To partition or not to partition?
April 21, 2010 6:10 PM   Subscribe

Do you like or dislike when websites split articles into multiple pages? How does Google handle multi-URL articles?

I work for a small news website. We are considering splitting articles into multiple pages, in order to increase pageviews (and therefore advertising revenue).

Some of us are of the opinion that readers might like this, because it would make the site seem a little more like print, with the correlation to flipping the page. Some of us are of the opinion that it is annoying to readers to have to load multiple pages. I won't divulge which camp I'm in -- I want unbiased answers :)

So, what do you think? Annoying? Fun?

Also: if you know anything about what this would do to our Google News indexing, that info would be helpful too. Rigorous searching on this topic yielded nothing definitive.

posted by nnevvinn to Computers & Internet (64 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Strong dislike. In fact, members here routinely express disgust with such practices when such an article is used in a front page post.

On a more personal note, I don't see ads anyway. So you're not presenting me with new information about some product or service, you're just asking for 3 more clicks.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 6:12 PM on April 21, 2010 [6 favorites]

Some of us are of the opinion that readers might like this

I can not think of a single person for whom this would be true. Readers do not like more work, ever.

If people have already been reading articles on single pages, they will not like this. Otherwise if you're hellbent on this I'd suggest a "printable" option which doesn't do anything other than offer the article on one page in a simple style presentation
posted by jessamyn at 6:14 PM on April 21, 2010 [16 favorites]

Nobody I know likes it but knowing that you need more pageviews to increase ad revenue, I understand the practice and just fail to get all hoppitamoppita about it. I mean, it's not like you're going to be the only ones doing it.
posted by axiom at 6:15 PM on April 21, 2010

I don't like multiple pages. I go out of my way to bookmark articles in single-page format. I like to have a sense of how far I am through the article just by looking at one screen.
posted by Jaltcoh at 6:15 PM on April 21, 2010

I hate it. If you choose to do this, at least add a "print" or "single page" option that puts everything on one page. I do this and then use Readability which reformats into an awesome reading format while removing ads.
posted by procrastination at 6:16 PM on April 21, 2010 [1 favorite]

posted by mollymayhem at 6:16 PM on April 21, 2010 [10 favorites]

i HATE this with a passion.
posted by freddymetz at 6:17 PM on April 21, 2010

adding my vote for "hate" for multiple pages, i find them such a waste of time and kind of an insult, as if i need to be fed information in 1 paragraph blocks at a time or something. sometimes i just stop reading because i'm like "ugh screw this i don't want to have to eventually click on pages 4, 5, 6..." so the website isn't even achieving getting more hits with me.
posted by raw sugar at 6:19 PM on April 21, 2010

Just go for it.

No, no one is going to "like" it, but almost all will deal with it. Moving the little mouse thing and poking a button isn't a big deal. If your worried put a "view as one page" button near the top, some curmudgeons will find it.

I think this is little to ask in order to keep the content free. (And I won't see the damn adds anyway because I have AddBlock and NoScript on, but I won't tell your advertisers if you don't make me eat one of your cookies.)
posted by Some1 at 6:21 PM on April 21, 2010

I understand the rationale for it, but I still don't like it. And I like it even less when the articles are short (as most news articles are), yet divided into multiple pages. Extra WTF in that case.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 6:23 PM on April 21, 2010 [1 favorite]



If you want to give people something that's "print like", give them a fucking PDF. Do you really think that making people look at multiple pages is really going to make them click on multiple ads? They're going to pay even less attention to the ads while they're looking for the next page button.
posted by Jimbob at 6:23 PM on April 21, 2010

posted by dmd at 6:26 PM on April 21, 2010

I don't know anyone that would *prefer* undue pagination of articles, unless page load time is a serious concern. Personally, I don't really mind it all that much if it's a long article and the pagination is reasonable. But dividing up something that's not even that long onto 5 or 6 pages? That's just terrible.

