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Martin Lewis on MoneySavingExpert.com joining the MoneySupermarket group

Update 21 Sept 2012: At 8am today this transaction was completed, MoneySavingExpert.com joined the MoneySupermarket Group.

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1 June 2012

Today, we agreed that MoneySavingExpert.com (MSE) will join the MoneySupermarket Group – this is an exciting new step for us, so I wanted to do a quick Q&A on what it means for the site, and the logic behind it.

To read the key facts about it go to the news story.

Q. Is this definite? We hope so, the deal is signed, contracts have been exchanged, but as is common with these things, final completion is reliant on a few things, but primarily clearance by the Office of Fair Trading (which could take a few months).

Q. Will MoneySavingExpert.com stay independent? Absolutely, we will continue to do what we've always done. MSE and MoneySupermarket will operate as completely separate entities as part of the bigger group. Think of it like the fact Radio 4 and Radio 5 are both part of the BBC but with their own separate editorial stance.

Q. Is the site's consumer-focused and campaigning agenda safe? Yes. We will continue to focus on ‘cutting your bills and fighting your corner'.

To guarantee that, as part of the legal sale contract, we've agreed a strong editorial code, to ensure the site continues to operate as it does now. In a nutshell, it promises...

The site continues to follow its founding principles. Our primary job is to continue to ensure we provide the best information to help consumers, based on journalistic research, and this editorial line will stay independent of any commercial objectives or influence.

We will continue to highlight to users how the site is financed – and if a paid link is used, where practicable, give you an alternative, unpaid link.

We will not track individuals' data (unless we've asked you, where it's necessary for a specific service) nor will we ever sell it to third parties, or without the individual user's permission, pass it to MoneySupermarket.

The full Editorial Code is published at the bottom of this page, and will be linked to on every page after completion.

My hope is doing this deal will free me up from some of the behind the scenes work to devote more energy to MoneySaving and campaigning on issues such as Reclaim PPI for free, Campaign for Financial Education, Mental Health and Debt, Council Tax Rebanding and Payday loan regulation.

Q. What will your involvement in the site be from now on? I'm staying on as Editor-in-Chief for at least three years and will retain full control over the website. Yet thankfully, there will be extra assistance brought in to run the non-content part of operations, such as human resources, technology, IT and web compliance.

After that, the door is open for me to carry on, and I hope to do so, though perhaps with fewer hours than now, so I can spend more time on my media work and other projects I'm passionate about. These include getting financial education on the curriculum.

Q. How will being owned by MoneySupermarket help MSE? This is great news for MSE, giving us access to new and improved technology and ensuring that, with or without me, the site will be around for many years to come.

MoneySupermarket is superb at technology and it's an easy-to-use site. Many have said we're a cluttered site, tough to navigate and our search engine ranking isn't the best.

The aim is for them to use their expertise and investment to help us improve in these areas so more people find our content, use it and save cash.

Q. Charities will get £10 million – which charities? As soon as the deal completes, I plan to donate £1 million straight to Citizens Advice, which desperately needs it for debt advice as, shamefully, its public funding has been cut (as you can't talk about these deals before they're announced, I've not been able to speak to Citizens Advice yet).

With the rest of the funds allocated to charity, there are so many good causes, so I want time to think about where the donations can do the most good, and not splurge them all at once. So I will put donations into a Charities Aid Foundation trust, which locks it away so it can only be used to give to official charities and be put to good use over the coming years.

Q. What happens to the MoneySavingExpert.com Forum? There's no change to the forum, it will stay part of MSE and continue to run as normal. However, we hope to continue to develop the technology to make it better to use.

Q. Why did you choose MoneySupermarket? I chose MoneySupermarket to work with as I know and trust it and it's not owned by any product providers. I wanted a company that understands what we do – and it's proved that by signing up to the Editorial Code which ensures our content can proudly remain editorially independent and free from commercial considerations.

It's for this reason that I went straight to MoneySupermarket, rather than touting the site around.

Q. Will the site have performance targets? The amount of money paid for the site is split into two; one lot paid on completion, and the other, the 'earn-out', to use its official phrase, after three years.

To get the earn out, we need to meet targets. In most deals, these are based on financial performance, but due to the site's editorial independence, our targets are based on growth of, and trust in the site.

Q. Are you going to be biased towards MoneySupermarket's services? No. As part of the Editorial Code, we're free to review MoneySupermarket's services and speak freely, be that positively or negatively. Whether we include its comparisons will be based on exactly the same criteria as we'd use for any other site – in other words, just like now, only when it's the best for users.

Q. Why have you sold the site? MSE celebrates its tenth birthday next year. Over the last few years, as the site has grown, the pressures and my ability to run it have been challenging – especially alongside my campaigning and media work.

I originally set the site up as a way to support my broadcasting work, and had no clue it would ever grow into the huge beast it now is.

The site has become part of people's daily lives, far bigger than the man who founded it – we've over 13 million unique users a month – getting on for one in four UK adults. It has saved people billions of pounds over its lifetime.

I want to secure the site's long-term future, so that it can continue with or without me and help people to keep saving money. For a long time, while our content is top rate, we've also struggled to keep up with the technological changes of running a site, navigation, search, mobile accessibility and more –this move will vastly improve our ability to do so.

Of course, I'd be silly to say that the large amount of money for me, my team and to charity wasn't a big part of the decision. I'm proud to have built an enterprise so big, that's helped so many people, created employment for 40 people, and never charged a penny for people to use it.

