Friday 28 May 2010

AoLDaily ... (or not).

Original post first as drafted, followed by correction.

I got my first internet access in 1994 via the University of Manitoba. Well, if you want to be really technical about it, we had BBS access back on the farm to VideoTEX and Telidon on the Commodore 64 back around 1985 (300 baud, if I recall correctly), but I'm not sure that really counted.

But lots of folks in 1994 hit the internet via America Online: AoL. Rather than being a just an ISP, they wanted to be a walled garden, with exclusive content for subscribers (like New York Times) and little reason for users to browse outside of the garden. The walled content garden is what's currently interesting.

Why? A daily read for me (and ought to be for you) is Arts & Letters Daily, edited by Denis Dutton - who's about 4 minutes away over in the Philosophy Department here at Canterbury.

A couple of days ago, Denis highlighted a book review by Kerry Howley:
Third-wave feminism combined combat boots and baby-doll dresses. Barbie was a mannequin on whom you practice giving abortions... more»
If you hit the link in my post, you'll get to a teaser for the review with a subscription pitch.

If you hit the link from Arts & Letters Daily, you'll get the full article.

BookForum has to be doing this at its server side via referring site recognition as there's nothing special in the URL.

Will Arts & Letters Daily become the new walled garden entry portal? Doubtful, despite Denis's refusal to post his Nota Bene pieces in an RSS feed. But it's certainly an interesting mechanism for BookForum to give a certain set of readers trial access without opening the whole thing up. They couldn't exist without subscription payments; they must reckon that ALD readers build buzz and are more likely to subscribe after a full text preview rather than a snippet, where folks arriving there just after a Google search for some content would be as or less likely to subscribe if they had full content rather than just the snippet.

Update and Correction. Arts & Letters Daily isn't that special, or at least not special for this particular reason. The link I've posted above works! So BookForum is allowing links in from the main blogging platforms then as well as ALD. I like this. The last thing a publisher ought to want to do is kill off social buzz about their content if that buzz helps build subscriptions. Further testing shows that other links I put up to BookForum from here delivers the full text article when hitting the link from their main site gives only the snippet. Neat!

So the perforated subscription wall stops the random Google content search - the kid looking for stuff for his term paper - and stops folks who come to the front page specifically looking for BookForum's content, but still allows ample social media linkage. Good stuff.

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