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Philadelphia Media Network picks the wrong tablet and plan

September 14, 2011
The sign above the entrance to The Philadelphi...

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The owners of the Philadelphia Inquirer and Philadelphia Daily News in less than nine months have made two decisions that defy understanding.

One: Hiring blowhard and buffoon Larry Platt to be the Editor of the Daily News.

Two: Taking a great idea to sell Android-based tablets pre-loaded with Inky and Daily News content and figuring out how make it a stupid deal.

We’ll ignore the first point, since others have said it better – The Burning Question of Larry Platt Becoming Editor and Changes at the Daily News under magnifying glass.

As for the second, I love newspapers and newspaper journalists. I think both do a far better job of digging deep and wider on issues affecting the public than broadcast news, in all its forms, can ever accomplish.

What they can’t do very well is make money. So when I heard that the daily news was considering offering pre-loaded Android tablets it sounded like a very novel approach to recreating the newspaper in today’s tech-laden image. So then what’s the problem?

I hate the tablet, an Archos Arnova 10 GS, a manufacturer and model no one has heard of before running an operating system designed for smartphones. More importantly, if you already have an iPad, Android tablet, Blackberry Playbook or HP TouchPad, why would you want another one? You just want the app to run on your own tablet. And if you don’t have one of the semi-pricey aforementioned, there are plenty of good second-tier reasonably priced tablet options better than the French-designed, Korean-built Archos.

So why did Philadelphia Media Network waste time marrying their news apps to a crappy knock-off tablet in the first place? No one is interested in the hardware, we just want access to your info. And I’m perfectly happy to subscribe to it, just make it on par with your printed and Kindle subscriptions, keep it updated to the second, allow easy searching and don’t make the advertising intrusive on the news. The actual device you read it on should be an afterthought.

Although, if you’re going to offer a device, why not cut a deal with a notable manufacturer on a model (and pricing plan) that isn’t roundly panned in the tech and journalism world?

Ok, there’s exactly one reason why this deal makes sense, if you believe tablets can replace the printed paper, if you believe there are many who would be interested in this new form of news delivery but can’t afford a tablet that currently range in price from $300-700, if you believe advertisers will see the value in this, if you believe you can deliver a true “paper replacement” on the tab, and if you think success here will spur other tablet owners to subscribe via their high-end models, then this deal makes some sense.

However, that’s a lot of “ifs.”

I’m pretty sure what’s going to happen is Philadelphia Media Network is going to be left with a ton of leftover third-rate tablets. In which case, there’s still time to fire Larry Platt.

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