Undercooked Acrimony

This morning, I decided to forego my usual breakfast diet of two or three domestic and a sprinkling of international media. Instead of CNN and NPR and Aljazeera and BBC, et al, I opted to explore an online resource I rarely visit: Le Monde diplomatique (LMD). I should have remembered from past visits that I might not be happy with it, but my memory isn’t what it used to be (or never was).

LMD, an English language French newspaper that is published monthly, hooked me this morning. At the same time, its marketing team made me extremely angry. Let me explain.

I first began reading an article about a powerful family that, according to the article, essentially controls the Canadian province of New Brunswick. The piece, entitled “The Irvings, Canada’s robber barons,” says the family has, “…established vertical and horizontal monopolies that allow them to do without suppliers and business partners.” The family owns timber lands, sawmills, paper mills, a home building company, steel and concrete production operations, a naval dockyard, packaging factories, car dealerships, pharmacies, intercity bus lines, and on and on. In addition, the Irvings own all English language newspapers in New Brunswick, as well as radio and television stations.

As I was reading all of this fascinating stuff, I came to an abrupt dead end. If I wanted to finish reading the article, I had to subscribe.  As much as I wanted to know more, I was unwilling to spend a chunk of money to read just one article, especially in a publication I’d be unlikely to visit regularly. So I went back to the home page and picked another article to read.

The next article I found intriguing, entitled “When the US swung a Russian election” claimed “The US intervened on the side of Boris Yeltsin in the Russian presidential election of 1996, offering advice and influence to help him secure the finance he needed.” Interesting! So I continued to read. The article made note of CIA manipulation of elections in Italy and Germany in the 1940s and 1950s and asserted that the U.S. helped overthrow elected leaders in Iran and Guatemala in the 1950s. Just as I found myself absorbed in this well-written piece, I came to another abrupt dead end. The same situation as before: if I wanted to finish reading the article, I would have to subscribe. Damn!

“Screw this,” I said to myself, “I’ll have a look at the newspaper’s old stuff. Surely the marketing folk won’t deprive me of seeing a full article published long ago.” But just as I became enthralled by an article about Bagamoyo, a small Tanzanian fishing port that is on its way to becoming Africa’s largest container port, BAM! “You wanna keep reading? Pay up!”

Okay, I thought, I’ll see whether I can buy one-off access to especially interesting articles at a reasonable cost. Nope. It’s full-on subscription or deal with the frustration of being unable to read any complete articles. Okay. How much? Well, for an indeterminate period, I can subscribe at a 40% discount for a one-year period…at roughly $38. Not gonna happen. As interesting as those articles are, I’m not going to spend $38 simply to satisfy my curiosity.

Those dead-ends, though, really irritated me. If the marketing team thinks pissing off readers is a good marketing ploy, they are wrong. What they succeeded in doing was to convince one prospective reader to ignore the paper from here on. They could have sold either full access for a one or two-day period or access to a limited number of articles. They could have made a few bucks off of this reader. Instead, they didn’t make a nickel off of me. And they deprived some good writers/researchers of a slightly larger base of readers.

The worst part is that this paper, based on my limited access to it, seems to be an extraordinarily good publication. Had I been able to get limited access to some complete articles, I might have decided it was worth $38 per year (which is a 40% discount off regular rates, by the way). But, instead, the marketing department just annoyed me.

I sent an email to the subscription department, asking whether limited access is available; I doubt that it is, or I would have found the information. But perhaps my query will spur some creative thinking on the part of the subscription department or the marketing geniuses. We’ll see. I got an auto-response, suggesting a real response should come within 48 hours.

Now that I’ve let my anger, annoyance, and moderate rage simmer a while, I realize there are more important things in the world today than my frustration with limited access to LMD articles. But, still, I just don’t think it’s right to tease me with increasingly intriguing paragraphs, only to slap me in the face and tell me I can’t continue to read them unless I fork over what, to me, is a significant amount of discretionary money. I guess my simmering hasn’t completely cooked my acrimony.

About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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