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December 28, 2007


Howard Owens

Since I ran these sites and was intimately involved in every detail -- I can tell you NOTHING changed beyond requiring registration.

Note, I'm not arguing in favor of newspaper registration walls. I'm just saying that to say they hurt newspaper.com traffic is flat wrong. And I'm 100 percent certain of that.

As for search engine traffic -- more than 80 percent of it is absolutely useless to a local newspaper.com. It's darn near impossible to make meaningful revenue from all of that out of town traffic. In fact, worse than that, that out of town traffic depresses click-through rates for local advertisers (making their ads look like they're performing worse than they are), and sucks non-monitizable bandwidth from the site.

That said, most sites with registration schemes now do not put up the registration wall for traffic coming in through a SE.

In fact, very few sites these days have very high registration walls.

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We live in an age where everything that can be automated has either already undergone automation or is semiautomatic. Some things that had no business being automated are also automatic.


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Personally I believe that the ROI of requiring user registration is questionable at best. Intuitively, it makes sense that at least some users will get discouraged and drop off when confronted with a "registration required" notice; so there's bound to be some negative impact, with all due respect to Howard Owens [perhaps the numbers he saw can be explained by other changes that happened at the same time, such as SEO enhancements that bumped up traffic, compensating for the impact of the registration?].

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