On the hunt for direct connections, publishers turn to registration walls

Consumer revenue is top of mind for many publishers, so some of them are starting with registration requirements.

Since October, Bloomberg Media has been requiring people that visit its site more than eight times per month to register. El Nuevo Día, a Spanish-language newspaper in Puerto Rico, now forces readers to submit an email address after reading 11 stories in a month, and has been testing registration walls with different messages and offers in an attempt to get them to hand over their emails.

The registration wall isn’t new and has had mixed success with consumer publishers. But these efforts, along with softer ones like Gannett dangling free perks in front of readers in exchange for their email addresses, are getting a fresh look as publishers hunt for subscribers.

“The ask of personal information is lower than the ask of dollars,” said Michael Silberman, svp of strategy at Piano, which helps publishers with reader payment strategies. “It’s an easier hurdle to jump somebody over.”

Registration walls first gained currency with business-focused publishers and marketers as a way to get more information about their audiences’ job titles and employers so they could better target them with ads and generate sales leads. The data collected laid the foundation for trying to sell readers something.

The tests underway serve similar functions. Bloomberg’s registration wall asks readers which industries and coverage they are most interested in, part of a broader push by Bloomberg Media to make its products more personalized and better target its ads.

Gannett’s registration wall collects detailed information about people’s interests in exchange for perks like discounts. The idea is that Gannett papers can later use the information to customize subscription offers.

These companies are offering lots of sweeteners because simply asking readers for personal information before they can read content they’re used to accessing freely is often ineffective.

Newspaper chain Tronc, for example, required Hartford Courant readers to provide an email address after reading their fifth story in a month. At the time, Tronc’s paywall was set to 10 articles, and the publisher wanted to figure out if it could extract more information earlier in the sales process from heavy readers.

The experiment didn’t have the intended effect — 90 percent of readers that saw the registration prompt simply left the site. The publisher now drops its paywall in front of readers after five stories instead of 10, and instead of requiring an email address for nothing, it promotes its email newsletters.

“If every test I ran worked, then I’m probably not running enough tests,” said Mark Campbell, Tronc svp of marketing.


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