Progress Site to Require Registration

The Daily Progress is poised to begin requiring an invasive registration process to read stories on their website. It’s well beyond anything I’ve ever seen before for a news outlet: they require an e-mail address, password, full name, street address, year of birth and ZIP code, and in registering, one must agree to receive spam — there is no opt-out function. Not just spam from Media General’s 27 daily newspapers and 26 TV stations, but from any of their advertisers. The mind reels. Registration is not possible without a valid e-mail address. As of this writing, it’s still possible to use the website without registration, but the “please register to read stories” banner appearing intermittently on the front page makes clear that this will be changing very shortly. If they don’t want people to use their website, they should just shut it down. This is just boneheaded.

20 Responses to “Progress Site to Require Registration”

  • This is all so poorly executed. Here are some of the more ludicrous parts:

    4. Which Web browsers does support? currently supports these Web browsers:

    Netscape 4 and higher as well as Microsoft Internet Explorer 5 and higher.

    Dude! Party like it’s 1998!

    4. How secure is this registration process? Will anyone be able to steal my email or contact information?
    Our Web site registration process is secure. We take extraordinary steps to ensure that our Web Site is protected from “hacking” or other illegal activity. The data is stored in a secure environment and is not available to other users. Media General’s hosting environment where the database is housed applies safeguards that protect the data.

    If their registration system is anything like the system that runs the rest of their site, it’s half a decade out of date, and riddled with security holes. You’d be nuts to trust any confidential data to such a system.

    10. Why are you asking for my street address?
    We want to note if you are already in our customer database as a subscriber to the Charlottesville Daily Progress.

    The only thing better than databases of private information is when those databases are cross-referenced with other databases of private information. That’s “privacy” like Bush’s “Healthy Forest Initiative” is good for trees.

    8. What happens if someone is not truthful in the registration process?
    Your answers help us to tailor news and vital information that will be of most interest and use to you. The information that you provide is our primary means of tailoring content. False or misleading information will result in a Web site that is not as interesting to you.


    As I write this, the login banner has been removed from the front page. It could be that my test registration went through and they realized that somebody had seen it and started using it, when perhaps they didn’t plan to launch it for a few days. Here’s hoping that they get a clue between now and the planned launch of this thing.

  • In case they remove the pages, here are a pair of screenshots:

    Front Page
    Registration Page

  • You mean now they want me to agree to spam just to be able to read a "selection" of day-old articles published in a newspaper not worth subscribing to in the first place? Seems like a novel way to increase readership.

  • For years I’ve wondered about how Charlottesville could have such a bad daily newspaper. It has a highly educated populace and is large enough to support a decent paper, however the DP barely edges out the quality I’ve seen in student-run newspapers, like the Cavalier Daily. I suspect that anyone with taste is subscribing to the Washington Post or other national/regional papers.

  • They lost their downtown office (formerly on Market Street) and their hometown focus, and news monopoly, and local ownership, and their reason for existence, all at about the same time.

    Consider 1950’s Charlottesville, more a village than a town or city. Everybody knew everybody, the editors and reporters breathed the downtown atmosphere (though let’s not forget they reported only on the white downtown, blacks being nearly invisible). Radio news was the major competitor but TV yet to come, and the Wash. Post only a podunky little local paper, one of five in a city safely 120 miles away. If you wanted to know what was happening around here or nationally–more than the 30 second blurb of a radio report–you read the Daily Progress, and you paid for it.

    All this changed. By going regional the paper lost its local focus. A hometown paper without a home. By moving to the suburbs they lost their sources. Now, instead of picking up gossip by osmosis from the next booth at Terry’s Nook, their only leads arrive by telephone. Different, sanitized, agenda-driven leads. The out-of-town owners don’t care about anything except revenue from the ads; there is no hard-bitten publisher chomping a cigar saying ‘go out and get me a story that will sell papers.’

    Other communities with similar former hometown papers that went regional in both coverage and ownership, have watched genuine local news migrate to the Internet. cf Rockland, Maine’s local news at

    In sum, the Daily Progress is leftover, Ben Franklin era technology, struggling to define an ongoing purpose. Waldo’s website is the future.

  • the DP barely edges out the quality I’ve seen in student-run newspapers, like the Cavalier Daily

    I’ve often said that I know virtually nothing about journalism, and I’ll stand by that. But I do know websites. And the Cavalier Daily continues to have a much better website than the Daily Progress. Those who have been reading the Progress on-line since they first started putting their stories up know that things have improved, but they’re about to take a big step backwards. The Cavalier Daily has it right — put everything on-line, make it freely available, archive it forever, use permanent URLs, and make sure that Google finds it (nothing on-line matters if Google doesn’t know about it).

    There are all kinds of other useful things that I like to see added to news websites, as you’ve all seen me kvetch about, but these are the basics. The Daily Progress would be falling even farther behind The Cavalier Daily by putting these changes into effect.

  • Kudos to the Daily Progress – this progressive plan will certainly detract from their readership and force civic-minded-studs and bodaciously-benevolent-babes towards better, freer, more enlightened news – ie and WOW! I just can’t think of any plan that would accomplish this mission with equal ease and surety… THANK YOU DAILY PROGRESS!

  • I agree on all points about the technical quality of the Cav Daily, but just to clarify I was referring to the reporting quality of the two.

  • when you’re done reading the 4 headlines on page one of the "news" page, you click on the link to page two, and what do you get? THE SAME FOUR HEADLINES from page one!

    here’s a whole list of email addresses you can change yours to after you register and confirm with a throwaway adress. let’s see how the DP editorial staff enjoys getting all the spam they’re trying to inflict on us!

