Editorial: Philly Media Empire Takes Step in Right Direction

By: Jeff Fleming

Philadelphia Media Network’s move to market a “deeply discounted” tablet, bundled with applications delivering content from The Philadelphia Inquirer and the Philadelphia Daily News is enterprising to say the least. Digital media is the future, and PN’s strategy may coax older generations into an accelerated introduction to touchscreen technology.  

In an interview with AdWeek, CEO and publisher Greg Osberg said, “No one in the U.S. has bundled the device with content. 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.”  

A lofty goal, but Osberg backs it with a digital plan that just may work.  

Beginning this month, 2,000 of the Android-powered tablets will be shipped as part of a pilot program, with a full-scale launch anticipated in November. The company has not yet said what it will charge for the devices, but digital subscriptions to the Inquirer and Daily News will likely cost $2.99 per week. Ad space will be available on the home screen of the tablets, adding another revenue stream for the media company. And, of course, the tablets will be tied to Philly.com, the online portal for the two newspapers.  

This groundbreaking strategy enables the company to increase subscriptions, expand advertising opportunities, build loyal readership, and gather valuable customer data, which will shed light on how readers consume information on the tablet.  

But the benefits don’t have to stop there. If PN handles its app strategy correctly, the ancillary effect of increased reader engagement could be the backbone of a sustainable, long-term business model. With the help of consumer data collected from the tablets, the newspapers can invite readers to become part of the Philly news scene and encourage them to participate by sharing information and opinions. Readers who follow local sports could be tapped to contribute commentary and share feedback about the Phillies, Eagles, or even high school games. Readers with interests in arts and culture could share photos and videos of shows and events. Local content generated by local readers keeps newspapers relevant with their subscribers as well as their advertisers.  

PN’s tablet strategy is a significant step to creating an enthusiastic and devoted community of Philadelphia readers. When subscribers become active contributors of local news as it happens, there will be more time and resources for journalists to write in-depth enterprise stories and well-researched analysis features.  

Philadelphia Media Network is in good company when it comes to offering discounted devices with discounted subscriptions. Amazon lists its ad-supported Kindle device at the top of its best selling electronics list, suggesting that buyers are tolerant when it comes to sponsored content, at least if it comes with a discounted device.  

Let us hope that Philadelphia Media Network’s bold experiment lays the groundwork for other papers to follow and succeed.

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Published: August 30, 2011

3 thoughts on “Editorial: Philly Media Empire Takes Step in Right Direction

  • August 30, 2011 at 10:41 am
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    I think the bundling aspect is a great marketing approach that hopefully will pay dividends in several categories. However, I take exception with the statement, “Digital media is the future”. It’s PART of the future but we’re a far cry from that being a valid statement. Digital partnering with print and vice-versa, that is the future.

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  • August 30, 2011 at 3:33 pm
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    Keith, Thank you for your comment and insight. You make a good point and you’re right, print/digital partnering will play a key role in the future — and subscription prices, production costs and ad revenue will determine how large a role each will play.

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  • September 6, 2011 at 6:52 pm
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    Great coverage Jeff. I liked your advice on building reader engagement. I think that will be the most telling statitic of all. If users are reading their tablets making comments, taking real time photos on mobile devices, and tweeting stories you will start seeing the real fruits of this initiative. Exciting time for journalism and could this be to newspapers what the IPhone was to the smartphone industry?

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