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The Media

News Sites Getting to Know You 204

The Online Journalism Review has a story about more and more news sites requiring registration. Has assorted facts and figures, including how much sites' traffic dropped when registration was required. Even though a fair percentage of people just make up the data they are asked to provide, I'd guess that as a statistical measure it's probably pretty accurate - many people would tell the truth without caring that they're being tracked.

As a general matter, Slashdot's policy on linking to registration-required websites goes something like this:

The New York Times is okay, because they've got a lot of high-quality stories and they were essentially grandfathered in;

Other registration-required sites are not okay, and we won't post stories linking to them.

Kind of a shame, because the LA Times has some good content too, and we've posted lot of links to them in the past, before they went registration-required. Oh well.

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News Sites Getting to Know You

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  • My viewpoint (Score:2, Interesting)

    by caesar79 ( 579090 )
    iF these websites arent interested in me personally, then they do not require my name and my address right ? They just want to identify usage patterns as per their statement. Well a fake name and fake address enables them to do just that. what do they care what I am named and where I stay and what my age is ? :D
    • Re:My viewpoint (Score:5, Insightful)

      by athakur999 ( 44340 ) on Sunday June 30, 2002 @12:49AM (#3794421) Journal
      They wouldn't care about your name, but your age and location would be pretty important for them. Age, for example, would help them decide whether to run ads for Stridex or for Geritol. Same idea with location, though probably to a lesser extent.

      My view is that if you want to view their content, you should play by their rules. If you don't want to play, then look for that news article somewhere else. Too many people are still spoiled by the free for all days of the Internet...
      • LA times wants an e-mail address (I smell spam), and they send your reg info to it to verify that it's valid. I'm not going to go through the effort of generating a temporary e-mail account just so I can play by their marketing department's rules, I'd much rather stop visiting the site altogether, and go back to getting ALL my news from the WSJ (I have a paper subscription.)
        • I actually have a hotmail account that I use exclusively when I think that giving an account address out will invite spam. The account gets a lot of spam. :)
          • Little known information about registration: Actually, Slashdot has only 10 readers. They each have 55,000 accounts.
          • Re:My viewpoint (Score:3, Interesting)

            by AntiNorm ( 155641 )
            I actually have a hotmail account that I use exclusively when I think that giving an account address out will invite spam. The account gets a lot of spam. :)

            Here's a fancy trick you can use if you have your own domain: Set up the domain's email so that mail sent to undefined addresses is forwarded to you. Then, when a site like this wants an email address, give them something like latimes@yourdomain.com. This way, they'll be able to contact you, they won't have your real email address, you will not have spent any more effort than you would had you given them your real email address, you'll be able to shut down the address if they spam it, and you will also be able to tell if they sell your address (if you start getting pr0n spam at latimes@yourdomain.com, that's a sign).

        • LA times wants an e-mail address (I smell spam), and they send your reg info to it to verify that it's valid. I'm not going to go through the effort of generating a temporary e-mail account just so I can play by their marketing department's rules, I'd much rather stop visiting the site altogether, and go back to getting ALL my news from the WSJ (I have a paper subscription.)

          Does anybody else find this ironic? You're not willing to give out your email address to get free news, but you do give out your real name and real US mail address for something you pay for?
      • Re:My viewpoint (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Saxerman ( 253676 )
        I believe the point being made is that under the guise of 'getting to know our users' we are being asked to give up more privacy than a company strictly needs from a statistical point of view. While this may not be so bad as it is their content, this does set the stage for more invasive requirements in the future.

        But their may be better ways to go about collecting customer data. Creating an optional registration format would significantly cut down on bad data. Even if Michael believes "many people would tell the truth without caring that they're being tracked" I know plenty of people that fill out bogus information for required registration sites. If registration is optional you also get the added bonus of directly tracking those users who are willing to put forth an effort for your site. A valuable commodity. On the other hand, it may not be fiscally viable to cater to users who aren't willing to put forth any effort for your site.

      • Re:My viewpoint (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Alsee ( 515537 )
        My view is that if you want to view their content, you should play by their rules.

        My view is that if they want me to enter my personal data, they should play by my rules.

        And my rules say they should consider themselves lucky if I fill in gender correctly even half the time.

        • Of course, if all people enter their correct gender 50% of the time, then the gender statistics should by roughly accurate. :P
        • And my rules say they should consider themselves lucky if I fill in gender correctly even half the time.

          Since this is ther internet, aren't we all 13 year-old little girls from San Diego?
      • My view is that if you want to view their content, you should play by their rules. <br
        What's in it for me? I'll look for that article whenever I want to, whereever I want to, and with providing whatever misinformation I want to and if anyone has a problem with that... well that's their problem... unless of course there's something in it for me.
        What's it matter to you, anyways?
      • If you don't want to play, then look for that news article somewhere else.

        If you'd read Slashdot's policy above, you'd see that we largely are. Me, I generally infer the content from /.ers' posts about it (for NYT). I don't like the idea of marketing research, especially in the news world. If an advertiser can't figure out on his own where his ads need to be, then he doesn't deserve to live. A large news site is a large news site is a large news site. "We're the NYT. We get this many page views. If you're selling Geritol, why don't you put your ad on this page about the latest research on heart attacks." It doesn't matter how many of their readers are 32 year old eskimo women, they're putting out news. It's a lot easier to target ads on cnn.com than on CNN, and I don't have to register to watch CNN, much less read the NYT.

        My view is that content providers should provide content, not demographics.

        Too many people are still spoiled by the free for all days of the Internet...

        It's not that we want free (but nobody's going to pay just to read an occasional NYT story), but that we resent having to allow a third party to sell us just to be able to read the news.

      • you should play by their rules.

        My AR$E!

    • This is the address I always use:

      1030 W Addison [mapquest.com]
      Chicago, IL 60613
  • by pympdaddyc ( 586298 ) on Sunday June 30, 2002 @12:45AM (#3794404)
    Well, for things like /. , where there's a lot of "people power" in terms of mod'ing comments and the like, I can see why its useful. But why (and I'm not complaining, I just don't understand) does NYTimes.com require it to read their stories? Marketing research? I have a hard time believing online registrations are doing them anything worthwhile (given how many times *I've* BS'ed a seemingly useless registration) in terms of research.
    • I think its part of the advertising black magic that websites use to woo advertisers.

      "We have over 100,000 registered users, that's X impressions of your Flash ad!"

      "Wow, according to this list Bill Gates checks your site 459 times a day!"

      "Yeah, well, zdnet.com is his favorite...."

    • by eddy the lip ( 20794 ) on Sunday June 30, 2002 @01:16AM (#3794499)

      Actually, they get a lot of mostly-accurate data. I've participated in the development of more than a a few sites that had some form of registration - either for community sites or for sites where you get extra stuff if you provide a bit of personal info. The amount of legit info you get is much greater than the number of "booger@nose.net" addresses that show up.

      Fact is, most people are one, or some of:

      • new to being online (~50% of anyone surfing today started within the last year) and don't realize what happens when their email address gets out.
      • don't realize that spam isn't just a force of nature, and that how much they get is increased by how often they hand out their email address. They think it just happens.
      • don't value their privacy in the same way that you and I do. They consider handing over where they live, who they are and whether they were boxers or briefs to be par for the course
      • consider it an equitable trade. It's just information, after all.
      • don't care. Gimme more cheez whiz.

      On the plus side, most sites don't seem to do much with the data they have, but that won't last.

      It's unfortunate, but the vast majority of people don't realize the commercial trends they're enabling when they give in to this kind of thing. I'm facing the day when I have to start telling clients "it's a great idea to get people's addresses and then email them as much crap as you can" because it will be good business sense.

      God, I hate that phrase. Probably time for me to get into landscaping.

    • by JordanH ( 75307 ) on Sunday June 30, 2002 @02:19AM (#3794607) Homepage Journal
      • I have a hard time believing online registrations are doing them anything worthwhile ...

      I always thought it was just a simple way to prevent deep linking. Sure, you can link to a NYT story, but you'll stop and realize that the NYT is bringing it to you and not whiznews.com.

    • Absolutely agree. Example: say that after filling out dozens of registrations truthfully, some sophisticated algorithm figures out that I'm a nerd who likes to overclock home built PCs. So, they send me targeted spam (rather than the get rich schemes and buy Viagra online junk), inviting me to buy silent case fans and water cooling systems. Guess what? I already know where to buy those. Like you say, I don't see how this information is worth a lot of money. Yeah, it's cheaper to send electronic junk mail than to send paper junk mail. It's also easier to throw out.
  • by akiy ( 56302 ) on Sunday June 30, 2002 @12:47AM (#3794415) Homepage
    We just need more sites like this one [majcher.com]...
    • by Anonymous Coward
      How long until the NYT like other registration sites uses random letters presented in an image and requires you to write them in the provided space? That would certainly put an end to automated registrations.
      • ...and blind people using the site.

        Take that, blindy-blind-lotsly! *kicks-sand-in-blind-guys-face*

        Incidentally, Slashdot do this too [slashdot.org]. My blind friend got me to sign up for him because he uses Lynx normally, and his windows screen-reader software couldn't handle the image.

      • This is something that already happened in the Major League Baseball online All-star ballot voting (voting is closed now).

        Of course, this can be defeated by a script that analyzes all images on a form and does character recognition on the images. Not trivial, but it should be feasible.

        Then of course, registration sites could present an image and ask you to identify it as a) Britney Spears b) the Space Shuttle c) Winnie-the-Pooh or d) Regis Philbin.

        And then automated scripts could just pick one at random, and one in every 4 attempts will succeed, and then registration sites could ask you to type in the correct answer ('Brittney Speers', oops, access denied), and then...never mind...
        • > Then of course, registration sites could present an image and ask you to identify it as a) Britney Spears b) the Space Shuttle c) Winnie-the-Pooh or d) Regis Philbin.

          I'm gonna burn in hell for giving the bastards this idea, but I think you misspelled:

          1. A fresh, juicy Quarter-Pounder with cheese and three strips of bacon!
          2. The 2002 Lincoln Navigator SUV, winner of 3 international design awards!
          3. The latest singing sensation to take the world by storm, the fantabulous Titney's Peers!
          4. An ice-cold Pepsi, the choice of a marketing generation!
          For bonus points in hell, all images to be served up in large Flash animations from www.doublefuck.net, or via Javashit popups.
  • by griffjon ( 14945 ) <GriffJon.gmail@com> on Sunday June 30, 2002 @12:48AM (#3794420) Homepage Journal
    Surely everyone uses variants of the cyberpunk login (Which sadly no longer works on WSJ online like it did for so many years -- but I'm sure one of the variants still does)? Or slashdot/slashdot? I mean, I have entire fake personalities I use for just these occasions. Link away! most /.ers know better than to give email addresses that are used for anything but spamcatchers.

    Traffic dropping is a no-brainer: registration requires a bit more than click-and-drool, so that rules AOLers out, but I'd wager only a small percentage of the total drop is due to people concerned about privacy.

    Which is a shame, but such is life.

    Feed inaccurate data to the collectors, and have fun.
  • You can simple measure the amount of money they make by collecting email addresses and the like and then selling them, versus having a few people boycot their website, saving them bandwidth.

    More and more will switch to this method... "Free" for users and (somewhat) profitable for hosts.
  • I take a similar policy - Don't read the LA Times anymore (and I used to be a LA times Company Town junkie), and their marketing department can go screw themselves. I'll go to my local library if I want to look up the current news, and that way, they won't even be able to track how many hits they get! Idiots.
  • 10 million? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by EvilStein ( 414640 ) <spam@nosPAm.pbp.net> on Sunday June 30, 2002 @12:50AM (#3794425)
    "The New York Times on the Web has required registration since the site launched in January 1996. The Times has topped 10 million active registered users."

    ....6 million came from Slashdot articles and 2 million came from people that re-registered after blasting their stored passwords in Internet Explorer.
  • Why not (Score:3, Interesting)

    by theRhinoceros ( 201323 ) on Sunday June 30, 2002 @12:50AM (#3794428)
    ...have the mods create a uname/pw combination included in each relevant linked story and let the general /. population use those?
    • Re:Why not (Score:2, Interesting)

      by muon1183 ( 587316 )
      Well, as I recall from reading a previous post, in which the editor stated something along the lines of NYTIMES (registration required ... mumble ... mutter) Somebody replied stating that in the future, any two words placed after the words registration required had better be a username and password, and he stated that he had actually registered uname=mumble, passwd=mutter with NYT. I may have the uname and passwd mixed up, but go ahead and try it.

      .Sig, what's that?
    • Why not have the mods create a uname/pw combination included in each relevant linked story and let the general /. population use those?

      Hey, that's a great idea! Especially if you're one of the 3 people that click the link before the trolls get in and change the password on the account!

  • News sites got to make a buck somehow. Seems to me that registration is a reasonable way to do it. Remember (unlike some other sites I know of) they have large staffs of *gasp* reporters.

    • "News sites got to make a buck somehow."

      OK, most news sites have print copies of the same articles. Most news sites also use a ton of ads, usually extremely annoying pop-ups/unders/looping ads, etc. Many news sites are also moving towards username/pword +user "profiling".

      I believe for the most part it is for the following reasons, all of which seem to be -1 Redundant:

      To make more money. Plain old profitablity. Now, is this wrong? I don't know. I rarely ever give out proper information. On the occassions I do, it is for a trusted site (one I know won't release my info)

      So, you have several options, bitch and moan, but visit them anyway, not visit, or falsify your information.*

      *Somehow I get the feeling in about 5 years this one will be illegal and penalties will be severe.
      • "is this wrong?"

        Businesses, even the news business, need to make a profit to stay alive. So, no, it isn't wrong. In addition, companies in which I hold stock have an obligation to me make money.

        I wonder if any online newspapers are actually profitable. A lot of print newspapers lost money when they opened their online shops. The search for a consistent way to make money by providing original online content is over, either. (See Salon's current woes.) Print newspapers and magazines make their money from the sale of advertsing. My guess is that pushing the online ad-to-news ratio to the same point would drive most customers away. (Less activity is involved in ignoring print ads than in ignoring online ads.)

        I'm not sure if professional news sites -- unlike overblown amateur yack-fests like Slashdot who simply point to the fruits of others' labors -- have a viable way to make enough money to stay in buesiness. If I could subscribe to the full content of my local newspaper for the same price as a print subscription, I'd do that and drop the print subscription. Could the publisher money selling at that price? I don't know.

      • News sites got to make a buck somehow."

        OK, most news sites have print copies of the same articles. Most news sites also use a ton of ads, usually extremely annoying pop-ups/unders/looping ads, etc. Many news sites are also moving towards username/pword +user "profiling".

        Even given that their content is mostly paid for by their print editions, I have not heard of any free news site that has ever been profitable. That includes the New York Times, which still loses money on it's free, high-quality content.

    • Yeah, but that sort of thing just turns people off. Take a look at the concept of [fastcompany.com]
      Permission Marketing by Seth Godin [permission.com]. If more websites and companies listened to him, we would all be happier and be subjected to less spam.


  • No obligatory link to NY Times [nytimes.com]? People are starting to get lazy ;)
  • That's where I always say I live to those agencies. C'mon, just say it "Trinidad and Tobago". Is that great or what?
  • I wonder if sites like /. will ever go that way (charging a subscription fee). Currently my other favorite site kuro5hin [kuro5hin.org] offers a voluntary subscription service that offers extra (useless?) features that a free account doesn't have. I have been happy to see that /. has not gone in a similar direction but I wonder if it is inevitable.

    I have a site and it is extremely cheap to run ($10/month on my friends server). I know my site doesn't have the bandwidth consumption or content that a site like the New York Times or /. has but is it really that expensive to run a site like that? I guess the NYT is much more concerned about turning a profit.
  • hypocrite! (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward
    It was earlier today [slashdot.org] that michael said "Another anonymous person (how hard is it to give yourself a handle? sheesh)...", and now he's complaining about having to register at another news site. Bah!
    • by Anonymous Coward
      The New York Times is okay, because they've got a lot of high-quality stories.
      The Los Angeles Times is NOT okay, kind of a shame because it has some good content too.

    • As much as I hate to defend Michael; the submit story [slashdot.org] form simply has a box for a name. It can be anything, it doesn't need to be a /. account name or your real name.
  • I used to visit was KGW.com every day to get info on Portland, OR. They are owned by Belo - or at least their site is - and I always thought they had one of the best local news sites around. Recently they started to require registration and - had it been similar to NYTimes - I would have done it. But it was SO intrusive (age, sex, marital status, income, preferences, etc) that there was no way in hell I was going to do it. Their privacy policy was also a little shady. I wrote them an email to this regard. They wrote back saying they really didn't care (sorry, recently deleted the email or I would post it) but that they were trying to offer 'personalized' service to the customer. I tell ya, I'm just going to go back to buying my new at the news stand, where I can get a little anonymity! Except for Slashdot, of course.
  • For most sites, if they require registration, I will state that it is not worth it, because what most of the people would have would not be worth the effort of filling out a web form, even with false information. There are some exceptions though, one of those being the new york times, but that is because I was taking a political science class, which required ten articles from a source about a country of our choice(US not an option). Others would be ones that are from services that I would need, for example sites on linux, or software that I will run in that system, I figure that they not only get my actual effort, but my real name and contact info as well. As for others, or even some of those that I do make exceptions for, I know very well, that the main reason for web registration is to create a revenue stream for themselves, which is completely understandable, since the dot net crash, there has been a need to find a way to make web content profitable. For example Gamespot.com has tried something where they charge a rate for their premium services, for example downloading anything from them, or reading reviews for games after a month or so.. I actually liked most of their reviews, and found their downloads to be convenient, but I am not willing to pay for that service because I didn't honestly think that much of their services. There are many other sites that have approaches similar, it just depends on personal preference if it is truely worth it, and if not, then just don't use the services. But for sites that just require registration, at least in the past there have been slashdotters, who have created usernames for the New York Times so that others could view the site without the inconvinience of having to register themselves.
  • NY times (Score:3, Insightful)

    by mister sticky ( 301125 ) on Sunday June 30, 2002 @01:01AM (#3794465)
    i've never read the NY times, although i have seen a daily publication (which isn't necessarily the norm in Canada) and it is HUGE.
    I have also noticed that over the last month or two /. has posted a more than the average number of articles that were taken from the NYT.

