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But the traction for StarBiz Premium—which claims to have a focus on capital market news and analysis—“wasn’t good”, says a second The Star employee, as the StarBiz team lacks manpower to produce in-depth and exclusive stories for subscribers.

“Also, there was no point when readers can read the same thing on the print,” said the employee who requested anonymity as they are not authorised to speak to the media.

It appears that continues to be the case for The Star’s spanking new digital subscription today. Print stories are available online and vice versa. Moreover, most of these print stories are considered ‘breaking news’ and are free-to-read on The Star’s website.

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Most print stories on The Star are considered ‘breaking news’ and are available to all readers even when the free read limit is exhausted. Meanwhile, a story from global news agency Reuters (which could be accessed for free on Reuters website) appears to be locked when the free-read limit runs out.

Before rolling out the paywall this March, The Star had requested that its users register since late-2019—although not compulsorily—in order to continue accessing news. It is a path that has been commonly taken by US publications like the New York Times and Washington Post before they rolled out their paywalls as well.

Currently, registered readers would enjoy a 30-day trial, followed by an introductory fee of RM1.90 for one month, before they’re finally charged a full price of RM9.90 per month. For non-subscribers and non-registered readers, they can access a limited number of articles including those that are labeled ‘premium’ for free each month.

Upon exhausting the monthly limit of free reads, a paywall drops for all articles on The Star’s website, including stories from news agencies Reuters and BERNAMA (Malaysian National News Agency) that can be easily read on other news websites for free.

Free content behind a paywall?

Besides, it’s not like the new Digital Access is priced much lower than the older StarBiz Premium bundle. It costs RM100 (US$23.4) each year (about RM8.30/month), while Starbiz Premium Plus costs RM250 (US$58.5) a year (about RM20.8/month) with full access to WSJ and BT.

The Star also seems to be losing the bundle as the partnership with WSJ and BT won’t be renewed upon its expiry. On its FAQ (frequently asked questions) page, the media publication said StarBiz Premium has been consolidated with The Star Digital Access. Existing subscribers of StarBiz Premium Plus will still be able to access WSJ and BT but “there will be no extension after the expiry date”, it said.

“All StarBiz Premium members have been upgraded to The Star Digital Access membership with full access to news and content on and app,” it says. No refund option is available for existing subscribers who don’t wish to be upgraded. As of 31 December 2019, The Star Malaysia app has recorded 282,206 users.