Newspaper Publishers Still Hope Tablets Will Save Them

The NYT, WSJ and USA Today, are building special tablet-y apps for Samsung's Galaxy Tab, hoping to easily port the app over to other Android tablets. And the WSJ, knowing its core audience, wants all up on the BlackBerry PlayBook.

There's a bit of tit-for-tat going on, the WSJ reports, saying that "In some cases, device makers are talking about advertising their devices in certain publications, in exchange for publishers agreeing to build an application for them." In other words, tablet makers need content for their devices, so they're offering to indirectly pay publishers to build apps. And publishers need money as ad revenues have shrunk, which is why they're looking to tablets for salvation in the first place.

According to the WSJ, the NYT app will be pre-loaded on "certain" Galaxy Tabs—maybe on one carrier versus another, since it's coming to all four major carriers in the US—and it'll be free through the end of the year, just like the full-blown app when it hits the iPad by the end of this year. Currently, the NYT Editor's Choice app for iPad only offers a limited selection of articles, because of its relatively short development time. The full app, which we hear is going to be a lot like the current Times Reader on the desktop when it launches in a couple months, will start costing money next year. (If it launches soon on the iPad, it'll probably work like the WSJ's current subscription-required iPad app, not like the mag subscriptions Apple is negotiating over right now.)

There's still a long way to go for publishers and tablets when it comes to replacing good print. Publishers need to wring more money out of digital content—via ads, subscriptions, whatever—but they also need to deliver more compelling experiences at the same time. It's somewhat crazy to me that, as much as I love magazines, my favorite reading experience on the iPad is still Instapaper, which is basically straightforward text. [WSJ]