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Slideshows Make Readers Hate You

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Do slideshows drive site traffic? Not if he can help it, says The Atlantic senior editor Alexis Madrigal. It's not that Madrigal objects to photo-based news, per se. He gives a shout-out to The Atlantic's own pic-heavy In Focus section, where it's not uncommon to scroll down as you wait for 40 large pictures to load on the same page.

Madrigal argues that what he considers the scurrilous practice of "juicing the pageview stats by throwing up a bunch of pictures and asking people to click through them" -- listing, for example, The 10 Most Controversial Stocks of 2012 -- will actually decrease overall interaction with the site in the long term.

He thinks rather than page views, publishers should be focusing on increasing unique visitors. He admits, though, that the first is far easier than the second.

Although Gawker and, of course, The Atlantic have learned this lesson, the Washington Post has not, Madrigal says, noting the paper's president has asked staff to create what Madrigal calls a "cheap and fast way to produce 'traffic.’ The problem is that they are not producing 'traffic' -- they are producing page views."

His main reasons for suggesting websites eschew slideshows: Readers hate them and by extension the advertisers that spawned them. Journalists hate them because they cut into their Pulitzer-winning reportage time.

Perhaps worst of all, readers and journalists alike hate slideshows because they don't encourage the kind of exhaustive reporting and thoughtful analysis that we've always looked to the Internet to provide.

He also points to the ineffable "pang" readers feel when they look at a slideshow, namely, "This site doesn't really value me or my time." In fact, the more page views a site gets and the more its slideshows go viral, the more this site spreads the "invisible poison" of "brand damage" that diffuses the Web when readers find they have somehow been tricked into looking at cats doing crazy things one page at a time.

In a postscript, Madrigal grudgingly accepts that "ad inventory" might be a driving force behind the reason for increasing page views. But not a legitimate one. Per Madrigal: "It's just clear that a slideshow page view is a different thing from other page views. And besides: there are other ways to drive real traffic!"

Like pictures of cute animals! And pictures of weed! And journalism. Good journalism always brings in the ad dollars. Ask any newspaper.
POSITION:  No positions in stocks mentioned.