By Steve Outing
Oh, joy! … One of my pet peeves is news websites that insist on requiring users to register before viewing free content. This strategy is nuts. There’s so much information available on the Web that many people will simply go away rather than register to read some story they’ve come to via a blog mention or search-engine result.
So, anyway, I stumbled onto a story on the High Country News website this evening (referred by a Google search) and encountered the right way to handle user registration. Go to this story and unless you’ve already registered with the site you should see a registration request at the top of the story. Ignore it if you want and read the story.
And here’s the really smart part: If you voluntarily register, you get free access to the site’s archives. That’s how to get people to register with a voluntary system: Provide them with an incentive. I hope more free-content media sites that now have forced registration will reconsider and implement this sort of system.
ADDENDUM: An alternative to forced user registration is setting a “soft wall,” where casual website visitors don’t hit a registration requirement until they’ve seen several articles, which allows those people who come in via a search engine link to view an article. I think the voluntary approach described above is better, but Jay Small of Scripps writes about that company’s experiments with soft-wall registration variations. Worth a read if you care about this topic.