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Nov 30 / King Kaufman

A spirited defense of slideshows

If you’re a part of Bleacher Report, you’ve probably heard complaints about slideshows. You may have even complained about them yourself. Some people just hate them some slideshows. You don’t hear a lot of people defending them, but yesterday someone stepped up nicely.

M.G. Siegler, who writes for TechCrunch, doesn’t like slideshows, and said so yesterday on his personal blog, ParisLemon, citing this Silicone Alley Insider slideshow as an example of his headline, “ANNOYING: The Article As A Slideshow.”

Slideshow complaints usually take the form of readers expressing annoyance at having to click through, or people taking offense at “pageview pumping,” as Siegler calls it. Siegler’s complaint in this post has a different focus: “As an author, I would hate this.” He notes that after the first slide, in Silicon Alley Insider’s design anyway, the author’s name is nowhere to be found.

Bleacher Report’s format shows the author’s name on every slide.

Turns out all authors must not hate slideshows, because the author of the one in question, Matt Rosoff, responded on his own personal blog, Matty Dread, with an argument in favor of slideshows, and he made some excellent points. Rosoff answered the usual criticisms of slideshows as well as Siegler’s complaint.

Some highlights:

  • “Funny, how come nobody ever objects to a photo essay in, say, the New Yorker? Or Vogue, which is more than 50% ads last time I looked.”
  • “There are many ways to tell stories … All can be good or bad.”
  • “In the news business, commerce and form have always been related. Why are newspaper stories a certain number of words long and laid out a certain way? Why are magazine articles split so you have to turn to the end to finish them? (Annoying as hell, in my opinion.) Why are TV news shows split into segments of two to five minutes? What is so sacred about any of these formats?”

There are slideshows that don’t need to be slideshows, but there are also stories that make excellent use of the format.

Rosoff’s piece had weak images. Shots of a WalMart price display to illustrate “Google Apps is like SQL Server: a cheap alternative that nobody pays much attention to…yet” and a man riding a bicycle and carrying another bike on his back to illustrate “Display advertising is like Office: piggybacking on success” don’t offer much reward to readers who click through. But the piece did lend itself to a slideshow presentation.

Each comparison—Android to Xbox, Google+ to Bing, GoogleTV to WebTV and so on—is a separate entity but part of a whole. Putting each on its own slide is not just “pageview pumping,” though of course slideshows are very effective at increasing page views, it’s an effective way to present the discrete elements of the story. Each element gets its own page, a starring role, as it were, rather than the article being a long string of comparisons that trails down one page.

We’re talking about a matter of taste here. Some people want everything on one page. But “pageview pumping” wouldn’t work if people didn’t click through. And they do. Readers vote with their fingers and their mouse clicks.

A slideshow, like anything else, can be done well or poorly. But it’s a perfectly valid format, one that’s effective for telling certain kinds of stories. And when slideshows are done well, readers like them.

  • Jesse Reed

    Couldn’t agree more.

  • Pjsapi

    The slideshows do get old. Especially long ones. I rarely bother looking at ones over 10 pages and anything over 5 is a stretch. I get annoyed writing too many of them and its one if the biggest question/complaints I get from readers.
    One thing I have always been curious to know is the views per slide and seconds viewed per slide.
    Do my first 2 pages get seen more than my last 2?
    Do people just click through quickly, looking for 1 title? For instance doing a write up on the teams from an entire league,do they just click through to find their team?
    Some articles make great slideshows but their is a tendency to waaaaay over do them.
    I always question the slide show format when each slide only has a few senteces on it. Those would have been a better one page read.

  • Matt Rosoff

    Thanks for the link! You summarized it pretty well. The images were an attempt to lighten things up a bit…I suppose I could’ve done product shots on every page instead, but that seemed dull to me.

  • Kelly Scaletta

    I think that slides shows can really have a big advantage in breaking a complex argument into bite sized pieces as well. For instance in this article I was able to take long, and statistically heavy argument and break into pieces with charts that made it much more accessible.

    I think slideshows CAN be cheap, but they can easily be much more complex than standard articles. If you treat every slide like it’s own story and the entire show as connected stories, it can be a tool that simply cant’ be duplicated in an article format.

  • Fake Bleacher Report

    SLIDSHOW: 50 raisins why king kuffman is a company man

    • Anonymous

      Whoa, a Fake Bleacher Report sighting. Been saving up the good jokes, I see.

  • Anonymous

    Here’s an Interchange Project post about the same subject.

    “Why does Business Insider win? Pageviews. But this is such a user-hostile way of showing content. A real slideshow complete with good photos and text that tell a story is good for users. An article hacked up into tiny blurbs is not good for users.”

