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Marketing continues for Philadelphia Media Network tablet despite exec’s departure

As gadget reviewers hit the Philadelphia Media Network tablet with some criticism, the man behind the device is leaving.

Yoni Greenbaum, the company’s vice president and general manager, digital, is leaving PMN. PMN owns Philly.com, the Philadelphia Inquirer and Philadelphia Daily News. On his website, Greenbaum says he led the development of the tablet.

“We are not able to comment on any human resource matters,” PMN spokesman Mark Block said about Greenbaum’s departure. Greenbaum would not comment on the terms behind his departure.Unveiled Sept. 12, the ARNOVA 10 G2 tablet is a wireless device available to readers that comes pre-loaded with several apps and bundled with PMN digital subscription services.The company initially manufactured 5,000 of the 10-inch devices, sold for as little as $99. What soon followed was a critical review from ZDNet, citing ordering issues, poor customer service and a failure on PMN’s part to understand its audience:“The initial user experience with this self-described ‘beta’ product launch shows that while PMN may understand marketing, they were ill-prepared for the realities of doing business in the digital age.”Some long-time newspaper readers had problems just charging the device. Others struggled to use the free apps that were supposed to come with tablet.But reaching new users who may not be used to tablets is part of the point, Block said.

“We were trying to reach a different demographic,” Block explained about the company’s decision to only accept tablet orders by phone – a process ZDNet criticized in great detail.After Greenbaum’s departure, the company announced a new addition to its executive staff: Jerry Steinbrink, previously of Consumers Union (publisher of Consumer Reports), will step into a new “chief brand officer” position.

“This has been in development for some time,” Block said, explaining Steinbrink will be charged with branding Philadelphia Media Network’s many products, like the Daily News‘ new SportsWeek and, yes, the tablet.In a Sept. 30 News and Tech report, Greenbaum said PMN “wouldn’t gauge [the tablet’s] success or failure based on this test of 5,000.”

Block says the company has sold more than half the tablets. It is testing an online ordering system, and is planning for a big Black Friday sales push.

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