Neiman Journalism Lab Says The Daily in Trouble Based on Tweets: Here’s an Alternative Interpretation of Their Data

The Nieman Journalism Lab (NJL) tried to assess the audience level for the “The Daily”, an iPad daily e-newspaper in a magazine-like format. Lacking direct sales numbers, the NJL looked at tweets from the app (articles shared via Twitter). You can see a reproduction of their chart above.

Decline, plateau, decline: New data on The Daily suggests a social media decline and a tough road ahead

It is clear from their 10-day moving average that tweets per day decreased dramatically from February 11 through the first week of March. Oh my, you say, that certaily proves the NJL’s point. Or does it? Here’s what their graph really reflects: When The Daily launched on February 3, 2011, its publisher wisely decided to let people read its full content for free for a two week period. However, various glitches caused the publishers to extend the free trial period to give people a chance to look at the tweaked app.

Feb. 24, 2011: “The Daily” iPad e-Newspaper Trial Period Extended to March 9 Now

What the graph reflects is the steady drop off of trial users through the initial two-week free trial period and then the extended free trial period. After this point (March 9), we see a relatively stable and static tweet level with a slight drop-off in the last week of March. The relatively stable and static tweet level from the app may not reflect overall week-to-week in-app sales. It may be that the kind of person who choses to pay for The Daily is simply not in the demographic groupd that tweets a lot (or at all).

While I have no idea of the overall finances regarding The Daily app, I can see that it is currently #5 in the Top Grossing iPad Apps list. It is behind MLB.com at Bat, Pages (Apple), GarageBand (Apple) and Angry Birds Rio HD. This is quite good company to be in. While it is difficult to assess much beyond rank order in Apple’s “Top” lists, it seems reasonble to assume that The Daily is generating reasonable if not significant subscription income (99 cents per week or $39.99 per year through in-app purchases).