Wednesday, June 16, 2004

Web newspaper registration stirs debate

CNN reports on the annoying registration requirements of many online newspapers and sites like that seek to foil them:
    Imagine if a trip to the corner newsstand required handing over your name, address, age, and income to the cashier before you could pick up the daily newspaper. That's close to the experience of many online readers, who must complete registration forms with various kinds of personal data before seeing their virtual newspaper.
Marketing folks will argue that this kind of registration data is valuable for advertisers and to better understand their readers, but I doubt they understand the costs of these kinds of hurdles. Throwing up registration requirements will reduce traffic -- some people just won't bother with it -- and losing traffic means lost advertising dollars.

What I would recommend is voluntary registration and voluntary user surveys to gather the same data on a sample of your audience. For advertising, target the ads to the content of the page, like Google AdSense. If you want to get tricky, start tracking individual behavior -- articles read and advertising viewed -- to personalize the ads to each reader. With these techniques, you'll have the data you need to understand your readers and be able to have effective, targeted advertising programs.

There's really no need for these mandatory registration forms. It shows the lack of imagination and poor grasp of technology of the marketing organizations at these firms.

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