A Free Digital Device With Your News Subscription?

Will your new news subscription mean a free computer tablet. It's part of the digital thinking at the Tribune Company.Where we get our news and the tactics news outlets may use is leading to some intriguing possibilities. How about a free Android-based tablet for the cost of a subscription to the Chicago Tribune?

News organizations are exploring a variety of new business models, including pay walls – charging to view all or some content online. The New York Times has received a ton of attention with its new pay-to-view model, for example.

“Other newspapers are watching us and hoping that it works,” Martin Nisenholtz, head of digital operations at the New York Times, told The Economist in a lengthy article about the future of the news industry.

“Since it put up its paywall, visits to the paper’s site have dropped by about 10 percent and page views by about 20 percent. But more people than expected are signing up,” the Economist reported.

Another new source of digital revenue is charging for content on mobile devices such as smartphones and tablet computers, The Economist added. Now, CNN reports 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.

“The 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,” says CNN writer Mark Millan.

Internally, Tribune executives appear split on whether this particular digital strategy will work, the CNN story said. “But many media analysts say the economics of digital publishing on subsidized tablets appears to be sound given the expense of printing newspapers, especially with ever-rising ink prices,” said CNN.

The real trick for news organizations to sort out is just who is willing to pay to view content – individuals or their employers? Free news feeds via Facebook are one thing, but what about the need for comprehensive news access on the job? That’s an emerging issue in the PR department and for other hungry consumers of news as old models of news distribution fall away.

Links: Newspaper giant Tribune Co. developing tablet device