I blogged last week about a new access system on the Fast Company site that allowed you to enter in a code printed in the magazine to see online content before it is released to the general (non-paying) public. I got my current issue of Fast Company this weekend and flipped through the magazine, not remembering exactly which page I had to look on to find the code; I seemed to remember there was a "6" in the page number. I finally found the access code on page 16 (surprise, surprise), which did me no real good this weekend because my at-home Internet was not working.
Here are a few ways I can see this code being abused:
- The code appears to be printed the same in every copy of the magzine, so once the code is generally known, there is no real way to track who might be giving out their code. That being said, I could be worng because I am only basing this assumption on my knowledge of printing and one copy of the magazine.
- Anyone could go into a bookstore, thumb through the magazine, grab the code, and go back and read all the content online without paying.
For both of these situations: Who cares? Look, the abuse is going to happen to some degree. However, one of the ways that Fast COmpany became such a great magazine was that people photcopied the great articles and passed them around to all their friends. The people that received a photocopied article noticed the uniquitous "FAST COMPANY" printing on the bottom of the page and subscribed. So is access code sharing the new way (and less environmentally damaging way) to share Fast Company articles? Perhaps it is.
Here's an interesting question for Fast Company to ponder: Do you let me refer people behind your code screen when I blog about your articles? I would certainly not give out tyour secret code; you are in business to make money and if the code idea sells incremental magazines (and I hope it does), I would never want to have any effect (negatively) on your revenues. But what if I build buzz about the article, refer someone to read just that article, and by reading just that article that person goes and purchases a whole magazine?
Here's another interesting question for Fast Company: Is the value equation the same for your advertisers if you just provded an online subscription option with nor print subscription? Would we, as users, have to look at a barrage of ads to ensure that all of your advertisers were getting the same kind of impressions that they are guaranteed in the print version? I wonder if your advertisers read the Seth Godin article regarding interruption advertising. Furthermore, I wonder how much per month I would pay for a premium subscription that did not have any interruption advertising at all . . .
For all of you out there: Like any other good thing, if you abuse this great feature that Fast Company has installed, it will surely either go away or become much more of a pain in the ass to use. Don't go to your local bookstore and steal the code, just pay the $4.95 cover price and consider the code the free prize inside.