Wednesday, 18 June 2008

Multiple Consumers Wants Single Pages

Now, I don't read the New Yorker but it seems that far more news sites are splitting their stories across multiple pages - it doesn't matter that the length of the article might hardly be longer than the length of this blog entry - one can only assume it's to increase the amount of ad exposure.  I'm not exactly sure of how ad revenue is calculated but I'd be very surprised if that short article that's been split into three pages will attract triple the clicks or views which translate loosely into shekels.  Most sites, including my previously beloved, increasingly tabloid, give an option of viewing the story on a single page, but increasingly they don't (it's starting with it's business arm, is one which forces the user into splitting the page and don't get me started on the ridiculous new format of the mobile version). 

Ad revenue must be the reason for the driver but can't the webmasters (more likely marketing managers) see or comprehend the damage they're doing to their sites?  Newspapers and magazines have been splitting stories for years in order to force their readers to wade through the advertisements but the web is supposed to be different.  The ads are already there - sometimes to the side, sometimes in the middle, sometimes at the end, often all over.  Readers are quite used to rolling up and down to read the news - splitting the stories across multiple pages ruins the flow and ruins one of the best features of the web media.  And, like any practice that increases revenue at the cost of diminishing the end user experience once one provider does it it gives an incentive for the next one to do it and before you know it everyone is doing it and the community accepts it as the way things are. 

Now, most people are probably grudgingly accepting of this practice and the user whining is not going to change it.  However, there's more than one way to skin a cat.  One presumes that news sites are doing this annoying practice in order to increase views of ads which translates to higher revenue - the people who are paying for these ads are basically being ripped off by the news providers.  Ad views are being inflated by at least a factor of two when it becomes common practice to split stories across two events which means that splitting of stories is basically fraud.  Yes, you can justify it by saying that you want the story to fit on the screen but nobody will buy that when the content that is left on the page after the split NEVER fits on it anyway. 

I'd really like to hear a proper argument as to the benefits of splitting stories - perhaps there's something I'm missing but ...

< blog continued >


1 comment:

Will Robertson said...

Thanks for the comments, you've made some good points. Worth noting that the practise of splitting newspaper articles is usually to fit more on the cover page, or something like that -- on the web there's no need for that sort of thing (or it's incorporated into an "After the jump" design).

It's interesting to think about the long-term effects of this "page splitting" on the sites that do this. Even if they're getting twice the ad revenue for now, surely the lack of respect they're garnering from their more discerning readers will bite them in the ass when they fail to receive the recurring revenue because those readers have decided to go somewhere that *doesn't* force you to endlessly click "next page".

Having said all this, I'm sure the New Yorker splits their articles into that many chunks for some good reason; I just don't know exactly what it is! (Perhaps so you can bookmark your way through the article if reading it in chunks.) It's when news sites do it that galls, since their articles are usually (a) light on content, and (b) not very long.