Gympie Times' deal too cheap
A MEDIA expert is shocked readers of The Gympie Times are going to be able to get digital access to local news - and Brisbane's Courier Mail plus a home-delivered Saturday paper - for just $3 a week.
Mark Hollands, chief executive of industry body The Newspaper Works, described as "ingenious" the package that The Gympie Times paper's owners, Australian Regional Media, had put together.
ARM announced last week it would introduce a metered subscription model on The Gympie Times website from today.
Readers will get 10 stories a month for free before being asked to pay.
But for just $3 during the introductory period, they get online access to The Gympie Times, the Courier Mail, the Washington Post, some TV streaming services and a home-delivered Saturday paper.
"Frankly, I think it's too cheap, but with providers of quality content across the world turning to the subscription model, it's definitely a buyer's market," Sydney-based Mr Hollands said.
He said the publishing industry would watch with great interest the approach by ARM.
"The company, acknowledging the physical boundaries of its regional journalism, has built a most ingenious offering that embraces the nation's largest media company, News Corp, as well as the highly regarded Washington Post.
"The strategy is consumer-focused, which is mandatory of course, and signals a break from the old-school behaviours in which publishers would try to ring-fence readers into their own products."
Mr Hollands said readers should accept there was a price to pay if they wanted quality journalism in their towns and cities.
"As digital consumption continues to have an impact on print copy sales, the sustainability and growth of quality local journalism depends on the acceptance by the community at large that content requires significant fiscal investment that must be rewarded," he said.
It might be a tough transition for those used to reading news for free, but consumers were becoming more accepting of the need to pay for different forms of content.
"For the consumer, there is a price to pay - phone contracts, data plans, home broadband services, including video-on-demand subscription - all of which are now quickly becoming baked into the basic costs of life.
"Paying for content, be it a movie, news service or anything else, is a natural part of this eco-system."
It would be "naïve to think" creators of content - including newspaper publishers - should not seek reward for their skills and their investments.
"The arrival of digital consumer-focused technologies from the mid-90s never promised anything would be for free.
"Instead, it offered the access, speed, the potential to create greater human knowledge through sharing and collaboration, and much more. We have far surpassed those expectations, in my view."
To have charged for content in the early days of the internet would have made no sense because "there was a zero subscriber market, and buying online was far from an understood or common practice".
But that was not sustainable and media companies around the world have worked for years to understand what would be palatable for readers. Many had hit the middle ground The Gympie Times was offering - a number of articles at no charge before asking readers to pay.
"That is a perfectly reasonable approach and will be successful if the content and delivery is seen to represent value for the cost.
"Because a newspaper is not a physical item online does not mean that it should not have a price attached. The same holds true for books, music, movies or even premium TV content that is offered by Foxtel, HBO or Netflix."
The Gympie Times' decision to charge for its online content, using the metered model, is aligned to the best practice of many international publisher brands, such as The New York Times.
From this morning, you can purchase one of our new subscription products by visiting gympietimes.com/subscribe or by phoning our subscriber services team on 1300361604.