The full- versus partial-text RSS feed debate has been one that has simmered in the background of the online world for years now, occasionally flaring as people decide to make known that they’re unsubscribing to X site because it’s a partial feed or whatnot. The passions on this issue usually run high and everyone believes they have the key to understanding why the other side is wrong.
I bring this up because of the recent switch from full to partial feeds on the Freakonomics blog following its partnership with the New York Times. The blog is now hosted on the NYTimes site and many readers have apparently voiced their criticism of the switch rather loudly. The authors have tried to explain what happened a couple times but now author Stephen J. Dubner has written what may be the best rationalization of partial feed publishing to date.
Dubner explains that advertising is sold on the NYTimes site based on page views. So putting out full-content feeds would cut into page views, thereby decreasing the paper’s ad revenue, thereby decreasing the pot of money that the Freakonomics crew gets a small cut of. He states this is not selling out – that the content is still free – you just need to come to the NYTimes site to read it. Yes, the paper could sell ads in the full feed but they chose not to based on their own comfort level as well as that of their advertisers. In the end Dubner says the resources they now have access to at the NYT are valuable enough to them that they feel the partial feed decision is worth it.
It is, as Dubner says, up to the reader to decide whether they’re willing to pay the cost, the exposure to advertising, to read their content. If not that’s up to them. Whatever each individual’s decision might be I think Dubner and the team there is to be commended for providing such a logical and compelling explanation of their thinking to their readers.