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Can you build a general-news publication exclusively for tablets and gain an audience of paying subscribers?
That was Rupert Murdoch's gamble seven months ago when he launched The Daily, the first (and still only) "iPad newspaper." It was a $30 million bet on both the tablet as a medium and the public's willingness to pay for news.
Today The Daily has 120,000 active weekly readers, 80,000 of whom are actually paying for the app, according to Publisher Greg Clayman. The bigger number includes 40,000 non-paying readers on a two-week introductory trial period. About 15% of people who sign up for a trial ultimately end up subscribing, he said. "The numbers are telling us people are responding well to original content designed for the platform. Premium content seems to work well on a tablet device."
Among The Daily's own subscribers, the early surprise is that the majority have chosen the $39.99 annual subscription over the recurring 99-cents-per-week subscription. That has helped keep churn, or the rate at which people dump service, relatively low, between 1% and 3% a week, Mr. Clayman said.
But The Daily still has a long way to go before it proves anything about paid media or the tablet. While its subscriber rolls remain well short of the 500,000 paying readers that Mr. Murdoch said would make it a viable business, Mr. Clayman said the company views it as a multiyear project to bring a new brand to profitability, like a magazine launch.