Part of the newspaper's great loss could be part of their future.
The newspaper is a social institution before it is a commercial one, and it has been losing ground at record speed in the last several years. Part of it is from the lack of need for classified sections, the addition of blogs, the change in advertising revenue, and generally a shift in the way that people consume media. This means that the social function of the newspaper has had trouble jumping over to new platforms with the same resources and integrity that they have already have, but they are shining pretty big to a few new mobile platforms.
Tablets, the iPad, and e-book readers may have been the God send that the newspaper industry really needed. Devices like the iPad are perfectly designed to host a newspaper, whether through their update with Safari Reader to tap into them from their website or through actual subscriptions with iBooks. In general, the tablet is the best digital resource for reading a newspaper because it nearly matches the size and adds the portability that makes the newspaper so key. Now the idea has been tossed around about making a tablet the primary source for these publications.
In a similar way to AT&T and Verizon's subsidy for the iPhone with a new contract, a few newspapers are now considering subsidizing an Android tablet with a subscription. AdWeek has now posted that the Philadelphia Daily News and the Philadelphia Enquirer are both planning to offer discounts on Android tablets with a subscription to their paper. The process would work somewhat different than just buying a new Android tablet as they would have customized it in the direction of the publications. The apps for those papers would be on the home screen, as well as other periodical based apps. You would also get brief pop up adds on the tablet itself, and now just within the apps. In general, this would present you with a tablet that ran like a digital newspaper for much cheaper than it would normally be.
Since most Android tablets cost around $500 dollars, and it has been suggested that customers may get as much as half off, then this seems somewhat significant. You would get the subsidy when subscribing for both of them, which is about $6 per month. This is a consistent payment going out to the paper, but they really assume that most people will stick with it once they have purchased the Android and this will be a long term boost to sales. The Philadelphia Media Group, who owns both publications, would then get the money from this transaction and be able to access what they list as the "consumer research." What this is in reality is all the information about what you do with their papers, such as what you read and what ads you click on. There's no telling about whether or not this would mean that they could go ahead and sell this customer research to advertising firms, or violate your privacy in other ways.
There is really a lot up in the air about this decision, mainly about whether or not it will be lucrative. It still seem possible for users to get the Android for cheaper, strip it of all newspaper content, and stop paying the subscription. It serves to reason that you may have to sign a two year subscription, but that is still not where the money is coming from primarily. Newspapers really live on ads, and without users actually sitting through those ads on their Android tablet then the money is going to dwindle. More than this, it is unclear how much those tablet placed ads are really going for in this market. In general, they are trying to draw out the older crowd that may not purchase a tablet on their own, but it's hard to say whether this will be enough of a draw to coerce older users to actually pick up such a new piece of technology.
If it works for the Philadelphia Media Group then you can expect to see similar options coming, and likely directing itself toward popular e-book readers like the Amazon Kindle and the Barnes and Noble Nook. Since these devices remain much more popular than tablets then it makes sense for them to start gearing in this direction, especially with their appeal to older demographics. The one place this is unlikely to hit is the iPad since its share of the tablet market remains so significant, and their dealers so limited, that Apple can set its own terms.