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RIM Adds NewspaperDirect In Bid To Grow News Content On Its PlayBook

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This is a deal that probably should have been signed months ago — before RIM (NSDQ: RIMM) launched its PlayBook tablet — but better late than never, as they say. RIM has a new deal with NewspaperDirect, a distributor of e-editions for more than 2,000 newspapers from 95 countries, for its PressReader app to be preloaded on the PlayBook tablet.

NewspaperDirect says that it already had an app that was distributed on the BlackBerry App World that was optimized for the PlayBook, but preloading on the device will give users a more direct route to accessing the service.

NewspaperDirect is already optimized for and available on a number of e-reading devices such as the Nook and the Sony (NYSE: SNE) Reader, iPad and Android tablets, smartphones and PCs.

It has been able to expand quickly to different platforms because the company takes a decidedly different approach from the one being taken by many newspaper publishers themselves for getting newspaper content on to these devices: rather than creating apps that provide experiences unique to the individual platforms, the newspapers are effectively reproduced as PDFs from the printed files.

That means potentially a significantly less interactive experience than an app but also one that costs less to put on a device. It also makes the content significantly easier for NewspaperDirect to aggregate.

Similarly, while RIM has managed to attract a number of content partners to its QNX platform for the PlayBook, it (like others) is still far from hitting the number that Apple (NSDQ: AAPL) has in terms of developer engagement.

This deal is a quick way of getting “native” content from a number of leading newspapers without having to convince them to create those apps themselves. Papers included in the service are the Chicago Tribune, Daily Mail (LSE: DMGT), International Herald, Irish Times, La Presse, La Tribune, Le Journal de Montréal, Le Monde, National Post, The Australian, The Guardian, and The Globe and Mail and The Washington Post.

The PlayBook has up to now had disappointing sales for RIM since being launched earlier this year. Although the device was anticipated and talked about by RIM for many months before it actually shipped, when it finally did debut many thought the product was released too prematurely because it still lacked some crucial elements: existing BlackBerry users, for example, had to tether the tablet to their smartphones in order to access their email accounts, and the device still does not have connectivity with one of the BlackBerry’s most unique features, BlackBerry Messenger.

In September RIM said it had only sold about 200,000 of the devices — missing analyst expectations — and it has since then embarked on a number of promotional deals to shift more units of the device.

NewspaperDirect offers users the newspapers for $0.99 per issue, or via a subscription.

It’s not clear whether existing PlayBook owners will get NewspaperDirect pushed to them with their next software update or whether today’s deal applies only to devices sold in the future. We have reached out to the company for more detail and will update with more information when we receive it.