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Why 'The Daily' Launch Is Print's iPad Do-Over

True: The unveiling of Rupert Murdoch's iPad paper The Daily just won't be the same without Steve Jobs in attendance. But the announcement -- and the iTunes print subscription model which is also supposed to debut at The Daily launch -- will nonetheless mark a turning point for print's not-so-great relationship with the iPad.

The launch date, which was originally rumored to be happening today, has been held up not by Jobs' indefinite medical leave, but by needed tweaks to said subscription model.

While imperfect -- magazines and newspapers will probably always wince at Apple's 30 percent cut of revenue -- it nonetheless will bring the iPad that much closer to helping the industry. And the magazine industry, at any rate, seems willing to deal with the imperfection. Without magazine buy-in, there'd be nothing to announce. Sales of magazine apps have sucked wind, primarily because at a per issue price of around $5, iPad versions of popular magazines like Sports Illustrated would cost a whopping $250 or so annually.

Much is still unknown: will Apple share purchasing data with publishers? (It doesn't with the music industry.) Will it allow print subscribers to get iPad versions for free? (Maybe not, but no worries. People Magazine has already developed a workaround, and despite my colleague Erik Sherman's concerns, so can everyone else.)

But no matter. While you can wonder all day about whether it would have been wise for Apple and print to come to subscription terms at the iPad launch -- and whether further haggling might help the industry get better terms from Apple -- this pending announcement is essentially the industry's best chance at an iPad do-over. With Murdoch serving as the proxy for the hopes and dreams of the entire industry, of course.

It's not just an opportunity to bask in The Daily's hype. Per Advertising Age, The Daily is garnering enviable advertiser interest, with marketers including Macy's, Verizon WirelessVirgin America signing on. That's bound to have a positive halo effect on the marriage of print and the iPad.

No marriage with Apple is perfect; if it were, music lovers would somehow get discounts on iTunes songs they already own in another format. That, however, didn't stop it from becoming the sine qua non of digital music; music's fortunes would have been even worse had the iTunes store never come into existence. Thus, print has to hope that consumers see the benefits of iPad-delivered publications as worth the new, subscription-based price of admission. As the saying (sort of) goes: e-publish or die.

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