Web registrations are a higher barrier than we can afford

Disclaimer: This post is proposes a zero barrier net access ideal. With that in mind, I propose my first blog policy: I shall only include a NSFW warning if I am linking directly to NSFW content. Some sites I suggest may occasionally update with content you find offensive. Please click intelligently.

Currently, most sites invite followers through registration. I’ve become aware over time that more often than not I avoid registering. I don’t think I’m alone in this; does this mean registration itself is a barrer?

Last night I listened to the first podcast of my long-distance friend and fellow blogger Michael J. Parry’s new book.

Michael Parry

It’s enjoyable if you’re a fantasy geek, and I was pleased to find the site offered a subscription programme. All I needed to do was register.

I filled in the little form and clicked go – Name, email x2, password x2 and link at the bottom says “Complete your registration and sign in.” Nice and minimal.

Unfortunately, the sign in page – autofilled by the site (not one of Michael’s excellent designs I must add!) – didn’t work.

No doubt just a little server lag, and because it’s something I’m determined to follow I’ll check back in a short while to fix.

Now, I understand the value of registration. Building a customer identity  is an extremely valuable marketing tool. This sites creaters have chosen to ask their customers for very little at first point of contact, which is a smart choice.

Why? Firstly, and most importantly, a large registration page must turn a significant percentage off.  Secondly, its benefits in terms of customer profile ultimately work against that goal. Registration forms suit generic data, creating broad assumptions that can only mar later analysis. That simply makes it the more blunt-edged tool in the age of freakonomics.

It’s been argued that customer retention is a significantly more efficient way to retain market share than audience capture. I just don’t believe this is so on the web. Things get weird around zeroes and infinities, and with both capacity and audience increasing exponentially internet phenomena simulate this effect. Is audience retention then broken?

Maybe. Recently an internet retailer used extreme harrassment so that his customers responded via complaints sites and their many personal communication channels. His reward?  A number 2 spot on google for his product’s search, delivering massive amounts of new customers even as he haemmorhages the old. That’s a terrible way to behave, but a pretty clever business hack.

The news story is about google as much as the guy, and let’s hope for some discussion about their two edged sword of a response – as usual non-disclosure of the algorithm creates concerns over abuse of their very real power even though I personally feel their intentions are as good as it gets for a company of that size and prominence in this day and age.

There are of course forces working in the retention’s favour. Communities exist, persist and in fact can self-organise to thrive. They are even revitalising lost “real world” communities.

Home crafts, handed down for millennia, were dying due to the impact of workforce entry on women’s lives over the 19th and 20th centuries. Thanks to the internet’s drive to sharing cultures, crafts are enjoying a massive renaissance. You can visit a crafts community set up simply to mock another crafts community.  Participate, and you’ll be part of has a massive blended movement as it celebrates itself. What’s the sociology of the interaction between those two groups?

Let’s not say audience retention is wiped out as a strategy. It’s closer to the truth to say retention and capture have equalised their value as strategies.

Registration functions as a significant barrier to audience capture. The 5 line form I encountered was 5 lines too long. That click, one too many. Don’t ask me for my email, as I’ll never opt in to your newsletter. Let me put in a username and password first time I post and leave it at that. I’ll be able to handle it.

So where are libraries at for the most part? Moving on from non-interactive sites. Starting to engage the social web to capture customers: Asking for tags. Asking for ratings.

Still requiring registration. A model needed** for physical items – not for web content.

We started out as institutions hoarding resources for the powerful, but libraries have also thrived as outgrowths of community passion. Let’s at least try to recreate that in the virtual world.

This is how: Open the door. Say, “Come inside”. Give them a reason to stay.

Here’s a starting strategy. Let’s advertise our children’s services this way:

* number of pages*average time to read pages*growth rate/life expectancy

** Maybe –  we can at least start working on closer approaches to trust-based organisations – Waitakere Libraries did well with open membership, a brave and very Westie step to take.


About seanmurgatroyd
Library (Shared blog): http://diligentroom.wordpress.com/ Personal including infoculture, book reviews: http://diligentroom.wordpress.com/ Music: http://seanfishmusic.wordpress.com/ Last.fm band page: http://www.last.fm/music/Seanfish @seanfish

4 Responses to Web registrations are a higher barrier than we can afford

  1. You can also subscribe via Itunes: http://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/the-spiral-tattoo-a-free-audiobook/id394299321 skipping the whole subscribe via podiobooks 🙂 if that is easier!

    I am glad you liked the start!

    BTW gald to see you back on the blogging circle… Will we see some thoughts over on the ROID 😉

  2. seanmurgatroyd says:

    Cheers for the subscribe link!

    Yep, I’m enjoying blogging – let me find my feet here and I’ll think about what I might say in the Room. 😀

  3. Pingback: Virtual workspaces – Google Notebook « Organisational discourse overdose

  4. Pingback: google notebook, a nice story of course and blog policy1.1 « Organisational discourse overdose

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