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Can Apple's Tablet Save Publishers?

Steve Jobs revolutionized the music business, creating a new way for consumers to listen to music on the go, and buy songs.

Now newspapers and magazine publishers are crossing their fingers that Apple's new Tablet computer will breathe new life into their struggling business by allowing them to charge for digital content. With subscriptions and ad revenue foundering, a new sexy device could be just what it takes to make a digital subscription model viable.

Publishers are trying to get ready for Apple's big unveiling. The New York Times reportedly has a team at Apple's Cupertino California headquarters working on a large-screen version of its iPhone app. for the new device. Sports Illustrated is getting ahead of the game, already showcasing the digital future of its magazine with this pretty cool demo. Conde Nast is promoting the digital version of its GQ magazine, a ramped-up version of what it offers for the iPhone.

There's no doubt that video, interactivity, and a colorful, shiny touch screen could transform the magazine and newspaper business. Even though readers are used to getting content for free online, they're accustomed to paying for iPhone apps and music from iTunes, so it shouldn't be too hard for publishers to convert former subscribers of their traditional service to paying a bit -- probably less -- for the product on their tablet.

And then of course there's the role Apple will surely play as a disruptor to the e-book landscape. Barnes & Noble got a huge boost on rumors that Apple is in talks to put the e-tailer directly onto the tablet, which would deal a blow to Amazon . But now those rumors are dissipating and the stock is off the day's highs. If Apple's Tablet has easy access to books — which it should, considering the Kindle and Barnes & Noble applications on the iPhone-- then it could pose a real threat to Sony's e-Readers and Amazon's Kindle. The question of course is how much the Tablet costs — e-Readers now go for as little as $199.

And since the Tablet is expected to have such a substantial screen compared to the iPhone, the potential to watch movies and TV on the go could explode. We can expect Steve Jobs to try to expand his relationships with Hollywood; perhaps announcing some more content deals with media giants at the presser tomorrow.

And the more content that's digitally available online, the more piracy we're sure to see. But better for these companies to *try* to monetize their content online than wait until it's too late and the pirated free model becomes the de-facto option, as it did with the music industry.

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