Philly Newspapers To Offer Low-Priced Android Tablet
The lines between technology companies and publishers are getting blurrier every day. Now there is a surprising announcement from the Philadelphia Media Group, which publishes The Philadelphia Inquirer and the Philadelphia Daily News, that it will be marketing a relatively cheap tablet-style reader using Google's Android operating system to readers beginning later this year.
PMG CEO Greg Osberg revealed the plans for a proprietary tablet during a speech to PMG employees, according to the newspapers' joint Web site Philly.com, which quoted him as promising it would "break ground in the industry, which has been struggling to maintain revenues as consumers gradually shift their reading preferences from print publications to computers, smartphones and other digital devices."
Also per Philly.com, Osberg said the tablets will be "deeply discounted" and will come pre-installed with four applications for reading news and viewing other news-related content from the newspapers. Subscription sales to the newspapers will also be discounted.
The plan to bundle discounted devices with discounted subscriptions is meant to target "younger readers, who don't have an iPad and are cost-conscious" according to Ken Doctor, a newspaper analyst with Outsell Inc.
From the consumer side, the deal presents a way to get a multi-use tablet (compatible with the full range of media apps, not just the Philadelphia papers) for significantly less than competing models, Doctor added. The new devices will launch with a beta test in August, to be followed by a full-scale launch in November -- probably on "Black Friday" after Thanksgiving.
Like many other newspaper publishers, the Philly newspapers are also poised to introduce Apple iOS apps that will be available in the app store in the next month or so.
As noted, this isn't the first time a content producer has ventured into consumer electronics territory.
In 2010 Hearst Corp. invested in Skiff, a company founded to create both hardware and software for consuming content across a variety of devices, which was later bought by News Corp. The Skiff e-reader won praise for its large, thin "e-Paper" touchscreen (a quarter-inch thin, 11.5-inches on the diagonal) and high resolution.
Retailers Amazon and Barnes & Noble have both sold substantial numbers of their own proprietary e-readers. According to various analyst estimates, Amazon's Kindle sold about 5.4 million units in 2010 and could sell as many as 16 million in 2011, although it faces growing competition from Barnes & Noble's Nook, which recently introduced color displays. Barnes & Noble shipped about three million units of the Nook Color in the last quarter of 2010 and first quarter of 2011.