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Murdoch Launches Bid to Rule News in the iPad Age

by Stephen Foley

Rupert Murdoch, the media mogul who parlayed a small Australian newspaper company into one of the world's biggest conglomerates, promised yesterday to "re-imagine" the newspaper and "make the business of newsgathering and editing viable again", as he launched the first daily newspaper exclusively for tablet computers.

With all the grandiose claims and razzmatazz of an Apple product launch, Mr Murdoch unveiled The Daily, a digital newspaper that can be downloaded and read on the Apple iPad. His company, News Corporation, is spending $30m (£18.5m) developing the title and has hired scores of journalists. The first edition went live with news from the streets of Cairo on its front page.

News Corp executives hope The Daily will woo consumers who no longer read print newspapers or watch television news, and encourage them into the habit of paying for digital content. It is available for 99 cents per week from Apple's App Store, and will eventually be made available for the other tablet computers going on sale this year.

"The iPad demands that we completely re-imagine our craft," said Mr Murdoch at the launch event at Manhattan's Guggenheim Museum. "New times demand new journalism. So we built The Daily completely from scratch, on the most innovative device to come about in my time - the iPad."

Mr Murdoch predicted "millions" of readers for The Daily, which takes its place alongside News Corp's many notable newspaper titles, including The Times and The Sun in Britain.

The new title features most of the content of a traditional newspaper, from news and gossip, through arts and opinion, to puzzles and sport, along with some video and interactive graphics.

Touchscreen tablets have opened up a new way of publishing newspaper and magazine titles, with none of the costs of printing and delivery, and with options for snazzy layouts impossible on traditional websites. Best of all, as far as publishers are concerned, there is the possibility of charging readers to download the app and to subscribe.

Although readers will be able to share articles with friends on Facebook and Twitter, there will be no website where all The Daily's articles can be read for free. Mr Murdoch is midway through a campaign to remove his titles from the free web and force readers to pay.

Yesterday's launch, in front of an audience of technology and media journalists, took the form of an Apple product launch: from the thumping music as guests filed in and the hyperbolic introductory remarks claiming to be changing the world, to a demonstration of the product's best features.

The only thing missing was Steve Jobs, the Apple founder, who originally intended to be there but is on indefinite medical leave for reasons he has not disclosed.

For News Corp, and for Mr Murdoch personally, such a high-profile launch presents dangers, since it is far from clear what will constitute a success in a constantly changing media landscape. The last time he made such a splash, it was his purchase in 2005 of the social-networking site MySpace, which was soon to be eclipsed by Facebook.

Last night, News Corp executives revealed for the first time that they were looking for a buyer for MySpace. As user numbers have slumped - they are now around 80 million per month, down by 30 million in the past year - so too have advertising revenues, and losses at the News Corp division which includes MySpace widened to $156m in the three months just ended. Chase Carey, News Corp's chief operating officer and Mr Murdoch's right-hand man, had set a deadline of June for the website to become profitable, but he admitted last night that its results in the next few months were "not going to be wildly better" than during the last six.

MySpace has attracted interest from media industry and financial buyers, Mr Carey added.

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