The Daily’s Cook: Subscribers Wanted!

News Corp. tablet paper exec acknowledges need to disclose data

     Christine Cook, head of sales and advertising at The Daily, used a panel discussion at Internet Week to hawk subscriptions—making one wonder just how much the outsized attention News Corp. is getting for its daring iPad-based newspaper experiment is translating into paid circulation. When it came time for Cook and her fellow panelists to offer parting thoughts on tablet publishing, Cook used the opportunity instead to urge the audience: “Download The Daily and read it for two weeks, enjoy, and pay for it!”

     The panel was called Publishers Get Real About Next Screen Expectations, and it was part of the all-day OMMA Tablet Revolution event at the Altman Building on West 18th Street in Manhattan. Cook was joined on stage by Sheila Buckley, head of digital ad sales for the Weather Channel Interactive; Matt Jones, vice president of model strategy and operations at Gannett; James Smith, chief revenue officer of Flixter; and Mark Johnson, CEO of Zite. For roughly 45 minutes they discussed publishers’ difficulties in getting people to discover and use their apps; the question of whether tablets should be bought and sold by print, digital, or TV executives; and the need for publishers to keep their apps current.

But as closely as News Corp. has guarded news about The Daily, any information its executives have dribbled out about the tablet paper has been of particular interest.

     One of the issues The Daily has faced is giving potential subscribers an easy way to find it inside Apple’s App Store. But apparently, this can't be spoken about too openly—publishers have been leery of saying anything that could be seen as critical of the software giant. Cook got in an oblique shot, however, saying that The Daily has been successful in driving traffic to its website using social networks, but that once on the site, there’s no link to the App store, so getting people to subscribe “is a little bit of a challenge.”

     Cook said The Daily’s conversion rate of free trial users to paid subscribers is in the “double digits,” although she didn’t offer any raw data, making it hard to know how meaningful that conversion rate really is.

     As for what those actual subscriber numbers are, Cook hinted at the pressure advertisers are putting on The Daily to supply figures. She told Adweek after the panel that she expected that information to be shared soon, laughing, “I told Greg [Clayman, publisher of The Daily] he needs to in the next couple of weeks because he’s making my job very difficult.”


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