So, you’re a print publisher that has made the decision that your future lies in digital content and delivery of it via the internet. But what if your market is not yet populated with enough suitable devices to deliver your content to? How can your digital aspirations gain traction if your potential customers can’t even access your content?

This was the challenge that faced the Inquirer Group in the Philippines, publishers of over 60 newspapers, magazines and e-books. In a country whose telecommunications network is dominated by mobile, and the most popular means of communicating is short messaging via feature phones, rich media hardly gets a look-in.

Knowing this might stifle its growth plans, the Philippine Daily Inquirer has launched the Inquirer Tab, a tablet device bundled with an all-titles subscription to the group’s Digital Newsstand. The tablet is made by Huawei and powered by Google’s Android OS. Unlike most digital content providers that have released tablet-like devices, such as Amazon, the device is provided free, gratis, if you take out a subscription plan!

The subscription plan costs only P33.05 (8 US cents) a day through a special 24-month, zero-installment plan with The Bank of the Philippine Islands credit cards (non-BPI cardholders can still get the free tablet promo through straight payment). This princely sum not only gets you a fully functional tablet, it also gives you access to ALL the Inquirer publications, many of which are now only available digitally.

But wait, that’s not all, the Inquirer Tab subscription can also be extended to four additional devices – desktop computers, notebooks, as well as other tablets and smartphones so an entire household can make use of the subscription. The Inquirer Newsstand has apps for Apple iOS, Android, Blackberry Playbook and Windows 7 devices.

The tablets are both GSM and Wi-Fi enabled, although no network subscription is offered. That is sensibly left to the subscriber who is most likely to have an existing contract or prepaid account with one of the mobile networks.

This very clever and proactive means of ensuring an audience for its digital services may also make the Inquirer Group an attractive partner for advertisers that used to use print but can now, presumably, push ads through the digital publications and provide instant links to their own mCommerce sights.

So, stepping back just a little, is this another example of an OTT player teaching the telecoms industry ‘how to suck eggs?’ Anybody that uses a tablet today will tell you that reading books, magazines and newspapers on them is one their favourite functions. For a mere 8 cents a day, who wouldn’t want to be a customer of the publishing group, but is it at the expense of the mobile network operator (MNO)?

First published at TM Forum as The Insider, 2 October, 2012