Fairfax trials paywalls on local news sites, insists online content ‘should carry a price’

Fairfax is trialling paywalls on local news websites, including the option of buying individual stories, as the publisher insisted online news should carry a price just as it does in print.

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The Milton-Ulladulla Times and Bay Post-Moruya Examiner began charging readers to access content today in a deal between Fairfax and micropayment start-up Tapview.

The Milton-Ulladulla Times has two paid plans; a subscriber plan which costs $1 per week to access all content across a new-look website, and a casual plan which charges readers 20c to access local stories, up to a maximum of $2 per week.

Community news and sport will remain freely available.

At the Bay Post-Moruya Examiner, a full subscription for $1 per week provides full access to the site, with a free option providing just a weekly news wrap-up.

Under the arrangement with Tapview, which has white labelled the subscription technology for both publications, Fairfax takes 70% of the revenue and Tapview 30%.

Both publications have told readers, who have enjoyed free online access to content until now, that the media industry is evolving “and we are evolving with it”.

“We charge for our news in print form and believe that the same quality product should carry a price online,” the publisher said. “Our research has shown that people are willing to pay a fair price for our content.”

It added that as digital news models have evolved “subscriptions have become more and more common”.


“We may charge at other sites in the future but no decisions have been made about this,” it said.

The cost of the printed editions will remain unchanged; $1.70 for the weekly Milton-Ulladulla Times and $1.60 for the bi-weekly Bay Post-Moruya Examiner.

The extension of paywalls into local news follows remarks at the NewsMediaWorks Future Forum last week where industry leaders said the focus should be on “journalistic freedom rather than journalism for free”.

Tapview founder James Jansson said it was the first deal for the fledgling company since receiving a $100,000 cash injection from h2 Ventures, an investment firm specialising in the financial and technology sector.

It works by readers entering their credit card number with the amount deducted at the end of each month if the balance is more than $1. If not, the balance carries over to the next month.

Jansson claimed the system has advantages over other micropayment services as the reader stays on the publication website rather than being redirected.

Tapview, which said its model can be used to monetise any content on the web, is hoping to attract further funding of $1m-$1.5m.


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