Saturday, July 30, 2016

Saturday Morning Musings - declaring separation from Granny Herald

It is with regret that I report that the Sydney Morning Herald and I have separated. It's been a long and sometimes troubled relationship.

As a young person, I sometimes disliked the paper because of its constant parochial and pro-Sydney stance, its opposition to things that I considered to be important. There was quite a long period when I rejected Granny for that upstart on the block, the Australian. Indeed, I became quite addicted to that paper. But, in the end, I came back to Granny (the SMH has been long known as Granny), if still with a bit on the side. Yes, I know that I am inconstant, but I couldn't help myself.

When the Australian went behind the firewalls, I was saddened. I don't know why the Australian web site still ranks so high. There is nothing important there to read that isn't subscriber only. I stopped reading, although very recently I have again started buying the print edition of the paper from time to time because I want an alternative view.

That left me with the Sydney Morning Herald as my main news source. I had come home to Granny. Then Granny began rationing my access to 30 visits a month. That was annoying, but I could just manage by also checking the other Fairfax papers, the Age and Canberra Times. The Age was once known as the thunderer and was, for a period, Australia's most influential newspaper. Now, except for Victorian news, it's sadly diminished in both print and on-line editions. The Canberra Times, so far at least, is still a real paper.

Recently, the Sydney Morning Herald reader tracking system seems to have gone a little crazy. I have been on or just under my thirty stories and so struggle for access. I can still access Granny on my mobile, but that has its own problems.

I am a news junky.  I am also a very fast reader. In a forty minute train trip I can read all my main news sources - there are a number of them. That made me realise just how little content there is. Yes, I had been aware of that, but it made me realise just how severe the problem had become. It was like a quick grope in the corner, fundamentally unsatisfying.

There is another problem too. I work reasonably long hours and then I have travel times on the top. My travel time was what I called my train reading time, time to read new things. Then I joined everybody else and started looking at the screen. Now I had lost my reading time. As I said, like a quick grope in the corner, fundamentally dissatisfying.

Well, sometimes it comes time to draw the line, to separate. I am that point. Granny and I have parted company. Maybe I will come back. I still check, but for now I am treating Granny like an index.

I check in but don't click though. I identify stories that may be worth following up from other sources. Later, when I can access again (should that happen), I will click through on those diminishing number of stories where Granny has unique content.

For the moment, it's still a separation rather than a divorce. But here is the deal, Granny. If you ease your restrictions, I will actually read those ads and promos that you keep including in your on-line stories.

You are selling that space based on general reader metrics. But for how long can you keep on doing that when you keep blocking readers from actually seeing the ads?



2 tanners said...

I too am bemused by the concept of paywalling from ads. It says to me that the ad revenue is not enough in which case they are in trouble! As pretty much a Canberra lad, I read the Canberra Times daily and have even clicked through on some ads with amusing results.

Wherever I go there's an ad for a particular wallet which promises to be skinnier. I did have a genuine interest, but it looks like an empty promise. I clicked on a couple of Shorten links in Facebook, which had the result of ALP banner ads showing up whenever I read your site, Jim! And I can't for the life of me figure out why the Canberra Times assumes that I have a passionate interest in earth moving equipment and industrial machinery. :)

Losing access to the Oz lost me access to some pretty objectionable opinion writers (i.e. no loss) but losing access to the Fin was a blow. i imagine it's a legitimate work expense or at least tax deduction for many and so can afford the model.

Jim Belshaw said...

I had to grin at some of your comments, 2t.

On the Oz, they do pick up stories that other people do not. It's also important to gain another perspective when so much of the MSM comes from a single viewpoint. I consciously try to read the opinion pieces from other points of view to maintain balance.

The FR behind fire walls is a big loss. I do try to buy the paper at least once a week, generally more, because I need their stories. It is a bit difficult not being able to link