Tuesday, July 20, 2004

Registration required

Rachel Metz at Wired writes about the annoyance of registration requirements at news web sites and tools like BugMeNot that thwart them. The article contains interesting quotes from people in the industry on why they require registration:
    Elaine Zinngrabe, general manager of latimesinteractive, which runs the Los Angeles Times' website, said the newspaper began requiring online user registration in June 2002 as a way to learn more about its readers and, it hopes, to drum up more advertising on the site. The Times asks readers to reveal things like their ZIP code, age, gender and income.

    Dipik Rai, a business manager with Knight Ridder Digital who runs online registration for some of the company's newspapers ... said Knight Ridder Digital is very upfront about why it's gathering data, which it uses to figure out who's using its site and to target advertising.
Both Elaine and Dipik claim that the reason they need registration is to understand their audience and for online advertising. There are three issues with this:
  1. Random sampling: Acquiring a demographic profile of your audience only requires a random sample of your customers, not forcing every single reader to fill out a lengthy form.
  2. Effective targeted advertising: I suspect a web site can generate higher targeted online advertising clickthroughs and revenue by matching ads to user behavior (the articles the reader has read) than from noisy and coarse-grained data on age, zip code, and income.
  3. Cost of registration: Required registration repels some visitors from your website, so you lose traffic and advertising dollars. The cost of lost revenue needs to be part of the cost-benefit analysis of required registration.
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