Australia claims first for online newspaper

Australian publisher News Ltd. launched a digital version of its flagship last week “The Australian” newspaper, claiming it is the first major newspaper that can be delivered to customers over the Internet in identical form to the printed version.

The newspaper will use proprietary software called NewsStand Reader to enable subscribers to view and print an exact colour facsimile of the print publication, the company said in a statement. Subscribers need to download the NewsStand Reader software to access the material. NewsStand Reader was developed by NewsStand Inc., and also has been chosen by the International Herald Tribune and New York Times for their forthcoming digital editions.

The service will initially be aimed at overseas subscribers, who currently have to pay large amounts of money for a printed newspaper delivered a day late, the company said in the statement. From a newsstand price across Australia of A$1.20 (US$0.61), the price rises to A$12 in Singapore and US$8 in New York. The digital version will cost US$2 per day, according to the statement.

NewsStand has supplied News Ltd. with two applications, PaperPusher and NewsStand Delivery Service, which contain the necessary tools to digitally publish the newspaper. The content is encrypted and sent to NewsStand‘s back-end system from where it is delivered via FTP transfer to subscribers.

The digital version also incorporates live Internet links, so readers can search for more detail on related stories, or go direct to an advertiser’s Web site. The version also contains live index links, so subscribers can quickly go to a particular section. All content in the paper is searchable by keyword, the company said.

The Internet version will be available each day from 3:30 a.m. Australia Eastern Time (3:30 p.m. GMT) and will take 15 to 30 minutes to download using a standard 56Kbps (bit per second) modem, depending on the number of pages, or under a minute for broadband subscribers, according to the statement.

The online version will create several new uncertainties and business issues in the publishing industry, according to Alan Farrelly, general manager of the company’s Newsource division. According to Farrelly, the uncertainties include: