USC Annenberg Online Journalism ReviewUSC





Dispatch.com:
Geography Proves to be
Eye-Opening
What Cost Registration?
Getting to Know You
Belo:
Active and Shifting Audiences
Tribune:
Growth in Site Loyalty and Newsletter Subscriptions
Dispatch.com:
Geography Proves to be
Eye-Opening
The New York Times:
Targeting Readers the Old-Fashioned Way
Privacy, Personal Data and Taking Users for Granted

The Columbus Dispatch began introducing registration last November and made it mandatory sitewide in February. "The idea was we wanted to better know who are users are, what they're interested in, and start exploring the idea of e-mail marketing," says Pam Coffman, editor of Dispatch.com.

A main registration page leads to a second, optional page of interests in subjects such as sports teams, music and entertainment. "We ask because we don't know a lot about our users," Coffman says frankly. "We haven't done a lot of research, it's been mostly anecdotal. Are we giving people what they want? This helps us shape the content of the site."

In addition to the large number of users outside of Ohio, the Dispatch staff was also surprised by the number of audience members who live in rural areas and small towns in the state.

The site has attracted 204,000 registered users, with more than half of them outside of Ohio. Two reasons for that. "Ohio State football has a huge following all over the world," she says. "And a lot of retired Ohioans are snowbirds who move to Florida but like to keep up with their home town news on the Web."

In addition to the large number of users outside of Ohio, the Dispatch staff was also surprised by the number of audience members who live in rural areas and small towns in the state. "We thought most of our users were downtown office workers, or residents of close-in suburbs," Coffman says. "This was eye-opening."

Traffic dropped off only modestly after registration began, she says, with the site still drawing 225,000 to 300,000 users per month. Dispatch.com is entirely gated except for the home page, children's features, and advertising.

Users' reactions were mild, Coffman says. "Initially there was some resistance, but most of the complaints stopped after the first six weeks."

Dispatch.com is now developing an advertiser-sponsored twice-a-week e-mail newsletter on OSU football due to debut in August, which will be free to registered users.

"Registration is telling us about future sources of revenue," Coffman says. "Should we charge people for visiting the site if they live outside of Ohio, because almost all of our advertising is locally oriented? We're nowhere near a decision on that."

The family-owned Dispatch Printing Co. also runs sister sites 1460TheFan.com, TheNew 971.com, 10TV.com, ColumbusNow.com, ONNNews.com and Thisweeknews.com, which have begun introducing more limited forms of registration for entering a contest or joining a sports fan club.

On to -- NYTimes.com: Targeting Readers the Old-Fashioned Way

On to NYTimes...