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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.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jesse-Reed/550009277 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.

    http://bleacherreport.com/articles/833257-michael-jordan-could-he-really-score-50-with-the-hand-check-rules-in-place

    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.

  • http://twitter.com/veryfakeBR 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.

    http://interchangeproject.org/2011/12/01/why-advertisers-shouldnt-care-about-pageviews/

    “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.

  • http://twitter.com/Schottey 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, thisoldhouse.com 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.

    Slideshow:
    http://www.thisoldhouse.com/toh/photos/0,,20576499,00.html?partner=yes&xid=myyahoo-feed-041313-TOH-8-lessons-on-stretching-a-small-yard-maincontent-3

    Thumbnails:
    http://www.thisoldhouse.com/toh/photos/thumbnails/0,,20576499,00.html

  • 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 r-word.org movement, thank you for taking care of the comment