I am certain the average person visiting your site wouldn't be nearly as GRAR about it as some of the folks here. I'd suggest checking with a bigger cross-section of your audience and seeing if you have a negative response. People reading AskMe are probably not wholly indicative of the reaction you might get from the people already reading your site.

Do you really think that making people look at multiple pages is really going to make them click on multiple ads? They're going to pay even less attention to the ads while they're looking for the next page button.

Yeah, but it's not always about click-thru rate. Impressions are impressions. Just pointing that out.
posted by dhammond at 6:27 PM on April 21, 2010 [1 favorite]

Hate it. I assume sites do it to get three or four clicks out of a single article. I hate it. I'm much less likely to keep reading once I get to the bottom and find a "continue on next page" link.

Did I mention I hate it?
posted by 2oh1 at 6:36 PM on April 21, 2010

No one could possible like this.
posted by 2bucksplus at 6:39 PM on April 21, 2010

Tolerate is the best I could give you. But it should be noted that I tend to read more articles on sites that don't do this.
posted by advicepig at 6:42 PM on April 21, 2010

"Some of us are of the opinion that readers might like this"

I'm not trying to be mean here, but... do you work with some really out of touch people? Or are they maybe just dumb?

The bottom line is that you're probably going to do it, so just frigging do it, but don't lie to yourself about it being "fun". WOW. Fun? Really? I swear, once someone has a job that involves the web, it's as if they forget what it was like to actually use the web.

The average company would have their employees spit on customers if it somehow made them a buck.
posted by 2oh1 at 6:42 PM on April 21, 2010 [1 favorite]

I'd say keep the article to one page, well laid out and easy on the eyes, and if it's organized into discrete sections, offer links directly to those anchor points as an added convenience for the reader.

But in the name of all that's holy, don't chop an article into little screen views. You will just increase the net amount of GRAR in this world.
posted by maudlin at 6:42 PM on April 21, 2010

Do you like or dislike when websites split articles into multiple pages?

I dislike it a lot. When I view a page, I have many choices about how to scroll through it: scroll bar, page down, cursor down, and so on. I get to choose which one I feel like using. Splitting into multiple pages takes away this choice and replaces it with a mandatory mouse click to read further. And, I still have to use the scroll bar or keyboard within each page, since they don't usually fit on the screen even after splitting.

The delay waiting for the next page to load is also annoying. It is like turning a page in a printed publication, sort of. Except it's more like when two pages stick together and you have to fiddle with them to get to the page you want. Nobody likes it when that happens, and a page load in the middle of an article is about the same level of annoyance.

We are considering splitting articles into multiple pages, in order to increase pageviews (and therefore advertising revenue).

This is also part of the reason I dislike splitting articles onto multiple pages. It reminds me that the advertiser is your customer, and I am just the product being sold to them. I like to believe I am a special snowflake, not the inventory.

When I encounter articles like this, I usually look for a printer-friendly version (which usually has it all on one page). And I just don't bother clicking on links to certain web sites which are notorious for doing this, so in that case they're getting less page views and advertising revenue, not more, from me.
posted by FishBike at 6:42 PM on April 21, 2010 [4 favorites]

I don't like multiple pages. It wouldn't stop me from reading an article I was very interested in, but it would stop me from reading an article I was only somewhat interested in.
posted by srrh at 6:42 PM on April 21, 2010

Completely loathe the practice. Tiresome, slow pageloads. I will frequently abandon an article if it pulls that stunt on me. It's a toss-up between how good the article is and how much they're trying to milk me for hits.

The web is not print. The web is not print. Tell this to everyone at your office. You don't run over to the reader's home to smear her fingers with newsprint, do you? Then why subject someone to this annoying holdover from the physical realm?
posted by adipocere at 6:43 PM on April 21, 2010

Extremely strong hate. Don't do this.
posted by toxic at 6:44 PM on April 21, 2010

If it's really long (like 10 "page" NYT article long) then I find it reasonable. If it's one image/caption a page, HELL NO
posted by The Biggest Dreamer at 6:45 PM on April 21, 2010

I prefer my web news on a single page, but I would say, if you're going to do this, compromise. Split long articles into two pages at most. In fact, if you're going with the printed newspaper analogy, it's pretty rare that an article involves more than one page-turn, right? So, limit it to two pages, and only do it for articles that are fairly lengthy to begin with. People will be less likely to mind, and more likely to click to the next page, in that case.

