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Over the past two days, I've spoken to APN NZ CEO Martin Simons a couple of times about restructuring and reshuffles.
At one point the conversation segued to paid online subscriptions.
Mr Simons volunteered that one possibility was for APN (publisher nzherald.co.nz) to share paywall infrastructure with Fairfax (publisher of Stuff.co.nz). The pair could implement a single paid sign-up system, but still compete for subscriptions and otherwise operate with complete independence.
The APN boss said his company had a small team monitoring paywall developments overseas – and will no doubt be aware that a shared system is not without precedent.
The Guardian recently reported that in Slovakia no less than nine media organisations have banded together to implement a single subscription system. In effect, a whole country had been put behind a paywall.
There is a similar jape in Poland.
Mr Simons stressed APN was still assessing many different paywall models, and if any would fit with the company's aim to generate more revenue online. There had been no formal talks with Fairfax.
Fairfax NZ boss Allen Williams was travelling and not immediately available for comment.
I still can't see how a paywall can work for general news (unlike business, where often the boss pays and/or people get information they can use at work, or the classic news-you-can-use example of Consumer's paywall).
But if the mainstream papers do go down that route, sharing paywall infrastructure could potentially save money and time.
More, it would solve the tricky "Who goes first?" problem.