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A Passport for News Site Registration

From: Wired: Extra! Extra! Read All About You

"While a few years ago only a handful of newspaper websites required user registration, industry analysts say the practice has now become commonplace. The bulk of the most widely circulated American papers, including The New York Times, the Chicago Tribune and the Los Angeles Times, require users to complete an online form to read articles. In recent weeks, The Washington Post joined the crowd, replacing a pop-up reader-questionnaire feature with a registration form requiring an e-mail address and password.”

“Rob Runett, director of electronic communications for the Newspaper Association of America, says small and medium-sized papers are also following in the footsteps of the major dailies. To get access to articles, readers are increasingly required to provide such data as age, ZIP code, gender and, in many cases, information about income and personal interests."

The trouble is, if you are a regular reader of several news sites and perhaps a infrequent reader of hundreds more, how in the hell do you remember all those user name and passwords? As readers increasingly seek a proliferation of sources and perspectives on a number of issues, this is more likely to be the norm.

Wouldn’t it be great if the NAA, the AP, the Audit Bureau of Circulations or some collective news industry organization could make it easy for all of us to register for all these news sites? Call it a “News Passport” a la MSN’s Passport or whatever, but this would certainly cut down on potential user frustration and complaint. Not to mention, lower the barrier to entry to consuming, and perhaps discussing, news articles.

There might be a better business case to be made for a single passport approach. If readers could manage a single, well-designed account of their personal information, they might be more likely to provide accurate information about themselves. News organizations could also provide incentives or other features for signing up and giving readers a one-stop-shop to opt-in for communications from these sites.

John Roberts, another verteran of the New Century Network (NCN), explains why this will never happen: “Newspaper chains hate each other more than they hated Yahoo and Excite, whom they rightly (well, at least in Yahoo’s case) saw as the real competition.”

Posted on Mar 01, 2004 | 7:10 am EST

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Deprecated: Function eregi() is deprecated in /nfs/c02/h07/mnt/28080/domains/ on line 33

I just made the same comment last night when I posted on this topic - at the very least, the companies which own multiple publications/sites should be able to have one login, ya know?

Posted by: Tom on Mar 02, 04 | 12:19 pm EST

What we need is some sort of open-source/collabrative solution so the industry doesn’t suffer a bad case of vendor lock-in.

The AP might be a good choice....

Except the growing number of independent publishers, whom might not be AP members, probably wouldn’t be happy with that…

Posted by: Chris Heisel on Mar 02, 04 | 12:37 pm EST

OK, some problems. One, do you really want an aggregated view of your reading habits to exist? That’s one possible outcome of a single industrywide “identity.” Two, do you actually think the newspaper industry would ever agree on standards and methods? The experience with New Century Network—which was to have been a single-signon paid-content system—has made us all very reluctant to go down that road.

And why don’t you just let your Web browser handle it for you? Most sites have “remember me” defaults (I have to log onto only if I use somebody else’s PC), and for those that don’t, most Web browsers can remember usernames and passwords.

Posted by: Steve Yelvington on Mar 02, 04 | 3:03 pm EST

Steve -

Actually, I wouldn’t mind having an aggregated view of my reading habits, as long as I own/control it, can access it, purge it and get personalized alerts/RSS feeds (or some ilk) based on it. Hell, you could even give me targeted/personalized ads based on it. I don’t care. That’s one of the benefits for the user that I imagined would happen.

No, I don’t think the newspaper industry is prone to agree on standards and methods. But it could if it wanted to and found legitimate economic benefit doing so. The industry does have a history of occassionally deciding on standards - ad sizes, paper widths (web), IPTC standards, NewsML. The real question is adoption. As long as as there is an economic payoff, and a demand from the audience, adoption shouldn’t be such a hard sell.

The “remember me” browser trick only works if you only work on one computer. I have five computers at home and two at work. Now, I’m not saying that’s standard. But having a home computer, and a work computer certainly complicates relying on the browser. Also, I recently switched over to try different browsers cause IE was pissing me off. None of those browsers knew my prefs for a sign in.

It’s not the regular, routine sites that are really the problem for remembering passwords. It’s all the occassional, or infrequent visits that present problems. For example, I probably read one Los Angeles Times article per month. That’s only because I can never remember my log-in. I end up just creating a fake account to access that one story that I really wanted to read. If it was easier, I would probably read them more often.

I agree with Tom’s comment above. At the very least, companies which own multiple publications/sites should be able to have one log-in. Any of the major newspaper or magazine media companies - Gannet, Knight Ridder, Belo, NYTimes Company, Conde Nast, etc.- could do something like this. It might be harder with larger conglomerates like Viacom, Sony, AOL-Time Warner, etc. But that’s why we thought an industry standard would be viable solution.

Posted by: shayne on Mar 02, 04 | 5:09 pm EST


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