As I write about in my book, newspapers are having a tough time of it in the digital age. It’s hard to make a profit in old established ways and publishers are scratching their heads over how to keep readers from drifting away into new technologies. The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette is the latest to come up with a plan to save itself as its circulation and advertising revenues decline. If readers will pay the current subscription rate of $36 a month, they will get a free iPad to view a digital version.
Walter Hussman, the paper’s publisher, explained it all to the Hope, Arkansas, Rotary Club, according to the Associated Press, where he said the paper’s daily pages will be available with “an easy-to-use” app than can be downloaded on the tablet.
The 200 year old paper, headquartered in Little Rock with 106 newsroom employees, has been running at a loss for the last two years. By the end of this year, only a Sunday edition will be circulated in print form. The iPad is a gamble, but in a test in Blytheville (population 14,000) 70 percent of the 200 subscribers there converted and even a new subscriber was picked up.
Two other publications have tried versions of tablets, according to the Poynter Institute for Media Studies. The Philadelphia Inquirer sold Android tablets to readers for $100 in 2011 if they would subscribe to the paper for two years at $9.99 a month. The Montreal, Canada, La Presse began a free tablet app in 2013 and eventually discontinued printing a daily edition. Since then, the paper has morphed into a nonprofit organization.
So, it goes!