Social media has undoubtedly brought the world closer together. You probably take it for granted how easy it is to send holiday photos and mundane messages across the world to your long-lost Auntie in Albuquerque…
Indeed, websites like Facebook and Twitter have reshaped the way we find and absorb information and news, with most of us now logging-on to find out what is actually going on in the world, not just in our friendship groups.
The problem is that information shared on these sites is often sporadic, unrelated and increasingly spurious. Meanwhile, trusted news sites are simultaneously suffering record-breaking ‘bounce rates’ from social media-ites visiting their website to read one full article before scuttling back to the comfort and safety of their Twitter feed.
Bucking the trend…
In an effort to combat this recent trend of referred interest in the news, three renowned news websites – Time.com, NBCNews.com and LATimes.com – deployed a ‘continuous scroll’ function earlier this year.
Unsurprisingly, the stategy is already prevalent on social media websites, and in this amalgamation allows vast quantities of news articles to be displayed seamlessly on one webpage, removing the need to click for your next news-byte.
Instead, at the foot of the current article appears the next, and so on. With this new function it is possible to digest entire sections of content in no time at all, in a format particularly irresistible to a reader redirected from a scrolling social media website.
Time.com features by far the most satisfying execution of continuous scroll. Clean and simple, you can happily peruse entire sections of the website without finding yourself harassed with ads and unrelated stories.
It also charms in a similar way to traditional print. The flow of a newspaper, laid out before your eyes and easy to dart amongst articles, is brought to mind as you scroll further and an unobtrusive contents list tracks your progress.
So the reader is happy, with their endless supply of easy-to-access news, and the publishers are more-than-content with a 15% decrease to bounce rates [as reported by Time.com]… But could continuous scroll translate to more recent forms of publishing, such as apps and ebooks?
Undoubtedly, it could be implemented almost exactly as in these new news websites, but whether or not it would be worthwhile is up for debate.
Yes, something can be said for the fact that someone choosing to read an article on an app is already disposed to read more, but in some cases attention-spans are still prone to dwindle…
The difference is that, in an app, there are already substantially fewer distractions for a reader. Adverts for other websites and competitors are mostly non-existent, so bounce-rates don’t depend so much on keeping the readers engaged with the app interface, but more on the presentation and interactivity of the content itself.
Here at Page Lizard, we are forever innovating ways to keep our readers engaged and our clients happy, and in some of our digital content we already use a system similar to continuous scroll to compile short, related articles into one, easily-digested scroll of information.
Our apps already have the virtue of an intuitive horizontal navigation platform, meaning that the next article – or indeed, the previous – is only ever a finger-swipe away.
Most important, however, is our ability to seamlessly integrate further articles like video, audio and social media in a form that engages and invites readers to do more with the core content, but in a way that means we don’t lose their interest.
So while news websites on the whole currently achieve viewing statistics beyond anything that an app can as yet dream of, it does seem that this may be short-lived. Sites like NBC News and Time are clearly under the cosh, having identified the need to fundamentally change their online presence in a bold effort to hold the attention of visitors who now largely stumble upon on their pages.
The app world, however, is battling with an entirely different matter; how to hold the attention of those who are already willingly giving it.