1947: The Web – Michael Gordon
Well, you have to hand it to Martin Lewis. Today he has agreed sale of his consumer website Moneysavingexpert.com to the portal moneysupermarket.com  simples! (oh no that’s the other lot!). Anyway, the content, much of which is provided by users in forums has a focus on saving money, covering everything from a 2 for 1 deal at a fast food outlet to complaining about poor service and mis-selling. The company (his own) has been sold for an agreed £87m….now you are wondering where the value is in this free to use site and why anyone would pay £87m for it…is this another one of those overpriced dot.coms? Well, who knows… the thing is that the site has become a portal for a way in to consumer purchases, be it car insurance or burgers. It is essentially an advertising hub, which in the days of online advertising which leaves traditional print advertising in its wake, is very much a part of future sales.
So how does this leave the consumer? perhaps with a sense that the site is little more than a gateway to discounts, money back and hopefully some useful tips to avoid being ripped off. I have considerable time for Martin Lewis, he has done a pretty good job in attempting to educate the public about budgeting in a way that the Money Advice Service, FSA and many financial advisers have clearly failed. He has also made tremendous efforts successfully campaigning about PPI mis-selling. I’m very much on his side (and not paid to say so). I have to admit to finding the site all too busy, but that.s because it is aiming to do so much, it is massive. However is it really independent? links to companies are not put there for free. This may sit rather uncomfortably with many of the users who seem to believe that they are being taken for a ride and generating too much profit for others. Perhaps they don’t know how business operates and that somehow it is wrong to make profit. So Martin may not want to publish his £87m coup too loudly.
So who are Moneysupermarket.com? a FTSE250 listed company, predominantly owned by Simon Nixon. The company grew out of a mortgage comparison database for mortgage brokers (Mortgage 2000) but began adding more credit searching functionality. Currently, the business is not offering “whole of market” but offers a comparison from limited range of providers. There are deals cut with providers, so each sale involves something going towards moneysupermarket and why not? the site and service are free to use. However, be aware that your details might also become a marketing “lead” which is traded to firms interested in selling to you. There’s nothing wrong in this per se, but I do wonder if people realise what they end up with. However, this is the future for most UK consumers, who will not be able to pay for financial planning advice. The million dollar question about whether it will be good enough remains to be seen, but in the meantime, at least one British entrepreneur has cashed his chips and not a meerkat in site… er sight.
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