For as long as I can remember, my parents have subscribed to Which? The subscription is important to them, they like to pay for their information and see their subs as a way to keep Which independent.
There is a lesson here for those financial advisers who continue to be rewarded not by those they advise, but by the products they sell, this is not seen as independent advice – at least not by my Mum and Dad.
Publications such as the Good Food Guide also make a virtue of their being available at a price (and a renewable fee if you want topical information of the restaurants where you eat).
My parents distrust the internet not just because the information available is free, but that the source of that information is unknown. The word is not trusted.
If they attend a lecture at the local museum or arts club, they are able to judge the source of the information, the internet does not represent “the trusted word”.
But us youngsters do not have the luxury of time of those in retirement. Our sources of knowledge are so diverse, that our function is to filter, deleting what is second-rate and retaining only those gems that we regurgitate as #mustread.
Which is why the probity of online publishers is critical to their brand. Indeed it is not just what you say, but how you say it, that establishes the trust in your word. A small slip, a dodgy analogy and you can lose readers. Over-publicise an article on twitter and you will see followers slip away.
We all struggle to establish our brand in this wold where everyone is read. The competition is intense, Klout scores are compared on twitter, league tables of influence are drawn up. Journalists are thrown into the pool alongside industry gurus , politicians, mountebank charlatans and Johnny-come-latelies, all competing to be the “trusted word”.
Ben Johnson’s classic “Bartholomew Fair”, published contemporaneously to Shakespeare is a vivacious description of London Life at the turn of the 17thc. I read it over Christmas and was struck how like to Twitter the experience was. We bounced from topic to topic, viewed characters who passed across the stage as tweets scroll down the screen. The play is an attempt by the playwrite to create order from seeming chaos and harness diversity to some common purpose- sound familiar?
The play’s genius is in the authorial voice of Johnson himself, a figure who is larger than the life he depicts and whose sensibility creates sense. His is the trusted word.
In our attempts to explain what we see around us , whether through gossip or mails or tweets or blogs or learned articles, we are all aspiring to be the trusted voice. But action speaks louder than words.
Online publishers are now realising that pontification is not enough. Words must lead to action. The smart ones are embedding in their digital publications links to the tools that can enable readers to see good ideas into good practice.
This is the model for what we are doing with Pension PlayPen, an attempt to harness the energy and credibility of a linked in group, the probity of an actuarial practice and the needs of advisers, employers and regulators to see through a great endeavour, the wholesale adoption of funded workplace pensions into our business culture.
And within that model there is scope for infinite interactivity from those who read, comment , use and ultimately pay for the mechanisms that deliver auto-enrolment.