Monday, July 11, 2011 at 10:01 am.

Philadelphia newspapers to sell discounted Android tablets with digital subscriptions

The Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily News will soon start selling discounted Android tablets with their apps built in, aiming to make up for the subsidy through digital subscriptions.

AdWeek’s Lucia Moses reports:

The deal lets the Philadelphia papers keep all the revenue and the consumer data, though, which will give it a read on how people consume newspaper content on a tablet. [...]

Pricing and device details haven’t been pinned down, but the idea is for the tablet and newspaper content combined to be half off their full retail price. (Right now, the papers’ digital editions each cost $2.99 a week.)

The tablets will also include “advertising e-commerce units” on their home screens, AdWeek says.

This is a bold and interesting bet. If people are interested in the tablets, it could help drive the switch to paid digital subscriptions — while keeping all of the subscription revenue and all the user data in-house. And if this really takes off, it could eventually reduce the cost of printing and delivering the paper (which is significant).

In the meantime:

  • Will the subsidies be enough to get people interested in Android tablets? So far, they haven’t been — Apple’s iPad 2 is still the only tablet that matters.
  • What happens if people stop paying for their digital newspaper subscription? Does the Philadelphia newspaper company have to start doing credit checks and charging early-termination fees? What happens if you move?
  • Will these be name-brand Android tablets like the Samsung Galaxy Tab or Motorola Xoom? Or will they be off-brand tablets? (If so, will they be as technically or physically impressive?) Will there be a place to try them out before buying?
  • Which version of Android do they run? Will they support the rest of Android’s features, such as its app store?
  • Does Google approve of this? Is Google involved in the project? Who built the software behind this?
  • Would Apple ever roll out a platform like this for media companies? If this idea shows any traction, maybe it should. But I can think of a zillion reasons Apple wouldn’t. (Which I’ll explore another time.)