Across the web, slideshows have become a shortcut to better traffic numbers; a shortcut that sites are now going out of their way to take. And increasingly they’re published because of the medium, not the message. The Huffington Post’s eleven-page presentation, “Simona Halep Breast Reduction Surgery PHOTOS: Tennis Star Back in Action” is only Exhibit A. New York and its new entertainment site, Vulture.com, have also committed to the slideshow, running several every week.
As page views became a priority, web editors had to decide when slideshows morph from fun novelty to craven solicitation. When I visit sites like The Huffington Post, I start to think the line has been irretrievably crossed. A slideshow’s desperation is evident in its headline. “Photos” of something “spectacular,” “magnificent,” and “amazing.” A “Top 10” list that must be seen to be believed! The hyperbole is hung out there on a string, baiting us to click.
But maybe all this pandering is worth it. Every site is trying to figure out a sustainable business model, and even the most asinine galleries help to subsidize the serious, thoughtful, and wordy articles that don’t earn as much traffic. Perhaps we should stop thinking of slideshows as the scourge of online journalism. Instead, we should consider them its savior.