    The problem that i see with the statement that they accept posts from NYT but not from other news sources that require reg is that the registration is seen as an issue for everyone but NYT.

    So why should the New York Times receive any favouritism in this respect??

    You said it yourself, anyone who knows what these statistics can be used for will use fake information. I would say that anyone who reads /. and bothers to read the articles won't bow to the registration info, so what is the point of censuring other sites?

    It simply looks to me to be a bias towards NYT, and as far as i've seen over the last month or so, the number of NYT articles posted points to this reality...

    • Re:NY times (Score:4, Interesting)

      by guttentag ( 313541 ) on Sunday June 30, 2002 @04:40AM (#3794868) Journal
      Let's look at newspaper front pages from a recent big news day (Thursday):

      I would post examples from The NYTimes, but they don't let you see previous issues of the paper online for free. However, as I recall their picks closely mirrored The Washington Post's:

      The Washington Post [washingtonpost.com]
      Top Story: Cyber-Attacks by Al Qaeda Feared [washingtonpost.com]
      No. 2 Story: SEC Charges WorldCom With Fraud [washingtonpost.com]
      No. 3 Story: U.S. Court Votes to Bar Pledge of Allegiance [washingtonpost.com]

      The Los angeles Times [latimes.com]
      Top Story: 'Tweens: From Dolls to Thongs [latimes.com]
      One of the store mannequins wears a fringed denim skirt riding low on the hips and a top pushed high on the midriff. Another has shorts that roll down on the tummy and a one-shoulder top.
      No. 2 Story: Pledge of Allegiance Violates Constitution, Court Declares [latimes.com]
      No. 3 Story: WorldCom Hit With Federal Fraud Lawsuit [latimes.com]

      The Los Angeles Times shows a consistent bias toward "Reader's Digest" type stories that are entertaining and give you something to gossip about but don't really tell you anything of value. I also get the sense that many LA Times reporters are really failed screenplay writers who can't let go of the need to create drama. However, they do occasionally print something worth reading.

      The LA Times is owned by The Chicago Tribune [chicagotribune.com] , which puts even less original content on its Web site and is more "in-your-face" about pressuring you to subscribe.

      I suspect Slashdot would link to The Wall Street Journal [wsj.com] more often if the paper made more than 1% of its content available to non-paying subscribers. (I had a paid subscription to wsj.com for about a year, but I no longer do because it's just not worth that much to me.)

      I'd like to read Le Monde [lemonde.fr] , but the French refuse to publish an English version. Go figure.

      All of Knight-Ridder's newspapers (The San Jose Mercury News [bayarea.com] , Miami Herald [miami.com] , Philadelphia Inquirer [philly.com] , et al) have been crippled by the "RealCities Network" which forces all of its sites to use the same content-poor, ad-rich design. The saddest story of the group is the SJMercury though, which has just fallen apart since the parent company began slashing costs and forcing the RealCities conformity on its once industry-leading site. The Miami Herald is an unofficial training school for future Washington Post reporters, but that doesn't matter if you can't find their content on the Web.

      Slashdot doesn't link to the Financial Times [ft.com] often (ever?), though it's a great paper. It just doesn't turn out a lot of unique content that's of interest to most Slashdot readers.

      Newspapers aside, Slashdot has linked to CNN [cnn.com] and the BBC [bbc.co.uk] in the past, though not the CBC [www.cbc.ca] . ABC, CBS and NBC generally provide watered down news for people who don't like to read newspapers -- not Slashdot readers.

      Slashdot often links to MSNBC [msnbc.com] , but I expect that will begin to decline -- MSNBC.com's founding editor (Merrill Brown, a former Washington Post reporter) recently announced that he's resigning after 6 years to pursue other, undisclosed "opportunities." The New York Times noted on June 12 (you'll have to pay for the archived version of the story) that he offhandedly mentioned that MSNBC.com is about to be swallowed by MSN for economic reasons. (In other words, Microsoft put its foot down and said financial concerns outweigh editorial concerns.)

      The International Herald-Tribune [iht.com] writes some of its own content, but a lot of the paper is an amalgamation of New York Times and Washington Post stories.

      I haven't read the Seattle Post-Intelligencer [nwsource.com] or the Seattle Times [seattletimes.com] in a while, but you may find some good technology stories there.

      Bottom Line: Slashdot links to a disproportionate number of New York Times and Washington Post stories because both papers' sites post a lot of content and that content is top notch. It also helps that they're among the most recognizable names in journalism, but the Slashdot system is set up to allow editors to pick from the best stories that are submitted, regardless of the content provider's brand recognition. If you read a good story somewhere, submit it -- the quality of the story is more important than the misguided registration policies of the content provider. And if I've missed a good site people should be reading, reply to this message and let people know.

      • In terms of your analysis, you missed Salon, Wired, and The Register. They aren't newspapers, but they are good info content sites, and they indirectly reinforce your point that it appears that good content and accessibility influence the choice of website link selection. I personally like Newsday (LI/NYC) as a paper, but I think their website detracts from the quality of its reporting.
      • Excellent post -- lots of accurate comments...
        Here's a few other sites...

