E&P: Media General sites close to requiring registration

JizzMasterZero writes: According to a story on the web site of the trade magazine Editor & Publisher, more and more newspapers are moving to require registration for their web sites. Apparently, papers that have started requiring registration haven’t seen a decline in visitors, and now they can even make money by selling users’ demographic information! Aren’t newspaper publishers great?! Here’s the operative paragraph for Charlottesville readers: “In a report to Wall Street analysts in December, executives from Media General Inc. of Richmond, Va., said: ‘The standard metric for successful Web operations is becoming registered users. We have increased the number of opportunities for our users to identify themselves,’ including registration for e-mail services. A spokesman says the chain plans to step up both registration and paid content this year.” Those are the only specifics for the company, and there’s no word on which papers — the Progress? — it’ll apply to.

Requiring registration to read a website is horrible in so many ways, not the least of which is that it presents a major obstacle to easy use, and therefore drastically devalues links to that site. Worse yet, it’s one more login and password to remember, something that we could all do without. Let’s hope that the Progress doesn’t make this blunder.

32 Responses to “E&P: Media General sites close to requiring registration”


  • Oh you guys do, oops

  • only to post comments, not to read.

  • There’s a huge difference between requiring registration to read and registration to post. I never wanted to require registration to post (it wasn’t necessary for the first 16 months of the site’s life), but I changed that due to abuse of the anonymous-posting system.

    More important, there are no features of cvillenews.com that are inaccessible due to failure to register. Everything can be read, configured, manipulated and filtered just the same. I have no desire to post anything on the site of the Daily Progress, and so there’s no logical reason why registration should be necessary. I don’t have to (and would not) provide my e-mail address and memorize a login and password to pick up a copy of the paper from a box or at the library; what’s the difference on-line?

  • I was joking I was joking :P

  • The Washington Post is one site that, although it doesn’t require registration to view its articles, lately have been requiring visitors to fill out this quick survey in which they ask for demographic info–what year you were born, your zip code, and gender. I always fill in bogus material–I tell them I was born in the early 20th century, etc.. I kinda resent newspapers or other internet sites that ask for that info.

  • Though I must say that I appreciate the Post’s approach. No e-mail address, no username and password, just some demographic data. I mean, I lie, too, but at least it’s quick and easy, with no major fear of privacy invasion or abuse of my e-mail address.

  • There is a very logical reason for Media General to require registration: It’s a for-profit business and not (obviously) a non-profit community service. If you get a paper out of the box it’s going to cost you fifty cents. If you read the paper at the library it’s because the library pays for a subscription. Instead of paying fifty cents to read articles on their web page you may have to provide them with information that they then sell. Would you be willing to make a payment directly to Media General for access to one of their sites? I won’t register but I might pay a fee for access.

    Kevin Cox

  • You know, I used to lie about my info on the Post site, but now I don’t. I figure it’s good for the Post or whoever to know that a 25-year-old in New York City is reading. I look at it kind of like the census — if they think only 50-year-olds are reading, that’s the audience they’ll program for. If they know I’m out there, maybe something or other will be tailored to me.

    Or maybe I’m wrong. I certainly wouldn’t give them real information by which I could be identified, but this general stuff seems harmless.

  • It’s no secret that newspapers are in the business for profit, but many newspapers portray themselves as being there for the common good of society, ie. they say they are "community" newspapers. Just the term "community" gives one the impression that aside from making some money, they also are there for altruistic reasons, to make good, reliable information readily available to everyone. It’s clear that many of today’s media outlets are gunning for every dollar they can through every channel, and requiring paid registration (if that’s what Media General intends to do) is representative of that. I just want to read the news without feeling like I have to pass through some telemarketing trap first.

  • There is a very logical reason for Media General to require registration: It’s a for-profit business and not (obviously) a non-profit community service. If you get a paper out of the box it’s going to cost you fifty cents. If you read the paper at the library it’s because the library pays for a subscription. Instead of paying fifty cents to read articles on their web page you may have to provide them with information that they then sell. Would you be willing to make a payment directly to Media General for access to one of their sites? I won’t register but I might pay a fee for access.

    Sure, I’d pay an annual on-line-only subscription fee, as long as it were a fraction of the paper-based subscription fee. But that would cannibalize their web traffic, and generally be a bad idea.

    But, frankly, they’re much too small of a paper to be gaining any useful information from demographic data. Their readers are in Central Virginia, overwhelmingly in Charlottesville and the immediately surrounding counties. Brady-Bushey Ford is not going to base their web-based advertising decision on further insight into that data. The New York Times and the Washington Post, on the other hand, know that they have readers all over the world, and are capable of delivering advertisements taylored for each user, depending on their location.

    Of course, if you mean “information that they then sell” as in they’d sell my name and e-mail address to third parties after I registered, I’d be raising holy hell.

