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Steve Sande: A first look at The Daily

I haven't read a newspaper since the Rocky Mountain News went belly-up a few years ago, and I'm not a fan of broadcast or cable news at all. So Rupert Murdoch (at right, during this morning's press conference) and his minions at News Corp have a long way to go to impress someone who pretty much gets all of his news from RSS feeds, occasional peeks at news websites, and Twitter. I downloaded The Daily for free a few minutes ago and will be reading it for the next two weeks courtesy of Verizon, but the big question is whether or not I'll continue to read the iPad-only newspaper after that point.

At first glance, The Daily appears to be a good "national and international news source." As noted during this morning's press conference, it uses the capabilities of the iPad to the max. As the inaugural editorial mentions, "Modern technology has given us more ways to tell stories than ever before -- words, pictures, audio, video and interactive graphics. The Daily will deliver them all."

Indeed, The Daily even provides such TUAW staples as app reviews, with direct links to the App Store. But before you stop reading TUAW, realize that we cover "nothin' but Apple." With The Daily, you'll get opinion pieces on Bollywood as well... The Apps & Games section of the The Daily included a video today about The Oregon Trail moving to Facebook, and you can flip to the News section with a tap or two and watch a video piece about the uprising in Egypt. There's also a daily video update that is available from the carousel page with links to the top stories. You tap on the video to go right to a featured story.

Click read more (below the gallery) for the rest of my first impressions. We'll have more impressions from other TUAW writers later today.

If you want to read your horoscope, check the weather, or do a crossword or sudoku puzzle, those are available in The Daily. Frankly, I'd like to be able to turn that horoscope crap off, so maybe the folks from The Daily will heed my call. Other cool things include the live sports ticker that shows up at the bottom of some sports pages; it was showing college basketball scores at the bottom of a story about... college basketball. I also liked the way that The Daily pre-loaded my local sports teams into the app, and that I can add other favorite teams to watch. And would you believe that The Daily has Game Center integration? Yes, you can compete against your GC friends on those puzzle pages.

Sharing news stories is very simple. There's the typical iPad "share" icon in the upper right corner of the screen, and tapping it lets you share stories to Facebook, Twitter, or to friends via email. A microphone icon gives readers the ability to record audio comments that are sent with the news link. You can also save pages; during the press conference it was noted that there's currently no way to look at back issues of The Daily.

Some of my complaints? No local news at all. It would be nice to be able to get a feed for my local zip code with local headlines, but that doesn't exist so I'm still relegated to my other sources for local news. The USA Today app is also missing this information, while the print version does include local news updates.

Many of the ads on The Daily are videos, which means that I'm likely to skip over them rather than waste my time watching them. On the other hand, there was one ad for the upcoming animated film "Rango" with Johnny Depp that I ended up watching all the way through, so maybe the News Corp. guys have something.

As for the technical aspects of the app, it's relatively speedy (provided you close a lot of other apps), the video is smooth, animations are well done and not overused, and navigation is a breeze. I liked the carousel concept, which made it easy to find the different sections of The Daily and see what's going on with a simple flick. News articles are sized for one page with no scrolling, and if the length of an article is longer than the page, you flick to the next page.

The price is definitely right. I'd probably pay a buck a week for the information I'm receiving from The Daily. At 14¢ a day, it's far less costly than getting a local paper delivered, and the production values are much better than those of the Kindle version of The Denver Post.

As for whether or not I'll still be using The Daily in a couple of weeks... well, come back and read TUAW on February 14th and I'll let you know. I'll also be doing a live demo of The Daily on TUAW TV Live this afternoon.

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