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Chicago Los Angeles Tribune

Tired of printing papers? Give your readers a tablet PC!


By Noel Young, Correspondent

November 1, 2011 | 4 min read

One of America's most famous papers is effectively giving away a tablet computer to readers willing to pay a year's subscription up front for its news service .

Philadelphia Inquirer, delivered digitally

The paper is the Philadelphia Inquirer. Customers buy the French-made Arnova 10 G2 tablet tablet at the newspaper HQ, at mobile kiosks or via the Internet. The tablet is preloaded with apps for the Inquirer, its sister paper the tabloid Daily News, and

It costs $285 to get the tablet with the Daily News and Inquirer apps good for a year. That's a bargain. Home delivery of the print Inquirer is $316 a year and the Arnova sells for $220 or more: total $536.

The digitised Inquirer and News can be downloaded each morning in a couple of minutes. It looks just like the newspaper, in miniature on the Arnova's 10-inch screen. Readers turn pages with a swipe of the finger.

The Los Angeles Times has been running a rule over this experiment, which it describes as "audacious". Its owners are thinking of offering a tablet for the Times and Chicago Tribune next year.

The Times says of the Philadelphia initiatve ,"It's admirable, and about time, to see a newspaper company reaching aggressively for new customers. Too many other print publications have dawdled while their core audience moved to their free websites or slipped away entirely."

But after a few days' trial there is a reservation : the Times says the Philadelphians are "not creating enough pop — via breaking news or unique, tabletised features — to build a substantial new beachhead in the fragmenting media landscape."

Publisher Gregory Osberg at the Sept. 12 tablet launch, predicted that the first batch of 5,000 tablets would sell out in a week. Today about half have been sold.

"In the exuberance of the promotion, I got a little bit carried away," says Osberg. But he believes the the venture "will be profitable within two years."

Osberg was brought in last year by new owners to the post-bankruptcy Philly papers, which have made big staff cuts.

He said the tablet was just one part of his strategy which includes, including revamped print editions and four paid applications each for the smartphone and the iPad.

The company now offers smartphone features on local sports teams , along with its main content and a site for young night life. Other digital offerings,at $1.99 and up, are in the pipeline.

"We are working toward the tipping point when digital revenue will exceed print revenue and digital users will exceed print readers," Osberg told the LA Times . "When that will occur is the million-dollar question. If you don't start working on it, it will never happen."

One reader, lawyer John Nixon, 48, , was enthusiastic. "Now it feels like getting the paper delivered, but in a different fashion. It's been straightforward and pretty easy to use."

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