Kevin Drum has responded on his blog to my point that it’s often okay to require users to click to see the entire blog posts. He makes some good points:
Occasional long posts, especially ones that have a limited audience, are fine candidates for this treatment. Putting spoilers below the fold is fine. I’m not quite sure what kind of content would be so bandwidth heavy that this would be a good excuse, but I suppose this works too. And doing what CogDaily often does, which is to summarize a new piece of research in enough detail to let you know if you might be interested in reading the gory details, and then putting said details below the fold — that’s fine too.
But my plea is to use some discretion here. Actually, use a lot of discretion. 600 words isn’t that much, and there’s no need to cut a post that long in half. Spoilers are uncommon unless you’re running a movie review site. And scrolling past a post you aren’t interested in only takes one or two seconds. So please: do this sparingly. The world will be a better place for it.
Actually, 600 words might be a pretty decent point at which to shift from the single-page to multiple-page option. Many Cognitive Daily posts are upwards of 1,000 words, encompassing four or more screens of vertical space on my laptop display. Drum’s longest posts aren’t much longer than 600 words, so for him it makes a lot of sense to nearly always keep things in a single post.
But some CogDaily posts are shorter than 600 words, and they’re *still* split. Take a look at this post, for example. It’s just 539 words, including citation, and I’ve split it into two chunks, right after the poll. Why did I do that? In fact, even though it’s short on words, it’s got three large graphic items (including the poll), and that means it still takes up three browser screens. I don’t think it makes much sense to force readers to scroll down three screens to get to a new post if they’re just browsing my blog. It becomes difficult for them to quickly get a sense of what’s there.
Drum’s readers complain about his mid-column “recent comments” box, which forces them to scroll a significant distance if they don’t want to read his first post (admittedly Drum has no control over the layout of his blog). Whether his posts have 300 words or 700 words, the recent comments box adds nearly a full screen of scrolling just to get down to the next post, and readers do find this annoying. In my view, two screens’ worth of scrolling is about the breaking point — most readers aren’t going to want to scroll farther than two screens past content they don’t want to read.
So if you look at the main page on Cognitive Daily, you’ll find that no post takes up more than two screens, and most take less than one screen — so if one post doesn’t interest a reader, she can already see the next one and decide whether to read further.
Notice, too, that if you click on an individual post, a “recent posts” box appears in the left sidebar, above the “recent comments” box. This provides readers with another way to find additional content beyond what they see in a single post. There’s no need for “recent posts” on the main page, since you can easily scroll to see the posts you want.
The other reason to use “continued” links on posts is selfish: we get paid on a page-view basis, and if people must click to see the rest of a post, then we get two page views instead of one. We actually did an informal study a couple years back on CogDaily, and the results were convincing: page views went down when we included the entire post in the RSS feed and on the main page. We might lose a few die-hard RSS fans this way, but most readers either don’t mind our system or actually prefer it.
On one point I do agree with Kevin: You’ve got to provide enough content in the “teaser” to give readers a fighting chance at deciding whether to read your post. Just a sentence or two doesn’t cut it.