Philly Newspapers Hope Cheap Tablets Will Help Sell Digital Subscriptions

The Philadelphia Daily News and Philadelphia Inquirer plan to start offering discounted tablet computers to customers, beginning in late August. The Android-based tablets will come with apps that let customers read the digital editions of the papers, and the price will include a one-to-two-year subscription to the paid digital offerings.

Publisher and CEO Greg Osberg said the tablets will be sold at a discount of more than 50 percent of their retail price. He said the move will be the first for an industry that has experienced a decline in print sales and advertising revenues as customers shift to online content.

First of all we wanted to preserve paid content. There are a lot of media companies that are offering up apps now — whether Apple apps or Android apps, they’re free. And that was a trap we didn’t want to fall into because the print world fell into that trap when the Internet was created because we all gave our content away for free.So the main thing was we wanted to preserve paid content on any platform that we go forward with.

Osberg did not reveal the brand of tablets, or any details on pricing packages, which he said are still being determined. He confirmed that the project will launch as a small beta test with a few thousand customers, and that the full launch would likely come in time for Black Friday in November.

The tablets, based on the Android operating system, will come preloaded with four apps: one for each of the two newspapers, one for the Inquirer that will include additional content, and one for philly.com, the website shared by the two newspapers.

The initiative is designed to shore up finances nearly a year after the Philadelphia Media Network bought the papers at a bankruptcy auction for $139 million. Osberg, a former publisher of Newsweek, has been pledging digital initiatives since taking over the papers and websites last fall.

Philadelphia newspaper group to launch Android tablet [Video] [LA Times]