The Stupidity of Multi-Part "Articles"

Authors of online content seem to just love multi-part articles. Usually they’re guides or reviews, and it doesn’t matter if it’s a big site or a no-name blog: authors just love to leave you hanging. It’s not good “visitor retainment practice” — it’s just annoying and pretentious. It leaves readers with half a thought (which can be far more dangerous than none), and it leaves the author looking like a stupid kind of guy.

It’s one thing when you say “Part 1 of the Mega Vista Review” – you can succinctly sum up an entire section or sections of the topic, completely contained within its own article. But it’s quite another thing when you say “How to play solitaire: Part one, shuffling the deck.” But that’s what most sites seem to love to do, and it’s just plain wrong, on many levels. Most importantly of all, not only does the reader no benefit, but the authors also do themselves no good: that reader isn’t going to come back a month from now to read part 2!

Depending on just how intriguing the topic is, a random reader of your site won’t wait for the next installment, they’ll either search Google for more info (and you can bet they’ll find it!), or just drop the topic and pretend it never happened. Worse than them not coming back next week is that they’ll Google for – and find – a site that doesn’t engage such a belittling practice, and it’s not too difficult to guess where they’ll go the next time they want some info.

Such articles generally have enough real content for a paragraph or two. They split it across two to six pages of pure ads and fill the space with fluff and ifs and buts. They’ll rephrase the question in a million different ways, and they’ll tell you to come back next week for the answer. They pretend the user will fall for this, and eager sit day and night by the computer refreshing Internet Explorer (or using Opera 9’s nifty auto-refresh feature!) waiting for that next article to appear. It’s demeaning.

At the end of the day, these sites have lost respect, users, and bandwidth. They might end up with two or three people coming by the following week, but for every one that shows up, two more will have permanently moved on – congratulations.

3 thoughts on “The Stupidity of Multi-Part "Articles"

  1. I’m sorry, but I wholeheartedly disagree with your statement that they’re “stupid”.

    Magazines and other forms of media have been writing in “series” forever. That’s what keeps us addicted to certain TV shows, magazines, and yes, blogs.

    I happen to be a huge fan of Darren Rowse’s ProBlogger site, and LOVE his series, for the simple fact that I can find them easily later on, and read them at my leisure, absorbing just enough of what I want to each time.

    I realize that you made a tiny attempt to cover your opinion with “not all of them do this [that which annoyes you about series posts, that is]…” but then I think you went on to make a statement based on little fact when you alluded to “… but the majority of them do.”

    Everyone’s allowed thier opinions, of course. No one’s forcing you to like series. But the thing that bugs me is the fact that you’re making a generalization here, and by saying, “At the end of the day, these sites have lost respect, users, and bandwidth,” you’re assuming you know the details of the readership of many writers that write like that, when it’s pretty clear that you’ve done no research on this outside your own thoughts. I just find it hard to believe that you do know… especially considering that just about every “improve your readership” article out there talks about writing series, and I’ve yet to see anyone who’s started them, stop or complain…

    Just my opinion? I think articles that criticize things should use solid facts to back up their statements… *shrug*


  2. Ironically, you’re also marginalizing all “authors of online content” as people who write ephemeral drivel with no lasting value, and completely discounting websites containing articles of actual *lasting value*.  The arguments about readers not wanting to wait a week for the next installment are moot when people are reading the articles a year or more after they’re written.

    At the other end of the spectrum, what about long-running, open-ended infotainment serials?  Should Bruce Schneier stop doing his “Friday Squid Blogging”, and just make one enormous post every December 31st, infodumping the year’s news in all things squid?  Should John Aravosis stop photoblogging his orchid collection every week, and just make a big post “What My Flowers Did This Year”?

    Somewhere buried in your silly rant is a relatively valid complaint about user-unfriendly monetization techniques and artifical pageview inflation tricks, but the absurdity and ignorance of your generalizations drown out it’s cries for attention.

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