Shoutouts far and wide

Flowers to the Randoms, click for larger image
Vinney's note, click for larger version

A few more reacts to the relaunch of knoxnews/govolsxtra last Thursday. I noted some here last week.
Bryan Murley, one of the forces behind Innovation in College Media, did a post Monday on the decision to make the formerly paid-subscription site GoVolsXtra a free site.
Murley says of GVX:

It’s exactly the sort of niche web site more and more pro newspapers are investing time and energy into, and the sort of thing college media could adapt relatively easily. Indeed, the Florida Alligator is already aggregating sports content at, and Boise State will be doing so this fall with, according to Brad Arendt.

Lucas Grindley, content manager at the New York Times owned in southwest Florida, uses the decision to relax registration requirements as the lead for a RIP for registration.

Remember when everyone got all excited about the prospect of knowing exactly who uses their Web sites? Maybe it will help lure advertisers, they hoped. Well, it didn’t.

It’s about time the industry faced reality: Registration doesn’t work. The information gathered is largely a database of lies. Why would anyone enter their real name, age or anything? Most users fill out crap so they can arrive at the story they wanted to read as quickly as possible.

A lot of newspaper executives aren’t as far down the “registration sucks” road as Grindley and would still like to believe that registration is a good thing (economically) and isn’t a real drag on audience growth (Huh?, but they ought to consider his view because you find it by talking to a customer — and it shouldn’t take more than one or two to find one that echoes Grindley’s basic theme.

Registration data is only useful to us when it’s also useful to the user. When I want to personalize my weather, I’ll give you my real zip code. When I want to receive an e-mail newsletter, I’ll provide an e-mail address. But few people give away accurate personal information out of the goodness of their hearts.

I agree with Howard Owens’ comments on Grindley’s post that registration data is mostly accurate. Yeah, there’s bogus info, but to my cynical mind, there is a surprising wealth of honesty based on what I knew about them from direct customer interactions. And the demos fairly well matched our other market research — which either says something about the honesty of humanity or the general usefulness of market research.
But registration is a barrier to use — even among registered users. The anecdotal evidence of dealing with people frustrated enough to call the newspaper confirm it and the market share data vividly graphs it. And I can’t see that we ever received the economic trade-off in being able to use the aggregated information vs. the ill-will nurtured for our product and brand.
It would be fair to say we weren’t smart enough or technologically savvy enough to get it right. So, yes, I hope, “RIP: Registration, and its database of lies.”
The theory has a lot less friction than the practice.
And Will Sullivan gave our switch from venerable Vignette to the hipster Django/Ellington a shoutout in a “Goodbye Vinny” blurb with art!
And you have to watch Erin Chapin’s RandomThis video on an ode to “Vinny.” I’m not sure what the corporate Lords of the North Shore thought about that, but Vinny did send flowers Friday (of which the Randoms were very surprised and appreciative). Click on the photos to view larger versions.
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