(

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) - Get Report

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) - Get Report

'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) - Get Report

Windows Tablets and other formats using

Adobe

(ADBE) - Get Report

'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) - Get Report

Kindle

device.

Electronic books

such as the

Kindle

or

Sony's

(SNE) - Get Report

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) - Get Report

, 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