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Ad Fraud Grows In Wine Country: Turns Off Readers, Misleads Advertisers

If you’re an advertiser and an publication suddenly announces a massive jump in page views and/or visits, you should smell a rat.

THE DEVIL (AND THE RAT): IN THE DETAILS

The situation has only grown more intense since Wine Industry Insight’s two recent articles on the current trends in defrauding advertisers and driving readers away:

Wine country’s Santa Rosa Press Democrat recently re-made its web site in a way that guarantees higher page views by depriving readers of the choice to read an article on one continuous page.

The illustration, below, from WII’s May 27 article article shows that the PD had offered a “View One Page” option.

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This image from the bottom of that same article shows how many little pieces it had been sliced and diced into in a desperate attempt to inflate page views for the sake of ad sales and fraudulently boosting web site traffic numbers.

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PRESS DEMOCRAT NOW TRAPS USERS INTO MULTI-PAGE HELL

The one-page option has been eliminated (see below) so that Press Democrat users now have no choice but to waste time clicking through itty-bitty article bits.

Research shows that a large number of web surfers will just click away rather than go through that process. Offending your viewers is no way to build loyalty or create a good feeling for advertisers.

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PAGINATION CAUSES VISITOR LOSS, MAJOR USABILITY ISSUES

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…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.”

“PAGE JUICING” = USER FRUSTRATION

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.

MORE REFERENCES ON WEB PAGE USABILITY