Is There Hope For the Tribune Tablet?

Source: cnet

The truth about humans is that we don’t know what we want. We make fun of things when they are first released and then come swarming around the product, selling out stores everywhere a few months later. That’s why, when customers say that the last thing they need is another tablet, I don’t cringe that much.

According to CNN, “The Tribune Co., one of the largest U.S. news enterprises, is working on a touchscreen tablet that it plans to offer to newspaper subscribers”. CNN writer Mark Milan writes, “The tablet is expected to run a modified version of Google’s Android operating system,” and “Tribune aims to offer the tablet for free, or at a highly subsidized price, to people who agree to sign up for extended subscriptions to one of its papers and possibly a wireless-data plan with a partner cellular carrier”.

This isn’t news to me though. In fact, I might be bias to the whole thing. I’ve been telling newspaper publishers to give away tablets to subscribers even before the iPad came out. In fact, I had the same thoughts when the Amazon Kindle first came out back in 2007:

At $399, Amazon’s Kindle is a bit pricey for all but the most avid early adopters. But if the newspaper publishers themselves bought the devices, and gifted them to subscribers, they would save a fortune on the materials, manufacture and delivery of the traditional, physical newspaper product. An Amazon Kindle in the hands of every newspaper subscriber would pay for itself in short order.

The publishers that control the medium — in this case, the wireless delivery system and reading device — will survive the media wars.

And isn’t it still the truth? Now that the iPad has emerged and we’re seeing magazines do fairly well with digital subscriptions, it’s still up to newspapers to perfect their medium. Would the Kindle work? Sure, but it’s not as advantageous as building a device specifically for your publication. A free digital reading device with a newspaper subscription? That would give someone like myself, a Digital Native, something to think about.

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Still though, you’ll find naysayers across the web. Tim Carmody from Wired pleads, “For the love of God, please stop trying to make your own tablets,” in an article that calls in the “Media Death March”.

Not without good reason though; Carmody reminds publishers, “Hardware is hard. It’s hard to develop, it’s hard to design, it’s hard to find partners, it’s hard to source parts, it’s hard to build, it’s hard to get working, it’s hard to keep costs down and it’s extraordinarily hard at the end of that process to produce something popular. The great hardware manufacturers of our time, like Sony, Samsung or Apple, are great for a reason. Most companies should count themselves lucky if they ever ship anything at all.”  I mean, even Mike Arrington couldn’t do it.

At the same time, we haven’t seen a newspaper try to make such a major change in their delivery format.

There are still reasons why I’d tend to worry. First, there hasn’t been an ounce of interest in the story since it broke on August 11th. Second, there is almost no search traffic related to the device. Third, there is no buzz to be found anywhere… not Twitter, not Quora, not LinkedIn.. Nowhere.

Perhaps that’s a clear message to newspaper publishers. Or perhaps people are waiting for confirmed stories of a tablet before they go haywire about it.

What do you think? Would you subscribe to a newspaper that came with it’s own tablet?


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