        I see The Economist [economist.com] occasionally linked from Slashdot -- the Economist is partially owned by FT, and provides deep articles about a broad array of news items. Lots of it is economics/foreign policy, but they've got a lengthy tech survey every few months, and cover tech news occasionally. No reg required, but to view all of the articles you need to subscribe/pay money (free with print subscription -- excellent value). The Economist and the New York Times are the best news sources that I know.

        Thankfully, Slashdot posts few time/newsweek/usnwr drivel -- this falls into the same catagory as ABC, CBS, NBC -- for people that don't really like to read hard news/want to be entertained more than informed.

        The SF Chronicle [sfgate.com] used to have some good local/silicon valley stories from time to time. The web version is more infotainment than the print one, though. I haven't seen a slashdot link to there in a while either -- maybe it has gone downhill (haven't read it since I moved away).

        The Christian Science Monitor [csmonitor.com] used to be OK as well -- haven't looked at it in years...

  • It's not just on the fact of registration -- does it really matter if all they ask is your gender and age for example? It's just anonymous stats in that case, which imho really doesn't do any harm. If it starts to ask about phone numbers, etc, then yeah, I'm angry and will stop visiting the site as I will protect my privacy.
  • Hottest commodity (Score:4, Interesting)

    by notext ( 461158 ) on Sunday June 30, 2002 @01:04AM (#3794477)
    Personal information is worth so much these days.

    Open up your sunday paper and look at all the great bargins you can get. Cd's for $14.99 with a $5 instant rebate and a $10 mail in rebate. Do you really think they are giving you the cd's for the price of the tax only? No. They are gonna sell the information you send them to get your rebate. And that information will be 100% correct.
  • Passport...Ok (Score:3, Interesting)

    by i1984 ( 530580 ) on Sunday June 30, 2002 @01:05AM (#3794481)
    The answer may lie in hooking up with Microsoft's Passport, or devising a user-protected keychain system on a hard drive or network that remembers all your passwords, or launching an online news industry initiative to simplify registration and subsequent site visits.


    I can have one of my dozen or so phony-info Passport accounts manage my dozen or so phony news site logins!

    Next Please...

  • by leek ( 579908 ) on Sunday June 30, 2002 @01:06AM (#3794483)
    I think another reason they require registration, is to prevent robots from archiving their stories permanently, since they try to make money by selling access to stories more than a week or two old.

    Lots of robots don't even request /robots.txt, but proceed to download and index stories.

    Requiring registration is more than 10 times as effective in stopping robots, as /robots.txt is.

    Note that the NYTimes and other sites often allow backdoor entry with referers. For example, one of my favorite news portals is MyNewsFirst.com [mynewsfirst.com]. When you click on a NYTimes story listed there, you don't have to register, because it sends either a "passthrough referer", or an extra query string certificate (e.g. &partner=mynewsfirst), which bypasses the registration requirement.

    I'm just glad most RealCities [realcities.com] newspapers aren't doing it yet, since they provide geographically diverse news.

  • by rjnagle ( 122374 ) on Sunday June 30, 2002 @01:22AM (#3794512) Homepage
    I have absolutely no problem with registration. Especially if the site is free. It's reasonable to give demographic information, geographic information and possibly what industry you are in, nothing more.

    As I wrote in my article, Web Communities and the Art of Making Money [imaginaryplanet.net] gathering basic demographic information is vital for obtaining the highest possible advertising rates. For low to medium traffic sites, having a good handle on your reader demographics makes the difference whether your ad rates are high or low. To me, there are very good reasons for demanding a demographic survey right at the very start. Sure, it pisses off a few technologically illiterate readers, but the prospect of free content should be enticement enough.

    The problem is that individuals want to keep their personal information private. Many will simply lie about personal information (and really, if a newpaper site is asking for your phone number, that is way too much).

    The other problem is the tedious nature of those marketing surveys that some of these registration forms require. Plan to buy a car in the next year? Do you spend over $1000 a year on computer stuff? Do you go on cruises? That sort of crap, besides being irrelevant and none of these site's business, are extremely tedious to fill out. And sometimes it's easy to overlook a radio box you were supposed to uncheck about whether you want to receive regular emails about great new offers.

    The next problem is protecting your email address. Only an idiot would give a real or a regularly used email address.

    The final problem is linkability. For less web-savvy people, they are unwilling to pursue a link on your weblog if it references a registration-required site. I know for example, some of my international friends would never register for the New York Times site even if the article is great.

    That's a problem, but if it gives these media sites a better margin for breaking even, so be it.

    Robert Nagle, Austin, Texas

    • >if a newpaper site is asking for your phone number, that is way too much).

      Um, every newspaper in the country requires your phone number. Why is it an invasion of privacy if the newspaper site (those folks in the office down the hall from the newsroom) does the same?

    • Regarding your sig: Robert Nagle, Idiotprogrammer, Austin

      Is it difficult to program idiots? They don't have much memory or CPU power.

    • I have absolutely no problem with registration. Especially if the site is free. It's reasonable to give demographic information, geographic information and possibly what industry you are in, nothing more.

      I don't mind giving them whatever information they want, except for my name, address, and phone number. I'm willing to tell them which city I live in and give a rough approximation of my postal code. If they want an e-mail address, I use one of my spam-bait accounts. I once made the mistake of giving my real e-mail to a site with an opt-out policy. At least I gave a fake name, so that helps with the spam filter.

      For newspaper registration, I'll even fill out those boring forms on whether I intend to buy a car in the next year and such. The way I see it, we are very lucky that newspapers are willing to offer their content for free, especially to out-of-state readers. If they want to show me targeted advertising, I'm perfectly willing to help out... as long as I don't get extra spam, junk mail, or telephone solicitations.

    • While your view is remarkably egalitarian and trusting, (both of which are warm & nice things), the truth of the matter is that it's entirely the responsibility of the manufacturer/production company to work out how to best sell their stuff. I, as the end consumer, have NO responsibility in this regard. It's not my problem if they can't figure out how to capture my dollar.

