FREE! Subscribe to News Fetch, THE daily wine industry briefing - Click Here

Todd Sheppard


Ad Fraud: Stuffing The Page-View Ballot Box

My May jeremiad on shoddy web site pagination practices (Online Advertising Page-View Fraud Growing) provoked a lot of emails, mostly from web and online professionals who would shun the practice except for (as one email phrased it) “powers that be who like the way that pagination stuffs the page-view ballot box.”

Screen Shot 2013-06-10 at 3.50.04 PM

The fact that advertisers pay money based on exaggerated page views concocted through user-hostile pagination efforts is simply fraud.

And it is user-unfriendly, creates a hostile environment in which ads appear and has the effect of driving users away from the site.


Perhaps nothing raises the issue of web user frustration and hatred more intensely (and humorously) than this article from Salon: “Stop Pagination Now”:

“Pagination is one of the worst design and usability sins on the Web, the kind of obvious no-no that should have gone out with blinky text, dancing cat animations, and autoplaying music. It shows constant, quiet contempt for people who should be any news site’s highest priority—folks who want to read articles all the way to the end.

The piece then compares the practice to steroid use in sports:

“Pageview juicing is a myopic strategy. In the long run, unfriendly design isn’t going to help websites win new adherents, and winning new readers is the whole point of being a website. I bet that if all news sites switched to single-page articles—and BuzzFeed-style scrolling galleries instead of multipage slideshows—they’d experience short-term pain followed by long-term gain. Their articles would get shared more widely and, thus, win more loyal, regular visitors for the publication.

As evidence for this, the Salon piece cites Joshua Topolsky, editor of the Verge — one of the most heavily trafficked sites on the web who said:

“From the beginning, there’s been a company-wide belief that we can marry great advertising with great content and not have to cheat or trick our users. And so far, that’s proven 100 percent correct. Our traffic has been on a big climb, and I believe advertisers are really beginning to see the true value in engaged users who care (and return) versus sheer volume of pageviews (though our pageviews have also been through the roof).”

While the Salon article points to a popular rationalization among pagination proponents: That users like it, especially for long (such as 5,000+ word) articles, there is no credible data to support that contention,  and many other reasons that belie its validity.


Jakob Nielsen, a Principal in the Nielsen/Norman Group — the premier web site usability consulting firm — said in an online article ( Users’ Pagination Preferences and ‘View All’) that:

Linear content flows—such as articles like this—should almost never be broken up into multiple screens. It’s better to show the full article on one long screen than to inflict the pain of additional steps on users when all they want to do is read an article, and thus stay within that one item.”


Download time is one of the greatest issues that drive visitors away. Every pagination offers yet another delay to drive users away.

Screen Shot 2013-06-10 at 3.47.18 PM

Depending on whether you are looking at mobile or broadband (see bullets below) a web site will lose 33% of its visitors if a page fails to load in 4 to 8 seconds. And nearly ALL will be gone if the load reaches 15 seconds.

This page below (the mobile version of the article I used as an example in the previous article), took 18 seconds to download to my iPhone at Starbucks and  illustrates the issue:

With an 18-second download to get to this point, I would never have waited unless I wanted to get a screen capture for this article. And I would never, ever bother to click on a continuation. I'm growing old too fast as it is.

With an 18-second download to get to this point, I would never have waited unless I wanted to get a screen capture for this article. And I would never, ever bother to click on a continuation.


Users suffer and advertisers suffer: the only parties who benefit from pagination as currently practiced are unscrupulous sites who use it to charge more for advertisers than warranted.