Newspaper registration has to go

The lede from this piece (which I think was taken from an AP story run on, although it’s not clear) sums it up perfectly:

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…

I currently have a page of college-lined paper crammed with combinations of user names and passwords. Some of these are for accounts with companies who handle my money or credit card information. I can understand that.

But it’s to the point where I absolutely refuse to add more combos to this list. It’s insane.

If that means I don’t read some article online, so be it.

I’m not alone in my sentiments, of course. Here’s an argument by Adrian Holovaty that online newspaper registration is not only irritating, but self-defeating.

Everyone I’ve talked to (techies and non-techies alike) sees this type of registration as an extremely annoying barrier with no redeeming value. There’s no personal tie to a typical news-site registration account, no incentive to give accurate information or even care about who has access to your account . . .

(No, saying “Registered users get more highly-targeted ads!” isn’t enough. Neither is saying “The benefit of registration is that you get the content.” That’s nothing short of arrogant — and readers can and will get their regurgitated AP stories elsewhere.)

And here’s a post by Simon Willison that offers a link to a site called BugMeNot which provides user name/password combinations you can use to access newspaper sites.

Well, okay, that way you don’t have to go through the rigamorole of filling out the form. But you still can’t just read the article.

The worst offender by far, btw, is a certain online paper that doesn’t ask you to register when you first click on their article.

They wait until you’ve read 2/3 of it.

What are they thinking?

“Hey, let’s not just inconvenience our online audience — let’s try to infuriate them! Maybe we can make a killing selling ads for tranquilizers!”

You will never see a link to that site on this blog, I’ll tell you that.

[tags] newspaper registration [/tags]

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5 Responses to Newspaper registration has to go

  1. Mark Pettus says:

    We’ve done away with registration (just recently). Any paper that bothers to ask its readers what they don’t like about its online presence will do the same.

  2. Kirsten says:

    My guess, Mark, is that the practice will eventually be dropped by all papers. The simple fact is that if they got a little creative, papers could gather the info they need to do target advertising without requiring registration (by tracking clicks, for instance, or offering voluntary surveys) — they could essentially automate the process. After all, if it’s targetted ads they’re after, they don’t really need to know my name, age etc. — all they need to know is what catches my eye. If I’ve clicked on a book review, toss up some ads for books etc.

  3. It’s annoying alright. But not as annoying as the rude websites that require registration AND payment.

  4. Bernita says:

    If they want registration – I pass by.

  5. Kirsten says:

    I think that’s what a lot of people do, Bernita. I wonder if the publishers have any idea how many readers they lose that way.

    Kay, that’s a point well taken, too! Just today I hit one where I’d need to pay to read — hello, back button!

    I do have a subscription to the WSJ’s online site — I follow business news for work — and from that side of the issue, I find it more acceptable to have to maintain a user name & password for a site I pay for than for one that’s supposed to be free.

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