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Why Full Text Feeds Actually Increase Page Views (The Freakonomics Explanation)

from the why-full-feeds-make-sense dept

Last week, the Freakonomics blog got some extra attention by moving the blog to the NY Times. Of course, the blog had been in support of the immensely popular Freakonomics book, but the blog has taken on a life of its own. What was interesting was how people reacted to the news. While there were a few congratulations thrown in, the vast majority of the comments on the blog when the news broke was to complain about the NY Times' decision to switch the RSS feed from full text to partial text, where anyone who wanted to read the whole thing would have to click through. This has kicked off yet another round in the debate with some thoughtful discussions about full vs. partial feeds. Techdirt, of course, offers full feeds and always has. This means that plenty of people who read this site absolutely never visit the site. We're fine with that for a variety of reasons (one of which being that our business model isn't dependent on page views or ad impressions).

However, in our experience, full text feeds actually does lead to more page views, though understanding why is a little more involved. Full text feeds makes the reading process much easier. It means it's that much more likely that someone reads the full piece and actually understands what's being said -- which makes it much, much, much more likely that they'll then forward it on to someone else, or blog about it themselves, or post it to Digg or Reddit or Slashdot or Fark or any other such thing -- and that generates more traffic and interest and page views from new readers, who we hope subscribe to the RSS feed and become regular readers as well. The whole idea is that by making it easier and easier for anyone to read and fully grasp our content, the more likely they are to spread it via word of mouth, and that tends to lead to much greater adoption than by limiting what we give to our readers and begging them to come to our site if they want to read more than a sentence or two. So, while many people claim that partial feeds are needed to increase page views where ads are hosted, our experience has shown that full text feeds actually do a great deal to increase actual page views on the site by encouraging more usage. It's the same thing that we've talked about in other areas of the content industry. Taking value away from users to try to force a specific action is almost always going to be less desirable than providing people what they want. So while Dubner and Levitt may have to argue with the NYTimes beancounters who will claim that partial feeds will increase revenue, they may want to use the lessons they learned from their own book to recognize that the opposite may be true. Full feeds can actually drive more traffic overall.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    C.G., Aug 13th, 2007 @ 8:01pm

    More Likely to Comment

    I don't even subscribe to sites that use partial feeds. I even read the full ad supported feeds. I can't enjoy an article that is spaced out or one that I have to click on a link just to finish reading it. I'm also more likely to comment on the article having just read the entire thing - I'm sure that helps promote page views as other people may want to read or add comments themselves.

    Now as for the NYTimes... When have they ever been smart about their on-line content?

     

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  2.  
    icon
    Erik J. Heels (profile), Aug 13th, 2007 @ 8:09pm

    Freakonomics and partial feeds

    Greetings Mike,

    See also:

    FreakonomicsSucks.com (but not really)

    Regards,
    Erik

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3.  
    identicon
    Austin, Aug 13th, 2007 @ 9:10pm

    Full length feeds

    As a subscriber who reads your full articles from the comfort of my RSS reader, I'd like to thank you for your continued usage of them. To this end, I've come here to the actual page to comment and click a few ads for you. Thanks, TechDirt!

     

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  4.  
    identicon
    Wesha, Aug 13th, 2007 @ 9:17pm

    Personally...

    I read the full feed -- and more often than not I go to the linked page anyways, because I want to read or post comments (duh, that's what I'm doing right now!)

    Then again... I use Firefox with Adblock...

     

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  5.  
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    Matt, Aug 13th, 2007 @ 9:21pm

    Broken Link...

    Techdirt'd?

     

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  6.  

    Full Text

    So who's responsibility is it to set the industry standard and when does it start, this debate has been going on too long now.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7.  
    identicon
    jhunter, Aug 13th, 2007 @ 9:42pm

    :)

    Thank you for full text feeds, I came to the just to comment ;)

    Almost as annoying is dotnetkicks.com, which does have full text feeds, but you have to click on a link in the feed to go to dotnetkicks then click on a link to get to the actual article it reference :/

     

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  8.  
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    Buzz, Aug 13th, 2007 @ 9:49pm

    Agreed!

