Two weeks from today, the Philadelphia Daily News will become a tabloid in approach, not just in page size, the company announced Monday in conjunction with several other initiatives. Philadelphia Media Network President and CEO Gregory Osberg said the paper would be redesigned to include new sections, like an expanded two-page gossip spread and “The Agenda — a fresh look at power in Philadelphia.” The News is adding a food column by Washington Post columnist Jason Wilson; Former Philadelphia Magazine lifestyle editor Lauren McCutcheon will be writing features for the paper. The other initiatives include a relaunch of Philly.com; the Knight-funded Project Liberty to stimulate digital media startups in Philadelphia; and discounted Android tablets to subscribers of the company’s digital newspaper editions. The paper has won several Pulitzer Prizes, most recently Daily News reporters Barbara Laker and Wendy Ruderman won in 2010 for investigative journalism.
Correction: This post originally misidentified Lauren McCutcheon’s title at Philadelphia Magazine and the work she would be doing for the Daily News.
PMN ANNOUNCES “PROJECT LIBERTY”
TO DRIVE INNOVATION IN DIGITAL MEDIA
Knight Foundation grant to launch new digital media startup incubator operated by Ben Franklin Technology Partners with Philadelphia Media Network, Drexel University, DreamIt Ventures, and Philadelphia Foundation
Subscribers first in U.S. to receive free “tablets” to read digital editions of newspapers
Re-launch of “New” Daily News will occur on Monday, July 25
PHILADELPHIA (July 11, 2011) – Philadelphia Media Network Inc. (PMN), owner and publisher of The Philadelphia Inquirer, Philadelphia Daily News, and philly.com, today launched a ground-breaking series of initiatives called Project Liberty to boost digital readership, including the creation of a technology incubator to bring new digital products and ideas to market, as well as a new subscription drive that will provide free Android “tablets” to subscribers of the digital editions of the newspapers – the first such initiative of its kind undertaken by a major newspaper anywhere in the United States. PMN also announced that the transformation of the Philadelphia Daily News into a “loud, irreverent tabloid” will continue with the re-launch of the newspaper as the “New” Daily News on Monday, July 25.
“Project Liberty is about demonstrating our commitment to make PMN the national leader in digital media innovation,” said Gregory Osberg, PMN President and CEO. “Hosting this technology incubator will enable PMN to identify and develop some of the newest, most creative mobile technology applications, social media and e-commerce ventures. At the same time, recognizing that digital subscriptions are the future of our business, we are targeting those readers by offering tablet devices that will encourage them to subscribe to our digital editions.
“We are embracing the changes that are occurring in our industry, and our goal is to take the lead in shaping the way our readers – our customers – will do business with us in the future.”
Project Liberty Technology Incubator
The technology incubator is designed to stimulate the establishment and growth of digital media startup companies in Philadelphia and to inject a new culture of innovation in the media space. Set to begin operation in September, the program will provide four startup or early stage technology companies with a minimum of six months of office space — at PMN’s offices at 400 North Broad Street – technical and administrative support, mentoring, and access to the region’s most powerful online platform, Philly.com, for launching their digital media “apps” or related products.
“Startup companies will receive office space, equipment, and support, as well as entrée to our media platform for launching and testing their products,” said Osberg. “By hosting this incubator, PMN will also benefit by incubating a culture of entrepreneurship and innovative thinking throughout the company. This collaboration is an opportunity to immerse PMN amidst the latest technological innovations, as well as share years of corporate and media experience with the entrepreneurs selected to take part in the incubator program.”
Ben Franklin Technology Partners (BFTP) received a grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation to operate the digital media startup incubator with Philadelphia Media Network, Drexel University, DreamIt Ventures, and the Philadelphia Foundation. While Philadelphia Media Network brokered the creation of the strategic partnership and will host the incubator – as well as provide Philly.com as a platform for launching the new products — Ben Franklin Technology Partners will provide mentoring and strategic business counsel to the startups.