I'm way more likely to read a one or two-page article than a six-page article, even if they're technically the same length. Unless the article is really, really awesome, just seeing that there are six more pages I'll have to click through in an online article makes it very likely that I will not read past the first page.
posted by wondermouse at 6:50 PM on April 21, 2010

I feel cheated when I get to the bottom of a page and find it goes on for 5 more pages. More often than not I just don't finish the article.
posted by lilac girl at 6:51 PM on April 21, 2010 [1 favorite]

Now, don't forget that you're reaching a very specific audience here with your question (smart, shiny, wonderful and web-sophisticated people). Which is why everyone is freaking out on you. :) So your sample size is a little skewed (though not wrong).

Some of us however who live in the real world of trying to make a living publishing writing on the web for people to enjoy FREE OF ANY CHARGE WHATSOEVER TO THEM understand that people will not automatically slam your page closed when they discover a 4000-word piece (or, worse, a photo-essay that, if it were one page, would knock out our server for the afternoon!) is paginated a few times. So, fine, paginate; don't paginate unreasonably (after every maybe 900 words or so is fine; also, look at the New Yorker's website for some guidance), and PLEASE provide a "view as single page" option. Preferably a sticky one.

And enjoy some minor and understandable backlash!
posted by RJ Reynolds at 6:56 PM on April 21, 2010

Would you put a rotary dial on the iPhone? By which I mean that splitting pages is more like print, but this is a very poor argument. It's a way of working around the limitations of the medium, not a positive feature. You have a new set of limitations on the web to deal with, there's no reason to purposely inflict the old ones on your readers too. Modeling interfaces after the real world was big in the early days of interface design (think Microsoft Bob), and there's a reason why we don't see that very much any more.

A middle ground: do both. Paginate to increase page views, but also have a "View as single page" link. If you have a giant "Next page" button, most people will click it, and the vocal minority who hates pagination will also be happy. Another tip: have a giant "next page" button. A huge pet-peeve of mine is article pagination without that, just "Page 1, 2, 3, 4". Why do they do this? 99% of the time, I just want to go to the next page, and when I do that, they get to show me more ads. But I have to figure out which page I'm on, then get my mouse inside the hit target, which is usually way too small. Why do they make this so hard?
posted by AlsoMike at 6:58 PM on April 21, 2010 [1 favorite]

This is also incredibly annoying when reading on a mobile device (she posted from her iPhone). I often scroll to the bottom of news articles to check for pagination so I can get an accurate sense of how long the article is and whether I have the time to read it or if I should save it for later. Scrolling to the bottom is tedious on the iPhone, at least. If I scroll all the way to the bottom and find a little row of page links, I usually just give up.

I'm also likelier to be using a slower (cellular) connection, which can make loading an entire news site anew with each "page turn" excruciating. This is assuming your site doesn't have a mobile site or view, which strikes me as a safe bet if you're considering this change.
posted by MadamM at 7:02 PM on April 21, 2010

Why not do a split test? Or, unscientifically, change a popular column into a few pages and see what happens with pageviews. How many people actually click through to the last page?

People think they react differently than they actually do. People will make all kinds of predictions about their behavior that are really not accurate. Especially in front of other people!

There might be scholarly research out there, too, in business/marketing journals.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 7:10 PM on April 21, 2010

Strong dislike. Sense a theme here?

