Sky News: 'The iPad is our future'
Whatever you think of Rupert Murdoch, give him credit for one thing - his news empire has made all the running in terms of digital innovation over the last year. First, by putting up paywalls around the Times and other titles, then by launching an iPad-only newspaper, and now with a rather impressive new iPad app for Sky News.
The application goes further than anything I've seen so far in delivering a television news service crafted for a tablet computer. You can watch live TV, choose on-demand videos, even spool back during a live event to see what you've missed.
Then there are interactive graphics, text articles and photos to give more background on the top stories of the day. What it doesn't do is breadth of coverage - if you want to know all about events in Japan, you will find a wealth of material. But try to find what's happening in, say, business or technology, and you'd be better off heading elsewhere.
Sky News boss John Ryley certainly wasn't underselling the app, which is the result of a year's work and substantial investment. "It's one of the biggest developments since our launch 20 years ago," he said at the London launch. And, like Rupert Murdoch, he was starry-eyed about the potential of the iPad: "We believe that tablets are the future of news consumption."
But here's the big question, with this and the other Murdoch news innovations - will consumers pay for them? The Sky News app will be free at first - and will remain so for Sky's 10 million customers. But for anyone else, that will soon change: "This is a premium product and we will be charging for it," says John Ryley. How much, he did not say, but the chatter is that it will be in the region of £5 a month.
Sky bosses seem confident that people will be prepared to pay. When I questioned whether there was any evidence of consumers paying for television news anywhere in the world, they pointed to their premium HD News channel which, they say, has attracted plenty of paying customers, although there were no numbers forthcoming.
But across the Murdoch empire - of which Sky News may soon be a distant cousin - the evidence that paywalls are working is still hazy. Last November we heard that just over 100,000 people were paying online for The Times, though how much and how often wasn't clear.
As for The Daily, Murdoch's iPad pride and joy has been free since its launch in the United States last month, but faces what a News Corp executive calls its "moment of truth" next week when readers start having to shell out 99 cents a week for access. The fact that the paywall has been raised weeks later than originally planned does not suggest a whole lot of confidence.
And elsewhere the early enthusiasm about the iPad being the future of news and publishing seems to be fading. A number of magazines have seen a lot of excitement around their first iPad editions, but then fading interest as the months go by.
I'm sure plenty of people will want to play with the very impressive Sky News app - and it should encourage other news organisations to up their game in this area. Perhaps it will prove to be the future of news, as its creators claim. But it may end up as just another app, battling with Angry Birds for the attention of consumers who have shown that little impresses them for long.