    I am extremely grateful for full feeds! I use Google Reader Mobile on my cell phone, so I love being able to read whole Techdirt articles from wherever I am. It definitely increases the value, and I am a far more loyal reader simply knowing that Techdirt places the focus on customer satisfaction. I am 1000x more likely to come to this site one day with cash in hand (er... on my debit card) ready to spend. ^_^

     

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  9.  
    identicon
    jon, Aug 13th, 2007 @ 10:27pm

    "However, in our experience, full text feeds actually does lead to more page views"

    How could you possibly know this if you've always used full feeds?

    "Techdirt, of course, offers full feeds and always has"

    Don't get me wrong; as a user, I'm all for full text feeds, but I'm wondering how you can claim this if you've never tested partial feeds out.

     

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  10.  
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    Macartan Cassidy, Aug 14th, 2007 @ 12:35am

    Right on the money!

    I think you've got it right in your analysis - full text feeds make the reading experience easier and more pleasurable. The redaer is the much more likely to assimilate and interact with the content.
    An example is my reaction to this post - in Google Reader I hit "Share", and then came here to comment. Would I have done these things for a partial feed? Probably not.

     

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  11.  
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    db0, Aug 14th, 2007 @ 1:46am

    Absolutely true

    I stopped reading The Register once I switched to an aggregator for my news needs because it just delivered snippets and I couldn't be bothered to visit every link I wanted to read.

    I almost stopped reading p2pnet.net but fortunately it moved to full text.

    Especially in Technet, it's quite frequent for me to read a news story and click on various links contained within which in turn become page hits.

     

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  12.  
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    Luke Houghton, Aug 14th, 2007 @ 1:58am

    You give you what you get

    This reminds of the permission marketing stuff that went round a few years ago. It was such a radical idea that giving something away for free that it could lead to more interest from would be customers. I think it shows and builds trust in your would be visitors. Good on you for doing it... keep it up.

     

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  13.  
    identicon
    Minter, Aug 14th, 2007 @ 2:00am

    thanks for the lesson

    Am a convert. Thanks for the tips. Will be sure to spread the word.

     

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  14.  
    identicon
    Minter, Aug 14th, 2007 @ 2:00am

    thanks for the lesson

    Am a convert. Thanks for the tips. Will be sure to spread the word.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15.  
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    Gopinath M, Aug 14th, 2007 @ 2:08am

    Never knew the reality

    An excellent article. I'm about to change my full feed(my blog Tech Thoughts) to partial today but luckily i read this article. What ever is said over here is very true. Thanks a lot.

     

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  16.  
    identicon
    Stephen D, Aug 14th, 2007 @ 2:44am

    Not sure I believe you

    On the one hand you say:
    "Techdirt, of course, offers full feeds and always has"
    ...and on the other, you say:
    "However in our experience, full text feeds actually does lead to more page views."

    More page views than what? You haven't ever tried partial feeds so you don't know.
    It doesn't sound like an argument that would convince Dubner and Levitt.

    Or, at least your experience with running Techdirt can't have provided any real evidence that full text is better for page views than partial, can it?

    I would love to see some tangible evidence for the bean counters, because full text clearly it does provide a better user experience. A handwavy "halo effect" argument is not concrete enough for them.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 14th, 2007 @ 5:26am

    I do not read The New York Times or the Washington Post or ABC or MSNBC, or CBS on line; to difficult.

    In the case of The New York times one is required to log in and have one name recorded just to read a News Paper.

    Thanks but NO THANKS.

    In the case of ABC, MSNBC and CBS they apparently believe that current day desktop computers are equivalent to TV sets so everything is streamed video which does not play on my computers.

    This leaves news sources like BBC, International Harold Tribune, Slashdot and Techdirt. For comics there is Dilbert and UserFrendly.

    CNN is half and half. Half way between readable and non playing streamed video.

    Assuming that my experience is typical that means that old line news papers in order to protect their paper business model are fast becoming irrelevant given that even though the news is better one can not access their site by business decision design.

    On the other side the likes of ABC, MSNBC and CBS are not relevant either with another business model that is failing due to the Dan Rather effect; the assumption that they are the only game in town so people and equipment will just have to do what they demand that you do to access their content.

