Interesting information flow-control models

I’ve run into a few interesting models for information flow-control in the past months:

  • The Chronicle of Higher Education gives paid subscribers full access to their archives and lets them email / blog links to those articles which expire after five days. That gives them the advantage of word-of-mouth draw to their articles while still limiting the number of people who feel compelled to cut-and-paste repost their articles on their own sites.
  • The online museum site lets you follow any link from an external website into their site (for example, this one) but any link you type directly into your browser, follow from email or click from their own site redirects you to a “you must become a member” page. (They also open their site to non-members every Friday.) They’re just redirecting any request that either has no referral header or that has as the referrer.
  • I should also mention how the New York Times allows blogs to create non-expiring links to Times articles (that is, they don’t become subscriber-only or pay-per-view after a week). Unfortunately, the link generator over at BlogSpace is down at the moment (as is the rest of BlogSpace), so I can’t show an example…

All three cases are creating two classes of info-users: people who can disseminate their information (paid subscribers, plus people who read the Times when it’s still fresh) and consumers who can read what the first class of people point to but can’t go further without paying. While it’s a little Tom Sawyerish to essentially force people to pay to drive potential new subscribers to your site, I can see the basic model working if the balance is gotten right and fit the content well. At the very least, it’s nice to see models that are more subtle than the all-free / ad-based / subscriber-based triple that’s so common today.