  • My thoughts exactly – I had a humorous email exchange with a MG wonk which I’ll post from work. (it is on the other computer…)

  • Quite a few of websites require registration of some sort to use their services. And if the site sell’s web advertising, registration helps them get creative in setting the rates, and assists with tracking other site traffic statistics.

    The New York Times, Washington Post, and Chicago Tribune all require registration to read the articles posted on their websites, (and I’m certian I’ve probably left a few others out). And yes the registration generally requires lots of information that I’d prefer not to give out.

    My solution for most website’s requiring registration is to maintain a free email account at one or several of the popular email providers (hotmail, yahoo, freemail, etc- pick one that suits you). Said email account is/can be used exclusively for websites requiring email addresses for registration, at no risk to the email one primarily uses. It also allows one a place to return to should they forget the password for a registered account, and is a good way to test out if the website participates in spam.

    I have registered with all of the 3 major news websites listed above and to date have recieved no spam email from them.

    As to the additional information such as Name, Address etc… that’s even easier problem to handle. Lie. Make up a name or only use Initials. Pick a street name that doesn’t exist in your city, or a house or unit number that does NOT exist on your street (that said don’t be stupid and use anyone’s real address that isn’t your own). The registration is only a form and most of the time the website won’t have any system set up to verify the accuracy of the address or other information given. And if it’s a matter of concience- "you don’t like to lie." Then look at it this way- In the age of "Identity Theft" you’re not lying, you’re protecting yourself and your personal security.

    All that said- the Daily Progress isn’t the Washington Post, New York Times, or Chicago Tribune. And the Progress’s articles are hardly of any quality or substance. Locally for quality and substance I find the free news sources have the daily progress beat hands down.

  • My email to them:

    To whom it may concern, (and it may concern no one…)

    Why should I give you marketing information, anyway? So you can serve

    up even more ads?

    I actually might be more inclined to register if, once I am

    registered, you’d eliminate the obnoxious, useless popup and popunder

    ads and crawling Flash animations that have plagued your site. I

    block most of your ads anyway, but the useless popunders you are using

    of late really suck.

    Popups and popunders on the obits page is kind of low-rent, don’t you think?

    Your site also loads very slowly.

    There are other sources for online news in Central VA.

    Their canned response:

    Thank you for contacting the Help Center for We

    appreciate your interest and readership.

    Like other Web publishers, we are asking for information from visitors

    in order to tailor news and vital information that will be of the most

    interest. By knowing just a little bit about you, we can begin building

    our site so that it’s more informative and geared towards your

    interests. In addition, we can better define our customer-base making

    our site an attractive advertising option for advertisers.

    The privacy of our users is important to us and we will safeguard all

    personal information. For further details about our privacy guidelines,

    please see our Privacy Policy within the Terms & Conditions listed on

    our site.

    If you have additional questions or comments please let us know. Your

    opinion is important to us.


    Customer Support

    My second message:

    Plus, if I register, I MUST take your spam "promotional offers" junk

    email… There is NO WAY to opt-out of these during registration.

    Absolutely despicable.

    What marketing genius came up with THIS policy?

    Again, there are other sources for online news in Central VA.

    Their second response:

    You may opt out of receiving any emails from If you

    choose to register and would like to opt out of receiving email you can

    reply to this message and we will place your email on the opt out list.

    If you did not do this, the first email you received would allow you to

    opt out of receiving further emails from

    They asked for opinions, but I suspect they really don’t want to hear them…

  • The death notices are the only reason I have to read the Progress. I used to enjoy the letters to the editor but Anita Shelburne edits the letters with such a heavy hand and takes so long to publish them that many people who are informed and would like to write have given up. There aren’t many timely letters to read and most aren’t very interesting. The local news stories are weak and uninteresting unless you want to get some insight into the individual reporters biases. Stories from the government and UVa are just rehashed press releases and are more propaganda than anything else. But because I want to know who died recently I’ll go ahead and register under a phony name and adress and give them a yahoo email address.

  • Really? We can opt out? I look forward to testing that out. There’s nothing in their user agreement, privacy policy, or registration e-mail that permits any such thing.

  • Indeed, registration is becoming all-too-common, and I think that it’s a terrible trend that should be discouraged.

    However, the Progress’ registration is extremely invasive. I’ve never seen a registration policy that provides the publication, every publication owned the parent company, and any of their thousands of advertisers to spam anybody who has signed up for the service. That’s absolutely galling.

  • This is the URL to the Chicago tribune Registration page:

    This is a URL to their Privacy Policy:

    It’s almost *exactly* the same as the Daily Progress, as reflected in your screenshot. This sort of information gathering is standard operating proceedure for a majority of the major commercial newspaper websites. The operative words in any of these privacy policies are "affiliates" and/or "Partners." Which pretty much mean the same thing as Parent company and it’s other publications.

    And from the Daily Progress privacy policy:

    Opt Out Procedures

    You always may opt out of receiving future mailings or other information from MEDIA GENERAL. If the mailing does not have an e-mail cancellation form, send e-mail to detailing the type of information that you no longer desire to receive.

    This is the URL:

    Most of the other websites use language that sounds less threatening but essentially means the same thing- they can use any freely provided information as they see fit within reason (what’s within reason being of course left up to the discretion of the company).

  • Screw "Opt Out". I want the option to NOT "Opt In" from the jump…

    Like you pointed out, there’s no way in their registration process.

    The DP online sucks, but my family goes back five generations in Charlottesville. There aren’t too many of us around any more (Granddaddy was an only child…) so I rely on it for obits and local news now that I live almost 700 miles away.

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