion that the old way of doing business is becoming obsolete. It makes no sense to fight the last war; opportunities can only be found when one looks to the future (though one always has to be careful not to go a bridge too far).

This is the same kind of mindset that retailers, especially, need to bring to their businesses. They always have to be looking to the future, anticipating where the customer is going to be, planning for how shopping habits may change, and creating strategies and tactics that will appeal to the next generation of shoppers while simultaneously giving them the ability to change direction when circumstances warrant.

The challenges facing The Daily will be many. After all, as successful as the iPad has been, it likely will not provide enough readers all on its own to make it a profitable venture. And it isn’t hard to imagine that it could have something of an identity crisis - fans of Fox Sports and regular readers of the Journal may not identify with the creative and political impulses that drive Fox News and the New York Post. And finally, national newspapers aren’t easy to make work; sure, USA Today has been successful, but those of us who loved The National, Frank Deford’s 1990 attempt to create a national sports daily newspaper, remember its quick and ignominious end.

But you only make progress by stepping forward.

And that’s my Tuesday Eye-Opener.

- Kevin Coupe
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