The FT talks up its paywalled blog

By Felix Salmon
June 17, 2010
to Laura Oliver about the FT's Money Supply blog moving behind the paywall:

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Robert Shrimsley, managing editor of FT.com, gave an interesting quote to Laura Oliver about the FT’s Money Supply blog moving behind the paywall:

“It’s absolutely core content, our best economics writers writing about what is going to happen in central bank and fiscal policy, stuff that moves markets. This is stuff that our readers really want to know; they want to glean every morsel of information and insight. This is so core to what we do that we absolutely shouldn’t be giving it away,” he said.

Describing Money Supply as “core content” is tantamount to saying that I’m wrong when I foresee the blog’s demise — so this is going to be an interesting test case for the FT, since we can’t both be right.

My thesis is that if you write for the newspaper, that’s great, because millions of people read the newspaper. And if you write for a free blog like Alphaville, that’s also great, because it’s available to the whole world and also gets a very large audience. But if you write for a paywalled blog, that’s not great at all, because the only people who can read you are the ones who subscribe to the website — and even then you’re almost impossible to find, given FT.com’s site architecture.

And even the people who do subscribe to the website, and who do know how to find you, and who do like what you do — even they might stop reading you once you go paywall. As commenter SBa wrote on my blog:

I monitor blogs for an international organisation that deals a lot with central banks, picking important entries for viewing by economists, researchers, statisticians etc.

I’ve now dropped Money Supply from the list of blogs that I monitor. Even though we have an institutional FT subscription, users need to register individually. Even once that’s done, the cookies get cleared regularly so users here are forced to log in every so often. This is all painful because I want the users to immediately access the content.

I have yet to find a subscriber to FT.com who isn’t annoyed by the paywall: it simply doesn’t work well, and it regularly locks you out when it shouldn’t. And of course the paywall is much more annoying for people who don’t subscribe.

Between demoralized journalists who have no desire to shout into a void, then, and annoyed readers who don’t like trying to gain access even after they’ve paid for it, I’m pretty sure that Money Supply is going to be hit both on the supply side and on the demand side. And at some point even Robert Shrimsley isn’t going to be able to credibly consider it “core content”.

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