Are Tablets, and Murdoch’s The Daily, Media Game Changers: CORRECTED

Yesterday, I attended the DeSilva + Phillips Media Dealmakers Summit. There was a lot of talk about tablets and Rupert Murdoch’s launch of The Daily during the morning. Normally, I hound these conferences for PE and banking sources, but the conversation was so interesting that I will share with you.

Andrew Edgecliffe-Johnson, the Financial Times media editor (who was subbing for WSJ’s Walt Mossberg who was sick), asked panelists whether “tablets and e-readers are the future of media.” The question generated some interesting responses.

“Yes,” said George Colony, Forrester Research’s chairman and CEO. “These devices are the nexus of future media.”

John Ridding, the FT’s CEO, agreed that tablets are a game changer and a “very powerful business tool.” “You don’t need a cupboard or a kit [of devices],” he added. “You just need a tablet.”

Ridding also said that mobile devices are driving 20% of the FT’s new weekly subscriptions. The FT, in fact, has scored over 600,000 downloads of its iPhone app, which isn’t slowing down, he said.

However, Vivian Schiller, CEO of NPR,  isn’t all gaga about tablets. NPR content, she said, is “aggressively deployed” on tablets and is also on e-readers and the HTML Internet. “The tablet is an incredibly important piece,” she said. “But it will never replace smaller, mobile devices.”

Colony, of Forrester, shocked some in the audience when he said that “the emerging model is app Internet. We think the Web is dead technology. It’s not the future of media architecture.”

He also thinks e-reader devices are dead. NPR‘s Schiller said she loves e-readers but admitted that NPR isn’t on them. See Folio’s take.

The conversation then turned to The Daily, the iPad daily newspaper launched by News Corp. and Apple. Edgecliffe-Johnson asked the Dealmakers audience how many had downloaded The Daily on Wednesday (the first day of its launch). Several, maybe 10 people, raised their hand.

“How many downloaded it today?” Edgecliffe-Johnson said. Only one person, that I could see, raised their hand.

FT‘s Edgecliffe-Johnson asked the audience, which was filled with print and private equity executives (plus investment bankers), if The Daily was the future of the media. “We will look at this as a major jump forward,” Colony of Forrester said.

But the FT’s Ridding disagreed. “No,” he said. “In a very crowded media market, The Daily is a new title.”

Ridding also believes that Murdoch was “very timid” on The Daily’s pricing. Subscribers pay 99 cents a week, or $39.99 a year. Young people, Ridding said, haven’t had to pay for news. “Why should they?” he said. “You need to have a business model that would require them to pay.” Later, Ridding told me that he believes “good journalism is worth paying for,” but he wouldn’t say how much he would charge for The Daily.

Schiller, of NPR, said the newspaper has a fatal flaw. The Daily, which claims to provide the best news experience, doesn’t bother to provide updates to readers. “Unless they change that I don’t want to read it,” she said.

(CORRECTION: John Ridding’s name was misspelled in the original version of this story.)