News Corp unveils paywall

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News Corporation (NWS.AX) has announced that The Daily Telegraph and Herald Sun online sites will begin metered access from May 16.

The new model will be launched along with digital subscription products across News’ stable of newspapers. The Adelaide Advertiser and The Courier Mail will follow suite in June.

Once implemented, unregistered readers will have access to five articles per week at The Daily Telegraph and Herald Sun. If reader register, they will be able to access an additional 15 articles per week at The Daily Telegraph, and 10 per week at the Herald Sun. Articles will be available via the website, mobile site and tablet app.

Subscribers will have access to full content, plus additional content – but will need to have subscriptions to each masthead, rather than having one subscription to access all News digital sites. National news, lifestyle, business and sports content will be available with one subscription although some premium sports content from Fox Sports will only be available to subscribers.

The advantage of the metered strategy is traffic doesn’t nosedive, allowing the websites to retain most of their reader base and online-ad revenue.

The move comes as newspaper publishers globally seek new revenue streams to replace falling physical newspaper circulation, and related slide in advertising revenues. It’s also an effort to monetise online content, that has been given away free for years. In the US, the Wall Street Journal has already gone down this path in 1997, and its new digital paywall model appears to be working, with print circulation only falling by 15% in the 15 years since. Some US papers have even seen a rise in circulation revenues for the first time in years, after introducing paywalls. The New York Times saw Sunday circulation rise for the first time in five years.

Locally, Fairfax Media (FXJ.AX) and APN News and Media (APN.AX) will likely follow suite. Already Fairfax owned Australian Financial Review has a digital paywall model in place, and the company has flagged metered content and paywalls for its leading mastheads, The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.

Foolish takeaway

While not expected to reverse publishers’ declining revenues, digital paywalls are at least expected to slow the rate of decline, and could even lead to a ‘pop’ in physical newspaper circulation.

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