Newspapers & paywalls – The Australian takes the plunge

  • News & views

The Australian paywall
Australia – All eyes are on Rupert Murdoch’s News Ltd who have put one of their Aussie newspapers ‘The Australian‘ behind a paywall this month. Even their arch rivals Fairfax are [secretly] hoping News can make it profitable.
The paywall highlights the difference in strategy between major newspaper publishers News and Fairfax – News have introduced paywalls on mastheads such as The Times in the UK and The Australian in AU whilst Fairfax’s CEO and publisher of digital for their Metro division recently said in an interview that they will be aiming to pursuade 50-60% of readers to sign up in the next 2 years with a better digital experience being provided for free in exchange for personal details.
This week John Allan, COO of The Australian told The FED (video interview) that The Times and The Sunday Times in the UK now had 100,000 digital subscribers but would not be drawn on The Australian’s subscriber numbers yet. I have heard it argued by paywall supporters that ‘casual’ users of newspaper sites who rarely visit and are blocked by paywalls are not of much actual value to publishers or their advertisers (although they do contribute to Unique User figures) but Allan outlined an interesting opening in the paywall for search and social users. It was pointed out to him that if a user tried to read an article and was blocked by the paywall from reading the whole article, the user could copy the heading, switch to Google, search for the heading, click on the inevitable result from The Australian and read the whole article. Allan said that this was a deliberate and permanent policy and News felt that users clicking on a search result or, say, a Facebook share of an article should be able to read the whole article without subscribing – but only a limited number in a day, currently 5.
The cost of a digital subscription is going to be $2.95 per week with free passes available until late January 2012. Many people in newspaper publishing and advertising around the world will be watching the News paywalls closely.