How many times have you been reading a print magazine and run across an article that would be of intense interest to one of your friends? This happens to me often, and when it does, I either rip out the article or give the magazine to my buddy (if it’s my magazine) or make a copy of the article, if I’m in the public library.
I also subscribe to Salon.com, a liberal online news magazine. On Sunday, I was talking to my mother about health issues and mentioned that today’s kids are the first generation to have a shorter life expectancy than their parents. This was from Growing Up Too Fat a recent Salon article. Like most of the articles, it was considered, well written, and entirely inaccessible to non subscribers. I would have loved to shot my mother the link to the article. This would have introduced her to Salon and its excellent journalism. However, I couldn’t do this easily because to view the article she’d either have to be a subscriber or view a commercial, neither of which she’d be willing to do.
Why isn’t the analog of the print article copying that we all have done available? I can think of a technical solution right off the top of my head that would generate a one time link that could only be used for a specific article (preventing someone from handing out subscriptions) and only once (preventing someone from posting the link to slashdot). My mother win, since she gets useful information via a reliable source (me). And Salon wins, because they’ve just gained exposure and also made me a happier subscriber.
There’s no reason why this same technology can’t be applied to any website that has subscription based revenues. Other than the development and the incremental bandwidth cost, it’s free to the website, and it exposes the website in a positive light to people who are, by definition, not subscribers.