New York Times Eyes Apple Tablet Potential

( Updated with background information on the Times' Tablet plans and share information for Gannett and The New York Times.)

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- As newspaper stocks slowly emerge from the economic downturn, the New York Times ( NYT) is eyeing the next big thing in consumer technology, Tablet computers, as a way to boost readership.

Futuristic Tablet devices, which are small, portable, computers have been generating plenty of buzz this year, thanks largely to Apple ( AAPL)'s eagerly-anticipated Tablet offering.

The touchscreen technology could offer newspaper publishers a new means of delivering content, particularly for gadget freaks and hip, young urbanites. Tablets may even prove key in opening up new revenue streams as newspaper stocks claw their way back after years of falling sales and layoffs.

"We are prototyping concepts that we think would be compelling should a tablet-like device be released by Apple," wrote Diane McNulty, the Times' executive director of media relations, in an email to TheStreet. The executive did not provide any additional details about the company's Tablet plans, but confirmed that the company is not working with Apple.

The New York Times has been working on its Tablet project for some time, according to the Gizmodo Web site, which says that the newspaper's R&D teams have been developing versions of the Times that can be navigated without a keyboard or mouse. Gizmodo says that that these will appear on Microsoft ( MSFT) Windows Tablets and other formats using Adobe ( ADBE)'s AIR software, which lets developers build Internet applications for multiple operating systems.

Like Apple, Microsoft is also said to be working on a Tablet device; it is rumored that the software giant's Courier offering will appear in mid-2010.

The U.S. newspaper industry is already using new technology to boost flagging readership and, potentially, reduce production costs. The New York Times and the Washington Post ( WPO), for example, have already launched trials offering their content on Amazon's ( AMZN) Kindle device.

Electronic books such as the Kindle or Sony's ( SNE) Reader, however, do not offer color displays, so there could be an opportunity here for richer Tablet-based newspaper content.

Tablets could also help solve one of the biggest challenges newspapers have faced in recent years - how to cope with the exodus of readers and advertisers to the Internet. As this stage, though, it is unclear how companies like the New York Times could monetize their business via Tablets, compared to, say, readers accessing newspaper Web sites on their laptops.

The Times' Tablet plans come at a critical juncture for the newspaper industry, which is now seeing some glimmers of hope after a torrid few years. Earlier this week, for example, newspaper stocks rose after Gannett ( GCI), the biggest newspaper publisher in the U.S., forecast third-quarter earnings well above Wall Street's low expectations.

Gannett's stock continued its upward trajectory Wednesday, rising 98 cents, or 8.3%, to reach $12.73. Shares of the New York Times, however, fell 18 cents, or 2.15%, to $8.21 during the same period.

--Written by James Rogers in New York

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