Fairfax launches paywalls — finally. After months of anticipation, Fairfax today hoisted paywalls on The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age websites. The company is starting out with a softly-softly approach: readers won’t be asked to pay until they read 30 articles in a month on a single device. And anyone who gets the paper delivered on two or more days per week will get free access. This is aimed at ensuring traffic doesn’t plummet, as it has when other websites have erected strict paywalls.

Fairfax plans to experiment with its paywall strategy over coming months and is likely to reduce the number of freebies if punters show a willingness to pay. Earlier this year The New York Times slashed the number of free stories from up to 15 a day to three a day. — Matthew Knott

Meanwhile on planet Henderson … No matter how awry the commentary on any matter, you can trust Gerard Henderson to make it look good. Was PM Julia Gillard the victim of misogyny? No, according to Bob Santamaria’s former golden boy, she lost support because of her unmarried status and atheist lack of beliefs. Gillard was elected with 38% of the primary vote in 2010. When she was deposed, the ALP was polling at 29%. The misogyny theory is a stretch in itself, but Henderson would have us believe that 25% of people who voted for Gillard have suddenly got religion and traditional values in the last three years, sufficient to change their vote. It is absurd on the face of it, but the Right has long stopped caring about logic. And if they now somehow contrive to lose this election, they will wig out entirely, like the Republicans. Henderson is as on the ball with Australian history as he ever is these days:

“Gillard was not merely the first woman to reside in The Lodge. She was also the first unmarried prime minister in modern times. The Liberal Party MP William McMahon married Sonia Hopkins in 1975 at age 57, on the eve of Sir Robert Menzies’ retirement as prime minister. In the 1950s and ’60s the left had circulated rumours that McMahon was a closet homos-xual.”

By “the left” he means, of course, John Gorton. But check the timeline. How’s that for NCC bliss? An Australia in which the Whitlam government never happened, and our Sir Robert governed for 26 years, retiring gracefully at the age of 81. Even better no one at The SMH either knew or noticed. Or maybe they find Henderson’s pedantry as tedious as the rest of us, and want to embarrass him. There are so many Hendo howlers these days, Nancy will need a dog of her own to keep up. — Guy Rundle

Radio ratings: Jones, Hadley tumble. ABC 702 Sydney performed strongly in the latest radio ratings: the steadier, less hysterical network was a direct beneficiary of the turn off from 2GB ad cemented its second place in the market with very solid gains across all timeslots. In Melbourne ABC 774 also made strong gains although market leader, 3AW also added to its share and didn’t lose, unlike 2GB in Sydney.

The switch in Sydney was stunning in fact as it appears listeners deserted 2GB across the day and headed straight for ABC 702 which doesn’t have tin pot screamers or “nattering nabobs of negativity” (to quote the discredited late US Vice President, Spiro Agnew who was criticising the critics of him and his President, Richard Nixon). Despite the loss in the latest survey, 2GB still leads in Sydney with a 13.9 share, but that was down 2 points in the latest survey (Monday to Friday), with Jones losing 1.2 to 15.8, Hadley a huge 3.8 to 15.1 and Chris Smith in afternoons losing 2.1 to 11.3. In Drive, 2GB lost 0.9 to 11.0. And to make matters worse for the owners of 2GB (John Singleton and his Macquarie and its arm, Harbour Radio), their second station in Sydney, 2CH lost 0.5 to end up on 4.2 and neck and neck with Fairfax Radio’s weak 2UE.

ABC 702 saw its share rise 1.5 to 11.4 with Adam Spencer bouncing 1.4 to 13.6, in Breakfast, Linda Mottram up 1.8 to 9.7 in Mornings, James Valentine up a strong 1.8 to 10.3 in Afternoons and Richard Glover added 1.1 to 11.9 and regained the market lead in Drive. Fairfax’s 2UE’s share fell 0.5 to 4.2.Southern Cross Austereo station, 2Day FM (which is in trouble with regulators over that stupid prank call late last year), saw its share rise 0.3 in the survey to 9.0 and Kyle Sandilands/Jackie O in breakfast lifted their share 0.4 to 10.0% and the top spot among FM stations.

In Melbourne 3AW remains top station lifting its share by 0.2 to 13.3 with gains in Breakfast and also Mornings where Neil Mitchell saw his share rise 0.5 to 13.8. But the ABC’s 774 added 1.2 to a share of 12.8, with Red Symons in Breakfast up 0.7 to 15.5 and Jon Faine adding a large 1.8 to 15.5 to regain the market lead in the Mornings timeslot. — Glenn Dyer

Shirts and giggles at Fox Sports. What a difference an “r” makes, as Fox Sports Australia’s headline writers discovered yesterday …

The Trib’s TV takeover. There’s been a string of TV station buys and reorganisations in America in the past month to six weeks that is rapidly transforming the world’s biggest commercial TV industry. Rupert Murdoch showed the way by splitting the old News Corp; Gannett has bought the TV stations of a small operator; Media General has bought a private station owner; and now the Tribune Co, which only emerged from four years of bankruptcy last year, has emerged out of the blue to do a $US2.73 billion deal to make it the biggest commercial TV station owner in America.

Under the deal, revealed overnight, Tribune Co buy all 19 TV stations owned by a company called Local TV Holdings, which is owned by a private equity group Oak Hill. With the Trib’s 23 stations, the company will own 42 across the US, most of which are number 1 or 2 in their markets from Seattle to New York, Los Angeles and Miami. The deal will almost certainly see the Tribune Co sell out of its weak newspaper holdings, which include The Chicago Tribune and The Los Angeles Times, The Baltimore Sun, Sun Sentinel (South Florida), Orlando Sentinel, Hartford Courant, The Morning Call and Daily Press.Glenn Dyer

Video of the day. Jonathan Holmes said farewell to Media Watch viewers last night after five-and-a-half years exposing journalistic dodginess. The ABC veteran finished by praising the work of the country’s top investigative journalists and issued his viewers a challenge: “Whatever your politics, or your preferences, and even if you’ve never bought a newspaper, start subscribing to at least one media website.” Paul Barry takes on the gig from Monday.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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