Authentication debate should consider media users’ preferences, capabilities

By Stephanie Lievano

Millicom, Tigo

Panama City, Panama


Gaining access past a paywall or login screen is often the start of the digital relationship with our readers or clients. But, how can we make signing in an easy process that does not deter our clients?

In my career, I’ve thankfully worked with organisations with paywalls active for at least 10 years. This was challenging when it came to upgrading our systems and often resulted in conversations about changing authentication methods from a subscriber and pin number to an e-mail address and password.

However, many of our clients did not have e-mail addresses. Nor did they like the idea of remembering a secure password with symbols, capital and lowercase letters, and numbers.

As companies evolve their login models, they must consider the users they might lose as a result.
As companies evolve their login models, they must consider the users they might lose as a result.

Yet our growth strategies excelled when it came to engagement via e-mail. We saw those clients we could communicate with were more likely to engage with the brand and pushed on the concept of login by email. In retrospect, it brought upon some of the biggest conversations as to who we were building our product. The pushback resulted in a digital product for new readers, ones who wanted information in a very short period of time.

Looking back now, there are several questions I would have asked my team today.

How tech-savvy are our current clients? And, who are our most valuable digital clients?

Understanding who your clients are, and who are your digital clients are, is key to making decisions. Understanding your client base allows you to develop and innovate with features that provide value and, in turn, retain clients.

Your digital clients may not be representative of your client base. If that is the case, then understanding who this product is for becomes essential.

What realistic case uses do we have for our clients’ authentication method? If any are marketing- or advertising-related, how prepared are we to let users opt in and manage their options?

Wanting e-mail to push advertising methods seems easy enough, but with the growing number of regulations, this can be a short-lived goal. Understanding your current regulations and how to manage users who request to opt out is a discussion worth having.

How flexible can we be? Can we allow a user to keep the subscriber or username instead of using an e-mail address? What else can we use instead of e-mail? Is a username an option?

If it’s not broken, why fix it? Sometimes if you can make it work, you may be able to maintain several methods of authentication. While this isn’t ideal, it can help maintain active users and introduce them to the new desired form of authentication.

Who would be left out?

If any of your current clients actively using the digital product would be left out, make sure you come up with a plan to communicate the change before it happens. Allowing customers to prepare to use your future product may help turn them into early adopters.

How would we handle a breach in data?

This is a tough conversation, but having a process in place will allow you to act quick. Data breaches happen. You want to have a clear understanding of where you are storing information and how best to protect it.

What if we delegate the responsibility to a third-party like Apple or Google for signing in?

There are great benefits in social sign ins and biometrics, but not all users have them. Make sure you have a plan that makes sense for your customer base. If your clients use social media, consider it. However, in my experience, users also forget their social media passwords.

At what point do we really need to have users sign in?

Don’t forget to consider what type of preview you want your users to have. TikTok, for example, allows you to view messages, which gives you a head start to become hooked on the content. The timing is essential when your product is aimed at new users who are getting to know your brand and its products.

Authentication has many challenges not mentioned above, but it’s the entrance gate to your product. As a result, the hours spent on defining authentications and its functionalities may be the first step in getting off on the right foot. My recommendation is, if you have the opportunity to discuss it, make sure you recognise who this product is for and what they really consider important. These user cases can become the roadmap for the future.

About Stephanie Lievano

By continuing to browse or by clicking “ACCEPT,” you agree to the storing of cookies on your device to enhance your site experience. To learn more about how we use cookies, please see our privacy policy.