Fairfax, owner of <i>The Age</i>, will introduce a 'metered model' for its websites similar to that of the <i>New York Times</i>, in which readers are given a base level of access before they are charged.

Fairfax, owner of The Age, will introduce a 'metered model' for its websites similar to that of the New York Times, in which readers are given a base level of access before they are charged. Photo: New York Times

FAIRFAX has been keen to emphasise that it is introducing ''digital subscriptions'' to its news websites, and not building a paywall.

In its announcement yesterday, Fairfax, owner of The Age, said it would introduce a ''metered model'' for its websites, including theage.com.au, which would give readers a base level of free access before they were charged.

Home delivery newspaper customers will be able to get online access ''bundled'' with their subscriptions.

Plans and pricing for digital access will be announced by the end of the year.

The New York Times last year introduced a metered model for online access, with readers allowed a certain number of free articles each month, with payment required to read more. However, articles accessed through links on blogs and social media are free.

In March, The New York Times said it had 454,000 paid digital subscribers.

The Los Angeles Times launched a similar model this year, charging 99 cents for four weeks' access to its website.

In Australia, Fairfax's biggest rival, News Limited, has already introduced paywalls for the Herald Sun and The Australian.

After launching a paywall for The Australian last October, News Limited says the website has 40,000 subscribers, including 10,000 existing print subscribers.

The newspaper's website has a free 28-day digital pass, and then offers three paid options for digital and print access.

The Herald Sun began its ''digital pass'' in March, with a two-month free trial available until the end of this month.

Readers can combine paid access to the newspaper and the website - much of which is accessible only to subscribers.

Both News Limited paywalls can be circumvented by typing headlines into search engines.

Fairfax was the No. 1 trending topic on Twitter for most of yesterday, with feedback ranging from dismay at the mass job cuts to delight at the planned reduction in the size of the newspapers from next year.