Drexel University will provide graduate and undergraduate students with the unique opportunity to work with and move freely between the startup companies and PMN’s established media business. BFTP also will work with DreamIt Ventures, a nationally-renowned Philadelphia-based startup accelerator program, on a secondary seed and support program that will be ideal for providing a stream of potential qualified candidates. The program is being made possible through a $250,000 grant from Knight Foundation to Ben Franklin Technology Partners.
“Knight Foundation is excited by the prospect of a trusted local media brand partnering to produce innovation, said Michael Maness, vice president for journalism and media innovation with Knight Foundation. “Through funding more than 200 community information experiments, we’ve found that the models with the best success are nurtured. We hope this incubator will help produce models that can be used both here in the fourth largest media market, and industry wide, in order to strengthen both journalism and our communities.”
“Project Liberty is a tremendously innovative way to fuse print and digital media while stimulating new enterprise formation. Ben Franklin Technology Partners is proud and pleased to be part of this initiative,” said RoseAnn B. Rosenthal, President and Chief Executive Officer of Ben Franklin Technology Partners.
Android tablets for digital subscribers
In another element of Project Liberty, Osberg disclosed that PMN will begin to provide digital subscribers to the Philadelphia Inquirer with free touchscreen tablets to read the daily digital editions of the newspaper, surf the internet, and perform other routine tasks. Osberg noted that negotiations with a handful of tablet manufacturers are ongoing, so further details of the initiative are unavailable at the moment, although it expects to launch within the next several weeks. Osberg said that the company is continuing to make progress on a next generation app that will provide enhancements for tablet and iPad readers of The Inquirer over the existing generic apps that readers currently utilize. A separate app for the “New” Daily News will launch later this year.
“We believe this is the first time that a major media company in the United States will provide tablets to its digital subscribers,” said Osberg. “Digital subscriptions represent a growing market for PMN and we are working to provide our online subscribers with access to the same look and layout of our traditional print newspaper. This is how an increasing percentage of the population is reading the newspaper and we are meeting that demand head on.”
Re-launch of the Daily News
Osberg also announced that the transformation of the Philadelphia Daily News as a “loud, irreverent, fun tabloid” under the new editorial leadership of Larry Platt will culminate with the re-launch of the New Daily News on Monday, July 25. Changes include a bold modern design and new sections such as an expanded two-page gossip spread, food and dining, features, and The Agenda — a fresh look at power in Philadelphia.
A range of new voices will also join well-regarded contributors and columnists like Buzz Bissinger, former Governor Ed Rendell, and sports columnist and National Baseball Hall of Fame inductee Bill Conlin. New additions include Jason Wilson, a Drexel University professor and the writer of a drinks column for the Washington Post, who will write a new column on the Philadelphia food scene; Lauren McCutcheon, a veteran magazine journalist and former lifestyle editor of Philadelphia magazine, who will join the Daily News as a feature writer writing lifestyle stories, trend pieces, and profiles; and Reuben “Big Rube” Harley — the former head of marketing and brand development at Mitchell & Ness and the man who made throw-back jersey a fashion and pop culture phenomenon – who will bring his “Street Gazing” column to the Daily News featuring street portraits of stylish Philadelphians.
“We are bringing the Daily News in a bold new direction with a distinct new voice and feel that will make it a must-read throughout the Delaware Valley,” said Osberg.
Osberg also discussed a number of other changes at the media company that will transform the look and feel of its products. Changes include:
- The Inquirer’s business news has now been incorporated into the “A” section, the most read section of the newspaper, and now features rotating daily topic areas;
- Philly.com will re-launch with a re-designed look, including microsites dedicated to Philadelphia style and food.
- The Inquirer will feature a new Neighbors section, with a special emphasis on specific neighborhoods. Phase one of the effort will feature a special Main Line section focusing on people and news in Bala Cynwyd, Wynnewood, Narberth, and Ardmore.