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Janet Roberts

Solving the Pass-Around Dilemma for Paid Ezines
By Janet Roberts

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If you publish a paid newsletter, you probably want to find a way to keep your paying customers from forwarding it to everybody they know.

You can find some technical ways to do it, but, as two English publishers say, why bother?

Paul Carr and Charlie Skelton produce a successful satirical newsletter, The Friday Thing, with a paid circulation and a free update. Instead, they say, make the freeloaders want to get their own copies, especially if they ever want to see their feedback comments published.

Don't sweat it, in other words.

Speaking to the audience at a recent newsletter publishers' workshop, they said they chose not to try to limit their readers' ability to print or forward the newsletter, although they don't tolerate full-scale pirating.

"We're delighted with people forwarding it," Carr said.

"In terms of someone sending it to five or six people, it's the similar thing when you buy a newspaper, and you might read it on the bus or something, and a few more people pick it up. The newspaper publisher is not losing sleep over that fact because ... not everybody does it, but more importantly, people read it. People receive it and they look at it, and they say, 'This is quite good.'

"Our job, then, is to make that person subscribe. It's to make them say, 'I don't want to receive this as a forwarded email anymore. I want this to be directly delivered to me.'

"They do it themselves, because, first of all, after a few weeks of getting it forwarded, even if (the paid subscriber) set up an auto forwarder and they forward it to all their friends, for a few weeks, they might go on holiday. They might forget one week. Something might happen, and (the freeloaders) don't get it. They have to wait until the person has finished reading it themselves before they forward it, and they want to get it first ...

"The point is, what we don't do is, we never publish feedback from anyone who's not on our mailing list. ... We get loads of feedback. ... We get people who email madly ... but unless they're subscribers, it's not ever going to appear in print, and we make that very clear."

You can see The Friday Thing, which to American readers is a cross between Salon and The Onion, here.

The only flaw I can find in their plan here is that the free Friday update is pretty good by itself.

Carr and Skelton spoke at MarketingSherpa's ContentBiz Publishers' Profit Workshop. The complete transcript is still available here.

Ezine-Tips for December 02, 2002

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