  • I could agree with that–however, after the Post has asked for my age and zip for the 20th time, I almost would hope they’d ask for me to register so they’d remember I have already filled out their silly survey again and again.

  • Newspapers are businesses and there’s nothing morally wrong with requiring registration to view content online. It’s just that it doesn’t tend to work very well. Most web users will be annoyed and click ‘back.’ A local paper like the Daily Progress will have a real uphill battle getting enough regular users to justify the cost of the site.

  • "It’s a for-profit business and not (obviously) a non-profit community service. If you get a paper out of the box it’s going to cost you fifty cents."

    Yes, and they also killed trees, processed them, printed on them, and then delivered them far and wide with trucks. That costs money.

    Now on the other hand, how much money did they make from advertising, in comparison with the amount they spent distributing it…. Publications make their profit from ADVERTISING.

    News, i.e. fact, is by definition not proprietary. It’s for public dissemination. I don’t have to prove who I am as an individual in order to prove that I’m the public.

  • Just create an easily remembered name/password and use it on all newspaper sites and then post it here.

    We can then all use the same login/password. Somthing like cville/cville.

    I’ve often found when confronted with registration requirements on newspapers that I can type in the paper’s name as both the login and password and someone else has conveniently already set it up for me.

  • It has always been my experience that if there’s a mistake that can be made, the Daily Progress will make it. :)

    I happen to be visiting Charlottesville this week (I’m a native who got dragged, kicking and screaming, to Atlanta), and picked up a Daily Progress as I walked into Bodo’s this morning. I actually did a double-take — I don’t ever remember the Prog being so thin! I thought I’d accidentally grabbed an ad flyer by mistake! It also looks like the DP is following the lead of so many local newspapers lately — its new format makes it look much more like USA Today. :)

    I also notice that unlike the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (www.ajc.com) web site, the Daily Progress site only carries YESTERDAY’s local news, and a fairly miserable subset of it, at that.

    Sure glad there’s cvillenews, even if I did have to register under an assumed name! :) :)

    — Scott

  • The thing is, its entirely an opt-in process. Businesses will conduct themselves in the way they need to to make money. If the NYTimes and the Post had found that their online traffic died out as soon as they started requiring registrations and/or demographic data, they’d have stopped requiring it. The WSJ has a subscription service online and has done quite well with it. If you don’t want to register for a site, no problem. I don’t see how we have a right to the news as provided by any particular entity.

    Specifically dealing with the Progress, I agree that I don’t see how requiring registration would help them a bit. As was mentioned on another post, they know what their readership is. Hopefully they won’t bother, but its certainly within their rights to do so.

  • Given that the progress is a media general paper, could this be part of a push by media general for company-wide data. I presume that some advertising is sold by media general and some by the Progress. Even if I am wrong, the collection of this data could make such a system easier to implement.

    It could also be the case that as advertising brokers and buyers become used to the big papers doing this sort of thing, the little papers have to do it just to fulfill the expectations of the clients. What I am suggesting here is similar to how every company HAS to have a web-page these days, even if the only reason to have a web-page is because it is unprofessional not to.

    Finally, back to the Media General as a source of the push notion, perhaps Media General wants eventually to have this implemented for at least some of the papers and is unsure about the rest, but finds it cheaper just to go ahead and do it for all of them now.

    Given that the data out there seems to suggest that no significant readership is lost by requiring registration, if the cost of implementation is low enough, it makes sense for them to go ahead and do it.

  • perhaps Media General wants eventually to have this implemented for at least some of the papers and is unsure about the rest, but finds it cheaper just to go ahead and do it for all of them now.

    And “Cheaper” is their middle name, just like “Corporate Beeyotch” is Larry McConnell’s middle name.

    The thing is, it’s not like the Progress, per se, is going to be making this decision. They didn’t decide on their own to fix their web site last summer — it wasn’t up to them. They had to wait for Media General to finally get around to fixing all of the web sites company-wide. Same deal with this: If and when Media General wants it done, it will get done. No sooner or later. And it’s certainly beside the point what’s good or bad for, individually speaking, the Progress.

    By the way, it’s no coincidence that the two best papers in the country (NYT and WP, IMO) are family-owned, and that bad things (e.g. layoffs, cost-cutting) are always happening at even the best corporate-owned papers (WSJ, LAT).

    Did I use “per se” right?

  • I’ve always been pleased but puzzled by newspaper websites. It’s kind of like what the Pill did to brothels: if you can get it for free, why pay?

    I don’t subscribe to the N. Y. Times, Wash. Post, or Daily Prog. precisely because of their websites. Cheaper and more current. I wrote a script which every morning auto-loads them for my reading pleasure, while I make coffee. I don’t even have to click my way to the news anymore–let alone bend over to pick up a paper.

    Not that subscriptions ever kept a paper afloat. Ads, and particularly classified ads, do. But how to sell ads nobody sees? How to sell ads while losing subscribers?

