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Philadelphia newspapers plan to sell subsidized Android tablets

by Morgan Phelps

In the ongoing struggle to grow newspaper readership in the digital age, there is one new way to ensure your content lands in the hands of readers: Sell them a discounted tablet with newspapers preloaded on it.

Philadelphia Media Network, the publisher of the Philadelphia Inquirer and Philadelphia Daily News, has announced plans to sell discounted Android tablets preloaded with the Philly.com app and digital versions of the two newspapers. There will also be icons on the home screen of the tablets taking users directly to digital replicas of the print publications.

The effort will cost PMN about six figures, but will provide the publisher with data on how consumers are interacting with the tablet version of the newspapers, according to Adweek. The publisher plans to release 2,000 such tablets into the market in late August, although a price and brand for the device has yet to be determined.

The effort is being described as one of the most advanced by a publisher in the “tabletization” market. “No one in the U.S. has bundled the device with content,” PMN CEO and Publisher Greg Osberg said. “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.”

It seems the Philadelphia media house is headed in a right direction, as 28.2 percent of respondents to a recent survey by Prosper Mobile Insights said they have replaced their newspaper with a smartphone or tablet. Additionally, a Harrison Group survey discovered last year that tablet users spend almost 75 percent more time than non-users reading newspapers and newspaper articles.

After a fuller launch later this year, PMN plans to push its efforts even further in the future by offering tablets with specific and varied content built in to appeal to male, female and other specific audience groups. Before jumping onto such a pricey initiative, other publishers are likely to sit back and see the results of Philadelphia’s efforts in this experimental space.