All I Want Are The Headlines

I’m a news freak. I read the news so much during the day that there isn’t much news that is new to me when it comes to the local and national news shows at night. During the day, I mainly read MSNBC, the Seattle PI, and the Minneapolis/St. Paul StarTribune.

Reading those three online papers I get good coverage of the local news from Seattle (and Washington), Minneapolis (and Minnesota), and the world. But, there is this paper that I used to read in print when I lived in Eden Prairie that I no longer read. Why? Because they ask have been asking for my demographics for what seems like a year.

The news paper is the Eden Prairie News and their url is edenprairienews.com. Now, the thing that bothers me is that they ask for my demographic information just to look at the site. Just go to the url, you’ll see. There is no premium content, they just want my zip code so that they can better serve us with advertisements and content. Well, good thing I have Adblock to rid the sites of advertisements.

The part that I am having a hard time understanding is why you’d restrict access to a free site, with no premium content to users. From their FAQ:

We are an advertising supported site, and we are collecting aggregated demographic information about our users (i.e., gender, age, and ZIP code) so that we can better target our editorial content and advertising messages, making them more appropriate to the site’s particular online audience.

I understand that you want to target your advertising, content, and so on, but I’ve got to imagine that this isn’t working, or not very well. At least for me it isn’t. I don’t come to read the Eden Prairie News, which I probably haven’t done in over a year, to see an advertisement more targeted towards me. I mean, you aren’t going to be advertising that your site is now advertisement free in the near future, right?

OK, I understand that this is a local paper and that they probably don’t have the resources/revenue income that the big guns do when it comes to online advertising or to recoup costs for their online presence or to support their print costs. If they did, I’m sure that they’d have a better page design, but I digress. However, with the trend of newspaper subscriptions decreasing, alternative options online have to be made to keep your readership. This is no different for this local paper. I mean, Google News anybody?

I am not going to claim that I am any advertising expert. I am also not savvy enough to talk about online advertising and what is a “best” approach. But, I am a user, a consumer of online goods. I am one of the people that you target. Sure, you’ll probably get your demographic information from people who fill out your web form, but judging by the fact that it seems to be up for an inordinate amount of time, I can’t tell if it is working in your favor or not. Well, more so I refuse to provide demographic information to find out. But, it’s been so long since I’ve read this paper that I don’t even know if I remember what it was like before.

I’m just peeved that every time I go to read this newspaper, to catch up on the news of the town that I grew up in for 18 years, I am blocked by this worthless splash page asking for my demographic information. Sure it will put a cookie on my computer, but those get flushed out, by me, way before their 30 day expiration does. It just doesn’t make sense me. There has to be a better way to do this. I’d rather register for your site, using a similar model that the StarTribune uses, but hey, it’s not my site.

There just has to be a better way to statically analyze your readership. You are basing your information on the trust of your readers. What if there are a lot of users like me? Doubutful, but I like to dream. I’m sure that there has to be some crank data in your system. What about, and I really hate to hypothesize, the households that share a computer and one person enters in the info for the entire family, but that doesn’t really represent the readership of that household? Asking one time, for 30 days works great for single user computers. But, I’d imagine that a lot of computers aren’t used with multiple logins nor do the vast majority of the public know how to setup their computer to support multiple users. I mean, we’re in a most-privelaged-administrator-access-granted-spyware-laden-Windows-XP-driven computer culture. So, I doubt this is happening. We’re just lucky if people are putting security patches and running virus protection on their computers, but that’s another entry.

I mean, in all honestly, the paper looked great in print. The articles were interesting, but the internet is a different game. One which I think that this paper is losing and also one I know very little about. All I know is what I like and this isn’t it.

If you want to get your ads into the eyes of one more reader, take off the splash page and annoy every other user or tenth, or whatever with a popup or intermediate screen to make it optional to give the information before you let them view the content. It’s a win/win for both of us. I get to read the news and you get your data. I’m way more comfortable with that approach then totally restricting your content. Because, when it all comes down to it, all I really want to see are the headlines. Yea, just headlines. If I find something I want to read, I’ll give you my information to read it. But, in the end of it all I see it as this: I don’t donate to charity without knowing the cause, I don’t buy a car before test driving, and I don’t give information to newspapers before knowing the content.

All I’m asking for are the headlines, just the headlines. Please?

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