Newspapers are at the coalface of the media revolution this year as they push ahead with the switch in focus from print publications to online.

Change has been accelerating and after years of giving content away online the newspaper companies are planning moves to subscription models - a change that APN News & Media, publisher of the NZ Herald and, has said will be in place by the middle of the year.

There are clearly some risks in going first, and it requires a commitment to providing a superior product to competitors.

APN has divested itself of many of its magazine titles and has been actively researching a subscription model for some time.


Across the Tasman, Fairfax has been at the forefront of the move but appears to have put the project on the back burner in this country.

One key issue for both publishers will be how loose to set the meter for "free" articles so that casual users still visit and advertising revenue is protected.

The risk is that if the setting is too low - if there is too much content for free - people will not be concerned about losing unlimited access and will make do without subscribing.

Another issue will be whether consumers make do with free sites including state-owned media such as - TVNZ and RNZ - that are not under pressure to make a commercial return.

Overseas, private sector media companies like News Limited have complained bitterly about the free status of taxpayer funded news websites such as those for the Australian Broadcasting Commission and the BBC in Britain.

Whatever happens, the move will mean a radical change to the way that people consume media and the message for all media is that doing nothing is not an option.