      That being said, if they ASK nicely for information about me in order to better service my needs, (Or some such), and give me an opportunity to voluntarily fill out an information form, then perhaps I'll do this. After all, I want my local news source to know what region and issues most affect me when they deliver their information.

      But to make it a forced, no-option requirement? Well, guess what? I'll not be buying that company's product, because I consider that just plain rude.

      Frankly, in this day and age of totalitarian authorities looming large, it's just plain stupid to broadcast your likes, dislikes, political views, etc., through what you consume, when you consume and how you consume. For instance. . .

      Drink Jolt Cola? Live night-owl hours? Buy computer parts and Kraft Dinner? Don't buy diapers or tampons for dependants?

      Well, guess what? You just profiled yourself. A check on credit, recent travel, phone records, web pages most often visited. . . Well, buddy, that sort of track record may well have you being percieved as a 'low grade threat' in an increasingly paranoid society, and you can count on being bookmarked.

      Psych profiling is a refined art. Heaven forbid, should you rate better than a 50% chance of ever actually thinking of doing anything which might threaten the Homeland. . . Well, I wouldn't want to be in your shoes in five year's time when the white vans start making their collections. . .

      -Fantastic Lad --18 months and counting 'till total ecconomic collapse of the U.S. Have you got your canned food and hunting rifle?.

    • I have to point out a few things. First, while it is necessary to have accurate data to get good ad rates, people are getting more and more fed up with online ads. Yes, even Joe Sixpack. The reasons have already been discussed to death here and elsewhere. IMHO, it's only a matter of time before the ad agencies realize this and take it to heart. Further, the marginal cost of filling out the surveys may be delta, but the marginal cost of obtaining good information on the internet (for those who know how to look) is only epsilon.
      The problem is that individuals want to keep their personal information private.
      [shocked disbelief] Even in context, this comment is unbelievable. [/shocked disbelief]
      Only an idiot would give a real or a regularly used email address.
      Ah yes, but as you well know, 99% of people online today are idiots. Which is why 99% of online reg sites are slimy.

      My problem of late with reg sites is that more and more are getting away with privacy-invasive crap, not because of me, but because they can afford to lose my business since everyone else is an idiot.

  • by GoatPigSheep ( 525460 ) on Sunday June 30, 2002 @01:23AM (#3794513) Homepage Journal
    I think to encourage using sites that dont require registration, slashdot should begin rejecting any submissions that link to sites that do. Normally there is a mirror to a site that does not require registration anyway, and it would make reading slashdot stories alot easier. I personally do not visit any nytimes stories posted on slashdot, I ignore them as if they are not there.
  • My home town newspaper's web site [tulsaworld.com] now only allows access to print subscribers. They charge $45 a year for non-subscribers. They don't even allow access to current stories. And "archive" stories (those older than about 2 days) are limited even for paid subscribers.
  • [please register to read this comment]


    p.s. exactly how you go about registering is an exercise left up to the reader.
  • Anyone care to offer up their reasons as to why they won't register with a free news site such as the New York Times? Not everyone is up-to-speed with the conventional /. wisdom that dictates why registration is evil.

    Or is this just another "I'll boycott the RIAA/MPAA/etc., at least until it's inconvenient for me to do so" scenario?

    • Re:Why? (Score:3, Insightful)

      by zCyl ( 14362 )
      Because I don't want them contacting me. If I go to a news site, I go there for the news. I don't have to type my phone number into a newspaper dispensing machine to get a newspaper, and if they asked me to, you can bet it wouldn't be the right number. As a consumer, _I_ choose when to initiate a business transaction.

      Those are the reasons I refuse to register with acurate information. When I go to a site to try to read a news article, and they ask for me to register before doing so, I find this extremely annoying because it can take up to 3 times longer to register (either with real or fake information) than it would take to simply read the article. Those are the reasons why I consider registration to be bad.

      When sites are like slashdot, and permit either anonymous or registered access with value added (such as configurability), I have no problem, and will remain anonymous unless I regularly visit the site. When sites require registration before I can access the information, those sites are likely to lose my eyes going to their site, and the companies that run them are less likely to receive any purchases from me in the future because my first thought of them will be "Oh yes, they were annoying."

      One of these days, someone is going to do a study and discover that corporations that make potential customers happy make a bigger profit. Until then, we will continue to see such things.

  • BELO started this reg thing on their local NBC station's web site. Fine, I just surf on over to CBS and ABC.
  • Try a search in Yahoo News. Half the links will be from NYT, and the ones that are old enough to be "archived" (arbitrary designation for some number of days of ripeness) will cost you a squeezy $2.50 to read.

    $2.50 to read a sorry newspaper article?

  • I had no problem registering with the NY Times web site. It was easy, and required no verification.

    I read it every day. Until I clicked an article a coupla weeks ago, and was directed to an ad which I was supposed to watch before being re-directed to the story (ala Salon). That did it. I'm never going there again. Washington Post is my mainstream news site now... no enforced ad views and no registration.

    I don't know why, but anonymous registration does not bother me, but forcing me to read a fucking ad does it to me.
  • I don't like site registration, probably for an amalgam of reasons similar to the majority of /. readers - I don't like giving out personal info, I don't like getting spam, and it's a hassle to maintain registrations and logins. The latter can be solved by technology in five billion ways, but it's still a nuisance, and unless it's really special content, I'm not going to bother. I have a NY Times login out there somewhere, but damned if I can remember what it is, or what email address I used. And, yes, all the info I entered was bogus.

    I do have a handful of registrations on sites that I consider worth it, and that I trust. I'm very careful about who gets my email address (only a few sites that send mailouts - use.perl, slashdot, freshmeat, o'reilly) and I get maybe five spams a week, usually from people who obviously got it from whois. Not much I can do about that.

