Splitting The Page

Among my writing and site editing friends, there are some differing opinions on the split-page article layout. Some people think a long article should be split up into several pages, with a link to the next page at the bottom,  in case people are intimidated by articles over a certain wordcount.  Other people think it’s silly to force people to keep clicking, it makes it harder to scroll up and check what the guy’s name was again, and that readers drop off before clicking to page 2 or 3. But having a split-page generates extra clicks, which makes site revenue, and we like money! But it also bores readers, and we like readers! It’s like our generation’s Oxford comma. And much like the Oxford comma, people that don’t do it my way are really sacrificing readability, but we can still be friends.

Just in case you were wondering if splitting your article over 2 or more pages is a good idea, this Politico piece talks about Paul Ryan nicknaming Romney “The Stench” and then follows it up with some comments about Ryan bringing that needed razzle-dazzle to the Republican ticket with PowerPoint presentations sexily titled “Canada: Friendly Giant to the North.” and “Your Share Of The National Debt”.

The bit about the Stench nickname, including “Tell Stench I’m having finger sandwiches with Peggy Noonan and will text him later.” (Is there MLA style for an actual quote from a pretend Ryan in the real Politico piece?) got picked up as news on Gawker and related non-satire, not-kidding headlines are appearing.

If you trust Politico as a news outlet, and you believe the quotes that Politico attributes to real people are from the real people quoted, and you take a line about Iowans being even polite to soybeans as a throwaway commentary on Midwestern manners, the first page reads like a typical campaign story. The second page, where the bit about the sexy PowerPoint slides can be found, is quite clearly not journalism. It’s pretty hard to read to the end without realizing it’s goofy and embellished.

I’m usually a huge fan of exaggeration for effect (And I’m the world’s biggest fan of hyperbole! You’re welcome.), but I’m not totally sure what point the author was trying to make here, unless MAYBE his editor is a fan of the two-page piece and the author really, really thinks readers don’t click through, and wanted to prove it?


Also, the following information from the Politico piece is not satire. This is straight fact, and I challenge anyone to watch a PowerPoint presentation and disagree.

Conducting a PowerPoint presentation is a lot like smoking a cigar. Only the person doing it likes it. The people around him want to hit him with a chair.


Edited Sept 2.: Farhad Manjoo has a Slate piece on the same layout problem, and comes down on the same side as I do. He doesn’t say it’s directly tied to the Politico thing, but it did come out just a couple days later afterward, and has a sarcastic second page so…

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7 Responses to Splitting The Page

  1. Bill Olander says:

    As a commuter with sporatic connectivity, a single large article is so much more preferable. I need to have the whole article loaded into memory during my time with internet because I don’t know when my next window will be and it definitely isn’t in regular intervals that match with when I finished the article.

  2. Abigail says:

    I have to agree that more than one article per page is my preference. I like to see at least a couple of other options on the page I’m reading. Then I can always look at more pages later. But give me options, dammit!

  3. Rebekkah says:

    I disagree. I never enjoy giving PowerPoints.

    I dislike split-page reading because sometimes older computers take forever to load each page, and sometimes the attempt to do switch pages makes the hamsters that run said computer go on strike for five or six minutes, or however long they decide they don’t like whatever ad or social media button is trying to load. So frequently I just don’t get to read the entire article, because hamster-run computer is too busy crashing to get the second page.

  4. Meg says:

    Yeah, I’m more into the one-page because you can get the whole thing at once. Easy to scroll up and down and easier to read.

    I think the split page encourages writers to headline-bait or otherwise troll for clickthroughs, and no one enjoys a FREE BEER! headline followed by “We all like free beer, but have you considered how it related to the actual topic of this article….”

  5. bridget says:

    The “view as a single page” option is nice, and I don’t mind the second click; however, anything that forces me to click through five or six times is just something that I won’t read. Not out of laziness or graphophobia, but out of a lack of desire to spend too much of my life watching pages load.

    • Meg says:

      The idea that a page of text is somehow discouraging to readers is weird to me. Use a pullquote or image, just like magazines have been doing for long articles and casual readers for years!

      Also, readers who don’t want to read are weird.

  6. bethie says:

    Split pages are dumb! There’s my opinion!

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