Newspaper Registration a Flawed Strategy

Newspapers have long thrown up registration pages in front of users coming from newsletters or news aggregation sites in order to capture demographic and personal information for later marketing purposes. The point is to make newspaper sites more valuable to advertisers by creating more targeting capabilities.

The result, however, is incredibly annoying and will ultimately fail.

I was trying to get to an interview with CraigsList founder Craig Newmark on the San Jose Mercury (Knight Ridder) site. I had to go through screen after screen with mandatory fields and then offers of newsletters and discounts and I don't know what else.

If I wasn't professionally interested in all this (as well as the functionality of newspaper sites), I would have just "bailed," to use the California colloquialism.

Newspaper sites need to make themselves more accessible and easier to use, not harder to use and more byzantine. News is rapidly becoming a commodity (except for sites like WSJ and NYTimes) and there are numerous alternative sources of news. So if one site wants to block access, I'll head to another to get the information I'm looking for.

Also, the unique local content that newspapers offer is increasingly available from other sources. If I want restaurant reviews, there are 10 other sources. If I want events information, I can go to Evite and other sites . . . and so on.

I rarely go to my hometown newspaper site (www.sfgate.com). Sometimes I do, for the "Top 100" restaurants. But that's about it. I get local news, political news, sports and entertainment news from other sites, including Google news, Yahoo! news and Topix, among other content-specific sites.

Newspapers have an opportunity to be powerful local desitinations with unique local content. But to be competitive, they should create after-the-fact incentives that deliver real value (e.g., offers or enhanced functionality) to motivate me to register instead of blocking my access up front.

Give me reasons to register; don't compell me to do so.

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