Open letter to Rupert Murdoch concerning The Sunday Times paywall

Dear Rupert Murdoch,

Last week, on 4 August, this website reported that you ‘gave the first hint’  that subscriber levels to The Times pay wall are ‘strong’.

Good on you.

But what you have done has really hacked me off. You may not care about this. After all, who am I?

Well, I am one of your customers.

I have been reading The Sunday Times for all my adult life and I still pay £2 a week for the privilege. My kids think this is heathen behaviour and a complete waste of paper – especially as I don’t read half of it. The ‘Money’, ‘In Gear’ and ‘Home’ sections go straight in the orange bag.  In ‘Travel’, I read that naughty little article ‘Confessions of a Tourist’ and then chuck that out too. Such a waste of paper.

As I’m a cultured kind of guy, I read ‘Culture’, especially the book section, but I’ll come back to that.

By the way, I used to keep ‘Culture’ for a week to refer to the TV and Radio listings (sometimes returning to book reviews and other articles I glossed over on Sunday) but now I chuck it on the Sunday with the rest.

Ironically, this is thanks to you. Because not only do I buy The Sunday Times every week but I subscribe to Sky for TV, phone and broadband. And on my Sky HD+ box, it is much easier to see what programmes are coming up than it is in your Sunday Times ‘Culture’ section. So I bin it.

The sections I do read are the newspaper, ‘Review’, ‘Business’ and ‘Sport’ (even there, the ‘Cowes Week’ supplement went straight overboard). So, for years, I have paid for your products and been a loyal customer.

But last week there was an article in The Sunday Times about a medical condition in which I have a particular interest. I wanted to ‘save’ it on my computer in the special computer file I keep for this subject.

I looked the article up your website to see if I could save it electronically. No doubt, you will say this is illegal. But I feel I have paid for the article and, having paid up, the format in which I want to file it is my business.

Then I hit the pay wall.

Well, I am sorry. I have already paid for this content in your paper.And I deeply resent the fact that you are trying to extract even more money out of me for something I have already paid for. So what did I do?

I could have scanned in the article and saved it electronically but, before bothering to do this, I found the same subject on one of your competitor’s websites. They covered it quite well, actually, and they didn’t charge me to access it (so I’m thinking of transferring to their newspaper too).

Anyway, I think I have a better idea (or rather, on this site, an insight) which, on a one-off basis only, I am prepared to share with you for free. First, I have to declare an interest. I am a co-founder of two websites www.Lovereading.co.uk and www.Lovewriting.co.uk.

Lovereading reviews and recommends books and charges publishers to email this content to readers who have opted in to receive this service for the genres of books they have told us they are interested in.

Lovewriting doesn’t review and recommend books, but is a media channel where self-published authors pay us to promote their books on the site. To help these independent authors, we urge our 150,000+ Lovereading users to browse books on Lovewriting.

All Featured Books on both these websites have free Opening Extracts. Admittedly, compared to your empire, these are tiny businesses. However, because of what I have learnt, I can accuse you of being lazy.

Why don’t you use your Sunday Times website to find out from me the ‘sections’ of content that I am interested in and pay for on a weekly basis? Why don’t you unbundle your customers into their areas of interest rather than by media channel (newspaper, TV, digital etc)?

Why don’t you ask us if we would be interested in receiving digital content from your media channels in our individual areas of interest (e.g. books)?

Then you could charge advertisers to reach clearly defined audiences who you know, because they have told you, are interested in certain activities (books, cars, sport etc) and likely to buy the products that apply thereto.

Perhaps you could could do this across all your media channels and point your customers to ‘destination sites’, such as www.Lovereading.co.uk, which would offer them more in-depth coverage of their areas of interest.

This way, you can avoid hacking off previously loyal customers like me by asking us to pay twice for the same content.

Yours sincerely,

A Different Hat

PS – from Lovereading, I have learnt there are many other smart ways of monetising your newly refined and defined customers but, like you, I’m not going to give everything away for free am I?

I did enough of that in my last post.

http://community.brandrepublic.com/blogs/adifferenthat/archive/2010/08/12/open-letter-to-rupert-murdoch-concerning-the-sunday-times-paywall.aspx

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