The only time I like web content that is paginated is when there is a purposeful build/reveal of information. Slate's photo slideshows are an example of this technique.
posted by mmascolino at 7:12 PM on April 21, 2010

Solve this empirically. Split test. See if you make more money or get more eyeballs or increase bounces, etc., etc., one way or the other.
posted by zeek321 at 7:13 PM on April 21, 2010

It's like when print newspapers put the last three paragraphs of an article on the last freaking page of the section (magazines do this too). It's annoying, not to mentions frustrating to go looking for it - esp. if the paragraphs are buried under a huge advertisement. grrrr.

When websites do it, I look for a way around it - like if there's a print option, I hit that and read it all in one page in the print preview - just so I don't have to keep clicking to read the stupid article. So much for revenue.
posted by patheral at 7:14 PM on April 21, 2010

Now, don't forget that you're reaching a very specific audience here with your question (smart, shiny, wonderful and web-sophisticated people). Which is why everyone is freaking out on you. :) So your sample size is a little skewed (though not wrong).

I think the OP knew exactly who they were asking and what answers they were going to get. They're just looking for something to point to to prove their point.
posted by Think_Long at 7:15 PM on April 21, 2010 [1 favorite]

I hate it.

I used to think it was case of thoughtless people transferring a useless metaphor from one medium to another, but the fact that it's still done even on the newest and most carefully-designed websites makes me think it must be done for other reasons.

I actually asked a web designer about this. He told me that, in the case websites where users are browsing a long list of items (e.g. search results, e-commerce), users would get lost in very long lists; multiple pages helped them keep track of where they were. Fair enough, if the lists are really that long (say, several hundred items). But as for why sites like NYTimes do it, I have no idea. Maybe they get to count more page views?
posted by k. at 7:36 PM on April 21, 2010

Also, you should note that answers to this question probably come from a self-selected group of people who hate partitioning. People who like it probably don't care as strongly.
posted by k. at 7:39 PM on April 21, 2010

Strong dislike. I definitely prefer to just scroll down the page and read an article rather than click several different pages. If you do decide to go this route, at least add an option for a single page view.
posted by SisterHavana at 8:07 PM on April 21, 2010

What's going to happen? People will get stressed and distracted and they will give up long before they get far enough into your article to really dig it, link everyone to it, and truly up your pageviews.
posted by thejoshu at 8:13 PM on April 21, 2010 [2 favorites]

Mild dislike - I'm not a fan of it, but it won't drive me away, provided the content is worth reading all the way through to begin with. (I actually hate it a lot more on shopping websites; I always want to View All.)

Unlike a lot of people, I'm fairly tolerant of most online advertising, and don't get bothered if there's an IAB-standard leaderboard and rectangle ad on every single page I read; I tend to tune them out. However, I draw the line at ads I actively have to get rid of or navigate around. If your plan to paginate includes any sort of "we will return you to your reading experience after this message" nonsense, please reconsider.
posted by Metroid Baby at 8:21 PM on April 21, 2010 [1 favorite]

[Comment removed. Please do not be dismissive of the people making good faith efforts to answer your question.]
posted by cortex (staff) at 8:26 PM on April 21, 2010

Some of us are of the opinion that readers might like this, because it would make the site seem a little more like print, with the correlation to flipping the page.

These people must not actually use the web very much.

Flipping a print page is near instantaneous. Loading a new web page can take 5-10 seconds, which if you're in the middle of reading something is disruptive and distracting.

Also, "seeming more like print" is not a virtue for a website. It's a flaw.
posted by ook at 8:30 PM on April 21, 2010

Hate hate hate. Stab stab stab! Nothing sucks the wind out of my reading sails like getting to the bottom of the page and seeing all those links for the future pages, especially when it's like 9 or 15 or something. Just makes me peter out. I think this is a combination of being annoyed at having to click through and wait each time and not wanting to read really long articles. It's just a barrier, even if half irrational. I say half because reading on the web just seems to be naturally about quicker scans of things, at least for me. It's the rare really long article that holds my interest.
posted by Askr at 8:36 PM on April 21, 2010

I dislike it intensely. If I'm reading a story that has "continued on page 2,3,4,5,6, ..." at the bottom, I immediately assess whether I want to read further, and then look for the "Print view" button. If there isn't one, there's a good chance I won't keep clicking.