    The failure in all this is the Nollywood business model.
    http://www.thisisnollywood.com/

    Nollywood, Nigeria's booming film industry, is the world's third largest producer of feature films. Unlike Hollywood and Bollywood, however, Nollywood movies are made on shoe-string budgets of time and money. An average production takes just 10 days and costs approximately $15,000.
    Yet in just 13 years, Nollywood has grown from nothing into a $250 million dollar-a-year industry that employs thousands of people. The Nollywood phenomenon was made possible by two main ingredients: Nigerian entrepreneurship and digital technology.
    ___________________________

    Note at the bottom of the posting page is this note:
    Plain Text: A CRLF will be replaced by break
    tag, all other allowable HTML is intact
    HTML: No formatting of any kind is done without explicitly being written in
    Allowed HTML Tags:




    Could some computer type translate this form goobie gock to English.

     

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  18.  
    identicon
    Petréa Mitchell, Aug 14th, 2007 @ 9:02am

    Another thing to consider

    It's interesting that I should get the full story about this here. The problem as described in comments I saw was that the RSS feed was broken. Another of the costs of degrading the user experience is the number of complaints you will get that your service has developed a bug.

     

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  19.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 14th, 2007 @ 9:08am

    I completely agree - in my (admittedly anecdotal) experience, I'm much less likely to read the partial feeds that I subscribe to. Even when I really enjoy a blog, if they only offer partial feeds I tend to skip them with the intention of going to the site to read them at a later time. This somehow never actually happens. But the full feeds I subscribe to get read. And then I go to the page to comment, and I send links to my friends, etc, etc.

     

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  20.  
    identicon
    Jim, Aug 14th, 2007 @ 9:21am

    Re: More Likely to Comment

    I agree totally. I only subscribe to Techdirt's RSS feed because everything else seems to be partial feeds. I HATE partial feeds. So thank you Techdirt! You are one of the few sites that I read BECAUSE you have full feeds.

    -Jim

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21.  
    identicon
    Ed Kohler, Aug 14th, 2007 @ 9:28am

    Great explanation. Of course, in the short term, the NY Times folks who chose the truncated route will be proven right since people will click through at first. Over time, they may choose to unsubscribe from the feed and pick a different source of insightful news for their RSS reader.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22.  
    identicon
    Fred, Aug 14th, 2007 @ 11:45am

    Complaining works. At some point, the NYT quietly switched the Freakonomics feed to full text, although Dubner never actually announced that they had done so, perhaps to avoid setting a precedent forcing other NYT feeds to full text. At least my feed seems to be full text now.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  23.  
    identicon
    Lance Fisher, Aug 14th, 2007 @ 12:32pm

    Full Feeds Lead To Comments

    Yea for full text RSS. I find that I'll read the articles more, and if I want to comment on one, I'll end up clicking through.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  24.  
    identicon
    Improbulus, Aug 16th, 2007 @ 1:25am

    Give readers a choice of full text feeds or partia

    I've always believed in offering subscribers full control - it should be up to the individual subscriber to decide whether they'd personally prefer full text or excerpts only, or indeed just headlines. I feel strongly that the consumer should be given the power to choose exactly what they want. Feedburner Buzz recently linked to a post I wrote a while back which explains step by step how to provide readers with a choice of full feed, partial feed or headlines only. (For an example of this in action, see the dropdown in my blog's sidebar.) I have about 50% more subscribers picking full feeds than partial, and just a handful wanting headlines only.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  25.  
    identicon
    Rich Pearson, Aug 16th, 2007 @ 12:04pm

    Measurement is great - what about re-use / splogge

    This seems like a very testable concept, and Improbulus's numbers support the hypothesis put forward in the article. Full feeds are where every publisher should be driving towards for the reasons stated above; however, given how easy it is for sploggers to monetize content with ad sense, I can understand why content creators and publishers are reluctant to do this. Until content creators have visibility of re-use and a means to come to a negotiated outcome (not litigation!), we will continue to see full feed reluctance . . .

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  26.  
    identicon
    Rich Pearson, Aug 16th, 2007 @ 12:06pm

    Measurement is great - what about re-use / splogge

    This seems like a very testable concept, and Improbulus's numbers support the hypothesis put forward in the article. Full feeds are where every publisher should be driving towards for the reasons stated above; however, given how easy it is for sploggers to monetize content with ad sense, I can understand why content creators and publishers are reluctant to do this. Until content creators have visibility of re-use and a means to come to a negotiated outcome (not litigation!), we will continue to see full feed reluctance . . .