    However, I also don't have a problem with sites that require registration. I understand their reasons for it. At the moment, I tell clients (I'm a web developer and consultant) that they're better off not collecting personal info, and much better off not sending random spam to people who sign up. What really sucks is that may have to change someday soon.

    The reasons are very straight forward - first, sites need to make money. Whether by being able to tell advertisers where their impressions are going or outright selling email addresses to SpamCo., if it's viable, I have a responsibility to tell them about it. (Although things haven't gotten to the point yet where I haven't been able to look a client in the eye and tell them spamming will kill them, thank $diety). Second, users don't care. They don't value their privacy, they don't understand why personal data is personal, and some of them honestly think it's a fair trade.

    What I'm hoping is that enough people get online fast enough, and enough of them understand why privacy is important, and enough of them care, that they won't register with just any site that asks for your address and what car they own. Sounds sort of like the Drake equation. (I'm optimistic on both counts).

  • wow (Score:2, Flamebait)

    "As a general matter, Slashdot's policy on linking to




    registration-required websites goes something like this:"

    I'm so glad you guys aren't linking to sites which require registration. Such freedom-fighters against the commercialization of the internet, you guys are.

  • what the hell's wrong with ojr.org? It looks like crap in Galeon, Mozilla, and Konqueror. The fonts are tiny and all squished together.
  • Why they do it. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward
    The reason they are starting to require registration is simple. They need to make money and they haven't figured out how to do it yet. Ad revenues have collasped in this economy. Their product is their news reporting and they were giving it away for free. Now, would you rather pay for the news (as you used to for a newspaper) or just give them a little demographic information instead? If you are really paranoid you can give them bogus information except for a valid email. What does this cost you but a little time to fill out a form?

    One other thing I should point out. If you do decide to register for the LA Times or the Chicago Tribune you can use this user id at both sites. Once the rest of the Tribune Company sites (7 or more papers) require registration you will be able to use it at those sites as well.

    One last note, and I am somewhat biased here, but so are you. Saying that you will continue to post NYT stories, but not LA Times stories is hypocritical! Post the news that is interesting. If you are going to post any registration required stories I would post ones from the LA Times, Chicago Tribune, Newsday, Sun Sentinel, Orlando Sentinel, Daily Press, and other Tribune Company newspapers. This way slashdot readers will only have to register once for many sources of information.

    One final thing. Someone asked how hard it could be to create/maintain one of these sites. Let me say this, it is hard. The functionality and traffic of some of these sites dwarfs that of slashdot. Just think of some of the features they provide. Of the top of my head, stories, ads, polls, quizzes, contests, streaming media, customization, registration, newsletters, and much more. Not to mention continuous updates throughout the day of breaking stories along with relevant photos, stories, and other information. This is a lot of work and requires many highly technical people along with many researchers, writers, and producers.

    Ok, enough rambling. Nobody will read this anyway because it's anonymous. Oh well, I feel better at leats.
  • Has assorted facts and figures, including how much sites' traffic dropped when registration was required. Even though a fair percentage of people just make up the data they are asked to provide
    As I was reading through the article description above, I thought, "Exactly! A fair percentage (most) of the people providing data about how much their Web site traffic dropped after they required registration are just going to make up the data. Oh wait, they were talking about the users."

    While you may trust the <NEWSPAPER_NAME>'s editorial integrity, you should not assume that it applies the same standards to data the corporation releases about its own performance. The people releasing that information often have nothing to do with the editorial staff, though they would like to use your "trust" to sell you ad space/subscriptions/registration data/etc.

    Even if the news sites could be certain that their registration info was accurate, I still wouldn't believe a word they say about their user numbers/demographics.

    For instance, this quote from Dallasnews's Eric Christensen is blatantly untrue:

    There was an initial drop of 30 percent or so in various sections, but when breaking news occurred, we fully recovered.
    He's claiming that 70% of the site's traffic remained after registration right away, and that eventually it all came back. Not a single person stopped using the site because of the registration system. If you'll believe that one I'm sure he's got a Web site to sell you, too...
  • I live in Asia but I read the nytimes nearly daily. I don't see any problem with registration - it seems like an eminently reasonable trade to give some demographic information in exchange for free access to a great paper. Is it reasonable to expect something for nothing?
    • "I live in Asia but I read the nytimes nearly daily."

      We know. You've accumulated a total subversive index of 173.

      But don't worry; we only send the men in trenchcoats after you if your rolling average goes over 60; the highest *your* rolling monthly average has ever gotten is 23, on May 17, 2002.

      Since your demographic information indicates that you are not employed as a teacher, there's no need to worry about a high quarterly rolling average landing you in a reeducation camp, but for your own sake, I'd really recommend reading fewer articles on labor unions, until after Monday.

      -- Terry
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Just in case you need it [majcher.com]. :-)
  • Do they allow the indexing of the content by web spiders?

    Are we going to get search engines polluted with "hits" for which registration is required in order to view the pages?

    If so, how long before we have browsers that pretend they are spiders?

    How long before search engines are mostly useless without a Microsoft Passport so you can follow the links search engines return, without explicit sign-on?

    -- Terry
  • One of my favorite websites, gamasutra.com, recently started requiring registration. Ever since they started doing this I haven't bothered to visit the site very often. It's a real shame.

    I'm surprised to learn of Slashdot's policy regarding sites which require registration. It's an admirable policy. Bravo!
  • Their marketing guys may get all excited about this kind of stuff, but for a typical "read only" news site, like NYT, I just do not use their site. Slashdot, yahoo, and half-empty.org are the only sites I have a login for, as they support posting/interaction.

    The marketing/sales people need to figure out what's more valuable to them - being able to display ads to me as an anonymous user, or to do neato graphs about my (non-existent) activity profile since I won't be logging in.
  • My personal favorite is to fill in the email address as the domain your regestering on for example "webmaster@nytimes.com" or "support@nytimes.com". I figured early on that they would block these with filters, so then i started feeding each company an address from another company.

