USC Annenberg Online Journalism ReviewUSC





Tribune:
Growth in Site Loyalty and Newsletter Subscriptions
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

Tribune Interactive waded into the registration waters only this spring. Silver says no corporate mandate exists to adopt registration, and each site is taking a wait-and-see approach to gauge how Latimes.com and Chicagotribune.com fare.

To smooth the transition, the LA Times decided to roll out registration in certain sections during a five-week period. "We didn't want to grind people through the stadium doors all at once," says Zinngrabe, who has been leading the local team's registration effort. "By working into it, you gave people time to build awareness."

LATimes.com traffic is "down some," but not significantly,  says Elaine Zinngrabe. And users' reaction? "It's been surprisingly less negative than we expected."

Traffic is "down some," but not significantly, she says. And users' reaction? "It's been surprisingly less negative than we expected." Because the site sends e-mail to a user's account to confirm the registration, most feedback centered on quirks in validating users' accounts.

The LA Times' registration process is less cumbersome than Belo's, asking for the user's gender, age, e-mail and street addresses, income and subscription status, with optional questions about areas of interest. A fast typist can complete the one-time process in two minutes.

And what demographic jewels has the site unearthed to date? "We're learning we have more out-of-market visitors than we found in our last study in 1999," Zinngrabe says, though she declined to share specifics of the preliminary results.

She says the news site's demographics track closely with that of the print publication, and that the editorial staff was poring over the data "so we can better tailor new and existing content to the online audience's interests."

The most immediate result may come about in the form of new e-mail newsletters for subjects like movies or restaurants. "If someone checks off movies on their form, you can offer them a movies newsletter instead of starting from scratch," she says.

At Chicagotribune.com, the registration process has resulted in "a huge growth in the number of newsletter subscribers," including Tribune Daywatch, Tribune Alerts and Silicon Prairie, Silver says.

lasica image tribune mike silver

Mike Silver
Tribune Interactive

He suggests that user loyalty may be one outgrowth of registration and cautiously points to an uptick in return visits to the site. According to Nielsen NetRatings, the average visits per person to Chicagotribune.com rose from 3.0 in March to 3.29 in April and 4.22 in May. 

One possible byproduct of registration may be the deflation of news sites' user numbers. Media Metrix reports Latimes.com gets 2.4 million unique visitors a month. That's theoretically possible, if 500,000 registered users visit the site and another 1.9 million unregistered users visit just the home page, Calendar Live, classifieds and shopping areas, which remain ungated. But it's more likely that many of those 2.4 million users are phantoms -- duplicate users who visit from multiple computers. (Conversely, the individual registration numbers are undoubtedly understated because of family members sharing the same computer. Also, don't forget about those visitors who registered at the Tribune site.)

While the numbers may be smaller, they're more real in a sense: customers instead of anonymous surfers.

Tribune's Metromix city guide, meanwhile, which has brought a new audience to the company's news sites, remains an ungated community.

On to -- Dispatch.com: Geography Proves to be Eye-Opening

On to Dispatch.com...