It’s been nearly two months since we launched registration for Kansas.com users and for the most part, it’s gone very smoothly. When I last checked in with our senior editor/interactive, Nick Jungman, a few days ago, we had about 9,700 registered users, growing by about 150 per day. We don’t ask users to register unless they hit a threshold of visiting about 40 pages over a few days.
One of the best user benefits of registration is access to some very useful e-mail alerts we send daily, including morning and afternoon headlines. The information you give us helps us learn more about who uses our Web site so we can improve it, and it helps our advertisers understand the audiences they’re trying to reach. We don’t ask for extensive personal information — as Nick pointed out to one Web user, the registration form we use does not gather enough information from you to allow us to mail you a postcard.
Most online users register when asked and move on. Some, though, have been downright angry. I got one email from a reader who was irate at the idea that we’d ask him to register to access our site, and he also found the advertising on the site irritating.
With Kansas.com, we offer readers, for free, a service that is very expensive to provide — round-the-clock news. In addition, the Web gives us the opportunity to offer far more news content than the printed paper (especially multimedia such as photos and video), discussion boards and interactive conversation on ever-increasing levels, and rapidly growing opportunities for advertisers to reach the exact people they want to reach with their messages, and in unique ways.
It’s a phenomenal public square for news users, communities, journalists and advertisers.
The reason we can make this available at no cost to users is because advertisers support the Web site and printed paper.
I’m often asked whether I believe that one day people will have to pay to access news Web sites. I just don’t see it happening. The business model is still evolving, but I believe the advertising will have to pay for free access to news. Users expect it.
In the morning, I still want to hold the paper in my hands, drink coffee, and read the news. Millions of readers feel the same way. Many others don’t, and a computer screen is preferable to them.
I don’t think it’s unreasonable to ask users to give us a half-dozen or so pieces of demographic information to access that free news. Our aim is to improve our Web site constantly, both in content and experience, and your feedback — including the information you give us by registering — helps us do that.
I doubt Westar is going to give me my electricity for free, or Cox is going to decide to quit billing me for my Internet service. You, either. But we can provide news for free on the Web. Taking two or three minutes to register seems like a sweet deal to me.