‘Free content over’ says Fairfax as it launches app

Tim Grey
30 May, 2011
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Fairfax chief executive Greg Hywood has claimed ‘the era of free content is over,’ upon launching new iPad apps for newspapers The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.

At a press conference announcing the release of the subscription-driven apps, Hywood told journalists that the period where print content was translated to the web for free is over.

To prosecute that strategy, Fairfax will be offering digital subscriptions for mobile devices at a price of $8.99 a month. Through a sponsorship arrangement, Fairfax will be offering users a six-month free trial period.

The SMH and The Age mobile apps arrives as Fairfax is embroiled in a fierce dispute with its staff, with journalists taking to the streets to picket the company’s decision to sack 85 sub-editors. The company plans to cut 300 jobs from its production and printing divisions.

Former editor of the UK’s Daily Mirror and columnist for The Guardian (which also recently released a paid subscription model), Professor Roy Greenslade believes Fairfax’s troubles are part of the terminal decline of newsprint.

“It is part of the death throes of newsprint,” said Greenslade. “We can’t do much about that except to manage decline as elegantly as possible and at the same time hope we can build an audience for a different platform.”

Fairfax hopes its new digital model – in concert with the tranche of redundancies – might reinvigorate its flagging business.

“There has been a huge change in news consumption habits over the last ten years, and recently with more and more emphasis put on mobility,” said CEO and publisher of Fairfax Digital, Jane Huxley. “With an expectation for consumers to be able to access news anytime, anywhere, it’s increasingly important for publishers to provide a first class news experience that revolves around the consumer.”

The Age and Sydney Morning Herald Apps will be available free over the App Store tomorrow.

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