Marketing bods will tell you it usually works like this: Ask the customers what they want and then set about giving it to them. At Fairfax, it apparently works the other way around.

AFR Access is a subscription-based computer application giving users access to articles from Fairfax publications and lots of information that should send investors into a state of rapture. The trouble is, almost anyone who’s used it has given up. The application is painfully slow, has chaotic navigation and is almost impossible to use. Hence the four-page pull-out in Tuesday’s Financial Review.

The big sell job included a letter from Publisher and Editor-in-Chief Michael Gill in which he says that readers were recently asked “some unusual questions” to do with things that “our readers would like from the internet”. But perhaps the questions were actually a lot more specific than Gill is letting on. He says toward the end of his letter that, “we will speed the search, sharpen the alerts and expand the choices…Our readers have told us to move on. And we have.”

But according to Crikey sources, it’s not Fairfax that’s moving on, it’s the readers. We understand Fairfax needs 20,000 subscribers to breakeven on AFR Access but thus far has about 2,000. And, according to one person who tried using it after the improvements had been made, there’s no sign that this product remains anything other than a massively frustrating experience.

It’s time to catalogue this disaster. Purge your frustrations, vent your outrage. Email us your AFR Access horror stories.

Peter Fray

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