Online newspapers are requiring users to register — but at what cost?
By J.D. Lasica
Online Journalism Review
Afriend, Jon Maples, e-mailed the other day with a question. “Is it my imagination, or are newspaper sites suddenly requiring registration to read the news?” he writes, citing the Web sites of the Chicago Tribune and Dallas Morning News. “I have to say that the Dallas registration was so intrusive and required so many fields that I gave up.”
What’s going on?
Mandatory registration is making the rounds at major online news sites, as media companies try to peel away the Internet’s cloak of anonymity and build closer relationships with their customers. But it’s a tricky dance, and one that risks alienating news junkies when they bump into registration walls as they surf from site to site.
Registration also throws up roadblocks for weblogs, community news sites, discussion boards and e-mail newsletters that point to news articles.
“Two years ago if you asked anybody in the industry, the response would have been overwhelmingly negative,” says Elaine Zinngrabe, executive producer of Latimes.com. “In 2002 we’ve come to realize that it’s a business necessity. Consumers are becoming savvy about opt-out and privacy policies, and they’ve come to expect this sort of customer interaction.”
Adds Tribune Interactive exec Mike Silver: “The Internet is becoming less anonymous.”
While a dozen mostly small online newspapers now charge for access to their sites, other media companies have taken a middle route, gating off their content until users provide personal information, such as name, address, interests and whether they subscribe to the print newspaper.