|News Limited is gauging consumer demand for subsidised electronic readers such as Apple's iPad, while Fairfax has launched the subscriber-only Sydney version of its Good Food Guide website to coincide with the launch of the 2011 print edition.
As reported in The Australian, its Melbourne site, goodguides.com.au, has been up and running for more than a week. Customers who do not buy the print edition can buy 12-month access to the website for $9.99 -- the same price as Good Food Guide iPhone app.
People who buy the book will get access to the website through a redemption code with content not available to the casual browser.
The websites have been developed by the company's retail sales and merchandise division, Fairfax Enterprises, and not the digital unit run by Jack Matthews.
Fairfax group executive editor Philip McLean told The Australian the websites were a very small part of chief executive Brian McCarthy's strategy to charge customers for premium content.
Mr McCarthy confirmed at Fairfax's solid annual results report last month that the publisher of The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age would move towards a hybrid online model.
Customers will be charged for niche or premium content -- The Australian Financial Review's website has operated behind a paywall for years -- while more general content will remain free.
Meanwhile, News Limited, publisher of The Australian, has commenced market research into its plans to erect paywalls around its websites.
News Limited asks consumers a series of questions about paid content, including whether they would be interested in obtaining a subsidised e-reader tied to a digital subscription.
The question is the strongest indication yet that Australian newspaper publishers may become e-reader retailers, in an approach similar to the way in which telecommunications companies sell mobile phones tied to customer plans.
And Fairfax is believed to be considering a more radical way to combat the migration of readers from its print products to the online outlets.
Macquarie media analyst Alex Pollak has suggested Fairfax could spend about $50 million to give away 100,000 e-readers as part of a broader strategy aimed at shutting down its printing presses.
Mr McCarthy told The Australian that Fairfax remained committed to print, but conceded digital audiences would continue to grow.
News Corporation chairman and chief executive Rupert Murdoch has described the advent of tablet computers as a game-changer for publishers.
Source: The Australian
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