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news-corpSYDNEY: The Australian arm of Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation will begin charging for online content, the firm said Thursday, with its flagship national broadsheet to move behind a paywall from next week.

News Limited said The Australian newspaper would start charging for Internet content via a new "digital pass" system, which would kick off Monday with a three-month free trial period.

Describing it as a "freemium" model with a mix of free and subscription-only material, The Australian's CEO Richard Freudenstein said the digital pass would allow readers to log in across computer, tablet and mobile platforms.

Weekly access to the newspaper's web and mobile sites, iPad and Android apps would cost Aus$2.95 (US$3), with a six-day print subscription tacked on for Aus$7.95 or a weekend newspaper add-on costing Aus$4.50.

It will be Murdoch's first Australian publication to go behind a paywall and only the second in the nation, following the lead of business-focussed daily The Australian Financial Review, run by rival firm Fairfax Media.

The mogul is a dominant media player in Australia, his home country and the birthplace of his News Corp empire, owning two-thirds of the nation's newspapers.

News Limited chief John Hartigan said it was an "incredible milestone in Australian journalism" and the paywall would "pioneer the way Australians consume media".

"All of our research and all the indications are that people will pay for great journalism," Hartigan said in a memo to staff.

"The Australian's premium digital service is part of how we see the future of journalism. I am confident that premium digital subscription services will be successful in Australia."

The Australian will join a "distinguished group" of News Corp titles with subscription-only content including Wall Street Journal, The Times and The Sunday Times of London and New York Post, he added.

Though it is yet to make any official announcement, Fairfax has also flagged a "nuanced" paywall strategy, describing it as a necessary part of its evolution beyond classifieds and advertising revenues.

Copyright AFP (Agence France-Presse), 2011

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