Teaching Examples

Research results on site registration
April 21, 2006, 2:01 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Stop the presses! A newspaper company conducted useful research! Yes, it’s true, and the smart company was E.W. Scripps, which owns the Rocky Mountain News in Denver, the Commercial Appeal (Memphis, Tenn.) and the Knoxville (Tenn.) News Sentinel, among others.

If you like to surf around and check out what different news sites are doing with a story — or like me, what they are doing with multimedia — you have run into the dead-stop wall of a registration form. “Please answer these 15 (or 50) horribly personal questions before we’ll let you see that content you came here to see.” Sometimes I go ahead and do it (because I just HAVE TO SEE that latest interactive package). But most of the time, I leave the site rather than suffer through the form.

So Scripps decided to covertly (in a nice way) test how people react to hitting the wall. Jay Small tells us all about it on his blog.

We softened the wall so that a user (client, technically) that was not logged in could view up to a set number of articles in a 30-day period before being intercepted by the registration form…. We tested a range of different thresholds on Scripps sites, from no change in current protocols all the way to completely open access, and including thresholds of three, four, five, six and seven “free” article views per 30-day period.

The basic idea is that you want to know who your regular site visitors are, so you want them to register. But for a visitor who’s coming because of a link on a blog, or from Google, etc., you have a person who may never visit again — so why ask that one to register?

The percentage of users who abandon at the wall remains constant, regardless of threshold. But far fewer users ever see the registration screen when thresholds are used. As such, the real numbers of abandoning users go way down, to in some cases 10 to 20 percent of former levels. That is an expected and desired effect of the threshold model.

Of course, you don’t want to make the threshold so lax that your regular visitors get to skip out of registration.

New opt-ins declined substantially — more than half or worse — with any softening of the wall. This is logical. The less often new site visitors are shown the registration screen, the less opportunity they have to opt in. We found that thresholds of three or four “free” views per 30 days tended to preserve more acceptable opt-in growth rates.

Cool stuff! Nice work, Jay and Scripps!

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1 Comment so far
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Thanks, Mindy! We remain curious to see what additional effects we observe once we actually tell site visitors about the changes.

Comment by Jay

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