As a side note, I work for a publication that breaks up stories online according to how many pictures are included in the article. That means some of our stories can be nine pages long. We looked at the viewer stats in Google Analytics, and ... a really large percentage of our readers don't make it through more than two page clicks. They're just gone.

Could you look at your page via Google Analytics and get a feel for how long readers stick around on your site?
posted by vickyverky at 8:48 PM on April 21, 2010 [1 favorite]

The New York Times has lots of articles that are split into only two pages. I often click through to the second page. I mind that only a little. Once it gets to pages 3 and so on, I usually get annoyed and give up.

Those linkbait web sites where they post one paragraph per page make me reach for my bad web designer voodoo doll and some rusty pins.
posted by grouse at 8:48 PM on April 21, 2010

Oops, my response came across as dismissive, which wasn't intended. Sorry about that. Trying again:

Think_Long: You got me ;)

RE Split Tests: I think this is a great idea, however I don't think we have enough readers yet to get good data. Also, I'm afraid that would lead us to a bad conclusion, since more pageviews in the short term isn't necessarily an indicator of what our long-term strategy should be. Our readers are indeed special snowflakes, as FishBike said above!

RE Everyone Else: I feel the same way as this group mostly does. Thanks for backing me up, though some people were a bit harsh. I will indeed bring your opinions into the conversation, with the caveat that some mentioned here: MeFites aren't necessarily like all web readers.

If you are curious, here is an example article from the site.

posted by nnevvinn at 8:54 PM on April 21, 2010

If you're going to split the content, at least make sure there's a decent amount of content per page. If I have to click once every 5 seconds I am going to GRAR; if it's once every 5 minutes I won't care so much.
posted by emeiji at 9:14 PM on April 21, 2010

Here's the hidden danger you probably aren't considering:

Your revenue may increase as one reader becomes four clicks, but over time, your 1,000 daily readers may become 600. Granted, you may still come out ahead in terms of clicks... but if that's all you want, you might as well run a porn site instead. I'm not kidding. Booooooobies = clicks.

How important are the readers you have? Are extra clicks worth the loss of some readers? I know I've certainly walked away from websites that treat me poorly. 4 clicks for an article? It's not like there aren't other places on the web where I can spend my time.

Your real worry shouldn't be people like me walking away. Nope. Your real worry should be the countless new readers who find your site for the first time and don't come back because they didn't bother clicking again and again, which means they didn't finish the article... which means they didn't really finish the thought you presented... which also means they're less likely to be impressed enough by what they read to pass it along or even bother to return.

That's your future reader - gone before you even had him or her. And for what? Greed clicks?

"I feel the same way as this group mostly does. Thanks for backing me up, though some people were a bit harsh."

Were they harsh, or were they frank. Surely you realize there is a difference.

Best of luck fighting the good fight... unless you're on the other side... but never forget that your readers are your future. Lose sight of that and you might as well not be in the business.
posted by 2oh1 at 9:18 PM on April 21, 2010 [3 favorites]

2oh1, thanks for the thoughtful response. You summed it up well. I hope my colleagues come to look at it the way you (and others here) do.
posted by nnevvinn at 10:19 PM on April 21, 2010

RE Split Tests: I think this is a great idea, however I don't think we have enough readers yet to get good data.

Get your priorities straight. If you don't have enough visitors to get enough data then you aren't getting enough visitors to worry about ad revenue. Work on getting your visitor numbers up first. A good way to encourage that is to provide the best experience for the (ie: All on one page). At least at first. When you have a thriving audience you can then start experimenting on them.
posted by Ookseer at 10:23 PM on April 21, 2010 [1 favorite]

For articles that are over 1,000 words, I am OK with it being split into two pages. Never three. If there's not a "Display on a single page" type link at the top of the article, I'm not going to frequent the site. Scrolling all the way to the bottom to get the single page link? Why? Why do sites do this to me? Also, for image heavy articles, I understand why multiple pages are necessary for server loads and it does not make me angry.
posted by stoneweaver at 10:43 PM on April 21, 2010

stoneweaver: "Scrolling all the way to the bottom to get the single page link? Why? Why do sites do this to me?"