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  27.  
    identicon
    Improbulus, Aug 19th, 2007 @ 11:06am

    Re: Measurement is great - what about re-use / spl

    Rich, if you're suggesting that publishers generally should offer a choice of feeds and then look at the relative numbers that's a great idea. It would be very helpful to have aggregate stats from lots of blogs and sites to see where the demand lies. Like you, I suspect it would be very much in favour of full feeds (from the subscriber side anyway - I fully realise why from the publisher's side there would be a reluctance to put out full feeds).

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  28.  
    identicon
    David Armstrong, Aug 21st, 2007 @ 11:31am

    Demand rules....

    I still love the Internet. Demand rules...the wisdom of the crowd drives. On the net...demand chases supply, if the supply is hard to find..via logins, registrations, partial feeds, popups, etc..etc..someone fills the need...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  29.  
    identicon
    Tom, Aug 22nd, 2007 @ 2:26pm

    I've got a workaround

    For those interested in getting the full feed, see here:

    http://labs.echoditto.com/fulltextrss

    Here's a direct link to the feed after being passed through the service:

    http://labs.echoditto.com/projects/fulltextrss/?url=http%3A%2F%2Ffreakonomics.blogs.nyti mes.com%2Frss2.xml

    I understand the position that Mr. Dubner's in, but the advertisers are flat out wrong -- they're fighting a war that will inevitably be lost. The sooner they realize this and adapt to the way readers want to consume content, the better.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  30.  
    identicon
    Anurag Bansal, Aug 23rd, 2007 @ 2:27pm

    Full Feed is the way to go...

    As others also mentioned, if your content is good, the people will always come back to the site and visit you frequently. But if you force them at the very first place to visit your page, at least I won't go that way. Feed is made to be read in feed readers, then why the hell there should be an option for partial feeds. I am always for Full Feed. Below are my personal feeds...
    http://feeds.feedburner.com/blogofknowledge
    http://feeds.feedburner.com/thinkboutit
    http://feeds.feedburner.com/justlaugh

     

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  31.  
    identicon
    Steve Pinches, Aug 24th, 2007 @ 3:54am

    Full feeds vs short feeds

    It's true full feeds might help out a blog such as yours which is not a large brand leader like Freakonomics (it's the 'any publicity is good' principle). However for a major, respected brand, giving away full text feeds in this way is absolutely ridiculous. It's the equivalent of giving away free papers in the street but with no ads in them, or indeed any branding. Anyone who objects to having to move their mouse a few centimetres to click on a headline a read the article in context on the site it was published on (where they are also exposed to related stories and tools, and can get the proper context that was intended for the article) is lazier than Mr Lazy and should be taken out and boxed round the ears with a copy of the New York Times' Sunday edition.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  32.  
    identicon
    Michael Pereckas, Aug 24th, 2007 @ 6:34pm

    partial feed means click for really, really, reall

    Naturally, the sites that provide only short feeds are especially likely to be really slow to load, with blinking animated stuff everywhere (don't you love it when the blinking thing keeps covering up the text?) and weird hard to read colors and browser compatibility issues. Usually just not worth it. Also, a partial feed where you're not quite sure if it's partial is extra annoying, where rather than being obvious about it you get a few sentences. Is there more, or is that it? Have to load the blinking malfunctioning flash to be sure...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  33.  
    identicon
    Warren Whitlock, Sep 8th, 2007 @ 1:44am

    Full feeds not always best

    I'm sure your test results are valid, but I would not assume that full feeds are always best. Big world out there.. lot's of agendas. Lot's of reason to use RSS. Souund marketing reasons to include mini feeds on other sites. I use full feeds a most sites (http://dailywarren.com) but for maketing and promotion have used mini-feed too. More specific to the big media sites and their own feeds.. one has to assume that they are more interested in cramming in content than providing quality writing. With that mindset, easy to see why they believe that full articles get in the way. The uproar today come from quality content switching to a model that is made for thoughful readers. Your results here prove that your readers like the content. The comment support that too. Some mass market media types with a lot more capitalization than me will probably say that the masses don't read. Which is why I presonally prefer full feeds.

     

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  34.  
    identicon
    Boris, Oct 22nd, 2007 @ 8:38pm

    You just never know

    Has any thought been given to these full feeds might cause a duplicate content problem?

