BERLIN (Reuters) - Readers of Germany's best-selling daily, Bild, will have to pay for some online content from mid-June, an executive at Axel Springer said on Monday, as the company fights against an era of "free beer for everyone".
Bild's website will adopt a so-called "freemium model", with some content remaining free while items such as exclusive interviews, stories and photos will be subject to a charge.
Bild sold 2.46 million copies each day in the first quarter, down from 2.67 million a day last year and well below the 4.51 million copies sold each day in 1998.
Axel Springer is increasingly turning to an internet-based business model as print circulation declines and advertising revenues fall. The circulation of Axel Springer's "Bild" and "BZ" newspapers fell by 8 percent in the first quarter.
"Independent journalism only stands a chance in the digital world if it is financed by means of adverts and sales revenues like the traditional print business," said Andreas Wiele, head of Bild Group and Magazines at Axel Springer.
Last year, Axel Springer Chief Executive Mathias Doepfner told Reuters he believed the ruinous "free beer for everyone" era of giving content away on the internet may be ending, as paying users are not only proving more valuable for publishers, but crucially for advertisers too.
Axel Springer introduced a paywall for some content of its flagship national daily Die Welt late last year, following in the footsteps of several papers abroad like the Financial Times, the Wall Street Journal and Britain's Times.
The company has not yet revealed the level of revenues from Die Welt's digital edition.
"BILDplus", as the new Bild product will be called, offers readers three different packages, the cheapest at 4.99 euros a month, and enables access to all of Bild's online content.
For 14.99 euros a month readers will also receive a digital newspaper and a book of coupons with which they can get the print newspaper at a kiosk.
Axel Springer will seek to entice customers to subscribe to "BILDplus" with video clips of Bundesliga football games it will offer on the internet one hour after games end from August 2013 - a package which costs an extra 2.99 euros a month and which can only be purchased in conjunction with another subscription.
(Reporting by Nadine Schimroszik; Writing by Michelle Martin; Editing by Nick Zieminski)