USA Today set to launch e-edition

America's biggest newspaper is headed to a computer screen near you.

USA Today is launching a new electronic edition on Aug. 3, publisher David Hunke revealed this morning at a press breakfast. "We have prototypes that we like a lot that are very unique to USA Today," said Hunke, who joined the paper in April, replacing longtime publisher Craig Moon. A subscription to the e-edition will cost $10 a month -- roughly a 32 percent discount from the paper's standard subscription rate in print.

Hunke didn't offer many more details, but he did suggest the new edition is primarily intended to be read on computers rather than on wireless mobile devices. "I view this very much as a tethered solution," he said.

Not that USA Today doesn't have untethered solutions in mind as well -- far from it. The paper introduced a Kindle edition in December, and is working with the makers of other e-readers, such as Plastic Logic. "All of us understand those devices are going to explode," he said. "We will not be associated with one brand."

USA Today also has a free iPhone app, which hit No. 1 in the news category shortly after it was introduced. Hunke said the popularity of the app was a surprise, and suggested the paper will be looking to charge for future iPhone releases. "I'm not sure we knew what we had in that," he says. "What we'd like to do is use that as a base, now that we know a few things, to figure out where the business model is within all these apps."

Speaking of charging, I asked Hunke about his thinking regarding Journalism Online, a start-up that's seeking to help newspapers find ways to get readers to pay for news content. "I'm not absolutely convinced that any form of total paywall for content is going to be a solution for us," he said. "I think there's wide-open access on the internet to news and surveys and breaking news, and in our case that continues to be an advertisng solution for us."

"I do know this: None of us can continue to do what we do with the quality and expectation without finding a way to get paid for this."
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