Print subscribers to The Australian face 84 per cent price hike but given ‘free’ digital access

Di Santo

Di Santo

Print subscribers to The Australian have been hit with an 84 per cent price increase with publisher News Corp offering a digital subscription to its products at “no extra cost” as part of the arrangement.

Currently print-only subscribers to the national broadsheet pay $6.95 per week to have it delivered to their door six days per week, but from June 20 that price will rise to $12-per-week.

In a letter to subscribers editor-in chief Chris Mitchell said “We are committed to continually improving your newspaper experience, which means we need to increase our prices from time to time,” adding the subscribers would now have access to the refreshed iPad app and unlimited digital access to The Australian and Business Spectator.

The move comes as News Corp held its first ever up fronts presentation to marketers and media buyers in Sydney yesterday, pushing the theme of “Come Together” and the convergence of its digital and print properties, including a big push on the new iPad app for The Australian.

Speaking to Mumbrella last night group sales chief Fiorella di Santo denied the move was a revenue raising exercise, with the paper revealed to have lost $15m last year, adding: “It’s us listening to the consumer and following the consumer and mobile plays a very big part in that as well. 

When asked whether bundling digital subscriptions with all print subscriptions would muddy the actual number of digital users the company had she added: “You can construct a subscription as you want it, digital only, print only or a mixture. We want to give people content how they want it, some people prefer an iPad experience, some prefer iPad and web experience others prefer print and our subscriptions are catering for all those perspectives.

“Our experience in The Times in the UK is people spend more time with the app than the paper. If you give people great content and serve it up on a great platform and give them a great experience people come and are very loyal to the brand.”

News Corp Australia CEO Julian Clarke told Mumbrella the key takeout from the event was that the company has “a fantastic portfolio of media assets and we’re repositioning the company,” adding: “The storyline we told tonight nobody’s heard before and reminding people of the media mix and the part we continue to play in the digital world.”

During his address he told the audience: “We’re anchored in print, but the future is absolutely platform agnostic”.

The one substantive new announcement coming from the evening was a new initiative, Access One, which will see news take print ads from the papers and insert them, free of charge, in its new iPad editions and include interactive functionality an offer which went down favourably with several media buyers.

However, many senior media buyers who Mumbrella spoke to after the event questioned the direction of the company and the continued focus put on print, despite declining revenues from advertising because of falling sales, and questioned the validity of numbers used by the company in its presentation.

Di Santo told Mumbrella the numbers, taken from the Enhanced Media Metrics Australia (EMMA) survey, were robust, adding: “We are committed to the metric – we believe in it and we’ve worked very hard to create something that listens to the industry’s requirements. We need to know who our audience are and it’s our pathway to know who the readers are as our pathways evolve.”

One buyer, who declined to be named, also pointed to the absence of meaningful mention of Fox Sports and questioned how meaningfully different the message last night was to the one being expounded by the company for the last three years.

They added: “This feels like the same kind of thing Fairfax and News have been telling us for the last few years, that they own people throughout the day, not just in the mornings any more. The problem is they didn’t say anything tonight which made me feel they were addressing the issue.”

However Di Santo stood behind the printed product when asked, adding “I think that with the numbers we have print has a long and healthy future. If you look at the regional network we have great penetration, and with the metro titles as well.

“With that kind of penetration print still has a very strong future and we want to work with our advertisers to show how print works for these new platforms and devices.”

Alex Hayes



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