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Does registration hurt online circulation?

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Whether or not publishers should ask website users to register for content is now a hotly debated topic among audience developers. Abraham Langer, VP-digital media, audience marketing at 1105 Media, said, “Gating content always leads to a significant decrease in page views. Given that most b-to-b online models rely on page views to drive advertising revenue, I don't see a significant shift toward gated models in the immediate future.” However, John Rockwell, VP-marketing and e-media at Access Intelligence, disagreed. “I think subscribers assume they need to register but that the standard issues apply,” he said. “If it's difficult to register, they will abandon.... Unless you're The New York Times, site users will not "fly away' merely because they needed to enter their work email.” Kim Clothier said she sees it becoming more common, but does not see it ever becoming the norm. “It may in some specific markets where there is great value on the data and it's something not readily available elsewhere. UBM Electronics' VP-marketing Felicia Hamerman said that there needs to be some content available for free “to ensure visitors can grasp the value of our site and the content we are offering,” but that content that is deemed high-value should require registration. “Data is today's currency and, by registering, users are in essence "paying' for access,” she said. “In general, from a marketing perspective, mandatory registration would be great in terms of identifying all site visitors and opening up more opportunities to engage them relative to your brands/products,” said Randy Renner, VP-sales and marketing at Omeda Communications. “However, this is not so much a media/publishing industry-specific decision as it is a vertical market and/or publisher-specific decision. It could vary based upon a particular vertical market [such as construction, electronics or retailing] and the availability of other Web content in that market, [for example, free or paid]. It could also vary based upon each publisher's revenue model; requiring registration could drive down overall site metrics and revenue, plus you run the risk of losing future engagement opportunities with these anonymous visitors somewhere down the line.” Emelda Barea, VP-circulation and distribution at Jobson Healthcare Information, said that in order to request registration, content should be valuable and the registration page should be short. Whether publishers ask users to register or not, BPA Worldwide President-CEO Glenn Hansen said, details like that can be very important to marketers. At the Matesz Digital Audit Conference in Budapest in February, Hansen said: “Marketers are moving away from just the fact that someone subscribed to a product. They are now starting to look at how the product is used, and that's a big shift. Up until now, it's always been about the number of copies pushed out; but now it's more about engagement.”
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