On Voluntary Subscriptions

I am a believer that folks should use whatever free resources available to them, both professionally and personally. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram are examples of services that are free for ordinary users/consumers, and I use all of them, for personal or professional purposes. (Sometimes I use one or more of them for both.) My usage for each of these services is based on their cost to me – nothing! If one or more of these services started to charge for the servies, then I’d make a value judgement on what the overall worth was, to me, and either pay or jettison the service, as my values dictated.

An example of this was the recent Chicago Tribune decision to switch from entirely-free content to limited free content, with a paywall behind which “premium content” was stored. This change came in November, 2012. For years before the switch I read the Trib online, paying nothing for all the content. When the premium content – mainly, opinion columnists, but also content from Trib partners publications like Forbes and The Economist, along with digital archives dating to the 1850s – was moved behind the paywall, I had to make a decision on whether to subscribe. (Ultimately I chose to subscribe. The Trib was and is, after all, my original hometown newspaper, and during the month I was considering whether to subscribe, I found I really missed a lot of the newly-minted “premium” content.)

The examples above – free applications/content, mandatory subscriptions – are two examples of how application providers and content providers deliver their apps and content to consumers. There is a third type, however, referred to sometimes as “voluntary subscriptions.”

One example of “voluntary subscriptions,” and one that I cite every once in a while when I’m talking about this topic, is science fiction author John Scalzi. Science fiction fans know Scalzi as the Hugo Award-nominated author of Old Man’s War, or maybe as the Campbell Award winner as best new Sci-Fi author in 2005. Scalzi also served as president of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America.

Not everyone knows, though, that Scalzi’s first two novels, including the Hugo-nominated Old Man’s War, were published under a voluntary-pay model on his website.

The real purpose of this post is to highlight another voluntary subscription content provider: the John Lothian Newsletter, and to encourage consumers of this daily newsletter to subscribe to the service.

We’re all familiar with the stats that Lothian publishes a couple times per year: MarketsWiki.com with 15.5 million views in 2012, more than 33 million views since it launched; MarketsReformWiki.com with 3 million page views since launching.

It is possible that many are not aware, though, that these wikis are funded entirely from the newsletter subscriptions (plus whatever sponsorship revenues the newsletter generates).

But there is more to the Lothian Newsletter than just the newsletter itself, and the associated wikis. There is also the Futures Crowd site launched after the collapse of MF Global, which solicited input from all over the capital markets industry on addressing concerns rising out of that firm’s failure (and to which I contributed); there is the Restoring Customer Confidence video series; there is the MarketsWiki.TV video series that covers a wide variety of captial markets industry-related topics, from the listing of new types of futures contracts to social media strategies for market participants.

The daily Lothian newsletter provides valuable, essential information to market participants at every level of the food chain, from traders to technologists, from front-office staff to back-office operations professionals, and especially for consultants like me. Put another way, if you don’t read the newsletter every day, then I’m smarter than you are, because I do read it every day.

This post is not some Public Television pledge drive, though, and it is not a paid advertisement either. I am a fan of the work that Lothian and his team do. I believe that this team is providing a genuinely valuable and vital service to the industry in which I work, and I believe that they deserve recognition, and that they deserve payment, for the terrific work they do.

So if you’re a participant, like I am, in the global capital market or futures industry, and you already subscribe to the newsletter, it is time to renew that subscription. Do that now. If you participate in the capital markets/futures industry and you don’t subscribe to the newsletter, you are doing yourself and your career a great disservice and you should fix that now by subscribing.

Yes, it is voluntary. But it is important, too, to all of us, to support the work that the team behind the Lothian Newsletter, and MarketWiki, MarketsReformWiki, the Restoring Customer Confidence video series and MarketsWiki.TV, are doing.

Subscribe.

John P. Needham
January 4, 2012
11:05 AM
Aurora, IL

One Response to “On Voluntary Subscriptions”

  1. neal weintraub Says:

    Hi John,
    John’s newsletter is useful. However his comments are not necessary. I am afraid the Futures business is “kaput.”
    I think John is a great guy, but he had better expand to ETF’s and
    offer a mini letter for free and then folks can trade up.
    but what do I know——I only worked for the Chicago Board of Trade and taught for the CME.
    If I can ever be of assistance, let me know.

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