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It took Rupert Murdoch two years to go from talking about making readers pay for online content to installing The Australian’s newspaper paywall.

The Australian isn’t the first News Limited newspaper to put content behind a paywall. In the UK, The Times has been subscriber since last year.

It isn’t even the first major paper in Australia to make readers pay for content. The Australian Financial Review has a paywall for years.

Paywall free for three months

I first noticed The Australian’s paywall on Monday and signed for the three-month free trial. Subscribing was smooth enough – although it took 30 minutes for my log-on details to be mailed back.

New Limited is smart. The price is right: $A8 a week buys Australian readers a print and online subscription. I like both in a single package. If I still lived in Australia this is the option I’d pick.

A digital-only subscription is A$3 a week – not a bad deal. There’s a monthly iPad option at A$13.

They call it ‘freemium’

News describes its approach as ‘freemium’: much of the paper’s content remains free, premium material is behind the paywall.

There’s still a question of whether readers will pay for online news in a general newspaper. For my money, The Australian’s approach is the best way of dealing with regular readers.

The Australian’s paid content strategy fails – at least for me – with casual reading.

Online news is atomised. Readers don’t start at page one of an online newspaper and turn the pages – OK maybe you do on an iPad. Readers pick from a smorgasbord of stories and generally arrive via Google or a social media service like Twitter.

Casual reading difficult

Bad luck if the one story you want to read in this week’s The Australian happens to be behind the paywall. Your only option seems to be buying an entire week’s subscription. A$3 isn’t a lot to pay for a week’s online reading; the price is too much for one story.

But the money here isn’t the real issue. If you have to wait 30 minutes, like I did, to hear back from News when you want to read a single story, you probably won’t bother. That’s a pity.

3 thoughts on “The Australian gets newspaper paywall almost right

  1. Why on earth would you subscribe, apart from professional interest?

    The SMH isn’t paywalled, the Age isn’t paywalled, the ABC isn’t paywalled. I wouldn’t even pay 50c a week for news – it’s too much trouble to get my credit card out and type the details in.

    (Murdoch sees the WSJ succeeding behind a paywall, but thats an exception because most of its users *do* have a professional interest. The WSJ has been available as a paid online service in some form since the 1980’s – that’s very different to a general newspaper).

  2. Good point Rich. I have to confess my subscription was 100% professional interest.

    The Australian doesn’t have much unique, high quality content. I doubt that will change.

  3. I would guess the only model that will really work is for all hard news to be free. Columnists, magazine-style articles and niche articles at ( say) 50c per article with a $3 option for a week’s worth of all you want. Payment via some system as immediate as pay pal.

    Still, you are right, Bill. The Australian is almost there…

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