Paywalls encroach on Alphaville

By Felix Salmon
July 13, 2010
FT Tilt. It's all quite mysterious for the time being; I can't wait to see how it turns out.

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FT Alphaville is spinning off! The fabulous Paul Murphy and Stacy-Marie Ishmael, who have been with Alphaville from the beginning, are now setting up something at even more of an arm’s length from the FT itself: “a new digital media service”, whatever that might be, called FT Tilt. It’s all quite mysterious for the time being; I can’t wait to see how it turns out.

Meanwhile, the Alphaville email newsletter is disappearing behind the FT’s ever-expanding paywall: in order to receive it, you either need to be a subscriber to FT.com (just the newspaper isn’t good enough), or else you need to subscribe to the email alone for £65 or $93 per year.

The Alphaville blog itself, however, will remain free. So I have a piece of advice for anybody pondering whether they want to pay to get multiple emails per day from Alphaville: go to Feed My Inbox, type your email address into the email address field, and type http://ftalphaville.ft.com/blog/feed?abstractlen=-1 into the “Feed URL” field. Presto, you’ll get dozens of great emails a day from Alphaville, in a more timely manner, full of links and analysis and wit, all for free. Then, if you still want to spend $93 a year for the 6am Cuts, go right ahead.

I’m not entirely clear on why this charge is being implemented, and the way that Alphaville talks about “an executive decision reached somewhere above the tree line at the FT” makes me think that they don’t understand it either. My guess is that it’s a matter of principle: the FT doesn’t want its readers to feel that they can read it for free. And maybe they want their FT.com subscribers to feel more special because they’re getting an email no one else can get. But if the FT is willing to share the information, I’ll be very interested to find out whether anybody signs up for the email-only option. My guess is that the subscriber base is going to be tiny, certainly so long as rivals like the NYT’s Dealbook email remain free.

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