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Pages on web-published articles.
When writing for a magazine, because of physical limitations, articles get broken into columns and pages, so it's more common than not for an article to be spread across several pages, causing the reader to turn pages, etc.

When writing for the web, the physical limitations aren't there, and it's possible to have an article of virtually unbounded length all available at once, available at a scroll-down.

Why do web-sites split articles across multiple pages, then? An example is this Vanity Fair article on Barack Obama, split across 9 pages.

Scientific American is getting better at this (aside from putting a lot of their long-form stuff behind a pay-wall). It used to be that the appeared to have a fixed page-length, so stuff which was approximately a page long often ended up with half a paragraph on page 2, or sometimes just the about-the-author info.

I see this more with traditional print publications than with blogs or "new media" sites. Is this just a hold-over from pre-web publishing thinking?

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One reason is ad sales. The sites can (and often do) charge based on placement on the page and number of page views, among other criteria, just like with print media. Something at the top, near the main site banner, that's going to be seen every time someone visits commands a premium vs. something that's a page or more down that will only be seen sometimes. Splitting an article into multiple pages, rather than letting it go on and on over a single page, helps them better control how far down a page they try to sell ads and helps them maximize potential page views. (If I were more coherent, I'd go into greater detail, but I'm nearing the end of a fast and having trouble completing sentences.)

So in a way, this is a hold-over from pre-web thinking, just perhaps not the way that you meant that phrase. And, of course, this isn't the only reason and wouldn't come into play at all for a site that isn't ad supported. But it's definitely one reason for many sites, including Vanity Fair.

Edited at 2012-09-26 09:06 pm (UTC)

Yep, page views for ad impressions, plus the idea that someone clicking through nine pages of article is nine "hits" for the site, which they can then take to ad agencies to negotiate for higher ad rates.

There's an extension called AutoPager for Firefox that will 'autoload' the additional pages and make one long scrolling page for most sites. It may be on Chrome as well, not sure.

As others have mentioned, it's mostly about having more room for ads. At least some magazines, though, do have a "view as one page" option (generally in tiny little print somewhere near the links to the various pages).

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