Northwest newspaper company turns readers into reporters with Windows 10 tablets

As new mediums, platforms, and hardware increasingly become available, the people who use them are finding new and innovative ways to incorporate them into their lives.

Seattle-based Pioneer News Group is choosing to augment its traditional news experience by combining new hardware with its evolving platform. Now, subscribers of Pioneer News Group’s twenty-three weekly papers in the Oregon, Montana, Utah, and Washington will now be sold Windows 10 tablets alongside their subscriptions.

Subscribers will be provided a uReporter app that’s available for any smartphone (yes, even Windows phones) and with the combined Windows 10 tablet, readers can interactively engage with the news.

Pioneer News Group’s basic premise is that subscribers will be provided a uReporter app that’s available for any smartphone (yes, even Windows phones) and with the combined Windows 10 tablet, readers can interactively engage with the news by reporting on it as well.

Marianne Graff, social editor for the Skagit Valley Herald, reviews one of the photos Chuck Mell submitted through the uReporter app for possible publication. (Photo by Scott Eklund/Red Box Pictures)

Three years ago, Pioneer’s owners and leaders identified innovation as a goal that would be key to maintaining the health of the company. Employees were encouraged to submit ideas for moving Pioneer forward. Suggestions ranged from providing subscribers with free carwashes to creating apps for garage sales. One proposed offering tablets to subscribers, since about 60 percent of traffic on Pioneer’s websites comes from mobile users.

Johnston and some colleagues were playing golf one day in the spring of 2014 when they met a few Microsoft executives on the course and struck up a conversation over dinner. Those new friends helped connect Pioneer to a company that could provide Windows-based tablets for under $100 each. But Pioneer didn’t want to just give out the devices as a gimmick; it wanted them to inspire more involvement by subscribers.

So Microsoft connected the company with Posh Technologies, which had already worked on a community journalism app with the Times of India newspaper. And that’s how Pioneer’s uReporter was born.

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Any interested reader in one of the two Pioneer News Group’s testing markets can subscribe for a year to one of the twenty-three publications and for an additional $15 a month receive a uReporter preloaded Windows 10 tablet with their Sunday paper. Once again the uReporter app isn’t confined solely to the Windows 10 tablet, readers can get a roughly similar experience using the app in one of three testing markets on iOS, Android or other Windows 10 device.

Erwin has a desktop and a laptop but no smartphone, so she was excited when she got a flier about the affordable tablet. It fits in her purse, and she downloaded other apps to be able to play games and read not only the newspaper, but also her email or a book.

“Since it’s electronic, I don’t have to throw the paper away, and the app still shows me articles from yesterday or the day before if I forget to read it sometimes,” Erwin says. She’s hoping the Skagit Valley Herald will add comics, advice columns, ads and coupons to round out the experience.

The other use cases for Pioneer News Group’s new strategy involves the submission of unique perspectives at scenes, activities, or accidents. To power these experiences, not only did Pioneer News Group partner with Microsoft to create a software and hardware solution but also with the nonprofit American Press Institue to analyze reading habits and

To power these experiences, not only did Pioneer News Group partner with Microsoft to create a software and hardware solution but also with the nonprofit American Press Institue to analyze reading habits and Appinteract creating a sprawling ecosystem of localized apps related to the experience.

Pioneer News Group owns the Skagit Valley Herald and 22 other daily and weekly newspapers in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana and Utah. (Photo by Scott Eklund/Red Box Pictures)

The new Appinteract platform takes the old newspaper ad paradigm and updates it with a refined online experience. Now, local businesses can be apart of the PNG experience but also live outside the network in either the Windows or Apple Apps Store as their own full featured app for as little as $50 a month.

Lastly, PNG partnered with a Microsoft encouraged manufacturer to the cost of its Windows 10-based tablet offerings down to under $100 a piece, thus affording the news network to ability to bundle the hardware with its yearly subscriptions.

PNG’s idea of a taking a traditionally print experience and jumping mediums and platforms to create a similar but uniquely robust reading, reporting and advertising paradigm is refreshing. Rather than pointing fingers and ‘wishing things would go back to the way they used to be,” PNG is redefining its future in news, media and publishing with the help of Microsoft and Windows 10.

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