Registering complaints

It seems most everybody is saying newspapers should drop registration on their Web sites. Everybuddy is. The Bivings Report from August was (this one was circulating through our email system this week). And Mark Potts is. A legion of others are in one way or another.
The value of having a good database of customers is a business no-brainer. It’s very difficult to develop relationships with customers you don’t know. But for anyone but regular users of a site, registration is a bail out barrier. And some number of customers who actually want to use our sites always seem to have problems making it work, get frustrated and give up.
But it’s not like users are not signing into Web sites. On a typical day, I log into about 10 or more sites that require a login and password and no two are using the same user name/password combo. How many are you logging into? On top of those forced logins, there are other registration sites that I am bypassing the login screen due to the site’s “cookie check.”
I certainly wouldn’t be the first to say it’s time to move to smarter registration. E.W. Scripps took a step in that direction by softening its registration wall for our site (KnoxNews) and others. But it would make sense to provide features and services in which the user can see how registration is a necessary tradeoff for the time pain and private info.
There’s much work to be done here instead of abandoning efforts to collect information about users that could be used in one-to-one marketing. It is fair to say we haven’t nailed it.
And despite registration’s critics, I doubt newspapers that dropped registration would see substantial audience growth in their core geographic market area (where they most want to gain users). Anecdotically, most of our webmaster mail with registration objections are coming from people who are out of market (and most do identify themselves quite well).
Anyone have any evidence to the contrary?
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