About Me

  • I've spent more than 25 years at the intersection of traditional and digital journalism. I've helped to invent ways to read and interact with the news and advertising on computer screens and iPads, and before that, I wrote news stories on typewriters and six-ply paper. I co-founded WashingtonPost.com and hyperlocal pioneers Backfence.com and GrowthSpur; served as editor of Philly.com; taught media entrepreneurship at the University of Maryland; and have done product-development and strategy consulting for all sorts of media and Internet companies and startups. You can read more about me here.

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« Voices of the People | Main | Well, It Could Be Worse »

December 27, 2007



You'll do much better using the targeting by multi-site ad networks than the bogus data people provide.

I wrote about this and a few other tips earlier this year:

People want to consume your content; don’t keep them from it. If I hit a registration wall, I usually go away. If I really want to read the story, I’ll try BugMeNot. (Note that the top 5 sites on bugmenot.com are newspaper sites.) I have to really, really, really want to read the story to register. And in that case I’ll give fake information. At the very least, if you require registration, make sure that traffic that comes from search engines or bookmarks at least gets the first few stories registration free.

MaryAnn ChickWhiteside

Is asking for ZIP, birthyear and sex a big barrier?

(I find it most annoying when I use the iPhone, type in a comment and the site won't take it)



I think it is. When most sites don't ask for it, I'll ignore the ones that do.

A lot of Web traffic is casual browsing from site to site, link to link. Put an obstacle in the way and you don't get my traffic.

I think it's fair to experiment with cookies and if someone comes to your site frequently, then ask them. If they're clearly getting ongoing value out of your product, then they may be more willing to comply.

I still think you're better off just using ad networks to target, but if you need to convince circulation and marketing, I think a frequency based system is a reasonable compromise.

Mark Potts

For casual browsing, ANYTHING that looks like registration is too big a barrier. But for commenting, etc., Zip/Age/Gender (aka ZAG) is a fair minimum, especially when combined with an e-mail address, so the site can get a confirmed registration--very important for managing comments effectively. Anything more than that, though, and you risk turning people off--and away.

We're in the process of pulling down the Knight Ridder-era registration scheme at Philly.com, which also asked for things like home address, income and occupation. That's ridiculously intrusive, and a good way to drive visitors away forever.

Nigel Eccles

Newspaper site registration will one day be consigned in the internet dustbin with the HTML blink tag.

I think it got there when a compromise was reached about whether or not the content would be free online. Let's at least make them register.

The bizarre thing is I have never seen a newspaper manage to get enough value out of registered users that off-sets the loss in readership they would have had if they had kept it open.

John Heasly

But there's a third way; sites (like ours) that allow x number of views over x number of hours before requiring registration. It keeps the casual viewers and marketing departments happy.

And as for a use for the information, it's not so much to be able to do sophisticated targeting but to answer the advertiser's question of Who visits the site? If you're going to sell someone eyeballs, I think it's a fair for the buyer to know whose eyeballs he/she will be reaching.

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