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Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Messenger of Death, Really?

I work in an IT company (You would have guessed it by now). I sit in front of an LCD monitor and code (says my profile). I have internet all the time (Of course, no Orkut and all, but that is the topic for discussion at some other time). What I want to say is, even though I have net access and spend most of time in front of a PC, I subscribe to the print edition of The Hindu. "Why the heck?"

Internet was called the "Messenger of Death" for print publications, especially, newspapers. [Anyway, it was not predicted by Nostradamus and has proved wrong (at least for the time being)]. Around 2 years back, The Hindu started their epaper service. I registered on the first day itself. They had specified that it will be a free service for sometime(around 90 days, I think) and will be charged after that. Anyway, its free for the time being and they didn't ask for my credit-card info. I started reading online sometime and one day, I got a mail that "We are going to change to a subscription model and 'go to hell for free service'". Being a loyal reader, I checked for the subscription fee details. I was flabbergasted!! (This is from the wayback machine as The Hindu has removed the page)

"What!! Do they think that they are the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) of India??" Rs.400 per month was the astronomical subscription fee!!! (Even WSJ charge only Rs.263 per month($79 for one year) and think of the amount of info you get from WSJ!). I quietly closed the window and on the way home in the evening, told my newspaper agent to sent The Hindu "print edition" the next day onwards. (He gave a smile. Was that because he was getting back a customer or because he knew about the subscription fee!!)

After this episode, I stumbled upon The Hindu website sometimes from Google and other sources (I have even linked to The Hindu sometimes in my blog). The other day, I saw a flashy ad in their website. "Epaper subscription fee reduced...Now just Rs.150 per month. That led me to think of something else.

"Why can't they give it for free?" In today's frenzy net, everything is free. And the new slogan is "free and the best". Think of Firefox. Think of Linux or Safari. Think of iTunes. "The best of the net are the freebies."

So, why can't The Hindu give it for free. They have an Alexa international rank of 18,755. They have an Alexa India rank 668. God! They are in the Top 1000 visited sites from India. And also, around 50% of their traffic is from India (Rest from USA, Singapore, UAE etc..).

Malayala Manorama, the largest circulated vernacluar newspaper in India, maintains a really well built website. It is among the Top 10 newspaper sites in the world (by traffic). Why? They give everything for free. They have free epaper, free email (which is based on Gmail platform), shopping, free music and movie clips, web specials and lots. They cash completely upon the latest advertising platforms. When world is witnessing a war for internet advertising, is The Hindu not brainy enough to cash on it (Or even does it require brain to do this?).

A request (or advice) to The Hindu - Give the contents for free. Give a free epaper. You might have a little drop in print subscriptions (But I think it will be unnoticed). The returns are too good. You get loyal readers. You create better content (As you have more competition). The creativity of your staff increases ten-fold. You get more traffic (In one month, you can go up to Alexa 10000 or even Alexa 1000!!). Finally, you make more money than you ever think of.

To the readers - Thanks for reading through this data-filled post. Hope I didn't bore you. If you support what I have said or if you have a different view point, please comment about it. Hope someone from The Hindu will find this. (May be they will Stumbleupon this blog, who knows?)

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