News Limited today outlined its plans for a 'freemium' subscription model for online content by the Australian, encouraged by the "success" of paywalls at fellow News Corp titles the Times and Sunday Times.
Giving the keynote at the Mumbrella360 conference today, chief executive officer of News Digital Media and the Australian, Richard Freudenstein announced plans for digital subscriptions at the Australian to be launched in October.
The model will offer access to some content free, at the discretion of the editors of individual sections, while others will require payment to view.
Freudenstein speculated that content such as breaking news, wire stories, broad interest stories and basic stock-market data are likely to remain free to access.
"News Corp has been talking about this since 2009, when Rupert Murdoch first started speaking about it. Since then there has been quite a lot of debate, some of it's been a bit misinformed, misguided, a bit emotional."
He added that while display revenue is and will remain "a very, very important part of our overall revenue mix" the newspaper industry has been "a little bit forgetful" when it comes to a paid content revenue stream online.
"The novel idea of getting people to pay for something you produce. It's not a particularly radical strategy, you might think, but there are many who are sceptical about our chances of success. Why pay for something I can get for free, is the commonly asked question."
But News Corporation's ventures into this area at other titles have been a success so far, he claimed.
"We are encouraged by success of the Wall Street Journal and the Times and Sunday Times in London.
"... The Times and Sunday Times launched their digital packages in June last year. They decided to make all their content subscription only. And the critics had a field day taking great joy in predicting a disaster, however the launch has been a real success.
"After six months the Times had 79,000 digital subs and the number is growing every day, the rise in digital subscribers is more than off-setting declines in print circulation. That is the Times is actually growing its overall circulation numbers. They are making more money from their 79,000 digital subscribers than they did from the 20 million unique browsers they used to have."
With the Australian Freudenstein said it was important to give large audiences access to some content for free, such as the model used by the Wall Street Journal.
"The expectation is a freemium model will give us the best of both worlds," he added.
He also revealed that a new iPad app is currently in development and is expected to be launched early next year.
The new digital subscription to the Australian will cost $2.95 a week, offering access to the entire website, iPad and Android apps and mobile site with a single login.
There will also be two print plus digital packages, with new six-day print subscribers to be charged $7.95 a week, or $4.50 a week for the Weekend Australian plus digital package.
Existing six-day print subscribers will receive complementary access to digital packages.
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