    What really gets me is the verification systems. Obviously most of these programmers just left school and insist on varifying _every_ field. Who cares if my zip code is the wrong number of digits? since the only code i know is "90210" thats what im going to put if you ask me again!

    I cant wait for the new Parabellum and SSSCA technologies to come out, then i can have my details burnt onto my motherboard and automatically sent to every site i vist. Also, it will be good news for the sites since i will have to have the correct information in by law, as it will be taken from my passport, and documents (required for purchasing a new machine in 2005) lol

    If the sites really want my data so that it can help them tailor the site, then they should ask specific, impersonal questions and make it damn quick.
  • I personally don't like having to fill in my details with websites, although I have with those that are any good and allow me to unsubscribe from mailing lists of adverts. But this is not the only way to retrieve marketing information about visitors to a site:

    Companies such as Autonomy [autonomy.com] and Escape Velocity Technology [evtechnology.com] have technology that does automatic collection of your online habits and can form a picture of you so that each time you visit a website powered by their products it can be adapted to your behaviour. There are no forms to fill in, it just works off exactly what you've done; so if you read articles on company profits (or losses as the case currently seems to be out there!) then you'll get similar articles presented to you more often and adverts might be for online stock brokers (or debt collectors ;) They can even get down to the order you do stuff and what times you do it. If you know what someone does you have a good chance that you can work out the demographic "bucket" they fit into and can use that for e-marketing.

    The Internet is almost anonymous: you can be who you like, when you like it. Filling in forms with misinformation is just like creating a "new you", but can you break the habits of your real persona?
  • I registered for the New York Times. Their staff writes a lot of good and original content. It's worth it to me.

    For the L.A. Times, and other second-rate newspapers, listen up, you're NOT the New York Times. Don't kid yourself, your "product" is not that valuable. Maybe if you spent more money on reporters and less on nose candy for the marketing department, you would have a first-rate newspaper.

    I do like the idea of polluting their demographics. Maybe I will register and show them how important the 97-year old Eskimo demographic is.

  • What do you bet that this info generates more dinner hour phone calls asking you to subscribe ? So if you type in your Comgressman or -woman's name and email address, or better yet the name of one of their aides, just maybe we could have fewer 7pm marketing phone calls . Typing in real yet deceptive info is more useful than typing obviously fake info..
  • is mis-information better than no information ?
    I have 15 safeway discount cards in various names with various phone numbers, all false. I register daily with the NY Times and several other publications via a random login generator that fills in all the fields in their DB with BS. If you can't avoid a login, fill up the companies DB with BS.
  • Hmm, the Belo stats say that 22% of their registered users make $100,000 or more per year. The higest percentage, 23%, makes $75,000-$99,999. Why do I highly doubt that? I know when I'm making up registration information, I usually choose the $100,000+ category. A little wishful thinking since I'm in fantasy mode anyway.

    If their advertisers think that mandatory but non-verified information makes a good advertising target, they've got a few things to learn about computers and the Internet. I bet at least hal of their registration data is crap.

    And this was priceless, it's a copy of the NYTimes registration form, click the Randomize button:

    http://www.robertgraham.com/tools/random-user.ht ml

  • When signing up for online registration for a site you don't wish to give real data to, you might consider doing the following:

    1. For an e-mail address, use an abuse or technical contact for a spam domain which refuses to clean up its act (say, abuse@kornet.net), i.e. fight fire with fire. Be sure to check the box for e-mail updates!

    2. For income, always choose the lowest income level. If they demand demographic data as the price for visiting their site, skew that data to make them less attractive to advertisers as a result.

    3. Likewise, always choose the highest age bracket for the same reason.

    If everyone did this, they might soon realize that such annoying requirements were counterproductive.

  • Kind of a shame, because the LA Times has some good content too, and we've posted lot of links to them in the past, before they went registration-required

    Just like you posted a lot of links to NY Times before they went registration-required? Oh wait...you still post a lot of links to them.
  • I don't mind registering with a well-behaved site. I like the convenience of login cookies for personalized sites I use all the time. But witness the difference in style:

    I've been registered with the NYTimes site for over 5 years now. Why? Because all they wanted for registration was a basic email address and to set a cookie. I have NOT ONCE received a "special offer" from a partner, nor been inconvenienced by the NYT site in any way. (Well, it did once lose my cookie, but when I wrote to complain, a HUMAN answered and told me how to fix it. Seems the server had lost my password, so I needed to reset that.)

    OTOH, I recently went to the LATimes site, intending to register so I could use more of it... and was confronted by a form that wanted lots of personal information, AND by an agreement telling me that my personal data would be "shared" with their "partners" (which I took to mean mostly upscale spammers). Consequently I decided NOT to register with the LATimes site, and wrote them explaining why. No response.

  • It is highly irresponsible for Slashdot to use inconsequencial political choices to dictate who you will link to. The Los Angeles Times is universally recognized as the West Coast's only newspaper of record. The New York Times is the world's newspaper of record. The only acceptable reason to reject The Wall Street Journal is that they require payment for online reading, for most articles. But the register-only sites are the best news sources in the world and you only drag Slashdot further and further into a netherworld of popular standards rather than respected standards of professional journalism.
  • In recent weeks I have written six articles for madison.indymedia.org [indymedia.org], the local chapter of the Independent Media Center. IMC is "a collective of media activists involved in radio, television, publishing, and much more." As someone on here pointed out, they have a strong left/radical "bias," which is the direct opposite of what's on CNN/Faux News. (And rapidly the rest of the mainstream media. [insert rant here])

    The biggest difference is not the "spin" of many of its reports, but the fact that it is run and written by people who want to become the media, be the media. It's a really freaking cool thing, if you ask me. It's got old school punk music's DIY attitude, and unlike so much mainstream media, it will actually tell you what's going on. (Compare the coverage of the recent U.S. Conference of Mayors here in Madison if you need proof.)

    Yes, some people within it have the "obligatory" anti-corporate attitude, but really, this is real news made by real people. It's good. Check it out! [indymedia.org]

The absent ones are always at fault.