APN regionals to charge for digital access

A metered subscription model will be introduced across APN News and Media’s Australian Regional Media (ARM) online daily newspaper mastheads, and mobile apps will be released to coincide with its introduction, the company confirmed yesterday.

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ARM editorial director Bryce Johns.

It is the first move by Australian regional papers into paid digital content.

Prices have not been revealed but would be in line with the rates charged by News Corp Australia and Fairfax Media, ARM editorial director Bryce Johns told The Newspaper Works.

“The Australian model now is a lot more mature with both News and Fairfax having moved in the space already,” Mr Johns said.

“With a section of readers having been trained around the need to pay subscriptions for not just news, but for TV, sport, and entertainment content, it’s logical that we look at these sort of things if we are to remain relevant and viable.”

A proportion of very heavy online users who were “intricately wedded to our content” would likely consider it fair for them to pay for their usage, Mr Johns said.

Current print subscribers would get free digital access and other readers would pay beyond a certain threshold of free stories, the number of which has not yet been released.

“The pricing model … will be innovative and will probably encourage print readership growth as well” through the value proposition, Mr Johns said.

Digital subscription will launch in the second half of this year, following a pilot of the program at one of ARM’s mastheads. The test site has not been selected but will be an area where the newspaper is the leading publication, where there is already strong digital penetration and where the editors and journalists are “highly respected”.

Mobile and tablet apps for ARM publications will launch at the same time as the paid digital subscriptions. The apps are currently in the test phase.

APN chief executive Michael Miller said he was not worried about reducing his newspapers’ competitive edge by charging for online access. “We pride ourselves that our content is unique. In some cases, for over 100 years, people have shown a willingness to pay for our content,” he said.

“The number of journalists we have in Mackay, for example, is more than any competitor has in that market. We don’t see [we have] any competition for local information.”

Mr Miller is also the chairman of The Newspaper Works.

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