Financial advisors, or at least those who are social-media savvy, are this week expressing their displeasure with one of the most popular and ubiquitous types of features on the Internet: The slideshow.
"Dear Industry Publications," tweets Michael Kitces. "Slideshows are annoying, slow to load, & mobile unfriendly. Please stop. Sincerely, Busy Financial Advisors."
Kitces -- as part of an exchange on Twitter with Bill Winterberg, Nathan Gehring, Jude Boudreaux, myself, and others -- says slideshows are nothing more than a way for media sites to "juice their page view count to fool advertisers."
Plus, Kitces says slideshows adversely affect the user experience. "I find it very frustrating that sites drag down their user experience just to juice their page view count to fool advertisers," he tweets.
What’s more, media sites should not waste any time developing slideshows that are fast to load and mobile-friendly. "I'm a busy professional. If someone wants to show me a list, just put it on one darn page so I can read it. ;)," tweets Kitces.
Other advisors share Kitces’ point of view.
"Agree 100%," tweets Boudreaux. “I think it's fool’s gold, short-term gain in page views, but lose readers over time. “
That advisors are expressing their displeasure over slideshows could become a problem for industry publications. In fact, advisors are suggesting that media sites that post mobile-unfriendly and slow-to-load slideshows not only risk losing readers over time, but page views in the short term. “I don't share/retweet any ‘article’ that's just page view-grabbing nuisance slideshow,” tweets Kitces. “Heaven forbid someone actually makes it easy for me to read the article. Might accidentally share it!”
Abbie Pack also took issue with websites that post videos, as well. “Skimming text much faster,” she tweets.
To be sure, media sites have their reasons for posting slideshows that feature the “10 best this” or the “10 worst that.”
For one, slideshows are hard to scrape. The slideshow “prevents scraping programs like Pocket from functioning,” tweets Gehring. “I've read statements critical of Pocket and others because they deflate page views.”
But the bigger reason by far is this: Readers love ‘em, even when -- as in the case of such sites as the Bleacher Report -- they appeal (or shall we say pander) to the lowest common denominator. In fact, more often than not, slideshows featuring the best and worst of something are found at the top of any most-read list on any media company’s website.
(For what it’s worth, SF Weekly recently published an article about the Bleacher Report featuring this commentary: “High-trafficking Bleacher Report articles include "25 Wardrobe Malfunctions in Sports," "The 20 Biggest Criers in Sports," and "10 Possible Tiger Woods Porn Spin-offs: Mistress Edition." The site quickly earned a rep for expertly employing the Google search engine to inundate the web with horrible, lowest-common-denominator crap.”) Then again, who couldn’t resist taking a peak (using either Google Chrome’s incognito or Microsoft Internet Explorer’s InPrivate Browsing features, of course) at The Bleacher Report’s “The 50 Sexiest Sports Twitter Accounts to Follow.”
Editors for those publications did not respond to my requests for comments before this article was posted, but we will post any and all comments if and when we get responses. For the record, Financial Planning did post this tweet in response to Kitces: “I think there is a careful balancing act when it comes to slideshows. We want to provide great content in a lot of mediums.”
In response to Financial Planning magazine's tweet, Kitces offered this: “At the least, clearly indicate in tweets & emails which links are for slideshows, so they're easier to avoid!”
By way of background, InvestmentNews seemingly posts at least one slideshow per day. Earlier this week, for instance, InvestmentNews ran this slideshow: “The 10 B-Ds that rate highest with potential breakaways.” That slideshow, not surprisingly, was ranked as the most-read story as of Oct. 9 on InvestmentNews’ website.
For his part, Kitces says the fact that that story was the most-read story means nothing to him. "I'll confess I was one of those clicks," he says. "It was an interesting headline. Until I saw it was a slide show, which ended the experience."
Kitces says if InvestmentNews' B-D slideshow was an an article or list he would have read it to the end. "I would have shared it," he says. "I might have even included it in weekend reading. Instead, I didn't read it, I didn't share it, and I won't tell anyone about it. If InvestmentNews gets enough slideshows in their content, I'll just stop clicking on their headlines altogether. Simply put, writing interesting headlines that deliver clicks and backing it with nuisance content that delivers no value is a self-destructive business model. Short-term clicks, long-term reader attrition."
Meanwhile, an editor for another financial trade publication had this to say about slideshows.
Lee Barney, who is now managing editor of Plan Adviser magazine and formerly an editor at SourceMedia, publisher of Financial Planning magazine, says her new employer, Asset International, does not run slideshows on its websites, as far as she can tell.
“SourceMedia uses them quite frequently,” she says. “They are very popular with readers” and yield “tremendous boosts in readership and page view numbers.”
To be fair, what’s popular with readers -- especially photographs of people from conferences -- aren’t necessarily popular with editors. From the editorial point of view, they are very time consuming to post, she says. “It still takes hours on even a streamlined content management system (to post),” Barney says.
Barney also took issue with the notion that slideshows are mobile unfriendly. “As most readers of trade publications spend the majority of their day in an office or with a handheld tablet, to date, I have never heard editors express concern over the inability to view slideshows on a smartphone,” she says.
What are your views about slideshows? Post your comments below.