pulp and pith … current affairs blog

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If you charge people to read your blog or use your website, you are automatically alienating two groups of users: new readers and casual readers. Why would you want to do that? Only those who have visited your site before and think it’s worth paying for on a regular basis will ever shell out.

Since most people make money from their websites by increasing traffic, as this increases the revenue generated from advertising, doing something that will decrease traffic is shooting yourself in the foot. Eventually your readership would stop growing. It might remain constant for a while, but in the end it would fall due to natural wastage and the fact that fewer sites would be able to discuss, refer to and link to your content – Billy No Mates is invisible on the internet.

Most internet users are loyal to between 10 or 20 websites. They maybe have 40 to 50 more that they enjoy, but read infrequently. People would probably be willing to pay to read their favourites if they couldn’t find an alternative, but they would not pay for the rest.

If your content is largely pretty unique, such as the location-specific stuff produced by the local media, then you could probably get away with charging for it, because you have an audience that cannot go elsewhere to get what they want. But with crowd-sourced information websites on the up, how long is that going to last?

If you are the Sunday Times, for example, you might think you have enough clout to make people pay for what you offer (eh, Mr Murdoch?). The truth is, unless you bag an exclusive or a juicy scoop, readers could find similar information for free elsewhere.

Whether you have unique content or not, and whether you are a big brand name or not, putting up a paywall excludes passing trade and stops you from attracting new users. These guys make up a hefty chunk of any website’s readership, plus they have the potential to become more frequent (valuable) users. If they have their own blog or website, they could even choose to link to your site, which could drive new traffic towards you.

In effect, paywalls are like corsets – in your mind’s eye they look pretty darn sexy, but when you’re three hours into a posh do and you’ve got one on, it’s a different story.

We’ve got to come up with a way to make it convenient and viable for a casual or first-time website user to pay for content…


Or, six things I would change about Independent.co.uk if I had the power.

1.    The funny brown colour of the masthead and dividers. It’s a vaguely soothing shade, I suppose – reminds me of Caramac bars – and it does tie in with the print product: but it does not grab attention. And it certainly does not go well with blue.

2.    The website’s habit of crashing. It makes browsing sticky and awkward. Don’t publish the page if it won’t load properly! (Unless it’s only me who has this problem… if so, apologies).

3.    The font. Increase the size and make the line spacing bigger. Or send a free magnifying glass to every reader. Your choice.

4.    The lack of space. The overload of information and adverts on the page makes it hard to pinpoint what you want. Clarity is vital. Let the site breathe. Make it easier to navigate, and get rid of the endless succession of boxes and blocks. If you’re going to divide something off, do it with purpose. Don’t just whack a thin blue rectangle around it.

5.    There are not enough pictures. Even the most eyeball-blisteringly committed internet news reader needs to rest their eyes on a photo or cartoon now and again. Including extra photos would not require that much more effort or money.

6.    Independent Minds. Even if you know what you want to read about or comment upon, finding it ain’t easy. This part of the website has one or two leading articles in prominent positions, but there’s no organisation or prioritisation of information beyond that. Fewer lists and more editorial input on where articles are placed and how noticeable they are, depending on what’s popular and what’s going on in terms of breaking news, would help.

the independent

I have fond feelings for The Independent. In my youth my family were religious Daily Mail readers and it was my designated ‘I’m rebelling’ newspaper (yeah, I was a real tearaway).

Am I twisting the knife by dissing their website? Of course not. It’s constructive criticism. Presuming that the next Indie owner wants to be constructive with his or her new plaything…

Currently buyers are being sought to take it and its Sunday variant on. Both titles have suffered flagging sales due to stagnant brand identity, and are in a lot of debt (bosses are putting off announcing their annual results, which doesn’t bode well).

The Indie’s future is uncertain. Perhaps the brand’s fate was sealed when the daily paper increased its price to £1, something that the other national dailies remain just shy of.

About the blogger

Hello! I'm Gemma Kappala-Ramsamy, and this is my current affairs blog. Please feel free to comment.
July 2018
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