Less is more when quizzing registered users

By Greg Piechota


Oxford, United Kingdom


Half of the top 50 news subscription brands ask just for an e-mail when a new reader wants to sign up for free newsletter. But Clarin in Argentina asks also for the reader’s first name, surname, gender, date of birth, password, etc.

Clarin requires a reader to create an account on the site before signing up for any newsletter. The registration form asks for seven data points in total, and it also includes four marketing consents and a Captcha button. While only an e-mail, a password, and one consent are mandatory, this information is buried at the bottom of the form. 

Clarin is hardly the only publisher that would like to know their readers well. Research though shows the more you ask for, the fewer people successfully register.

For example, News24 in South Africa revealed last year that a single extra consent added to its registration form halved the success rate of the registration flow. After removing the tick box, it increased the success rate to up to 95%. 

A requirement to create an account is a known culprit for e-commerce cart abandonment rates. For example, a 2019 study by the Lenfest Institute found 85.2% U.S. readers left the subscription check-out flow before reaching the payment data capture page.

In July and August 2020, I analysed 196 paths to registration to the 50 largest news sites by the number of digital subscribers (out of these, 46 allowed the registration for non-subscribers). Here are the data on the most common and simplest path — registering for a free e-mail newsletter. 

How much they ask: In this study, I found publishers asked, on average, for seven data points and four were mandatory.

  • 16 data points: The maximum number of data points — 16 — were expected to provide readers of Corriere della Serra in Italy, although only three were mandatory.
  • 14 data points: Die Zeit in Germany asked for 14 data points (including five mandatory).
  • 13 data points: The Financial Times in the U.K. and Folha de S. Paulo in Brazil asked for 13 data points (including four and three mandatory, respectively). 

Who requires readers provide a lot of mandatory information? 

  • 8 data points: The National Geographic magazine in the United States insisted I had to provide eight data points to get a free newsletter.
  • 7 data points: Bild in Germany required seven data points.
  • 6 data points: Several publishers, such as The Seattle Times in the United States, the Toronto Star in Canada, and Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung in Germany, demanded six data points. 

When they ask: In general, the news subscription leaders ask for little in the beginning, then they try to enrich readers’ profiles over time. 

Half of my sample, or 23 sites, asked only for an e-mail in the initial sign-up flow. Then they nudged me to provide more data to unlock further features, such as comments, or personalise the experience. 

Some though tried hard to get a lot of information at the first sight. As already mentioned, Clarin in Argentina asked for seven data points in the first form. Several publishers — Die Zeit, Handelsblatt, Die Welt in Germany and Dagens Nyheter in Sweden — asked for six data points in the first form. A few others, such as Aftenposten in Norway, The Athletic in the United States, and The Economist in the UK — wished for five data points. 

What they ask for: Obviously, all46publishers in the sample, or 100%, asked for an e-mail when signing up for a newsletter. Most asked also for: password (85%), first name (76%), surname (76%), gender or honorific (59%), and country (50%).

More than one-third of publishers wanted to know the city or ZIP code (48%), a nickname (41%), a date of birth (39%), a phone number (39%), a street address (35%), and a password confirmation (33%). 

A few asked for reader’s job (13%), a photo (13%), a job position (9%), a bio (7%), and marital status (4%). 

Almost two-thirds, or 59%, required a newly signed-up reader to confirm the registration by clicking a link in the e-mail. One-third wanted a reader to retype a password. More than one-third, or 37%, wanted a reader to confirm they agreed with the terms and conditions, and 33% asked for a consent to send publisher’s marketing offers.

About Greg Piechota

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