Clearly the distributive, syndicated nature of Web 2.0 and the business models around that have completely passed Fairfax by:

Fairfax Business Media ends Factiva and AAP News Centre contract

Fairfax Business Media has announced that effective 31 March 2007, its content will no longer be accessible via Factiva and AAP News Centre.

The decision to discontinue syndications follows our decision to develop our own channel and content management systems. As we have indicated with the launch of afraccess.com Fairfax Business Media aims to build a fully digital approach to its growing market opportunities.

Fairfax Business Media is developing a new service with search and monitoring of news across Fairfax content including deep archives.

Based on a usage model the service will incorporate content from all of the Fairfax Business Media titles including The Australian Financial Review, AFR Magazine, BOSS Magazine, BRW, AFR Smart Investor, Asset, CFO, and MIS as well as other major Fairfax mastheads.Fairfax Business Media are planning to have a BETA version of the new service by 31 March 2007, and those interested in receiving further information on the service can register their details here.

If these statistics are true, that’s a very exclusive service for 892 paid consumers with an 11 million dollar system. This is so NOT the way to drive up subscriptions. And golly, why a desktop app that even AFR admits is counterintuitive – and I quote:

AFR Access is NOT a website. In fact it’s an application that resides on your computer and is “fed” information via the internet. It doesn’t function like a normal website so the interface may take a little while to get used to.
Once you’re used to it, we’re sure you’ll find AFR access indispensable

… or not. Note the key word “fed” information. That means they are using feed technology. And if you got to the afraccess page, you’ll notice that the modules spin off with a RETRIEVING DATA FROM REUTERS logo. So here’s your hint. The majority of information that is being delivered is a newsfeed from Reuters. They say as much – Wall Street Journal feeds, Reuters, AAP etc. But their “killer app” is the refining of searches -surely something that can be done by keywords?

The tour has 11 chapters and multiple clicks on each chapter, so block out your diary for a good body of time to simply take the tour. That’s a good indication of how much work it’s going to take to set up.

So lets look at an alternative solution… for free! This is easy to do yourself but let’s assume you are time-poor and slightly technophobic (heh!) so I recommend you email the IT department (or ask your secretary to do so) and have them set up a personalised Google page for you (Or probably MyYahoo! has it too). Tell them you want a multi-tab page. First page is to have all the widgets and feeds to do with your portfolios and companies, industries, whatnot. Second page is general news RSS feeds and give them subject headings. Ask for the feeds from your favourite newspapers and services. Here’s a hot RSS list I recommend Motley Fool. But remember, you aren’t going to be visiting Motley’s site and checking investing and stock info, you’re going to have it all on one page. Your personalised Google page. Or if you feel adventurous, use the Google Reader. And no, none of ’em will “take a little while to get used to.”

You can now get blog alert rss feeds; this means that every time your name or product or company is mentioned in blogs (not just media and press releases) have it fed to one of the tabbed pages. Sports results. Horoscope. Other widgets like games and languages and weather and currency converters and … an endless list. A tab with the feeds of your friends blogs and forums you like. All on one page, no need to load a million pages and no need to visit each website individually.

If the IT department looks at you confused and fumbles around, send me an email. I’ll come set ya up – for the price of lunch. *mutters* in Paris.

I don’t mind the fact that AFR are charging for information that in the main is available for free or comes with your hardcopy sub. People, particularly busy executives, will always pay for ease-of-use. But I do mind when it’s not done well – telling people from the getgo that it ‘takes some getting used to’ does not correlate with user accessibility. Couldn’t a nice AJAX page have done the job just as well, if not better than a desktop app? We love the drag and drop functionality of the widgets on MyGoogle.

Well, that’s my final post on the whole AFRAccess/Fairfax train wreck. For the time being anyway… unless we have some AFRaccess fans out there? I’d love to hear from you!