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You know I don't actually think I'm all that good at this Web Experience stuff. The reasons I don't think I'm all that good is that most of it seems beyond blatantly obvious. I keep waiting to be caught out with someone going "Oh all you do is show us how to fix the really obvious stuff, you fraud"

Although it appears that as my dad says, Common sense isn't all that common because it's seems so many more people are getting it wrong than right.

Take for example the FT's columnists columns. A friend of mine sent me an email asking if I had read Lucy Kellaway as he thought my stuff sounded similar. (I haven't read them but I listened to her podcast them, when she did that, and after hating the first one quite liked them.

So I reckon I'll throw ol' Lucy in my feedreader, and I do. But alas I find every time I try read them, the FT wants 100 bucks a year from me.

Are they frigging insane. Right I'm not stupid, and I understand by the FT every day will costs 3 or 4 times that, and I understand that having the entire paper online for free may not be the best business model (I say may as I'm not entirely sure it's not viable, but I haven't run the long term numbers to see, so I'm speaking out of my guess).

See the problem is they are only appealing to one type of person here, and thats the person who wants to read the FT every day, but doesn't have access to the paper version or prefers to read these online. However the FT has more than one type of reader. They cater for at least two offline, with the daily reader able to get the paper by subscription and the occasional reader able to buy a copy at his local newsagent. But online, if you don't want a years worth of copies you're shafted.

Now not all articles are created equally. Your head line leading article is more valuable than your page 5 articles which are probably more valuable than their columnists. A paper without columnists might be a bit dull, but I would imagine no one buys the FT solely for the columnists (this might vary in other papers/media).

Also todays article has different value to last weeks article to last months article to last years article. There is plenty of room with playing around with which of these time periods you can access for free and what you pay for access to different ones (someone who wants to read current news has different demands as someone who wants to do research). FTs website also has very little on what content is restricted and how long it's restricted for, another sigh of annoyingly shoddy work. If you are selling something let people know exactly what you are selling so that you can make informed decisions.

However I just want to read one article by one columnist. There is plenty good reasons to make this free (or at least the three most current). It's of fairly low value to the paper in of itself, but is a great way to upsell to read more of the paper. Hell require registration if you must but give me access.

Or micro charge. Lets say an average FT is 200 pages (pending response from AQA on this) and a daily paper is 1. That's 0.5p a page and an column probably takes up 1/5 of a page. So call it 0.1p per column is what it costs you to ready a daily column. Lucy has roughly one column a week so we are talking 50 columns a year or 5p worth of column.

Update: AQA: Sorry, AQA can't find all the information required. The Financial Times costs 65p. This daily paper was founded in 1881 and is edited by Lionel Barber.

So lets assume my numbers below are high if anything.

And they want 100 from me. As I said early got to be kidding.

Now I understand that micropayments is a difficult problem to solve. (I'm pretty surprised that all the newspapers haven't got together and rung PayPal (or done their own) by now). Even with not doing your own, charging say 5 a year (probably 5 times too much as well) for all the columns is still more than getting 0 a year because they are only appealing to one type of customer.

Compare that to the 10 a year I am paying for Daring Fireball (and I get a lot more value out of DF) and DF has all his content available for free. Df gets my money. FT does not.

5 Comments

28 Mar, '07 2:20 PM

1. Adrian

Curiously I seem to be able to access the columns occasionally by repeatedly clicking on some of them. I’d surmise this is more of a bug than anything else.

28 Mar, '07 4:43 PM

2. Mrs. X

You do realise that newspapers make their money through ads, not subscriptions? You’re paying £100 not for the privilege of accessing their articles but for the privilege of circumventing the printed ads you’d be forced to flip past if you picked up the paper copy. Kind of ironic since they could do a lot more intelligent ad serving online, and they probably reach a far more valuable demographic.

28 Mar, '07 4:50 PM

3. Adrian

Yes, newspapers sell an audience to their advertises, not news to their audience. However online news pages (barring the BBC) also serve adverts, so this is no different. Except as you say they could target a lot better. Especially data rich sites such as news sites.

Either way I don’t entirely object to paying to read the column (or an article), just that their business model is too limiting and not much more than a very uncreative offline model.

They could have done a lot more, than getting zero pounds from me.

29 Mar, '07 2:10 PM

4. nrgza

The Mail & Guardian online does this quite well, but is also seriously expensive.

While they operate on a paying subscriber basis, non-subscribers can read the majority of the content. The content you need to be paid for is marked with a star, and these stars seem to be allocated through 2 criteria: the popularity of a particular columnist, or the timeousness of the piece.

So while I can read some current stuff, the really insightful current stuff is not free. And while I can read Guy Berger’s column, Tom Eaton’s and John Matshikiza’s far more insightful and interesting columns aren’t free.

As they put it: By subscribing to the newspaper, you also get full access to premium content areas () of this website, available to subscribers only. The premium areas of the site includes the newly revamped archive and feature/Insight articles, including website and newspaper columnists and our daily Zapiro cartoon.

You also get a copy of the paper (I suppose you could opt out of this).

The cost is crazy though. The cheapest international option is R2,200 - SA domestic is only R1,000, so not much better than your FT subs.

I think you may be on to something Ade - I would consider paying just to read Tom Eaton’s stuff.

04 Apr, '07 10:35 AM

5. Adrian

I guess spiders are more interesting than web business models.

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    This page contains a single entry by Adrian published on March 28, 2007 2:17 PM.

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