Letter From The Editor

Hic sunt camelopardus: this historical edition of The Browser is presented for archaeological purposes; links and formatting may be broken.

Dear Browser Member,

Thank you for supporting The Browser. It means a lot to us.

I returned as editor of The Browser on January 1, after a couple of years away.

I'm planning some changes to the site, which I hope will make it more focused, and will increase revenues (we have always operated at a loss, but we don't want to do so indefinitely). I'd like to discuss them with you first, and see how they strike you.

First, We are giving Five Books its own site once again, with its own editor, Sophie Roell, who has led the Five Books team since 2008. We've found that recommending good current reading (as The Browser does), and talking to authors and experts about their favourite books (as Five Books does), are separate activities that need separate spaces to flourish. Trying to combine them in one site has constrained them both. The disentangling is already under way; the new Five Books site will be live soon (at fivebooks.com); and we'll make sure that members of the Browser continue to get free access to all Five Books content.

Second, I'm developing a new business model for The Browser web site, once Five Books is gone and The Browser has a clear focus on linking to the best writing of the moment. Under the new model, the site will remain freely accessible to all visitors. But the links out to our recommended articles will only work for registered users. (If you are not a registered user, you can click on a link, but it won't take you anywhere.) This is a deliberately leaky model: visitors who don't want to register can always Google our headlines; and visitors will have a quota of free clicks before the registration requirement kicks in. The aim is to leave the site as a whole open to all, but to nudge visitors into registering (and paying a modest sum) if they find us useful. As an existing member of The Browser, your position will be protected: you will be credited with a year's free registration under the new scheme, at no extra cost.

Third, I'm wondering whether the existing membership scheme is providing value; whether there are things we could do, in this context, which we are not doing; or whether we should seek to phase the existing membership scheme out, as current memberships expire, and rely for our revenues on the new scheme (the gated links) described above. The existing membership plan is tied very closely to the use of our apps: but our analytics suggest that the usage figures for those apps is actually rather low. So allow me to ask directly for your comments and suggestions. Are there particular aspects of our apps that you value highly, and that you would be sorry to lose? Or did you decide to become a member more to show general support and encouragement? (Thank you, in either case.)

Please do write.

With best wishes

Robert Cottrell


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