I've complained before that news-site registration forms don't give users an incentive to give accurate demographic information. Here's proof that it can be done well.
Edmunds.com is an outstanding example of how to gather user zip codes more reliably and less annoyingly than similar implementations (e.g. usatoday.com and washingtonpost.com). Although Edmunds isn't a typical media site -- it provides car-buying information -- news site operators can learn a lot from it.
Why do I like this so much?
- It gives me a reason to provide a valid zip code. The "benefits of providing your Zip Code" are spelled out for me clearly and succinctly.
- It doesn't require me to give a zip code. The "Continue without providing Zip Code" link is right in front, as if to say, "We know some of you aren't comfortable giving away this information, and that's fine." That wins the site some extra credibility points.
The benefit for users: No hassle, and a better, more targeted browsing experience. The benefit for Edmunds: More accurate zip-code demographics. (Why take the time to enter bogus info when you can click a link to skip the form entirely?) And credibility/good vibes.