    The papers have to pay salaries somehow. I guess I’d rather have registration (just lie) than what the Economist or Askart.com do, with teaser headlines leading to expensive subscriber-only "premium content."

  • "News, i.e. fact, is by definition not proprietary. It’s for public dissemination."

    But since you can’t separate "news" from someone’s labor and capital investment to package that news and make it available–and that stuff IS proprietary–then how can you argue that news is not proprietary? If you personally witnessed the collapse of the WTC towers, that’s one thing–you can’t be charged for your first-hand experience of a newsworthy event. But if a reporter being paid by a news publication observes the event, researches the event, writes up several drafts of a story leading to a final draft, which gets edited by editors, proofed by proofreaders, fact-checked by fact-checkers, then printed (and I’ll leave out all the steps of the production process because I don’t know what they all are) and then it’s in the newspaper, how is that NOT proprietary, i.e., belonging to the newspaper company?

    I’m not saying I like the for-profit system, but I don’t get the claim that news is not proprietary.

  • Re: why pay

    Well, there’s a whole lot of content that is actually IN the paper that doesn’t make it to the online edition. Of course, this assumes that there are people who read beyond page one or two of the National and Metro sections of the paper.

    Some of the best and stories are buried deep in the pages of the NYT and WP.

  • Some of the best and stories are buried deep in the pages of the NYT and WP.

    And inside the Progress, of course, is home to all kinds of inadvertent hilarity. I’m not even talking about the inside jokes in the briefs. Read those obituaries sometime — I’m serious, they’re great!

    Also, I wonder if anyone else is a fan of receptionist Casey Davis’ one-sentence music reviews in the weekend section (One classic: zero stars for Radiohead’s “Kid A,” with the comment, “This CD was horrible.”)

  • Read those obituaries sometime — I’m serious, they’re great!

    I, too, often find the obituaries to be a good read — as well as sometimes home to “inadvertent hilarity”. But they aren’t written by Progress staffers, are they? I always presumed that the bad writing was just a faithful reflection of language/composition talents of the loved ones who sent in the copy.

    Non?

  • I always presumed that the bad writing was just a faithful reflection of language/composition talents of the loved ones who sent in the copy.
    –>
    Yeah, exactly. And the funeral homes sometimes are involved in the writing too, I think. And because they’re essentially paid copy, not news, they can’t even really be changed without risking offense and complaints and more trouble than any change is worth in the first place.

    Although if there are typos, those are more likely than not the work of that music reviewer girl, who also has her hands in the obits.

    [So here’s a question: Why can’t I get spaces to appear in between my paragraphs all of a sudden?]

  • What appears in the newspaper is merely a REPRODUCTION of the news. For NBC to sue CNN because they illegally profited over "their" exclusive story would be ludacris.

    You’re talking about a string of words, I’m talking about events in reality. Many news organizations simply regurgitate the "news" from local papers and other sources. They talk about the same things, same news, different talking head.

  • I think that Casey Davis thing is syndicated, not local. She’s kinda hot though, huh?

  • We pay for everything, one way or another.

  • I think that Casey Davis thing is syndicated, not local.

    Dude, she’s the receptionist. Visit the newsroom, and she’s the one who’ll greet you. Get a job there, and she’s the one who’ll misdirect your phone calls.

  • Really? Thanks for the info. I thought it was one of those syndicated-insert columns.

  • I thought it was one of those syndicated-insert columns.

    Nope. Homegrown. Actually, I believe John Borgmeyer actually once quoted her as a “high ranking Daily Progress official” when he couldn’t get anyone else to talk to him.

  • I can find local news on other, better pages (this one included)…and national stuff at the Post – yes, as a reader from ZIP 90210, born in 2001 – or some such place.

    Recently it’s been bad enough getting the paper version of the Progress – does anyone else despise their recent font/layout changes? And of course, there’s Jerry Ratcliff…

    A friend of mine worked at a Media General paper for a couple of years, and was always lambasting the "suits" and their apparent mission to destroy the company’s journalistic capabilities…not too hard to believe, I’m afraid.

  • Uber-Microsoft’s online magazine Slate, a.k.a. Stale, tried to force websurfers to pay subscriptions. It failed. Nobody paid except Bill Gates himself, for whom a twenty dollar bill signifies as little as a webclick does to the rest of us.

    It seems only porn sites can dependably get paying customers. We’re used to free news. If it isn’t free we don’t care enough to pay. We’ll get it elsewhere, or not at all.

    I applaud Waldo for his public spirit in collecting Charlottesville information here. But he is young and socialistic. When he gets older, hard-eyed and wizened, when his time grows shorter and gets to be worth money– it is questionable how long this free site can last.

    It does cost Waldo time and effort which he is contributing to all of us and for which (again) he deserves thanks.

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