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Hands-On With Murdoch's iPad Newspaper, The Daily

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For those of you for whom the ability to play large-format Scrabble games is not reason enough to own an iPad, Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp today unveiled The Daily, its new, ambitious, multimedia iPad newspaper. You can see a demo of the product above and read writeups of the announcement at The New York Times—an iPad newspaper delivered on paper!—and at time.com’s own Techland.

I downloaded the new app about two minutes after it appeared at the App Store. A few first impressions after the jump:

* Graphically, the interface is quite shiny, although it’s an odd sort of aesthetic mix: it looks like the New York Post wrapped in a Newsweek, with various graphic doodads from New York magazine thrown in here and there. From Murdoch and his team’s opening announcements, The Daily seems to be aimed at a sophisticated iPad niche, but its visual language says “newsmagazine” and “tabloid” at the same time.

* Speaking of tabloid: there are six sections in the inaugural Daily. The first is “News.” The second, “Gossip.” So The Economist this is not. (The others: Opinion, Arts & Life, Apps & Games and Sports.)

* So far, The Daily’s biggest draw may be its price point. While other iPad publications (disclosure: TIME’s included) have not been able to sell discounted subscriptions through Apple’s App Store, Steve Jobs and company have made an exception for The Daily; after a free two-week trial, it goes for $39.99 a year.

* It’s almost a cliché of iPad apps at this point, but it’s true here too: The Daily and the iPad’s screen show off photography and video to great advantage. A review of Portlandia by Heather Havrilesky (hired from Salon in a smart move) includes a lengthy video excerpt, and the Egypt package includes some impressive panoramic photography.

* The stories themselves? I found little in the first issue that I really wanted to read beginning to end (besides Havrilesky’s review). The story choice so far seems to assume little interest in longer reads; a few stories of two or three pages are rounded out by a collection of briefs and graphics. That said, the real test will be how compelling The Daily is when I pick it up first thing in the morning, rather than at noon when it’s already behind the news cycle. (About which: Daily editors say they’ll be able to update the app with breaking news, but I haven’t seen much evidence of that yet.)

* Another theoretical feature the editors have touted that I haven’t seen much of in practice: outside links. If they incorporate links into stories as they say they plan to, it would be a refreshing change from the walled gardens of many iPad news apps now.

* There’s an astrology column, accompanied by a feature story snarking about how silly it was for Allstate Insurance to publish a tongue-in-cheek study of driver safety based on… astrology.

* As you’d expect, the app is full of opportunities to share stories on Facebook and Twitter. (This creates a weird situation in which you can share Daily stories online, though the newspaper itself does not exist as a website.) You can also “save” stories for later reading, though I don’t yet see a mechanism for reading back issues. (A situation that may change when, um, there are back issues.)

* The most intriguing, and terrifying, multimedia application the inaugural Daily unveils, though, is in the comments for articles, which allow you not just to type your thoughts but record them in audio. Because if there’s anything better than the ALL-CAPS screeds and Hitler analogies that make up the comments sections of a politics article in a general-interest news outlet, it would be getting to hear them out loud. I’m not sure I’m ready for this future, people.

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