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Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Straits Times charging for their online edition

I was away for a week and just look at the flurry of blog activity related to Straits Times's decision to start charging for their online edition a la Wall Street Journal and South China Morning Post (SCMP) style from 15 Mar 2005. For goodness sake, ST even has an FAQ on this! Given the keen economic competition between HK and Singapore and somewhat similar focus on Asian and regional news (respective regions that is), I thought I'd do a comparison between ST's and SCMP's charging mechanisms. Let's see how the head-to-head match-up goes:

(1) Annual rates: ST=S$120, SCMP=US$51.50
(2) Archives: ST=7 days , SCMP=10 articles only (but from as far back as 1993)
(3) Censorship: ST=Self, SCMP=Self
(4) Loyalty: ST=Nil , SCMP=Free online access for "old-time" subscribers (needs verification)

(1) ST is more expensive as far as annual rates are concerned.
(2) I abhor both practices. If I'm to pay for the online edition, I want access to the online archives for a much longer duration e.g. a year and not subjected to such drastic charges for non-profit or educational purposes. SCMP's rates for access to their archives seem more exhorbitant on the initial look but the archive which they're refering to includes articles dated as far back as 1993. ST doesn't give you that with their S$120 a year subscription. ST does have an online archival system called Newslink. Newslink goes as far back as 1989 for ST articles but they charge an annual fee of S$900 and an additional S$2 per article (not including GST and subjected to changes naturally). SCMP's charges for archived articles approximates to S$1 an article (based on charges for 90 archived articles at an additional US$57.70) of which the base fee is already covered in your subscription. In fairness to ST, Newslink allows you to search the other ST owned papers too like Berita Harian, LianHe Wanbao, The New Paper etc. That topped with the additional 4 years worth of archives for ST as compared to SCMP is well worth the additional fees don't you think? ;-)
(3) On Singapore and Beijing news respectively ... this is purely hearsay ;-)
(4) A HK friend told me that internet users who subscribed to the online SCMP prior to their charging for their online edition continue to enjoy free online access for news of the day only. Any SCMP "old-timer" subscribers care to comment? If this is true, how about doing the same thing ST?

Mr Brown's Today's column also talks about the alternatives to the Main Stream Media (MSM) as does his blog. While I can agree with the potential that alternative news sources could provide, the key word here is potential. As Singapore Angle, aptly puts, ST fills a niche that is not readily replaced ... yet. Perhaps Singapore bloggers would like to attempt to be online editors focusing on niche areas similar to ST's - trawl for news from various Singapore online news sources like *.gov.sg, CNA, Yahoo, Today and see what kind of "consolidation" we can achieve.

Oh, one last thing on "paid subscriptions". Perhaps bloggers should start charging MSMs too if they make references or obtain their sources from blogs. But this will only apply to MSMs that charge for their online editions ... and they'll be charged an annual rate of S$120 for up to 7 day's worth of blogs ... anything over 7 days, the charges leveed will be S$900 for an annual subscription and an additional S$2 per blog (not including GST and subjected to changes ... naturally). Oh, and we'd even allow you to search brother/sister blogs that we're linked to too.

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Ok, speaking of Mr Brown, I was browsing the Emerging Technologies Conference site on O'Reillys when I came across a link to their bloggers. Guess what I saw? A big fan of you-know-who?


Not really. That's actually Robert Kaye, the "Mayhem and Chaos Coordinator" of MusicBrainz (music metadata commons). Robert was also a developer of Zinf, a software that I've been using to play my MP3 and Ogg files for a couple of years. It does look like WinAmp doesn't it? Well, one thing fo sure, it's definitely less bloated than WinAmp.



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