Photo: NY Mag
Why is the Internet so obsessed with slideshows?Slideshows help subsidise websites in two ways: first, every time a new slide is clicked, a new ad is loaded, and a new page view is counted. Page views tell advertisers how many times their ad is loaded.
Second, “humans are novelty-seekers,” according to Chadwick Matlin at the Columbia Journalism Review. Every time we click, we get fresh stimulation, and dopamine leaks into our brain. This makes us want to keep clicking… again and again and again.
Every site is trying to figure out a sustainable business model, and even the most asinine galleries help to subsidise the serious, thoughtful, and wordy articles that don’t earn as much traffic…The Huffington Post’s eleven-page presentation, ‘Simona Halep Breast Reduction Surgery PHOTOS: Tennis Star Back in Action” is only Exhibit A.
We also think slideshows can make for really good Web-based story-telling. Here’s how Business Insider CEO Henry Blodget explained it to CJR:
“Every new medium develops certain forms of storytelling…ways of conveying information that take advantage of what the medium does well…relative to other media,” Blodget wrote over e-mail. “Good slide shows help increase engagement (time on site, page views), the same way an excellent article helps increase the amount of time a reader spends with a newspaper or magazine. Bad ones don’t help with anything.”
But not all slideshows are created equal. CJR comes up with a taxonomy of slideshows, which, true to form, we’ve turned into another slideshow.
'Aesthetically intriguing but editorially empty, the gallery is photojournalism's most valuable contribution to the economics of web journalism. All slideshows are, in a way, galleries, but the true gallery is defined by its simplicity. The photos do the talking, which means they're usually hyperbolic in their beauty, horror, or strangeness. Typical example: 'PHOTOS: Astronauts' Spectacular Twitter Pictures From Space,' The Huffington Post.'
'A gallery with more of an editorial bent, listicles are an easy way to trap the completist reader into clicking through the whole thing. Listicle creators are essentially modern-day collectors, assembling and categorising disparate items to make a larger point. Typical example: 'A Complete Guide to Justin Bieber's Dance Moves,' Vulture.com.'
'Once again, an organizational framework is applied to the classic gallery, and once again it makes it a more propulsive read. Great timelines are trips through a past the audience either vaguely remembers, or that informs the zeitgeist of the present. Typical example: 'The Secret Origins of Clippy: Microsoft's Bizarre Animated Character Patent,' Technologizer.'
'A visual display of the kitchen sink. When there's a loose scattering of things to be presented, and no good way to present them cohesively, they may as well be presented visually. It's an unadulterated play for your clicks with little editorial value. Typical example: 'VOTE: Where Should Arianna Stop on Her 'Third World America' Tour?' The Huffington Post.'
'The most noticeable slideshow on the web, and also the most virulent. As scanty as it is shameless, it's often organised around a theme, celebrity, or body part, the sex show can range from scandalous to staid, depending on the site's editorial tenor. Typical example: 'Blake Lively's Breast Looks,' Vulture.com.'
'The most dignified of the lot, the slideshow essay is text-heavy, using images as illustrations. Its defining characteristic is a larger narrative woven through all the slides. Focus is on the interplay between images and words. The images amplify the ideas in the text while staying out of its way. Typical example: 'The Architecture of Edward Hopper,' Slate.'
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