To survive, a newspaper is giving away free iPads to subscribers

To survive, a newspaper is giving away free iPads to subscribers
The explosive growth in screen usage (PCs, smartphones, and tablets) has led the newspaper industry to become a dying business. Who wants to get ink-stained hands reading news that starts on one page and concludes on another? Those newspapers that have survived did so by being able to bring their print subscribers over to their online editions. Those papers that didn't adapt to the new realities ended up closing.

9to5Mac reports that the Chattanooga Times Free Press has an interesting plan in mind to get print subscribers to switch to the online edition. Starting tomorrow, the paper's publisher will give some print-edition subscribers a free iPad and the digital edition of the newspaper. The plan, according to the publisher, is to move subscribers over from print to online over time thus reducing the cost of printing and delivering the newspaper.

Newspaper to give away free iPads to get print subscribers to switch to the digital edition

The goal is to end the print edition of the Chattanooga Times Free Press by the middle of next year. The publisher is spending $4.4 million on the tablets to hand out and an additional $1.7 million to help the paper's readers make the transition from paper to glass screen. Some of the current subscribers to the print edition have no idea how to use an iPad and subscribers will have one-on-one training sessions at home, in hotel meeting rooms, and in community centers to learn how to use the device. 

The cost of a subscription to the paper is $34 a month and while the paper hasn't announced which version of the tablet will be given out, you know that it won't be the iPad Pro. In fact, you can expect that the entry-level iPad will be the model given to subscribers.

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 The publisher of the Chattanooga Times Free Press, Walter E. Hussman Jr., says, "If we didn't do this, we wouldn't be able to continue to publish the kind of paper we publish in Chattanooga. We wouldn't be able to cover as many meetings. We wouldn't be able to serve as the watchdog function we serve as a vital journalistic Fourth Estate institution.

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Hussman Jr. adds, "For us to do this, we can keep our newsroom basically intact. It's the way for us to maintain good, quality journalism and fulfill our function." He has acknowledged that newspapers are losing advertising revenue to Google and Facebook, but it is more than just that. He also

Newspapers are not so great at handling breaking news. In the past, when newspapers were the most popular way for news to be disseminated, big-city papers would publish several editions a day with top stories updated. A major event, like the assassination of JFK, would call for special editions. But with websites and apps from major news outlets like CNN, NBC, CBS, ABC, the AP, Reuters, and The New York Times, updates are passed along often in real-time.

The publisher says it was a choice between ending the print edition or laying off staff

The digital edition of the Chattanooga Times Free Press will look like a replica of the print edition on the iPad screen but will offer additional features. When the publisher is done with this promotion, the Sunday edition will be the only printed version of the paper remaining. The publisher said that he had a choice between cutting the size of the news staff or cutting the cost of printing and distributing the paper by ending six days of publication.

Publisher Hussman Jr. explains that "We really thought about it and we thought, you know, wouldn't it be a lot better if we could give people the exact same news product and advertising product in the exact same format, but do it digitally, instead of in print? If we did, we could eliminate a lot of production costs, a lot of distribution costs and a lot of newsprint expenses."

It isn't clear how long a person is locked into subscribing to the paper in order to receive the free iPad. It should be noted that a 12-month subscription to the paper is $408 if paid for monthly. The entry-level iPad starts at $329.

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