  • Ken Kraetzer

    Have submitted several slideshow photo summaries of games we have covered. They have generally done better than post game narrative articles.

    For on-line media, photos are important way of describing game day experiences. We had a good response to the photo slideshow of the Army-Fordham game in October. It cost me an expensive camera which I learned through experience was not waterproof, but everyone seems to like to see photos of a football game played in the snow.

    Slideshows used to presnt lists can be very interesting if based on an interesting topic. I discovered Bleacherreport through a slideshow on the best college football stadiums.

  • Michael Schottey

    Content is king.

    Packaging of content is not…whether we’re talking slideshow vs. standard or SEO vs. traditional branding, the packaging of content has always been about sales and (therefore) money.

    The thought that one way is somehow ‘purer’ than another is just nostalgia.

  • Elly

    The slideshow I most dislike is the one in which each slide takes a long time to load or refuses to load altogether. Page-by-page articles are more bearable, but I leave if each page segment has only two sentences and a picture.

  • Fictional Name

    I have yet to find a sideshow article that lead me to think, “Wow, what a great slideshow!” Overall, I think they break up the action and reflect poor ethics in that they essentially force readers to inflate their ad revenues without actually improving content. Solution? Provide a link to the entire article on the first page of your slide show. Absent that, your slide show won’t be read by me.

  • Hate Slideshows

    A lot of websites use slideshows but bleacherreport is the worst. I hate wading through them just to find those few I am interested in and have gotten to the point where I avoid any site that uses them. There are better ways of doing this. For example, give you a option of using a slideshow or viewing them all, via thumbnails, at the same time and choosing the ones you are interested in. Much more considerate to the viewer.



  • UX_Designer

    King_Kaufman, you make a terrible argument. Everything comes to taste- hell, some people like the taste of iron. That doesn’t mean we should all be forced to eat pieces of iron like a bunch of Guiness World Record maniacs. The argument against slide shows has long been settled, and the vast, vast majority of people not only prefer single page content, they totally hate slideshows. Moreover, it is bad design practice. Like sliding galleries, the fact that the content is initially hidden immediately causes users to lose interest.

    It’s a shame the decision-makers at Bleacher Report, such a promising company, handcuff themselves with antiquated, annoying designs.

    • King_Kaufman

      You no doubt have facts and figures to back up your argument that ” the vast, vast majority of people not only prefer single page content, they totally hate slideshows.” I eagerly await seeing them, as I find it puzzling that Bleacher Report readers seem to like them, judging by what they tend to click on. Slideshows only make up about 15 percent of our stories, but they’re very popular. Oddly, many other websites use slideshows quite a bit, and I would say that while the percentage of slideshows has been falling at B/R over the last few years, it’s rising at many other big-media sites. That’s just my impression. I can’t back it up with figures.

      • pj

        I personally don’t bother reading slideshows, here or otherwise, unless I have to option to click and see the entire article. No time to click 5, 15 or 50 times and wait for loading. Based on comments here and at other websites it seems there is a bit of a backlash. Of course that’s just from my small observational world, no numbers to back it up. What I would be curious is to see the amount of hits on page 1 of a slideshow vs the last page. Now of course we can’t tell if people gave up because the article wasn’t good, they didn’t like the slideshows or whatever other reason. I realize with ad revenue that info may not want to be out there. Kinda of like the Super Bowl, you want your ad on early, advertisers here probably should have their ads on earlier in the slideshow.

      • King_Kaufman

        Whatever you do, don’t let anyone get in the way of your presumptions.

        • Ju

          A presumption is just that–a presumption. No matter the reality, there IS one thing that no one can get in the way of–raw perception. I personally perceive that slideshows are an exceptionally annoying mental load. :-)

          • King_Kaufman

            Whether you like them has nothing to do with your presumption that slideshows are popular because there are no alternatives (there are thousands upon thousands of alternatives), not because people like them.

    • King_Kaufman

      I just deleted your most recent comment because of language, not because of your argument. Feel free to re-post without the offensive language.

  • King_Kaufman

    I’ve just deleted an anonymous comment that had some offensive language. The part that wasn’t offensive said this:

    “Why would I click 12 times to read an article I could just click once
    for? I immediately exit sites that do slideshows as their only purpose
    is generate extra marketing… Just another version of spam.”

    • pj

      As a coach with Special Olympics and a strong support of the movement, thank you for taking care of the comment

  • Gerry

    Slideshows accomplish clicks and time spent on a website. Clicks and time spent, misleadingly, is measured as an indication of popularity and then used to generate advertisement income. I hate clicking through 40 slides just to see one team or player.

