The Australian to introduce pay wall by October

Richard FreudensteinNews Ltd has revealed long-awaited plans to charge for its online news content, with The Australian to introduce a pay wall for its web properties by October.

News Digital Media’s boss Richard Freudenstein told delegates at Mumbrella360 today that The Australian would introduce a ‘freemium’ model similar to that of The Wall Street Journal, which has more than 1m digital subscribers.

Some content will remain free to attract big audiences, who will then pay to access premium content. “This also allows us to continue to sell advertising to a mass market,” he said.

There will be “no set rule” for how much content would be free, which would be left to the discretion of section editors.

Breaking news, wire stories, broad-interest stories, general blogs and basic stock market data is most likely to be free, while only subscribers will get access to content in our key verticals such as national affairs, business, media, higher education and IT.

The freemium model will give “the best of both worlds”, he said. “We will retain most of our traffic, and the display revenue that comes with it and we will have new subscription income, and a very valuable database of highly engaged readers.”

The launch of a digital subscription for The Australian has been slated for October, at a cost of $2.95 – “the price of one decaf skinny soy latte” – per week. The package will include access to the website, iPad and Android tablet apps and the m-site.

Bundled packages will also be available, giving consumers six days print and digital access for $7.95; The Weekend Australian plus digital will be $4.50 a week. Existing six day a week print subscribers get free access to all digital platforms.

Heading off criticism, Freudenstein compared the transition to paid online content with the advent of pay-TV. “It reminds me a lot of 1994 when I was one of the team that founded Foxtel. I would go to the pub or dinner parties and hear people ask: “Why would I pay for TV when I get five perfectly good channels for nothing?”

Paid online content would, like Foxtel, make money because it has given consumers choice, entertainment, and an experienced improved by technology, he said, using The Australian’s iPad app as an example.

“Right now you can get all the content that is on the app – more in fact – for free, on the same device, by browsing the website. And yet we have thousands and thousands of paid up subscribers,” he said.

People would be happy to pay a subscription fee, because the app delivers content in a form that suits them, wherever they are, he added. “Asking consumers to pay to for content in The Australian “is a very reasonable and very logical, next step,” he said.


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