The Sunday Times Social List - Perhaps not all fun and games?

Posted by Joe Walton on 16/05/2011

The Sunday Times launched the Social List yesterday.

The Social List takes your activity across four popular social networks, Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare and LinkedIn. It makes a rough calculator about your influence, which you then compare with your “friends” online.

Similar services Klout and PeerIndex have been slugging it out for a while now with no clear winner. However, The Social List looks easier to use (if less sophisticated) and more, well, social. It also has the backing of The Times papers and the chance of appearing in a Sunday Times Social List (like The Rich List) supplement at some point to incentivise people. It could well be a success.

But, why should the Times be interested in your social media activity?

Social List Advert from Sunday Times

As Ged Carroll (@r_c) pointed out on his blog, it allows The Times to be talked about online. Something missed since going behind the pay wall. This idea is backed up by the automatic posting of rank to a users social network once a week to help drive traffic (although this could become tiresome very quickly).

On a related point, it could be a deliberate ploy to encourage the digerati to take up a subscription the The Times. A healthy readership base for the future.

Or it could be just for fun, a way to encourage people to engage with the product on and offline.

I have a slightly different theory….

First a quick question, how valuable is influence to advertisers?

Or, “How likely is it the subscribers of my newspapers will share a story or some advertising multi-media and how likely are their connections to re-share this content with their own network?”

From the T & ‘s

  • “The Sunday Times will collect your name, email address and one profile picture”
  • “The Sunday Times will not collect the details of content of Participants' Network activities.”
  • “Anonymised data may be used to understand the social networking activity of Participants as an anonymous group”

It won’t take much to anonymously cross-reference Times online subscribers against Social List participants and you have a rudimentary idea of the influence of The Times itself online. Even without the exact content, this information would be extremely useful when convincing an advertising partner to part with their budget. Influential readers offer value over-and-above the placement of the advert or a sponsorship deal in itself.

I am not saying this is the primary reason for setting up The Social List but even as an added or untended bonus, it could prove to a very valuable initiative. The Times has always considered itself to have the ear of the power brokers of UK society, in the days of digital ahead they need to prove it.

Any other ideas about the benefits of The Social List to the Times?

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About the Author

Joe Walton is a consultant at Real PR and Secretary of the CIPR Scotland. His main interests sit between communications, psychology and technology.

You can follow him on multiple social networks including twitter and Google+.