The pros and cons of getting to know your readers better

With membership and subscription programs playing an increasingly important role in media business models, many publishers seem to be trying to get to know their readers better. The New York Times, for example, has started asking its readers to tell the paper a bit more about themselves, using a web form posted at its Reader Center. The Times asks readers to share their name, email address, phone number, Twitter and Instagram handles with the paper, as well as their age, occupation and hometown.

It goes on to ask readers to share their race and religious background, their ethnicity and gender, how they identify politically, and whether they are married, single, divorced, childless, and so on. A disclaimer at the bottom in small print says the Times may use the details provided to verify readers’ identities and to contact them for stories, and also notes that if the Times

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