Tuesday, February 22, 2005

LA Times registration policy

I registered for the electronic edition of the LA Times ages ago, and have their login stored as a cookie. Thus it was a bit odd to find the LA Times asking me for a login after I'd reached one of their articles via a Google search, especially since my old login didn't work.

Even more baffling was that even after creating a new login and logging in, the LA Times still didn't show me the article I was looking for, instead they just gave me an error message saying that the article couldn't be found. This seems like the essence of sleazy web design: forcing a user to register before telling them that the content they're looking for doesn't exist.

Here's an example of what they're doing to some of their new users:

Let's say a user is looking for information on the recent California budget. The user googles for articles on the 2005 California budget in the LA Times, and finds a few articles of interest.
LA Times Google results
Some of the articles, such as this Jan. 6, 2005 article detailing how the governor is reneging on his promise to fund education properly, are freely available without registration (the LA Times does have some taste, I will admit). No problem here.

However, some of the articles, such as an interesting-looking article from Feb. 8 talking about the GOP and the state budget (the second purple link in the image above), bring the user to a page asking them to register:

LA Times login screen

Assuming the user doesn't have a login, they have to go through the LA Times's full registration process, which asks for the following information:

LA Times registration screen

After the user has confirmed their e-mail (by following a link the LA Times sends them) and logged in, the LA Times boots the user to the Times's homepage, which is useless if the user is trying to get to the article they had googled for. Now that the user has logged in, following the Google search link gets them the following screen:

LA Times error screen

So, the LA Times forced the user to hand over lots of (very accurate, I'm sure) personal information, and never once bothered to tell the user that the page they were looking for wasn't available anymore.

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