A paywall will descend on Monday at The Australian, a move News Limited CEO John Hartigan says will “pioneer the way Australians consume media”.

The paper today confirms what has long been speculated and reported in Crikey yesterday: a redesigned website will launch on Monday with a three-month free trial offer for all readers. Once the trial ends, The Oz will charge $2.95 for its digital content — accessible on the web and through iPad and Android applications.

According to a press release, the four digital packages include:

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  • ‘The Australian Digital Pass’ which gives access to The Australian’s entire website, iPad and Android apps, and m-site will cost just $2.95 per week.
  • ‘The Australian Digital Pass’ plus a six day print subscription will cost just $7.95 a week.
  • ‘The Australian Digital Pass’ plus The Weekend Australian print edition will cost just $4.50 a week.
  • ‘The Australian Digital Pass’ plus The Weekend Australian print edition plus any single weekday print edition will cost just $5.20 a week.

The paper boasts: “News Corporation publications The Wall Street Journal and The Times and The Sunday Times of London have highly successful digital subscription packages, with The Times and The Sunday Times now growing overall print and digital circulation. The New York Times introduced digital subscriptions earlier this year and now has over 1.1 million digital subscribers.”

But it remains a gamble for the company as the first mainstream news website to charge for its content. Hartigan dispatched this missive to staff this afternoon:

From: “The Office of John Hartigan”
Subject: The Australian Digital Subscriptions
Date: 20 October 2011 12:11:14 PM AEDT

Dear Colleague,

Next Monday marks an incredible milestone in Australian journalism with the launch of The Australian’s digital subscription service.

This service will pioneer the way Australians consume media.

With a special Digital Pass readers will be able to buy The Australian’s premium content online, on tablets and on a new mobile site.

Subscribers to The Australian newspaper will get full access to the digital platforms free.

All the details are in announcements being made today. Next week The Australian is launching a unique and significant marketing campaign to promote the start of this new era.

This launch represents a major step in the creation of a sustainable model for quality journalism in Australia. I am immensely proud that News is pioneering this innovation.

Great journalism is what we are all about. All of our research and all the indications are that people will pay for great journalism.

Today’s announcement is the culmination of many months hard work by The Australian, the dedicated digital technology subscriptions team, and countless staff across the company.

Building the technology platform to manage digital subscriptions was a huge task, but we have achieved our aims on time and on budget. I thank everyone for their outstanding commitment to the project.

The Australian’s premium digital service is part of how we see the future of journalism.

This week we have also launched a new stand-alone website futureofjournalism.com.au This site is deliberately not a corporate showcase; it is a discussion forum for anyone interested in developments in media. We will commission material for the site, publish our own original thinking, link to the work of others and allow people who don’t work for News to contribute news, ideas, opinion and analysis.

I am confident that premium digital subscription services will be successful in Australia. On Monday, The Australian becomes the first of our mastheads to join a distinguished group of news brands that have already launched these services including The Wall Street Journal, The Financial Times, The Times and The Sunday Times of London and The New York Times.

John Hartigan

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