The era of free online content is over, at least for Fairfax publications, according to Fairfax Media chief executive Greg Hywood, who said the company would soon begin charging users to access parts of its website when the six-month free period for its new Sydney Morning Herald and Age iPad apps expires at the end of this year.
Readers of mainstream sites may soon have to pay for some of the content.
But Mr Hywood indicated Fairfax was unlikely to lock up a large part of its content behind a solid pay wall, suggesting a 'freemium' model that was partly free and partly paid was the likely outcome.
'It's not in our interests to massively shrink our audiences,' Mr Hywood said. 'The company is nearing 180 years and for 180 years people have paid for content,' he said, launching the new apps this morning. 'There was a period where that print content was translated online and was for free.
'Publishers around the world are making the judgement that that period is essentially over,' he said. 'But it puts an onus on them that their journalism is essentially differentiated enough (to persuade people to pay for it).
The new apps will be free for six months, underwritten by a partnership with Telstra, after which time they will cost $8.99 a month, or less for a six-month or 12-month subscription, or if the reader also buys the newspaper.