A publishing parable

Earlier this month Jeremy Wagstaff, who writes for the online edition of the Wall Street Journal and for the newspaper's Asian edition, wrote an article about screencasting. He announced it on his blog, in an entry that quoted the intro to the article and included a useful collection of screencasting-related links. But the article itself was available only to WSJ.com subscribers and to readers of the print edition of The Wall Street Journal Asia. I did get to read it, thanks to an acquaintance who forwarded me a copy. He did this in a bizarre fashion, though, by sending me a JPEG attachment, reminiscent of the way my mom snail-mails me clippings from newspapers she reads.

I was curious to see what the effect of the story might be. On the one hand, I reasoned it would be negligible. No public URL, no network effects. But then PaidContent.org reminded me that WSJ.com is considered a major success not only in the realm of paid online circulation, but also in comparison to newspapers:

(I captured that data at this URL, though I can't find the item there today.)

So I revised my expectations. Perhaps I'd see a large referral effect after all. There was a useful benchmark for comparison. About a year earlier, David Pogue's New York Times blog had mentioned my Wikipedia screencast. I can't find that item now, either; the recent reboot of that blog seems to have ditched the older items. But anyway, now the WSJ.com was pointing to the same item. What would be the relative effects of these two events?

The NYTimes.com produced a flood of referrals, the WSJ.com a trickle. Of course that Wikipedia screencast might have been old news to those WSJ.com subscribers who, a year earlier, would have found it much more interesting. For this and other reasons it's not an apples-to-apples comparison. But I found it interesting nonetheless.

The article is now available on the web, for a while anyway, because the TechSmith folks, whose Camtasia software I use to make screencasts, sponsored a reprint. Nobody has linked to the reprint, though, with exception of me doing so here for my own archival purposes, and my guess is nobody is likely to.

This may be a successful model of publishing, but it seems to me a curious definition of success.

Former URL: http://weblog.infoworld.com/udell/2006/06/22.html#a1474