Philly Inquirer Sells $99 Tablets with Subscription

Jennifer LeClaire, <a href='http://www.newsfactor.com'>newsfactor.com</a>

The Philadelphia Media Network is coming to market with an interesting twist on subsidizing mobile devices. The owner and publisher of The Philadelphia Inquirer, Philadelphia Daily News, and philly.com is offering deep discounts on a bundled package of digital newspaper subscriptions and an Android tablet.

PMN will offer 5,000 of the 10.1-inch tablets, to include digital subscriptions, or apps, of the Philadelphia Inquirer and philly.com. The Arnova 10 G2 tablet, made by Archos, is selling for a discounted $99, and also comes preloaded with other apps.

"This partnership recognizes that consumers are increasingly utilizing tablets and other highly portable devices for their news, sports and entertainment needs," said Gregory Osberg, PMN publisher and CEO. "We intend to utilize a variety of platforms and methods to reach our customers, ranging from philly.com to traditional hard copy subscriptions, as well as our new digital subscriptions."

Expensive Subscriptions

In order to tap the $99 price tag, consumers have to agree to a two-year digital subscription to The Inquirer and Daily News for $9.99 a month, or they can get the tablet for $129 with a one-year subscription at $12.99 a month. Advertising sponsors like Main Line Health, Comcast and Wells Fargo are helping subsidize the device.

As for the tablet itself, the Arnova 10 G2 is powered by a 1 GHz processor, features a 10.1-inch, 1024x600-pixel capacitive multitouch display, and runs Android 2.3 Gingerbread. It has 4 GB of RAM, Wi-Fi, supports Flash, plays high-definition video up to 1080p, and with an integrated webcam supports video chat with friends and family.

Philadelphia Media Network partnered with TigerDirect to fulfill orders for the tablet and provide customer and technological support for customers. But will consumers agree to lock themselves down to a digital newspaper subscription on a tablet that's not the iPad, even at $99?

Newspaper Life Beyond Paper

"This is an interesting idea and showcases what Amazon could do with book subscriptions and magazine subscriptions when they bring out the Amazon tablet. This is a precursor to what Amazon may be planning," said Rob Enderle, principal analyst at Enderle Group.

As Enderle sees it, the Inquirer's move to subsidize a tablet is a smart one because it breeds consumer loyalty to the tablet and the tablet locks the consumer into the newspaper. It's a win-win for the publisher and the tablet maker.

The potential downside: one newspaper may not be broad enough to make the concept float. In other words, the Inquirer alone may not be enough to ultimately woo consumers to purchase this tablet. But if the tablet maker can do other content deals to further subsidize the product it could become even more attractive.

"Newspapers at their heart are an advertising-driven model, and if you can connect that advertising back to the tablet, then they don't have to go quietly into the night. They have a life on paper," Enderle said. "Newspapers have been tied to the death of paper and therefore they were always seen as a declining resource. These guys are stepping ahead of that to see if they can make it work."