USC Annenberg Online Journalism ReviewUSC

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

In Dallas, registration has established that 32 percent of the users of come from outside Texas. "Typically, users from out of state are coming in to read about the Dallas Cowboys or other Texas news," Christensen says. "That could translate into our publishing a Cowboys newsletter specifically targeted to out-of-market users."

Belo also now knows the self-reported income levels, ages and gender of its users. Males age 35-44 make up the largest demographic -- 22 percent of its million-member database.

Belo also now knows the self-reported income levels, ages and gender of its users. Males age 35-44 make up the largest demographic -- 22 percent of its million-member database. Fully two-thirds of the Web site users do not read the Dallas Morning News. And 332,000 users, or 32 percent of registrants, agreed to view marketing offers from the site's advertising partners. (Belo agreed to share this detailed snapshot of their online audience.)

Other trend spottings? "We're still early on, but there appears to be a core group of heavy users who account for a large part of our sites' usage, and it's especially interesting to look at folks who stop by five or six times  day," Christensen says. "As we learn more about audience preferences, it may be more appropriate to begin looking at the Web as a programming medium where you target audiences by day part.

"If your audience from 8 to 10 a.m. is made up of high-income at-work users consuming a high amount of local news and sports, and nighttime has a younger demographic spending more time with entertainment content, that may suggest you program your site differently."

Belo began requiring users to register for Dallasnews' sports section in May 2001 and began working its way out, section by section, since then. Today everything except the home page and classifieds are behind the registration gate. Belo's broadcast sites have gradually adopted registration, and two months ago the Providence Journal began requiring registration in some sections.

Christensen says of users' reaction to mandatory registration: "There were pockets of resistance, but the complaints have been relatively few. The more experienced users have come to expect this, and they're more willing to register with a known brand than an unknown party."

The real test, though, was this: Would traffic drop off?

"There was an initial drop of 30 percent or so in various sections, but when breaking news occurred, we fully recovered," he says. In May Belo Interactive had a record month for unique users (6,296,739) and page views (101,705,629).

lasica belo eric christensen

Eric Christensen
Belo Interactive

Still, that Dallasnews registration page is pretty hellacious, with a clunky interface and too many mandatory fields. The page has been down for the past three days, as Belo rolls out a new registration form and dynamic back-end database, an official said. It's scheduled to go live today.

Early on, Belo decided not to take the route of incremental registration by letting people provide more personal information when signing up for contests, newsletters or services.

Instead, says a person who was involved in the internal debate last year, "The marketing department won all arguments, and made the registration a ridiculously long hurdle for users."

Christensen says simply: "Our philosophy was to go ask for a lot of information up front instead of incrementally."

The editorial staff is "deeply involved in digging through the data" to fine-tune content offerings or the site's navigation, though no such changes are expected this year, he says.

Christensen says of this kind of data collection: "I think that's where things are headed -- tightly focused content, targeted advertising, and e-mail newsletters that let you build relationships online between advertisers and users."

On to -- Tribune: Growth in Site Loyalty and Newsletter Subscriptions

On to Tribune...