     

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  35.  
    identicon
    Becktemba, Oct 26th, 2007 @ 12:06pm

    Partial Feeds Must Go

    Partial feeds have to go unless you are trying to protect your commercial content or limit access to information. The FEEDBURNER automatically truncates feeds from EVERYBODY thats just killing the service. Why does a Auntie Ann’s Baby Blog need have a partial feed? Want to print your blog out like a newspaper or magazine? A new application I’m excited about is the FEEDJOURNAL. Check it out at: www.Feedjournal.com Tell em Becktemba sent you.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  36.  
    identicon
    Business Blogger, Oct 26th, 2007 @ 2:51pm

    From Bontb

    Well yes this above is true you get more views etc, but with full feeds you also get a lot of scrappers that duplicate your content.

    I had that happen to me, some guy opened blog and just grabed my feeds , checking out that he had at some keywords better ranking than i did!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  37.  
    identicon
    BidLessTravel, Jul 12th, 2008 @ 3:38pm

    Full-Text "Scrapping"

    I pull some RSS feeds from the main news sources to one of my sites, but actually rather have the truncated version and I link the 'read more' to theirs as payback, so not 'scrapping' all their content. Many have complained and want me to display the full text, as they do not feel like visiting all the sites from which I pull the news...rather have a one-stop-shop.

    So are there any lists out there with full text AP-type of news feeds that people are welcome to pull?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  38.  
    identicon
    mrbrown, Dec 15th, 2008 @ 8:59pm

    Yep, full feeds for me all the way. My readers appreciate it and it has never affected my readership.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  39.  
    identicon
    ashwin, Mar 14th, 2009 @ 2:06pm

    interesting points

    great reporting and perspectives. i'd like to see it studied systematically, but the logic is sound and the irony that freakonomics is being bitten in the rear by this isn't lost. great stuff

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  40.  
    identicon
    Nora, Nov 30th, 2009 @ 8:56am

    Full feeds

    I really hate the ones that are only partials but it seems lately that it is getting harder and harder to find good quality full feeds, where is everyone finding them?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  41.  
    identicon
    SoccerProPick, Dec 9th, 2009 @ 7:03am

    I wonder how to simply place full feed extracted from other website to SoccerProPick I mean that full articles/text

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  42.  
    identicon
    Chase, Mar 8th, 2010 @ 8:32am

    Full RSS Feeds From Any Website

    It really doesn't matter if websites display full RSS feeds or not. With WizardRSS.com you can type in the URL of the partial feeds and they will forward you to a new URL where you can get the link to the full RSS feeds.

    I have seen a ton of people using their service. Plus, I have never run across a website like WizardRSS.com that actually lets you get the full feed from any website on the Internet.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  43.  
    identicon
    islami Sohbet, Jun 2nd, 2010 @ 7:32am

    islami sohbet

    thanks you good

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  44.  
    identicon
    ekin, Jul 13th, 2010 @ 1:36am

    Full feed generator

    Found full feed site http://FullFeeds.org is a full RSS feed generator that can take any partial feed and convert it into a full feed or accept any URL from any website

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  45.  
    identicon
    reviewbenchmark, Mar 20th, 2011 @ 10:11am

    i agree with you guys.......
    full feed will be target ..... like wp robot :D

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  46.  
    identicon
    cennet, Sep 9th, 2011 @ 12:30am

    guest

    Thought of Watts then as a man of pure delight with the world. He was one of the few writers available in the early 60s to read about spirituality. Definitely one of the better and clearer people then writing.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  47.  
    identicon
    olayweb, Oct 11th, 2011 @ 1:16am

    Good Post

    Good post admin tahnk you very much

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  48.  
    identicon
    Tucson SEO, Jul 7th, 2012 @ 9:41pm

    Nice

    I think RSS feeds are another great way to improve reads. Mainly full page RSS and not excerpts.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  49.  
    identicon
    Go Web Solutions, Nov 4th, 2013 @ 3:19pm

    Kind of doesn't matter

    With all you can do with feeds now, you can have everything you need right there, with all the social goodies and everything.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  50.  
    identicon
    SEO Tucson, Dec 30th, 2013 @ 12:49am

    interesting

    Also, with Yahoo Pipes you can creates feeds and RSS based on customization

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  51.  
    identicon
    Kay Jay, Feb 6th, 2014 @ 2:45am

    Thanks for the insights!

    Thanks for the insights, I shall put it to the test!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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