Please don’t use Wiley’s ArticleShare service to spam strangers

I just became aware of a new (?) service from Wiley called ArticleShare. Most Wiley journals now let an author choose up to 10 individuals who will have free access to the article. Those individuals get an auto-generated email from Wiley, offering them free access to the article, courtesy of the author. The email also includes some unrelated marketing verbiage from Wiley about their author-pays open access options.

I can see where this service could be useful, particularly to authors whose friends and close colleagues otherwise wouldn’t have free access to the article. But like most things that can be useful, it can also be abused. Wiley markets this service as a way to increase your impact. I suggest that you not think of it that way. In particular, I suggest that you be hesitant about using this service to send your article to people you don’t know.

Most academics are time- and attention-limited, and so are very careful about how they allocate those scarce resources. That’s especially true for senior academics. Most academics also already have their own ways of identifying articles they want to read. And academics at most developed country colleges and universities already have free access to many journals via institutional subscriptions. Finally, “self promotion” of one’s own work is a topic on which there’s a wide range of views, both about exactly what constitutes “self promotion” and whether “self promotion” is a good thing. And how the “self promotion” is done matters a lot.

So here’s my suggestion: don’t think of sending your paper to people you don’t know–or asking Wiley to do so for you–as a way to publicize your work. Focus on what the person you’re thinking of sending the paper to is likely to want, not on what you want. Before sending your paper to someone you don’t know, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Is this person likely to be very interested in my paper?
  • Would this person be likely to miss my paper unless I sent it to them?

If the answer to both questions is “yes”, I suggest that you not use Wiley’s ArticleShare service (or any similar service that any other publisher offers). That kind of impersonal approach risks coming off as spam. Instead, I suggest emailing a pdf along with a personal message explaining why you’re sending it (i.e. why you think he/she will be interested in your paper, and why you thought he/she might miss it) Even if you do think of this primarily as a way to publicize your work, you’re more likely to get someone you don’t know to pay attention if you take the time to send a personal explanation.

Just my two cents; I’m guessing at least some and possibly many of you will disagree (which is fine; there’s often scope for reasonable disagreement on professional etiquette). And before you point it out, yes, it’s possible that I’m just getting old. 🙂

9 thoughts on “Please don’t use Wiley’s ArticleShare service to spam strangers

  1. A rare moment of disagreement for us, Jeremy! While you say that ” Most academics also already have their own ways of identifying articles they want to read”, I’m totally convinced that my own ways are ineffective, and I welcome suggestions of stuff I should read by just about any route. Don’t worry, I know where my “delete” key and my “ignore” neuron are located 🙂

    Now, having maximized our disagreement for fun, let me second your suggestion that the personal note with the pdf is indeed a great way to go. But I’m perfectly happy to get ArticleShare spam (let the floodgates open….) – Steve

    • Yeah, I’m expecting a fair bit of disagreement along these lines. Another person has also said that they don’t mind ArticleShare spam because they sometimes hear about interesting articles they otherwise wouldn’t have found, and because they’re quick with the delete key if the article title doesn’t interest them.

      • ^ That other person mentioned above is me. I’ve found interesting articles this way, and suspect I would have missed them otherwise. So, I’m fine with it. If I don’t think it looks interesting, I don’t read it.

    • Yes, that’s one way to look at it.

      For me, that sense of feeling flattered is downgraded if someone just plugged my name (and a bunch of other names) into an online form that auto-generates emails. But these days, I may well be in a minority in feeling that way.

      • Hmmm, but your name wasn’t auto-generated or picked at random: you’ve been nominated specifically by the authors. I’d think that was flattery enough given the number of ecologists who they could have nominated.

      • Yes, that’s certainly one way to look at it. Although I guess I’d still hope that if an article’s authors really do think so highly of me, out of all the other ecologists they could’ve shared their article with, that they’d take 60 seconds to send me a personal email.

        It’s also possible that my feelings about ArticleShare are being skewed by the fact that ArticleShare emails are about half advertising verbiage for other Wiley products.

  2. Back in the pre-electronic era you sometimes ran across people that would send reprints to authors that they cited in the paper. And probably to other selected friends, colleagues, and people that they were trying to get noticed by. I was getting ready to disagree until I got to your suggested alternative. I would vote for the more personal approach over the Wiley-based incentive to pick ten names when three might be a better number 🙂

    • “I would vote for the more personal approach over the Wiley-based incentive to pick ten names when three might be a better number ”

      I was just thinking along the same lines. What if Wiley decides to let authors use ArticleShare for, say, 100 names rather than 10? Would that–should that–change how one feels about the etiquette of using the service?

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