What local media will and won’t do to survive

    The rumor mill went into overdrive when the blog philebrity.com announced that philly.com, the online home for the Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily News, would soon be instituting a paywall. “Philly.com has no plans to become a paywall site,” said Mark Block, a spokesperson for the company. Things are changing, though.  “You will have the opportunity to purchase — in a digital newspaper design — the exact same format that you would view the paper as if you were to hold the newspaper in print,” he said. So, an e-issue — easily read with a tablet or an iPad. Philly.com will remain free, with the paid e-issue feature launching in early February. Eric Bradlow, a marketing professor at the Wharton School of Business, asked the obvious.”Is there a segment of customers out there that would be willing to pay for a tablet version of philly.com as opposed to a simple website version?”  He answered, “Yeah – of course there is.”

    People pay for convenience everyday, he says. But these e-issue interfaces aren’t cheap to develop and maintain. Will it be financially viable? Will it solve the news industry’s financial woes? “The answer is if I knew that, I could leave the classroom and open up the ‘I know everything’ shop and charge businesses a lot of money,” he said.  “The answer is, I don’t know the answer.” Other publications, such as the New York Times, have launched such paid e-issues. What remains to be seen, said Bradlow, is if philly.com has enough brand power to do it, too — successfully.

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