‘As page views became a priority, web editors had to decide when slideshows morph from fun novelty to craven solicitation’
Chadwick Matlin’s rough taxonomy of the new slideshow economy:
In May 2009, Thebigmoney.com was shouting into the void. Slate’s business site was eight months old, but it was still averaging only 50,000 page views a day, well below The Slate Group’s goal. Staff members, of which I was one, were at a loss: Where do you find an extra 100,000 page views laying around?
But then, manna descended. The tech team had finally built a way for us to publish a slideshow. Until then, The Big Money didn’t have the capability to run simple photo galleries that would earn a page view—and display a new ad—after every new click. Within days we ran our first slideshow, a visual essay about the history of credit-card design. Overnight, we found our 100,000 page views. Over the next few days, the slideshow made up 40 percent of our total traffic.
Slideshows quickly became an economic salve, and so they soon became an editorial priority. The agenda for weekly story meetings had a spot reserved to discuss upcoming slideshows. When that wasn’t enough, more meetings were held specifically to generate new slideshow ideas. Freelancers were encouraged to pitch stories that could be turned into slideshows.