Fairfax ‘actively considering’ paywall options as freemium model gains traction with readers

Fairfax subscription costsFairfax has confirmed it is exploring how it operates its paywall after admitting consumers appear to be moving towards a freemium model.

The publisher said it is “actively looking” at alternatives to its current metered model for the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age – where readers get 30 free articles before being required to pay to access additional content – and hard paywall for the Financial Review.

But the company stressed its consideration of alternatives did not mean any imminent change was on the cards.

At the International News Media Association world congress in London last week, newspaper executives spoke of their success in adopting freemium models, where content regarded as premium by editorial teams is kept behind a paywall.

Victoria Turner, News Corp general manager of customer relationships, marketing and insight, was among those who told the conference its switch from a metered model to freemium – having a mix of free and paid-for content- had resulted in a spike in subscriptions.

German publication Bild also argued that freemium was the way forward.

Fairfax news and business media chief, Sean Aylmer, acknowledged that it did appear consumers were moving towards such a model, and that it would be considered by the publisher.

“We are always thinking about what we do with our paywall,” he told Mumbrella. “Do we tighten it so people get fewer than 30 articles for the metros? Do we loosen it for the Fin Review? Do we adopt a more freemium model?

“A couple of years ago it was all about the metered model. But the trend is definitely towards freemium and consumers seem to be getting used to it, so I am sure that will inform our thinking.

“You have to make sure you are on the curve with his. You need to be where the consumer is.”

sean aylmer - croppedPushed on whether Fairfax was discussing a switch to a freemium model Aylmer said: “We are actively looking at it, but that does not mean we are about to do something.

“We are certainly considering whether freemium is a better option or whether there should be 20 or 30 free articles in the metered model, so there are a bunch of those things that we are actively looking at.

“But right now we have no plans to change what we are doing. It is always under question because we are interested in the best way of making money out of it, but it’s not like in the next three months we’ll introduce freemium.

“But as consumers seem to be getting used to that model we have to start actively considering it.”

Aylmer said that relative to the rest of the world Fairfax’s metered paywall “has a lot of free content” and “brings in a lot of revenue for us”. is consistently the second most visited news website in the country.

Latest audit figures show the Sydney Morning Herald had the largest number of digital subscriptions, climbing 0.9% to 134,934 in the January to March quarter.

The Age saw a 3.4% decline to just over 125,000.


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