A big experiment. That is what the Herald Sun is calling its brand new paywall. The Melbourne tabloid will introduce a brand new, cleaner design next week as part of its introduction of the paywall, and a two month free trial to all users.
The Herald Sun will then charge $2.95 per week for access to digital-only content. The paper will also bundle subscriptions – with a $4.95/week subscription that include the digital pass plus weekend delivery. A $5.95/week plan will include delivery between Friday and Monday (described as a “SuperFooty” plan); and a $8.95/week plan for all seven days of paper delivery. Each person will be charged for 4 weeks, and automatically renewed.
Those already on subscriptions will get a complementary pass. 1-5 day subscribers will get a 3 month pass, while 6-7 day subscribers will get a 12 month pass worth $150.
The new digital pass will extend to mobile, with the exclusive content available via its mobile site and the iPad app. A footnote: if you subscribed via the Apple App Store, you will NOT be able to access the content behind the paywall.
The paper will NOT be adopting a closed off system like sister UK publication The Times. They will still let general and breaking news continue to be accessible for free; in addition content available from rival digital publications.
So, what is behind the paywall? Well, good or bad, the paper’s columnists – including Andrew Bolt – will be behind the paywall. In addition, there will be new additions to SuperCoach, including live scores (again, for digital subscribers), chat and exclusive analysis. The paper will also launch a brand new “crime” section, with exclusive analysis from former veteran Victorian Police detective Charlie Bezzina. Bezzina’s columns promise to go deeper into the investigation, and explore some past crimes in the state’s history.
Video will also play a huge role in the new design, with more original video set to be pushed out. The company will also rely on its partners Fox Sports and Sky News for content. Exclusive videos will be behind the paywall. And, taking a little jab on Fairfax – no, they will not have autoplay.
The Herald Sun has adopted a unique model, where it will be flexible with what goes behind the paywall. It will moderate its visits and will determine on a day-to-day basis on what will be put behind the paywall. This will mean that some analysis on a breaking story will NOT be closed off.
It’ll be interesting with the Herald Sun, as it already has 500,000 subscribers – the largest in country. It also has 400,000 unique browsers per month – so it already has a strong base to attract them to the new model.
And of course, this will mean that this could spread to its other tabloids. One problem would be the multiple subscription offerings – but there might be a small chance that there could be a network-wide subscription. The paper refused to speculate, saying it was too early and will approach that step once it is finalised.
Everyone, including Fairfax, is watching if this experiment succeeds or fail. In fact, the Herald Sun could pave the way or destroy the very idea of paying – it all depends on what kind of content is provided.
It all becomes active on March 12.