The owner of Philadelphia's two major newspapers is offering discounted tablet computers in an effort to attract more digital subscribers.
Philadelphia Media Network, which owns The Philadelphia Inquirer, Philadelphia Daily News and Philly.com, says it is the first major news company in the nation to offer such a package to consumers.
Publisher Gregory Osberg said the pilot project will offer 5,000 tablets running Google's Android operating system for $99 to customers who buy a two-year digital subscription, which costs $9.99 a month for both newspapers. The 10-inch 4GB tablet is $129 with the purchase of a one-year digital subscription at $12.99 a month.
A new website, phillytablet.com, has information about how to purchase the tablet and subscription package; the newspapers' downtown Philadelphia headquarters will have tablets in the lobby for potential buyers to test out. Orders are being filled by electronics retailer TigerDirect, which also will provide customer assistance and technical support.
"We fully expect them to be sold in the first week," Osberg said Monday.
The Arnova 10 G2 wireless tablets will be offered first-come, first-served and come pre-loaded with apps that offer page-by-page replicas of each paper's print edition, a philly.com app and an Inquirer app made for Android. The different versions are included to cover the variety of formats that consumers use when reading news, Osberg said.
"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," Osberg said. "Our goal is to be the most innovative company in the industry."
The Wi-Fi-only tablet, made by French consumer electronics company Archos, offers email and web access, high-definition video playback, video chat and all the other functions that regular tablets have, Osberg said. Daily versions of the newspaper can be either manually or automatically downloaded based on user preference.
The deep discount is possible through financial sponsorships with cable giant Comcast Corp., financial services firm Wells Fargo & Co. and regional hospital network Main Line Health. The companies did not release information on how much funding was provided to the venture.
The Arnova 10 G2 was just released in Hong Kong but isn't yet available in the U.S. retail market, so no official price tag has been released. Earlier versions have sold for around $150 to $200.
If the initial "beta test" phase with 5,000 tablets proves successful, the second phase will begin the day after Thanksgiving _ Black Friday, the unofficial start of the holiday shopping season _ with pricing structure and number of tablets available to be determined.
"We're going to be doing focus groups and surveys with the first group to get feedback about what they think," Osberg said. "Then we'll decide how to continue."