Content and reputation help to gather user data
There has been a lot of discussion in your recent columns about Web-site traffic, the use of frames to keep traffic up or actually serve users, and methods of measuring traffic. I am interested in your opinions regarding requiring users to register to access a Web site and what site owners can do with the data.
NAME AND ADDRESS SUPPLIED The more you know about the users of your site the better. This is why Web sites ranging from on-line newspapers to financial information services to adult entertainment sites try to gather as much information about their users as they can.
The more valuable the content - or services - available on a site the easier it is to gather user information. The reputation of the site or the company behind it helps, too.
The on-line version of this newspaper, at www.scmp.com, requires users to register before they can view its content. A policy document available on-line spells out how the data gathered is used. The usage of such data differs from site to site.
Web publishers have to wrestle with the fact that insisting on registrations can reduce site traffic and advertising revenue. However, knowing more about your readers drives up the value of advertising on your site. This has been true in the traditional media industry and is just as true on-line.
Speaking as a long-time Internet user, I do not register on Web sites at the drop of a hat, and when I do I am careful about the type of information I am required to enter. I also check out the privacy policies of the sites.
This does not mean registration processes put me off; if a site has information or services that I want, I consider registration to be payment of sorts for accessing this information or using these services. However, a long registration process annoys me.
As a publisher, I know what goes into providing quality content on-line and I am aware of the value placed on such content by our readers. The fact that about 360,000 individuals have registered with SCMP.com is proof of this.
If you are considering introducing registration on your Web site, ask yourself: How valuable is your content to users? Can they get it elsewhere for less trouble? What reputation does your site or company have? The more prized your content and the greater its value and the reputation of your organisation, the easier it will be for you to justify asking visitors to your site to register before they can view your content.
If you go ahead with registration, keep it simple and protect the data you gather. Misuse of data is not only going to lose you registrations, it is illegal according to the laws of Hong Kong.
Larry Campbell is publisher of SCMP.com. The opinions expressed in this column are his own. E-mail comments and questions to techtalk at scmp.com. Questions to Tech Talk will not be answered personally. Technology Post reserves the right to edit letters.