WashingtonPost.com to Require User Info

The Washington Post Co. is joining the flock of Web publishers requiring visitors to give information to access site content.

Starting next Wednesday, washingtonpost.com will require users to fill out a short survey asking their date of birth, gender, and zip code before they can access stories. The site said it receives about 5 million visitors monthly.

The move, the company said, would help it better serve visitors and advertisers. One way is that it plans to deliver ads to visitor segments based on the survey criteria — a move that could allow washingtonpost.com to charge higher premiums for what are likely to be more effective ads.

“We believe strongly in the future of online advertising, and this survey will take us closer to meeting its full potential,” said washingtonpost.com Chief Executive Christopher Schroeder. “Interactive capabilities such at this are not only unique to the medium, they are the keys to the success of quality content sites.”

Schroeder also said the changes would benefit users’ experience on the site by delivering them more relevant advertising.

“And without question, a good user experience is an essential part of creating the best advertiser experience,” he said.

The surveys, which began appearing on Wednesday as an optional feature, will become mandatory for access to articles in certain sections next week. Ultimately, the company said it expects the “vast majority” of washingtonpost.com pages will require users to have completed a survey.

The launch of the survey follows efforts to glean more visitor data by the New York Times Co.’s rival Web site, which had required similar levels of data previously. In December, NYTimes.com began requesting new data from visitors: in addition to email address, gender, zip code and country, the site began requiring users’ birthday; job function, title and industry; whether they read or subscribe to the paper’s print edition; and income, which had been optional under the earlier setup.

A spokesperson from New York Times Digital, the unit of the New York-based publishing giant overseeing the site, said the change was designed to improve advertising targeting.

Yahoo also began asking users for additional information — such as zip code — on login screens in recent months.

The moves at washingtonpost.com also come just following the restructuring of its technology news site and syndication service, Newsbytes, and its regional Internet news site, Washtech.com. In late May, the sites were folded into a new entity, TechNews.com, while the Newsbytes brand will continue for syndicated content. Newsbytes News Network was purchased by the Washington Post Co. in 1997.

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