By Paul Tomkins.
When I recently dipped my toe back into Twitter the very first comment I read was “I’m not fucking paying for that!”, which was a reply to an automatically generated link to a paywalled article on this site.
Of course, it’s true that the whole site was set up in 2009, with hundreds of articles written by dozens of contributors, just so that that one person would be targeted on Twitter for his money. Yes, it was all aimed at him. (Oh, and the various other people who react the same way.)
If you don’t want to pay to read the (approx.) 50% of articles on TTT that are paywalled, my advice would be: don’t. We offer a service, and many people are happy to pay for that service, with satisfaction levels exceptionally high. However, it’s not for everyone.
“Why should I pay when I can get it for free elsewhere?”
This is another common refrain. And yet TTT only publishes unique articles. You can get Liverpool news elsewhere, but we are not a news site. You can get Liverpool opinions elsewhere, but not the opinions of most of those who write exclusively for this site; and if they write something for this site, it will not have previously appeared elsewhere.
Regular TTT contributors, in addition to the staffers, include official site columnist Si Steers, professional data analysts Lee Mooney and Dan Kennett, author and LFC historian Graeme Riley, European tactics writer Mihail Vladimirov, and statistics heavyweight Andrew Beasley, as well as a number of intelligent writers who aren’t as well known outside these walls. Our subscription base ranges from local season ticket holders to fans all over the world, spread across a wide age range.
Why Charge at all?
This site was created in September 2009 as a means for me to make a living, after years of not quite getting by on book sales (which are low-profit, and erratic in nature).
From that little acorn it grew into a wise oak of a community, and the members began writing articles too. Within the last couple of years I’ve been employing an editor, Chris Rowland (author of From Where I Was Standing), and a deputy editor, Daniel Rhodes, who has subsequently landed a column on the official site; plus paying a handful of other people for writing, admin and technical support. (And of course, PayPal takes its cut, as does the taxman and VATman, so a decent chunk of the £3.50 a month people pay ends up elsewhere.)
Having struggled on benefits in the past (judging by the media you’d think that makes me Romanian), this site was a great way to be self-supporting. And now that it’s larger, almost everyone who works for TTT is someone who suffers with (or acts as a carer for someone with) health issues that stop them working in a “proper” job. We charge because this is not a hobby for people with day jobs. This is our job.
Therefore, far from being some capitalist greed scheme (another occasional accusation), it is all about the community, and sharing the ‘wealth’ with talented people in unfortunate circumstances. (Of course, whatever your political persuasions, we live in a capitalist society, and we can’t ask British Gas, E-on et al to kindly stop increasing their prices like greedy bastards, or refuse to pay for gas, electricity, water, council tax, etc.)
The rest of our writers – those who do have day jobs – are happy to donate their time and energy, as we’re still a relatively small, niche site, which will never be able to support a large staff quota; what we do is not likely to appeal to the masses, who seem happy with what their tabloid tells them, plus there’s a generation used to getting everything for free on the internet. However, TTT has helped two writers get picked up by the official site and an analyst to be approached by pretty much every Premier League team (and who is currently working for one of the elite).
There are some excellent Liverpool FC sites out there – a few of which have popped up since TTT launched – so if you can’t afford TTT, and the frequent free articles don’t keep you going, you’ll find something else. Of course, each site is unique, and we hope to offer things that the competition can’t, but equally, they do things (such as professional podcasts) that I don’t feel we’d be able to compete with.
The biggest – and unexpected – benefit of the paywall is that it keeps the trolls at bay. In over four years I think we’ve banned just nine people (and two of those turned out to be the same person). Without the fear of being abused, trolled, spammed, etc, people can post their opinions in a spirit of openness and sharing. That doesn’t mean every post is a masterpiece in itself, or that there isn’t also a widespread sense of humour, but the community is intelligent and respectful. (The few people who didn’t get this are no longer welcome.)
