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The Australian to begin charging for online access

The Australian to begin charging for online access

June 7th, 2011 in News

SYDNEY (AP) - News Corp. will begin charging for online access to its flagship newspaper The Australian this year, a company executive said Tuesday, following the lead of sister publications like The Wall Street Journal and The Times.

The Australian plans to begin charging for opinion columns, exclusive stories and other premium content in October, chief executive Richard Freudenstein told a media conference in Sydney. Breaking news, wire stories and general interest stories will continue to be available for free.

Freudenstein noted that the model - dubbed "freemium" for its combination of free and premium, paid content - was working well for The Wall Street Journal.

He also defended the London-based Times' move to charge for all of its content on the Web.

"Critics had a field day, taking great joy in predicting disaster," he said, when the paper announced its pay wall last year. "However, the launch has been a great success."

Freudenstein said The Times now makes more money from their online subscribers than they did from ad revenue when the site was free.

The Journal's pay wall is widely considered successful, but some analysts have suggested its highly sought-after business content represents a special case and have questioned whether other newspapers can make a go of the model.

The jury is still out on The New York Times' new digital subscription service; previous attempts to ask readers to pay online were abandoned because they cut into ad sales too much.

Freudenstein said the paper is banking on retaining the majority of its digital readers and is not abandoning advertising.

"Display revenue is, and will remain, an important source of revenue for us, and we will not do anything to jeopardize it," he said.

The subscription model will be accompanied by a redesign of the website; an updated iPad application will also eventually be launched.

A digital subscription to The Australian will cost 2.95 Australian dollars ($3.15) a week. That's AU$4 less than a print subscription currently costs.

New subscriptions to the Monday-Friday paper will include online access for AU$7.95. The Weekend Australian, in print and online, will cost AU$4.50 a week.

The Australian is one of the country's leading newspapers, with a weekday circulation of 129,985 and 292,649 for the weekend edition.