  • Craig Bolton

    When doing a Google search and wanting to read multiple articles from different sites slideshows make it extremely difficult to get back to your search. At the end of the slideshow they take you on to something else from their site. It’s an immoral tactic to boost page views and keep readers trapped on their page.

    Anyone who works in the industry should know this.

  • me

    Hate it and just refuse to read past the first page. BR is the worst.

  • LRH

    Late to the party, but oh well.

    I hate them passionately, and will go one further–I think they should be against the law. As much as I’m anti-communist, things such as this may be somewhat understand how such laws come into existence, because of more concern over pleasing the freaking advertisers than over pleasing the readers, without whom there would be no one reading any articles or advertisements to start with.

    Having to click “next, next, next, next, next” is extremely annoying. They should be MADE to make them as one page, or at least offer the option, AND do so WITHOUT the readers having to pay for it. I’m totally serious. If you can’t do that, then just go out of business. You either do it right or you don’t do it at all.

    I mean, after all, look at what happens in reverse. It used to be that you paid for cable TV vs the free broadcast TV because by PAYING for TV you no longer had to deal with commercials. Guess what–over time, cable TV which you were now PAYING for had commercials as well. Same with DVDs–you’re buying the presentation, you are paying for it vs watching it for free on broadcast television, yet they still have previews and such at the beginning which you can’t skip around.

    So spare me the sanctity behind the argument “you want commercial-free without paying for it? That’s nuts!” It’s just as nuts to pay for something then STILL have freaking commercials plastered all over it.

  • advocatus leonibus

    Just because people will click through them sometimes does not actually make a case for improved exposure to the information. I find it cumbersome and detracts from my experience to the point that if it is not a well done slideshow with a notable purpose for being set up that way (ie -a payoff for the effort that amounts to more than it being withheld initially for the purpose of making me click again alone – such as a visual quiz that asks me to test my memory of some elements presented on the previous, no longer visible slide, or that effectively hides a surprise that would otherwise be spoiled if the next image were revealed on the same page), then I will not only abandon the article before getting to the end, but also make note to avoid the site it appeared on if they have caused me such wasted energy more than once.

    There are precious few things that I have enough interest in to keep clicking through multiple meaningless images to get there. Usually though, if the setup is done in a meaningless way, I determine that the content I was seeking probably was not of high quality or much value either, and generally when I have muscled through the annoyance just in case I might be wrong, I have not actually been wrong and wished I had quit earlier.

    Form follows function. At least, on the site I am going to visit again….

  • Seth Baker

    Stop it. It’s a terrible format.

  • BlueCat57

    Let me be the first to complain about photo essays. I don’t like them either.

    I don’t object to clicking through, I object to having to scroll to click through.

    I also object to the borderline obscene “story” links.

    First thing I do when I encounter a slideshow (or video) is try to find a one page version of the story. I want to know the information not see a bunch of photos.

    And while I’m at it: IT IS ABSOLUTELY WRONG IN ALL INSTANCES (INCLUDING MUSIC WEBSITES) FOR ANY SOUND TO PLAY AUTOMATICALLY WHEN YOU VISIT A PAGE. (Did you get that?) If I’m at work I don’t need some website blasting over my audio. If I’m at home I can decided if I want to hear something and at what volume.

  • Dwayne

    I won’t read the Bleacher Report because of slideshows. I just came on this blog to say that.

    • olis_tx

      Agree wholeheartedly. I did the same. Whenever Bleacher Report comes up as a hit in a search, I ignore the link because of the slideshow format. It’s a shame because sometimes they have good content. I just don’t feel like navigating through all of those clicks on my smartphone and having to go back a dozen pages to get back to where I started.

  • John

    I hate the slideshow websites, unless you also have the option to show everything on one website. Like your Business Insider link. The problem with slideshows is, after one or two clicks you just had enough with the clicking. Nobody wants to click through 50 pages.

  • spookym

    I usually stop at pic number 5, whether there are 5 pictures or more. If the article teases me with something like, “You won’t believe number 17!”, I just go to the address bar and delete the number which is usually up there in the address and replace it with 17 and hit enter. I check out pic number 17 and then leave.

  • pj

    Wow 4 years later and people are still commenting. Sadly the dumbing down of info has meant more sites following the click-bait model. As much as I liked writing for B/R one of the main reasons I left was the insistence to write these types of articles. I wish sites thought more of their readers.

  • Will Killyou

    I see slide show, I leave the the page that simple. Nothing is important enough for me to keep clicking through.