Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Looking for Help on SSRN

I do not want to jump to conclusions and may be the last to know so I'd like to understand the SSRN business plan. I have in the past expressed my suspicions about what numbers of downloads mean and why there appears to be a top ten list for virtually everything. I personally have made some with just a handful of downloads. My non-holiday-spirit side thinks that the infinite number of top ten lists is a selling point to encourage people to upload, then make a top ten list, and promptly report it to the dean or the world.

Now, again perhaps the last to discover it, there is something else. If you click on my ssrn page which I think is to the right of this post an then click on the second article down, you will see that it is about estate planning. And, to the right of the abstract there are ads for estate planners.

I assume the advertising is not free and that this the source of ssrn revenue. If I have this right, should ssrn be paying law professors or their schools to upload their articles? Or, is there already payment in the form of "top ten" lists.

I guess in a world in which Senate seats may appear on ebay soon, I should not be surprised.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

The SSRN top ten thing strikes me as somewhat harmless. It's a fun thing to get in your email box, but nothing more (at least from my perspective). When I got my first one I put it on my vita and report - when I got my 10th I said 'hey, wait a minute' (I eventually catch on, it just takes a while). So I don't pay them that much attention anymore. I think that in the social sciences people see SSRN for what it really is - a tool to get your research out there to other scholars and the public.

I don't wish to speak for everyone in the social sciences, but my impression is that we dont take ssrn downloads or top ten lists very seriously. I am surprised to hear that law schools do take them seriously and I would be interested in hearing from other law profs about their experiences on this matter.

On the ads, I suppose that it's a matter of perspective. I see SSRN as giving me a free place to house my work for easy viewing and they get to place the ads - seems like a fair trade off - if I had a big problem with it, then I'd just take it off ssrn and put it on my homepage (albeit with fewer downloads, I'm sure).

As a side note I am always intrigued by the ads on my papers - sometimes I don't see the connection. I think either Paul Caron or Conglomerate had a post on this point a good while back.

12/10/2008 1:49 PM  
Blogger Jeffrey Harrison said...

Yes, I written before about top ten lists and went through exactly the process you described -- "Cool" to "what's up with this."

I actually do not object to the identity of those advertising. In fact, the ironic thing about the one I pointed out is that the thesis of the article is that the people who are advertising may be selling snake oil.

I wonder how this would play out, though, if someone wrote a gun control article only to find it was now accompanied by ads for guns.

I did not realize, however, that the articles were the "draw" to the ads. Somehow in my still idealistic way I did not count on the commercialization.

12/10/2008 2:41 PM  

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