Hulu going the way of Cable TV?

I am often forced to admit that I’m not that old (born in the latter half of 1985), but I hear things. I have been led to understand that cable TV, for instance, was once free of advertisements. You paid for the service, so it didn’t need to be supported by ads. You could watch shows and movies without having to deal with interruptions, and it was great.

But then someone had an idea. “Wait, people are paying for this… so why don’t we collect their money and sell advertising spots? We’ve got a captive audience because people aren’t going to not use what they’re paying for, and advertisers will pay boatloads for those spots!”

Hulu might be working the opposite way down the same track. The new head of News Corp’s digital initiatives, who also happens to have secured a seat on Hulu’s board, is suggesting that what the online video provider needs to do is move to a subscription model, particularly one with “bundling.” We don’t know what these bundles might be, and neither does Jon Miller, but he thinks they’re good ideas.

And Jon Miller knows. After all, he was once a boss for America Online, which bundled CDs with every newspaper, magazine, and hot dog in the country. AOL was hugely successful, and Miller can bring those same powerhouse ideas to Hulu.

Speaking personally, if Hulu wants to charge a modest subscription fee, I won’t begrudge them that. I’d happily pay $10 a month for the service, and while $15 might be pushing it, I might even do that. But if they charged subscription fees and still had advertisers, there is no way in hell I’d give them my money. And let’s not kid ourselves people, they’re not going to tell their advertising partners to take a hike. It would be way more lucrative to have advertisers and paid subscriptions.

I have often lamented that cable TV doesn’t have a more flexible model, because I would happily pay $20 a month to get the 5-6 channels I would actually watch. I won’t pay $30-40 for 60 channels when I will only watch 4 (and still not get a couple of the ones I would like). Hulu doesn’t even have whole channels, just select content, and a lot of it disappears over time. I can’t watch every season of The Office anymore, and they’re only up to around episode 80 of Bleach (out of around 220). Why would I pay to see only what they have to offer and ads on top?

When I’m watching something on Hulu, it is because it is available. I watch what they have because it’s convenient more than because I really want to see what they’re showing. Perhaps I’d rather be watching Show X, but Hulu doesn’t have Show X and neither does anything else online. Therefore, I’ll watch Show Y, because it’s also good, it’s just not what I wanted. I won’t pay to have the luxury of not seeing the things I really want to see.

I doubt Hulu will move to subscriptions, because that would be retarded. But then again, the Internet is filled with many a stupid thing by many a stupid person.

RSS Full vs. Excerpts

Modify your WordPress Reading Settings though the Administrative interface.
Modify your WordPress Reading Settings though the Administrative interface.

RSS, short for Really Simple Syndication, is a wonderful tool that allows readers to subscribe to your content and passively pull it into an RSS reader. For the writer, this means that your content is being distributed more widely and conveniently, helping ensure that people will read what you’ve got to say. And for the reader, it makes it easier to remember to read someone’s work; you receive a notification every time they publish something.

But you don’t have to put all of your content into your RSS feed. WordPress very simply allows you to just submit a summary or excerpt from your entry into the RSS feed. I can think of a couple of reasons to do this, but truth be told, I don’t like them.

Why bother with summaries?

I think that, for most people who use summaries in their RSS feeds, the goal is to get people to come to their actual site. Maybe they have advertisements they want people to see, or they just think their site is pretty and feel that the article needs to be framed within their theme. By only providing a summary in the RSS, it lets readers know that something new is available on the site and teases them with a bit of content, encouraging them to click through to read the full article.

Part of me can sympathize with the plight of the site owner whose livelihood is based on advertisements, but I also know that it’s annoying as hell to me to have to click through and read the article on the site. Google Reader formats text much nicer than most sites do (due to line length, height, etc.), making reading more pleasurable. Having to open up Yet Another Tab is a pain, especially when you’re like me and usually have 20-30 open at a time.

The only semi-valid reason I’ve heard for RSS summaries is on sites with a lot of photos or other media. If your posts are photo-heavy, you may not want to put that bandwidth load into your RSS. It slows down people’s readers, and you don’t know that they’re always going to be on a high speed Internet connection.

But surely those people know what your site is like, else they wouldn’t have subscribed. I can’t really find a good reason to inconvenience people by only posting summaries.

Post your full articles, RSShead.

You want your stuff to be read, right? To my mind, the noblest goal is to make it as easy as possible for the reader to access your content, and the best way to do that is to post full articles into your RSS. If your site is worthwhile, people will probably visit to read additional articles or just to support you. What I’m saying is, if you don’t suck, it’ll work out. People will come, view, read, and click regardless, so there’s no point in being an inconvenient jerk.