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Fairfax to begin SMH and The Age paywalls next week

Fairfax Media has set the price of digital subscriptions to its Sydney Morning Herald and The Age websites at $15 per month.

The price is similar to News Limited’s The Australian, which is available as a digital only siubscription for just under $13 per month.

For readers in the overseas markets of North America, Europe and the Middle East, the paywall will be switched on next Thursday.

Australia, NZ and Asia pacific will follow “mid-year”, Fairfax said.

The paywall model adopted by Fairfax is a metered one which allows overseas readers ten free articles per month. Those in Australia will be allowed more “reflecting the different consumption patterns”, Fairfax said. The publisher did not disclose how many articles would be free locally. The Australian allows readers to see around three free articles per day via Google.

Fairfax’s Metro Media CEO Jack Matthews said in today’s announcement: “We’ve researched and tested digital subscriptions extensively. The meter model is proving to be the most successful with publishers overseas because it’s easy to understand and it enables less frequent readers to continue to visit the websites, just as they do now.”

Not counted towards the metered pages will be home pages, photo galleries and videos.

The paywall has initally been set to be relatively easy for determined readers to get past. The announcement said: “After readers have reached their free limit, they are welcome to continue reading by following a link from a search engine, social media, or from within a email newsletter from Fairfax Media.”

As well as the $15 price point, there will be other local options. According to Fairfax: “At the domestic launch there will be additional subscription types available which will include tablet apps and ‘all digital access’ packages, as well as bundles that include weekend and daily print home delivery.”

The tablet apps for The Age and the SMH which are currently free will see readers asked to subscribe to get some content, while other elements remain free.

Those who subscribe to the print edition more than two days per week will also get full digital access.

There will also be extras including: a new tool called Zoom which accesses the Fairfax archives and eBooks on specialist topics.

Earlier this month, Fairfax Media moved The Age and the SMH to a compact format.

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