How Can a Company Turn Down 150,000,000 (yes, hundred million) Chances to Turn Someone into a Customer

Posted on January 15, 2012


Jstor is now opening up a very tiny portion (%5) of their journals for people to be able to preview at least three full articles (can’t download or print said articles). The most striking thing about this announcement is that they say that each year they block 150,000,000 attempts to see an article. No misprint, that is 150 million times a year people are directer to an article in Jstor and they can not access it.

What sort of business looks at 150 million visits as nuisance instead of an opportunity? Yes, technically Jstor is a not for profit but that is only in the thinnest terms in that the money does not go back to shareholders but other people. Also, I am thinking more about publishers such as Springer, Thomson-Reuters etc. who probably have similar number of visits and denials of access.

This reminds me of once when we were with some friends in Anglefire and we went to get some brunch at a restaurant. We get there and the manager meets us at the door to say that their kitchen will not be open for another 15 mins and that we could try the restaurant down the street. He turned away a dozen potential customers with out thinking about it. I remember this moment vividly because the restaurant we ended up going to gave us the worst service and experience of our lives.  In the middle of this horrible experience, we discussed the first restaurant and what they should have done. Instead of sending us away they should have said, “hey, kitchen won’t open for another 20 mins. but if you want to come in and sit down we can get you some cokes while you wait.”

I have worked in a kitchen and yes preping a kitchen in the morning sucks if you have customers BUT drinks you can get from the drink foutain and it takes 2 secs. Also, great profit margins on drinks. It would have cost them no time and made them money to keep us around. They could of had a dozen customers instead they sent us away. I feel like the majority of journal publishers think the same way- “aggg someone wants to access our product how annoying. Lets make their experience so bad that they stop trying and leave us alone.” They do that by putting everything behind a paywall with ridiculous prices, $60 for a single article that you can not preview. I highly doubt that that many people take the risk of paying a lot of money for something sight unseen.

Really, what these people should be saying hey look at these x number of articles for free and then pay y to access even more. When I say y I don’t mean $100 plus for a tiny amount of content but $5-10 for a decent amount of content (so that they don’t think twice about spending a small amount of money- same as a starbucks). Now I don’t believe for one second that 150 million attempts = 150 million people but what if it was 20 million? and what if you could convert 5% to subscribing for $10 that is $50 million that you were just throwing away.

Almost any other company in the world would make a deal with the devil to have 150 million visits to their websites. I really hope someone realizes this and uses it to out maneuver the commercial publishers.

Posted in: Publishing