Having spotted a small comment on it (in the Guardian) I’ve been sent an exact transcript of what Richard Brasher, the new UK Chief Executive of Tesco, actually said about us.
It’s a short comment, but as always when its from the king of UK retailers there’s a big impact (thanks very much to Steve Hawkes, The Sun biz editor, who was there and sent it to me)
"People are not worried about RPI or the difference with CPI.
They are more interested in what Martin Lewis has to say, his following is biblical."
While the comment is attributed to me, it is of course about the site and the weekly email rather than me as an individual. I suppose it means if the boss of Tesco is sitting up and taking note, we’re certainly mainstream now.
A bit of navel gazing about MoneySavingExpert.com
This got me thinking about why MSE has such a large following, I’ve read a few people who mistakenly attribute it to the recession or the credit crunch – that’s just not correct. The site was already very big before that started.
Nor are the site’s users, as some assume, ‘all in debt and struggling’. People are often surprised when I explain how the traffic on money pages has shifted in recent years (in v. general terms):
- Pre-recession/ credit crunch: debt and borrowing was most popular
- Recession / credit crunch: savings are most popular
Of course this in many ways reflects interest rates – they were high pre-crunch so debt was expensive and people wanted to cut costs. Now borrowing is difficult so less do it, and it’s savers who are needing to push hard to get decent earnings with rates so low. Yet it does indicate that we are a very broad church, hopefully helping people with finances that are firm and need protecting, as well as those on the brink.
My view on the real reason the site’s grown to have c. 10 million unique users a month (as a comparator if the numbers mean nothing, web super-brand mumsnet is 1.3 million) in just eight years is the main tone of ‘fighting your corner’ combined with the forum’s crowd-sourced content perfectly mimicks the Internet’s own strengths of empowerment and information democratisation.
This was bought home to me the other day when I was being interviewed by Web User magazine and the journalist said to me he believes the Internet is the ‘champion of the underdog’. I was intrigued by this and have mulled over it ever since, overall I think it’s a little too absolute, probably it’s far more that it ‘can champion the underdog’, though the sentiment certainly fits.
Looking at that within the financial arena, I think what the web has enabled (not just at MSE, the likes of Consumer Action Group and others) is a shifting of the balance so that collective consumers can take on the might of big companies. For me this is why the obvious natural progression and what I’m dedicating our campaigning resources to going forward is financial education in schools.