Also, at various times I’ve turned down paid work from all areas of the media because it’s not given me the platform to say what I want to say, or simply because my health issues made it difficult. This site allows me, and all the other contributors, to say what we want, at the pace we want.
Subscribing helps us to run the site, and therefore without a certain number of paying customers TTT would not exist in its current form.
To join, click here. If you’re still not convinced, here are some recent testimonials:
I have been a subscriber almost since the beginning and its been my home page every day of this time. There is no better place to discuss LFC and probably football in general, as can be seen by the fact that even non-LFC fans pop in from time to time. It’s is a goldmine of useful – and of course, as a football site – useless information. Paul McCormack
I subscribe for two reasons. Firstly, the writing on here, both the articles and the comments, are unsurpassed anywhere on the Internet. I joined because of Paul’s writing, but the site now has a collection of writers who cover a diverse range of subjects and I often find myself saying ‘wow’ at what I’ve just read. It makes you see things in an entirely different light.
Secondly, this isn’t just a website, but a community of intelligent, witty football lovers. And by community i genuinely mean that, just see what happened when a highly respected member of the site hadn’t posted a comment for a little while earlier this year. A number of people went well out of their way to find out the well being and whereabouts of someone who lived in a totally different country to them. As I said, it’s not just a website, more a way of life. Matt Adkins
Not only does Paul Tomkins write balanced articles in a clear and concise manner, they inspire debate which brings out the flavour and nuances of the issues. He also inspires like-minded, articulate and statistically driven LFC supporters to create and develop analyses which are, in certain instances, in the realm of thought leadership. ACSGP
In a couple of sentences? There really is nowhere else I know where the discussion of all things LFC is so deeply informed without being academic and dry, and so passionate without ever getting over-heated (what, never? well, hardly ever). And nowhere else I know where I can log in every day to read about Liverpool (and I do) and frequently come away educated and entertained on business, finance, psychology, the Boston Red Sox …. Mike B
“I’ve been an avid TTTer since 2010. A late comer compared to some of the ‘veterans’ on here. I never really knew of Paul’s work from the official site. And I’m not certain how I actually came across TTT either. I imagine I searched for Liverpool news and stumbled across the greatest website in the world. I have a confession to make though. I didn’t read the comments section at first. I thought it would be like every other forum full of knee jerk reactionary comments and people arguing over the pettiest of things.
How wrong I was.
The sanity on this site is amazing. I can no longer talk to the average football fan about the game anymore. I have to dumb down my conversation. Like I’m talking to a child at times. That’s the beauty of TTT. So many keen minds in one place. Every comment and opinion justified and users open minded enough to change their opinions in the light of new information.
I couldn’t live without TTT anymore. I’m like an addict. I feel withdrawal symptoms if I am unable to see the latest articles or see the immensely informed debates. The site going down for an hour today is making me break out in the sweats!
What would I do if I was red carded from the site? Be miserable! I get as much enjoyment talking about and discussing the game on TTT as I do actually watching the game. Perhaps even more so. Take TTT away from me and you’ve taken away half of my passion for the game.” Krishen Bhautoo
“To describe TTT as a website about Liverpool Football Club would never suffice to epitomise the diversity and depth of the content. Specifically, it relates to LFC, yes; but, generally, it depicts analysis and views about football itself.
Truthfully, for the meagre monthly subscription of £3.50, it offers a football education that will augment your knowledge base right across the board; such is the eclectic approach.
Articles, and Posts in the debate section, incorporate analysis and expert discussion on all of the following subject areas: player statistics and transfer fees; tactical appraisal; match analysis of all LFC games; football philosophy; football legislation and Financial Fair Play rules; Hillsborough.
