Newspaper group subsidizes Android tablets to gain readers

byNicole Martinelli
Jul 11, 2011 in Digital Journalism

A U.S. news organization is banking on the tabloid computer craze to boost circulation and win reader loyalty.

The Philadelphia Media Network announced July 11 that in addition to local news it will also peddle "deeply discounted" Android tablet computers pre-loaded with four apps, including digital versions of its two newspapers, The Inquirer and the Daily News, as well as additional content from The Inquirer and the Philly.com website.

“No one in the U.S. has bundled the device with content,” Greg Osberg, Philadelphia Media Network CEO told Adweek. “We want to gain significant market share in this area, and we want to learn about consumer behavior. Our goal is to be the most innovative media company in the United States.”

The difficulties of that plan are soon evident: in the press release touting the initiative, the company mentions how Apple's iPad has led the charge of consumers to tablets. However, not only can they not offer iPads but they won't even name the brand they plan to offer.

The no-name tablet on offer "perform similarly to the iPad" using "Google's Android operating system...which measures about 7.5 by 10.5 inches and weighs about 1.5 pounds and sell for $300 to $800." The 2,000 or so offered in the pilot program launching in August are expected to retail for half price.

Readers who buy into the deal also have to accept that the paper will keep all of their consumer data and track their reading habits to improve content.

What do readers have to say about it?

"So this is the new "news paper" I like the digital media, but paying for it turns me off," comments a reader called westphillyguy on the Inquirer website. "The Internet should be a source of free flowing information."

Is this a brilliant idea or desperate two-for-one on products no one really wants?