As it has said for many years in the how this site is financed section, I've been very happy the site's so financially successful. The key is that element never compromises the editorial line of the site and the information we publish.

I believe the Editorial Code and the way the site will continue to operate satisfies that, and while this is a sale, it's certainly not a sell-out.

BELOW IS THE EDITORIAL CODE THAT WILL BE IN FORCE AFTER COMPLETION.

The MoneySavingExpert.com Editorial Code

On [ ] 2012 the MoneySupermarket.com group took over the operations of MoneySavingExpert.com. In order to preserve the editorial independence of the MoneySavingExpert.com, Martin Lewis and MoneySupermarket.com agreed as part of the sale contract that (1) MoneySavingExpert.com shall be operated in accordance with this Editorial Code and (2) this Editorial Code shall be carried out and applied in a manner consistent with the practice, activities and operation of MoneySavingExpert.com and Martin Lewis (as the current Editor-in-Chief) during the 12 month period prior to 1 June 2012:

1. MoneySavingExpert.com and the MoneySupermarket.com group websites shall continue to operate as separate websites.

2. MoneySavingExpert.com’s editorial independence and strategy of "helping the consumer" first shall prevail. The editorial stance shall remain independent from commercial objectives. The reporting lines of the editorial and commercial teams shall remain separate to maintain the independent editorial stance.

3. MoneySavingExpert.com’s Editor-in-Chief shall control all editorial decisions made in relation to MoneySavingExpert.com and its editorial strategy.

4. MoneySavingExpert.com’s forum shall continue to be operated in a manner consistent with current practice for the benefit of “helping the consumer” first. MoneySavingExpert.com’s Editor-in-Chief shall control the website’s forum strategy.

5. MoneySavingExpert.com’s Editor-in-Chief shall determine the design of the website together with any content, email, printed publications, reports, products, services, mobile applications and tools provided by the website from time to time (“MoneySavingExpert.com Content”).

6. MoneySavingExpert.com’s Editor-in-Chief (and authorised spokespersons) may comment freely on all issues consistent with the website's role as a consumer campaigning website, regardless of whether such views differ from those of the MoneySupermarket.com group. Such comments shall be made in an objective manner consistent with MoneySavingExpert.com’s strategy of “helping the consumer” first.

7. MoneySavingExpert.com’s Editor-in-Chief (and authorised spokespersons) shall be permitted to comment freely about the products and services available through the MoneySupermarket.com group. Such comments shall be made in an objective manner consistent with MoneySavingExpert.com’s strategy of “helping the consumer” first.

8. MoneySavingExpert.com Content shall continue to be researched, written and approved by the editorial team according to journalistic methods and in an objective manner in order to identify the money saving techniques, products and services that MoneySavingExpert.com considers to be the preferred option for users consistent with its strategy of “helping the consumer” first.

9. Products and services provided by the MoneySupermarket.com group shall be assessed using the same journalistic methods as those of any other third party and, like any other third party, shall only be included on MoneySavingExpert.com where those products and services are the preferred options for users.

10. Third parties (including the MoneySupermarket.com group) shall not be able to pay for or otherwise agree advertising space on MoneySavingExpert.com. Where printed guides produced by MoneySavingExpert.com are sponsored, the name of the sponsor may be noted.

11. MoneySavingExpert.com shall continue to highlight to its users how it is financed. Where MoneySavingExpert.com uses an affiliate link (a link that can result in a payment to the website) it will, wherever practicable, continue to provide an alternative unpaid link to an identical product or service on the same page.

12. MoneySavingExpert.com may continue to highlight and remind users (via its email or website navigation) of MoneySavingExpert.com Content that generates revenue, provided this does not impact the editorial stance which shall continue to be determined in an objective manner consistent with MoneySavingExpert.com’s strategy of “helping the consumer” first. For more information, see how the site is financed.

13. MoneySavingExpert.com Content and the MoneySavingExpert.com brand may only be used on MoneySupermarket.com media with the express permission of the MoneySavingExpert.com’s Editor-in-Chief (acting reasonably). If such permission is granted, the following provisos shall apply:

  • 13.1 when MoneySavingExpert.com’s opinions on products or services are used, a one-click link path shall exist to the full information on MoneySavingExpert.com about those products or services; and
  • 13.2 if deemed appropriate by the Editor-in-Chief, any applicable caveats shall appear directly within the copy on MoneySupermarket.com media; and
  • 13.3 MoneySavingExpert.com Content and the MoneySavingExpert.com brand shall be used in the same context as in the original copy on MoneySavingExpert.com; and
  • 13.4 the amount of MoneySavingExpert.com Content used shall be determined by the Editor-in Chief.

14. Any personal data about individual users, including contact details, (as opposed to aggregated or anonymised user behaviour data) gathered while operating MoneySavingExpert.com shall not be tracked or otherwise used by MoneySupermarket.com group (except for internal reporting, accounting or compliance purposes) without the express permission of the MoneySavingExpert.com’s Editor-in-Chief and in accordance with the informed consent of the relevant user.

If MoneySavingExpert.com sends users directly to MoneySupermarket.com group's websites or the user visits MoneySupermarket.com group's websites independently, they shall be subject to MoneySupermarket.com’s data protection policy.

15. Any personal data about individual users, including contact details, gathered while operating MoneySavingExpert.com shall not be sold to third parties or used for the purposes of communications from MoneySupermarket.com (including via email).

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