Two brief items caught my interest from opposite ends of the online spectrum, but both reflect consumer sentiment. First, there were some reports about a "grassroots" resistance among Flickrphiles to registering as Yahoo! users. Wired News has a fairly extensive story.
What seems to be at issue is the "top-down," compulsory nature of the registration drive.
Flickr users — who have to register, ironically, to use Flickr in the first place — are of the early adopter, Burning Man ilk. And so they instinctively react against such perceived €œcorporate€ maneuvers. This is the same type of objection voiced by users of MySpace after Fox bought its parent company.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the Web, most newspapers (and some other content sites) have forced people to register before getting to see articles/content. This is true, in my anecdotal estimation, about 50% of the time coming from Google news. I have long railed against compulsory newspaper site registration without any apparent benefit to the user except getting to see a particular article.
More recently, the Washington Post has created local and national sites, depending on user location. That starts to answer the question "Why should I register?" But it still doesn't go far enough. On some newpaper sites the registration process is long and cumbersome.
Sites like BugMeNot.com (if widely adopted and not shut down by litigation) now threaten to destroy part of the claimed demographic/user targeting offered by online newspapers. (I say that with a skeptical tone because much of that information is faked to begin with.) The resistance to forced registration is, in a general sense, a cousin of the cookie-deletion debate.
In the end, I believe that newspapers will be forced to develop a more compelling value proposition to justify user registrations. At least I hope so. More publishers are going to need to be aware of and more scrupulously honor their users' interests and wishes to secure loyalty.
All this stuff about the power of the consumer-user is very real.
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You're definitely correct here, especially about the news sites. The news sites are just now beginning to adopt the mentality that comes with "web 2.0", or whatever they're calling it these days. Just 6-12 months ago, it was very rare to see major news sites with RSS feeds – now it's hard to find one without a feed.
The biggest problem with their registration is that they are asking for something to be done for them before they have any perceived value to the user. I've rarely seen someone complain about entering information to post on a forum or comment on a blog. They should stop forcing people to register just to view content, and just require it for further interaction.
Editorials have always been popular in the print newspapers – why not provide online articles with direct commenting ability, as other online publishing formats do? It could be interesting to see how something like that would affect a user's responsiveness.