Cites & Insights: Crawford at Large
ISSN 1534-0937
Libraries · Policy · Technology · Media

Selection from Cites & Insights 5, Number 8: June 2005

Bibs & Blather

Readership Patterns

Most periodical publishers look at readership patterns. I’m no different. Based on readership for 2003 issues of Cites & Insights, my standards for 2004 were fairly simple: I was hoping that every issue would have at least 1,500 unique downloads; I’d be reasonably happy with 1,800 or more; and I’d be delighted with anything over 2,500. (Of the 14 issues in 2003, none fell below 1,000—and only one (3:13) came in at under 1,300. At the other end, only two yielded more than 2,500 unique downloads; one of those, 3:9, had an astonishing 4,500 downloads—and more still in 2004. That was the CIPA Special. It’s still going strong in 2005!)

Generally, readership grew in 2004—but with a couple of anomalies. Seven of 14 issues exceeded 2,400 unique downloads (as of May 1), with three over 3,000 (4:12, 4:2, and 4:4). Only three had fewer than 1,800 downloads—but those three also fell below 1,600: 4:8, 4:10 and 4:14.

There’s an easy explanation for 4:10, the lowest at 1,100. That was the issue that appeared during a temporary FTP problem at Boise State; as a result, the first wave of readers (typically 900 or more in the first week) picked it up from my personal site. Once you add a guesstimated 900 readers, it falls nicely in the middle range.

Issue 4:8 was a copyright special that came out shortly before ALA. The title wasn’t that catchy (Catching Up with Copyright) and it was sort of a hodgepodge. Maybe the low readership—in the 1,500 range—makes sense.

The other one’s a mild puzzler. The last issue of 2004 was medium length (22 pages), included most of the typical features, and actually had more articles covering a broader range than most issues. It did appear on November 8, and maybe lots of library people were in no mood to read anything in those first days after the election. Otherwise, I have no explanation.

I won’t try to break down coverage by theme. A glance at readership patterns doesn’t suggest any strong trends as to what gets read and what doesn’t. Meanwhile, I do appreciate all you readers.


I wrote this two issues ago (with March 1 as the cutoff) and pulled it for space reasons. Things haven’t changed much. One 2005 issue (5:3) has already passed the 2,000 mark; two others (5:5 and 5:2) have passed 1,500. There’s one new aspect: the possible significance of partial HTML coverage. It’s early to spot real patterns, but there’s some evidence that between 200 and 400 readers are using HTML as their primary reading method.

Nothing wrong with that, as long as those readers know they may be missing some of the action. Will that change—will I start doing all the pieces in future issues as HTML? Possibly.

Speaking of HTML

So far, the challenge offered in C&I 5:6 has been a total bust, as should be obvious from a glance at the 2003 contents. No email indicating pledges to donate; no issues converted.

I would assume two reasons for this:

Ø    $100 is too much to ask you to donate. You’re mostly library people, after all.

Ø    Nobody much cares about easier access to essays written in 2003 or earlier.

My guess is the second reason is most important. Here’s a way to test that guess:

I’ll make the same challenge, but at a lower price point. Repeating last issue’s challenge with $50 substituted for $100:

If you would like to see stories from earlier issues made available in HTML form, pay for them. Not me, but some worthy cause. Send a donation of at least $50, preferably over and above what you’d normally donate, to one of the following:

Ø    Freedom to Read Foundation

Ø    Nature Conservancy

Ø    American Civil Liberties Union

Ø    Doctors without Borders

Ø    World Wildlife Fund

Ø    America’s Second Harvest or one of the local Second Harvest agencies

Ø    Habitat for Humanity

Send me email ( indicating that you’ve done so. You don’t need to dedicate the donation and I don’t require proof that you’ve made the donation.

For each email I consider legitimate (mostly meaning it’s from a real person, and only one per person), I’ll do HTML stories for one issue of Cites & Insights, working backward chronologically from 3:14. I believe there are 41 eligible issues. Heck, for $2,050 to a variety of causes most of which I directly support, I’ll do a little work.


So far, although the reports I have received have been interesting and worthwhile, there haven’t been many of them. Maybe that’s as it should be. As ALA Annual (the Big Kahuna of library conferences) approaches, here’s a reminder that the door’s still open.

I can’t offer pay or freebies (other than Cites & Insights itself). I can offer reasonably wide readership (see above, and I estimate at least 50% pass-along readership based on conversations I’ve had), minimal editing if you submit reasonably clean copy, and minimal restrictions. You must agree to the same Creative Commons BY-NC license that C&I publishes under (anyone can copy your report but they must give you credit and they must not copy for commercial gain without your permission). You can reuse your report any way you see fit, with or without credit to C&I. I believe a C&I report should count as a legitimate non-refereed publication credit on your vita. If you do a great report, that helps establish you as someone with something to say.

You don’t need to let me know up front that you plan to do a report, but email in advance does let me handle cases where two or more people want to cover the same event (which I “handle” by putting them in touch with one another). Reporting guidelines are at

You can send email about reporting, or reports themselves, to either or I may not respond rapidly to mail received between May 30 and June 11, but I’ll eventually get back to you.

Flags and Usability

If there’s not an essay on the broadcast flag decision this issue, there will be soon. After all the text I’ve spent on the broadcast flag, I’m naturally delighted that the court ruled for ALA and against hyper-restrictive copyright and FCC’s power grab.

Don’t confuse the broadcast flag with cable flags. Those flags do exist, and the court decision does nothing to prevent them. “Smart” set-top boxes and CableCARDs (the new devices that let you view high-definition cable TV without a set-top box) do enforce restrictions on high-definition video copying—although they’re not supposed to enforce such restrictions on standard-definition (regular TV) copying, including standard-definition “down-rezzed” versions of high-definition shows. I’ve read several reports of premium-channel content (e.g., The Sopranos) disappearing from HD DVRs thanks to cable flags. Theoretically, the flags are always supposed to allow for at least one copy of any program, although that copy might have a limited lifespan.

A report in the March/April 2005 Perfect Vision indicates that it can get much worse. When the writer tried to archive HD programs from a CableCARD TV (recording premium channels), it just didn’t work—although the writer could record the same shows using a set-top box. Instead of an HBO movie, the writer got a message saying that the recording was time limited and had expired—just after it was recorded. Here’s the chilling part, though: Even though nothing other than Pay-Per-View content is supposed to be flagged more restrictively than “copy once to view within at least 90 minutes,” the rules for CableCard are that HD content that’s not flagged at all is treated as “record never.”

I suspect some readers thought I was paranoid when I suggested, in American Libraries and elsewhere, that Big Media’s desired copy-protection schemes would, if fully carried out, mean that PCs and other devices could only work with files that were specifically flagged as “OK to copy under these circumstances,” leaving out any legacy data. It wasn’t paranoia: It was a simple ability to read proposals and carry out the logic.

By the way, as the writer continued testing, even standard-definition HBO became unrecordable.

Cites & Insights: Crawford at Large, Volume 5, Number 8, Whole Issue 64, ISSN 1534-0937, a journal of libraries, policy, technology and media, is written and produced by Walt Crawford, a senior analyst at RLG.

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