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Janet Roberts

'Opting In' to the HTML Switch
By Janet Roberts

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Email publishers use the phrase "opting in" to refer to adding readers, but I think it should apply to format changes, too.

Here's my beef:
The Chicago Tribune switched my subscription to its Daywatch daily headline report from text to its new HTML edition without asking if I wanted the new format. If I want the old text version back, I have to send an email requesting it. (I can't change it on my preference page, either, which is a little user-unfriendly.)

It's not as if I didn't know the HTML version was coming. Daywatch promoted it repeatedly. I even checked out the beta version. (Looks nice but nothing stunning.)

I kept waiting for that little invitation to subscribe to the new version, which I planned to ignore, because I can zip through the text version more quickly. (I thought it was proved pretty clearly that "stickiness" doesn't guarantee clicks.)

Instead, the new day dawned, and the brighter, more colorful but slower-reading Daywatch showed up.

Now, I don't hate HTML. I usually choose the HTML version of whatever newsletter I'm signing up for, unless the Web site supporting it is awful (bad Web design = ugly newsletter).

Because I read about 40 daily newsletters, though, I want certain ones in text for faster loading and scanning.

And, yes, it's likely more people want the HTML version anyway, if the Trib's experience is anything like that of the New York Times, where HTML subscribers outnumber texters on every list.

I'm irritated because I feel that I've been forced into taking the HTML version. It's just as annoying as when somebody subscribes me to a newsletter because they assume I'd want it or sends me junk email and makes me have to opt out to get rid of it.

Opting in should apply to format changes as well as subscriptions.

By switching my preference to HTML over text, the Trib made the fatal error of assuming that people read text newsletters because HTML isn't available. They gave me something I didn't want and forced me to act to get what I really want, and that's a cardinal sin in any kind of customer relationship.

If text-readers really are clamoring for HTML, they'll make the switch on their own.

Ezine-Tips for December 20, 2002

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