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Memo to swinish publishers: pagination sucksQuestion: why must news sites like Reuters split their stories over multiple pages? Is it because they’re desperate, misguided, hate readers, and are aiming to further commoditise their ad revenues?

Publishers need to be called out for pulling this dirty trick on unwitting visitors. It is aimed at doing one thing: boosting page impressions. After all, why settle for just one page impression when you can have many?

Well, it needs saying: publishers that give a shit about readers and advertisers simply do not do this. The way I see it, only those publishers that want to artificially inflate page impressions and loathe their readers adopt pagination.

It's a swinish technique...

More often than not there is no good reason for splitting up articles. It isn’t as if the average page is so heavy, or so long, that it merits breaking the article up over several pages (or more, in some cases). And it’s not about “measuring engagement” as some pagination apologists claim. It is simply about boosting page impressions.

It shows the highest contempt for visitors, and proves yet again that the way advertising is purchased and measured online needs to change. There is more to life than ‘page impressions’, or at least there should be. If only publishers would wake up to the fact that quality beats quantity.

There are SEO considerations too. Pagination isn’t ideal for SEO, though I’d still lobby against it even if it did wonders to your rankings. There's a spirited discussion (and some disagreement) about the effects of pagination on search results here.

Unfortunately this trend seems to be escalating. It’s another example of how far the big publishers have strayed from the path of righteousness / common sense / strategic best practice. 

Take Reuters as an example. I read an article on Reuters yesterday that was split over three pages. The first break came not long after the 200-word mark. 200 words! What is this? Are we living in some kind of weird ADD society? Are people scared of scrolling down the page? Are we crazy about clicking? Splitting up articles into 200 word chunks is nothing short of an outrage. 

But that's nothing on the very worst case I’ve seen, which was published by those cunning foxes over at Forbes, a website that I now steadfastly refuse to visit on the basis of it repeatedly kicking me / readers in the nuts. Forbes has a history of splitting articles into many pages, but worse still, it inserts even more pages into this multi-click experience by allowing a number of full-page ads to appear. Interstitials they’re called, and they normally have the side effect of making the visitor leave the website. It’s a real bastard of a scam. 

Anyway, it’s not just me who hates pagination. Comments on Digg.com often say words to the effect of “dugg for being on one page”.

If you hate pagination as much as I do then here are three ideas to help you avoid clicking through multiple pages:

  1. Click the ‘print view’ link, if there is one. That should neatly aggregate the whole article on one page. See, it really wasn’t so hard to do that was it?
  2. Install a Firefox repagination add-on such as this one, or this one.
  3. Make a mental note and refuse to visit that website in future. 

Ok, so we know about Reuters and Forbes. Here are a few other guilty parties…

There are plenty of others. Please name and shame below. 

Do you support pagination? Are there any valid reasons for going down this route, other than to artificially inflate page impressions? 

[Image by sylvar via Flickr, various rights reserved]

Chris Lake

Published 30 July, 2009 by Chris Lake

Chris Lake is CEO at EmpiricalProof, and former Director of Content at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter, Google+ or connect via Linkedin.

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Svejk

They aren't doing themselves any favours - I would think that most readers will not be bothered to go to the additional pages, especially if the initial page doesn't grab their attention.

I'd love to see the page impressions they get on 2nd, 3rd, 4th pages of an article compared to the lead page. Advertisers would be keen to see that too I'm sure - they won't get their impression count if their ad appears on the 3rd or 4th page of an article.

almost 7 years ago

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Ed Sexton

I'm with you all the way on this one. Pagination is ridiculously annoying.

From a search engine point of view, unless those pages are denoted noindex it also throws up the possibility of landing on the middle or end page of a story from Google which is completely useless.

My name and shame would have to include:
www.seochat.com
www.crash.net (motorsport news site)

almost 7 years ago

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James Morell

You don't get it though do you?! Publishers paginate because they have to. How do publishers make money to provide you all with free content? Ad impressions. How are extra ad impression generated? Pagaination.

I'm sick and tired of people whining about having to click on a link to an extra page and how it's not as 'nice' as getting all the content on one page. What, do you want to *pay* for stuff instead? You won't plain and simple.

Digg users can whine and moan all they want, but they are for a lot of sites a minority (ableit a vocal one) of visitors, and they're not engaged and don't care about the site, they just want to see a list, preferably featuring kittens or tits. Pandering to that kind of user is like saying Big Brother should be on all the time because the ratings are higher than Newsnight.

I'm sure most publishers would agree, they'd rather not paginate, but because of the fundamentally flawed nature of online advertising they have to. That or you start to have to pay for getting you news, and who's going to do that?

almost 7 years ago

Chris Lake

Chris Lake, CEO at Empirical Proof

Yes James, but in doing this they're further encouraging advertisers to buy *impressions* and blast out ads with no concern for targeting. It's the very nature of how advertising is bought / measured online that's the problem, and publishers continue to encourage bad practice. That's my beef. Pagination is just another sign that publishers aren't interested in improving their lot.

almost 7 years ago

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Joseph

Any site that's every used the phrase 'after the jump' is guilty of this.  There's far to many to just call out the big boys, in my opinion.

almost 7 years ago

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James Morell

Chris, I think we're agreed that the purchasing and measurement of online ads is the bigger issue. A sensible publisher targets their ads based on site section, editorial content and more, so having an extra page there makes little difference - people are still looking at the same site area and the advertising should be as targeted.

To my mind online display advertising has become pretty much the same as broadcast advertising - good for brand building, not so good for response. It appears to me that it is now only larger brands that can afford the rates that publishers want to charge and be content with a 0.2% CTR. They aren't generally looking for a direct response sale, they want the brand out there.

Publishers are interested in improving their lot, but they simply can't afford to slice their inventory availabilty in half and therefore their revenue in half. Advertisers seem to care little for the engagement of the audience on a site, they just want to know if it's men aged 18-35 who like film for example.

Scarcity of inventory on a publisher site does little to increase CPMs, instead advertisers go elsewhere and find places where there is inventory and the right demographic. Turning a profit on a site is tough and pagination helps. That's not to say that publishers don't look at other options like creative solutions, affiliate deals, cashback offerings, bingo sites and so on, but frankly as long as revenue comes from CPM advertising pagination is here to stay.

almost 7 years ago

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Svejk

James - I think that in time we will see a growing number of consumers prepared to pay a small fee for their news (or other services). As newspaper sales continue to decline there is a compelling case for a subscription-based online news model for those who want quality journalism without being spammed by advertising.

There are also moves afoot to reduce the % coverage dedicated to ads by the major portals, as it's proven to improve engagement and stickiness, which in turn maintains revenue generation from advertising. Quality, not quantity.

If sites increase ad coverage then users are more likely to turn to ad-blockers, which benefits nobody except the users themselves. Better to 'train' users to accept a moderate level of advertising above the fold than irritate them with every other block being an ad.

If the % advertising content is reasonable and well targeted there should be less reason to paginate just for the sake of getting the impressions up. Advertisors get value for money, and consumers are less irritated. I know which I would choose.

almost 7 years ago

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craigm

One of the reasons why I just don't really like leaving the BBC News website and going into the "commercial news world" (despite being a bit of an apologist for old media in general).

almost 7 years ago

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Tank

you know, I actually like to read the intro text and then get my information in small chunks of text. quite often i read things in drips and drabs whilst doing other "work" tasks and having information seperated out for me is actually quite handy, I actually may even activly avoid large articles just because I dont always have the time to read them.

almost 7 years ago

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