Fairfax websites to charge international readers

Fairfax Media will charge international readers of its news websites $15 a month from next Tuesday in a move to boost revenue. 

The smh.com.au and theage.com.au websites will operate a so-called ‘‘metered’’ model, in which readers in North America, Europe and the Middle East will be able to access 10 free articles a month before they have to pay. 

The company will announce its subscription model for readers in Australia and New Zealand and other Asia Pacific countries later this year. The number of free articles will be set higher for domestic markets, where use is heavier. 

Fairfax Metro Media chief executive Jack Matthews said the company wanted to test its technology with the overseas market first before launching it in Australia and New Zealand. 

‘‘We’ve researched and tested digital subscriptions extensively. The meter model is proving to be the most successful with publishers overseas because it is easy to understand and it enables less frequent readers to continue to visit the websites,’’ he said.

Gautam Mishra, the director of strategy for Fairfax Metro Media said the metered model was the de facto industry approach.

“The metered model allows us to introduce digital subscription with least disruption to our existing business,’’ he said. “It only targets a small population and vast majority of our readers will not trip the meter.” 

Mr Mishra said the company maintained ‘‘laser focus’’ on not hurting advertising revenue when it was considering various subscription models. 

“We have a lot of flexibility with the metered model, you can actually tweak restriction to make sure that we are not damaging our existing business. “

Fairfax Media’s financial news website AFR.com.au has been behind a paywall since 2006, but the strategy has become increasingly popular with websites around the world as media firms attempt to generate new revenue flows.

The Age and Sydney Morning Herald websites are among the most successful news outlets in the country, reaching more than 5 million people last year. Smh.com.au was also the most popular news website in Australia in February.

The tablets apps for The Age and SMH will remain free in every country until paywall goes up in Australia and New Zealand later this year. 

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