Newspaper Plans to Give Free iPads to Subscribers

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Montreal, Canada-based newspaper La Presse unveiled a plan today to offer a free iPad to readers of the paper who sign up for subscription terms of at least three years, according to Projetj.ca. The offer is part of the so-called “Plan iPad” of newspaper president and editor Guy Crevier, which details the publication’s strategy over the next three to five years.

The newspaper plans to invests around $25 million into the iPad plan, which also calls for an increasing shift toward digital and away from traditional paper distribution. Crevier has been bolstering the paper’s digital expertise with hires and technology investment in recent months, with the ultimate aim of going digital-only. Crevier reportedly looks to The Daily as a model of the future of the newspaper industry.

Crevier’s plan is to provide free iPads to subscribers within three years. A one-year subscription to the print edition of La Presse will cost you around $20 per month, or about $235. That means that three years, if pricing remains the same, will cost you around $690. Assuming La Presse is planning to offer the baseline 16 GB Wi-Fi model iPad as its free device (or whatever replaces that in three years’ time), it’ll be making about $160 per three-year subscription not including shipping costs, taxes, etc. But it could also choose to offer buyers a discounted deal on hardware with cheaper subscriptions, and absorb some of the cost of each device itself, buffering the financial blow with alternate revenue sources.

If La Presse continues to sell ad space for its new iPad-specific edition (which it almost certainly will, especially if it’s using The Daily as a benchmark), the newspaper could still stand to make quite a bit of money. Ad revenue is where print publications really see profit, anyways, with subscriptions barely covering distribution costs in most existing revenue models. Plus, distribution and publication costs will ultimately be reduced with digital-only publication.

It’s a model that seems to stand a good chance of incentivizing newspaper subscriptions, but it doesn’t address concerns surrounding the quality of digital newspaper content, and the ongoing inability of publications to keep iPad readers interested. Even if La Presse and other publications can hook readers with by dangling free iPads, it still needs them to keep opening the app and turning the virtual pages to land and maintain lucrative advertising partnerships.

What do you think? Would a free iPad convince you to renew that lapsed newspaper subscription, and if so, only under what circumstances and conditions?

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