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Jumbled signals coming from Fairfax, but the message is clear. Australia and New Zealand’s largest publisher plans to follow Murdoch and charge for online news.

The signals are confused because on Friday, Stephen Hutcheon at the Sydney Morning Herald wrote a story about readers’ reluctance to pay for online news.

On one level Hutcheon’s Not happy, Rupert: readers say they won’t pay for online news was a dig at rival News Corporation – complete with an unflattering photograph of Rupert Murdoch. He says News’ announcement was followed by 140 reader comments – mainly from angry readers threatening to go elsewhere when charges apply.

Clearly Fairfax’s left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing because Sunday saw Tom Hyland write Fairfax, News to charge for online at The Age website. He also wrote the longer Stop the presses. Hyland had the unenviable job of quoting Fairfax chief executive Brian McCarthy who told him; “charging for online access was essential if publishers were to maintain their newsroom staff.”

You always know things are going to get tricky when a newspaper executive uses a word like ‘monetising’ and Hyland quotes McCarthy getting his teeth around that in the next paragraph. He went on to talk about a two-level model at the The Age and the The Sydney Morning Herald websites.

Of course Fairfax is no stranger to charging for online content. The company’s The Australian Financial Review has long been one of the region’s few major titles to charge readers. By all accounts the AFR’s paywall hasn’t been successful, but it will have taught the company useful lessons about turning reader clicks into money.

PC World New Zealand has an ABC circulation of 15,565 and Nielsen readership figure of 148,000. That makes it New Zealand’s most-read specialist technology publication. Published monthly, in New Zealand that means 11 issues a year with a joint December and January edition.

In August 2006 Fairfax Business Media bought the New Zealand licence for PC World from IDG. In that year Fairfax acquired the bulk of IDG’s NZ business picking up four titles. IDG New Zealand sold two other titles; Unlimited and Actv8, to Infego under a separate agreement. IDG closed one title; Fast Forward.

Before August 2006 IDG published PC World. The had been published in New Zealand by IDG since 1989 when it was a tabloid supplement in ComputerWorld.

At the time of writing, PC World is typically 112 A4 colour pages. It is printed on gloss art paper, plus a cover on heavier stock. Advertising makes up about a quarter to a third of the pages. The magazine is perfect bound with a DVD disc which is inserted, not cover-mounted.

PC World New Zealand on bookstands

The magazine is mainly sold on bookstands with a cover price of NZ$8.90. This is competitive with larger, overseas published titles. You can also find the magazine in petrol stations and supermarkets. A significant number of readers are subscribers.

Most PC World readers are highly educated, well-heeled men. It occupies the same market niche as Australian Personal Computer, PC User and PC Authority. It has new product reviews, group tests, news features and plenty of how-to advice stories.

Typically well over half the editorial content is locally written. The overseas material is given a local slant and boosted with local information such as sidebars. PC World’s New Zealand staff and freelance journalists are highly regarded.

Strictly speaking PC World New Zealand doesn’t have any direct print competitors, its nearest local rival for readers and advertising revenue is ACP’s New Zealand NetGuide, but that title sells to less advanced users.