It’s “The Guardian Day” as SMH erects pay walls

SMH paywall

Rarely does any new business receive a boost like the one Fairfax is giving the newly launched Guardian today. The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age  have the same readership, tone, political leanings and metro target as The Guardian but are today going behind a paywall whereas The Guardian will remain free. (SMH locked out foreign users a couple of months ago).

Sure, Fairfax needs to take steps to ensure profitability and unfortunately for them the plan for a paywall was hatched some 18 months ago before there was any inkling that The Guardian might launch in AU. But no man does business in a vacuum.

So what will happen?


The SMH now allows 30 free articles per user per month.

Casual readers: This is probably enough for very casual readers who probably won’t notice.

SMH loyalists: At the other end of the scale there are the SMH die-hards – readers who always read the site, buy the paper or have it delivered or have grown up with the SMH. What proportion of these readers will subscribe – particularly if they’re of the average newspaper demographic of 50-something+ years old? It will be interesting to see how many the SMH can convert and how old they are.

Daily readers: The very large group who have a number of news sources, apps or sites used to pass time in cabs, buses and trains – will they now pay or switch? I would guess: switch. (Or avoid paying)

SMH iPad app paywall

iPad app

The SMH’s excellent iPad app became subscription-only today – I’ve often used it to browse the news and I would guess that I’d read 20-30 pages per session over 20 minutes.

Is $15 a month too much?

$15 per month is pretty much the limit of what someone would pay for a digital newspaper subscription – there’s a $1 for your first month discount but $15 is certainly not a discounted rate and Fairfax must be counting on the value of the product rather than discounting at this amount.

Crucially, will $15 be low enough for people to not bother stopping the payment when they notice it on their card or bank statement? Perhaps not, $9 might sneak through more easily.

How many subscriptions will the average person pay?

This question is the key for much of the future of digital – how many subscriptions and how much money is the average person willing to pay for digital content each month?

Will Mr Average pay for TV, music, a specialist site and a digital newspaper? Jeffrey Cole says he thinks two or three subscriptions or $260 USD is the limit for most (caution this is a 2008 video even though it sounds like last week):

We’ll find out over the next couple of years. If it is only two or three then News might have the advantage – subscribe to Foxtel and get a free subscription to The Australian?

But then perhaps, get a subscription to SMH and get a free subscription to Spotify?

Or even, get a new iPhone 6 from Telstra and get a free subscription to SMH for 1 year.

The bundling frenzy is coming – led by those to whom you have already signed a continuous payment.

Oh and if you were thinking of keeping the old SMH iPad app…

Old SMH iPad app


But if you do get caught by the SMH paywall…

If you do get locked out of SMH then you can just switch to The Age which has a separate paywall but same content, then go to National News and read Sydney’s.

Cannot read this?
SMH – Too expensive’ Sydney slips from top 10 tourism list

SMH article blocked

Then you can still read this:

The Age – Too expensive’ Sydney slips from top 10 tourism list

The Age article not blocked