Reading about Business Day and the Sunday Times and the brave new world (for them) of online readers and sales, I profess some admiration crept in, writes Bette Kun. It can’t be easy to take such a big step in a business model that, in the case of the Sunday Times, is over 100 years old.
Well done,I thought. A nice balance between print and online and facing the transition well from a readers point of view. Happy for them. Hope it works.
A short two weeks later, the Sunday Times has failed me – the loyal reader, the loyal print subscriber. And at a time when they should be wooing their existing subscribers, helping them cross the digital divide, understanding their needs.
Why am I ranting, you might ask? Well, I have subscribed to the Sunday Times for more years than I can to remember, with the exception of a five year stint overseas. I like the thud I hear early every Sunday, knowing a coffee and the next hour are happily filled with the latest news, views and reviews. And I love the ads inserts. (I save them to last)
Come Monday morning I am on roll, and having had my weekday fix of The Times (and that coffee), am raring to go to share articles, quotes, book reviews with my clients and friends. Did one of my PR pieces make it? Did those photos of new hires in the Careers sections get accepted? Time to go online, copy and paste and send them on. Inevitably I send the online format with a page number and the paper’s name (I understand about copyright after all).
I find the article I read and want to send on and an obnoxious pop up tells me to subscribe to the digital Sunday Times. Each and every time. I can’t get past it. I can’t even READ the full article. I can’t share it. I can’t copy and paste. What kind of evil plot is this?
The first time, I followed the email link to ask why I need a new subscription when I already have one. That was on 30 July. Still waiting for a response.
This time, I phoned the suggested number. Why can’t I access an online article? I asked. I have a subscription. I only want to send an article as reference to a colleague. You need to email George – they say. I’d rather speak to him, say I. “We don’t have a telephone number for him”, she says. What rot, what rubbish. So I have emailed Avusa. I am waiting to see how long they takes to reply.
So here we are. Suddenly the Sunday Times thinks its articles (those already published) are the holy grail; not accessible; out of bounds; beyond a mere print subscriber’s reach.
What are you guys thinking?
Don’t you get how online works, how it should live side by side with your print? How you should treat your subscribers if they are to stay with you during this transition? Don’t you know many have gone down this slippery slope before you and stumbled and fallen?
I HAVE a damn subscription. I am a subscriber, already. How dare you?!
Derek Abdinor, general manager of Avusa: “The Sunday Times roadblock is in line with our Group policy to not give away free content. Quality journalism costs money, as does runningwebsites. We certainly aim to make this content accessible and have researched many international methods in this process. All publishers need to start the journey of getting fair value for content and we will build on our first steps.
Asked whether Avusa was looking at a system, such as the one in place at IOL, in which print subscribers input their subscription number to access an e-edition of the newspaper they subscribe to, Abidnor said:
“The e-edition is a Newspaper Direct product, not to be confused with online content. It looks exactly like the newspaper and is therefore ABC compliant. We are embarking on an exercise with them in order to integrate those. Although they have paid for one version, it’s an interesting discussion whether the content is a commodity across all platforms.”
Bette Kun is owner/consultant at Bette Kun Marketing Communications.