Newspapers Experiment With Different Registration Systems

from the experiment-away dept

Jay Small, who works for E.W. Scripps, writes in to let us know about an experiment Scripps has been working on concerning registration walls for its various newspaper websites. In the past (as Jay notes), we’ve been quite critical of newspapers having registration walls — believing it keeps traffic away, lowering their ad revenue (to a much greater degree than any bogus demographic data they get from the registrations helps boost their ad revenue). The experiments involved letting people see a limited number of stories per month without registration. The number was different, depending on the site, so they could compare across different sites. The results aren’t too surprising — though, they might have been more interesting if the comparisons weren’t across sites, but for randomly chosen users within a single site (some get reg required right away, some get it after 3 stories, some after 5, etc.). They found it didn’t impact actual traffic that much (or did so in inconclusive ways), but that could be a factor of people knowing to avoid Scripps’ papers because they already knew about the registration wall. When people did eventually get the registration page, the same percentage bailed out. And, of course, the most expected finding: fewer people signed up for the email newsletters from Scripps’ papers because fewer people were pushed to do so on a registration page. This highlights the point we made a few years ago that registration for newspapers usually isn’t really about getting “better data,” but about building a bigger spam list. Either way, it’s good to see more newspapers experimenting with alternatives, and it will be interesting to see where Scripps goes with this.

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Comments on “Newspapers Experiment With Different Registration Systems”

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Jay Small (user link) says:

One man's spam is another man's ...

Thanks for posting this, and I will try to keep all interested parties informed on how our changes and ongoing tests come out.

I might quibble with your choice to refer to our permission marketing and e-newsletter programs as “spam,” but hey … I know people who think any e-mail that comes from a list or a person they don’t know is spam. You’re entitled to your opinion.

Many people do take advantage of the special offers and discounts from local advertisers that go out in our e-marketing campaigns. And people who don’t want to receive those messages can choose not to opt in, or can unsubscribe easily at any time.

In my view, that’s much more than a nuance apart from “spam.” We’ll have to agree to disagree.

Still, I appreciate the link and the commentary. I find techdirt useful in my everyday work, so it’s nice to be included.

Bob says:

Re: One man's spam is another man's ...

One man’s spam is another man’s junk mail.


I don’t believe Mike is accusing Scripps of mining for spammable adresses; I think he’s bringing up the valid notion that most users, when presented with a registration page, assume that their contact information will be used for things beyond simply providing deeper site access.

I myself know that in order to protect my privacy, I need to read the privacy policies provided by any entity requesting such info. But personally, I often don’t feel like slogging through alternating ALL CAPS DISCLAIMERS and fine print to determine if this entity will sell or rent or accidentally leak my email address to ANY other party, including subsidiaries or parent companies. I’d rather surf to another site not requiring registration. Even if I know my address is safe at a site I want to read, I still don’t like that I have to register at so many sites. Concise Privacy Policy notices presented in the clear right near the txt box significantly improve the chances that I’ll register.

Many people I know do as I do. I maintain two or three free email accounts that I supply to sites that need registration to use but with which I have no actual business relationship. If I don’t forsee that you will NEED to contact me, you get a address which I never really check. And if you want demographic info, depending on my mood and how you request it, I may just give you bogus data.

Evan Noynaert says:

Re: Re: One man's spam is another man's ...

You very accurately stated my own views.

I would also add that even if the Privacy Policy says that your address won’t be distributed, I fear that the company can usually change that policy in an instant by simply posting a new policy. It seems that every company eventually gets bought by another company. In some cases the email database is one of the assets the parent company wants to control.

JerseyRich says:

I will not generally register for most sites not because of the spam, but because I’m LAZY. I hate having to slog through the process every time I want to read some story on a site that I don’t visit regularly.

The only way I will register is if I am going to use a site frequently meaning once a week or more.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

JerseyRich said
“The only way I will register is if I am going to use a site frequently meaning once a week or more.”

I believe this is the whole reason any site would require you to register in the first place. Its to hit that highly targetable, loyal customer with relevant ads. Advertisers will pay a premium CPM for these ads if they know they are reaching the right demos.

Walt Bakes says:

I beg to differ...

… I’ve heard the pitches from the “new media director” at our 20,000-circulation daily paper, and he talks about how the data extraction tool from our home office can tell exactly, for instance, how many males from 22-35 are accessing the site from 9-5 every day. That information is a key pitch to advertisers to use the newspaper’s online advertising. I can’t say I’ve ever heard of them selling addresses. It really is about selling advertising.

polluting_the_blogosphere says:

Re: Not to sound repetitive, but...

And where would the blogs get their information?

Reporters and Editors and an “Editorial Board” serve an important purpose, if only as a bogosity filter.

Sure, newspapers show a bias, but bloggers not only are biased, but are not always upfront about it. I know my daily paper leans hard left and the corporate ownership has a certain agenda, but what is behind the agenda of a blogger?

Axe says:

Re: Re: Not to sound repetitive, but...

You have a point there, but I was careful to point out mainstream newspapers. Not the News services and Editorial teams.

To clarify; I’m attacking the corporate mentality that puts a price tag on freedom of speech and wordsmiths articles to serve political goals. Also I was voicing a frustration that I have with unsolicited marketing (newspaper on the front lawn).

You’re right the blogosphere is biased and, I believe, the motivation to use it is as individual as the person. I use it to see how right or left of center I am and make adjustments as necessary. Helps me understand mainstream thinking.

Besides where else can one voice ones opinion without consequence.

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