This year, it’s a little different. I use Instapaper for most of my longer-form article consumption and, as of recently, this service is able to figure out if an article has been spread across multiple pages.
I can’t help but think that Ars (and sites like Ars) must be a little miffed at Instapaper (and services like Instapaper). Naturally, the reason Ars spreads the article out over so many pages is so they can get 20-something ad impressions per reader of the article. Or, as described earlier, you can pay some dough and get a PDF without ads. Instapaper (and services like it) effectively sidestep both monetization efforts by offering the equivalent of the paid option for free.
Walled Garden is easier than ever to break, i think. I personally came to the same solution and read the review using Pocket on my Nexus S since reading multi-page review is so hard for 2 factors:
- I’m lazy (and i’m not alone on this).
- Reading a long article like this through time-shifter service like Pocket, Readability or Instapaper is easier. Much, much easier since not only the formatting is better, but it automatically download the whole thing to native apps installed on your phone (or mac, or iPad) for your reading pleasure.
These 2 deciding factors could obviously be dangerous for sites that depends heavily on multi-page content. Not just because apps like Pocket, Readability & Instapaper eliminate the content-provider ads, but also the incentive is lost for these sites’ users to upgrade. Why upgrade when you can eliminates both hassles by clicking once? Like a cancer, they kills, but they kill slowly.
So how to solve this? Well how about for sites to stop depending on gimmick like multi-page content to make users say “aaarrgghh okay then let’s just upgrade”. I can understand sites like Cracked or New York Times to do this but ARS Technica? Your majority of users are geek, and i’ll bet they can find a way to read your content other than paying subscriptions to remove ads; they can use Adblock. Clicking 12 times? No, no, no. Click “read later” once on your bookmakrs bar and problem solved.
I’m not saying that sites should just give their contents for free, but if you want to do subscriptions as your business model, go all the way. Do it the New York Times way. Blocks all the bookmarklet. Be a jerk. But you’ll be a jerk with happy customers. You want to serve ads? Go crazy. But how about making it relevant? I like those ads that Daring Fireball & other 1000+ blog that apple fanboy1 have, where you get what’s practically a promoted content, but content that is actually good.
My point: if you want to make a garden, chose carefully and don’t do it half-assedly. If you chose wall to protect your garden, make it as high as possible, but make the insides a total beauty to look at. Want to make a free park with Saul Goodman ads on every bench? Do it! But don’t do it both ways.