At least you can kid yourself it was done that way so you get a sample before reading the whole thing*.

It's not as bad as the sites that make you scroll all the way back up to the top just to get to the 'next page' link. That's something which is becoming more common, and I'm convinced it's less bad design and more "let's force those ads back past their eyeballs one more time".

As for the original question: yeah, hate it, but understand it (and I'm about as anti ads-on-the-'net as you'll find). As long as you're reasonable about it and don't do the '5 paragraphs spread over 10 pages' bull, I'll read it. But remember, I'm blocking the ads.

(* A few sites have the "view as single page" link jump you direct to the beginning of the next unread paragraph in single-page view. Even fewer have the top single-page link jump to the top of the article, and the bottom single-page link jump you to the next paragraph. IIRC, the Melbourne Age used to be like that. I always appreciated that, both as a sign of consideration to their readers and as well-considered web design…)
posted by Pinback at 12:23 AM on April 22, 2010

Not only does everybody hate this, but I don't believe it increases advertising revenue much, if at all.

I make my living from web advertising so I know whereof I speak. Most advertisers and ad networks like to see as many unique visitors as possible, and when the same person loads several pages in a row, the ad network doesn't serve them ads anymore.

Your best hope in that situation is to hand off subsequent pageviews to different ad providers, and even on a site where I deal with six major networks, I'm not getting paid after your 7th pageview or so.

I don't think we have enough readers yet to get good data

Ookseer is right. If you don't have enough visitors to get good data, you don't have enough visitors to make money yet, let alone enough to enjoy the maybe 20% increase in ad revenue you might get by splitting pageviews.

Your goal right now should be to get more visitors. You can run ads now, but it will take a while to make money with them. When you start making significant money with the ads, then you have enough readers to (a) test various ad schemes on and (b) ask the opinions of so you can avoid losing them.
posted by mmoncur at 1:46 AM on April 22, 2010 [4 favorites]

For an article only as long as the one you linked to, multiple clicks are going to drive me away. Something maybe six or seven times as long could maybe be split onto two pages. I don't mind having a break halfway through a large article, but only if it's well written and pretty big.
posted by Jilder at 2:13 AM on April 22, 2010

You should also consider if any small increase in ad revenue will be just wiped out by the extra bandwidth cost of splitting an article up into 4 pages...
posted by derbs at 3:36 AM on April 22, 2010

I hate it, and I have stopped reading a bunch of top-rated websites because of this. Everybody knows why you're doing this - it's to increase revenue at the expense of your readers. So it makes you look cheap and nasty. It slows things down; it makes it hard to refer to particular bits of the text ("Wait, where was that paragraph that I thought made a good point? Page seven? Or eight? Maybe it was closer to the beginning ..."); it interrupts the flow of my reading.

I'm probably not your market. But I suspect that I'm where the market is going, and that if your firm wants a future it will have to stop pretending that web pages are metaphors for bits of paper.
posted by Joe in Australia at 5:06 AM on April 22, 2010 [1 favorite]

I tolerate it at places like the NYTimes and New Yorker, where the quality of writing is high and the articles are pretty long. (And the website loads fairly cleanly.) I hate hate hate HATE it and it drives me away from, oh, a couple of the big parenting websites where they only let me read two short paragraphs before clicking "next" and it loads overcomplicated menus and graphics and 9 zillion metric ass-tons of nonsense EVERY TIME IT LOADS. Those parenting websites want my eyeballs for their advertisers (new moms are a gold mine), but they make it SOOOOO intolerable to read anything there by trying to break it into 9 pages to up the pages views and advertising impressions that they simply lose my eyes completely.

