Well, it seems Crikey’s John Addis isn’t the only person who has struggled with Fairfax’s new AFR Access portal. Many Crikey readers have been stumped by the service too. Here’s a selection of their responses to yesterday’s item:

Andrew Maiden writes: It has become so hard, inconvenient and expensive to read the AFR that media managers in many companies – mine included – are just giving up trying to read its stories, let alone influence them. For example, the AFR barely gets a mention in my morning staff meetings now, the reason being that so many people just can’t read the darn thing without locating a paper copy. Whoever made the decision to restrict access has hurt the paper’s influence and done the wrong thing by journalists. Let’s hope there’s a strong business case or else the whole adventure will have been a massive financial disaster too.

Advertising industry person writes: If you want to look at the [AFR] online – good luck! There are no sections and you can’t browse headlines. You have to search by keywords or category, and cross your fingers that AFR staff have categorised the news correctly and you certainly can’t be sure of that. Once I had to actually tell one of the support staff that there was indeed a marketing section on Monday, because she didn’t think there was. The only way to ensure you get all the relevant stories on line is…wait for it…go through the hard copy and then search by title!

Steve Blizard writes: After 20 years of subscribing to BRW, I finally decided not to renew. It was apparent that they did not want to listen (to) or acknowledge what I wanted as a subscriber. There are two internet news models out there, and AFR’s model does not suit the general marketplace who want to read things on the Net.

Michael do Rozario writes: As a holder of a much prized corporate access password I used to read the AFR online religiously, but since AFR Access the closest I get to the AFR is reading their articles in the daily package that is provided by our media monitoring service provider – and I don’t see any ads, pop-ups or special offers.

Andrew Jordan writes: I am a long time subscriber to the AFR, and have the paper delivered to my home 6 mornings a week. I travel a lot and find it outrageous that, having paid the subscription, not all of the printed content is available online to existing subscribers. Companies like Bloomberg do it much better.

Ben Haines writes: The major issue is the number of articles you are allowed to read (each level of membership has a capped level of “subscriber credits” which are spent to gain access to articles). The top-tier membership gives 80 credits per month, and the second-to-top level one gives 25 per month. A cap of 80 articles for $150 a month is mind-bendingly stupid.

James Sloman writes: The reason I gave up is that it’s simply too slow, the site would not let me log in and there is no phone number anywhere in the advertising or online where you can call for assistance. If AFR does not want to support their applications, I do not want to use them.

Bob Pritchard writes: Signed up at the start, looked once, found chaos, irredeemably clumsy site structure, limited info unless I signed up for more, slow as a wet week [if we ever have one], and I’ve never been – or wanted to go – back.

David Fenwicke writes: Prior to its introduction, a six day a week subscriber such as myself could read most of the AFR online prior to the sharemarket opening at 10.00am — a service I was more than happy to pay for despite being able to read online a fair proportion of it online elsewhere. But then some genius at the AFR decided that rather than paying $2.70 a day for the privilege of reading the AFR physically and online I would be happier paying $3.30 per article online. That was not the case, and after my twelve month subscription had expired I did not renew it. The sooner the AFR abandon the website the better.

David G. More writes: My key problem with AFR Access is that I don’t get access online to the basic information and articles that are in the paper to which I subscribe. The performance is also a dog speed-wise and the main source of extra information — the Wall Street Journal is available much more cheaply and directly.

Mick McAuliffe writes: I previously used the site frequently as an AFR home delivery subscriber but gave up during the initial registration process. I’m not a complete dill, operating an internet-based retail business.

Grahame Lynch writes: There are presumably many people like myself based overseas who need real-time online versions of major Australian newspapers for business reasons. But AFR Access does not seem to load AFR stories on in the early morning like other websites, they often seem delayed by up to a day. I think one of the most impressive things about Fairfax is its SMH and Age websites so AFR Access’s mediocrity surprises, but then I do realise it is under the control of a different bunch of people there. Why don’t they just lift the WSJ model? It works.

Karen Alpert writes: AFR Access is a Fairfax ploy to charge more for less content. AFR would do well to follow the lead of the Wall Street Journal. Online access is a separate product from a print subscription, and cheaper ($US100 per year or $US10 per month). I will come back to reading the AFR when they offer a cheap web-based online only subscription.

Matt Stubbs writes: I took up the two week trial and to make sure I used it decided to make it my home page for that period of time. The problem with this was that not only was it slow, it also wouldn’t let me click “stop” while the page was loading so I could visit anything else. I eventually gave up and set my home page back to The Smage. It’s a shame since the main reason I don’t subscribe to the paper itself is that I much prefer an online service that doesn’t destroy a forest every week.

Recruitment industry person writes: I used the old AFR site all the time, although even that had degraded over the last couple of years. Remember the much loved alphabetical index of companies? At least we could view most current edition articles for free. The new offering is absolutely useless with abysmal navigation and has nothing compelling or intuitive about it.

Chris North writes: I had great expectations for AFR Access. I tried on at least a dozen occasions to log on and open a trial account. It would not let me. I then tried to open a “paid” account. It would not let me. I was still a paying subscriber at this stage. I cancelled that subscription. I now buy the AFR once or twice a week. I rely on the SMH, The Australian, NY Times and the Asian WSJ for my financial information. I won’t even look at an AFR option again until they trash AFR Access and start afresh.

Kieth Minto writes: The excellent Trading Room was gutted and the personal watchlist “transferred” to Access, but try as I will, there is no way I can gain entry to Access. It is frustratingly slow, the graphics are poor (light blue on white is a no-no) and it just will not let me in.

Mike Martin writes: The only way I found to extract material from it in a machine-readible form I could store as a normal file was to format it as a fax, then scan it in using character recognition software. Did I miss something? Perhaps, but this is characteristic of the bizarre Alice-in-Wonderland arrangement of the site.

Kevin Dent writes: AFR Access has got to be the standout winner for least intuitive website in Australia and it should be Australia’s nomination for the World title in this field.

Carden Calder writes: As a communication and media consultancy we rely on AFR Access and other tools to track media coverage for our clients – and Access is the only replacement for NewsStore. As such, it’s pretty useless. The comments about speed are absolutely right for example. At the same time, Fairfax seems to be withdrawing from other deals with media monitoring outlets (such as Factiva) sharing content, forcing businesses like ours to the clunky AFR Access system that doesn’t really meet our needs. At this rate we’ll be back to photocopying the paper everyday to sent to clients!

Tim Stewart writes: I agree the site is not without its faults, but your criticism is heavy on sweeping generalisations and light (or rather completely lacking) on actual examples. Following the initial application load, the speed seems fairly painless here. A property search was easily initiated and quicker than realestate.com.au. Do you have an axe to grind? Or is Crikey worried about competition in the “moolah for content” space? Now I think about it, Fairfax have popular Car and Dating sites … and Crikey’s sponsors are …? Hmmm, bitchy media mud wrestling contest anyone? MiaaaaOOOW!

In the interests of balance, fans of AFR Access are encouraged to write to [email protected] and share your experiences.

Peter Fray

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