Fairfax to reveal its online subscription plan to investors

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 previously 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, though, would likely remain low and 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 set-ups, had 676,000 paying digital subscribers at the end of March, almost as many as its 731,000 print customers. Readers get access to 10 free articles a month, with full access starting at US99¢ for the first four weeks, before rising to $US3.75 a week.

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

In May, the Sydney Morning 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 browers, the Herald Sun 345,000 and The Daily Telegraph 243,000, according to Nielsen Market Intelligence.

Also of interest will be whether Fairfax has plans for a possible spinoff of Domain property assets and any update on cost-cutting, Mr Guerra said in a research note.

Fairfax Media shares are up almost 18 per cent in 2013, closing at 60¢ on Wednesday. This compares with a 4 per cent rise for the S&P/ASX 200 Index.

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