I think it also matters if your stories are news/breaking or if they're perennial pieces of information ... when I want to find out what table foods to give my 10 month old, I have NO impetus to use one of these God-awful parenting websites, regardless of the fact that they make the information google-able, because I can go look in a parenting book I bought used for $2. Whereas the NYTimes can get away with more because that's new information I may only be able to find at the Times.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 6:55 AM on April 22, 2010

Clicking on little links is nothing like "flipping the pages" in a book, and besides in newspapers you don't flip pages, but rather you need to go see what page an article is "continued" on and then go find it, it's annoying in regular newspapers too.

If you want to show more ads, just break up the articles every 500-1000 words and stick some ads in.

That said, there are some non-aggravating ways of doing this. The best is when you just have a bunch of divs on one page, and navigation. That way "the scrollbar works" for people who want it, but you can still have links to different "pages".

The old international herald tribune had an innovative way that let you slide through columns in a somewhat pagelike way. I liked it, but I think a lot of people hated it. And that was all done with sophisticated CSS so the "pages" were exactly the height of your browser window. And they didn't have many ads.

The Wag's Review site has an interesting take as well. Each "page" is an actual page and you click through, with thumbnails to move back and forth quickly. In the first issue it was all actually JPGs. I didn't find it too annoying but it was linked on the blue and people seemed to hate it.

I don't mind trying to be innovative just to be innovative. But most people don't like it. And I'm really annoyed, just like everyone else, at clicking tons of next-page, or numbers to read a whole article.

The worst are sites where you get one image plus a caption and a shitload of clicks to read anything. The Village Voice Slideshows are the one of the worst example's I've seen, especially since it takes a second to load each picture when you click on it. It wouldn't be to bad if the new pages opened quickly.
posted by delmoi at 7:49 AM on April 22, 2010

I back 2oh1's post.

Here's why

I visit the nytimes daily, I often don't click through on some articles that are not at the top of my mental priority list that gets formed based on reading the first few paragraphs of the article. If it requires 2 or more clicks then I'm probably not reading it.

If it's something that I prefer to digest in bite sized and ponder as the next page loads then I prefer to read through each page.

The key here though is twofold,

this is not some generic brand I landed on through a google search.

The amount of resonance the content feels with me is the second key here.

So, you probably want to focus on two factors

One, previous readers may be vocal and prefer a one page version.

Two, new readers like me will turn away because of the amount of clicks it takes unless you are the only website specializing in that kind of content and it is hard to find. (for example, it's hard to find the nytimes writing style on other websites).

There are more factors here for you to consider than just asking a few people. At the end of the day, it's an experiment but you're going to need something enticing for those readers you lose to come back.

Maybe do it incrementally only for a couple of articles and not for all? It seems like you need to work on a win-win solution and your content really does need to matter as much.
posted by iNfo.Pump at 10:07 AM on April 22, 2010

"Maybe do it incrementally only for a couple of articles and not for all?"

The problem with that approach is that readers will tolerate it initially, which means the results will be flawed to suggest extra clicks do no harm. Using the NY Times as a perfect example: initially, I did keep clicking to continue reading when they started breaking up their stories because I was used to going to their site for my news. Over time, I started only reading the first page of a story. And then, I started looking at other news sites more often. In the end, I quit reading the NY Times site entirely. This happened over time and it wasn't exactly a conscious decision.
posted by 2oh1 at 12:05 PM on April 22, 2010 [1 favorite]

I don’t buy the argument that MeFites are too elite and overinformed to constitute a reliable sounding board. In essence, the argument states that ignoramuses could possibly be right except we don’t have any of them here.

We’re right. Pagination is an abomination. Nobody should be trying to conjure an imaginary set of great-unwashed Web users who, by virtue of their own greenhorn nature, like the practice. These people do not exist.
posted by joeclark at 1:58 PM on April 22, 2010 [3 favorites]

Super annoying! So much so in fact that I've (impending shameless self promotion) written a Chrome extension that redirects to the print only pages on some sites.

