It appears that despite the massive amount of reader backlash against the NY Times for switching the Freakonomics blog to partial RSS feeds rather than full feeds, the powers that be have decided to keep the feeds partially crippled
. In the long explanation, Stephen Dubner references my own post about why full feeds actually increase page views
, but basically says that it wasn't convincing enough for the money watchers at the Times. The reasoning behind the decision is pretty tortured, and Scott Karp does a fantastic job ripping it apart
"Sure, you can't place tracking cookies in these people's browsers or serve behaviorally target ads. But HOW IS THAT BETTER THAN NOT REACHING THEM AT ALL??? The idea that publishers, under pressure from advertisers, can put the horses back in the barn and get people to consume content through channels that publishers fully control, just like in old offline monopoly media, is so reactionary that it really does amount to betting against the Internet. It's true that adoption of RSS is still relatively low, but when you take the case of the Freakonomics blog -- where MOST of the readers read it via RSS -- the idea that you could somehow change ALL of their behavior, i.e. force them to come to the New York Times, is just ludicrous. There's no other word for it. Really, what's the point of "partnering" with the Freakonomics blog only to alienate the vast majority of the readers? How is that creating value for advertisers? So you can show ads to the few angry, resentful readers who reluctantly come to the New York Times?"
The NY Times' reasoning reminds me of the ridiculous reasoning that many newspapers (including the NY Times!) gave for many years about why they had to put up registration walls
to get to their content. They insisted that they needed much better data about their readers to give to advertisers -- not recognizing that in doing so they were getting a lot fewer readers and the data they were getting was often bogus anyway. It's this same mistaken belief that leads the NY Times to insist it needs partial feeds to give advertisers better tracking data -- even if it means fewer of the type of readers that the NY Times should specifically be aiming for. How could that possibly make sense?