Newspapers are at the coalface of the media revolution this
year as they push ahead with the switch in focus from print
publications to online.
Change has been accelerating and after years of giving
content away online the newspaper companies are planning
moves to subscription models - a change that APN News &
Media, publisher of the NZ Herald and nzherald.co.nz, has
said will be in place by the middle of the year.
There are clearly some risks in going first, and it requires
a commitment to providing a superior product to competitors.
APN has divested itself of many of its magazine titles and
has been actively researching a subscription model for some
Across the Tasman, Fairfax has been at the forefront of the
move but appears to have put the project on the back burner
in this country.
One key issue for both publishers will be how loose to set
the meter for "free" articles so that casual users still
visit and advertising revenue is protected.
The risk is that if the setting is too low - if there is too
much content for free - people will not be concerned about
losing unlimited access and will make do without subscribing.
Another issue will be whether consumers make do with free
sites including state-owned media such as - TVNZ and RNZ -
that are not under pressure to make a commercial return.
Overseas, private sector media companies like News Limited
have complained bitterly about the free status of taxpayer
funded news websites such as those for the Australian
Broadcasting Commission and the BBC in Britain.
Whatever happens, the move will mean a radical change to the
way that people consume media and the message for all media
is that doing nothing is not an option.