Opt in, Opt out, Opt cheat…

Newspapers are in trouble. eBay has sucked the life out of classifieds. People have stopped reading papers. More folks read the NY Times online than on paper…

Is the answer to trick people into getting spam?

My wife sent me a link at the LA Times. In order to read it, I had to register. Here’s the last part of registration:

Notice that the box ISN’T checked. That’s the universal symbol for, “We’re honest and we want genuine permission from you before we send you stuff by email. So if you want it, please check here.”

I was glad to see that. But then I read the text. It says that the UNchecked box means that they WILL send you spam unless you affirmatively CHECK it to say you DON’T want it. (Even without the ALL CAPS I’m adding, it’s still confusing.)

So, let’s be clear here: In order to ensure its future in a world where everyone is online, one of the great newspapers on the planet is relying on second order trickery (because ordinary opt out isn’t nefarious enough). Do you really think they’re building much of an asset here? Can you imagine that three years from now the publisher is going to say, “I’m sure glad we tricked a million people into having no leg to stand on when we busily spam them!” Hardly.