JAPAN: An increasing number of domestic newspapers have started charging readers for their online content.
The newspapers hope to attract new readers by providing more specialized and detailed articles online, with the aim of making such services a pillar of their business operations.
Nikkei Inc., which publishes the Nikkei business daily, will launch a fee-based online service on March 23 in which subscribers can access news flashes and articles carried in the newspaper's morning and evening editions.
In October, The Yomiuri Shimbun established a fee-based site called yomiDr., which provides detailed medical information.
Until now, the Nikkei's news site, Nikkei Net, has offered all of its information for free.
However, the company is planning a paid service that will enable subscribers to read news flashes and articles from the morning and evening editions of the newspaper online and via cell phones.
The Sankei Shimbun and other newspapers already have launched paid services that allow access to electronic information.
The Yomiuri's yomiDr. offers information on medicine, nursing care and health.
But if readers wish to access the whole yomiDr. site and read such items as a series of articles on hospitals across the nation, they are asked to register and pay.
Some other newspapers charge for articles on specific fields.
For instance, The Mainichi Newspaper distributes English-language articles to Kindle, Amazon.com's software and hardware platform, while a sports newspaper has set up a fee-based site that focuses on horse-racing.
Newspaper organisations are keen to alter the public's perception that online news is free, while providing impartial and reliable online information in a way that stabilises the companies' businesses with revenue derived from their broad range of highly specialised articles.
Nikkei Inc. President Tsuneo Kita stressed the need for newspapers to take concerted action against the glut of unreliable information currently available in the digital domain.
"If our service becomes successful, we'll share our know-how with other newspaper companies," Kita said.
Similar steps are already afoot in other countries.
About 30 US newspapers, including the Wall Street Journal, started charging for access to their online news as of January, according to the Japan Newspaper Publishers & Editors Association.
The New York Times plans to start charging for access to its Web site in January 2011.
The move among newspapers toward digital content has been accelerated by the spread of Apple Inc.'s iPhone and other digital tools that enable people to read news in ways other than on the printed page.