...Fit to Print

It's open source. Feel free to use and/or contribute more sites @
posted by zackola at 2:12 PM on April 22, 2010

1. I dislike it when there are multiple pages - especially when the link is some dumb Top Ten and they spread all ten ideas over ten pages (so they want me to spend more time waiting for pages to load that actually reading their site?). I won't get past the first page.

2. I don' t mind a two page spread, like on Slate, although I get angry when the second page has only a few lines. Preference is to one page, but I see why they do it. Slate also has a single-page mode. I would say I click to page two about half the time.

3. I actually like it with some NY Times articles, like when I read a wall of text, feel fulfilled and then see that there are 13 more pages to go just like it. In these cases I back away slowly.
posted by yeti at 3:26 PM on April 22, 2010

When I see pages like this it makes me think of early web design guidelines, from the time when "page loading times" for pages with just text and a small amount of graphics were a serious concern for web design; there was a concern that if the page didn't load quickly enough, potential readers would just give up waiting and just go onto another site.

As a result I tend to think that sites that still go for this idea of splitting up pages are a bit old fashioned---don't they realise that everyone has broadband these days? Have they really not updated their web design skillz since 1997? As a result, this idea rubs off onto my overall impression of the site, and I start to think that the content is probably going to be a bit out of date too. Particularly if the site is about technology, my impression of the whole site is that it just isn't going to be up-to-date and therefore is probably not worth returning to. Of course there are counterexamples, if the content is good enough...but the first impression often sticks.
posted by Jabberwocky at 4:46 PM on April 22, 2010

zackola, love the Fit to Print extension. Combined with Readability, this makes for pretty good web browsing.

The funny part is that our editor is also the editor for one of the big sites Fit to Print is meant to work with, and is a proponent of pagination.

joeclark, I tend to agree with you. I realized something interesting when discussing this with my colleagues though: They don't know how to scroll. I scroll with two fingers, Mac-style. Most people do it like me, or with a scroll-wheel, or a scroll-strip on PC laptops. But my colleagues track over, click the scroll bar, hold the track-pad button down and do the little dance with their finger to drag the scroll bar downward. They both have trackpads capable of fast scrolling, but they don't seem to use them for some reason. So in their case, clicking a button to get to the next "page" instead of scrolling the whole way might actually be less trouble.

I certainly don't think that is an argument for doing traditional pagination on websites, but it does make me curious about trying to pull off something more innovative, like the site delmoi mentioned, Wag's Review (which is neat, thanks delmoi!). If we could do something that actually improved our readers' experience, and at the same time helped us out a little with generating the impressions that our advertisers are so hungry for (this came up because we are sold out!), that would be pretty cool.

Also: I agree with what folks have said about priorities, re: working on geting a loyal base of readers before worrying about squeezing out impressions. I guess I should have been more specific though. We don't have that many readers (1,500 visits on a good weekday), but since our site covers a very narrow market that has a lot of money, we are selling very expensive ads, and so a few hundred extra impressions would be significant for us as a startup needing to survive.

Thanks again for everyone's thoughtful comments. I hope others Googling for input the way I originally did find this thread. Kinda makes me want to ask other things too; in this case the responses were close to what I had imagined, but I'm sure I'm doing some things as a developer that people dislike without even knowing it.
posted by nnevvinn at 8:16 AM on April 23, 2010

Although I posted above on a reason not to paginate, I just thought of a possible reason to do it. Metrics. When you split articles in two you can find out exactly which articles people are interested in by who clicks onward. While you probably can't take that info and turn it straight into ad revenue, a smart site runner could use the info to place the most compelling content in the best light. Which would get you happier, more engaged viewers and from them more ad revenue.

However the utility of the data depends on the structure of the site and the skills and priorities of the people running it. There's an old saying that most site analytics are ignored and the rest is misinterpreted.
posted by Ookseer at 12:16 PM on April 24, 2010

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