Registration Still Required
Glenn Reynolds has an interesting piece in TCS on the topic of registration requirements for online newspapers.
But I think that if advertisers are relying on registration data, they’re either fooling themselves, or being fooled. And if newspapers think it’s worth irritating their readers to target ads, they’re making a big mistake, too. Readers who register as 97-year-old black women living in Alaska will be getting ads for frostproof incontinence products, but that’s not going to do anyone any good. . . .
Registration schemes — especially registration schemes that don’t work well, which is most of them — turn off readers. Those readers go somewhere else. And because web surfing is often a matter of habit, once turned off they’re likely not to come back.
This is especially true for media outlets that are below the top tier. I might bother to register for the New York Times — but probably not the Maryville-Alcoa Daily Times. And nobody’s going to register at 150 different sites. Penenberg joins the chorus of web users asking newspapers to get together and establish a unitary registration scheme — one that will let people sign on once, get the cookie, and seamlessly browse all the papers. Newspapers had better follow this advice, or they’ll find people using an informal alternative, like the popular BugMeNot.com password-sharing website.
The Web isn’t new anymore, and newspaper people have far less excuse to be getting this stuff wrong than they had three or four years ago. Can we see some progress here, please?
Agreed all around. The major papers– NYT, WaPo, LAT– do a pretty good job. I seldom have to re-imput my password and the information required to register was minimal. The worst significant paper that I’ve encountered is the AJC, which I check nearly every day to keep up with the Atlanta Braves. Not only do they have a questionnaire longer than the Census Bureau’s but their cookie management system is horrible. I have to put my name, userid, and password in almost every time I visit.
Still, as annoying as registration requirements are, I’m willing to put up with a bit of inconvenience to access content. What I find truly inexplicable is the sites that wall off most of their content from non-subscribers. Why on Earth would anyone pay to subscribe to the Wall Street Journal, for example, just to have access to one more newspaper? All they’re doing is ensuring that a large number of people who otherwise would see their advertisements, won’t. And does the Dallas Morning News really think I’m going to pay a substantial fee to read three or four stories a day–at most–speculating about who is going to be the third string fullback on the Cowboys when there are half a dozen other sites giving the information away for nothing?