Fairfax to brief investors on digital subscription model

Fairfax Media will unveil more details about its digital subscription strategy on Thursday for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age as part of an investor briefing day.

Fairfax Media will unveil more details about its digital subscription strategy on Thursday for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age as part of an investor briefing day.

Fairfax executives have in the past stated their preference for a metered model in which readers get free access to a certain number of stories before being asked to pay. Any metered model would probably remain porous to ensure the company retains its large share of the nation's digital news market.

The New York Times, widely seen as an industry model for metered models, had 676,000 paying digital subscribers at the end of March, almost as many as its 731,000 print customers. Readers of the NYT get access to 10 free articles per month, with full access starting at US99¢ ($1.02) for the first four weeks, before rising to $US3.75 per week.

Goldman Sachs analyst Christian Guerra said investors would be expecting an update from the Fairfax management on plans for increasing revenue from its digital platforms, such as theage.com.au and smh.com.au websites, to help counter a drop in print sales and advertising.

Last month, the Herald website and its mobile site had average daily domestic unique browsers of almost 840,000 while The Age attracted about 587,000 unique browsers. By contrast, News mastheads such as The Australian had 203,000 average daily unique browsers, the Herald Sun 345,000 and The Daily Telegraph 243,000, Nielsen Market Intelligence says.

Also of interest will be whether Fairfax has plans for a possible spin-off of its Domain property assets, Mr Guerra said.

Fairfax shares have risen almost 18 per cent this year, closing at 60¢ on Wednesday. In comparison, the broader market is up 4 per cent.

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