Register to Read

The backlash against web sites requiring free registration to access content has begun. Bugmenot.com is providing user names and passwords to such free registration sites so users can avoid giving our their personal information. Since many sites use registration to obtain demographics which then allow them to lure advertisers and pay the bills, some are questioning the morality (see the comments) of bypassing registration.

When a site offers content in exchange for demographic information, is it stealing to not give them that demographic information? Is that sort of agreement actually in effect? Is it lying to use someone else’s user name and password to access content? Or is this simply payback for the inevitable way registration leads to spam? Bugmenot.com leaves the moral ball in your court, though they give plenty of rationale and, interestingly, don’t seem to be profiting from the venture (no ads, don’t accept donations, etc.).

One thought on “Register to Read”

  1. Bugmenot represents a significant threat to the ongoing effort by publications to find a financial model that works on the Web.

    If we’re not willing to pay for access to content-rich sites, advertising will have to pay the bills. And selling advertising is easier when you can gather demographic information about your audience.

    When a publication is willing to give you its content for free, is it too much to tell them a few things about yourself to help them present themselves to advertisers?

    There’s an ethical question or two lurking in here. Someone who uses the bugmenot logon information is claiming to be somebody they’re not — lying. And they’re doing it to get information without providing the nominal information-based “fee” the site tries to collect — stealing. (And saying you’re only doing it because registration leads to spam is no solution — I remember seeing lying and steailng in the Ten Commandments, but there’s no commandment that says, “Thou shalt not send me unwanted e-mail.”

    Nobody has to visit newspaper and magazine sites on the Web. But if they want to, shouldn’t they do it on the terms set forth by the company providing the free service?

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