But, as it happens, an inexpensive investment in the book, These Turbulent Times, will evidence the high standard of writing that takes place on TTT. The book contains some of the best articles ever to appear on the site; the range of different writing styles, by many different authors, means there is something to interest everyone. Purchase the book; read it; and there is your introduction to what TTT is all about.” Tony McKenna
“If I had to describe The Tomkins Times in one word I would have to say gratitude. The quality and diversity of articles on the site opened up a whole new world of how I view football and even changed the way I think in some aspects. The debate in the comments section leaves no stone unturned. It´s a relentless analysis of everything regarding the club from so many different points of view and the scope of discovery is limitless. A gigantic interactive think tank which I have to visit several times a day.
A collection of great writers, all with their unique way to approach the subject at hand.
A big part remains unseen from those who do not subscribe. There is a whole community of people interacting at all hours of the day from all over the world. Sharing ideas, information and laughs. Some of the finest writing often comes from the comments section and even if people don´t see eye to eye they deal with each other with respect. One of my favourite things is in fact when people write something I don´t agree with and in the end they might change the way I think for the better. To have your ideas challenged with respect is something that doesn´t happen everywhere.
Paul is a man with a really big heart and the site, which he created has attracted people who share that. The level of caring within the site’s walls has humbled me on many occasions and I expect it to do that on numerous occasions in the future. It´s something you can’t put a price on. Arnar Steinsson
I’m 37. A Virgo. From Leeds, West Yorkshire.
Like walks in the park, and driving in the rain.
Oops. Sorry, wrong subscription website!
What do I like about TTT?
Well, in short – the Subscribers!
Probably like most on here, I was brought over to the site when I started reading Paul’s articles on the official site. It might sound a bit mad, but it got to the point where I actually couldn’t wait to read his articles on the LFC site every week — I just felt he was virtually talking for me with what he was writing. Still do, surprisingly.
The sites USP is obviously it’s stats and analysis. But it’s not the main reason why I enjoy the site. I’m not too into my stats. I appreciate them, and feel they have their place, but I’m just not that deep a thinker.
But if I was selling the site to any potential new subscribers, I would explain that the stats and analysis are just the surface. What lies beneath, is an undercurrent of sensible, intelligent, hilarious, loyal, dedicated and passionate Red community!
A community that is welcoming, compassionate and care for each other — you actually feel like you know each other. Everyone has their own character and personality, and it comes across in everything they write. Not just a load of people shouting and carrying on.
Once you’re in — you are not going anywhere!
TTT is for life, not just for Christmas! Lee Gray
TTT has changed my life. Simple as that. A fan for over 30 years, it’s only in the last three years, since I subscribed here, that I really started to WATCH football. To clarify, I’ve seen many games over the years, but have actually started to properly understand it. The tactical stuff has opened my eyes to new ideas, new ways of looking at and experiencing a football match.
I suppose the final reason I come here every day for a bit of a lurk, can be summed up in one word… respect. The community here have respect for each other, respect for the writers, respect for our great club (and the ability to criticise it!). I sometimes wish I had the time to post regularly, but most of the time, one of you guys has already articulated what I want to say (probably far more elegantly than I could as well). Pops Ramsey
If I were writing a review of TTT, I think I’d sum it up like this…
The Tomkins Times – talk, tactics and treatises on LFC – in covering Liverpool so comprehensively, from both inside and (sometimes way) outside box, Paul Tomkins has created a site that is about much more than just that storied club. It is about the very essence of the game, and how a community of dedicated and informed fans relate to that game in the modern footballing age. DUCK 328
TTT will make you think about football in ways you never have before. Joe Pepper
Before I came to TTT I thought I knew all about football.
When I got to TTT I realised I really didn’t know all about football.
Being at TTT means I now know more about football.
And everyday TTT reminds me how much I still don’t know about football.
“If you’re dumb, surround yourself with smart people.
If you’re smart, surround yourself with smart people to disagree with.” Bob Pearce
TTT is an example of the best things that the internet can facilitate. It elucidates and enlightens whilst creating a community in which the members genuinely look out for each other. It’s a university for football fans; a support network and an education all in one. Matthew Young