News Corp.’s Australian Adds ‘Freemium’ Paywall

The Australian, which is owned by News Limited and is part of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. (NSDQ: NWS), is adding a paywall to its website, mobile site and apps starting on Monday. It will also relaunch redesigned versions of the website and mobile site that day.

Print subscribers who get the paper at home six days a week will have free access, and others will pay $2.95 per week. Some content remains free, while “premium content such as analysis, opinion and more specialist material,” is behind the wall. The model is based on that used by the Wall Street Journal, another News Corp. publication.

Section editors will have the jurisdiction to decide which content is free and which is paid. Non-subscribers can read five premium stories per day referred from Google (NSDQ: GOOG), and one premium story per day referred from Facebook (but there are no “free” referrals allowed from Twitter or LinkedIn).

All readers get a free three-month trial starting on Monday. After that, they can pay $2.95 per week for digital access only; $4.50 per week for digital access plus home delivery of theWeekend Australian (which is published on Saturdays); or $5.20 per week for digital access plus the Weekend Australian plus any single weekday print edition. Existing six-day print subscribers pay $7.95 per week and digital access will be included.

This week, The Australian‘s owner, News Limited, also launched a new website, The Future of Journalism. “This site is deliberately not a corporate showcase,” News Ltd. publisher John Hartigan said in a letter to staff, which media website mUmBRELLA posted. “We will commission material for the site, publish our own original thinking, link to the work of others and allow people who don’t work for News to contribute news, ideas, opinion and analysis.” An FAQ on the site answers questions about The Australian’s paywall and readers are asked to write in with their views about “how you think the journalism industry will develop in the future.”

The Australian is the country’s most popular national newspaper (though see reader Jonathon’s comment, below), with a weekday circulation of 130,307. Another national paper, the Australian Financial Review already has one, but that is “a strategy designed to limit cannibalisation of the physical product rather than grow an audience online,” Australian site Business Spectator writes. “The AFR paywall is now under review and will almost certainly be lowered to some extent.”

News Ltd. also owns about 100 other metropolitan, regional and suburban papers in Australia, including popular tabloids The Advertiser and The Herald-Sun. Business Spectator also offered thoughts on why The Australian was a good candidate for the first News Ltd. paper to go behind a paywall:

It is a broadsheet with significant slabs of content its editors would regard as “premium” and its economics have always been marginal, at best, so there is little to lose and any additional revenue would be a bonus. If the paywall has a materially adverse effect on its online audience and revenue base, the tabloids within the News portfolio might re-think their plans to erect their own walls.