Web usability, deep linking

So I'm surfin Medscape today, and I notice that they published my article from the AAFP conference.  Cool.  Of course, I want to e-mail my pal Dave in Seattle and tell him about it .. so I copy the link and e-mail it to him. (actually, I use the "e-mail this article" button on the page .. well designed).

Trouble is .. Dave's not a Medscape member. Maybe he should be.  He's an internist.  I'll bet they want him to be a member .. and so they want me to e-mail him a URL to the article.

Since I'm already logged in, when I click on the URL, I get right in to the site and I see the article.  But if one isn't logged in, all you get is the login page.

This is bad design. 

Perhaps Steve will appreciate a little constructive criticism:

The recipient of the URL has no idea what the sender has sent.  Is it worth the time to sign up?  "ugh .. not now" most will say .. as they wade through their morning e-mail pile.  Now the sender's e-mail hasn't accomplished much, and the recipient just gets annoyed.

Ironically, I was reading my (paper) copy of eweek today, and I found Jim Rapoza's "last word" article today on how deep linking draws visitors.  He's right.  Medscape should show the user the article I've linked to. 

At first, I thought that they should put a teaser paragraph up on this login page, with instructions on how to sign up, as NEJM does for their recently published articles. Want full text?  Gotta log in..   But as I think more about it, Medscape's goal is to have me see their site as a valuable resource.  The user won't see the site as a valuable resource if they don't see the whole article.  Piss them off ans give them a few paragraphs and it's not likely they'll be coming back to type in their DEA number..

I can already hear the "security" team whining about how jerks like me could then create web pages full of "deep" links to Medscape content that would be available to people without logging in.

So what.  Medscape could rather easily permit a full text "deep link" without login from external URLs (cgi.referrer <> "medscape.com) .. but require login for viewing from internal URLs.  This way, deep linking is preserved, but if the user wants to go anywhere within Medscape, they are encouraged to log in.

"Medscape is free"  you say .. "why make users log in at all?"  Steve will (I hope) weigh in on this one .. but I'm sure that it's very important for them to be able to report to their advertisers who the users are.  If I can't log in …. I'm just an IP address.

So . if we build it this way .. more openly .. users can see the article they linked in to .. but not others, but "internal" clicks would bring the user to a login page.   Yes .. of course there would be ways to circumvent this to see the content (copy/paste comes to mind!) .. but a minority of users would do this .. and it's too hard to do this on a regular basis.  The more they do this .. the more motivated they'll be that the content is good and they should make life easier for themselves by logging in.

So by providing more access to content, the content vendor can actually increase the likelihood that these users will end up as long-term members.